This letter was sent in response to a query from R. Menachem Mendel Margolis, a shochet from Mass. who asked that the Rebbe explain three concepts. The first concerns the 120 forms of the name Elokim which are mentioned in certain Kabbalistictexts.

B”H, Monday, 9 Teves, 5705

Greetings and blessings,

In reply to your question: The sum of the different forms is based on the explanations of Sefer Yetzirah (ch. 4, mish. 12; in some texts, mish. 15): “Two stones build two houses.... Five stones build 120 houses.” The explanation of this mishnah is that “stones” means “letters,” and “houses” means “words.”1 “Two stones build two houses” means that from two letters, it is possible to make two words which employ these two letters in a different form (order). For example, from the two letters alef and beis, it is possible to make two words: אב (av) and בא (bo). Similarly, when there are five letters (e.g., the letters alef, lamed, hei, yud, and mem [which spell the name Elokim]), they can be joined together in 120 forms, with the order of the letters differing from each other.2 As can be seen, there are 24 possible forms beginning with the letter alef, 24 beginning with lamed, 24 beginning with hei, 24 beginning with yud, and24 beginning with mem. The fundamental form, however, is the name Elokim.3

Each of the 22 letters of the Torah represents a unique light (and the form of the letter indicates the character of the light; see [Tanya,] Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah, [ch. 11,] which discusses this). The Torah states:4 “In the beginning, G‑d created the heavens and the earth,” i.e., the creation came about through the medium of the name Elokim (since the name Havayah is enclothed within it).

The five letters of this name refer to five different attributes that are joined together. As a result, it is understandable that changing the form (order) of the letters of this name changes also the effect produced by this name. The general principle concerning this is well known (see Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah, loc. cit.): The first letter of the form is the one which is most powerful; it is the essential factor in the effect produced by this form.

The name Elokim combines the letters [of the words] אלה(“these”) and ים (“sea”); alternatively מי (“who”). אלה refers to revelation,5 while ים and מי ([i.e., one’s identity] is not known and is being asked about) points to hiddenness and concealment.6 (See Zohar, Vol. I, p. 2a, et al; Likkutei Torah, the maamar entitled Vehayah Mispar B’nei Yisrael, sec. 2). Therefore the forms of the name Elokim that begin with the letters alef, lamed, or hei produce effects that reveal G‑dly light and influence from above to a greater degree.

The effects that result from the forms that begin with the letters yud and mem, by contrast, are dominated by these letters and the G‑dly light within them is concealed more. Therefore it is from these forms alone — after a downward progression and a descent — that the kelipos and sitra achra derive nurture. Thus, as explained in Chassidus (Hosafos to Torah Or, the conclusion of Parshas Yisro), these 48 lower forms of the name Elokim (24 forms which begin with the letter yud and 24 forms which begin with the letter mem), “the land of the descendants of Cham,” are the source for the nurture of the kelipos.

Shaar HaKavannos (Inyan HaPesach, discourse 1) explains — somewhat at length — these 120 and 48 forms of the name Elokim. In that source, it appears that it is the kelipah of Egypt especially that derives its nurture from these forms. This can be explained, but this is not the place for elaboration on the issue.

b) With regard to your question concerning the statement in Magen Avos (the maamar entitled Shuvah, sec. 2) that ashrei (“fortunate”) is the opposite of hoy (“woe”). The source for the statement is the Yalkut Shimoni at the beginning of the book of Tehillim which speaks of the 20 times ashrei is mentioned in Tehillim ascorresponding to the 20 times hoy is mentioned in Yeshayahu. The explanation on a simple level is that ashrei refers to good fortune and pleasure while hoy refers to the opposite, discomfort and suffering.

With regard to the explanation according to Chassidus: The Commentary to the Mishnah by the Tzemach Tzedek7(published in Derech Mitzvosecha, Vol. II)8 comments on the verse:9 “Happy are those who dwell in Your house.” The term hoy indicates that Divine influence has ascended from the level of Yesod (associated with the letter yud) to Tiferes (associated with the letter vav) and from there to Binah (associated with the letter hei). The opposite is ashrei (אשר י). For אשר refers to the Future, the level of Binah as it shines to Zaer Anpin until it is drawn down to yud. As stated in another source (the maamarim associated with the half-shekel) that Yesod is orphaned from Binah. This applies in the era of exile.

(The Siddur Maharid interprets the verse “Happy are those who dwell” as referring to [influence] that ascended to Kesser. Much explanation is required concerning this. For seemingly, this is the intent of the term אוי (oy) and not the term הוי (hoy), as mentioned in Pardes, Shaar Erchei HaKinnuim, erech oy and hoy as cited in the Commentary to the Mishnah, loc. cit.)

c) The level of the 288 sparks are explained in detail in Etz Chayim, Shaar 18. The rationale for the number 288 is explained in ch. 2: “The number of 288 sparks stems from the four dimensions of 72 that descended from the four forms of the name Havayah (i.e., Havayah [with a milui10of] 72, 63, 45, and 52). Together they are 288 sparks.” See also Pri Etz Chayim, Shaar HaKerias Shema, ch. 9, and Mishnas Chassidim, Maseches HaNitzutzin.

With regard to this concept, it is explained — see Torah Or (Parshas Vayeishev, the maamar entitled ViHinei Anachnu, sec. 2) — that the number 288 refers to the sparks as they existed in Atzilus. As they fell from Atzilus to the world of Beriah and fell from Beriah to Yetzirah and from Yetzirah to Asiyah, they became divided and separated into thousands and myriads.

On this basis, we can understand why this exile has been prolonged for so long. For as is well known, the intent is to refine the 288 sparks and when their refinement is completed, Mashiach will come; may that be speedily in our days, Amen.

(The Hagahas Tzemach — to Mevo Shaarim, Shaar 2, Vol. III, ch. 9 — resolves this matter somewhat differently; see also Emek HaMelech, ch. 53.) Torah Or, Parshas Bo, the maamar entitled B’Etzem HaYom states: “288 sparks fell during the shattering of the vessels. From them, 202 were refined in the Egyptian exile.”

See also the maamarim of Parshas Vayeishev in Torah Or and Toras Chayim. The maamar entitled Ish Al Diglo (Parshas Bamidbar, 5700) explains the shattering of the vessels according to the teachings of Chassidus.

With the blessings “Immediately to teshuvah; immediately to Redemption,”

Rabbi Menachem Schneerson(br />Executive Director