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Components and Workmanship

S. R. Hirsch, Collected Writings, pp. 209-235













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We have noted earlier that Scripture itself defined the light of the menorah as symbolizing the spirit of God, and that the spirit has six distinct aspects. If we reflect more closely upon these six aspects of spiritual unfolding, we will find that they actually appear in three phases, or that the six aspects are stated in terms of three pairs:

hakma vebina - wisdom and understanding,

etza vegevura - advice and judgement,

daat veyirat hashem - knowledge and awe of G-d

These three factors of spiritual development have possibly the same relationship to ruakh hashem representing both their source and their culmination as do gaviah, kaphtor pehrakh flower cup, seed-bearing pods and corolla-flower to the ner, to the filament with its quickening and life-giving elements.

gaviah, the flower cup, both etymologically and objectively, has been shown to connote a collecting agent, a formative center for new plant growth.

kaphtor, the seed-bearing pod is the place where the entire wealth of the plant in substance is transformed into seeds for the creation of new plants. All the other parts which, up to this point, have grown on the plant stem or trunk, branches, twigs, and leaves remain attached to the plant as dependent structures. But the function of the structures in the seed is to become independent, to detach themselves from the parent plant in order to begin a life of their own. There is latent within the tiny seeds an infinite wealth of formative charges and powers. But as long as these seeds remain inside the pod they are dormant, waiting to be released from their confinement for a life of their own. (Perhaps the etymological origin of the term kaphtor is kephet, to bind, plus, to release.

pehrakh are the plants wings of freedom, which strive upward with the spread of their blossoms to draw to their filaments the dust of life which in turn awaken the seeds within the pistil for growth, life, and freedom.

Let us see how the phenomena just described relate to the three aspects of spiritual life as it strives upward to the ruakh hashem.

khokhmah uveenah both figure in the recognition of goodness and truth. Truth includes all that is true and good, the former representing the truth that is, and the latter, the truth that should be. Truth is a given absolute, so that in the final analysis any perception of truth is only a gathering and accepting what has already been objectively, irrevocably stated. khokhmah primarily denotes the intellectual perception; beenah denotes the productive aspect of cognition. khokhmah may be the element in the perception, grasping, comprehension and retention of given truths, while beenah, as expressed in havein davar mitokh davar, may be intellectual exercises and inferences to reformulate truths.

But all is not what it seems to be. Any new truth is new only when viewed in subjective terms. A truth seems new only in that it has not yet been consciously noted by the cognitive intellect. Moreover, it is truth only insofar as it was already inherent in given truths that had been recognized as such before. Credibility depends entirely on the extent to which it can be traced back to a premise already recognized as given truth in the past. The additional factor in beenah is that it affords a comprehensive view of every given truth in terms of all the inferences and conclusions implicit in that truth. Any new truth which claims to be more than an aspect of, or a conclusion from, and old truth that merely had not yet been recognized by the conscious mind, ceases to be truth and moves off into the realm of fantasy and delusion. God has laid down in His world and in His Revelation all the truths that man is capable of perceiving and has given us the sum of all the truths within the reach of human cognition. khokhmah uveenah only reclaim these treasures to gather and to comprehend them, to obtain from them a clearer and more perfect and detailed knowledge in terms of their remotest implications, and to retain this knowledge in the conscious mind.

The spirit becomes truly creative only in eitza ugvurah, in counsel and in that energy through which the knowledge gained through khokhmah uveenah is shaped into planned action. This is the energy through which the individual, who until that point has only reflected, becomes ready to step outside of himself and to intervene actively in the world of events, of cause and effect, his own free-willed activity as a potent seed to be brought to fruition by the future.

eitzah ugvurah correspond to the seed-bearing pod that shapes within its womb resolutions and decisions as seeds for the future, and holds them in readiness for evolving into deeds.

The flower cup, at its best, opens to form the corolla to collect for the seeds the fertilizing element of the pollen. So, too, if resolution is to ripen into action, action that is right and hence the only genuine action that will truly reach into eternity, action that is vital, viable and life-giving, the noblest flower of perception, that is, daat hashem vyirat hashem must strive upwarad to gain in ruakh hashem the true spirit which alone can cause resolutions and energy to ripen and to culminate in the proper action.

If all knowledge does not lead us to perceive God in the world and to perceive the world as derived from God, if all the perceptions of Divine revelation does not inspire us with the fear of God, with the realization and acknowledgment of our own personal relationship with God, with the desire not to be anything else but a servant of God in this world of His, then the seeds that should build the world and eternity will lie dormant and there will be no resolution and no free self-determination. The seeds will atrophy, the noblest and godliest qualities in man will remain unborn, because all his knowledge and all his strength will lack the quickening, enlightening breath of God. The spirit of God descends only where all knowledge culminates in the recognition of Him and all strength in the fear of God. When the recognition and fear of God admit the spirit of God to enrich all human counsel and strength, when all counsel and strength are thus offered to the spirit of God, only then will life germinate and bear fruit.

In conclusion:

- ruakh hashem ner = pollen

- daat vyirat hashem pehrakh = corolla-flower

- eitzah ugvurah kaphtor = pistil; seed-bearing pod

- khokhmah uveenah gaviah = flower cup

As we have mentioned at the outset, tradition is uncertain whether, as indicated by the accentuation, the term mshukadim refers also to the shape of the kaphtorim and the prakhim. The term shaked, both as a verb and as a noun, almond, is used in Scripture to describe a most intensive, single-minded concentration upon a subject or purpose. The almond tree is the earliest to blossom (as early as March in our part of the world) and sprouts flowers even before it grows leaves, so, too, the name of this tree, shaked, is generally used as a metaphoric expression for zealous, ceaseless mental activity, ever alert and diligent, striving steadily toward a speedy attainment of a goal. The term connotes that which we would call diligence and earnest study. If God does not guard the city, then the watchman watches shakad in vain, (Ps. 127:1); Fortunate he who hearkens to Me, lishkod watching diligently at My gates day by day, (Prov. 8:34); Even as shakadti aleihem I have watched over them diligently to ruin and destroy without cease, so eshkod aleihem livnot vlintoah will I watch over them diligently without cease to build and plant, (Jeremiah 31:27).

What do you see? Jeremiah was asked (1:11) when he received his first call from God. I see makel shaked, the rod of an almond tree. You have seen well, God replied, for shaked ani al dvari laasoto, I watch diligently over My word to fulfill it.

In Numbers 17:23 the prince of the tribe was to be identified as chosen by God by the fact that his staff would sprout blossoms, and this staff was to be kept before the Ark of the Testimony as an everlasting memorial. We are told concerning the staff of Aaron, which, by bringing forth blossoms, reaffirmed that the tribe of Levi, and the family of Aaron within the tribe, had been chosen for the priesthood: vayigmol shkedim, It brought forth flowers, sprouted filaments and grew almonds. We see here shaked, the earnest and unceasing dedication to ones calling, as that character trait which showed that the Aaronide family was indeed qualified for the lofty spiritual calling of Jewish priesthood. We believe we can interpret this as a substantiation of our view of the almond-like flower formations on the menorah. For the shaft and the branches of the candlestick bore those very symbols which identified Aarons staff, reposing in front of the Ark of the Testimony, as the staff of a priest. In both instances we see almond blossoms ripening into almonds. We have rendered tzitz as filaments, and we believe this interpretation is supported by other Scriptural passages; in Ezekiel 8:3, tzitzit describes a lock of hair I was taken by a lock of my head, and in Numbers 15:38 tzitzit denotes the fringes to be placed on the corners of ones garments.

It is also significant that the idea of ceaseless diligence, expressed by shaked, is symbolized by the gviim, the flower cups on the menorah which receive and gather knowledge, khokhmah uveenah. It is interesting to note here that each kaphtor and each pehrakh is preceded by a triple flower cup: shloshah gviim msukadim. Thus the function of the gviim is singled out from among those of all the others both quantitatively ( shloshah ) and qualitatively ( mshukadim ). Therefore, the symbolism of the gviim, the gathering, collecting and retaining of truths, reflects the activity we call limud, learning, requiring our unceasing devotion yomam valailah. The gviim mshukadim on our menorah call out to us:

hevei shakud lilmod torah (Avot perek bet mishnah yud dalet); and shloshah gviim mshukadim, the fact that the cups representing study were three-fold, with one kaphtor and one pehrakh projecting from them, representing subsequent action teaches us that gadol limut shemeivee lidei maasseh (kidushin mem).

We have drawn these parallels: flower cups = khokhmah uveenah; pistil seed-bearing pods = eitzah ugvurah; and flower = daat vyirat hashem. Therefore, we have these same manifestations of the spirit in the three side branches of the menorah. They appear to be independently developed, while, on the shaft, they appear only as stages in the development toward the ner hashem, which is the ruakh hashem. These same flower cups, pistils, and flowers also appear on the sides of the menorah, leading to the following thought:

khokhmah uveenah, eitzah ugvurah, daat vyirat hashem must be furthered to such a degree that they are inspired by the ruakh hashem. This ruakh hashem will enrich every phase of that spiritual development, and each of these phases will blossom separately as an independent achievement, as a fruit ripened by the spirit of God.

In order to reach the ultimate goal of perfection, khokhmah no less than beenah, eitza no less than gvurah, and daat no less than yirat hashem, each one a level of intellectual and spiritual attainment, requires a most diligent search for truth as symbolized by the almond-blossom shaped flower cups, a molding of methodical intellect and creative energy, and a knowledge of God and fear of God that will seek their inspiration in the spirit of God.

Thus, the middle shaft of the menorah, the bearer of the spirit of God, provides one pistil for each of these levels; cf. kaphtor takhat shnei hakanim mimehnah, because eitzah vgvurah, mind and strength (the mind, eitzah, that works deliberately toward a practical objective and the strength that will overcome all obstacles) gvurah the concentrated potency raised to intensifies power, kaphtor, are needed to attain these levels of the spirit in a state of godly purity and perfection.

Our attention is drawn also to certain other parts of this fruit-blossom ornamentation in two places on the shaft.

yerekh, the base the root stock from which the tree of light emerges has, at the place where the shaft begins, pehrakh, one single flower that has neither flower cup nor pistil. After a space of two tphakhim we note, within the third tephakh, the sixth in the total height of the shaft measured from the bottom, a complete flower structure including flower cup, pistil and corolla, but all on a reduced scale. While the flower structure at the top of the shaft measures three tphakhim, with each part measuring one tephakh, this flower structure in miniature flower cup, pistil and corolla is concentrated within the space of one tephakh (See tosfot mnakhot 28b) vtephakh. Moreover, it has only one simple flower cup, while the formation at the top of the shaft has three such cups.

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If we study the menorah, we will see the flowers in four distinct stages of development:

  1. pehrakh at the yehrekh;

  2. gaviah, kaphtor and pehrakh in the sixth tehpakh;

  3. kaphtor takhat shnei hakanim mimehnah; and

  4. shloshah gviim, kaphtor and pehrakh in the last three tphakhim at the top of the shaft.
It is interesting to note that this development of the flower begins at the lowest position with the same form as that with which it concludes at the peak of perfection. pehrakh, the corolla-flower, is the last sprout at the top of the shaft, but it is also pehrakh, a corolla-flower, that marks the beginning of the blossom at the lowest step. True, this latter formation does not emanate from a flower cup, nor does it bear seeds for which it would need the life-giving element of pollen as symbolized by the light. It is merely a blossom through which the trunk emerges from the roots. We have identified this flower upon the tree of the spirit as a symbol of the recognition of God and the fear of God, daat hashem vyirat hashem, forming the noblest, consummate flowering of spiritual life that can unfold from man and that is needed on the highest level if the spirit of God is to be won and the human mind is to be perfected as a bearer of the Divine spirit.

Are these not in truth the very same elements with which mans spiritual development must begin in earliest childhood, from the origin of spiritual life? These are truly reshit daat, in a double sense the earliest beginning and the consummate flower of human knowledge. The tree which symbolizes mans spiritual development in the Sanctuary of God sets forth the profound and unchangeable truth that if the knowledge of God and the fear of God are to reach the highest level in mature man, then this knowledge and fear of God must have been nurtured already at the very root of spiritual existence, in earliest childhood. It forms the basis for all spiritual development.

To be sure, at that level it is still only a blossom without a flower cup and without a seed-bearing pod. At this level it is daat vyirat hashem, a knowledge of God and a fear of God that has not yet emerged from cups that would already have gathered khokhmah uveenah, and that it is not yet directed toward the production of fruit in the form of action, eitzah ugvurah. Rather, it is a blossom of the knowledge and the fear of God that was given directly along with the origin of the human spirit -- yarkah uphirkhah (Ps. 8:3) mipi ollim vyonkim yassadtah oz, which can be awakened and trained from its deepest core even without the flower cup, i.e. without theoretical preparations.

A child's daat vyirat hashem need not yet concern itself with sowing the seeds for eitzah ugvurah, for that seed which stimulates action is not yet present at this point. Rather, daat vyirat hashem in the child must arise out of an unconscious willingness to grow toward the light. Later, in his youth, there will begin to appear these three levels of spiritual life, and he will first exercise and develop the capacity for drawing khokhmah uveenah, the capacity for the creation of eitzah ugvurah, and the capacity for daat vyirat hashem which begets action. In other words, the youth will then exercise and develop the natural tendencies toward all these qualities on a small scale.

Only in adolescence will the individual employ all his eitzah ugvurah, all his energies of strength and resolve for the separate development of each of these three manifestations:

kaphtor takhat shnei hakanim mimehnah, vkaphtor takhat shnei hakanim mimehnah, vkaphtor takhat shnei hakanim mimehnah one knob under the two branches that go out from it, and one knob under the second pair of branches that go out from it, and one knob under the third pair of branches that go out from it.

Then, finally, in manhood, he must turn all these three branches back to the one central point in order to develop from the wellspring of khokhmah uveenah the daat vyirat hashem that will know how to attain the light and the quickening spirit from above, in the ner hashem the spirit of God, for the quickening and maturing of the eitzah ugvurah which results in all action: shloshah gviim mshukadim kaphtor vaphehrakh valehhah ner hashem.

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