An entire section of this weeks Torah
portion is dedicated to
the poetic words of my dear friend and colleague, Yanki Tauber
in the Week In Review (which
we publish weekly), adapted from the Rebbes teachings:
This weeks Torah reading, Vayeitzei
(Genesis 28:1032:3), is veritably glutted with sheep:
Labans sheep and Jacobs sheep; white sheep, dark
sheep, spotted sheep, speckled sheep, sheep with rings around
their ankles. Jacob arrives in Charan, and the first sight
to greet him is that of several flocks of sheep congregated
around a sealed well; the second is his future wife, Rachel
(the name is Hebrew for sheep), shepherding her
fathers sheep. Soon Jacob is a shepherd himself, caring
for sheep, receiving his wages in sheep, breeding sheep with
special markings, dreaming of sheep, amassing a fortune in
sheep, and finally leading his flocks back to the Holy Land
where he will present his brother Esau with a huge gift comprised
largely of... sheep.
In the continuing essay, the Rebbe explains
the significance of sheep in our relationship with G-d. But
what is the meaning behind the different type of sheep that
Jacob breeded: Akudim, nekudim, verudim,
ringed, spotted and speckled sheep? Why did Jacob invest so
much of his time in producing these sheep, and he insists
that they become his reward in return for all his labor for
his cunning, swindling father-in-law, Laban?
Clearly there is more than meets the eye in
this sheep episode. Especially when we read the vision of
Jacob which he shares with Rachel and Leah of
ringed, spotted and speckled animals. And this vision is repeated
twice (31:10; 12), and it becomes a sign that G-d has
seen all that Laban is doing to you. What is the deeper
meaning of Jacobs vision, and why is it that these different
types of sheep become the source for tremendous wealth,
as well as the sign of G-d protecting Jacob?
All things physical are actually reflections
or manifestations of their spiritual counterparts.
The Holy Arizal explains in his revolutionary
teachings (Etz Chaim, beginning of Shaar (gate)
HaAkudim) that these three patterned sheep reflect
three fundamental worlds in the cosmic order.
[The Arizal is specifically on my mind these
days, because yesterday, Thursday, November 14, I led the
second of a five part series on Great
Jewish Mystics, which focused on the Arizal. I
take this opportunity to invite you to the following lectures.
Next week will be about the Shaloh, Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz.]
Akudim: The rings are bound forms of
energy (akud in Hebrew means bound). The
world of akudim is a very early stage in the cosmic
order where the ten sefirot the building blocks of
existence are ten energies (orot) bound
in one container (keli). The ten emanations are
so intense that they cannot yet be distinguished as ten individual
forces, and the container is just beginning to
emerge. Like a seed in its earliest budding stage, the container
is tiny, but within it lies concentrated all the energy and
details which will in time emerge.
Nekudim: The spots (or dots) are isolated
points (nekudah in Hebrew means point).
The world of nekudim is the next stage in the cosmic
order, in which the ten sefirot exist as isolated, uncoordinated
points of energy. As this stage the energy (light) has become
somewhat diminished and is not as intense as in akudim,
hence, ten distinct points; the containers have now matured
and are no longer just one single container, but they have
developed personality. Yet, in this world also called
the world of tohu (chaos) the energy is still
too intense for the containers, and being that they are uncoordinated
energies the containers are unable to contain the intensity
of the energy and they shatter (shevirat hakeilim).
Verudim: The speckles are combined colors
(see Zechariah 6:3. Ohr HaTorah Beshalach p. 395) or
interconnecting stripes. As Rashi explains verudim:
A white thread encircles his body all around, and its
stripes are open and penetrating from one to the other.
At this third stage in the cosmic order the world of verudim
also called tikkun and atzilut
the energies and containers mature to the point of
harmony and coordination. They are no longer ten isolated
points, but are one interconnected network of
sefirot, all working together. Hence, the name tikkun
they have the power to repair the shattered containers
of nekudim. The energies in verudim are weaker
per se than those in nekudim, and the containers are
stronger, yet this is what allows them to fuse with each other.
Instead of only two opposing forces in nekudim, the
third dimension is introduced, that like a spine, supports
and unites the entire structure. (This is also the essence
of beauty, see last weeks article).
The Arizal explains, that these three worlds
are a result of what Laban is doing to you, because
Laban is the secret (sod) of the
supernal whiteness (loven haelyon,
loven in Hebrew means white) that preceded all these
emanations, and he (this level of Laban) is the doer
of (i.e. the source that made) all these levels, akudim,
nekudim, verudim necessary for Atzilut which
emanates after them and is called by the name Jacob.
Jacob is the one that reveals the supernal whiteness
into the three worlds of akudim, nekudim, verudim.
This is why Jacob invested so much of his time
and energy in mastering these three stages of psycho-spiritual
development. He understood very clearly that the true reason
for leaving his parents in Israel (Beersheba, the fountain
of seven) and coming to Charan and building a family there
to enter the inferno of Labans home in a city
called wrath of G-d (Charan) was not to
just leave unscathed. The only redemption in enduring all
the pain and humiliation was that he would build more than
just a physical family; he would come away armed with the
secret of eternity: How to master living in a difficult, corrupt
material world and transform it. Not only how to survive and
remain uncompromised, but how to integrate the universe with
higher purpose with G-dliness. How to fuse the containers
and the energies.
This was the great wealth that Jacob amassed
in Charan, and this was the promise he received from G-d that
He sees all that Laban is doing to you. Jacob
learned the secret and even more importantly, he shared it
with Rachel and Leah and passed it on to all of us.
And what is the secret?
The secret is understanding even seeing,
as in Jacobs vision the genesis of it all. All
wisdom is about getting to the root of any given phenomenon.
Jacob saw how it all comes to be. To defang the perceived
adversary we must learn its source of power.
Akudim, nekudim, verudim is the inside
story of all that exists. When something comes to be, first
it begins as an intense form of energy, not yet shaped, defined.
Like a seed just fertilized, like a fetus in its first moment
of conception, like the spark of an idea just spawned. Concentrated
energy, including all the details to come, held in a miniscule
Then, the entity begins to grow, but will always
go through an awkwardness, a tension that can even lead to
chaos and upheaval, to the point of shattering. Too much energy,
too little seasoning. Many drives, little focus. Passion without
direction, intensity without grounding and coordination.
This stage is necessary, it is a form of adjustment
a so called market correction necessary
to realign and readjust material reality with Divine reality.
When seen in its full light, the destruction of tohu
is in order to build something greater. Like the razing of
a building in order to build a greater one in its place. Like
the deteriorating seed that allows the fruit to bloom. Or
the death of the cocoon so that the butterfly can emerge.
We need to shed one layer of skin in order to assume a new
Then we come to the third stage where we achieve
balance and integration. The energies learn to coexist and
complement each other. The containers and the energies become
acclimated to one another. One union is forged out of the
many diverse forces. Hiskalilut (coordination) as opposed
to hischalkut (division).
Just as the large universe came into being through
these three stages, so too is it with the small universe,
the human being, a small universe in microcosm (olam koton
zeh haadam). Each of us needs to go through all
three stages and master all three of them. The objective is
verudim, but for verudim to be healthy we need
the first two stages as well.
So, after all is said and done, there is much
that we can learn from Jacobs tending the sheep. Jacob
spent his days in the fields learning the mysteries of existence
from simple sheep. We, his children, are given these mysteries
as a gift tools that help us live our lives.
There are so many ways that Jacobs sheep
can be used in dealing with lifes challenges. We can
apply them to the way we love each other and our children,
and the way we intervene in confrontational situations, even
the way we analyze the global clashes taking place today.
When faced with a challenge, quantify it in
the three akudim /nekudim/ verudim stages. Figure out
which stage any given event or experience is up to. Is it
at the budding, intense akudim stage, or at the scattered
and fragmented nekudim stage, or ready for the networking
verudim stage? This can help define the issue and the
problem, which will allow you to find a solution.
How many more messages can we derive from these
three stages? If you have any, please share them with me.
Meanwhile, have a very good week. One that births many beautiful