Shemot: Chapter 18

Righteous men to whom it happens according to the deeds of the wicked


In this section, Rabbi Elazar begins by discussing the verse, "There is a vanity..." Then the discussion turns to an examination of the seemingly incongruous system of worldly rewards and punishments. We learn that the world (the Nukva) stands upon the seven vanities (the seven Sfirot of Zeir Anpin). These vanities are the seven pillars that support the world, and they correspond to the seven Firmaments. Just as other Firmaments cleave to and issue from the seven Firmaments, there are other vanities that emanate from the seven vanities, all of which are mentioned by Solomon in his book of Ecclesiastes. The Foundation (Yesod), which emanates from the supernal vanities, is maintained and strengthened by the souls of the righteous who died before they sinned on earth. Enoch, who was taken before his time to die had arrived, is an example of such a soul.

An explanation of the title subject then ensues from a discussion of the two reasons why the righteous are removed from the world before their time. We learn that when He foresees that, if they live longer, the righteous will sin, He removes them from the world and they are Judged as though they had sinned. Conversely, He allows wicked men to live if He foresees that they will repent or that they will have Righteous children. Another interpretation of the verse relating to the title quotation reveals that God is glorified by both the deeds of the Righteous and the good deeds that the wicked perform.

Finally, Rabbi Elazar provides further insight into the verse, "All things have I seen in the days of my vanity..." (Kohelet 7:15). When Solomon was granted wisdom, we are told, he saw everything at the time when the moon reigned. "A just man who perishes in his righteousness" is an allusion to the Foundation of the world and the Nukva, which have no power during the time of the exile. Therefore, supernal blessings do not reach a just man in exile and he "perishes in his righteousness." "And there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his wickedness," alludes to Samael and his wife, the Serpent, who gives strength and peace to the other kings that rule Yisrael in exile.


Here we acquire the proactive awareness and courage to resist reactive impulses, borne of vanity, before they lead us into sin. The Light we draw is now used to cleanse and purify the wicked who dwell in our midst, infusing our spiritual and physical environment with luminous forces of positivity and goodness. The sins of our generation are atoned for by the righteous sages of antiquity, whose Light and merit are summoned forth as our eyes dance across the letters of these sacred pages.

Each of us possesses a portion of goodness and wickedness. Immense Light erupts in our world each time we triumph over our wicked traits. By meditating upon our own negative qualities now, this Light shines from one end of the universe to the other.

The powers of evil nations and Kings vanish. The evil angels known as Samael and Lilit (do not pronounce these names) are banished forevermore from reality. The energy of King David rises in this passage, elevating the dimension known as Malchut, our physical world, into the sphere of the Upper World.