Excerpt of the Sefer Kedushas Levi – by Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berdichev, zt”l
Translated by Rabbi Tal Zwecker, Director Machon Be'er Mayim Chaim
@ Mystical Paths
These are the names of the children of Israel who were coming to Egypt...
Reuven, Shimon, Levi... (Shemos 1:1–2)
When we examine the names of the tribes and the reasons they were given these names — Reuven, “because Hashem has discerned my humiliation and now my husband will love me” (Bereishis 29:32); Shimon, “because Hashem has heard that I am unloved...” (ibid. 29:33); Levi, “because this time my husband will be attached to me” (ibid. 29:34), and so on — it looks like as if these reasons were rooted in physical lust, as the incident of Reuven and dudaim could imply (ibid. 30:14–18).
In truth, the names of the tribes allude to the act of spiritually elevating all physical desires by utilizing them to serve Hashem alone. Therefore, Reuven’s name alludes to elevating the physical desires between man and wife in service of the Blessed Creator. And the same is true regarding the names Shimon and Levi — they allude to the fact that all forms of connection and attachment should be elevated by using them to serve the Blessed Creator.
This is why the tribes are also known as mattos, which means to “shift” or “move,” as in “mateihu michalon l’chalon — shifting [a ladder] from one window to another” (Beitzah 9a). It is implying that all the physical desires were moved and shifted, and thus elevated, to the Blessed Creator [through the tribes].
This then is the meaning of “These are the names of the children of Israel” — their names themselves allude to the uplifting of all things to the Blessed Creator.