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I have seen the phrase Rehovot HaNahar (wideness of the river) used, often in a kabbalistic context, but am not sure what it symbolizes. The phrase can be found in the shabbos song Kel Mistater (the hidden God). Can someone please explain what exactly this concept means or represents?

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2 Answers 2

In Likutei Torah (Shir Hashirim 39B), the Baal HaTanya equates Rechovot HaNahar with Binah (emphasis mine):

ומכל הנ"ל יובן למעלה ג"כ במ"ש ונהר יוצא מעדן ומשם יפרד כו'. כי הנה עדן הוא בחי' חכמה עילאה דאצי' חכים ולא בחכמה ידיעא שהוא בחי' העלם וביטול בתכלית וכמ"ש והחכמה מאין תמצא כו' שהוא בחי' אין ממש ונק' מעין שהוא כדוגמת המעין שעדיין הוא בבחי' העלם כנ"ל ונהר יוצא מעדן הוא בחי' בינה דאצי' שיוצא ונמשך מבחי' חכמה להשקות כו' שהוא בחי' אם הבנים מקור המדות עליונות דאצי' שנמשכין מבחי' בינה דאצי' ונק' רחובות הנהר שהוא בחי' התפשטות השכל יותר מכמו שהיה בבחי' חכמה שהוא בחי' אין אף שבחי' בינה נמשך מבחי' חכמה עכ"ז מאחר שבא מהעלם לגילוי השגה שהוא מאין ליש ממש ממילא מתרבה בהתפשטות יותר כדוגמת הנהר הגשמי שיוצא מהמעין והמדות שבלב נמשכים מהשכל שבמוח כנ"ל.

There, the Baal HaTanya compares Chochmah to a wellspring, and Binah to the river that flows and expands from that wellspring.

In Chassidic/Kabalistic thought, Chochmah represents the kernel of an idea, and Binah represents the expansion of that idea.


See here, which quotes this idea from the Zohar, probably referring to this.

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The phrase comes from Genesis 36:37. In listing the Edomite kings who reigned before there was a king in Israel, the Torah names Shaul as the sixth king, and tells us that he was from רחובות הנהר. I am led to believe that there are many references to this in the kabbalistic literature, which looks upon these kings as representative of phenomena that preceded the creation of the world. For one example of such a text, you can see this page from Etz Chayim, which equates Shaul with the sefirah of Yesod.

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so does that mean רחובות הנהר represents yesod? –  not-allowed to change my name Apr 17 '13 at 4:12
    
No, it just means that R' Chayim Vital equates it with yesod in a single passage that I just showed you. Whether or not other people also do so, whether or not he says anything contradictory anywhere else, and certainly where or not that's what it actually "represents", I have no idea. The piyyut titled El Mistater was authored by a contemporary of his named R' Avraham Mimin, who was a disciple of the Ramak. You might want to investigate how רחובות הנהר features, therefore, in Cordoveran kabbalah. –  Shimon bM Apr 17 '13 at 5:53

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