This week's Torah portion discusses the inauguration of the Tabernacle, the meeting place between man and the Infinite. Here the Zohar addresses the issue of exile from that elevated state of connection with the Divine. What is required nowadays?

Rabbi Yehuda opened his discourse with the verse "Support me with glass goblets of wine [in Hebrew, "ashishot"], heal me with apples, for I am sick with love" (Songs 2:4). We have already explained this verse elsewhere in a beautiful manner, but here [it can be interpreted in a different way, as follows]: The Congregation of Israel [the Shechina and the sefira of malchut] says these words as she [falls] into exile. [She pleads with her children, the people of Israel to] "Support me". What does this mean "Support me"? One who falls needs support, as is written, "G‑d supports those who have fallen down" (Psalms 145:14). Because the Congregation of Israel has fallen into exile [from G‑d who would otherwise help her] she says, "Support me." And whom does she ask to support her? [She asks support from] her children Israel, who are with her in exile.

The exile of the Shechina is a fall from the level of consciousness of unity with the Divine, symbolized by the Tabernacle. This consciousness can be retrieved even in the state of Exile by those "children" of the Shechina who, through meditative unifications, cause an influx of divine light into the sefira of malchut and place her on her feet by reconnecting her with her source in the sefira of bina; this can rectify the internal aspect of exile. The external, physical exile can only be rectified with the rebuilding of the Tabernacle in the form of the Third Temple.

Through what [is she supported]? Through glass goblets of wine [ashishot], which are the Fathers. Meditative prayer causes these sefirot to be filled with abundance…

The forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, are the archetypes of the sefirot chesed, gevura and tiferet. They are the emotional attributes of kindness, awe/judgment and mercy and are likened to fire. The word for fire in Hebrew is "aish", and the word "ashishot" is like a plural of the word for fire. Chesed is a white fire, gevura is a black fire, and the combination of both is tiferet. Meditative prayer causes these sefirot to be filled with abundance (known as "shefa") from bina, and this in turn is passed on through the sefira of yesod to malchut.

They fill up first with that good wine that has matured upon its sediments [the abundance from bina]. When they are filled with abundance [by meditative prayer], blessing is present [in the sefira of malchut] through that level called Righteous [referring to the sefira of yesod]. And one who knows how to unify the Holy Name [and does so in order to support the Shechina], supports and assists the Congregation of Israel in her exile even though blessing is not found in the world [because of the excess of harsh judgment].

[The verse continues] "Heal me with apples…", and both are the same as we have explained. Tiferet…brings unbalanced extremes back into harmony…

Apples come in various colors - but mainly red, which hints at the sefira of gevura. The fact that they are also white on the inside hints at chesed. They therefore combine the two aspects of chesed and gevura and are associated with the sefira of tiferet, as are ashishot. Tiferet is associated with the middle line in the tree of sefirot and, like healing, brings unbalanced extremes back into harmony. The Zohar also states that apples have a sobering affect.

But the secret of this is that goblets increase the effect of wine, [and] apples counteract the effect of wine and steady the strength of one's willpower. This explains why [the verse mentions] both goblets and apples: goblets to spread the effect of the wine, apples to steady one's will so that the wine will not affect it.

"Wine" is here referred to as affecting the other sefirot and is therefore referring to the sefira of bina. The numerical value of the Hebrew word for "wine", "yayin", is 70, the same as the numerical value of the Hebrew word for "secret", "sod". The intellectual attributes are regarded as "secret" in relation to the emotional attributes and become known through speech. Wine brings about speech, which is a revelation of one's thoughts. Thus the saying of the sages "Wine goes in, secrets come out". The effect of wine is to stimulate mental activity, related to the abundance that it generates in bina. Too much wine causes drunkenness, which is brought under control through eating apples.

And all of this [support for the Shechina] is for what reason? Because "I am sick with love" in exile. Malchut…is lovesick…

Malchut in exile yearns to be reunited with the direct influence of the Divine through reconnecting with Zeir Anpin. She is lovesick and, like one emotionally distressed in the physical world, is assisted by a stiff drink. The "wine" that supports her is the meditative prayer of her sons.

And one who unifies the Holy Name [causing abundance to flow from bina to malchut] needs to properly combine judgment with mercy.

The secret of meditative prayer on the holy names as they appear in the different stages of the Standing Prayer is to "sweeten" the harsh reality of the physical world by combining mercy, the aspect of the name Havayah, with judgment, related to the name Ado-nai. This is why many prayer books have the name Havayah associated with the vowels of the sefirot to which they relate and the name Ado-nai contained in the last letter of the Name.

This causes [Her] to become sweetened and rectifies everything as is fitting, and this supports the Congregation of Israel in exile.

The state of exile is the absence of feeling the influence of the Divine in physical reality. Meditative prayers, as well as blessings said with correct intention, rectify this by bringing consciousness of the Divine into every aspect of life.

Zohar, parashat Shemini p.40a; translation and commentary by Simcha-Shmuel Treister

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