We will speak further about children born to fathers.
Obviously, children are born to fathers and mothers, but the Arizal is specifying here the father only. The reason will become clear at the end of the section when he talks about Asa-el. In some children, the dominating driving force comes from the father, and sometimes to an extreme degree.
When a man unites with his wife in intimacy, from the energy of the father there is drawn the son's Surrounding Light. Also, the aspect of Internal Light is drawn from the energy of the mother.
It was mentioned earlier that all things consist of two aspects, Light and Vessel. These two also consist of two aspects each. There is the internal part of a vessel, and the external part. Similarly, there are two aspects of Light; they are the Internal Light and the Surrounding Light.
The Internal Light is the aspect of light that enters into the vessel. It is contained within the vessel under pressure because it cannot easily expand outward. The Surrounding Light, on the other hand, does not enter into the vessel, but hovers around it. It is much less concentrated because it is not contained within the limited space of the vessel, although it is always connected and associated with the vessel, and always shines upon it. The amount of light that enters into the vessel is always much more limited than the Surrounding Light…
Also, the amount of light that enters into the vessel is always much more limited than the Surrounding Light which is not forced into a limited space. Therefore, the Surrounding Light is considered greater and of a higher quality than the Internal Light. That is why it is the Surrounding Light that brings about miracles, whereas normal, everyday affairs are in the province of the Internal Light.
The process of transmission from parent to son is the same irrespective of whether it is Surrounding Light or Internal Light. The Light is clothed within the NHY of the soul of the parent, as was taught in the previous section.
Now, since the Surrounding Light is greater, it is associated with the sefira of the right side, which is also the higher one, called chochma and Abba. Correspondingly, the Internal Light is associated with bina, called Imma.
Now, at the time of their unification it is possible that both parents will concentrate upon the mitzvah and holiness.
The mitzvah is what we have been commanded "…And G‑d said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it'" (Gen. 1:28). The intimacy that derives from the long-term relationship of husband and wife is also considered by many to be part of the completion of the mitzvah. The characteristics and qualities of the children depend upon the thoughts and behavior of the parents at the time of conception…
The mitzvah should be done in purity and holiness, and in that way it increases the holiness of husband and wife, and it increases holiness throughout the world. This is a very important subject in the Kabbala, but this is not the place to even begin the subject. In addition to the laws of Family Purity that must be known, the reader may also refer to the Shulchan Aruch, Even Ha'ezer #25 concerning the set and setting of the mitzvah, and to the important kabbalistic book ascribed to the Ramban (Nachmanidies), called Da'at Kedusha.
Now, the Arizal is adding here the well-known Kabbalistic rule that when the mitzvah is performed with purity and holiness and proper thoughts, then it also increases the holiness of the offspring. Another important, associated Kabbalistic rule is that the characteristics and qualities of the children depend upon the thoughts and behavior of the parents at the time of conception.
Alternatively, the concentration of both of them may not be for the sake of the mitzvah, but for their own pleasure, or for evil.
Marital intimacy without pleasure is just as bad as when the partners are only thinking about satisfying their own physical desire for stimulation and pleasure. Indeed, children born from intercourse where there was no pleasure are likely to be damaged physically or mentally. On the other hand, the desire that the partner's have for each other is a positive factor in the determination of the child's level of intelligence.
However, when their thoughts and concentration are only on physical pleasure then the quality of their unification plummets downward towards zero. In addition, such people are likely to do other things that are wrong: in the preparation for their meeting, in the setting of the intimacy, and in the human dynamics of their relationship. Thus, their unification can actually, eventually, take place in the realm of evil, G‑d forbid. They give birth to devils!
Alternatively, the concentration of the father might be for good, whereas that of the mother is bad, or vice versa.
If both of them are thinking about (the holiness) of the mitzvah, then the child will be a perfect tzadik in Surrounding Light and in Internal Light. If the intentions of both of them were for evil (purposes), then the child will be completely evil in Surrounding Light and in Internal Light.
If the father's intentions were for good, but that of the mother was bad, then the Surrounding Light of the child will be righteous, but the Internal Light will be wicked. With the passage of time the Surrounding Light will overcome the Internal Light, and he will be completely righteous. This is because the Surrounding Light includes the Internal Light, and it [the Surrounding Light] will overturn it to purify it.
The Surrounding Light includes the Internal Light because they were originally like one light. Some of the original light entered into the vessel, but most of it remained outside. Thus, the light that is inside the vessel was once included within the greater light that remained outside. There are some children who are very sharp and they cannot stay still, whereas some children are lazy and move very heavily…
Since the Surrounding Light is greater than the Internal Light, the former will conquer the latter and change it entirely, if necessary, into something good. The quality of the two Lights, in turn, will influence the child's character and behavior, and even many of the things that will happen to him throughout his life.
If the father's intentions are for evil, but the mother's is for good, then the Surrounding Light will be bad and the Internal Light good. However, after a time the Surrounding Light that is bad will overcome the good Internal Light and it will also become bad.
Nevertheless, it seems from the following words of the Arizal that the situation is not clear-cut black and white. There are degrees. There are other factors.
If you want to know if the power of the father or of the mother will dominate, then you can recognize it by the lightness or heaviness of the son.
It is not clear-cut that the power of the father always dominates. There are other factors that alter the determination. It is possible for the power of the mother to sometimes dominate. These other factors, however, are not the subject of the Arizal here. Rather, he wants to describe now how it can be known if the light coming from the father will dominate, or vice versa, and the consequences upon the child.
The Internal Light is limited and it is not dynamic, but the Surrounding Light moves around outside and propels a person to the place that it wants. Consequently, if you see a person who is "light like an eagle and runs like a deer" in all his activities and quick in all his work, it is because the Surrounding Light that comes from the energy of the father dominates over him.
Yehudah ben Tayma said, "Be bold like a panther, light like an eagle, swift as a deer and strong like a lion to do the will of your Father who is in Heaven" (Mishna Avot 5:20).
On the other hand, if you see someone who is lazy and moves heavily, it teaches that it is the Internal Light from the side of the mother that is dominant.
Now, everything goes according to their deeds, by which I mean that if the father's intention at the time of intercourse was for the mitzvah, then this child will be quick to do the work of Heaven, and he will be very great in Torah. However, if his father's intentions were [only] for his own enjoyment, then he will be quick in the tasks of this world.
The opposite is also true. If he is slow moving, when his mother's intention was for the mitzvah, then he will be lazy to do the work of this world. However, if her concentration was not upon the mitzvah, then the son will be lazy in the work of Heaven.
Having said this it is possible to understand why there are some children who are very sharp and they cannot stay still, whereas some children are lazy and move very heavily.
The children of the first group are those heavily influenced by the Surrounding Light. The second are those influenced by the Internal Light. High magnitudes of Surrounding Light…can produce a power capable of overriding natural law…
This is the reason that Asa-el the brother of Yoav was unfathomably light upon his feet.
The story of Asa-el the brother of Yoav is told in Chapter Two of Samuel II.
The sages said that he could run over the stalks of grass without bending them.
In other words, he ran so swiftly that his weight never came to rest upon the surface. Before it could rest, he was already gone from there. It seems to us that the sages are speaking here metaphorically. However, the Arizal is insisting that we take their words here literally.
Definitely a Midrash of the Sages cannot digress from its simple meaning. However, with what was mentioned here it is understandable. The energy of his father was over-dominating, and there was no maternal energy within him at all. The Surrounding Light was totally augmented within him, and he was almost able to fly through the air.
It seems to me that the point of the Arizal here is to teach that high magnitudes of Surrounding Light, combined with proper intentions and thought patterns at the time of conception, can produce a power capable of overriding natural law and provide an instrument for wondrous miracles.
(End of Chapter Ten)
[Commentary by Shabtai Teicher.]