Water Runs Out from the Sea
“Water means nothing but Torah, as it says, Oh, every one who thirsts go to the water (Isaiah 55:1)” (BT Bava Qamma 82a).
“Torah is compared to water, as is written, Oh, every one who thirsts go to the water (Isaiah 55:1)—just as the world cannot survive without it and a man purifies himself with it, so too the world cannot not survive without Torah, which teaches man how to purify himself. And just as water, a man does not plant a tree and does not build a house if he has no water, so too the world cannot survive without Torah. And just as water is vital for the world, so too Torah is vital for the world. Just as with water, anyone who does not know how to swim in it will cause himself to be lost from the world, so too anyone who is not able to find words of Torah is lost from the world. Just as water can be drawn to any place one desires, so too Torah is drawn in all the world. Just as water is not preserved in silver containers nor in gold containers but rather in ones of clay, so too Torah is not preserved by the arrogant, but by one with a humble spirit. And Rabbi Eḥa says: ‘But wisdom found from nothing (Job 28:12). What is from nothing? From those who make themselves as nothing.’ And just as with water there is none who oversees it [in order to sell it], so too Torah” (Tanḥuma, Ki Tavo 3).
“Rabbi Ḥanina son of Idi said: Why are words of Torah likened to water, as is written, Oh, every one who thirsts go to the water (Isaiah 55:1)? To teach you that just as water flows from a high place to a low place, so words of Torah leave the one who is arrogant and stay with the one who is humble” (BT Ta’anit 7a).
“The disciples asked Rabbi Berekhiah, ‘Allow us [to speak] words before you,’ but permission was not given. Another time he did permit them, only to determine if they had focused themselves. One day he scrutinized them saying, ‘Let me hear your wisdom.’ They opened and said: In the beginning (Genesis 1:1)—one. Though a spirit grows faint before Me, the life-breath—it is I who made it (Isaiah 57:16) [—two]. God’s stream is filled with water (Psalms 65:10) [—three]. What is פֶּלֶג אֱלֹהִים (peleg Elohim), God’s stream? Thus our Rabbi taught us that the blessed Holy One took up the waters of Creation and divided them. ‘He placed half of them in the firmament and half of them in the ocean, this is פַּלַג אֱלֹהִים מְלֹא מָיִם (palag Elohim melo mayim), God split the fullness of water‘ (Bereshit Rabbah 4:4). And by it man learns Torah. Others say: Through the merit of rendering kindness, a man learns Torah, as is written, Woe, everyone that thirsts, come to the waters, and he that has no silver; come, buy, and eat (Isaiah 55:1). Go to Him and He will render loving-kindness to you, and you will buy and eat” (Bahir §51).
“‘Blessed be YHWH, Who is blessed’—gushing of blessings from the source of life to the place from which all saturation streams, saturating all. Since He is a source, in mystery of sign of the covenant, we call Him ‘Who is blessed’—spring of the well. Once they reach there, surely the well is filled, for its waters never cease” (Zohar 2:135b).
“Woe to anyone who compares Him to any quality, even to one of His own qualities, and certainly not to humans whose foundation is in the dust (Job 4:19), who are perishable and worthless. But the likening [that we employ] is only according to His power over that quality, or even over all the creatures. There is no [likening] above that quality, and when [His power] retreats, there is no quality, nor likeness, nor form [cf. BT Berakhot 33b; Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed, 1:56–60].
This is like the sea. Water of the sea that flows from it has no conceivable shape or form. But by the flow of the sea water over the vessel, which is the earth, it takes on a form, and we can then reckon—the source of the sea is one. A spring emerges from it, according to its expansion in a round vessel, which is י (yod). The source is one, and the spring that emerges from it is second. Afterwards He made a large vessel, similar to a large excavation, which was filled with the water that flowed from the spring. This is called Sea, it is the third vessel. And that large vessel streams as into long receptacles. And so there is a מָקוֹר (maqor), source, a מַעְיָין (ma’ayyan), spring, a יָם (yam), sea, and seven נְחָלִין (neḥalin), wadis, which amount to ten. If the Artisan will break these vessels that He fashioned, the water will return to the source and the broken vessels will remain dry without water [cf. Psalms 74:13; M Kelim 2:1; Bereshit Rabbah 12:5; MS Vatican 274, 83a; MS Frankfurt, 24a; Rabbi Ḥayyim Vital, Mevo She’arim, 2:2, 1–11; Sha’ar ha-Haqdamot, Derush be-Olam ha-Niqqudim].
So the עִלַּת הָעִלּוֹת (illat ha-illot), Cause of Causes, made ten sefirot and called Keter מָקוֹר (maqor), Source, and there is no end to the welling of its light. Therefore, He called Himself אֵין סוֹף (ein sof), Without End, and He has no likeness or image. There is no vessel there able to conceive Him or have any knowledge of Him at all. Therefore, it has been said of Him, ‘What is too wondrous for you, do not expound; what is concealed from you, do not inquire. [You have no business with hidden matters!]’ (Ben Sira) [cf. BT Ḥagigah 13a; Megillah 25a].
Afterwards He made a small vessel: י (yod). It was filled from [the source] and He called it ‘A Wellspring of Wisdom.’ He called himself in it Wise, and the vessel He called Ḥokhmah. Then, He made a large vessel and called it יָם (yam), Sea. He named it Binah and He called Himself an Understanding One.
He is wise of Himself and understands Himself because Ḥokhmah is not called Ḥokhmah of its own accord [cf. Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed 1:56–57], rather because the Wise One filled it with His own welling. Binah is not called so of its own accord, but rather because of the Understanding One who filled it from His own, and if He had removed Himself and risen from it, it would have remained dry, [as is written]: Water runs out from the sea and the river is parched and dries up (Job 14:11) [cf. Isaiah 19:5].
Afterwards, and strike it into seven נְחָלִים (neḥalim), wadis, [that one may trod upon it dry-shod] (Isaiah 11:15). He made seven precious vessels and called them גְּדֻלָּה (gedullah), Greatness, גְּבוּרָה (gevurah), Might, תִּפְאֶרֶת (tif’eret), Splendor, נֵּצַח (netsaḥ), Triumph, הוֹד (hod), Grandeur, כֹּל (kol), All, and הַמַּמְלָכָה (ha-mamelakhah), the Kingship. He called himself Great in Greatness and also חָסִיד (ḥasid), Devout, Glorious in Glory and Triumphant in Battles. In Majesty He called Himself ‘The Majesty our Creator,’ and in יְסוֹד (yesod), Foundation, He called Himself צַדִיק (tsaddiq), Righteous One, Yesod, Foundation [of the World] (Proverbs 10:25), support of all vessels [sefirot], and all the worlds [cf. Bahir §102, §180]. And in Kingship, He called Himself King: [Yours, O YHWH,] the גְּדֻלָּה (gedullah), greatness, and the גְּבוּרָה (gevurah), might, and the תִּפְאֶרֶת (tif’eret), splendor, and the נֵּצַח (netsaḥ), triumph, and the הוֹד (hod), grandeur, indeed, כֹל (khol), all, in the heavens and on the earth. Yours, O YHWH, is הַמַּמְלָכָה (ha-mamelakhah), the kingship [and what is exalted as head over all] (1 Chronicles 29:11).
All is in His authority—whether to lessen the vessels, or, to increase or decrease their gushing, as is His desire with them. He does not have over Him a god to increase or decrease in Him. Then He created servants for these vessels [of Atsilut], a throne with four pillars and six steps for the throne. They are all ten. All—Throne like the cup of blessing to which they ascribed ten things because of the Torah given in עֲשָׂרָה דִּבְּרָן (asarah dibbran), Ten Utterances, and because of the world, which was the Work of Creation [Beri’ah] that was created with עֲשָׂרָה מַאֲמָרוֹת (asarah ma’amarot), Ten Sayings.
He then arrayed groups to serve the Throne: Malakhim, Er’elim, Serafim, Ḥayyot, Ofanim, Ḥashmalim, elim, elohim, sons of Elohim, and Ishim [cf. BT Ḥagigah 12b; Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Yesodei ha-Torah 2:7; Berit Menuḥa: The Third Way: The Way of Peace]. He made servants for these, Samael and all his band, that are like clouds to ride on in order to descend to earth, and they are like horses” (Zohar 2:42b–43a, Ra’aya Meheimna Bo).