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There is a running theme comparing Mordechai to Moshe, the message is usually the same but the phrases found in kabbalistic works often use slightly different words such as

Yaaros Devash מרדכי גלגול וניצוץ משה

Sfas Emes שמרדכי שורש מרע"ה

Megaleh Amukot שמרדכי הוא סוד משה

Chozeh Lublin מרדכי הי' בדורו ניצוץ משה

What is the difference between the words ניצוץ, סוד, גלגול, שורש and what is the implication made when using one over the other?

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  • "מרדכי הי' בדורו ניצוץ משה" differs to the others because every talmid chacham in every dor is a nitzutz of Moshe.
    – The GRAPKE
    Commented Nov 12, 2023 at 15:39
  • @RabbiKaii i rephrased it
    – The Targum
    Commented Nov 12, 2023 at 15:47

1 Answer 1

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The simple answer is that they are all one of the same with a great deal of overlap; in that Kabbalah dictates that people have the ability to create a tikkun - a rectification for earlier failings. However, they are also subtly definable in their own right.

Gilgul - Reincarnation

Shaar HaGilgulim begins by outlining that there 5 different types/level of soul - Nefesh, Ruach, Neshama, Chaya and Yechida (each one regarded as a higher level of consciousness etc.). As a person grows and develops, he gains a different one of these souls. The second chapter explains that when a human is first created his Nefesh enters his body. Providing that person acts correctly, the Ruach will enter at the end of their 13th year when they have become more "complete". The Neshama only follows suit upon the individual turning 20. These three initial souls are a required part of the person. If that person fails to rectify themselves in each instance, they won't receive the next soul up. If a person fails to rectify his Nefesh and goes on to die, then his Nefesh will have to reincarnate until it is suitably "fixed". The Shaar HaGilgulim goes on to explain all the different levels and what will happen if not rectified and the resulting ramifications. Either way, the notion of Gilgulim is to reincarnate a part of one of the souls in order to rectify it.

So in the context of this question, to say Mordechai was a gilgul of Moshe would mean a past of soul that once inhabited Moshe.

Nitzos - Spark

This is a concept that was developed off the Arizal and furthered in Chassidish circles. It represents a spark of the Divine that every human being is made up of which links to their soul and influences their actions. To say someone has a spark of another person that lived means that they share the same G-dly spark.

Here it brings the following which will serve as a good introduction:

In line with the kabbalistic tradition, R. Israel Ba'al Shem Tov (the Besht), the founder of Hasidism, perceived everything to be infused with Divine sparks: "It is a great principle that there are holy sparks in all there is in the world. Nothing is void of sparks, even trees and stones." (As related in Besht, Zava'at ha-Rivash, photocopy (Brooklyn: Otsar Hahasidim, 1991), section 141, p. 54 (Hebrew). Many of the sayings in this book are probably not attributable to the Besht but to R. Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezeritch, his main disciple.) He further taught that such sparks are also in "all of man's actions. Even in man's sins there are sparks resulting from the breaking of the vessels." This panentheistic worldview, which sees elements of the Divine in everything, should not be confused with the panthe-istic doctrine that G-d and nature are identical.

See here for its context within reincarnation:

In Safed, especially in the Lurianic Kabbalah, the idea of niẓoẓot ha-neshamot ("sparks of the souls") was highly developed. Each "main" soul is built in the spiritual structure of "mystical limbs" (parallel to the limbs of the body), from which many sparks spread, each of which can serve as a soul or as life in a human body. The gilgulim of all the sparks together are aimed at the restitution of the hidden spiritual structure of the "root" of the principal soul; it is possible for one man to possess several different sparks belonging to one "root." All the roots of the souls were in fact contained in Adam's soul, but they fell and were scattered with the first sin; the souls must be reassembled in the course of their gilgulim which they and their sparks undergo and through which they are afforded the opportunity to restitute their true and original structure. The later Kabbalah developed much further the idea of the affinity of those souls which belong to a common root.

As is clear, this segues/overlaps into the next one...

Shoresh - Root

As already explained here there is a concept known as "Shoresh Haneshama" - lit. the root of the soul. This is not reincarnation as we know it, rather it represents the combination of a person's nefesh, ruach and neshama and the resulting spiritual core of each individual.

@RabbiKai explains it nicely here:

Each combination is a potential soul root, which will impact the personality, mission and various other aspects of the person. All of the roots devolve from the proto-soul of Adam HaRishon. Every person will come from a particular root in his soul. Some people can be from the same or very similar roots.

Thus, in the context of Moshe/Mordechai the choice of the word "shoresh" would mean that Mordechai was not necessarily a reincarnation, but rather they stemmed from the same root.

Sod - Secret

In the context of this topic - sod is best understood as the notion of "Sod HaIbbur" - literally "the secret of the embryonic state". Whilst the Gemara uses this term in relation to the "Secret of the Intercalation" (e.g. Rosh Hashanah 20b) it also has its place within our discussion and is spoken about in Shaar HaGilgulim in several places.

The Shelah HaKodosh (Aseres Hadibros, Pesachim, Matzah Ashira 1) also mentions this concept in relation to souls:

וסוד העיבור שהזכירו רז"ל תמיד בדבריהם, רצו לומר סוד עיבור הנשמות. ושם אדנ"י מקור ישראל, כדכתיב (תהלים סח, כז) במקהלות ברכו אלהים אדני ממקור ישראל...

And the "Sod HaIbbur" that our Rabbis of blessed memories mentioned always in their words, they want to say the secret of the embryonic stage of the souls. And there is Hashem, the source of Israel, like it writes in Tehillim 68:27 "In assemblies bless G-d, the LORD, O you who are from the fountain of Israel"...

Unlike Gilgulim which are reincarnated souls that have already lived before, Sod HaIbbur happens when a righteous soul occupies a living person's body for a time / spiritually "impregnates" the existing soul. For example, the Zohar, Pinchas 12 famously notes that when Nadav and Avihu died following their unauthorised fire before Hashem, their souls joined with Pinchas following his killing of Zimri. The Mikdash Melech on the Zohar there explains it as being a direct example of Sod HaIbbur.

So according to the Megaleh Amukos choice of words, he would understand it that Mordechai was alive with his own soul, that was joined with that of Moshe's soul.

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