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Tzava'at Harivash 90

Tzava'at Harivash 90


“You fill their belly with tzefuncha (that which is hidden with you) . . . [they leave their yeter (abundance; remainder) to their babes.]” (Psalms 17:14)

Avoid gazing at material things that are attractive. How much more so, avoid gazing at the beauty of women to indulge your desire. For that type of looking is self-worship, which is like worshipping idolatry. 1 [Moreover,] that thought leads, Heaven forbid, to nocturnal sin. 2 Thus you will add strength to kelipah (“husk;” the forces or realm of evil), impregnating it. 3

This is the meaning of tzefuncha, i.e., that which you tzofeh (observe) for your sake, such as the beauty of a woman. By looking for self-indulgence you add power to [kelipah].

Moreover, if you do so before giving birth to a child, your child will be rooted in the power [of the kelipot]. 4 R. Isaac Luria, of blessed memory, thus explained [the ruling] that “Honor your father.” (Exodus 20:12) includes [the obligation to honor] your elder brother (Ketuvot 103a): The older brother is like the major branch of a tree. As another branch grows from that major branch, it draws vitality from the major branch. So, too, the younger brother draws vitality from the older one. 5 Thus it follows that when first infusing strength into kelipah and then begetting a child, that child will be like the smaller branch. The principal strength is [given] into [the forces of evil], and the child is like yitron, something additional. This is the meaning of “they left their yitron to their babes.”

Thus when seeing things, conduct yourself as follows:

If you suddenly happen to see a beautiful woman, 6 think to yourself: “Whence is her beauty? If she were dead she would no longer look this way; thus where does her [beauty] come from? Per force it must be said to come from the Divine force diffused within her. 7 It gives her the quality of beauty and redness. The root of beauty, therefore, is in the Divine force. Why, then, should I be drawn after a mere part! I am better off in attaching myself to ‘the root and core of all worlds’ 8 where all forms of beauty are to be found.” 9

It is likewise when observing other physical objects, such as a vessel. Think to yourself: “Whence came beauty and form to this vessel? Its material substance is clearly worthless. Its beauty and form, however, are the spiritual and vital reality of the vessel, which is a Divine portion from Above [for the vitality of all physical things is a Divine portion from Above]. 10

Likewise when eating, bear in mind that the taste and sweetness of the food derives from the vitalizing force and sweetness of Above, and that is its vitality. For inorganic matter, too, has a vital force as evident from the fact that it has existence and durability. 11 It follows, then, that the Divine vitality from Above is to be found everywhere.

When viewing things this way, you are looking at them with your mind, and it is not done for self-indulgence but related to the En Sof, blessed is He. This is effective for negating [improper] thought.

It is an established principle that what you think during the day affects the thoughts you have when sleeping and dreaming. 12 Thus by following the above procedure all day long, you will merit to see in your dreams the vital force of that physical object. Your sight (empirical perception) during the day is but of the physical; but when your thought dwells on the spiritual reality vested in the physical, then in your dream you will see the bare spirituality divested from its [external] garment. 13 For [the term] chalom (dream) is an expression of “periods of chalim” (Rosh Hashanah 28a), which means strong, sound.

In daytime man’s vital force is weak because he is bound up with his [physical] body; that is why he does not see the vital force inherent in physical matters. At night, however, the vital force extends beyond the body; thus it is strong and allows one to perceive the vital force itself. This may bring one to levels of prophecy. 14 Thus it is written of all prophets that “I speak to him in a dream” (Numbers 12:6), except for Moses, our teacher, peace be upon him, who was able to perceive the vital force of physical matter even when awake. 15

[King] David thus said: “Echezeh (I will see) Your face in righteousness, [I will be sated with Your image when awake].” (Psalms, ibid. verse 16) Echezeh is an expression of “chizayon laylah” (a vision at night; Job 33:15), [thus implying a vision of] “Your face” itself at night. Why [did he merit this]? Because “I will be sated with Your image when awake.” “Image” alludes to the form. 16 Thus, “when noting something physical, I will not look just at its matter but will also consider that its image-i.e., its form and vital force-are ‘from You,’ and He is vested in that matter.”

This is the meaning of “The wise one’s eyes are in his (alternatively: its) rosh (head)” (Ecclesiastes 2:14), that is, in the “head” of the object, its spirituality and vital force. 17 This is also the meaning of “The rosh (head; beginning) of Your word is truth” (Psalms 119:160), and of “You are exalted as rosh (head) over all” (I Chronicles 29:11), in context of the Zohars concept of “Reisha dechol reishin-the Head of all heads.” 18

“Whoever gazes at the beauty of a woman by day will have [lustful] thoughts at night, and if he brings that thought upon himself he will violate the prohibition of ‘do not make for yourself molten gods’ (Leviticus 19:4).” (Zohar III:84a; cf. R. Bachya on Leviticus 19:2).
Avodah Zara 20a-b. Cf. Nedarim 20a; and above, note 1.
See above, sect. 87 (and note 10 there).
The quote cited above, note 1, continues that the children one begets under the influence of those thoughts “are called ‘molten gods;’ that is why it is written, ‘Do not turn to the idols and do not make for yourselves molten gods.’”
R. Chaim Vital, Likkutei Torah, Vayeira; Shaar Hamitzvot, Yitro.
That is, beyond your control.
See Nidah 31a: a person’s beauty comes from God.
Zohar I:11b
This principle is stated already above, sect. 87. See also below, sect. 120 and 127.
The vital force of everything is a spark of the Shechinah. See next note, and below, sect. 109.
“Even inorganic matter-i.e., dust, stones and so forth-of necessity possesses a spiritual life-force,” as do also all vegetation, animals and humans. (R. Chaim Vital, Eitz Chayim 39:3. See Tanya, Shaar Hayichud, ch. 1-2.)
See Berachot 55b; Zohar I:183a.
See Or Hachamah on Zohar 183a.
“Dream is a sixtieth part of prophecy;” Berachot 57b. See Zohar I:147a; and Moreh Nevuchim II:36. Cf. Maimonides, Hilchot Yessodei Hatorah 7:1.
See Hilchot Yessodei Hatorah 7:2 and 6.
Moreh Nevuchim I:3
The wise one’s mind is focused on the rosh-the “head” or true reality, i.e., the spirituality and vital force-of everything, as opposed to the external appearance. (See above, sect. 73, note 3, that rosh refers to the Shechinah, the Divine Immanence.)
Zohar III:10b, 11a and 289b (and in several places in Tikunei Zohar). It signifies the supreme Sefirah of Keter, from whence derive all other “heads” (i.e., the Divine emanations that constitute the essence, the spirituality and vital force, of everything).
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