Let Us Make a Human in Our Image by Our Likeness
“I am the first, and I am the last; and besides Me there is no god (Isaiah 44:6). I am the first—I do not have a father; I am the last—I do not have a brother; and besides Me there is no god—I do not have a son” (Shemot Rabbah 29:4).
“And אֱלֹהִים (Elohim) said, ‘Let us make a human’ (Genesis 1:26). It is not written הַאָדָם (ha-adam), the human, but rather אָדָם (adam), a human, indefinite—excluding the one above [i.e., the אָדָם קַדְמוֹן (adam qadmon), Primordial Human], who was made with a complete name [יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים (YHWH Elohim) (Genesis 2:7)]” (Zohar 2:178a, cf. ibid. 2:70a–b).
“And אֱלֹהִים (Elohim) said, ‘Let us make a human’ (Genesis 1:26). The secret of יְהוָה (YHWH) is for those who fear Him (Psalms 25:14).
The Elder of Elders opened, saying, ‘Shim’on, Shim’on, who is He who said, ‘Let us make a human’—who is this אֱלֹהִים (Elohim)? Meanwhile, the Elder of Elders vanished. When Rabbi Shim’on heard that he called him Shim’on and not Rabbi Shim’on, he said to the Companions: This is indeed the blessed Holy One of whom is said, And the עַתִּיק יוֹמִין (attiq yomin), Ancient of Days, took His seat (Daniel 7:9). Now is the time to reveal this secret which was previously forbidden, and permission has now been given to reveal it.
This is like a king who had many buildings to build and he had an אוּמָן (uman), artisan. That artisan did not do anything without the permission of the king, as is written, I was by Him, an אָמוֹן (amon), intimate (Proverbs 8:30) [cf. Guide of the Perplexed 2:4]. The king is most certainly supernal חָכְמָה (ḥokhmah), Wisdom, above and the middle pillar [תִפאֶרֶת (tif’eret), Beauty; זְעֵיר אַנפִּין (ze’eir anpin), Small Countenance] is the king below. אֱלֹהִים (Elohim), the artisan above, is supernal Mother [בִּינָה (binah), Understanding]. אֱלֹהִים (Elohim), the artisan below, is the שְׁכִינָה (shekhinah), Divine Presence [מַלְכוּת (malkhut), Kingdom].
A wife is not permitted to do anything without the permission of her husband. Of all the structures that were in the way of אֲצִילוּת (atsilut), Emanation, Father would say to Mother, ‘Let there be’ such and such and it was done immediately. It is written: And said, ‘אֱלֹהִים (Elohim), Let there be light’ and there was light (Genesis 1:3). And said—spoken to אֱלֹהִים (Elohim)—‘Let there be light.’ So Father, uttered the words and the artisan, Mother, completed the task immediately. And this was the same with every structure in the way of אֲצִילוּת (atsilut), Emanation—Father, would say, ‘Let there be a firmament’ or ‘Let there be lights’ and Mother, would complete everything in an instant.
When the עָלְמָא דִפְרוּדָא (alma di-feruda), world of separation, came, which is the world of those divided [see Zohar 1:158a], the artisan said to the architect, ‘Let us make a human in our image, by our likeness’ (Genesis 1:26). The architect said: It is indeed good that man is made, but he will offend before you, because he is foolish, as is written, A wise son gladdens his father, but a foolish son is his mother’s sorrow (Proverbs 10:1).
She said: Because his crimes depend on Mother, and not Father, I wish to create him in My own image, as is written, And אֱלֹהִים (Elohim) created the human in His image (Genesis 1:27)—She did not want Father, to have any share [although often depicted as the Divine Mother, Binah is also described as ‘World of the Male,’ encompassing the entire configuration of the sefirot from Ḥesed through Yesod. Together they constitute a masculine entity ready to join Shekhinah, see Zohar 1:147a, 149a, 96a, 160b, 246a–247a, 248b; 2:127b; ZḤ 72b (ShS)].
What is written at the time of the squandering? For your crimes, your mother was sent away (Isaiah 50:1). The king said to the mother, ‘Did I not tell you that he was destined to sin?’ In that instant, he exiled him and his mother. Therefore, it is written: A wise son gladdens his father, but a foolish son is his mother’s sorrow. A wise son—man of אֲצִילוּת (atsilut), Emanation [זְעֵיר אַנפִּין (ze’eir anpin), Small Countenance]. A foolish son—man of בְּרִיָּה (beri’ah), Creation.
All the Companions rose and said ‘Rabbi, Rabbi, could there be such separation between Father and Mother, [so much so that] from the side of Father he is in the way of אֲצִילוּת (atsilut), Emanation, but from the side of Mother in [the way of] בְּרִיָּה (beri’ah), Creation?! He said to them, ‘Companions, Companions, it is not so, because man of אֲצִילוּת (Atsilut), Emanation, is male and female, from the aspect of Father and from Mother. This is why אֱלֹהִים (Elohim) said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light. ‘Let there be light’—from the side of Father. And there was light—from the side of Mother. So man had דוּ פַּרְצוּפִין (du partsufin), two faces [see BT Eruvin 18a].
But to him [of בְּרִיָּה (beri’ah), Creation] there is neither image nor likeness [of Father or Mother]. The supernal Mother has but one appellation: Light and… Darkness (Isaiah 45:7), which amounts to eighty-six: אֱלֹהִים (Elohim) [כִּנּוּי (kinnui), appellation, אֱלֹהִים (Elohim), and הַטֶבַע (ha-teva), nature, are each numerically equivalent to eighty-six, cf. Rabbi Avraham Abulafia, Get ha-Shemot, 101b (MS Oxford, 1682)]. And that appellation is Light and Darkness [אוֹר וּחֹשֶׁךְ (or u-ḥoshek), Light and… Darkness, is numerically equivalent to יִשְׂרָאֵל (yisra’el), Israel]. And because of that appellation of darkness, Father said that man of בְּרִיָּה (beri’ah), Creation [אָדָם רִאשׁוֹן (adam rishon), First Man], was destined to offend because he is light of the supernal garment.
Light—light that the blessed Holy One created on the first day, hiding it away for the righteous alone [see BT Ḥagigah 12a]. Darkness—created on the first day for the wicked: And the wicked in darkness turn dumb (1 Samuel 2:9). On account of that darkness, which would cause that light to sin, Father did not wish to partake in his creation. Therefore, Mother said, ‘Let us make a human in our image, by our likeness. In our image—in that light. By our likeness—in that darkness which is a garment for light, just as the body is a garment for the soul, as is written: With skin and flesh You clothed me (Job 10:11). They all rejoiced, saying, ‘How happy is our share that we had the privilege to hear words that were not to be heard until now.’
Rabbi Shim’on delved further, saying, ‘See now that I, I am He, and no אֱלֹהִים (elohim), god, is by My side’ (Deuteronomy 32:39). Companions, listen to ancient words I wish to reveal since permission from above has been granted. Who is He who said, ‘See now that I, I am He’? He replied: The עִלַּת עַל כָּל עִלָּאִין (illat al kal illa’in), Cause above all Causes. He that is called עִלַּת הָעִלּוֹת (illat ha-illot), the Cause of Causes, is not high above all the supernal beings, but rather, is a cause among all the rest. Accordingly, every single one of these causes will not act unless permission comes down from the cause above him, as I said before with, Let us make a human.
Let us make—two rungs, and each lower rung said to the one above him, Let us make a human. The lower rung cannot act without permission from the one over him and the one over him cannot act until direction comes down from his companion. But He that is called עִלַּת עַל כָּל עִלּוֹת (illat al kal illot), Cause above all Causes, has no equal above nor below, as is written: To whom then will you liken Me, or shall I be equal? says the Holy One (Isaiah 40:25). He said, ‘See now that I, I am He, and no אֱלֹהִים (elohim), god, is by My side’—from whom to take counsel, unlike him of whom is written: And אֱלֹהִים (Elohim) said, ‘Let us make a human.’
All the Companions rose and said, ‘Rabbi grant us permission to speak. Did you not already say that the Cause of Causes, said to Keter, ‘Let us make a human.’ He said to them: ‘Let your ears hear what your mouth speaks! Have I not just told you that he that is called the Cause of Causes is not He that is called the Cause above all Causes, for the Cause above all Causes has no second from whom He can take direction. He is יָחִיד (yaḥid), Singular, prior to all, and He has no partner [see Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles of Jewish Faith].
Accordingly, He said, ‘See now that I, I am He, and no god is by My side’ (Deuteronomy 32:39), from whom He should take counsel [cf. BT Sanhedrin 38b; Bereshit Rabbah 8:8]; for He has no second, no partner, and no reckoning. [However,] there is a oneness in partnership in the manner of male and female, of whom it is said, [Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bore you:] for one I called him [and blessed him, and increased him] (Isaiah 51:2). But He is one without reckoning and without partnership, thus, He says, no god is by My side.’ They all rose, bowed before him and said, ‘Happy is the man whose Master gives him consent to reveal hidden mysteries that were not even revealed to the holy angels.’
He said to them, ‘Companions, we should complete this verse because it contains many mysteries. I put to death and give life (Deuteronomy 32:39)—I put to death and give life by the sefirot. From the right-side life, and from the left-side death. But if both do not agree by mediation of the middle pillar—unless all three settle together—judgment cannot be carried out.
At times, all three agree to execute judgement. Then an outstretched hand appears to accept those who repent: יהוה (YHWH). That יַד (yad), hand, is equivalent to י״ד (fourteen) letters: four in the simple form of יהוה (YHWH) and ten in the fully spelled Name: יוד הא ואו הא (Yod He Vav He). The four letters allude to the sefirah כֶּתֶר (keter), Crown; the other ten to the sefirah חָכְמָה (ḥokhmah), Wisdom. This is the Shekhinah, which is the right hand from the side of חֶסֶד (ḥesed), Kindness, and the left hand from the the side of גְבוּרָה (gevurah), Strength. [It is also] called the Hand of יהוה (YHWH) from the aspect of the middle pillar. When one repents, these fourteen letters save him from judgement. But when the Cause above all Causes passes judgment [I smash and I also heal] and none rescues from My hand (Deuteronomy 32:39).
Furthermore, three times it has been said, אֲנִי אֲנִי אֲנִי (ani, ani, ani), I, I, I—[this verse has three] א (alef) [in its beginning and three] י (yod) [in its ending]. Here is the hint: יוד הי ואו הי (Yod He Vav He); יוד הא ואו הא (Yod He Vav He). [The verse also employs] three ווין (vavin), ands: וַאֲחַיֶּה (va-aḥayeh), and I give life... וַאֲנִי (va-ani), and I… וְאֵין (ve-ayin), and none… They are also hinted at by these [two] names.
Despite this all the Companions have explained it concerning other אֱלֹהִים (elohim), gods, as is written: See now that I, I am He—the blessed Holy One and His Shekhinah. Of His Female is said, אֲנִי (ani), I am, הוּא (hu), He. And no god is by My side—[neither] Samael nor the serpent. I put to death and give life—I kill with My Shekhinah whoever is guilty and give life with Her to whoever is righteous. And none rescues from My hand—the יָד (yad), hand, of יהוה (YHWH) which is numerically equivalent to י״ד (fourteen). יוד הא ואו הא (Yod He Vav He); and כוזו במוכסז כוזו (KWZW, BMWKSZ, KWZW) [permutations of the Name]. All these explanations are true. But what we said before is that It is the Cause of Causes—the Cause above all others. This mystery was not even revealed to all the sages and prophets [but only the select few among them, such as Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai].
Come and see: How many causes, and rungs, are concealed and unknown. They are clothed and enveloped by the sefirot, which are chariots for them. These causes are hidden from the thoughts of man, as is written: For he who is high has a higher one watching him, and still higher ones over them (Ecclesiastes 5:7)—each higher light is brighter than its neighbor. So the recipients are dimmer than those above because they are the recipients, and that which is lower than its neighbor is dimmer than its neighbor. No light can bear the presence of the Cause of Causes, because all lights are darkened and diminished before It.
Another explanation of the Companions: Let us make a human in our image, by our likeness—the ministering angels spoke this. He [Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai] said to them: Since the angels already know the past and future, they already knew that he was destined to sin. Why would they want to make him?
Not only that, but Aza and Azael also opposed. When the Shekhinah said to the blessed Holy One, Let us make a human, they protested: What is a human creature that You should know him, [the son of man, that You pay him mind?] (Psalms 144:3). Why do You wish to create man when You know that he is destined to offend before You, with her who is darkness, since light is male and darkness female—left, darkness of Creation [see Bahir §13]. At that moment, the Shekhinah said to them: You will fall by the same reasoning that you denounce! [cf. BT Qiddushin 70a: ‘And he who declares unfit is unfit and never speaks in praise. And Shemu’el said: With his own blemish he stigmatizes as unfit’]. As is written: The sons of הָאֱלֹהִים (Ha-Elohim), God, saw that the daughters of men were comely, and they took themselves wives whomsoever they chose (Genesis 6:2), so they went astray after them. And the Shekhinah caused them to fall from their holy state.
The Companions said, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi, Aza and Azael did not lie! For man was certainly destined to offend with the female.’ He replied: This is what the Shekhinah said, ‘You have made accusations before me that go beyond those of all the hosts above. If you were better than humans in your actions, you would have had a right to accuse him, but man will offend with only one woman, while you [are destined to offend] with many women. Therefore, your offences surpass those of man, as is written: The sons of God saw that the daughters of men were comely, and they took themselves wives whomsoever they chose (Genesis 6:2). It is not written: the daughter of men, but rather the daughters of men. If man is liable, I have prepared תְּשׁוּבָה (teshuvah), repentance, for him to repair the offence.’
The Companions asked, ‘If so, why all this?’ Rabbi Shim’on replied: If the blessed Holy One had not created [the] good and evil [impulses], which are light and darkness, there would not have been any merit or liability for the man of בְּרִיָּה (beri’ah), Creation. So man was created with both, as is written: See, I have set before you today life and good and death and evil, that I charge you today to love YHWH your God, to go in His ways and to keep His commands and His statutes and His Laws (Deuteronomy 30:15). They asked him: Why all this? Better He had not created darkness. Then man would have no reward and no punishment, as opposed to being created and having to offend thereby causing much [cf. Zohar 3:159a].
He said to them: It was right to create him in this way because Torah was created for his sake, for it contains punishments for the wicked and rewards for the righteous. Thus, there can be no reward for the righteous or punishment for the wicked without the man of בְּרִיָּה (beri’ah), Creation. He did not create it a wasteland. He formed it to be inhabited (Isaiah 45:18). They said, ‘Indeed, now we have certainly heard what we had never heard before. It is now clear that the blessed Holy One did not create anything unnecessary’ [cf. M Avot 4:3].
Furthermore, Torah of בְּרִיָּה (beri’ah), Creation, is the garment of Shekhinah. If man had not been created, She would have remained without clothing, like a pauper. Therefore, whoever transgresses acts as if he is stripping the Shekhinah of Her garments [cf. Leviticus 18:7]. This is the punishment for man.
Whoever performs the decrees of Torah clothes the Shekhinah in Her garments. Accordingly, about the garments of tsitsit and tefillin it says, For it is his sole covering, it is his cloak for his skin—in what can he lie? (Exodus 22:26). This applies during exile when the Shekhinah is stripped of Her garments.
Come and see: Darkness is the mystery of black [ink] of Torah. Light is the white [negative space] of Torah” (Zohar 1:22a, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar, cf. Bahir §198).