The Cave is Filled by the Sea, yet the Sea is not Diminished: He Surrounds all Worlds and He Fills all Worlds
“Rabbi Yehoshu’a of Sikhnin said in the name of Rabbi Levi: Why was the Tent of Meeting compared to a cave on the seashore? When the sea rises and floods it, the cave is filled by the sea, yet the sea is not diminished. So too, the Tent of Meeting was filled with the splendor of the Shekhinah, as is said, on [Israel’s] יוֹם כַּלֹּת (yom kallot), bridal day, Moses [set up the Tabernacle] (Numbers 7:1)” (Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana 1:2, cf. Tanḥuma, Vayakhel, 7; Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 19a).
“As I beheld the living beings, behold, one wheel on the earth alongside the living beings (Ezekiel 1:15). Rabbi El’azar said, ‘This is a certain angel who stands on earth and whose head extends close to the living beings.’ In a matnita [tannaitic tradition] it is taught: His name is Sandalfon, who is taller than his companion by a journeying distance of five hundred years. He stands behind the Chariot, binding 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 pronounces the Name over the crown, and it goes and rests on His head.
Rava 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).
“Rabbi Dosa says: Behold, it says, You shall not be able to see My face, for no human can see Me and live (Exodus 33:20). While they are living, they do not see, but in the hour of their death, they do see. Thus it says, Before Him will kneel all who go down to the dust whose life is undone (Psalms 22:30). Rabbi Akiva says: For no human can see Me and live—even the living beings that carry the Throne cannot see the Glory! Son of Azzai said: I do not mean to repudiate my master’s words, but to add to his words: For no human can see Me and live—even the ministering angels, whose life is the life of eternity, do not see the Glory!” (Sifra, Vayiqra, dibbura dindavah 2:12, 4a).
“What is From His place (Ezekiel 3:12)? 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 Rabbi, ascending is not like descending. One can run while descending, but it is not so while ascending. He replied: Go out and see.
He sat and expounded for them: ‘Shekhinah is below just as Shekhinah is above’ (Seder Rabba de-Vereshit) [see Wertheimer, Battey Midrashot 1:30]. And what is Shekhinah? Say that this is the light emanated from the primordial light, Ḥokhmah. It also surrounds everything, as is written: The whole earth is filled with His glory (Isaiah 6:3). What is its function here? A parable: A king had seven sons, and he assigned each one his place. He said to them, ‘Sit, this one on the back of that one.’ The lowest one said, ‘I will not dwell below! I will not be so far from you!’ He said to them, ‘I will hereby turn and see you all day long.’ This is The whole earth is full of His glory. Why is He in their midst? To stand them up and make them endure” (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 [the first appearance of the letter ס (samekh) in the Torah is in the word הַסֹּבֵב (ha-sovev), surrounds (Genesis 2:11), and its second appearance is in the word וַיִּסְגֹּר (va-yisgor), closed (ibid., 21), see Bereshit Rabbah 17:6]” (Zohar 2:127a, cf. BT Shabbat 104a).
“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 [cf. BT Berakhot 10a]. 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).