Fifty Gates of Wisdom are an essential concept found in the Hebrew
Scriptures and in the Jewish Qabalah.
The 50 Gates are
really 49 days or 7 weeks of self-elevation and self-evaluation followed
by one day of prophetic revelation, that the Israelites strived for
from the time of the Exodus from Egypt until the time they received
the Torah at Mount Sinai, where HaShem sealed His Covenant with them.
It is said that
all of Israel experienced prophecy at this time and heard the Kol
HaShem (voice of God) declare the Commandments.
How is it possible for an entire nation to be able to experience prophecy?
This is the secret of the 50 Gates of Wisdom (also defined as the
50 Gates of Understanding).
Being worthy of receiving prophecy requires character improvement.
There are 49 aspects of character that the Israelites worked on developing
while they wandered in the wilderness. These aspects correspond to
the combinations of the 7 lower sefirot which are called midot or
character qualities from the Hebrew.
To understand this concept it is necessary to define the "Sefirot":
All of the Sefirot
are God's essence, and though appearing to be distinct, each has a
relationship with the others. An illustration of this can be seen
by the principle that God chastises those He loves. Here we see the
God's Sefirah of judgment acting with His Sefirah of mercy.
The Sefirot are
also considered to have a quality of "proximity" to the Eyn Sof. The
"higher" Sefirot are closely associated with the fourth or highest
heaven (that of the Eyn Sof), the lower Sefirot are linked to the
lower three heavens and the physical world.
It is also taught
that when the Sefirot came into being in Creation, that they came
in sequence, with the lowest one emanating from the ones before it,
and so on, all the way to the "highest" one, which has the closest
relationship to the Eyn Sof. It is important to remember, that although
the Sefirot came into the existence of Creation, they emanate from
the Eternal Eyn Sof, and therefore are, in this respect, "eternal".
Through a careful
study of the Tanakh (the Hebrew Scriptures), the Jewish sages have
identified ten Sefirot (ten being the number of Divine perfection).
Listed consecutively from the "highest" to "lowest," they are
known by the following names and associated characteristics and alternative
- Primary meaning: Crown; also known as: Upper Crown, Ayin
(nothingness), Hokhmah Penimit (internal wisdom), Mahshavah Elohit
(Divine thought), Ruach HaKodesh (Spirit of God), root of roots, mysterious
wisdom, the origin, Ancient, will, Ahyah Asher Ahyah, (I am That Who
I am), Atika Kadisha (The Holy Ancient One), Atik Yomin (The Ancient
of Days), Arik Anpin (The Merciful).
- Primary meaning: Wisdom; also known as: Revelation, the
Primordial Torah (the Torah that existed before Creation), Abba, Father,
Yesh me-ayin (being from nothingness), Beginning, HaShem.
- Primary meaning: Understanding; also known as: Intellect, Teshuvah
(Repentance), reason, palace, temple, womb, Imma, upper Mother, Jerusalem
above, freedom, Jubilee, "HaShem pronounced as Elohim".
- Primary meaning: Mercy; also known as: Grace, Love of God, right
arm of God, white, El, associated with Avraham.
- Also called "Din" - Primary meaning: Judgment; also known as: strength,
severity, fear of God, left arm of God, red, Elohim, HaShem, associated
- Primary meaning: Beauty; also known as: Harmony, Rachamim (compassion),
the attribute of mercy, the written Torah, Bridegroom, Husband, Son,
King, Father, Messiah, Tabernacle/Temple, the Holy Tree, (Tree of
Life), heaven, the letter "vav," Creator, Gate of Righteousness, "the
Holy One blessed be He" (Baruch HaShem) HaShem, Adonay-Elohim, the
Great Name, the Unique Name, open miracles, lulov [on Sukkoth], the
shofar [as related to the mitzvot of blowing the shofar], green, Tefillin
of the head, associated with Ya'kov.
- Primary meaning: Victory; aso known as: eternity, prophecy, orchestration,
initiative, persistence, bitachon (confidence), right leg, "Adonay
Tzevaot", associated with Mosheh.
- Primary meaning: Glory; also known as: majesty, splendor,
reverberation, prophecy, surrender, temimut (sincerity), anchor, steadfastness,
left leg, "Hosts of Elohim," associated with Aharon.
- Primary meaning: Foundation; also known as: "Almighty God, Living
God", the "lower end" of the heavens, El Shaddai, El Hai, Tzaddik
(Righteous One), pillar connecting heaven and earth, seal of truth,
procreative power, Messiah, Covenant, hidden miracles, "all things,"
purity, associated with Yosef.
- Primary meaning: Kingdom; also known as: Shekinah (Presence), Atarah
(diadem), Kingship, Shabath, lower Crown, the attribute of justice,
Kahal Yisrael (Assembly of Israel), Court of God, the oral Torah,
Nukvah, Bride, Wife, lower Mother "the Spirit of His Holiness", the
lesser "hey", Adonay, the Honorable Name, hidden miracles, the etrog
[on Sukkot], queen, Tefillin of the hand, humility, associated with
There is an additional
"Sefirah" called Da'at (Knowledge), that is counted when Keter is
These ten Sefirot
are further divided into two groups. The three "upper" ones, associated
with the "higher heavenly realms," are:
is mentioned it is considered as emanating from the realm of the above
The remaining seven
are considered the "lower" ones and are associated with Creation and
The names of the
ten Sefirot are found scattered through the Scriptures. Speaking of
Betzal'el's qualifications for building the Tabernacle, God says that
He gave him great insight into the three higher Sefirot:
Shemot 31:3 -
"And I have filled him with the Spirit of God (Keter), in wisdom
(Chokmah), and in understanding (Binah), and in knowledge (Da'at),
and in all manner of workmanship."
Here we see that
Betzal'el was filled with the Sefirot of Chokhmah-Wisdom and Binah-Understanding.
Note also that he possessed the "Spirit of God", that is associated
The seven lower
Sefirot can be found in another Scripture:
1 Dibre Hayamim
29:11 - "Yours, O HaShem, is the greatness(Chesed), and the power
(Gevurah), and the glory (Tiferet), and the victory (Netzach), and
the majesty (Hod): for all (Yesod) that is in the heaven and in
the earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom(Malkut), O HaShem, and
You are exalted as Head above all."
The Sefirot are
often arranged vertically in four groups. Each of these groups is
associated with one of the four heavens. The four heavens are further
linked to the carrying out of the will of God, represented as "four
worlds": of calling, creating, forming and making.
These four worlds
are found together in Yeshayahu 43:7:
"Every one that
is called by My Name; whom I have created, formed, made for My Glory."
These four levels
of calling, creating, forming and making, recur throughout the Scriptures
and throughout Kabalah. A common arrangement of the Sefirot with regard
to these "four worlds" is as follows:
is so close to the Eyn Sof, and therefore unknowable, is considered
distinct from and above the remaining nine. It is therefore not
considered in the arrangement.
Chokmah is the
highest possible Sefirah that can be contemplated. It is associated
with the aspects of time (the past), of "Father" and the "Y" in
the Name of God.
Binah, is the
"Mother" aspect and associated with the dimension of time (the future)
and the first "H" in the Name of God.
The next six
Sefirot are grouped together and relate to the six directions of
the space continuum and represent the concept of "relationship".
Collectively, these six are called "Zer Anpin" (small face), and
are associated with the "V," the Vav, which has a numeric value
of six. Tiferet is considered central to this group and often represents
Zer Anpin in itself.
Last is Malkut,
the Sefirah most closely associated with God's presence on earth
(the Shekinah). She is the bride and the last or small "H" in the
Name of God.
The upper Sefirot
of Chokmah and Binah relate to beginning
and end (past and future), as God Himself is the Aleph and the Tav.
Malkut, being the Sefirah farthest from Eyn Sof, is simply said to
be representing the direction away from God, although it is also the
beginning point in a relationship with God.
between the ten Sefirot is said to be ruled by three Divine principles:
Mercy, Justice and Will. As such, the Sefirot are presented in three
"columns" or "pillars". This arrangement is known as the "Tree of
All of the Sefirot exist in each of the four worlds; the world of
Azilut (Emanation) is said to be outside of the realm of time, and
contains the other three worlds (Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyyah), as
well as the purest essence of the Sefirot, "within itself".
See the "Tree of Life" in the next page.
- "Y" (Yod)
(Atzilut - world Emanation)
Realm of Eyn Sof
- "H" ("greater" Hey)
(Beriah - world Creation)
Realm of the Throne
- "V" (Vav)
(Yetzirah - world of Formation)
Realm of Angels
- "H" ("lesser" Hey)
(Asiyyah - world of Action)
Realm of the Shekinah
and physical creation
The counting is done backwards from the highest level to the lowest
since prophecy is energy transferred from God to man:
Chesed - kindness
- Avraham (epitomized quality)
Gevurah - judgement power - Yitzhak
Tiferet - beauty - Ya'kov
Netzah - victory eternity - Mosheh
Hod - thankfulness - Aharon
Yesod - foundation - Yosef
Malkut - kingdom - David
Shavuot - the day of the giving of the Torah, the revelation and prophecy
We are not capable
of creating perfection; only HaShem can make something perfect. All
we can do is strive towards it. But by counting for forty-nine days,
it is as if we counted the fiftieth also. For the fiftieth level is
the natural result of our achievement in securing the first forty-nine.
This is the significance of Lag Ba'Omer as explained by the Maharsha
(Moed Kattan 28a). The majority of the Omer count is reached when
two-thirds of the time passes. That occurs on the thirty-third day.
Once most of the period has passed successfully, one can be confident
to be successful in likewise fulfilling the remainder. Lag Ba'Omer
is a day to rejoice in one's way towards perfection. The Midrash comments:
"When are the days of the Omer perfect and complete? When we fulfill
God's will" (Vayikra Rabbah 28:3). It is the intensity of our quest
for perfection in performing God's will that infuses our counting
of the omer with added meaning and effectiveness. May we strive for
perfection in all that we do, so that our efforts will be crowned
by success by HaShem, Who will bring us to the ultimate perfection,
"granting His nation strength and blessing it with peace".
At that moment
the upper three Sefiroth appear as one, as Binah. The Fifty Gates
Then, the Fifty
gates of Wisdom are arranged in a progressive development as follows: