כ״ט באייר ה׳תשע״ד (May 29, 2014)
By Yonatan Gordon[Read Part One]
Toward the end of Simon Sinek’s talk, he introduces the notion that his theory is well-grounded in the tenets of biology. To explain, he goes on to relate how each of these questions – what, how, and why – correspond to one of the three major components in the human brain.
Since it was mentioned in Simon’s talk, and since thus far his talk has paralleled the teachings of Kabbalah (thus explaining the inner reason for the attraction to the video), it’s an opportunity for us as well to explain the “what, how, and why” sections of the human brain.
While there is something there in what Simon says about the brain, this biology section of the talk is not as clear as the first part. For instance, whereas he states that the neocortex corresponds to the what-level, as we will explain, the what question is rooted in the right hemisphere, whereas the neocortex corresponds actually to the why and where-levels (a fourth level not mentioned in the talk).
The “What Level” of the Brain
According to Kabbalah, the right hemisphere of the cerebrum corresponds to the sefirah of chochmah (
In Kabbalah, the Hebrew word for wisdom – חָכְמָה – is often explained as the transposition of the two words כֹּחַ מַה (koach mah) meaning “the power of what [i.e. nothing];” As as in the verse where Moses nullifies himself before Israel: “Whatare we [Aaron and I] that you murmur against us!”
So then what “what” does wisdom see? The Divine source of the stuff before us. As mentioned last time, seeing the “spiritual what” corresponds to “the higher father;” the power to spontaneously extract flashes of insight from the super-conscious realm of keter (crown).
The “How Level” of the Brain
If there is a commonality between the biological part of Simon’s presentation and Kabbalah, it is at our present level of how.
The left hemisphere of the cerebrum corresponds to the sefirah of binah (
The “Why Level” of the Brain
Since we shuffled around things a bit, according to Kabbalah, the neocortex actually corresponds to the why-level, not the what-level presented in the talk.
The neocortex consists of the grey matter, or neuronal cell bodies, surrounding the deeper white matter (myelinate daxons) in the cerebrum. Gray (which includes all shades of gray) is the color associated with the sefirah of da’at (
Since Simon didn’t present a fourth level in his talk, we can now call this the where-level. Where do creative, innovative thoughts come from? This is the implicit question running throughout his entire presentation.
For more on Kabbalah and biology, please visit TorahScience.org and download the preview PDF on the homepage.
Yonatan Gordon has spent most of his past 13 professional years in the world of Jewish publishing. He was the Marketing Manager at Kehot Publication Society (publishing arm of Chabad) for the better part of six years. He is founder of the website CommunityofReaders.org.