Binah: The Understanding

Binah from Hebrew בינה means “understanding”, it is the third sephira of the cabalistic tree of life. It is located on the level below Keter, opposite Chokhmah and directly above Gevurah, and four paths are indicated to reach it: from Keter, Chokhmah, Gevurah and Tiphereth.

According to the Bahir: “The third (formulation), quarry of the Torah, treasure of wisdom, carved by the Spirit of GOD. This teaches that GOD has engraved all the letters of the Torah, carving them with the Spirit, throwing its forms into them”.
Binah is the “intuitive understanding”, or “contemplation”. It is compared to a “palace of mirrors” that reflects Chokhmah’s pure point of light, wisdom, increasing and multiplying it in an infinite variety of ways. In this sense, it is called the “quarry”, because it is dug by the light of wisdom. It is the womb, which gives form to the Spirit of GOD. On the psychological level, Binah is the “elaborated wisdom”, also known as deductive reasoning. Is davar mitoch davar, that is, the understanding of an idea from another idea. While Chokhmah is the intellect that does not emanate from the rational process (it is inspired or taught), Binah is the rational process that is innate in the person who works to fully develop an idea.

Binah belongs to the left side of the tree, and therefore she is a female sephira as Bahir says: “Because you will call her mother’s understanding”. The classical Hebrew texts state that Binah yeterah natun l’nashim (“an extra measure of Binah has been given to women”).

Ethical qualities

In the medieval text Tomer Devorah, Moses ben Jacob Cordovero clarified the ethical qualities associated with each sefira, which one must try to replicate. The attribute associated with Binah is complete repentance, because “just as Binah softens all severity and neutralizes their harshness, everyone should repent and correct all their own faults”.