The Light Withdrew Like Water
“At the head of potency of the King. He engraved engravings in luster on high. A spark of impenetrable darkness flashed within the concealed of the concealed, from the head of Infinity—a cluster of vapor forming in formlessness, thrust in a ring, not white, not black, not red, not green, no color at all. As a cord surveyed, it yielded radiant colors. Deep within the spark gushed a flow, splaying colors below, concealed within the concealed of the mystery of אֵין סוֹף (Ein Sof). It split and did not split its aura, was not known at all, until under the impact of splitting, a single, concealed, supernal point shone. Beyond that point, nothing is known, so it is called רֵאשִׁית (Reshit), Beginning, first command of all… Zohar, Radiance! Sowing seed for its glory, like the seed of fine purple silk wrapping itself within, weaving itself a palace, constituting its praise, availing all” (Zohar 1:15a).
“At the head of potency of the King… A spark of impenetrable darkness (Zohar 1:15a)—when it surveyed its drawing out, there came forth from this point a hidden קָו (qav), cord. This thought was like so: ם (mem), first it was the closed ם (mem), and when the cord, which was the ו (vav), extended from the מִדָּה (middah), measure, it opened and was made into ב (bet). This is בְּרֵאשִׁית (Bereshit), In the beginning (Genesis 1:1)—the רֵאשִׁית (Reshit), Beginning, in the בּ (bet). When it is the closed ם (mem), it is the great ם (mem) as in, לםרבה (le-marbeh), of the increase of, dominion (Isaiah 9:6) and it was made into a עִזְקָא (izqa), ring. Therefore, it is said by all, ‘You are betrothed to me with this טַבַּעַת (taba’at), ring’ ם (mem). Of this it says a cluster of vapor forming in formlessness, thrust in a עִזְקָא (izqa), ring, not white, not black, not red, not green, no color at all (Zohar 1:15a). When it extended to shine, a cord surveyed, it yielded radiant colors… within (ibid.). And this is the secret of Wrapped in light like a cloak, [stretching out heavens like a tent-cloth] (Psalms 104:2). For this is the cloaked light that does not spread, hidden. The אֲוִיר (avir), atmosphere [lit., air], is called אוֹר (or), light, and with the addition of the י (yod), the point in the palace, for when one takes the י (yod) out of אֲוִיר (avir), atmosphere, one reveals אוֹר (or), light. And this is And God said, Let there be light (Genesis 1:3)” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 19a–20b).
“At the head of potency of the King… A spark of impenetrable darkness… not white, not black, not red, not green, no color at all (Zohar 1:15a). This spark is the קָו מִדָּה (qav middah), cord of measure, which is clothed in the אֲוִיר (avir), atmosphere, and when it is in the atmosphere, it is closed and not seen at all. When it extends itself to be revealed, there comes out from this אֲוִיר (avir), intangible air, one point. What remains is light, the primordial light of the work of creation. As it says And God said, יְהִי אוֹר (Yehi or), ‘Let there be light’—let there be י (yod) plus אֲוִיר (avir), atmosphere (Genesis 1:2), and this secret is passed to the wise of heart. This point, after it extends from that light is clothed in four colors from the upper palace, and this is called ב (bet) so it says Through wisdom a house is built (Proverbs 24:3) and this point measures out five colors, as it says Who measured at the rising of the water (Isaiah 40:12)” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 37b, cf. Zohar 3:135b, Idra Rabba).
“When ה (he) is added [to אַבְרָם (Avram), Abram], that ם (mem) opens up . . . and that אֵבֶר (ever), organ, produces offspring, and this is the mystery of אַבְרָהָם (Avraham), אֵבֶר ה-ם (ever he-mem), this is the one that reproduces and brings about progeny. . . . [T]his organ was not rectified until ה (he) came along…
Whence do we know that this organ is rectified only by ה (he)? When [his name was] Abram, that organ was not circumcised and it was not rectified. After ה (he) came along, that organ was rectified, and it was circumcised to produce offspring by means of the final ה (he). When the supernal world is sealed in ם (mem), that organ was not rectified, the foreskin existed without having been circumcised.
The lower gradation exists in the form of the foreskin in ד (dalet), within the impoverished one. When the supernal world is within the concealment in the mystery of ם (mem), the lower world is impoverished in the mystery of ד (dalet). When the supernal world opens from ם (mem) and becomes ה (he), then the בְּרִית (berit), covenant, is rectified and the foreskin is removed… And this is the mystery of Of the increase of dominion and of peace without limit upon David’s throne and kingdom, that it may be firmly established (Isaiah 9:6). ם רבה (Mem rabbah)—לְמַרְבֵּה (le-marbeh) and this is the mystery of when מ (mem) has increase of dominion, for the overflow above is augmented, and it opens up and becomes ה (he), and then of peace without limit.
What is of peace? Of peace—the organ that is the foundation of the world, for the foreskin, which is surely called the end of all flesh (Genesis 6:13), is removed from it. Of peace without limit—the [foreskin] is removed, and peace sits upon David’s throne and kingdom, that it may be firmly established in justice and in equity. All this occurs when the ם (mem) opens, and the foreskin is removed, and ד (dalet) is transformed, as it has been said, and this is the mystery of דַם-הַבְּרִית (dam ha-berit), the blood of the covenant, that YHWH has sealed (Exodus 24:8)” (Zohar Ḥadash 72b–c, adapted from the translation of Elliot Wolfson, Alef, Mem, Tau: Kabbalistic Musings on Time, Truth, and Death p. 148, cf. BT Shabbat 104a).
“Rabbi Bun said: I was set up from eternity, from the beginning, before the earth (Proverbs 8:23). What is מֵעוֹלָם (me-olam), from eternity? It must be utterly לְהַעֲלִם (le-ha’alim), concealed, עָלְמָא (alma), forever. Therefore it is written: The world, too, He has put in their heart, [without man’s grasping at all what it is God has done from beginning to end] (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Do not read הָעוֹלָם (ha-olam), the world, but הַעֲלָםָ (ha-alama), the concealing. Torah is saying, ‘I was first, so that I might be the beginning of the world,’ as is said, I was set up from eternity, from the beginning. You may think that the earth was before Her, thus: before the earth (ibid). What is בָּרָא (bara), created (Genesis 1:1)? All that was needed, then אֱלֹהִים (Elohim). Only then is it written: the heavens and the earth (ibid.)” (Bahir §10, cf. Zohar 1:195b).
“Rabbi Yoḥanan said in the name of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai: All the mitsvot which the blessed Holy One gave to Israel, He gave to them publicly, except the Sabbath which He bestowed upon them in secret, for it is said: Between Me and the Israelites it is a sign לְעֹלָם (le-olam), for all time (Exodus 31:17) [the word לְעֹלָם (le-olam), for all time, is written defectively as if derived from לְעֱלָם (le-elam), to conceal]” (BT Beitsah 16a, cf. Qiddushin 71a; Pesaḥim 50a).
“Come and see: How many hidden causes are clothed and conveyed by the sefirot! The sefirot are but chariots to them, for they are concealed from human thought. Of them is written: For he who is high has a higher one watching him, and still higher ones over them (Ecclesiastes 5:7)—נְהוֹרִין מְצוּחְצָחִין (nehorin metsuḥtsaḥin), glaring white lights, these above those, but those that are receptacles are darkness compared to the others above them. And their is no light that can exist before the עִלַּת הָעִלּוֹת (illat ha-illot), Cause of Causes, all lights are darkened before Him” (Zohar 1:23a, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar).
“And there is no light that can withstand His radiance without appearing dark, even upper crown [Keter] whose light is stronger than all of the rungs and all the hosts of the upper and lower heavens, and it is said about Him, He set darkness his hiding place round Him (Psalms 18:12). Concerning Ḥokhmah and Binah: cloud and dense fog around Him (Psalms 97:2). How much more is it so for the other sefirot and for the celestial beings, and the elements that are dead. [Yet] He surrounds all the worlds, and none but He surrounds them in any direction, up or down or to the four corners of the compass, and no one has left His domain for the outside, for He fills all the worlds and there is no other that fills them” (Zohar 3:225a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).
“Come and see: Every circle that exists is constructed from a single point that stands in the center” (Zohar Ḥadash, Bereshit 5a, Sitrei Otiyyot).
“אָנֹכִי (Anokhi), I (Exodus 20:2)—Secret of secrets for those who know wisdom: The moment these letters came forth, secretly circling as one, a spark flashed out to engrave. A flowing measure extended ten cubits on this side, and out shot comets inside comets, seventy-one [the numbers correspond to the numerical value of אָנֹכִי (Anokhi), I]. Sparks burst out into flashes, up high, beyond, beyond. The flow measured out ten cubits on the other side, and comets shot out in colors as before. And so on every side.
The spark expanded, whirling round and round. Sparks burst into flashes and rose high above. The heavens blazed with all their powers; everything flashed, sparkled as one. Then the spark turned from the side of the south and outlined a curve from the side of the south and outlined a curve from there to the east and from east to north until it circled back to the south as before. Then the spark swirled, disappearing; comets and flashes dimmed” (Zohar Ḥadash 41b).