Basics in Kabbalah and Chassidut: The Names of God – Tzevakot

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Tzevakot (צבאות) is on of the Names of God.

In Kabbalah, the Name Tzevakot (lit. “Hosts”) is generally associated with the sefirot of netzach and hod. In particular, when Tzevakot follows the Name Havayah, the combined Name refers to the sefirah of netzach; whereas when Tzevakot follows the Name Elokim, the combined Name refers to the sefirah of hod.

Tzevakot, as a Name of God, is the only one of the revealed Divine Names that does not appear explicitly in the Pentateuch. It first appears as a Divine Name in the Bible (in Samuel 1:11) in the heartfelt prayer of the barren woman, Chanah, to merit the birth of a son: “And she made a vow and said: Havayah Tzevakot, if You see the affliction of your handmaiden, and remember me, and do not forget Your handmaiden, and give to Your handmaiden the seed of men; then shall I deliver him to God for all the days of his life….” God answered her prayer and gave her a son, Samuel, who “is weighed as equal to Moses and Aaron.”

Moses and Aaron correspond to the two sefirot of netzach and hod (from which derive all levels of prophecy, as taught in Kabbalah). In Chanah’s prayer (considered by our sages to be the archetype of prayer in the Bible), the Name Havayah Tzevakot corresponds in particular to the sefirah of netzach, the level of Moses. Most amazingly, from the beginning of the book of Samuel, God’s Name Tzevakot (appearing here for the first time), is the 148th word of the text. 148 = netzach!

In Kabbalah, Samuel personifies the ultimate rectification of Netzach (which had been blemished from the time that Esau’s angel injured Jacob’s thigh). He is the one who said (in victory over Amalek, Esau’s grandson, the arch-enemy of Israel): “and also, the Eternity of Israel (Netzach Yisrael) shall neither deceive nor regret, for no mortal is He, to regret” (Samuel 15:29).

The two sefirot of netzach and hod, that correspond to the two legs of the body, are referred to in Kabbalah (in contrast to the other sefirot ) as “outside the body.” For this reason, the appearance of the Name Tzevakot in the Bible is “outside the body” of the Pentateuch. Being “outside” is being vulnerable to foreign influence (which may ultimately result in “descent” to the grave). The rectification of netzach (and hod, when united with netzach; hod was initially much more vulnerable than netzach ) is thus the rectification of death itself, the victory of (eternal) life over death (the victory of Netzach Yisrael).

The Name Tzevakot represents God’s revealing Himself within the context of His “Hosts” that reside in the lower worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah. Our sages read Tzevakot as Ot hu btzava shelo–“He is a sign amongst His hosts.” Here “His hosts” refers either to the angels or, more properly, to the souls of Israel (those of the souls of Israel whose revealed consciousness derives from the lower worlds).

In the Exodus (12:41), the Jewish people are referred to as Tzivot Havayah (“the hosts of Havayah”). In the prayer of Chanah, this Name represents the power to bear hosts, to cause a holy soul to descend into a physical body, and to ultimately manifest the Divine “sign” of eternal life on the physical plane.

Tzevakot = 499. According to the Rambam (Maimonides), a male possesses 248 limbs whereas a female possesses 251 limbs. When they unite to bear a child, the number of limbs of the parents is 248 plus 251 = 499. When the newly formed embryo is considered 1, 499 plus 1 = 500 = pru urevu (“Be fruitful and multiply”). Thus the last of God’s Names to be revealed in the Bible is linked eternally with the first, all-inclusive commandment of the Torah to newly created man, to fill the earth with the “sign (and image) of God” (as manifest in the union of every holy soul entering into a physical body). For this reason 499 = guf kadosh, “a holy body”–the holy body of every Jewish male or female, housing the Divine soul of Israel, “an actual part of God from on high.”

In at-bash, the Name Tzevakot transforms to hei, shin, tav, pei, alef. This spells a word from the root shin, tav, pei which means “partner.” The two sefirot of netzach and hod are called “partners” (just as the two feet [unlike the two hands] can only perform their function, to walk, when acting together, as “partners”). In giving birth to a child, the two parents, together with God (the Giver of life) are referred to by our sages as “the three partners of man.” With regard to this act of partnership, it is said that the husband enters into the state of netzach (Havayah Tzevakot) and the wife into the state of hod (Elokim Tzevakot).

Of the 18 possible “full spellings” of the Name Tzevakot that which possesses the highest numerical value = 1165. In the story of Creation, God planted in the garden of Eden two special trees, “the tree of life” and “the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” The word for “tree” in Hebrew, etz, is cognate to the word for “advice,” yaatz. In Kabbalah, the origin of the two sefirot of netzach and hod (whose common Divine Name is Tzevakot) in the body are the two kidneys, of which our sages say “the kidneys give advice.” Thus the two trees of the garden of Eden are seen to correspond to the two sources of advice to human consciousness, the advice toward “life” deriving from the right kidney, netzach, and the advice toward “knowledge of good and evil” deriving from the left kidney, hod.

The numerical value of “the tree of life” = 233; the value of “the tree of knowledge of good and evil” = 932. 932 = 4 times 233 (thus the average value of the four words which compose “the tree of knowledge of good and evil” = “the tree of life.” Likewise, the average value of the four letters which compose the word “life” [chaim = 68] = “good” [tov = 17]). The combined value of the two trees, 233 plus 932 = 1165, the exact value of the “full spelling” of Tzevakot (the Divine Name manifest by the secret of the two trees)!

The ultimate power of God’s Name Tzevakot is to unite the essence of the two trees of paradise, to bring the world to its Divinely intended state of eternal life and the knowledge of the true Divine good which converts all apparent evil to good.

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