Man As A Microcosm

By Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David (Greg Killian)


Three Portions Of The Human Body. 2

The Mid-Brain. 2

The Heart 3

The Womb. 3

Shechem - שכם. 4

Jerusalem - ירושלים‎‎........... 5

Hevron - חברון 6

A Cave Within A Cave. 7


In a previous study I looked at the Jew’s connection to the land of Israel. In this study I would like to do a follow-on to look at these connection points as they relate to man. I am pursuing this line because our Sages teach that Man is a microcosm of the world.


Man is a metaphor. Indeed, one of several meanings of the Hebrew word adam (“man”) is “I resemble.” For man is a microcosm of creation—in the words of the Talmud, “As the soul fills the body, so HaShem fills the universe.”[1] Thus Iyov declares, “From my flesh, I perceive HaShem”[2], by contemplating the workings of our body and the manner in which it relates to and is animated by our soul, we gain insight into the workings of creation and the manner in which it relates to and is sustained by its source. Man is a microcosm, and so provides analogies for all other worlds which can explain the secrets of reality and the great riddles hidden from our senses”.[3]


According to R. Bachya, our primary duty is to study that which is closest to us: the human being.


It is our duty to study the origins and birth of the human, the form and structure of his physical frame, how the various body parts are connected and function together, the purpose of each individual part and the need for it to take its present form. Next we should study man’s advantages, his various temperaments, the faculties of his soul, the light of his intellect, his qualities -- those that are essential and those that are accidental; his desires, and the ultimate purpose of his being. When we have arrived at an understanding of the matters noted in regard to man, much of the mystery of this universe will become clear to us, since the one resembles the other... as Job said (Job 19:26): “From my flesh I see God.”[4]


The Rambam[5] states that the only way to love and fear HaShem is through the study of His creation, for only through this study are we able to know HaShem. Our understanding of HaShem can only be achieved by the intellectual investigation of the genius and balance of His creation. Every detail, every remarkable insight and fact is necessary in our attempt to know (daat) and connect with HaShem.


Since man is a microcosm of the world, and since we know that the body and the land both have ‘connection points’, it stands to reason that if we look at the body and the land we should be able to learn more about the land and the body by comparing the two.


We are going to compare three special cities with three portions of the human anatomy.


Midrash Rabbah - Genesis LXXIX:7 AND HE BOUGHT THE PARCEL OF GROUND, etc. (XXXIII, 19). R. Judan b. R. Simon said: This is one of the three places regarding which the nations of the world cannot taunt Israel and say, ‘ Ye have stolen them.’ These are they: The cave of Machpelah, the [site of the] Temple, and the sepulchre of Joseph.


Three Portions Of The Human Body


The human body is divided into three parts as evidenced by our clothing. Each of these three parts represent a critical area of connecting which are essential to life. If any of these three parts is damaged, then there is no life for the body.


Each of these three portions contain an organ which is centered in the portion. It is centered front-to-back, left-to-right, and top-to-bottom. This organ is precisely centered within its body portion!


I will be using illustrations of female anatomy because it is the only way we will be able to visualize the land of Israel properly. There are several passages which make it clear that we should be looking at a woman:


Yechezechel (Ezekiel) 16:1-8 Again the word of HaShem came unto me, saying, 2 Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations, 3 And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto Jerusalem; Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother an Hittite. 4 And as for thy nativity, in the day thou wast born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee; thou wast not salted at all, nor swaddled at all. 5 None eye pitied thee, to do any of these unto thee, to have compassion upon thee; but thou wast cast out in the open field, to the lothing of thy person, in the day that thou wast born. 6 And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live. 7 I have caused thee to multiply as the bud of the field, and thou hast increased and waxen great, and thou art come to excellent ornaments: thy breasts are fashioned, and thine hair is grown, whereas thou wast naked and bare. 8 Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord GOD, and thou becamest mine.


Yeremiyahu (Jeremiah) 31:31 Behold, the days come, saith HaShem, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith HaShem:


The Mid-Brain


1. The center of the head is the mid-brain,[6] the controller of the body. One can visualize where this area is located by placing a finger behind the ear and another finger between the eyes. The imaginary point where these two ‘lines’ cross, is the mid-brain. A bullet that pierces this area will surely kill the person.


The following picture illustrates the how the mid-brain is centered in the head.


Female Brain


When we examine Shechem (and the grave of Joseph HaTzaddik), we will see that Shechem bears the geographic topography similar to the brain with Shechem as the mid-brain.


Shechem was also the location of Dothan whose name means “dual wells”. This causes us to recall the two hemispheres of the brain which are wells to hold our knowledge of Torah.


One of the major functions of the brain is involved with ‘remembering’. The secret password given to us by Yosef HaTzaddik, is Pakod Pakadti. Yosef is intimately associated with Shechem in that he was sold by his brothers in Shechem, Yaaqov Avinu gave Shechem to Yosef as an inheritance, and his bones were buried in Shechem.


The Jews were given a sign: if a purported liberator uses the term Pakod Pakadti, he is a true savior. That is what Yosef meant when he said, “Pakod Yifkod Elokim Eschem (HaShem will surely remember you)”.[7] As soon as Moshe mentioned these words, he was trusted.[8]


Thus we have a strong connection between remembering and Shechem.


The Heart


2. The center of the body part that is covered by a shirt is the heart.[9] A bullet that pierces this area will surely kill the person. Note that the heart is situated between the breasts such that the breasts and the heart are at the same level.


While the heart contains four chambers, there are two sets of two chambers that work together. The left two chambers pump oxygen depleted blood to the lungs and the right two chambers pump the oxygenated blood from the lungs to the rest of the body.


The life of the body is in the blood. The heart pumps this life blood to the whole body.


Bereshit (Genesis) 9:4 But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.


When we examine Jerusalem (and the Ark of the Covenant), which corresponds to the heart, we will see that the contents of the Ark were also a set of two pair. Two sets of Luchot (tablets): One set that were broken and one set was whole.


Yoma 54a R. Judah contrasted the following passages: And the ends of the staves were seen[10] and it is written but they could not be seen without[11] — how is that possible? — They could be observed, but not actually seen. Thus was it also taught: ‘And the ends of the staves were seen One might have assumed that they did not protrude from their place. To teach us [the fact] Scripture says: ‘And the staves were so long’. One might assume that they tore the curtain and showed forth; to teach us [the fact] Scripture says: ‘They could not be seen without’. How then? They pressed forth and protruded as the two breasts of a woman, as it is said: My beloved is unto me as a bag of myrrh, that lieth betwixt my breasts.[12]


Our Sages teach that the poles of the ark protruded into the parochet, the curtain that separates between the Holy and the Holy of Holies. They describe the effect as the “appearance” of breasts. It is also said that the parochet moved in and out and gave the appearance of breathing. Thus we can see that the Ark of the Covenant (the heart) was situated between the protruding poles (breasts); in the area of a breathing curtain (lungs). The connection to a woman’s body is obvious.

Female Heart


It is also instructive to note that Jerusalem was also associated with the heavenly Jerusalem; and the Temple was associated with a Heavenly Temple. Thus we see, again, two sets of two.


The Womb


3. The center of the lower portion of the female torso, covered by the clothing below the belt, is the womb (uterus). A bullet that pierces this area will surely kill any future life.


The womb is associated with the cave at Machpelah, located in Hebron. Our Patriarchs Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaaqov were buried there along with their spouses and the first couple, Adam and Chava. As the womb is a foundational area, so also are the patriarch the foundation for the Jewish people. Thus we would say that Hebron signifies a foundational area of the land of Israel.


Note, in the following graphic, that the vagina forms an ‘outer room’ and the uterus forms an ‘inner’ room, like a cave within a cave. The ‘cave within’ contains the place where new life will begin. It is the place where a soul first enters this world. Thus we would say that the womb is a portal from the upper world into the lower world. Our Sages debate whether Machpela, in Hebron, was a ‘cave within a cave’ or a ‘cave above a cave’. When viewing the uterus we see that when the woman is prone it is a cave within a cave. When the woman is erect, it is a cave above a cave.


Uterus and Vagina


Now that we have had a bit of an anatomy lesson, lets examine how this anatomy is reflicted in the three cities that were purchased by Avraham, Yaaqov, and King David.


Lets start by looking at the city of Shechem.


Shechem - שכם


Kever YosefShechem

Joseph’s Tomb


Kever Yosef, in Shechem, corresponds to the mid-brain. The source of the mid-brain is the kever (grave) of Yosef HaTzaddik.


Shechem between Mount Eval and Mount Gerizim.


Yaaqov promised Shechem to Yosef:


Bereshit (Genesis) 48:21 And Israel said unto Joseph, Behold, I die: but God shall be with you, and bring you again unto the land of your fathers. 22 Moreover I have given to thee one portion above thy brethren, which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow.


Yosef’s remains were buried in Shechem when the Bne Israel came up from Egypt. His bones were brought out by Moshe:


Yehoushua (Joshua) 24:32 And the bones of Joseph, which the sons of Israel brought up out of Egypt, they buried in Shechem, in the portion of the field which Jacob bought from the sons of Hamor father of Shechem, with a hundred kesitah; and they are to the sons of Joseph for an inheritance.


Shemot (Exodus) 13:19 And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him: for he had straitly sworn the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you; and ye shall carry up my bones away hence with you.


Shechem was allotted by Joshua to Ephraim. Afterward it was assigned to the Levites, becoming also a city of refuge:


Yehoushua (Joshua) 21:21 For they gave them Shechem with her suburbs in mount Ephraim, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Gezer with her suburbs,


Shechem was the city where Rechavam was appointed king, and later where Yeravam was also appointed. Yeravam actually made Shechem into the capitol of his kingdom.


1 Melachim (Kings) 12:1 And Rechavam went to Shechem: for all Israel were come to Shechem to make him king.


After Solomon’s death all the tribes of Israel assembled there to crown Rechavam. It was there that the ten tribes, whose demands were spurned by Rechavam, renounced their allegiance to him and elected Jeroboam as king. The latter fortified Shechem and made it for a time his capital.


1 Melachim (Kings) 12:25 And Jeroboam buildeth Shechem in the hill-country of Ephraim, and dwelleth in it, and goeth out thence, and buildeth Penuel;


After the Babylonian exile, Shechem became the religious capital of the Samaritans, whose temple was on Mount Gerizim. Thus Shechem was to the Samaritans what Jerusalem was to the Jews; and its religious prominence was maintained for nearly 200 years.


The Shem Meshmuel teaches that the word Shechem means: Portion, a part of the whole.


Rashi also teaches that the Hebrew word shechem, means “portion,” or “division”;[13] inherent in the name Shechem is the idea of divisiveness.[14] As with many Hebrew words, Shechem contains also the the idea of togetherness, as we shall se.


The Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon[15] gives one of the meanings of the word “shechem [shoulder]” as

“responsibility of rule,” as in:


Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 9:5and the government is upon his shoulder.


Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 22:22 the key to the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder.


The word Shechem - שכם also means shoulder. A “shoulder” represents the power to connect the back state of knowledge (secular science) and wisdom to the front state of knowledge and wisdom (Torah). Shechem is the bridge.


 A shoulder is also used to express togetherness as in: They worked shoulder to shoulder. The word “shechem”, therefore, is also used in the Torah as an idiom to mean “together,” or “togetherness.”


Kever Yosef was between the shoulders (Mount Eval and Mount Gerizim) in the same way that the head is between the shoulders.


Jerusalem - ירושלים‎‎


Beit HaMikdash- Jerusalem

The Holy Temple


Jerusalem corresponds to the heart. The source of the heart are the Tablets of the Testimony.


To understand how Jerusalem can be equated with the heart, it is necessary to examing of bit of Torah.


Notice from the following pasukim that we are commanded to put the words of Torah in our heart:


Devarim (Deuteronomy) 6:4-9 Hear, O Israel: HaShem our God, HaShem is one: 5 And thou shalt love HaShem thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. 6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: 7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. 8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. 9 And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.


Now, where were the tablets of the testimony, the quintessential representation of Torah, stored? Surely you must say that these tablets were in the Ark of the Covenant, in the Holy of Holie, in the Temple at Jerusalem. This represents our first connection of the Tablets to the heart.


I Melachim (Kings) 8:6-8 And the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of HaShem unto his place, into the oracle of the house, to the most holy place, even under the wings of the cherubims. 7 For the cherubims spread forth their two wings over the place of the ark, and the cherubims covered the ark and the staves thereof above. 8 And they drew out the staves, that the ends of the staves were seen out in the holy place before the oracle, and they were not seen without: and there they are unto this day.


Yoma 54a R. Judah contrasted the following passages: And the ends of the staves were seen[16] and it is written but they could not be seen without[17] — how is that possible? — They could be observed, but not actually seen. Thus was it also taught: ‘And the ends of the staves were seen One might have assumed that they did not protrude from their place. To teach us [the fact] Scripture says: ‘And the staves were so long’. One might assume that they tore the curtain and showed forth; to teach us [the fact] Scripture says: ‘They could not be seen without’. How then? They pressed forth and protruded as the two breasts of a woman, as it is said: My beloved is unto me as a bag of myrrh, that lieth betwixt my breasts.[18]


The parochet, the curtain, represents the diaphram, while the poles represent the breasts.


The heart is the pump of life in much the same way that the doing of Torah is the pump of life.


Devarim (Deuteronomy) 30:11 For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? 14 But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it. 15 See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; 16 In that I command thee this day to love HaShem thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and HaShem thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it.


Hevron - חברון


Ma’arat HaMachpelaHebron

The Cave of the Patriarchs


Hevron corresponds to the womb. The source of the womb is a place called Me’arat HaMachpela - מערת המכפלה. This kever (grave) is where Adam and Eve, Avraham and Sarah, Yitzchak and Rivka, and Yaaqov and Leah are buried.


Bereshit (Genesis) 23:2-9 And Sarah died in Kiriatharba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her. 3 And Abraham stood up from before his dead, and spake unto the sons of Heth, saying, 4 I am a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a burying place with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight. 5 And the children of Heth answered Abraham, saying unto him, 6 Hear us, my lord: thou art a mighty prince among us: in the choice of our sepulchres bury thy dead; none of us shall withhold from thee his sepulchre, but that thou mayest bury thy dead. 7 And Abraham stood up, and bowed himself to the people of the land, even to the children of Heth. 8 And he communed with them, saying, If it be your mind that I should bury my dead out of my sight; hear me, and intreat for me to Ephron the son of Zohar, 9 That he may give me the cave of Machpelah, which he hath, which is in the end of his field; for as much money as it is worth he shall give it me for a possession of a burying place amongst you.


According to the above pasuk, Sarah, the wife of Avraham, died in “Kiriath-arba, which is now Hebron“. Avraham purchased a burial plot, known as the “Cave of Machpelah”, from Ephron the Hittite.


Berachot 15b R. Tabi further said in the name of R. Josiah: What is meant by the text, There are three things which are never satisfied, . . . the grave and the barren womb?[19] How comes the grave next to the womb? It is to teach you that just as the womb takes in and gives forth again, so the grave takes in and will give forth again. And have we not here a conclusion a fortiori: if the womb which takes in silently gives forth with loud noise,[20] does it not stand to reason that the grave which takes in with loud noise[21] will give forth with loud noise? Here is a refutation of those who deny that resurrection is taught in the Torah[22].


The womb in Hebrew is often referred to as ‘kever’ a word which also means grave. A graveyard is called ‘bait hachaim’ translated as the house of life. The idea expressed is that a person begins dying as soon as he is born and begins true life only after he has died. This suggests that a kever is a portal to and from another world!


A Cave Within A Cave


Eiruvin 53a The cave of Machpelah. Rab and Samuel differ as to its meaning. One holds that the cave consisted of two chambers one within the other; and the other holds that it consisted of a lower and upper chamber. According to him who holds that the chambers were one above the other the term machpelah is well justified but according to him who holds that it consisted of two chambers one within the other, what could be the meaning of machpelah? That it had multiples of couples.


* * *


The Shem Meshmuel makes the following observation.


Avraham, upon entering Canaan for the first time, went to Shechem (12:6).


Yakov, upon returning to Canaan, first went to Shechem.


Yehoshua, upon crossing the Yarden for the first time, led the Bnai Israel (Sons of Israel) directly to Shechem (the ceremony at the twin mountains Ayval and Grizim).


Dina was violated in Shechem.


The brothers sold Yoseph into slavery in Shechem; and


the split between the kingdoms of Yehudah and Israel, (North and the South) took place in Shechem.


* * *


This study was written by

Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David

(Greg Killian).

Comments may be submitted to:


Rabbi Dr. Greg Killian

4544 Highline Drive SE

Tumwater, WA 98501


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[1] Berachot 30a

[2] Iyov 19:26

[3] Shomer Emunim HaKadmon, argument 1, sec. 27

[4] Duties of the Heart (Chapter 5)

[5] Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 2:2

[6] For the ease of the layman, I am using the term ‘mid-brain’ to describe the organ that includes the medula oblongata, pons, and the mid-brain.

[7] Bereshit (Genesis) 50:24

[8] Shemot Rabba 3:8; Targum Yonatan to Bereshit 50:24; cited by Rashi Shemot 3:18.

[9] Yes, I know the heart is slightly off-center, never the less it does have a part precisely in the center.

[10] I Melachim (Kings) 8:8

[11] Ibid.

[12] Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs) 1:13.

[13] see Rashi on Bereshit 48:22

[14] See the Pri Tzadik, Parashat VaYishlach, 9

[15] F. Brown, S. Driver, C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, (Peabody MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2003).


[16] I Melachim (Kings) 8:8

[17] Ibid.

[18] Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs) 1:13.

[19] Prov. XXX, 15, 16

[20] The crying of the child.

[21] The wailing of the mourners.

[22] V. Sanh. 92a.