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Parashat MeKaitz

“The Revealer of Secrets”
What Does Yoseph Know That We Don’t?

Joel David Bakst © 2002

"And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Tzafenat-Pa'neach" – Revealer of Secrets...(Genesis 41:45)

“In the beginning of the Redemption crucial formulas hidden in the Torah and in the words of the Talmudic sages begin to be revealed”. (The Gaon of Vilna)

In the last week’s portion we read, “Yoseph dreamed a dream, and he told it to his brothers: and they hated him yet the more.  And he said to them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed: for, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, "My sheaf suddenly arose and stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves came round about, and bowed down to my sheaf”. (Genesis 37-7).

Yaakov’s favorite son, Yoseph, brings him critical reports about his brothers.  Yaakov makes Yoseph a fine coat of multi-colored woolen strips.  Yoseph exacerbates his brothers' hatred by recounting prophetic dreams — of sheaves of wheat bowing to his sheaf, and of the sun, moon and stars bowing to him — signifying that all his family will recognize his superiority over them.  The brothers indict Yoseph and resolve to execute him.  And his brothers envied him; but his father kept the matter in mind”. (37:11)

We learned from last week’s commentary that Yoseph’s behavior and all that followed was part of a cosmic chain of events in an awesome drama, a Divine plot engineered to fulfill Avraham’s prophesy that his progeny would become enslaved in a foreign land.  Yoseph is known throughout rabbinical literature as the Tzadik par excellence.  But how do we understand the apparent behavior of the 17-year-old Yoseph?  He appears as an arrogant megalomaniac who, caught up in sibling rivalry, dreams of dominating his brothers -- and even his own father!

Yoseph did not earn the appellation of Tzaddik – the Saintly One -- until a year later when he was victorious over his sexual inclination with Potifera’s wife.  Yet, even at 17 years old[1] the esoteric tradition teaches that Yoseph was consciously preparing for his mission in the role of “Tzadik, yesod olam “ – “The Righteous One is the foundation channel of the world”.  The qashe question is what did Yoseph think he was doing with his relationship to his brothers, the Tribes of Israel.  Did he, like Noach, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov and all the other masters before and after him, have a plan to rectify Adam’s damage to the spiritual worlds?  What did Joseph know that we don’t know, but are now just beginning to understand? In this week’s portion Yoseph’s secret mission is revealed.[2]

Pharaoh has a dream.  He is displeased with all attempts to interpret it.  Pharaoh's wine chamberlain remembers that Yoseph accurately interpreted his dream while in prison. Yoseph is released from prison and brought before Pharaoh. He interprets that soon will begin seven years of abundance followed by seven years of severe famine. He tells Pharaoh to appoint a wise person to store grain in preparation for the famine.  "Now Pharaoh must seek out a man who is understanding (navon, an aspect of the sefira bina) and wise (chacham, an aspect of the sefira chochma)".  Pharaoh appoints him as viceroy to oversee the project, and selects Osnat, Yoseph's ex-master's daughter, as Yoseph's wife.  Egypt becomes the granary – materially and metaphorically -- for the world.  Pharaoh gives Yoseph a new name, Tsafnat Panayach -- Revealer of Hidden Things.

Yoseph: Redeemer of Wisdom[3]

(From the Kabbalah tradition of the Gaon of Vilna)

Yoseph the righteous Tzadik was the first to attain [the archetypal levels of] Understanding (Binah) and Wisdom (Chochmah).  This is the mystery of the verse, "My sheaf suddenly arose and stood upright"  (Genesis 37:7).  Yoseph understood that the essence of his dream and vision concerned these two levels.  He saw it as an indication of his great mission: He was to become the conduit (yesod) for revealing the supernal Chochmah-Wisdom and Binah-Understanding.  This is why he later said to Pharaoh, "Now Pharaoh must seek out a man who is understanding (navon, from the same root as bina) and wise (chacham)"   (ibid.  41:33).  He was referring to himself.

He mentioned "understanding" before "wisdom" because this took place prior to the giving of the Torah [which is the highest level of Supernal Wisdom].  It is for this reason that, after the giving of the Torah, "wisdom" precedes "understanding," as in the verse, "She is your wisdom and your understanding in the eyes of the nations... this great nation is certainly a wise and understanding people"  (Deuteronomy 4:6).

[According to tradition, Yoseph attained these levels] in the following manner: The night before Yoseph's release from prison he was taught the Seventy Languages by the Archangel Gabriel and the Seven Wisdoms by the Archangel Metatron[4]

When Yoseph had recounted his dreams to his brothers, he made sure to include their interpretations, namely, that they indicated his superior understanding and wisdom.  This, of course, was the main reason for their jealousy, as the verse states, "They hated him even more for his dreams and his words"  (ibid.  37:8).  "His words" refers to the interpretation that he gave to his dreams.

Our master [the Gaon of Vilna] found an allusion to this: the phrase "my sheaf arose (kama alumati)" is numerically equivalent to the term Seven Wisdoms (Sheva Chochmot).  Our master revealed another amazing allusion that indicates Yoseph's link with "wisdom and understanding."  During the Exodus from Egypt, "Moshe took Yoseph's bones with him, for Yoseph had bound the children of Israel by an oath, saying, 'God will surely redeem you; you shall therefore bring my bones out of here with you'" (Exodus 13:19).  The second letter in each word of the verse "Moshe took Yoseph's bones with him " add up to the numerical value of the phrase Seven Wisdoms (Sheva Chochmot).

Since Yoseph is the archetype of the Messiah of the Beginning all this indicates that the revelation of the secret wisdom of the Torah will come about primarily through Mashiach ben Yoseph during the period of the Footsteps of the Messiah (Ikveta D'Meshicha).  Together with the ingathering of the exiles, this will signal the period of the Beginning of the Redemption (Atchalta D'Geulah ).[5]

According to the Gaon of Vilna’s Doctrine of Redemption all scientific knowledge and technology is rooted in the providential force of Mashiach ben Yoseph.  He is the essence of knowledge and the organizing and unifying principle that governs the development, redemption and integration of scientific and esoteric knowledge together.

All the details of this great mission are embodied in the life of the historical Yoseph.  From the dreams of his youth, his sale into slavery, his rise to power as Pharaoh's viceroy, his mastery of the Seven Wisdoms and the recovery of his bones at the critical moment of the Exodus: every event in Yoseph's life is a prophetic allusion to the task of Mashiach ben Yoseph.

The appellation of Tzadik (the Righteous One), is associated primarily with the ninth sefirah of Yesod, and is personified in Yoseph.[6]  He earned this title only after he was successful in overcoming the sexual temptations of Potifera's wife.  His righteousness is due to his almost superhuman ability to channel his sexual energy throughout this ordeal.  This is the kabbalistic meaning of the phrase Tzadik Yesod Olam -- “The righteous one is the [hidden] channel of the world.[7]

Yet, Yoseph earned himself the title of Tzaddik  - the Righteous Channeler - for another reason that is no less significant.  Also, for this reason he was crowned with the additional title of Tsafnat Panayach -- Revealer of Hidden Things.  Yoseph had entered the PARDES (Orchard) of Egyptian occult wisdom in peace and left in peace.

Entering The Pardes

There is the well-known saga of the four sages who entered the PARDES  - the paradisiacal orchard of wisdom.  Of these four spiritual masters only Rabbi Akiva "entered in shalom and left in shalom"  (Chagigah 14b).  According to the Kabbalah it is not by chance that there were precisely four men involved in this story.  The word PARDES is itself an anagram for the four levels of Torah exploration: pshat, "simple meaning," remez, "allusion," drash, "exposition," and sod, "mystery."[8]  These four levels in turn parallel the four letters of the Tetragrammaton (Y-H-V-H) and the four dimensions of the spiritual universe Atzilut -- Emanation, Beriyah -- Creation, Yetzirah -- Formation and Asiyah -- Action.  The encounter with the four-fold dimensionality of the PARDES is none other than the re-entry into the mystery of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  The objective of entering the PARDES is to rectify the Fall of Knowledge -- both spiritual wisdom as well as secular wisdom --, which had occurred in the time of Adam.

As these men were preparing themselves to enter into the PARDES, their intention was to contemplate the deepest inner secrets of the four universes and to ascend from every external level to the inner level above it... .  The first level that one must master in order to enter the PARDES consists of knowledge of the physical dimension, "the heaven and earth" of this world.  This involves the analytical wisdom that distinguishes all true science.  All of this, however, is only the external aspect of lower dimensionality (Asiyah), which is the domain of the sciences.  The inner aspect of this is the vital force - Nefesh, which sustains nature and activates it continually.[9]

This was exactly Yoseph's test in Egypt:

Yoseph the Tzadik also entered into this exploratory mission.  He also was victorious and departed entirely in shalom.  As the Zohar   (3:207a) states: When Yoseph was separated from his father and sold into slavery [at the age of 17] he was already initiated into the Supernal Wisdom in the mystery of the holy supernal crowns (sefirot).  In Egypt he learned their [occult] wisdom in the mystery of the lower crowns.  That is, he learned how the sefirot of the right side [of supernal wisdom] are united with those on the left side [of lower wisdom].  The ten on the right are called "asses" while the ten on the left are called "she-asses."   Yoseph thus secretly alluded to his father what he had learned while in Egypt when, "he sent ten asses loaded with Egypt's finest produce, as well as ten she-asses loaded with grain, bread and food for his father's journey " (Genesis 45: 23).

This is what Yoseph's brothers meant when they told their father, "Yoseph is still alive and he is ruler over the entire land of Egypt"  (ibid. 26).  Their intention was that Yoseph had subjugated the hierarchy of the External Knowledge of ancient Egypt.  The next verse therefore states, "[Yaacov's] heart became faint for he could not believe them" (ibid.  27).  Finally, "Yisrael said: it is too much; my son Yoseph is yet alive"  (ibid.  28).  Yaacov-Yisrael was shocked at the astounding degree of Yoseph's righteousness in that he was still on the level of Chai  [“alive”] -- the [uncontaminated] life force - as is explained in the holy Zohar   (1:211b).[10]

The occult wisdom of ancient Egypt that Yoseph had mastered was not theoretical magic.  The Wisdom of Egypt was based upon a broad and penetrating understanding of the forces of physical nature.  In fact, one example of ancient Egyptian mastery of the Seven Wisdoms is none other than the last remaining of the Ancient World's "Seven Wonders."

Ten miles west of the city of Cairo lies an object that has intrigued and bewildered historians, philosophers and scientists for many centuries.  The only remaining of the traditional Seven Wonders of the ancient world, the Great Pyramid of Giza is often described as the most sublime landmark in history.  The base of this massive structure covers 13 acres or seven midtown New York city blocks (a mile square).  Leveled to within a fraction of an inch, more than two and a half million blocks of limestone and granite - weighing from two to seventy tons apiece - rise in 201 stepped tiers to the height of a modern 40 story building.  As a feat in masonry it was not to be matched until the construction of Boulder Dam.

Modern engineers are astounded by both the enormity of the problems involved in the construction of the Pyramid and the optician's precision with which these problems were resolved.  What the Great Pyramid looked like when it was completed, or even for the 1st or 2nd millennia thereafter is not recorded in history.  Furthermore, it is not agreed upon when it was built or even by whom and for what purpose it was constructed.  Two things are certain, however, it was never used as a tomb (unlike the other smaller pyramids) and it was already ancient by the time of the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt (3,300 years ago).[11]

It is well known that the masters of the ancient Seven Wisdoms, Jews and non-Jews alike, saw no division between spiritual truth and secular wisdom.  Nothing was ever "secular" to begin with.  All knowledge was seen as being rooted in a divine source, even if this knowledge was misunderstood and misused for idolatrous purposes.  It is not by coincidence that alchemy was the precursor to modern chemistry, astrology laid the foundations for astronomy, and mystic geometry preceded present-day mathematics.  And in the time of Yoseph, Egypt was the center of all scientific and religious knowledge then in existence.

As the Mashiach ben Yoseph of his generation, Yoseph's mission was to amass and integrate the "lower wisdom" together with his "higher wisdom" into a unity of Supernal Wisdom.  Similar to King Solomon at the ascendancy of his wisdom and power, Yoseph was compelled, against his will, to enter into the PARDES of Egyptian occult wisdom in order to redeem the fragments of higher knowledge that had become separated from their source and mixed with shells of impurity.  Yoseph's messianic role was "to distill from their words that which they have swallowed."[12]

Yoseph succeeded in his mission to such an extent that even the Egyptians -- Pharaoh, the priests of the occult and the chief architects -- recognized his superiority and gave him a new name - Tzafenat Pa'aneach  - "Revealer of Hidden Things."  He was appointed viceroy over all of Egypt, then the center of world civilization.  Along with being the master of Torah and its esoteric teachings, Yoseph was the master of the natural sciences, a virtual Einstein.  He was the master of dream interpretation and the psychology of the mind, a virtual Freud.  He was also the master of economics and world finance, a virtual Marx (All three were Jews, but with varying degrees of “Jewishness”).

All this and yet, Od Yoseph Chai  - Mashiach ben Yoseph was still alive.  Yoseph looked like a non-Jew (he wore Egyptian clothes), talked like a non-Jew (he spoke Egyptian and feigned before his brothers not to understand the holy tongue), he was ostensibly married to a non-Jew (Asnat was the daughter of the Egyptian high priest).[13]  And Yoseph even had a distinctly non-Jewish name -- Tzafenat Pa'aneach.[14]  Yet, shocking even his father Yaakov/Yisrael, the mission impossible of Mashiach ben Yoseph was accomplished.  Although appearing to have been killed on the outside (in the mystery of the tradition "Mashiach ben Yoseph will die") he had only gone underground ("Mashiach ben Yoseph lives on") and resurfaced untainted.  It is his ability to extract, process and integrate secular wisdom that Yoseph earned the title Tzadik Yesod Olam  - the righteous one who is the hidden spiritual channel for the Seven Wisdoms.[15]

As revealed to him in his dreams, this was his destiny and this is the destiny of every Mashiach ben Yoseph in each generation and the mission of those God-fearing bearers of the Torah who attach themselves to his collective root.

It is from [the archetype of] Yoseph that the mission of Mashiach ben Yoseph derives in every generation.  This is especially true during the period of the final  "Footsteps of the Messiah" (Ikveta D’Meshicha).[16]

Taking the alias of Tzafenat Pa'aneach, Yoseph the Jewish physicist/psychologist/economist, extracted the fallen sparks from the science and technology of a foreign culture while directing its very path.  Yoseph's task in Egypt was nothing less than a messianic conspiracy, and the task today of Mashiach ben Yoseph is also nothing less than laying the groundwork for a world wide messianic conspiracy.

There is yet another aspect to Yoseph’s role as Tzafenat Pa'aneach.

"Revealer of Hidden Things" (Genesis 41:45) - This was the name given to Yoseph.  It signifies that one of the missions of Mashiach ben Yoseph is to reveal the secrets of the Torah in every generation.  As is known, this is especially true as the Ikveta D’Meshicha approaches.[17]

The mission of Mashiach ben Yoseph is to reveal both the secrets of the physical universe and the secrets of the spiritual universe.  According to the law of parallelism, the former is the very reflection of the latter.

As Yoseph's sheaf arose to reveal the Seven Wisdoms 3,500 years ago so has the great sheaf of Mashiach ben Yoseph been rising again, reaching a new ascendancy of power and dominance that grows more awesome each day.  Although science and technology appear, from a simple religious perspective, as a skeleton of heresy and apikorsus, every one of these bones will be resurrected and redeemed.

"Moshe took Yoseph's bones with him, for Yoseph had bound the children of Israel by an oath, saying, 'God will surely redeem you; you shall therefore bring my bones out of here with you.'" [Our master revealed that] the second letters in each word of the verse, "Moshe took Yoseph's bones with him" add up to the numerical value of the phrase "Seven Wisdoms."[18]

When Moshe, the aspect of the Mashiach ben Yoseph of his generation, will take Yoseph's bones with him, i.e. back into his soul,[19] they will then arise and resurrect with the flesh and heart of a spirituality the world has not ever known.  And when the Yosephs of today, (the scientists and technicians) will be redeemed, secular wisdom will be turned "outside-in" to reveal a vision of creation that will be more than religion and more than science.  The Tree of Knowledge will be transformed into the Tree of Life.

The key to understanding the messianic mission of Yoseph in every generation is a scriptural formula also from this week’s portion, “And Yoseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him”. The collective soul of Yoseph, the Divine conduit for the reunification of Adamic knowledge, is here on a mission.  Tsafnat Panayach – the Revealer of Secrets – is hidden in the Zeitgeist of our generation.  Our generation’s challenge is to put the pieces of the puzzle together and to understand the secrets that Mashiach ben Yoseph has come to reveal.  Yet, even though he recognizes who we are the question remains, can we recognize him?


[1] Why does the Torah need to tell us his specific age?  Because 17 is the numerical value of Y-H-V-H according to its “miniature number” (1+5+6+5 = 17), Yoseph being a miniature or microcosm of the three Patriarchs.  He is also a “fourth leg” in the Divine Chariot, the human carriers of G-d’s Presence. 17 is also the value of the word “Good” with its many implications. (Shela)

[2] Every year this portion falls during the eight days of Chanukah and there are many connections between the deeper understanding of Chanukah and the character and mission of Yoseph.  Yoseph and the Chanukah connection, however, is material for another chapter.

[3] See also the two previous commentaries Seven Wisdoms of the Seven Books and Father of a Failed Messiah.

[4] See also Sha'ar HaGilgulim page 69a.

[5] Kol HaTor Sha'ar Be'er Sheva, paragraph #15

[6] Sha'ar Be'er sheva, note.

[7] Yesod has two modes of operation, one hidden (celibacy) and one alive (intercourse). 

[8] See Zohar 3:110a; Tikuney Zohar Chadash 102d.

[9] R. Shlomo Eliyashiv Leshem Sh'vo V'Achlamah, Sefer De'ah 2:4:22:4, p. 181 (91a, bottom).  See text of Sha'ar Be'er Sheva, note 23.

[10] Ibid. 2:4:20:3, p. 163 (82a, bottom). See also Brit Yitzchak, R. Yitzchak Izik Chaver, page 16

[11] Secrets of the Great Pyramid, Peter Tomkins, Intro

[12] The GRA's words to R. Dr. Baruch Schick

[13] According to tradition, Asnat was actually Dinah's daughter  (Yaacov's granddaughter).  This explains why Yoseph was the only one of the tribes to receive a double portion in the Land of Israel. His sons with Asnat, Menashe and Ephraim, were both considered as separate tribes.  In this way, Dinah received her portion in the land through her daughter.  Pirkey Rabbi Eliezer 38;  Yonatan ben Uziel, Rabbeinu Bachya, on Genesis  41:45.

[14] All these aspects of Yoseph's apparent assimilation are alluded to in the statement (Sota 36b),  "Yoseph was swallowed up [i.e., assimilated] among the nations of the world".

[15] The paradoxical tension between the two extremities of Mashiach ben Yoseph must die" and Od Yoseph Chai also solves a well known scriptural problem, 'Did or did not Yaacov know that Yoseph was alive for the entire 22 years of their separation?" See Kol HaTor aspect #93 of the 156 aspects of Mashiach ben Yoseph  - "Yaacov refused to be comforted"  (Genesis  38:35).

[16] Kol HaTor end of paragraph #8

[17] Kol Hator aspect #122 - Tzafenat Pa'aneach. See also, e.g., Even Shleima, 52b.

[18] Sha'ar Be'er Sheva.  See also another explanation for "Yoseph's Bones" page 522 and aspect #110 (p. 493)

[19] Ari, Sha'ar HaP'sukim

Father of a Failed Messiah

Joel David Bakst ©2000-2013

“Isaac loved Esau…” Genesis 25:28

“I loved you,” said HaShem, and you [the Nation of Israel] said, “How have you loved us?”  Was not Esau a brother of Jacob – the words of HaShem – yet I loved Jacob.  But I hated Esau…”

After 20 years of marriage, Isaac and Rebecca’s prayers are answered and she conceives twins.  The pregnancy is very difficult.  God reveals to Rivka that two great nations will descend from these twins — Rome (later Christianity) and Israel.  Esav (Esau) is born with Yaakov holding onto Esav’s heel.  As they develop Esav becomes a hunter, a man of the physical world, whereas Yaakov sits in the tents of Torah developing his soul.  On the day of their grandfather Avraham’s funeral, Yaakov is cooking lentils, the traditional mourner’s meal.  Esav rushes in, ravenous from a hard day’s hunting, and sells his birthright (and its joint spiritual responsibilities and mission) for a bowl of “red stuff” (red lentils) and “therefore he [also] called his name Edom” – “the Red One” (adom is Hebrew for red).

        Years later, when Yitzchak is preparing to leave the world, he summons Esav to initiate him into his esoteric mission via the “blessings” that he received from his father Avraham.  While in a state of prophecy, it is revealed to Rivka, that the blessings must go to Yaakov and not to Esav.  She arranges for Yaakov to impersonate Esav in order to receive the blessings.  When a traumatized Esav reveals to his father that Yaakov has bought the birthright from him, Yitzchak realizes that the birthright has been bestowed correctly on Yaakov and confirms the blessings he has given Yaakov.  Esav vows to kill Yaakov, so Rivka sends Yaakov to her brother Lavan where he may also find a wife.

This is one of the most difficult and enigmatic sections to understand in the entire Torah. We find Yaakov apparently deceiving his father and 'stealing' the blessings from his twin brother Esav.  This is perplexing to understand, especially in terms of what we are taught -- "He gives Truth to Jacob..." [Micah 7:20]. Yaakov Avinu is the Patriarch that personifies the attribute of Truth, yet Yaakov 'steals' the blessing, “deceives” his father and “imposters” his brother.  Yet, Yaakov is the master tzadik and the embodiment of truth.  So, what could lie beneath the cloak concealing Yaakov’s bizarre behavior?

Perhaps an even greater difficulty is how is it possible that Esav, and not Yaakov, was the favorite son of Yitzchak?  When approaching any of the Biblical personalities, especially the Patriarchs, we need to apply the principle "Are we dealing here with fools”?! (“Atu b’shuftanay askinan?!”).  Yes, each one was human with character flaws, compulsions and failings from which we learn, in retrospect, how to perfect ourselves and develop Torah-based moral and ethical standards (known in Hebrew as mussar).  Thus, many psychological, ethical and social lessons are derived from the pshat -- the simple narrative – of Isaac’s behavior and the relationship with his two sons.

But here the comparison stops.  Our Biblical forefathers – including Isaac -- were initiated into something that we have long lost and have virtually no idea that it even existed.  The ancient Torah masters had a plan.  Every Biblical character had access to a virtual library of highly detailed cosmic maps of creation and esoteric knowledge and methodically planned their actions in accordance.  They had a kabbalah, literally a received esoteric tradition, transmitted from master to disciple and constantly “”upgraded” through the agency of prophecy and ruach hakodesh (Divine Spirit).

Therefore, when probing the behavior of the Patriarch Isaac, imagine not what you would be doing if you were he.  Rather, imagine that if there were in his hands the blueprints and mathematical-like formulas of the creation process and its consequent collapse what did he think he was doing.  Assume that every single action or word that was performed and uttered was premeditated and executed with total consciousness.  Now, ask yourself, "What was Isaac’s hava ameena — the underlying proactive hypothesis — to act the way he did towards Esav?  And when you think you have an answer, then ask yourself again in light of who Esav is, “But, still how could Isaac, the master sage-mystic, do that?!”

What was Yitzchak thinking when he wanted to give the blessings to Esav?  How could he not see the blatant deception and base character of Esav that is so evident in the oral traditions of the Torah?  Could such a wild, earthy individual -- the epitome of arrogance, deception and pleasure seeking -- be the one to be initiated into the secret mission to rectify the world from the Fall of Adam?  Could Esav be the one to inherit the leading role from Isaac that was passed down from Abraham and those masters before him going back to Adam himself?  Could Esav, the wicked, the archetypal root of the Roman Empire and later the collective soul of the Catholic Church and Christianity, be the “good guy”?!  The answer, as staggering as it appears, is even more than that.  The truth be told, Esav was destined to be the Messiah for the entire world.  The question, however, is which messiah?  Not the well-known Messiah from the loins of King David.  Rather, Esav was the potential Mashiach ben Yoseph, the Messiah from the lineage of Joseph.

The Split Messiah

Although the concept of a second messiah is new to most of us, it is not new in Torah cosmology.  In fact, it is fundamental.  Mashiach ben Yoseph is half of a larger picture.  The other half, which is more familiar, is Mashiach ben David, the Messiah from the lineage of King David, or simply the Messiah.  Together they are known in the Zohar and elsewhere as the Trein M'sheecheen - the Aramaic term for the Two Messiahs - Mashiach ben Yoseph and Mashiach ben David.  Each of the two messiahs can only be understood in relationship to each other.  Although they operate in their individual roles, each one is dependent upon the other and they influence each other.  Theoretically, the Two Messiahs act in partnership and assist each other.  Until the final tikun of Adam they continue to exist in every generation.  Mashiach ben Yoseph in the sod of "Yoseph lives on" and Mashiach ben David in the sod of "David King of Israel lives forever."  It is the symbiotic union - or antagonism - between these two cosmological forces that form the hidden landscape upon which all the dramas of the Bible take on a new and very different perspective.  It is upon the esoteric teaching of the Two Messiahs that the epic of Yitzchak and his twin sons unfolds.

Now, why two messiahs?[1]  Why any messiah at all? What is the purpose of a Mashiach?  The Mashaich is the individual who is at the center of a universal process of tikun.  Tikun means "rectification" or "mending."  In the Kabbalah tikun also refers to a process of "elevation" and "transformation."  Whereas the second definition implies taking something that is already complete into a more refined state, the first definition implies that something has been broken, and the immediate goal is only to return it to its original state of completion.  These are the two modes of tikun.

When something has been broken it obviously is not complete and it cannot function to its full capacity.  It is, in a sense, in a state of "fallenness" or "captivity" until it receives its proper tikun.  Its tikun is then its redemption from its captive state.  The one who performs that act of restoration is said to be its redeemer (goel) which is another name for a messiah.  We know that because of the miscalculation of Adam a cosmic "fall" ensued which affected the entirety of creation.  Messiah is the one who spearheads the restoration (tikun) and the redemption (geulah) of creation.

Yet, even the second definition of tikun as elevation and transformation implies a subtle form of captivity, which requires a process of redemption.  Something can be complete, but still have the capacity to evolve to a higher level.  As long as it has not yet attained that higher level, then it too can be said to be in a state of captivity that requires redemption.  The one who performs that act of transformation is said to be its redeemer, for he has released it from the bondage of its static level of completion.  This type of redeemer is also a Messiah.

At present we can understand the need for the first type of Messiah - one who will restore the world to its former state.  But where does the second type fit into the picture?  When was the world so complete that it needed only to be elevated to higher levels of completion and perfection?

This was the case in the Garden of Eden.  Originally, when Adam was created he was placed into a world that was essentially perfect.  His mission was to elevate and transform that which was already in a completed state.  Life was undergoing an awesome spiritual evolution.  The entire hierarchy -- human, animal, plant and mineral -- was rising up higher and higher.  The one orchestrating this was Adam.  Even in the original utopian description of the Garden of Eden Adam was life's redeemer and the World Messiah.

After the eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, reality radically changed and so did Adam's mission.  Adam now had a new task to perform.  A new mode of tikun was required -- the tikun of restoration and purification.  His original mission of transformation had not been nullified.  It only means that until he mends that which has been torn his original task gets delayed.  In the end he will return to complete it as well.

Adam, wearing the clothing of world humanity, is now two steps removed from the goal of creation.  First we have to fix what has been damaged (through the eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge) and then we have to take up where Adam left off (his original directive in the Garden of Eden “to work it and to guard it”).  Where there was originally needed only one mode of tikun, now there are two modes.  Where there was originally intended to be one redeemer, now there are two - one for each mode of tikun.  These two are referred to as the Trein M'sheecheen - the Two Messiahs.  Because of the Fall, Adam had, in effect, split himself into two personas with two missions.  Adam is the Split Messiah.

The messianic process whose mission is fundamentally involved with the physical world and earthly restoration is known as Mashiach ben Yoseph.  The process whose mission is one of spiritual elevation, transformation and completion is known as Mashiach ben David.  How these processes function is extremely complex and often hidden.  What we do know is that there are two avenues of operation.  Both missions can incarnate in two individuals within the same generation.  At other times, however, it is required that both messianic processes will coexist within a single person.  The most critical and potentially disastrous time in all world history when this occurred was with Isaac and his twin sons.

Messianic Surgery

All the family members – Yitzchak, Rivka, Yaakov and Esav – knew the name of the game and that they were the key players in a great cosmic drama to rectify the damaged root of the Tree of Knowledge.  The stakes were as high as they could get and every move was premeditated.  The father, the mother and the twin sons all had total consciousness and knew who they really were, where they were coming from and where they were going.  Yaakov was the Mashiach ben David for that generation.  His counterpart was Esav who was the potential Mashiach ben Yoseph.  Acting together they had the ability to initiate and complete the final tikun for all reality.  All factors being equal, there never would have been the history of the world as we know it, and reality would have “quantum jumped” back into the higher dimensionality of Adam before the Fall.

        But all the factors were not equal, the primordial serpent struck again; the soul of Esav became infected and it spread throughout his soul beyond recovery.  As is known in the Kabbalah, that which emanates from the left side, as does the gevurot of Mashiach ben Yoseph, is more vulnerable to infection.  Although more powerful than the right side, the left is the first and the hardest to be hit.  The extent of the Esav’s spiritual contamination was first revealed to Rivka, then to Yaakov and finally to Yitzchak, the father of the failed messiah.  Matters were now a state of emergency, a “red-red” alert.  The failsafe mechanism was to salvage the holy sparks of the Mashiach ben Yoseph that dwelt within Esav, to redeem them and unite them with its other half, the soul of the Mashiach ben David.  Yaakov had to absorb into his being the remaining elements of the uncontaminated parts of the Mashiach ben Yoseph of his brother Esav.  The entire modus operandi of every thing he said and did recorded in Scripture was for this purpose.  Rivka and Yaakov masterminded a spiritual conspiracy of utterly mind-boggling proportions.  Yaakov was performing cosmic surgery on the soul of his possessed twin brother to redeem the captive soul of the Mashiach ben Yoseph and to transplant it into his own soul!

This is why Yaakov had to not only act like, but also literally dress up as Esav.  On the deepest level he literally become Esav, that is, the holy aspect of the Mashiach ben Yoseph within Esav.  In order to receive the flow of divinity that Yitzchak was blessing his son it still had to be the cosmic force of Mashiach ben Yoseph and not Mashiach ben David, which was receiving it.  When Yaakov declared, “I am Esav, your first born”, he was literally occupying the “soul space” of Esav as it exists in its sacred root above.  It was only afterwards that the Mashiach ben Yoseph aspect of “Esav” was re-possessed by the aspect of Mashiach ben David within Yaakov and re-united.  The “holy” Esav really did get the blessings, only they were now integrated into a single individual, Yaakov.  It was messianic surgery the likes of which had never occurred before and never will again.  The entire course of history pivoted upon the Patriarch “stealing” the birthright and “impersonating” Esav.  He now incarnated both of the messiahs and his life was dedicated to fulfilling the mission of both Mashiach ben David and Mashiach ben Yoseph.  The complete "incorporation" of the Mashiach ben Yoseph, however, would not culminate until the showdown with Esav’s angel, the highest root of Esav.  “Ya'akov Avinu began his mission as Mashiach ben Yoseph from the day that he struggled and overcame the Oversoul of Esav”.[2]  It was then that the unification was complete and he received his additional name “Yisrael”, redefining his new entity.  This is also the esoteric reason why Yaakov was "forced" to marry Leah, who originally had been destined to marry Esav.[3]

We can now appreciate the depths of the words of the prophet Malachi:  “I loved you,” said HaShem, and you [the Nation of Israel] said, “How have you loved us?”  Is not Esau a brother of Jacob – the words of HaShem – yet I loved Jacob.  But I despised Esau…”  (Malachi 1:2-3).  The formula, “Is not Esau a brother of Jacob “is equating them above in their spiritual root where the essence of both is holy of holies.  In their soul root Esav and Yaakov are equal, but below; in his presently manifested state, Esav is contaminated and therefore, “ I loved Jacob.  But I hated Esau…”[4]

Clues at the Scene of the Crime

The full scope of Esau’s complex and paradoxical nature, Isaac’s faith and expectations in him and Rivka’s and Jacob’s spiritual conspiracy is beyond this present chapter.  Here, however, are a few more clues found at the “scene of the crime”.  Clue, in Hebrew, is remez, one of the four modes of Torah exploration.  Clues do not draw conclusions or supply answers; rather they only point to a direction.  It is up to the reader to “get the point”, connect the dots and envision the “big picture”.  Here are some clues for the inquiring mind into the mystery of the father of a failed messiah.

‘Perhaps Esau is different because he is a Jewish apostate.” (Talmud Kiddushin 18a).  (The context of the discussion there is a verse in the Torah that mentions Esav (as Edom) as an example of a gentile to deduce the Torah’s position regarding non-Jewish laws of inheritance.  A proof from Esav was rejected because, although he was a traitor to his faith, he was still Jewish!  This is a powerful source for the original, inherent “Jewishness” of Esav.

        King David was another Mashiach ben David who incorporated the qualities of Mashiach ben Yoseph.  He is “ruddy” (admoni), the identical term used for Esav, but he also has the characteristics “with fine eyes” (I Samuel 16-12), i.e., his left side of the gevurot were sweetened and mitigated by his “right side” of the hasadim, the aspect of Mashiach ben David.[5]

        The lost spark of Jewishness trapped in Esav may explain another peculiar event in the life of Esav.  Later he marries two women of Hittite origin.  One of them is named Yehudit – Judith.  It always appeared to me highly unorthodox that Esav, the archetypal non-Jew and anti-Semite would marry a woman whose name literally means “Jewish” (Yehudi” would be the masculine form).  Furthermore, Yehudit has been a Jewish woman’s name throughout Jewish history.  I have never seen any commentary on this quirk of Scripture.  It appears to me, however, that the Torah is alluding to the mitigated feminine gevurot of Esav, which are at the essence of Esav and will be revealed in the future when he receives his tikun.  He will be united with his brother’s faith and will no longer be considered a “Jewish apostate”.

This principle is explicit in another statement of the sages.  “Esav’s head rests in the lap of Yitzchak”.  This parallels the formula, “In the future the pig will return to its holiness (pig – chazir -- shares the same root for the Hebrew word for return.)  In the future the pig and Esav will restore the crown to its Master, as we know from a verse in Prophets (Ovadiah 1-21), “The [two] redeemers will ascend Mt. Zion… and the kingdom will be HaShem’s”.[6]  The two redeemers are the Trein M'sheecheen, the twin messiahs, both coming full circle for the final tikun.[7]

        “Know that the root of Esav was originally holy which emanates from the gevura of the tifferet of zeir anpin [the collective Adamic soul].  Now, tifferet oscillates between hesed [the right side] and gevura [the left side].  It is the aspect of the “right side” from which [the soul of] Yaakov emanates and it is the aspect of the “left side” from which [the soul of] Esav emanates.  Therefore, they were twins in the mystery of the verse, “Is not Esav Yaakov’s brother”?  For in truth, they originally existed on one level, which is not the case with the relationship between Yitzchak and Yishmael [who were only half brothers born of different mothers]”.

“Understand that Esav also had the capacity to be holy, both of them “Good sons of the Lord”.  I will explain to you the function of each one.  Know that two goals need to be accomplished.  One, the proliferation of the holy on all of its levels and two, the subjugation of the “other side” [root of evil] to the holy.  The proliferation of the holy was Yaakov’s mission and the subjugation of forces of evil on all of its levels was Esav’s mission.  In truth, such a process is impossible except for the one whose soul emanates from the self-same root.[8]

In conclusion we can now understand another wise bizarre statement from the school of the Gaon of Vilna, “Esav and Shalom have the same gematria in the sod of cosmic parallelism.[9] It is this astoundingly complex nature of Esav’s “shalom” that lies at the mystery of the Father of a Failed Messiah.

[1] Kol HaTor and other sources in the GRA and Ramchal.  See also Rav Kook's "Eulogy In Jerusalem" and the Maharal's explanation in Netzach Yisrael chapter 36 page 39.

[2]  Kol HaTor

[3] Rashi, Bereishis 29:17

[4]  Leshem Sefer Hakadosh pg. 64 quoting the ARI from the end of A’rba Maiot Shekel HaKodesh.

[5] Rav Kook's "Eulogy In Jerusalem"

[6] Schney Luchot HaBrit (the “Shelah HaKodesh”), parshat Hayay Sarah, near the beginning.

[7] Kol HaTor

[8] Ramchal, Kinat HaShem Tzevaot, pg. 111.  See also Shaar haPesukim 23d, Sefer Lekutim Ovadya, Torah Ohr (Chabad) Toldot pg39, Otzrot Ramchal Toldot, Midrash Rabba, “admoni”, Yerushalmi Nedarim chapter 3, halacha 8, Midrash Tehilim 80-18, Maiah K’shita (Rama MiFano) siman 96, Rav Kook, Letters Adar 1908 (Paulist Press edition pg. 338.

[9] Kol haTor page 485 (Kasher)

The Nephilim
Fallen Angels or Cosmic Fallout?

Joel David Bakst ©2000, 2010, 2014

     “When mankind began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, the sons of god (bney elohim) saw that their daughters were beautiful, and they took for themselves wives from any that they chose.  So HaShem said, “My Spirit will not always protect mankind—his days will be a hundred and twenty years.  The Nephilim were on the earth in those days (and also after this) when the sons of god came into the daughters of man and they gave birth to them.  They were the mighty men of old, the men of renown”.

     There are many passages throughout the Torah that are strange and problematic. None may be as controversial as the account of the nephilim and “sons of god” having relations with humans.[1]  This section has been alternately branded as a remnant of primitive mythology, fanciful fiction or Biblical proof of extraterrestrial interbreeding with Homo sapiens.  Traditional Kabbalah with access to the secret teachings of the rabbis, however, presents a very different and unexpected picture of this Biblical mystery.  From the perspective of the Kabbalah just who are the bney elohim and the nephilim?  Before we can answer this question we have to first step back a bit and recall the true nature of Biblical text.

Through the Eyes of the Talmudic Sage-Mystics

     One of the great sage-mystics of the Talmud transmitted a secret cipher to the initiated: "R. Shimon ben Lakish said, 'There are many verses in the Torah which to all appearances ought to be burnt like the books of the heretics [either because they appear incredulous, blasphemous or simply superfluous], but they are really the very essence of the Torah (Hain, hain gufay haTorah)”.[2]  This is known in the inner teachings of the sages as Galut Hatorah – the exile of the Torah.

     The principle of Torah in Exile is well known in the Kabbalah and I have written about it elsewhere.[3]  Primarily due to the catastrophic events surrounding the Golden Calf and the breaking of the first set of the Ten Commandments (shvirat Luchot haRishonim) certain aspects of the higher-dimensional, primordial Torah – the cosmic code of creation – collapsed, and was forced to go into hiding to protect itself from a pantheon of diabolical adversaries (the “Other Side”, the Primordial Serpent and its legions).  In all cases these aspects of the Torah take refuge or become captive in the last of all places we would think to look, "clothed in garments and foreign kelipot (shells) that are not befitting her nor comely to her".  It is Supernal Wisdom itself that goes into exile.

     A 20th century Talmudic sage-mystic from the School of the Gaon of Vilna explains, "[Now, consequent to the Fall of Adam] the External Forces have control over the emanations of the Light of Knowledge that descends below... this is the exile of the Torah.  Therefore, the Torah has become clothed in this world in garments and foreign klipot (shells) that are not befitting her nor comely to her as, for example, the section at the end of section VaYishlach, 'And these are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom...’.  Likewise, is this so in the section of parashat D'varim (Deuteronomy), 'And the Ivvim who dwelt in Hatzerim...'  [i.e., the entire passage appears to be superfluous] and similarly in many places as it is discussed in the Talmud.[4]  In the same manner there are numerous aggadot of the Sages that are difficult to even listen to and one's sensibilities are astounded at them.  Yet, within them are hidden the secrets of the Torah.  This is all due to the emanations of the Light of Knowledge becoming clothed in the Shells and in the External Forces, God save us.  The exile of the Shechina, the exile of the People of Israel and the exile of the Torah are all due to the original fall of Adam".[5]

Breaking of the Vessels: Prelude to the Nephilim

     Although the passage of the bnay elohim and the Nephilim is outwardly more interesting than what appears as dry chronologies and redundant verses it certainly has also been mocked by Bible critics and abused by “new age” occultists.  According to the Kabbalah, however, the Torah has once again “revealed one handbreadth and [simultaneously] concealed two”.  This account has nothing to do neither with mythology nor with extraterrestrial life.  The mechanics behind the nephilim occupies one of the most esoteric areas of Jewish mysticism and its secret has remained well hidden.  What will be stated in this essay is nothing more than a drop in the ocean of an entire field of knowledge that is no less complex than, for example, quantum mechanics.  We will only be pointed in the right direction.  That direction, however, is to go back in time to the universe that preceded Genesis.  Amazingly, the key to secret of the nephilim is found in the secret of the Kings of Edom!

     The Death of the Primordial Kings has been explained in a separate essay.[6]  The Edomite Kings are alluded to in the Talmud, midrash and the Zohar. Briefly, the section at the end of parshat VaYishlach, 'And these are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom…” is a codex and digest of a fundamental doctrine of the Kabbalah, namely the details of how our present reality has been formed out of worlds preexistent to the universe of Genesis.  The Land Of Edom is also known as the World of Tohu – “Chaos”.  As known in the Kabbalah all realties – macro and micro – are made out of sefirot, constellations of 10 aspects or emanations of Divinity.  This is true even in the primordial dimensions. In the Tohu stage of the creation process each sefirotic vessel undergoes a breakage, death and apparent chaotic, cosmic upheaval before it can then be reconstructed and resurrected in the rectified world of Genesis.  This “cosmic womb” process is known throughout Torah as the Breaking of the Vessels (Shevirat haKelim).  Also, because each sefira is a Kingdom onto itself, each “king” is said to reign in an infinite flash (from our temporal perspective) and “dies”.  The collapse of these vessels (which are the seven lower of the 10 sefirot) are the Death of the Primordial Kings.

     This is the literal meaning of the Torah’s opening verses, “In the Beginning…And the ground [the remnants of the previous worlds] was tohu [chaos]…”. It is upon the “ground” of this primordial universe that Genesis is built.  The new universe of Genesis was resurrected out of the previous reality.  This second verse of the Torah is also a complex formula that contains the genetic-like code to a detailed calculus of preexistent worlds out of which our present reality is constructed.  They are also known as the 974 Primordial Generations.  Rashi, the most famous of the Medieval Bible commentaries, quoting an ancient midrash on these verses in the Torah, alludes to their aborted birth, “In the beginning it arose in the Divine thought to create the [prior] world with the attribute of din (constricting gevura), but He saw that it would be too unstable, and therefore generated the attribute of compassion (rachamim – the balance between the right-side of chesed and the left-side of din-gevura) and integrated it with the din”.[7]  Because there was too much din a process of cosmological catharthis rebalanced that universe and the 974 Primordial Generations, a.k.a. the Edomite Kings, aborted in a cosmic implosion of unimaginable proportions in order to expel the excess dinim.

Aborted “Sons of God” and Miscarried “Daughters of Men”

     The secrets explaining the Kings in the Land of Edom is the precursor for the bney elohim and the bnot adam.  Although numerous theories have been posited as to who or what are the “sons of god”, the “daughters of man” (bnot adam) has not been questioned. It is always assumed that they are female Homo sapiens.  Yet, according to the secret the bnot adam are not fundamentally referring to earthly women at all!  Rather, both bney elohim and bnot adam are code words that the Torah is using to quantify specific coordinates in the spiritual realm that are cosmically connected to the events of the Tohu.[8]  But how can a cosmological event that occurred prior to our present creation be affecting reality after Genesis during the period of the nephilim.  Rather, due to the catastrophic miscalculation of with the Tree of Knowledge, Adam caused the entirety of the newly reconstructed and resurrected reality to again experience a partial shevira, a rupture that echoed and even recapitulated in ratio the primordial Deaths of the Edomite Kings.  Reality, post Genesis, now also required a purging and expulsion of these volatile and contaminated elements.[9]  The technical terms used in Scripture for the positive and negative polarities of these radio active-like “heavy elements” are bney elohim and bnot adam.

     In the Kabbalah the Fall of reality is also known as the nefilla (specifically nefillat haDa’at) the same word used for the nephilim and this is no coincidence. The passage of the nephilim has encrypted the formula that maps out the cosmological interaction that occurred in the overlapping stages in the aftermath of the Tohu and in the evolutionary stages of Genesis.  Simply put, the nephilim are the radio active-like residue of the spiritual waste material that was left over from the Tohu and the klipot/shells from the Shevira. This is clearly evident in the word nefillim, which in the singular is nefil – an aborted fetus, a miscarriage.[10]  In our case it is a spiritual miscarriage, a cosmic mutation that was aborted and fell from a higher dimension to a lower realm, namely our present realm of this world.  The “fallen angles” are really cosmic fallout. The Ari zal writes:[11]

There are occasions when spiritual miscarriages (nephilim, singular: nifil – lit. aborted, miscarriage) occur in the mystery of “the nephilim were in the land”.  This is because the malchut, the supernal feminine, aborted them in the secret of the nephilim.  And since they came from such an origin (rejected and ejected spiritual matter) therefore they destroyed their seed upon the earth [one of the major transgressions of the generation of the Flood).  Understand this.  The reason, however, that they were aborted to begin with is because they were in their essence dinim kashim, harsh judgements (constricting gevurot). It was revealed before the Divine Mind that they had no good elements that were redeemable and consequently the supernal female (malchut) aborted them.  More specifically, bney elohim and bnot adam refer respectfully to the masculine and feminine aspects of the q’lipot, the “other side” or “back side” of kedusha.  They are both manifestations of the volatile gevurot that when left unmitigated (without hasadim) are shed off and expelled from each respective spiritual level.[12]

Biblical Truth: The External Narrative or the Inner Wisdom?

     Regarding the millennial old unbroken Kabbalah tradition, one of the close disciples of the Gaon of Vilna, the great Talmudic Kabbalah master R. Menachem Mendel of Shklov, wrote in the 19th century  (Biurim v’Likutim end of Mayim Adirim, 1987 Jerusalem):

It is time to act for the Lord for they have made void your Torah” (Psalms 119:126). It is revealed and known before the One Who spoke and brought the world into existence that I am not revealing [these secrets], God forbid, for my own aggrandizement… [but rather for the purpose] that the true Torah teachings of the Kabbalah will not be forgotten. [These teachings] are in our possession from the time of Moshe Rabbienu, generation after generation without any interruption whatsoever until this day. It is only that they have been hidden on the bottom of the ocean floor of the Wisdom of the ancient ones”.

     Although mostly unknown, the Torah has been handed down in an unbroken tradition from master to disciple. This is the true meaning of the very word Kabbalah – “received transmission”. This tradition comes with a methodology that is almost unknown outside of a number of small fraternities of Torah scholars. Without applying this methodology it is impossible to understand what the intent of the Torah really is. Without this tradition – which requires a long process of initiation – the Torah will remain nothing more than as if it was an artifact from a higher-dimension of the future (which in many ways this is what it is).

     One of the guidelines in approaching Scripture is to realize that it is not a history book simply recording events that took place in ancient times. Nor is the Torah a collection of allegorical or mythological stories that are open to anyone’s interpretation. Rather, the Torah is a cosmic code whose mathematical-like notation is a string of equations that, all together, constitute one very large equation which in turn, are all condensed into the root formula – Y-H-V-H, the “name of God”. Moreover, the formulas of the Torah, also known as the Scriptural “verses” are records of recurring patterns that have been iterating throughout time and space and even (especially) from before space-time as we now know it.

     In the case of the Nephilim, whatever they are their truth must be applicable on all levels of reality. This law of Torah understanding is so true that whatever the Nephilim were in their antediluvian setting had to be true even before the “historical” Nephilim. In other words, the inner secret of the Nephilim is a spiritual phenomenon that exists, in ration, on every level of reality and at every time to a greater or lesser extent.  “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days (and also after this)” is a formula that existed before the Nephilim as well as after the Nephilim.

     One of the greatest Talmudic sage-mystics and authoritative transmitters of the unbroken tradition of the Kabbalah stretching all the way back to Moses and even back to the actual period of the Nephilim from the 13th century is Ramban (Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman), also known as Nachmanides. He also addresses the enigma of the Nephilim in his classic commentary on the Torah (Chumash). After positing various logical explanations concerning the identity of the Nephilim and the bney elohim Ramban writes:

This is the appropriate simple explanation (pshat) of this section. The Midrash of Rabbi Eliezer the Great [Perkie DiRebbe Eliezer, Chapter 22], however, in the chapters concerning the angelic entities that fell from their place of holiness in heaven – as is mentioned in the Talmud Tractate Yoma [67b] – conforms to the [literal] language of the verse more than all other interpretations. But this would require going into the secret of the matter at length.

     This then is an outline of the “inside story” of the “Sons of God”.  Yet, with all that said and done another problem lies lurking.  The pshat/simple meaning of the bney elohim apparently has nothing to do with the sod/secret – and we know that that simply cannot be.  The inner meaning of a verse can never be divorced from its outer garment. The literal meaning is as follows (ArtScroll):

Bney elohim: The sons of the rulers.  These were the sons of the princes and judges, for elohim always implies rulership [as in Exodus 4:16: and you shall be his eloah (singular) master (Rashi).  The daughters of man were the daughters of the general populace (R' Saadia Gaon); the multitude, the lower classes (Rambam, Moreh 1: 1 4), who did not have the power to resist their superiors (Radak).  Thus, the Torah begins the narrative of the tragedy by speaking of the subjugation of the weak by the powerful. [Targum Onkelos also translates as “men of distinction or mighty men”].

Nefellim: They were giants - the same race that terrified Moses' spies (Numbers 13:33).  They were given this title from the root nfl, to fall, because they fell and caused others to fall (Rashi), through their egregious sinfulness (Gur Aryeh).  Alternatively, they were so called because the hearts of those who saw them fell in amazement at their size (Ibn Ezra).

     Yet the Zohar and Talmud are explicit that the bney elohim are “angels” and not rulers.  Even the names of these angelic entities are known.  “The nephilim were upon the earth”.  R. Jose says, following a tradition, that these were Uzza and Azael, whom, as already mentioned, God deprived of their supernal sanctity”.[13]

     The Talmud[14] states that the Scapegoat (Sair l’Azazel) that is sacrificed by the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur also atones for the acts of Uzza and Azael.  Rashi writes, “Uzza and Azael are destructive angels that descended to earth in the days of Naama the sister of Tuval Cain [in the generation of Noah].  Regarding them it is stated, “The bney elohim [the angels] beheld the daughters of man, i.e., this Scapegoat atones for acts of sexual immorality.”

     The contradiction is even more acutely pointed out by a noted non-kabbalistic source, the Torah Temima.  The Torah Temima (“Complete” or “Pure” Torah) is a modern classic written by Rabbi Baruch Halevi Epstein (1860-1942).  It is a running commentary on the Chumash that connects every verse with its corresponding oral tradition in the Talmud and midrash.  His goal is to explain the logic of the Talmud as to why and how it expounds the syntax and nuances of each verse.  In passing he points out a problem that he leaves unresolved.

     He writes that it should not surprise us that angelic entities could become corporeal because in those times (antediluvian) reality was very different than it is today.  And it is not a problem that the different sources in the Oral Tradition can disagree with each other [although according to the kabbalists this only appears to be the case].  But what has no explanation, according to Rabbi Epstein, is the following midrash:

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai said, “Bney elohim – these are bney hadayanim, judges (or rulers).  And Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai would place a curse on anyone who would call them angels”.[15]

     How can Rabbi Shimon of the Midrash argue – and so vehemently – with the Zohar when Rabbi Shimon is the author of the Zohar?!  The question is left unanswered.

     A possible resolution would be that the Rashbi (Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai) quoted in the midrash is purposefully concealing the deeper truth of the bney elohim with a decoy.  The full depths of the bney elohim and the nephilim and their consequences are “matters that stand in the heights of the heavens” and are far beyond us.  Until relatively recently even alluding to their deeper truth was not permitted to be discussed in public.  The Rashbi was protecting the sacred crown jewels.

“These and Those are Both the Words of the Living God”

     A deeper answer and certainly a more revelatory one, however, may be this.  The pshat is that the bney elohim are judges.  The sod is that they are angles and the nephilim are either another name for the same bney elohim or they are a hybrid species born of human and angelic parents.  That sod, however, is only the pshat of the sod, an outer garment that it must wear to even begin to manifest itself in this world.  This is often the case with that which appears as Jewish mysticism or even the text of the Zohar itself, as in our case here.  True sod is the neshamah of the neshamah, the soul of the soul -- the soul of the sod.

     As explained above fundamentally bney elohim are not angels and the bnot adam are not earthly women.  They are forces and processes that are part of the divine “physiology” of creation dealing specifically with primordial realities and their interface with the current reality.  These phenomena are details of the consequences of the eating of the Tree of Knowledge.  Both the “sons” and the “daughters” here refer to a catharthis of the gevurot that are being expelled from respective higher worlds (e.g. the kelipah of beriah, yitzirah and asiya).  These gevurot are also known as dinim or dinim kashim, “harsh judgements”.  Din is the same root as dayan, a judge.  When the Rashbi places a curse upon those who claim the bney elohim to be angels and not dayanim it is because they have anthropomorphized and debased the higher truth.  The deeper pshat of bney elohim as “judges” is directly pointing us to the esoteric nature of the bney elohim, that they are the root of judgement, the “harsh judgements” of din.  Amazingly the simple pshat is hiding the deepest sod as it wears the pshat like a form fitting glove and it turns out to be one and the same (“ein mikra yoztie miday pshuto”)!  This is the way of true pshat/sod – two surfaces of one side.  As the Gaon of Vilna taught his disciples, it is impossible to understand the pshat without first understanding the sod.

     In conclusion, it is still possible to say that bnot adam did have an earthly manifestation but the reason the bney elohim were attracted to them specifically would be because they had incarnated the sparks of the spiritually-based feminine bnot adam.  Likewise, the essence of the masculine bney elohim could have manifested as angelic entities that were then drawn after their own kind.  Both modes of residue were aborted and “fell” out into lower realms.  Having concretized into material forms they bred together producing the hybrid mutants known as the nephilim.  In essence, the nephilim still retain the spiritual root of their parents and therefore some sources refer to the bney elohim and the nephilim as one and the same.

Extraterrestrials, Aliens and Demons – Return of the Nephilim?

(To be continued)

[1] The Jerusalem Bible (also known as the Koren edition) is a relatively new and scholarly Jewish translation of the Tanach.  It has not a single footnote except upon the word bnay elohim that is translated in the text as “men of distinction”.  The lone note reads “lit. the sons of God.”

[2] Talmud Tractate Chullin 60b

[3] My essay entitled Torah in Exile – “And He is afflicted because of our sins”.

[4] Chullin 60b

[5] Leshem Shevo VeAchlama, Sefer Day'ah, D'rush Etz haDa'at, end.  Torah in Exile is an aspect of the consequences of the eating from the “Tree of Knowledge”.  This is what is now known as the "fallen knowledge" (N'fielat HaDa'at) and this is what allows for the phenomenon of Torah in Exile.  The GRA writes elsewhere, "This is the Torah that has been given over to the External Forces" and "it is a great mystery and exceedingly concealed”.  Additionally, the GRA writes, "This passage ('And he is afflicted because of our sins') is referring to Moshe (Talmud Sota 14).  The intention is that due to the sin of May Mareeva (the Bitter Waters, where Moshe hit the rock instead of speaking to it) it was decreed upon Moshe that his holy teachings would be desecrated by being clothed in forms such as these [strange aggadot of the Oral Torah] which has given a place for the scoffers in each generation to belittle them.  This is what Moshe petitioned from HaShem: not to conceal the secrets of the Torah in these forms, but it was not granted to him.  This is the matter of Moshe's death and his burial outside of the Land of Israel.  In the future the secrets within them will be revealed and this is the ‘New Torah’ that will be revealed in the future".

[6] Parashat Vayishlach Secrets of the Kings of Edom

[7]> Midrash Rabba 12-15, Zohar I, 180b, III, 302b. 

[8] But see last paragraph.

[9] In all likelihood this, and not the original shevira, is the “Big Bang”, the left over sound that science has found radiating throughout the universe.

[10] The Midrash Rabba loc. cit. also makes the connection between nefillim and abortion albeit from a different stance, i.e. that their impregnation of women caused those women to abort (by taking a drug) in order not to give birth to mutations.

[11] Shaar HaKavanot  Drushey Chag haSukkot 104a.

[12] Elsewhere the Ari also states, “The aspect of the souls of the sparks from the root of Cain are called bney elohim”. Shaar haKavanot, Kabbalat Shabbat page 66d.

[13] Zohar Genesis 58a.  The rest of the text continues,” How, it may be asked, can they exist in this world? R. Hiya answers, that they were of the class of spirits referred to in the words "And birds which fly on the earth" (Gen. 1, 20), and these, as we have said, appear to men in the form of human beings.  If it is asked, how can they transform themselves? The answer is, as has been said, that they do in fact transform themselves into all kinds of shapes, because when they come down from heaven they become as concrete as air and take human shape.  These are Uzza and Azael, who rebelled in heaven, and were cast down by God, and became corporeal on the earth and remained on it, not being able to divest themselves of their earthly form.  Subsequently they went astray after women, and up to this day they exist and teach men the arts of magic.  They begat children whom they called Anakim (giants), while the Nefilim themselves were called "sons of God", as has been elsewhere explained.”

[14] Yoma 66b

[15] Midrash Rabba, loc. cit.

The Body of Time: A Cosmology of the Jewish Holy Days

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