The Primordial Kings Died: Why Should He Destroy His own Children?
These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned over the Children of Israel (Genesis 36:31).
“It has been taught: The Book on Concealment, a book on scales. For until there was a balance, they did not gaze face-to-face, and the primordial kings died and their weapons vanished and the earth was nullified. Until the head of Desire of all Desires arranged and bestowed garments of glory” (Zohar 2:156b, Sifra di-Tsni’uta).
“Until He Himself was arrayed in His enhancements, all those that He intended to arrange did not endure, and all those worlds were destroyed… Would you ever imagine that they were nullified? Look, they are all included in [Primordial] Adam! Rather, they were nullified and removed from that arrangement, until the image of Adam appeared. When this image appeared they were all engraved and transformed into another existence. Some of them became fragrantly firm, some of them not entirely so, and some of them not at all.
Now, you might say, ‘But it is written He died… he died (Genesis 36:33-39)—implying that they were nullified completely.’ Not so! Rather, anyone who descends from his original rung of existence is said to have died, as is written: The King of Egypt died (Exodus 2:23)—meaning that he descended from the rung that he occupied. Once Adam was arrayed, they were called by different names and became fragrantly firm existing in Him, enduring in their places… transformed into another existence, settling securely” (Zohar 3:135b, Idra Rabba, cf. Zohar 3:61a-b).
“Israel is the kernel of the world; Israel arose in thought. Other nations, who are the shell preceded, as is written: אֵלֶּה (elleh), these, are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned over the Children of Israel (Genesis 36:31)” (Zohar 2:108b, Sava de-Mishpatim).
“אֵלֶּה (Elleh), these, are the generations of the heaven and the earth (Genesis 2:4). It has been established: אֵלֶּה (elleh), these, cancels that which was mentioned before [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 30:3]. So אֵלֶּה (elleh), these, generations of formlessness hinted at in: The earth then was welter and waste (Genesis 1:2). Regarding those it is said the blessed Holy One created worlds and destroyed them [see Bereshit Rabbah 3:7, cf. Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 42, 23a]. Thus, it is written: The earth then was welter and waste (Genesis 1:2). Why did the blessed Holy One create worlds if He intended to destroy them? It would have been better had He not created them at all! But this is certainly a mystery. What is the meaning of ‘He destroyed them?’ It cannot be that the blessed Holy One destroyed the makings of His own hands. Furthermore, these are the heavens of which it is said, for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke (Isaiah 51:6). If it were so, then the blessed Holy One first created and then destroyed.
The secret is that the blessed Holy One created the world by the Torah, as is written: בְּרֵאשִׁית (Bereshit), with beginning (Genesis 1:1), about which is written: YHWH created me at the רֵאשִׁית (reshit), outset, of His way, [before His works of old] (Proverbs 8:22). And by this רֵאשִׁית (reshit), beginning, He created the [supernal] heavens and the earth [i.e., the six sefirot whose creation are hinted at by the permutation of בְּרֵאשִׁית (bereshit): בָּרָא שִׁית (bara shit), created six]. He sustained them with the covenant which is in בְּרֵאשִׁית (bereshit) [i.e., בְּרִית אֵשׁ (berit esh), covenant of fire] as is written: Were it not for בְרִיתִי (Beriti), My covenant, day and night, I would not have established the laws of the heavens and earth (Jeremiah 33:25). These are: The heavens are the heavens of YHWH (Psalms 115:16). And the land of the living comprises seven zones [lit., lands, see Zohar 3:10a], about which King David wrote, I will walk before YHWH in the lands of the living (Psalms 116:9).
After He created the heavens and the earth upon formlessness, without any foundation—which is the covenant—to support them [cf. Job 26:7]. Because of this the blessed Holy One, wanted to give Torah, which is the covenant of circumcision, to the nations of the world but because they did not want to receive it the land remained parched and dry [see BT Avodah Zarah 2b-3b; Sifre Deuteronomy 33:2]. Thus: Let the waters under heaven be gathered together to one place, and let the dry land appear (Genesis 1:9). Waters—Torah. To one place—Israel because the souls of Israel come from that Place, about which it is written: Blessed be the glory of YHWH from His place (Ezekiel 3:12)…
Torah designates the civilized world. The nations of the world who did not accept it have remained wasted and dry. This is [the meaning of] ‘The blessed Holy One created worlds and destroyed them,’ those who did not maintain the decrees of Torah. It does not mean He shattered His own makings as people may presume [cf. BT Sanhedrin 103a in the name of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai]. Why should He destroy His own children about whom it is written: בְּהִבָּרְאָם, (be-hibbare’am), when they were created (Genesis 2:4). בְּהִבָּרְאָם (Be-hibbare’am)—[read instead:] בְּה‘ בְּרָאָם (be-he bira’am), He created them with ה (he) [which is written especially small in Genesis 2:4, cf. Bereshit Rabbah 12:9; Zohar 1:86b]. Because of those converts from among the nations of the world the small ה (he) of אַבְרָהָם (Avraham), Abraham, fell during the Fifth Millennium. [And the river was wasted and dried up (Isaiah 19:5):] Wasted—the First Temple; dried up—the Second Temple.
Moses wanted to bring the proselytes [the motley throng] under the wings of the Shekhinah and presumed that they too were drawn down from ה (he). Thus he caused the fall of ה (he) of אַבְרָהָם (Avraham), Abraham. This brought upon him descent, as is written: Go, get you down, for your people… have become corrupt (Exodus 32:7). They did not receive the small ה (he) with awe of י (yod) and with the love of [first] ה (he). So he fell from his rung, which is ו (vav)” (Zohar 1:24b-25a, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar).
“Rabbi Qattina said: Six thousand years the world will exist, and one, it shall be desolate, as is written, And YHWH alone shall be exalted in that day (Isaiah 2:11). Abbaye said: it will be desolate two, as is said, After two days will He revive us: on the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight (Hosea 6:2).
It has been taught in accordance with Rabbi Qattina: Just as the seventh year is one year of release in seven, so is the world: one thousand years out of seven shall be fallow, as it is written, And YHWH alone shall be exalted in that day, and it is further said, A psalm, a song for the Sabbath day (Psalms 92:1)—the day that is altogether Sabbath. It is also said, For a thousand years in Your eyes are like yesterday gone (Psalms 90:4).
The Tanna debe Eliyyahu teaches: The world will exist six thousand years. In the first two thousand there was תֹהוּ (tohu), chaos; two thousand years תוֹרָה (Torah), Law, flourished; two thousand years the days of Messiah” (BT Sanhedrin 97a).