Seven Kings of Chaos

She stood in the doorway of her children’s room and sighed. It had happened again. Chaos had taken control. Notebooks and pencils cluttered the desktop; toys were scattered haphazardly over the floor; the beds were unmade and adorned with a variety of clothes; last night’s pajamas, intermingled with a bathrobe or two, were strewn randomly over the chair, which stood teetering at an angle, with one leg on an upturned slipper. As she carefully wangled her way through the debris, she spotted an open book by the pillow on one of the beds. “The Seven Kings of Chaos,” she read the chapter title.It had happened again. Chaos had taken control Well, it certainly looked like they’d paid a visit here, she thought with a wry smile. Setting the chair at the desk, she sat down to read.

Way back when, before the nation of Israel came on the scene, Esau’s clan was looking for a king. Now, despite the fact that they had plenty of military majors, they never actually had a monarchy of their own. In fact, they borrowed their kings from neighboring countries. Sad to say, but they weren’t very successful rulers.

So here they are, a list of the seven kings of Edom, one after the other, Bela, Yovav, Chusham, Hadad, Samlah, Shaul and Baal Chanan. The Torah relates that Bela died and Yovav reigned, Yovav died and Chusham reigned, Chusham died and Hadad reigned—you get the picture? Each one of them died and the next one down reigned.

Apart from their rise to power, their home city and their death, the Torah tells us that they . . . um, well, actually, the Torah tells us nothing. They conquered no countries, waged no wars, had no kids to succeed them; we are not even told how long they lived. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be anything noteworthy that these kings achieved in their entire lives.

Okay, so if these seven kings don’t make exciting news, why put them in the headlines? Well, before you switch channels, let’s take a look at the eighth king, Hadar.

“Baal Chanan, son of Achbor, died, and Hadar reigned in his stead. The name of his city was Pa’u; his wife’s name was Meheitavel, daughter of Matred, the daughter of Mei Zahav.”

Well, first of all, the verse mentions the name of his wife, the name of her mother, Matred, and the name of her father, Mei-Zahav, who was—well, you might say “as rich as a king.” In fact, he was so rich that he didn’t even consider gold to be precious, he had so much of it. But most intriguingly, unlike the other kings, it doesn’t say that Hadar died. Well, he must have done so at some stage, but his marriage seems to be far more significant in the Torah’s perspective. Seems like for these kings it was either one or the other: marriage or death. Hadar chose marriage.

Well, that’s about as far as the Torah goes to explain it. Even the regular Torah commentaries, like Rashi and Ramban, just move on to the next chapter. And so we will.

Chaotic Energies

Those seven kings who seem so unproductive in the Torah gain an entirely different perspective when we delve into the treasure troves of Jewish mysticism. Kabbalah identifies these seven as the primordial kings of chaos. One interpretation is that each of the seven kings corresponds to one untamed character trait: exaggerated self-love, neurosis, self-pity, etc. In the human psyche, each one of these traits rises to power and then falls, to give rise to the next in line. Or, perhaps these seven kings relate to seven different styles of political rule: socialism, communism, democracy, etc. Whichever they are, each of the seven kings was destined to die and be succeeded by the next. Kabbalah refers to them as the broken vessels of the World of Chaos. The reason why they shattered and fell was because, like the delicate glass of a light bulb when the voltage is too high, their fragile vessels couldn’t tolerate the power of their chaotic energies.

That is, until we reach the eighth king, Hadar: the married king who didn’t die.The married king didn’t die

Maybe it has something to do with taking another person into consideration, but Kabbalah teaches us that there is something about marriage that gives a person balance and a clearer perspective on the world. The union of male and female in sanctity gives the couple the opportunity to continue to live through their offspring (either their children or their good deeds), even after they (the parents) are no longer physically in this world. Marriage, it appears, is the perfect foundation in which chaotic energies can be contained. A stable home environment is the vessel that is capable of harnessing those potent powers in a most productive way.

But men and women are so different from one another. How can we get any union between the two of them to bear fruit? How can we prevent the vessel from shattering and being swept into the mountains of broken hearts that already exist? The Arizal teaches us that the secret that we learn from Hadar and Meheitavel is: inter-inclusion.

You in Me and Me in You

In Hebrew, the name Hadar means “splendor.” We can see this splendor echoed in the phrase pri etz hadar, the Torah’s term for the beautiful etrog fruit that we are commanded to take in hand on the festival of Succot. The letters of the word hadar also form the root of the verb lehader, which means “to show respect” (in particular, to show respect for the elderly, and to show respect for the commandments by performing them as completely as possible).

Loosely translated, the name Meheitavel means “being good to G‑d.”

Does this mean that we have Hadar (the husband) demanding that Meheitavel (the wife) respect his splendor, and Meheitavel screaming at Hadar that he be good to her G‑dliness? When aimed one against the other, those chaotic energies are definitely not the most successful recipe for a happy marriage . . . But, if Hadar learnt from Meheitavel to become aware of the divine soul within himself, and Meheitavel learned from Hadar how to contain her spiritual aspirations within a respectful and beautiful approach, together they could bring about a perfect world.

The sages teach us that it all depends on the innate insight of the woman. A man is full of chaotic energies, as it were, and the wife is the vessel that can contain them. This is why the rectification of the primordial World of Chaos is related to Hadar and Meheitavel, a married couple.

Before the creation of Eve, G‑d looked at Adam, the bachelor whom He had created, and said, “It is not good for man to be alone; I will make for him a helpmate to oppose him.” From the very moment of her creation, G‑d instilled woman with an intrinsic knowledge of when to be a helpmate for her husband and when to oppose him. By using these tools at the right instances, a wise woman is able to build a stable home together with her husband.

Perhaps Adam might have found it easier to achieve his role of serving G‑d if Eve had not been created. Perhaps he would have been able to better focus on his divine source without distractions. But a man must also learn to carry out his social mission in life—the natural orientation of the woman.

But, we said that Hadar (corresponding to Adam) means respect for others (the social mission), and that Meheitavel (corresponding to Eve) means to be good to G‑d (the divine mission). So, here we see that Hadar and Meheitavel really did succeed in rectifying and inter-including their roles—which is why they make such a perfect couple!

It All Depends on the Woman

Every Hebrew word has a numerical value (gematria), and by comparing words with equal numerical values, we often can learn something new.

The numerical value of Meheitavel is 97, which is also the numerical value of zeman, time. Women are inherently attuned to time; their bodies have an internal clock, they are renowned for remembering special calendar events, and in Jewish law they are exempt from certain time-connected commandments, like wearing tzitzit, for example, which is applicable only during daytime hours.When left unattended over a period of time, a system will naturally return to the highest possible state of randomness

One of the basic laws of physics that relates specifically to time is the law of entropy, which in simplified terms states that when left unattended over a period of time, a system will naturally return to the highest possible state of randomness (e.g., the state of the children’s room described at the beginning of this article . . .). Nonetheless, Chassidut teaches us that inherent within the chaos is a grain of rectification from which spontaneous order can sprout. In a most wondrous, counterintuitive way, that grain of order is concealed within time itself. This was Meheitavel’s secret, and the secret of every woman: the ability to infuse order into a world of total chaos.

Adding the numerical values of Hadar (209) and Meheitavel (97) yields a total of 306, the numerical value of the word ishah, woman, in whose hands lies the grain of rectification to achieve spontaneous order in the world.

Slowly closing the book, she put it into its place on the bookshelf above the desk. She picked up the pencil and pushed the notebooks into a pile at the back of the desk to make room to write herself a message on a scrap of paper that she found amongst them. Carefully, she wrote the words “Spontaneous Order.” She replaced the pencil in the open pencil box and set the box back in the drawer. Smiling a secret smile, she got up from the chair and pushed it under the desk, which, as if by magic, was suddenly tidy . . .

When the children came home that afternoon, they breathed in the aroma of a nourishing meal and looked around at the sparkling-clean kitchen.

“School bags in the bedroom, sweethearts,” she called from the sofa, sipping a cup of refreshing lemonade.

“Hey, Mom, the bedroom looks so tidy!”

“Thanks for clearing up the mess! How did you do it?”

“Ah . . . ,” she replied with a mysterious chuckle. “With Meheitavel around, nothing stood in my way.”