Q: My question concerns the de evolution of the human to the level of primate. Can you explain if this occurred in concert with the y’reidah of Adam Harishon, his progeny or others? Will the ape receive a tikkun (“rectification”) at the time of Mashiach and if so will it be as high as the tikkun of man? Thank you for any insight that you have time to impart on this fascinating topic.
A: The Midrash as well as Rishonim and Acharonim teach that after the sin of Adam Harishon (“Adam”), and especially after the sin of Cain (Kayin), the progeny of Kayin degenerated into apes. Kabbalah teaches us that every rectification of the soul of Kayin is the rectification of the potential monkey.
According to the Arizal, the two basic soul roots of the human race are Kayin and Abel. The rectification of all the soul roots in the human race who are the spiritual descendants, although not necessarily the physical descendants, of Kayin, is the rectification of the ape. The soul root of Kayin is generally the left. The soul root of Abel is generally the right. All the souls who derive from the left are Kayin, ape-potential souls. There are also great tzadikim (righteous ones) whose soul root is Kayin. Through their Divine service and spiritual rectification comes the rectification of the ape.
The word “Kayin” itself begins with the letter kuf, the nineteenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, which also means kof (“ape”). The meaning of the word kof is “imitation”, particularly a false or degenerate form of imitation. The English word “copy” derives from the Hebrew kof. There is also the English idiom, “Monkey see, monkey do,” which again suggests imitation.
Our Sages also use the idiom kof bifnei adam, “like a monkey in the face of man,” in reference to a person who unsuccessfully attempts to imitate something. This is a relative concept. There are many other examples where we find that even great people, relative to previous, greater people (in a certain respect), are referred to as kof bifnei adam. The beauty of our matriarch, Sarah, who was the greatest of all the tzadikot in the Torah, is referred to as kof bifnei adam in relation to the beauty of Eve, prior to the sin of Adam and Eve. So we see that an integral part of history is the degenerative process of abstract “man” and “ape.”
Numerically, “man”, adam is 45, which is the triangle of 9. It is the sum of all numbers from 1 to 9. If kof, which equals 186, is added to adam (45), we receive 231 (RLA), which is the triangle of 21. This is a most important number in Kabbalah. It is the number of pairs of two letters with which G-d created the world. It is called the RLA Shearim in Sefer Yetzirah. This means thatkof is actually the sum of all numbers from 10 to 21. Since adam is 1 to 9, together it is 1 to 21. This sum of all numbers from 1, alef (of adam), until 21, which is G-d’s Name Ekyeh, I shall be that which I shall be”, equals 231. Thus, the two words, “man” (adam) and “ape” (kof) form an intrinsic, integral union. This means that the words, adam and kof are meant to be combined. By their unification the kof receives some level of elevation to become integrated back to his origin, which is man.
The Arizal teaches that between every two levels of reality there is always an intermediate level. He explicitly states that the intermediate level between man and animal is monkey. There are two sides to every intermediate. In the case of the ape as intermediary, one side relates to the “man” aspect, and the other side relates to the “animal” aspect. It is as if the two arms of the ape are actually holding on to the man and animal.
An intermediate is meant to unite. The ape has inner power to unite mankind and the animal kingdom. In the service of G-d we must learn that just as a lower level of reality often tries to imitate a higher level, often unsuccessfully, as in kof bifnei adam, so man is instructed to imitate all the positive natural attributes that G-d created in each of the animals. In Pirkei Avot it says that we have to be as bold as a tiger, etc. to do the will of our Father in heaven. As the verse says (Job 35:11), malfeinu mibahamot aretz(“He teaches us from the animals of the earth”). The ape, as intermediate between man and animal, gives insight to man as to how to adopt the positive attributes of all the animals in his service of the Divine.
The letter kuf also means hekeif, or makeef, “surrounding, all encompassing light.” The word adam represents yosher, “straightness,” as the verse states: “G-d made man straight.” Thus, one of the relationships between man and ape in the terminology of Kabbalah is between yosher, “straightness,” and igulim, “circles,” the “surrounding lights.” At lower levels of reality, the “surrounding lights” are natural levels of manifestation. “Nature,” teva, comes from the word taba’at, a “ring” or “circle.” In its origin, the “surrounding light” comes from the or ein sof hasovev kol almin, “the infinite light that surrounds all worlds.” This is the light that exists before the initial contraction at the beginning of the creative process, and the light that still remains as the omnipresence of G-d without any distinction between higher and lower levels. This is the ultimate and absolute continuum of G-d’s omnipresence throughout all reality.
Another meaning of the word makeef is “to touch.” In many places in the Mishnah, hakafah is used to mean “two things that touch one another.” With regard to the five physical senses, the monkey represents the sense of touch. Kabbalah explains that this is the sense that most reflects its origin in the back lobe of the brain. In a sense, it is an imitation, the achor, “posterior” side of man. The elevation of the ape is the elevation of the physical sense of touch.
The verse Chochmat adam tair panav, “the wisdom of man enlightens his face,” points to the relation between man and face, or the anterior part of his body. The senses of sight, sound, smell and taste all appear in the face. The posterior side is the ape, the sense of touch, from the word hakafah.
Monkeys like to jump from branch to branch. This is an expression of the sense of touch. This also relates to the monkey’s role as an intermediate between man and animal. The jumping from branch to branch represents the union of separate items.
In Aramaic, the word kof means kofa d’machta, which is the “eye of the needle.” There is a very important saying by our Sages that when a person dreams he sees things that cannot exist in reality as we know it. There are certain things, however, that are so removed from reality that even in a dream one does not imagine them. The example that our Sages use for that phenomenon ispeela daiyil b’kofa d’machta, “seeing an elephant go through the eye of a needle.” In the future, when Mashiach comes, we will perceive this experience of infinite greatness entering every point of finite reality. This is called hamshachat koach ha’bli gvul b’gvul.
The song of the elephant in Perek Shirah is Gadol Havayah umehulal me’od, “G-d is [infinitely] great and infinitely praiseworthy.” This is what the elephant suggests to the soul of man. The elephant entering into the eye of the needle is like the elephant metamorphosing into a monkey. This is indeed the elevation of the greatest creature in the animal kingdom. By entering into thekofa d’machta, the eye of the needle, which is the same word as “monkey,” the elephant reveals to the observer the infinite greatness of G-d entering into every point of finite reality. Thus, the elevation of the letter kuf is the manifestation of the infinite entering the finite.
In Kabbalah, the letter kuf often represents klipa, a “foreign shell,” which is one of the basic symbols for evil in the Torah and Kabbalah. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the kuf also represents kedusha, “sanctity,” which is total separation from finite, mundane reality. The Gemarah states that the letter kuf represents kedusha, as in kadosh, kadosh, kadosh. These three consecutivekuf‘s represent the three stages of elevation of the “Primordial Ape.”
The letter kuf is the twelfth of the twelve simple letters of the alef beit. It corresponds to the month of Adar, the festival of Purim, which suggests Ad d’lo yada. All of the points discussed above relate to ad d’lo yada. On the surface, when a person becomes drunk, he “degenerates” from a human figure to an animal figure, especially to a copying, monkey mannerism. This is why people also dress up as clowns on Purim.
Every month and every letter has a sense. The sense of the letter kuf is laughter. This is also the sense of the month of Adar. The elevation of the ape is the elevation of laughter. According to our Sages (in the Talmud) and Sefer Yetzirah, laughter originates in the spleen. This is why the letter kuf corresponds in the body of man to the spleen, the controlling organ of laughter. An ape causes one to laugh. Laughter is an existential leap to a higher level of consciousness.
You might want to see Sefer Habrit. Very interesting discussions based on the science that was known about 200 years ago appear there. Wishing you much success in your further studies.