[This article is a continuation from Part 1: (click here).]

In the verse: "for through Isaac it will be called for you seed" (Gen. 25:1-6) the word for "through Isaac" can also mean "in Isaac", and this is taken to indicate that only part of Isaac's seed will transmit the genetic line of the Jewish people. Thus, only Jacob plays this role, and not Esau, Isaac's other son. (Rashi on Gen. 28:15)

Then, in Abraham, [G‑d] found [a vessel for] all the seed of Israel, and the souls that existed before the world was created existed in him. For until then, the world was in the order of Tohu, without the covenant. That is why the world only was able to endure through the covenant of Abraham. This is the [mystical] meaning of the idea that G‑d "created them" "through Abraham". Understand this.

At this point, [Abraham] was informed that he would have Isaac, and that the seed of Israel would all exist in him, as it is written, "for through Isaac it will be called for you seed." Since this was the case, G‑d also wanted the soul of the Mashiach to appear and be manifest. [The soul of the Mashiach] was also stored away before the world was created, as it is said, "and the spirit of G‑d was hovering over the water." (Gen. 1:2) [Our sages said that] this refers to the spirit of the Mashiach. (Bereishit Rabba 8:1) It existed even before this.

Since the purpose of the Jewish people - to make the world into G‑d's ultimate home - will be accomplished fully only through the Mashiach, the descent of the souls of the Jewish people at this point in history had to be accompanied by the descent of the soul of the Mashiach. Otherwise, the Jewish people would lack the sense of direction and purpose necessary for them to accomplish what they were meant to accomplish.

The fact that the "spirit of the Mashiach" was "hovering over the waters" at the outset of Creation indicates that the world was created for the end to which the Mashiach will bring it - that the Mashiach is a necessary ingredient in Creation, without which it cannot exist.

The name of the Mashiach is listed as one of the seven things that preceded the creation of the world. (Tana d’vei Eliahu Rabba 31; cf. Bereishit Rabba 1:4) (The other six are the Torah, teshuva, Purgatory (Gehinom), the Garden of Eden [the abode of the soul in the afterlife], the Throne of Glory, and the Temple. All these are related to the process of achieving the purpose of Creation.)

It had been "lost" in Sodom, as it is written, "I have found David, My servant" (Psalms 89:210), and our sages said that this means that G‑d found [the seed of David's soul] in Sodom, in the person of Lot, Abraham's nephew.

Lot fathered (through incest with his daughter) Moab (Gen. 19:30-37), who became the progenitor of the nation of Moab. Ruth, the ancestress of King David, was a Moabite. (Ruth 1:1-4, 4:13-17) King David, of course, was the ancestor of the Mashiach. Thus, the soul of the Mashiach was latent in Lot, who had chosen to live in Sodom. (Gen. 13:11-12)

It was therefore necessary that all three [angels] come at the same time: One [came] to find [the souls of] Israel in Abraham. One [came] to overthrow Sodom, so that Lot could [be extricated from there by the third angel and] leave there and hide in the cave where G‑d had wine waiting for him so David, the [progenitor of the] Mashiach of the G‑d of Jacob (par. Samuel II 23:1), could [eventually] be born. Therefore, the three came at the same time. Understand this.

Until this point in his life, Lot only had daughters, all of whom were already mature by this time. Therefore, it is unlikely that he would have had sons had he remained in Sodom and not have had incestuous relations with his daughters. Therefore, the incest had to be arranged so he could father the nation that would carry the soul of the Mashiach latent within him. Furthermore, the society of Sodom was so degenerate that it presumably could not have "hosted" the soul of the Mashiach; therefore, G‑d had to extricate it from there.

Lot's daughters, thinking that G‑d had destroyed humanity again, gave their father wine to drink in order that he repopulate the world through them. The Sages say that G‑d arranged for there to be wine in the cave where they fled in order for Lot to father the two nations of Ammon and Moab. (Rashi on Gen. 19:33)

Furthermore, just as Isaac issued from Abraham, [the Mashiach, the future] Isaac issued from Lot, [as follows:]

The name Isaac [Yitzchak] can be seen as the combination of the words for "the end of the live one", referring to the Mashiach. This is the [mystical] meaning of the verse, "He asked of You life…" (Psalms 21:5), and of the phrase "David, King of Israel, lives and endures" (Liturgy for the Sanctification of the New Moon).

"Yitzchak" is spelled: yud-tzadik-chet-kuf.

"Keitz chai", which means "end of the live one", is spelled: kuf-tzadik chet-yud.

The Mashiach…actualizes the divine purpose of Creation….

"The live one" refers to the sefira of yesod, inasmuch as the male reproductive organ has "dead" (flaccid) and "live" (erect) states. The end of the "live one" refers to the crown (glans) of the organ. As this is the point where the drive of self-actualization is realized, it refers also the Mashiach, the one who actualizes the divine purpose of Creation. The verse and phrase quoted both indicate the connection between "life" and the Mashiach.

As we will see presently, this explains why Abraham had to be circumcised to father Isaac.

The Arizal now discusses how Abraham merited fathering the Jewish people.

This occurred because Isaac was born when Abraham and Sarah were old, and had entered the primordial days. (Gen. 24:1)

The verse "And Abraham was old, having come into days" occurs after Sarah died, when Isaac was already 37. Nonetheless, the Torah stresses how Abraham and Sarah were (already) old when Isaac was born.

The Zohar interprets the phrase "having come into days" to mean "into the primordial days that always renew [a person] like the eagle" (Zohar III:170b), alluding to the verse, "[G‑d] renews your youth like an eagle." (Psalms 103:5) The "primordial days" are the six lower sefirot of Atik Yomin (corresponding to the six days of Creation). Since Atik Yomin corresponds to delight, the source of life, an influx from this level renews a person's youth. Indeed, after this verse and the ensuing story of Isaac's marriage to Rebecca, the Torah recounts how Abraham married again and fathered eight more sons.

[As we said,] the seed of Israel was transmitted through Isaac, and [the souls of] Israel pre-existed in [G‑d's] thought, as it is written, "In the beginning, G‑d created…," [and the Sages said that this means] "for the sake of Israel, who are called 'the beginning', as it is written, 'Israel is holy to G‑d; [they are] the beginning of His produce.'" (Jeremiah 2:3)

The word for "in the beginning" can also mean "by means of [that which is called] 'the beginning.'" The Jewish people is one of the entities referred to as "the beginning", as indicated by the verse from Jeremiah. Thus, "In the beginning G‑d created heaven and earth" can be interpreted to mean: "For the sake of the Jewish people, G‑d created heaven and earth".

The point emphasized here is the fact that the Jewish people are termed "the beginning" indicates that they precede the creation of the world. Thus, the Sages say, "The thought of Israel preceded everything." (Bereishit Rabbah 1:4)

"His produce" refers to bina, whereas Israel ascended in thought.

This means that they originate in the highest aspect of thought, chochma, which precedes bina.

They therefore did not issue from Abraham until he was old [in Hebrew, "zaken"]. [This is alluded to by the fact that our sages say that the word "zaken" is an acronym for the words] "the one who has acquired wisdom." (Sifra, Kedoshim 7)

"The one who has acquired wisdom" is spelled: zeh she-kanah chochma. The bolded letters spell "zaken" (spelled zayin-kuf-nun).

The proof of this is that when [Abraham] fathered Ishmael, he was 86 years old, in the prime of his years of strength [in Hebrew, "gevura"].

The Sages say, "When a person is eighty years old, he acquires gevura" (Avot 5:21), based on the verse, "The days of our lives are seventy years, or by means of gevura, eighty years." (Psalms 90:10) At this age, Abraham was thus more connected to gevura, the left side, than to chochma, the right side. He was not yet "old".

He was not circumcised [when he fathered Ishmael].

This was because Ishmael was not "the end of the living one", the consummation of Abraham's drive to self-perpetuate and impregnate reality with his divine mission. Therefore, the glans of the reproductive organ did not have to be exposed.

When Isaac was born, [Abraham] was 100 years old and Sarah was 90 years old. This is alluded to in the name Isaac [Yitzchak].

"Yitzchak" is spelled: yud-tzadik-chet-kuf. The numerical value of tzadik is 90 and the numerical value of kuf is 100. The allusions in the other two letters of this name are as follows:

The chet alludes to the eight days [from birth] to circumcision. The yud alludes to the yud in the name Chaya, for that was [Eve's (Chava's)] name before the [primordial] Sin; only after the sin was she called Chava. Eve was built out of Adam's side, and when this side was built [into Eve], [Adam's] helpmate [in Hebrew, "eizer"] and enduring seed [in Hebrew, "zera"] came into being, to produce holy seed, for "Israel is holy to G‑d".

Abraham fathered Isaac at the age of 100…because only then did he achieve the level of divine chochma necessary for this….

Before the sin of partaking of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, Eve is not referred to in the Torah by her name, only as "the woman" or "his wife", etc. Only after the sin does Adam name her Chava, or Eve. This alludes to the tradition that she had a different name before the sin.

Before Eve was made out of Adam's side, they were connected to each other back to back. They could not couple in this state; only when Eve was separated from Adam could they face each other, engage in martial relations, and produce offspring.

The words for "helpmate" and "seed" are permutations of each other. "Ezer" is spelled: ayin-zayin-reish; "zera" is spelled: zayin-reish-ayin. This indicates that the "help" that the female gives the male is the possibility to produce offspring.

The yud in Isaac's name thus refers to the original woman, who was formed into Adam's wife so they could bear children. As we saw above, these children were intended to be the bearers of the messianic mission that was later given to the Jewish people.

The birth of Isaac to Abraham when the latter was exactly 100 years old is also alluded to in the name Abraham [Avraham] itself: it may be read as a combination of the two words for "a son [at] one hundred [years old]" [in Hebrew, "bar meiah"], for at the age of 100 ["meiah"] he fathered a son [in Aramaic, "bar"], i.e. Isaac.

"Avraham" is spelled: alef-beit-reish-hei-mem.

"Bar meiah" is spelled: beit-reish mem-alef-hei.

This is the meaning of [the Sages' statement that] "when they were created" is a permutation of "Abraham", and that when he was old he ascended to the level of Israel in G‑d's thought.

And the numerical value of the word for "100" [in Hebrew, "meiah"] is equal to the combined numerical value of the letters used to spell out the name Ab [=72, Havayah] spelled out with yuds, which signifies Abba, i.e. in [G‑d's] thought.

The name Ab:

Yud-vav-dalet hei-yud vav-yud-vav hei-yud.

The letters used to spell out the name Havayah here are:

vav-dalet yud yud-vav yud = 6 + 4 + 10 + 10 + 6 + 10 = 46.

"Meiah" is spelled: mem-alef-hei = 40 + 1 + 5 = 46.

As we have seen, the four spellings-out of the name Havayah (72, 63, 45, 52) correspond to the four letters of the Name and the four basic partzufim. Specifically, the name Ab (=72) corresponds to the yud and Abba, the partzuf of chochma. Here we have an additional indication that the fact that Abraham fathered Isaac at the age of 100 was because only then did he achieve the level of divine chochma necessary for this.

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Sefer HaLikutim; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard."

Reprinted with permission from Chabad of California. Copyright 2004 by Chabad of California, Inc. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, without permission, in writing, from Chabad of California, Inc.