Now Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. (Genesis 29:16)

Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (the Shelah HaKadosh)[1] famously says that the Torah speaks to the upper worlds and hints at the lower worlds. That means that the primary subject of the Torah narrative has to do with the dynamics of the spiritual worlds while only hinting at the historical narrative that appears to be the meaning of the biblical text. It is not surprising because what happens down here reflects what happens up there—in the spiritual spheres. However, the historical narrative is not necessarily the only reflection of the higher reality. We may see how the same or similar dynamic is reflected in natural laws.

This Torah portion introduces us to two daughters of Laban—Rachel and Leah. As we discussed in the previous chapters, Leah and Rachel are personifications of two minor partzufimPartzuf Leah and Partzuf Rachel, respectively, which are two aspects of the Nukva d’Z”A—the female aspect of the divine emanation. In Kabbalah and Chasidic thought, Rachel represents the world of speech (Olam HaDibur) and the revealed realm (Alma d’Isgalya). In contrast, Leah represents the world of thought (Olam HaMachshava) and the hidden realm (Alma d’Iskasya).

The Torah tells us that Jacob was attracted to Rachel:

And he loved Rachel more than Leah (Genesis 29:30).

However, Jacob was repulsed by Leah:

And the Eternal saw that Leah was hated… (Genesis 29:31)

Although Jacob and Leah lived together and had children together, it is clear that Rachel was Jacob’s main wife. The episode with mandrakes clearly illustrates this as Leah had to “hire” Jacob to sleep with her for her son’s mandrakes:

And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them unto his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah: “Give me, I pray thee, of thy son’s mandrakes.” And she said unto her: “Is it a small matter that thou hast taken away my husband? and wouldest thou take away my son’s mandrakes also?” And Rachel said: “Therefore he shall lie with thee to-night for thy son’s mandrakes.” And Jacob came from the field in the evening, and Leah went out to meet him, and said: “Thou must come in unto me; for I have surely hired thee with my son’s mandrakes.” And he lay with her that night. (Genesis 30:14-16)

This dynamic can be summarized as follows:

Jacob’s wifes Major Partzuf Minor Partzuf The World The Status in the Household Jacob’s attitude toward his wife
Rachel Nukvah Partzuf Rachel The revealed world Main wife Attracted
Leah Partzuf Leah The hidden world The other wife Repulsed

As we said before, the spiritual dynamic is reflected in the worlds below in more ways than merely the Torah’s historical narrative. Where can we find a parallel between Rachel and Leah in the physical world?

The Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liyadi, the Alter Rebbe, gives a hint. In his Chassidic discourse on this Torah portion,[2] the Alter Rebbe connects Partzuf Rachel and Partzuf Leah with a verse in Psalms:

I shall walk before the Eternal in the lands of the living. (Psalms 116:9)

This verse speaks of the Land of Israel. Why then the word “land” appears here in the plural as “lands”? The Alter Rebbe explains that the “lands” refer to the land of Israel when it is under the spiritual influence of Partzuf Rachel or Partzuf Leah, metaphorically expressed by the Psalmist as two lands.  The land, in Kabbalah, is a metaphor for gravity. Therefore, according to this interpretation, Partzuf Rachel and Partzuf Leah both refer to gravity.

The second hint is found in the second column of the table above, leading to the same place. Both Rachel and Leah are aspects (sub-partzufim) of the partzuf of Nukvah, that is, of the sefirah of Malkhut. As we discussed in the earlier chapters “For Fundamental Forces,” the four fundamental forces (interactions) of nature—strong nuclear force, weak force, electromagnetic force, and gravity—map (in this order) onto four letters of the Tetragrammaton. The last letter that corresponds to the sefirah of Malkhut corresponds to the gravitational force.  Thus, both Rachel and Leah correspond somehow to the gravitational force. However, notwithstanding that they are spiritually related to the same partzuf of Nukvah (the same sefirah of Malkhut), Rachel and Leah are two distinct persons. The Torah emphasizes that  “Laban had two daughters.” Does gravity have two distinct aspects that could be associated with Rachel and Leah? As it so happens, it does.

We have all heard of dark energy. What is it? Dark energy is usually thought of as a mysterious repulsive force of unknown origin that pushes away galaxies and accelerates the expansion of the universe. However, there is little mystery about dark energy—it is just another aspect of gravity.

The first evidence of dark energy came from observations of supernovae, showing that they were running away from each other, not at a constant rate, but faster and faster. The only explanation for this observation was that the expansion of our universe is accelerating. Since the 1990s, the prevailing explanation of this accelerating expansion became dark energy—a new form of invisible energy that had a repulsive effect on matter. Dark energy dominates the matter in our universe, contributing 69% of the total energy.

Dark energy can be readily explained by the modified Einstein’s equations for the gravitational field with the cosmological constant. Originally, Einstein introduced the cosmological constant “by mistake.” He was a firm believer in a static universe. When he first heard of the first cosmological solution of his field equations obtained by the Russian mathematician Alexander Friedmann,[3] he was appalled. The solution predicted a dynamic universe that expanded or contracted depending on the average mass distribution in the universe. To solve this “problem,” Einstein managed to obtain a steady-state solution of his equations, but that required an addition of a cosmological constant.[4] This solution was unstable, and later, in 1929, the American astronomer Edwin Hubble discovered that the universe was expanding. Einstein struck down his cosmological constant and reinstated his original equations, declaring that the addition of the cosmological constant was his biggest scientific mistake.

If we fast forward by seventy years, it became clear that the cosmological constant was no mistake at all—it provided the necessary explanation for the dark energy.[5]

To summarize the properties of dark energy in a table:

Force The aspect of the fundamental force Attraction Primary/secondary Visibility
Attractive Gravity Gravity Attractive Primary force Visible (detectable)
Dark energy Repulsive Secondary force Invisible (dark)

We can now clearly see the parallel between Partzuf Rachel and Partzuf Leah, on the one hand, and gravity and dark energy, on the other.

Indeed, just as attractive gravitational force and repulsive dark energy are two aspects of the same fundamental force, gravity, Partzuf Rachel and Partzuf Leah are two aspects (sub-partzufim) of the Partzuf Nukvah. On a physical level, Rachel and Leah are sisters (according to some midrashim, they were twins).

Leah is characterized as having weak eyes—low vision. Dark energy is invisible. Leah is the embodiment of Olam d’Iskasya—the hidden world, whereas Rachel is the embodiment of Partzuf Rachel—Olam d’Isgalya.

Leah is repulsive to Jacob. Dark energy is a repulsive force in contrast to gravity, which is an attractive force. That is why gravity is parallel to Rachel. Lastly, Jacob married Leah “by mistake,” having been duped by Laban. Similarly, Einstein stated that he introduced the cosmological constant later to be identified as the source of dark energy by mistake.

All these parallels allow us to conclude that there is an unmistakable structural parallel between Partzuf Rachel and Partzuf Leah, on the one hand, and gravity and dark energy, on the other:

Forces Partzufim Biblical personalities
Gravity Partzuf Rachel Rachel
Dark energy Partzuf Leah Leah

As Shelah said, the Torah speaks to the higher worlds and hints at the lower worlds. As we can see from this example, when the Torah hints at the lower worlds, there are many hints indeed, and some entirely unexpected.



[1] Rabbi Isaiah HaLevi Horowitz  (c. 1555–1630), often referred to as the Shelah HaKadosh (the saintly Shelah), was one of the most influential rabbis and kabbalists of his time. He served as the Chief Rabbi of Prague (where he was born) and, later in life, as Chief Rabbi of the Ashkenazi community of Jerusalem. His famous commentary on the Torah called Shenei Luot HaBerit (“Two Tablets of the Covenant”), usually referred to by its acronym Shelah, is a wide-ranging commentary on the ethical, ritual, and mystical aspects of each Torah portion. This commentary had a profound influence on the development of the Chasidic movement, including the movement’s founder, the Baal Shem Tov, and the founder of Chabad, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liyadi, whose Tanya is based to some extent on the Shenei Luot HaBerit. His famous prayer for the welfare of children and grandchildren is customarily recited by many parents on the first day of the month of Nisan. The Shelah HaKadosh was buried in Tiberias near the graves of Rabbi Jochanan ben Zakkai and the Maimonides.

[2] Rabbi Schneur Zalman, Torah Or, maamarUlelavan Shtei Banot,” p. 22a.

[3] Alexander Alexandrovich Friedmann (1888–1925) was a Russian physicist and mathematician who made a significant contribution to cosmology by obtaining the first cosmological solution of Einstein’s equations for the gravitational field. Alexander Friedmann was the son of the composer Alexander Friedmann, who was a Jewish cantonist forcibly converted to the Russian Orthodox Church.

[4] The original Einstein’s equation for the gravitation field looked deceptively simple: G = kT, where G is the Einstein tensor, T is the stress-energy tensor, the source of the field, and k is constant. To obtain a steady-state solution, Einstein added a cosmological constant Λ (capital Greek letter lambda), so that the modified equation took the form of G + Λg = kT, where Λ is the cosmological constant and g is the metric tensor. If moved to the right side of the equation (that represents the source of the field), the cosmological constant Λ can be interpreted as “negative mass” or negative energy of the vacuum generating a repulsive force—this is how Einstein interpreted the cosmological constant in his “Comment on Schrödinger’s Note ‘On a System of Solutions for the Generally Covariant Gravitational Field Equations.’”

[5] To explain dark energy, one needs a scalar field. The cosmological constant conveniently provides just such a scalar field. However, other potential albeit more exotic solutions have been proposed, including the quintessence (a hypothetical and yet-to-be-discovered fifth fundamental force) and quantum vacuum energy, which so far produce a far greater force that is observed by the astronomers.