Water Runs Out from the Sea
“Water means nothing but Torah as it says: Ho, everyone that thirsts, come you to the waters (Isaiah 55:1)” (BT Bava Qamma 82a).
“Rabbi Hanina son of Idi said: Why are words of Torah likened to water, as is written, Ho, everyone that thirsts, come you to the waters (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).
“‘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, 1:56–59].
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’iyyan), spring, a יָם (yam), sea, and seven נְחָלִין (neḥalin), streams, 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; Bereshit Rabbah 12:5; Rabbi Yitsḥaq Luria’s שְׁבִירָת הַכְּלִים (shevirat ha-kelim), ‘shattering of the vessels’].
So the עִלַּת הָעִלּוֹת (illat ha-illot), Cause of Causes, made ten sefirot and called Keter the 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, ‘Do not seek out what is too wondrous for you; do not inquire into that which is concealed from you’ (Ben Sira) [cf. BT Hagigah 11b; Megillah 25a].
Afterwards He made a small vessel י (yod). It was filled from [the source] and He called it a ‘Spring 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, 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; Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 43].
Afterwards, He shall strike it into seven streams (Isaiah 11:15). He made seven precious vessels and called them גְּדֻלָּה (gedullah), Greatness, גְּבוּרָה (gevurah), Strength, תִּפְאֶרֶת (tif’eret), Beauty, נֵּצַח (netsaḥ), Victory, הוֹד (hod), Splendor, כֹל (kol), All, and הַמַּמְלָכָה (ha-malmelakha), the Kingdom. He called himself Great in Greatness and also חָסִיד (ḥasid), Devout, Glorious in Glory and Victorious in battles. In Majesty He called Himself ‘The Majesty our Creator,’ and in יְסוֹד (yesod), Foundation, He called Himself צַדִיק (tsaddiq), Righteous. Yesod (Foundation) supports everything, all the vessels [sefirot] and all the worlds [cf. Proverbs 10:25; Bahir §102, §180]. And in Kingdom, He called Himself King: the גְּדֻלָּה (gedullah), greatness, גְּבוּרָה (gevurah), strength, תִּפְאֶרֶת (tif’eret), beauty, נֵּצַח (netsaḥ), victory, הוֹד (hod), splendor—yes, כֹל (kol), all, that is in heaven and on earth. Yours, YHWH, is הַמַּמְלָכָה (ha-mamelakha), the kingdom (1 Chronicles 29:11).
Everything 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. Altogether, they are ten. All [together called] Throne like the cup of blessing to which they ascribed ten things because of the Torah given in עֲשָׂרָה דִּבְּרָן (asarah dibran), 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 arranged groups to serve the Throne, who are Malakhim, Er’elim, Serafim, Ḥayyot, Ofanim, Ḥashmalim, elim, elohim, sons of Elohim, and Ishim [cf. Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Yesodei ha-Torah 2:7]. He made servants for these, Samael and all his group, 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).