Vol 24.17 - Teitzei 1                              Spanish French Audio  Video

Hebrew Text:

Page 132   Page133   Page134   Page135   Page136  

Chumash      Talmud-Shabbat
(5743) The eulogy of the Arizal (for the Ramak) on the verse (Deut 21:22):
"If a man commits a sin etc. you shall hang him on a pole." And the difference from the statement of Chazal (Tal. Shabbat 55b): "Four died through the serpent's machinations"


1. In conjunction with the verse in our Parsha (Dev. 21:22)

“If a man commits a sin for which he is sentenced to death, and he is put to death, you shall hang him on a tree/pole” (וְתָלִ֥יתָ אֹת֖וֹ עַל־עֵֽץ)

It is known that in the eulogy that the Arizal (Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, 1534-1572) said for the Ramak, (Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, 1522-1570) he explained the verse as follows:

The verse states: “when a man has a sin (cheit/ חֵ֛טְא) for which he is sentenced to death”. The word (“cheit”) can also mean a “deficiency”. Therefore, the Arizal rendered: “When a man is lacking any cause to be sentenced to death, for he has not done any evil, and why should he die? The answer is “you should hang him on the tree”. The term “hang/וְתָלִ֥יתָ” can also be translated as “dependent”. Thus the Arizal explained, when a person devoid of sin, such as Ramak, passes away, his death may be ascribed to the ‘tree/עץ’, meaning the Tree of Knowledge which caused death to be decreed upon the world”.

From the broad wording of the Arizal, it appears that the essence of this homily is like the saying of the Sages:

“Four died through the Serpent's machinations” (בעטיו של נחש) (Note: Benjamin the son of Jacob, Amram the father of Moses, Jesse the father of David, and Caleb the son of David)

Thus, just as these four did not possess any sin, and their death was decreed just because of the “Serpent”-

Meaning that because of the sin of the Tree of Knowledge (that occurred through the enticement of the Serpent) death was decreed on all the progeny of Adam HaRishon-

similarly it is with the Ramak, that his “death” was just because of the “Tree (of Knowledge)”.

And one could say that it is not just that the Arizal expounded the verse on the aspect of “they died through the Serpent's machinations“, but rather that through this he said and innovated a new perspective (גדר).

2. To preface, the difference between the two aforementioned aspects is:

  • The Talmud states: “they died through the Serpent's machinations“.
  • Whereas the Arizal (explains the verse) – “you shall hang him on a tree

This is a difference (not just in the wording, but rather) in the subject:

  • The “Serpent’s machinations (advice)”– with which he enticed Chava to eat from the Tree of Knowledge – speaks regarding evil, advice to perform sin.
  • Whereas “you shall hang him on a tree” (which the Arizal expounds upon) speaks regarding the thing through which the person is punished (באגאנגען) for the sin. However, the “Tree” itself is not an aspect of deficiency. On the contrary, according to the simple understanding of the verse, as Rashi explains – it was a fig tree, one of the species for which Eretz Yisroel is praised. In addition, its name is Tree of Knowledge, that it effects the aspect of knowledge. And even the sin which it could cause – eating from the Tree of Knowledge, was (according to the homilies of the Sages, is) just (during the three hours) until the start of Shabbat.

This means that the Arizal speaks regarding a cause of a cause etc. in other words after a previous and remote (ווייטערדיקע) cause – not regarding the Sin of the Tree of Knowledge, which brought the actual decree of death. Rather just regarding the (“Tree”) which allowed the possibility of the aspect of death. (if one should eat from it (when it was good and evil) it is “He shall surely die”).

To put it differently (according to the words of the Midrash):

At the time of Creation G-d, thought that there should be death in the world (which is why “from the first day He created the angel of death). However, due to the “awesome in His deeds toward mankind”, it was established, that the actual decree of death should come through man. Therefore G-d, subjected man to the great test of the Tree of Knowledge – through planting it in the Garden of Eden. As it states: “every tree that is pleasant to look at, and good for (producing) food“, even the Tree of Knowledge etc. – through, all of which, came the actual decree.

3. This is the difference between the two aspects “they died through the Serpent's machinations“ and “you shall hang him on a tree”

  • The aspect of “they died through the Serpent's machinations“ which is cited in the Talmud – the exoteric part of Torah – Niglah d’Torah – speaks regarding the aspect of death which actually and visibly occurred (“outwardly/in a revealed manner“).
  • Whereas the aspect of “you shall hang him on a tree”-

which the Arizal revealed and with relation to the Ramak, whose aspects are revealing the Torah of Sod – secrets – Pnimiyut HaTorah –

speaks of how this is inwardly (in Pnimiyut) . For in the Pnimiyut of the matter, it is connected (not just with the “Serpent’s machinations”, but) with the “Tree” – the test of the “Tree of Knowledge” which G-d placed before man out of His Will and Intent in Creation.

4. On a deeper level, these two aspects (the “Serpent’s machinations” and “you shall hang him on a tree”), are connected with two types of Tzaddikim:

“They died through the Serpent's machinations“ refer to those whom their death takes them from the sin.

However, there is a category of Tzaddikim, of whom the “Serpent’s machinations” cannot affect them. The aspect of death, for them, is only applicable since it is dependent - “you shall hang him” – only because of “the tree”.

The explanation of this is:

The Alter Rebbe explains in Torah Or that the reason that these four Tzaddikim “died through the Serpent's machinations“ is because although they were complete Tzaddikim, nevertheless they possessed “some remnant from the poison of the Serpent, which they were unable to completely remove”.

He further explains in Avodat HaAdam, that the poison of the Serpent is the aspect of “Gasot HaRuach (haughtiness) that is created in the nature of man . . that he sees himself and recognizes his lacking or knows that this is good for him” - one feels “himself/his ego”.

This means that “Serpent’s machinations” means that the Sin of the Tree of Knowledge effected a deficiency in the Tzaddik, for this caused death. However, the lack did not affect the Tzaddik himself, G-d forbid, but rather the “Serpent” which brought “poison” to the world.

And this is the virtue of “you shall hang him on a tree” versus that of “they died through the Serpent's machinations“.

The blemish of a sin can only affect the externality (חיצוניות) of a Yid. However, the Pnimiyut of a Yid always remains whole, “even while he sins, he is faithful to Him”. And especially due to the Pnimiyut of the soul which, from the very onset, is higher than the entire aspect of sin.

Therefore, it is also understood regarding the “poison of the Serpent” that manifested because of the sin of the Tree of Knowledge, that the “poison” of the Serpent only affected the Chitzoniut (externality) of a Yid, however not G-d forbid the Pnimiyut of a Yid.

Therefore, when the Pnimiyut of the soul of a Yid visibly illuminates within him, so much so that it permeates his Chitzoniut – then the aspect of “death due to the  Serpent’s machinations” is not applicable to him.

And this is what the Arizal is saying that the verse: “when a man has a sin for which he is sentenced to death” means that when one is lacking any cause to be sentenced to death, for he has not done any evil, and why should he die- that the reason is because of the Tree of Knowledge.

For one could say that he means to include also the “cause to be sentenced to death“ of “the Serpent’s machinations – the poison of the Serpent –is

“You shall hang him on a tree”. Namely that the reason that the aspect of death exists within him, is only due to that which “awesome in His deeds toward mankind” – namely that G-d made (through the Tree of Knowledge ) the aspect of death in the world.

According to this, the connection of the matter to the Ramak and the Arizal, is understood. For their aspect is, as aforementioned, revealing the Pnimiyut of Torah. For the revelation of the “hidden aspect of Torah” (סתים דאורייתא) is connected with the revelation of the “hiddenness of the soul” (סתים דנשמתא) which is higher than the ”Serpent’s machinations”. As is known, Pnimiyut Torah is “the tree of life” (“עץ חיים “) which is higher than the tree of good and evil (the Tree of Knowledge).

5. Since, from the time of the Arizal, it is a “Mitzvah to reveal this wisdom”. And although “who is the man and where is he, who would dare presume in his heart”, namely to say that he has a connection to the aforementioned levels of the Ramak and Arizal. - Nevertheless, since we were told also regarding this matter, it is understood that “a minute portion and particle“ is relevant to each Yid. 

This is similar to which we say regarding Moshe Rabbeinu, that even though “who is the man and where is he, who would dare presume in his heart to approach and attain even a thousandth part of the degree of love felt by Moses, ‘The Faithful Shepherd’, nevertheless a minute portion and particle etc. illumines the community of Israel in each generation”.

And in our case it is on the contrary:

The aspect of “they died through the Serpent's machinations“ – that we do not possess any other sin or lacking, save that which we could not remove “the poison of the Serpent . . entirely” – is relevant in the level of the soul where the “poison” can have an affect. This means in the Chitzoniut of the person and his revealed powers. For such a completeness and virtue (also) in these levels of Chitzoniut is reserved just for special people and this is not relevant to everyone.

Whereas the aspect of “a sin for which he is sentenced to death . . meaning that when one is lacking any cause to be sentenced to death“ from the perspective of the hiddenness of the soul (where the “Serpent’s machinations” cannot have any effect) and certainly in the essence of his soul - this is so for each and every Yid.

For the Pnimiyut of each Yid, whoever he is and in whatever condition he is in, is higher from any poison of the Serpent. So much so that it can come into actual revelation and actually manifest itself in actual Halacha.

As we see, that when a Yid visibly and strongly states that he will not fulfill the ruling of Beit Din, which orders him to bring an korban, that Beit din can force him until he says “I want to do it” and then Torat Emet - the Torah of truth - says that this is actually his true will.

And everyone in our time, where it is a Mitzvah to reveal this wisdom can and is commanded to bring this out visibly, through revealing within him, the “hiddenness of the soul”. For this is accomplished through studying the “hiddenness of Torah” in a manner that the hiddenness should become “revealed” - that they should “be sustained from it“ (יתפרנסון מיניה). One feels it in the ‘Chabad’ (Wisdom, Understanding and Comprehension) of his soul, so much so that it completely permeates the person.

And when the “wellsprings/מעינות“ of the soul permeate the “Chitzoniut“ of the person, he comes into a state where he is not applicable to a sin

6. The actual lesson from all of the aforementioned is:

There must be “Yafutzu Mayonosechoh Chutzah“ - spreading the wellsprings of Chassidut throughout the world. One must disseminate the wellsprings of Pnimiyut HaTorah, that they should come into revelation so much so that they permeate the externality of each Yid. So much so that it permeates the externality of a very low (in spirituality) person. For each Yid, from the Pnimiyut of his soul, is attached to the Pnimiyut (the wellsprings) of Torah.

Through this itself, which one learns with another Pnimiyut HaTorah – even though, in order to learn with him, he must convey the concepts in other words, and give him to understand it in a manner which he can understand in his present condition – this awakens the Pnimiyut of the soul and lifts him above his standing and condition.

And through this conduct, one nullifies “our sins”( חטאינו) (including the Sin of the Tree of Knowledge). For this is the only reason for Galut, for “we were exiled because of our sins” and it will automatically be nullified the cause (“we were exiled”) and the true and complete Geulah, through our righteous Moshiach will come, speedily in our days, mamosh.

MSichas Shabbat Parshat Matot 5741


Gutnick Chumash pp. 132ff
Date Delivered:   Reviewer:       
Date Modified:    Date Reviewed: