He Surrounds all Worlds and He Fills all Worlds

by tillerofthesoil

imageedit_2_9845685597שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָד (Shema Yisra’el Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Ead), Hear O Israel,  YHWH our God, YHWH is One (Deuteronomy 6:4).

And the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting and the glory of יְהוָה (YHWH), filled the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:34).

But can אֱלֹהִים (Elohim), God, really dwell on earth? Look, the heavens and the heavens beyond the heavens cannot contain You. How much less this house that I have built (1 Kings 8:27).

“What is this like? A cave at the shore of the sea: when the sea storms the cave is filled with water, yet the sea is not diminished in the least. So the Tabernacle was filled with the glory of the Shekhinah while the heavens and the earth were not emptied of Her” (Pesiqta de-Rav-Kahana 2b, cf. Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 19a).

“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 escaped outside His realm, for He fills all the worlds and there is no other that fills them. He grants life, and there is no other god above Him to give Him life, as is said: You enliven them all (Nehemiah 9:6), and for Him Daniel said: And all earth’s dwellers are counted as naught, and as He chooses He does with the array of the heavens and the earth’s dwellers, [and there is none who can protest against Him and say to Him, ‘What have You done?’] (Daniel 4:32). He binds and unites kind to its kind above and below, and the four elements would have no proximity except with the blessed Holy One in their midst” (Zohar 3:225a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

“Rabbi El’azar said: A certain angel, who stands on the earth and his head reaches unto the living beings [of the Chariot]. In a baraita it is taught: His name is Sandalfon; he is higher than his fellows by a five hundred years journey, and he stands behind the Chariot and wreaths crowns for his Maker. But is it so? Behold it is written: Blessed be the glory of YHWH from His place (Ezekiel 3:12). Accordingly, no one knows His place!—He [Sandalfon] pronounces the [divine] Name over the crown, and it goes and rests on His head. Raba said: All that Ezekiel saw Isaiah saw. What does Ezekiel resemble? A villager who saw the king [and prophesied from afar, i.e., exile]. And what does Isaiah resemble? A townsman who saw the king [and prophesied from within the Land of Israel]” (BT Ḥagigah 13b).

What is From His place? Because no one knows His place. This is like a king’s daughter who came from afar, and nobody knew where she came from. When they saw that she was אֵשֶׁת-חַיִל (eshet ḥayil), a worthy woman, lovely and refined in all that she did, they said: ‘She undoubtedly was taken from the side of the light, for her deeds give light to the world.’ They then asked her: ‘Where are you from?’ She replied: ‘From my place.’ They said: ‘If so, the people of your place must be great! Blessed are you and blessed is your place!’” (Bahir §132).

“His disciples said to him: From above to below we know. But from below to above we do not know. He replied: Is it not all one, below to above and above to below? They said: Our master, ascending is not like descending, one can run while descending, but it is not so while ascending [cf. Ezekiel 1:14: running and returning]. He replied: Go out and see. He sat and expounded for them: ‘Shekhinah is below just as Shekhinah is above’ (Seder Rabba de-Bereshit [Wertheimer, Battey Midrashot 1:30]). And what is Shekhinah? Say that this is the light emanated from the first light, which is Ḥokhmah. It also surrounds all, as is written: The whole earth is filled with His glory (Isaiah 6:3). What function does it serve? A parable: A king had seven sons, and he assigned each one his place. He said to them, ‘Sit one above the other.’ The lowest one said, ‘I will not dwell below! I will not be so far from you!’ [cf. Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 5, 19b]. He said to them, ‘Behold I will surround and see you all day long.’ This is The whole earth is filled with His glory. Why is he in their midst? To make them firm and steady” (Bahir §171).

“All beings above and below cannot grasp, till finally they declare: Blessed be the glory of YHWH from His place! (Ezekiel 3:12). Those below proclaim that He is above, as is written: Your glory is above the heavens (Psalms 113:4). Those above proclaim that He is below, as is written: Your glory is over all the earth (ibid. 57:12). Finally all of them, above and below, declare: Blessed be the glory of YHWH from His place! For He is unknowable; no one has ever been able to comprehend Him” (Zohar 1:103a).

“What is the difference between them [ס (samekh) and ם (mem)]? Well, when enclosed and hidden within itself, within the supernal point above, She [Binah] assumes the form of the letter ס (samekh), enclosed within and hidden, ascending above. And when She returns and sits רְבִיעָא (revi’a), crouching, over children below to suckle them, She assumes the form of the letter ם (mem) [which is] רְבִיעָא (revi’a), quadrilateral, enclosed in four directions of the world” (Zohar 2:127a, cf. BT Shabbat 104a: “The ם (mem) and the ס (samekh) which were in the tables [of the Law] stood [there] by a miracle”).