A Crown, Throne, and Footstool
“Rabbi Avin son of Rabbi Adda said in the name of Rabbi Yitsḥak, ‘How do we know that the blessed Holy One puts on tefillin? For it is said: YHWH has sworn by His right hand and by the arm of His strength (Isaiah 62:8). By His right hand—this is Torah, as is said: From His right hand was a fiery law for them (Deuteronomy 33:2). And by the arm of His strength—this is tefillin, as is said: YHWH will give strength unto His people (Psalms 29:11). How do we know that tefillin are a strength to Israel? For it is written: And all the peoples of the earth will see that the name of YHWH is called over you and they will fear you (Deuteronomy 28:10), and it has been taught: Rabbi Eli’ezer the Great says, ‘This refers to tefillin of the head.’ Rabbi Naḥman son of Yitsḥak asked Rabbi Ḥiyya son of Avin, ‘These tefillin of the Master of the World—what is written in them? He replied, ‘Who is like Your people Israel, a unique nation on earth’ (1 Chronicles 17:2)” (BT Berakhot 6a).
“I will take away My palm and you will see My back (Exodus 33:23). Rav Ḥana son of Bizna said in the name of Rabbi Shim’on the Ḥasid, ‘This teaches us that the blessed Holy One showed Moses the knot of tefillin [at the back of God’s head]’” (BT Berakhot 7a).
“Like a king who had a throne. Sometimes he carried it in his hand and sometimes on his head. Why? ‘Because it was beautiful and he was hesitant to sit on it.’ They asked: ‘And where did he put it?’ ‘On his head’” (Bahir §37).
“Indeed, the crown of priesthood, the royal crown is above it, but the crown of Torah is above them both (M Avot 4:13). To what may this be compared? To a king who had a beautiful and fragrant vessel that he loved greatly. Sometimes he puts it on his head. These are the tefillin of the head. Sometimes he carried it in his hand, in the knot of the tefillin of the hand. Sometimes he lends it to his son to sit with him. Sometimes it is called his throne, because in his hand he carries it like an amulet, a kind of cup” (Bahir §152, cf. BT Berakhot 6a; Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 17a).
“Concerning this mystery it is written: I raise the cup of salvation (Psalms 116:13). This is cup of blessing, which should rest on five fingers—and no more—like the rose, sitting on five sturdy leaves, paradigm of five fingers. This rose is the cup of blessing” (Zohar 1:1a).
“Levi is aroused with His finery; and this animal is aroused, אַזְעִירַת (azirat), diminishing Herself, out of love of song. How does She diminish Herself out of love of song? She diminishes Herself little by little until She becomes a single point. Once She has diminished Herself in song, of then is written A man went from the house of Levi [Ze’eir Anpin] and took a daughter of Levi [Malkhut] (Exodus 2:1)—surely, from the left side. How does He grasp Her? He extends the left hand under Her head, out of love [cf. Song of Songs 8:3: His left hand beneath my head, His right hand holding me close].
Now, you might ask, ‘Since She is a single point, how can He grasp such a tiny point? Well, regarding what is above, the smaller something is, the more praiseworthy—this is its virtue, its sublime greatness.
Immediately, the High Priest [Ḥesed of Ze’eir Anpin] is aroused and grasps and embraces Her. If She were large, She could not be grasped at all; but since She diminished Herself, becoming a single point, She is grasped and raised on high. Once She is raised and sits between these two sides, that column standing in the centre unites with Her—with loving kisses, in a single passionate bind. Then, Jacob kissed Rachel (Genesis 29:11)—with passionate kisses, cleaving to one another inseparably, until She receives Her soul blissfully, as is fitting.
When She receives Her soul of delights and wishes to attend to Her cohorts, they all gather and call Her from the holy palace: ‘Glory, Glory in the holy palace!’ Father and Mother open, saying, ‘Sanctified’ [i.e., sanctification of the new moon, cf. M Rosh ha-Shanah 2:7].
… Whereas She was a single point, as She descends, She expands little by little and fills out, becoming full in every direction, fittingly adorned” (Zohar 3:250b).
“When She ascends it is written of Her, The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone (Psalms 118:22). When She rises up to the Head of all Heads the angels ask ‘Where is the place of His glory to admire Him?’ And when She rises She becomes Keter, a crown on the head of אֹ (alef). When She descends; a point beneath [וִ (vav)]. So when She ascends She is called a crown according to the mystery of the musical intonations, and when She descends, She is called נְקוּדָה (nequdah), point” (Zohar 1:24b, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar).
“The moon would be shaped sometimes with the beams facing upwards, and sometimes facing downwards, sometimes to the east, and sometimes to the west, sometimes to the south and sometimes to the north. And this is its facing in six directions for Tif’eret, which is the large ו (vav), encompassing them, [namely:] Gedulah, Gevurah, Tif’eret, Netsaḥ, Hod, and Yesod. The point that is drawn [in the moon], from the inside, is Ḥokhmah, and the line that is around the moon is Keter. That point, is sometimes a crown, and sometimes a throne to sit upon, and yet at other times a footstool for His feet” (Zohar 3:248a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).