The latter half of this week's Torah portion contains the basic laws of kashrut, detailing which animals may and may not be eaten. Kosher animals include domesticated animals (cattle, sheep, and goats), seven species of wild beasts, four types of locusts, and various species of fowl and fish.

Man derives in general from Zeir Anpin, while the beasts and cattle derive from Nukva [of Zeir Anpin] and fish, locusts, and fowl derive from yesod of Zeir Anpin. For this reason, the numerical value of the word for "fish" [in Hebrew, "dag"] is 7, for yesod is the seventh sefira. Furthermore, yesod "gives to the poor" [in Hebrew, "gomel dalim"], and the initials of this phrase in Hebrew are the same letters used to spell the word for "fish".

Yesod is actually the sixth sefira of the midot, but since yesod couples with malchut, the seventh sefira, it may be considered in this context the seventh sefira as well. Malchut is considered "the poor" since it possesses no intrinsic content of its own. Since the content of the preceding sefirot is funneled through yesod to malchut, yesod may be spoken of as "giving to the poor."

Specifically, [fish] derive from the states of chesed given to yesod for its own purposes; this is why they live in the water. Water is a metaphor for chesed, since water always flows downward and is the source of life…

Certain aspects of chesed are merely channeled through yesod, while others yesod become part of yesod itself (since yesod is principally a sefira of transmission, it reflects the giving aspect of chesed). In the imagery of Kabbala, water is a metaphor for chesed (and therefore a manifestation of chesed), since water always flows downward and is the source of life.

Locusts derive from the states of gevura [within yesod] as they return upward. This is the mystical meaning of the verse: "Extend your hand over…the locusts and they will ascend…" (Ex. 10:12), for they manifest the principle of ascent.

In order to transmit properly, yesod must evince gevura as well as chesed, since unmitigated and unrestricted giving is never effective. This element of withdrawal or restraint within yesod is embodied in the locusts.

The numerical value of the Hebrew word for "fowl" [in Hebrew, "oaf"] is equal to that of the word "Joseph" ["Yosef"]. Joseph personified the sefira of yesod. Therefore, birds fly, for they, too, manifest the principle of ascent, as the states of gevura return and fly upward.

The seven shepherds of Israel (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, and David, in this order) correspond to and personify the seven emotional sefirot from chesed to malchut. Joseph personifies yesod chiefly because he (1) sustained and provided for the entire kingdom (malchut) of Egypt during the years of famine, and (2) preserved his sexual integrity (sexuality being associated with yesod, the sefira of coupling) even while immersed in the depraved culture of Egypt.

Since fish and locusts derive from the sefira of yesod, which is referred to as being "alive", they do not require ritual slaughter [as do beasts and cattle], but rather only "gathering up".

Man, being created in "the image of G‑d," reflects both in his body and soul the structure the sefirot assume when they form a partzuf. The correspondence between the limbs of the body and the sefirot is as follows:




right lobe of brain


left lobe of brain


rear (occipital) lobe of brain


right arm


left arm




right leg, right kidney, right testicle/ovary


left leg, left kidney, left testicle/ovary


reproductive organs



In order for yesod to transfer the content of the preceding sefirot, it must properly focused on its goal…

Yesod thus corresponds to the reproductive organ, and yesod of Zeir Anpin specifically to the male reproductive organ. Again, this is because yesod is the sefira of transference between one partzuf and the next. In order for yesod to transfer the content of the preceding sefirot, it must properly focused on its goal. We see this in day to day life: a person cannot communicate effectively with another person if he is distracted and his mind is elsewhere. Physically, the male reproductive organ cannot transfer the semen within it, nor can the female reproductive organ receive the semen from the male, unless they are properly focused on each other. This focus is termed in Kabbala "being alive", just as in Jewish Law the erect male reproductive organ is called "alive" (and in its flaccid form, it is called "dead"). Similarly, effective communication is characterized by animation and excitement, as opposed to a "deadpan" style that does not excite the listener. Yesod, then, at least when acting effectively, is called the "live" sefira.

Thus, the animals (fish and locusts) that derive from this sefira are considered to possess intrinsic life-force, and therefore do not have to undergo any ritual process to prepare them for Jewish consumption. (Note that the Arizal does not yet explain why fowl, even though deriving from the same sefira, do require ritual slaughter.)

This is not the case with beasts and cattle; they derive from the Nukva [of Zeir Anpin] and therefore require ritual slaughter.

Beasts and cattle are considered a lower level of life than fowl and locusts. In order for their life force to be properly assimilated, it must undergo the additional rectification process of ritual slaughter. Through this process the life force inherent in the animal flesh is rendered capable of being absorbed into spirituality through being eaten by the Jew.

The Arizal now turns the discussion to the subject of the birds.

Now, it is the angels that issue from the yesod of Zeir Anpin of Atzilut. These [angels] are the [spiritual] birds that derive from this level. As it is said of [the angel] Gabriel, "and the bird will fly in heaven" (Gen. 1:20). In contrast, physical birds derive from yesod of Zeir Anpin of [the three lower worlds,] Beriya, Yetzira, and Asiya.

Whereas the physical fish and locusts derive from yesod of Zeir Anpin of Atzilut, fowl derive only from the projection of this level onto the lower spiritual worlds. The difference between Atzilut and the three subsequent worlds is that the pervading consciousness in the world of Atzilut is that of total submersion in the Divine Presence. "Denizens" of this world do not conceive of themselves as independent beings, but rather as aspects of divinity. In the lower worlds, the pervading consciousness is that of selfhood; the "denizens" of these worlds are aware of themselves as independent entities, albeit subject to divine rule. This is indicated by the fact that fish must remain in the water to live, that is, their existence is dependent on being almost always submerged within the ocean, just as the "denizens" of the world of Atzilut live totally immersed in divine consciousness.

This is the mystical meaning of [our sages' statement that the fowl] were created from the mire [i.e. a mixture of water and earth] (Chulin 27b) Zeir Anpin of Beriya, which is male, exists in the female world, for all the lower worlds are the legions of the Nukva of Zeir Anpin [of Atzilut]. While water is a mystical referent to the sefira of chesed, earth refers to the sefira of malchut

Every world is created out of the Nukva (i.e. female partner) of Zeir Anpin of the world preceding it, just a physical child is born of its parents. And just as the parents (and particularly the mother) must rear and educate the new child, Nukva of Zeir Anpin of any particular world is entrusted with the task of disseminating the light, or consciousness, of its world into the worlds below it. Inasmuch as all three lower worlds (Beriya, Yetzira,and Asiya) share the common denominator of being worlds of independent consciousness, they may be grouped together and be considered to have emerged as a group from the "womb" of Nukva of Zeir Anpin of Atzilut. Since the three lower worlds then assume the role of the recipient vis-a-vis Atzilut - in that they are intended to absorb as much as possible of the consciousness pertaining in the world of Atzilut - they are considered feminine and it masculine relative to each other.

While water is a mystical referent to the sefira of chesed, earth refers to the sefira of malchut, the lowest of the ten sefirot and the allegorical "floor" of the world it belongs to.

It thus follows [that the lower worlds] are the extracted states of chesed after they have been "processed" by Nukva of [Zeir Anpin of] Atzilut. This is the mystical meaning of the verse "And the birds will multiply on earth" (Gen. 1:22), implying that they are created from the earth. [But since it is also stated: "Let the water swarm with…birds" (Ibid. 1:20), it means that the birds were created as well] from the water on the earth, i.e. the states of chesed within yesod of Zeir Anpin. Therefore they have scales on their feet like fish, on the one hand, yet they fly like locusts, on the other. Fowl… possess fishlike and locust-like characteristics…

Fowl were thus created from both the chesed and gevura elements and therefore possess fishlike and locust-like characteristics. Since they derive not directly from the world of Atzilut, but rather from Atzilut as it has been "processed", diminished and diluted into the lower worlds, they require ritual slaughtering in order to be eaten.

Now, man is a mammal [i.e. he produces and suckles milk]. This is because Zeir Anpin and Nukva [of Atzilut] suckle from Imma.

Man derives directly from Zeir Anpin of Atzilut and its female partner, Nukva. These two partzufim, which together comprise the emotions of the world of Atzilut and its capacity for self-expression, emerge from the "womb" of Imma, the partzuf of bina, just as an emotion or means of expression is derived from an intellectual idea that gives rise to it. Here again, once Imma has produced the emotional reaction (Zeir Anpin) and its expression (Nukva), it "nurtures" them, ensuring that they indeed properly emotionalize and express the idea and concept they derive from. The physical manifestation of this principle in man is the nourishment the infant derives from its mother's milk.

Beasts and cattle are also mammals, for they, too, derive from Nukva. In contrast, fish, locusts, and birds produce no milk and they do not suckle, for they derive from the yesod of Imma, and Imma therefore does not suckle them, for [as is said in the Zohar,] Imma extends only so far as hod.

Although beasts and cattle are not created "in the image" of G‑d, and therefore do not reflect completely the phenomenology of Atzilut, the fact that they originate in Nukva (and Nukva suckles from Imma) is enough to make them milk-producing and milk-suckling animals, i.e. mammals. Fish, locusts, and birds, in contrast, are not "processed" by Nukva the same way beasts and cattle are, as we explained. Therefore, they do not possess this quality. They are derived directly from the sefira of yesod, whether it be yesod of Zeir Anpin, as stated above, or yesod of Imma, as stated here. Bina is said to extend only as far as hod

The intellect (related to the sefira of bina) "extends only as far as hod". This means that even after a person has progressed from the intellectual development of an idea into the emotional response-phase (chesed, gevura, tiferet), he can still "recharge the batteries" of this emotional response from the residual memory of the original idea. The same is true once he has passed from the emotional response-phase into the initial stage of the active transmission phase (netzach, hod) and is involved in overcoming obstacles to the transmission of his new idea (netzach) and making it relevant to its target audience (hod). Once he has passed from this phase, however, into the stage of transmission in which he must focus entirely on the goal, that is, become totally resonant with the target audience (yesod), he must give up any memory he still has of the original inspiration that accompanied his experience of the original idea. Were he to retain this memory, it would derail and distract his attention from its now crucial object, the recipient. As we said, before, this focus in necessary in order for yesod to be "alive". Therefore, bina is said to extend only as far as hod, but not as far as yesod.

In this sense, yesod may be considered an "orphan", since it does not suckle from the milk of Imma. This is alluded to in the fact that in the verse describing Joseph, he is said to be "of good appearance and good form" [in Hebrew, "yefeh toar vifeh mareh"] (Ibid. 39:6). The initials of this phrase spell the Hebrew word for "orphan" ["yatom"].

Joseph is the personification of the sefira of yesod, as mentioned above.

Therefore fowl requires ritual slaughter, since it has an element of earth in it, as our sages said, that it was created from the mire.

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.