A Mighty Tree: its Top Reaches the Heavens and its Branches to the End of all the Earth

by tillerofthesoil

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There is a tree in the earth and its height is great. The tree grew and became mighty, and its top reaches the heavens and its branches to the end of all the earth. Its foliage is lovely and its fruit great, and there is food for all in it. Beneath it the beasts of the field are shaded, and in its branches the birds of the heavens dwell, and all flesh is nourished from it (Daniel 4:7–9).

“It was taught: The Tree of Life extends over a journeying distance of five hundred years. Rabbi Yehudah son of Rabbi Il’ai said, ‘[This is] not the end of the thing, but rather even its branches and its trunk [must be taken into account].’ And all the waters of Creation branch off beneath it. And what is the reason? And he shall be like a tree planted by streams of water, [that bears its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither—and in all that he does he prospers] (Psalms 1:3). It was taught: The Tree of Life is one sixtieth of the garden. The garden is one sixtieth of Eden. Now a river runs out of Eden to water the garden [and from there splits off into four streams] (Genesis 2:10)—the runoff of a kor waters two kabs” (JT Berakhot 1:1, 2c, cf. Zohar 1:76b, Sitrei Torah).

“I am the one who planted this tree for all the world to delight in. With him I spanned the All, calling him All, for all תָּלוּי (talui), hang, on him, all issues from him, all need him, all lookout for him and await him. From there souls blossom in joy. Alone I was when I made him. When I spread out My earth, in which I planted and rooted this tree—giving them joy in one another, rejoicing along with them—who was with Me (Isaiah 44:24)? To whom could I reveal this secret of Mine?” (Bahir §22, cf. Ibn Ezra on Genesis 1:26).

“There are five hundred years to which the Tree of Life clings, generating verdure and offspring for the world. All the waters of Creation, drawn and flowing from the beginning, branch beneath it, through it” (Zohar 1:18a).

“This Tree has its roots in the Lebanon, which is the Throne of Glory, blessed be He, and the Lebanon corresponds to the supernal Lebanon, and its roots are seventy-two roots” (Seder Gan Eden).

“What is [that which we recite in the Qedushah:] Holy, holy, holy, and then, YHWH of Armies. The fullness of all the earth is His glory (Isaiah 6:3)? Holy—supernal Crown [Keter]; holy—root of the Tree [Ḥokhmah]; holyclinging, yet separate from them all [Binah or Malkhut]. YHWH of Armies. The fullness of all the earth is His glory.

What is: ‘holy—clinging, yet separate’? A parable: A king had sons whose sons had sons. When the sons do his will, he enters their midst, making all endure, satisfying all, causing goodness to flow upon them, so that both fathers and sons are sated. When the children do not do his will, he only gives the fathers as much as they need [and no more. Cf. Bahir §113. On Binah, or Malkhut, as separate from the sefirot, see Bahir §§104–105, 124, 175. Cf. Zohar 3:288a (IZ). On the ‘world of separation,’ see Zohar 3:159b. On son clinging to father, see Zohar 2:147a]” (Bahir §§128–129).

“They asked [Rabbi Berekhiah], ‘What is the letter צ (tsadi)?’ He said: יוֹ״ד (yod) נוּן (nun); tsadi—coupling of yod nun [alluding to יִנּוֹן (yinnon), bear seed (Psalms 72:17), see Bahir §86]. As is written, צַדִּיק (Tsaddiq), the Righteous One, is a יְסוֹד עוֹלָם (yesod olam), lasting foundation (Proverbs 10:25)” (Bahir §61).

One pillar extends from earth to the firmament. His name is צַדִּיק (Tsaddiq)Righteous One, named for the righteous. When there are righteous people in the world, the pillar is invigorated; if not, he is sapped. He upholds the entire world, as is written, The Righteous One is the יְסוֹד עוֹלָם (yesod olam), foundation of the world (Proverbs 10:25). If he weakens, the world cannot endure. So if the world contains just one righteous person, that person sustains the world [cf. BT Yoma 38b]” (Bahir §102).

What is ש (shin)? It is root of the Tree—[say, rather] ש (shin) looks like the root of the Tree.

And what is [this] Tree you speak of? He said to him: The powers of the blessed Holy One—this one on the back of that one [cf. Sefer Yetsirah §48b: ‘One atop three, and three atop seven, and seven atop twelve. And they all hold fast to each other’]. Just as a tree produces fruit by means of water, so too the blessed Holy One multiplies the powers of the Tree by means of water. And what is water of the blessed Holy One? חָכמָה (Ḥokhmah), Wisdomנִשְׁמַת הַצַּדִּיקִים (nishmat ha-tsaddiqim), soul of the righteous, פּוֹרְחִין (porḥin), gushing, from the spring to the great channel, ascending and cleaving with the Tree. What causes them to פּוֹרֵחַ (poreaḥ), bloom? When Israel are righteous and good Shekhinah abides among them [cf. M Avot 3:6], saturating their deeds, in the blessed Holy One’s lap, and [He] makes them fruitful and multiplies [them]” (Bahir §§118–119).

The blessed Holy One possesses a single Tree and in him are ‘twelve diagonal borders: a north-eastern border, a south-eastern border—an upper eastern border, a lower eastern border; a north-western border, a south-western border—an upper western border, a lower western border; an upper northern border, a lower northern border; an upper southern border, a lower southern border; deepening and expanding until evermore, זְרֹעֹת (zero’ot), arms, of the world (Deuteronomy 33:27)’ (Sefer Yetsirah §47)—within them is the Tree. 

To all of these diagonals there are corresponding overseers (Genesis 41:34), twelve of them, and within the Wheel [are] twelve overseers too—[reckoning] thirty-six overseers with the diagonals, [since] for each one there is [another] one, as is written, For he who is high has a higher one watching him (Ecclesiastes 5:7). It is found that to the east wind are nine, to the west wind are nine, to the south wind are nine, and to the north wind are nine. And these are twelve, twelve, and twelve—thirty-six ‘overseers in Teli, Wheel, and Heart’ (Sefer Yetsirah §59a). Now all of them [reckon] thirty-six of thirty-six since the power of one is [also] in its companion. Even though there are twelve in each of the three, ‘they all hold fast to each other’ (Sefer Yetsirah §§48b, 55). All thirty-six powers are in the first one, which is the Teli. And if you seek them in the Wheel, you find the very same ones. And if you seek them in the Heart, you find the very same ones. That is why to each one are twelve, [yet] they are found to be thirty-six since there are three, and ‘חוֹזְרוֹת חֲלִילָה (ḥozrot ḥalilah), they rotate’ (Sefer Yetsirah §19b) [cf. BT Bava Batra 25a]. And the power of each one is found in its companion, so that every one [is] thirty-six, yet all of them together are not more than thirty-six צוּרוֹת (tsurot), forms, and they are all completed by [the] לֵ״ב (lev), Heart. Thirty-two are added to thirty-two, and there are four left [of the aforementioned thirty-six], and they [reckon] sixty-four forms [cf. Targum Yonatan to Ezekiel 1:6]. 

And how is it known to us that ‘thirty-two are added to thirty-two’? As is written, For he who is high has a higher one watching him. If so there are [only] sixty-four. Yet eight are lacking from the seventy-two names of the blessed Holy One, and this is [alluded to by], And still higher ones over them (Ecclesiastes ibid.)—the seven days of the week. But one is [still] lacking, and that is [alluded to by] And the gain of the earth is בַּכֹּל (ba-kol), in all—a king [opposite a field] (ibid., 8). 

What is יִתְרוֹן (yitron), the gain? The Place from which the earth was hewn [cf. Tanḥuma, Pequdei 3; Shemot Rabbah 15:22], and He yitron, surpasses, what was [cf. Ecclesiastes 2:13: And I saw that wisdom yitron, surpasses, folly as light surpasses darkness]. And what are they yitron, profited? Every thing in the world: when inhabitants of the world are able to take from its splendor then it is a yitron, gain [cf. Qohelet Rabbah on 5:8]” (Bahir §95).

“There are three princes: Teli, Wheel, and Heart. Each one is twelve, and the three therefore [reckon] thirty-six, by which the world is sustained [see BT Sanhedrin 97bSukkah 45b], as is written: The Righteous One is the foundation of the world (Proverbs 10:25)” (Bahir §101).

“Rabbi Berekhiah sat and expounded: What is the תְּלִי (Teli)? This is the likeness that is before the blessed Holy One, as is written, His locks are תַּלְתַּלִּים (taltallim), curled (Song of Songs 5:11) [the Teli is like a serpentine spine which twists the heavens, i.e., Draco, Axis Mundi, see Baraita de-Shemu’el, 1: ‘The elusive Serpent (Job 26:13) is the Teli’; Sefer Yetsirah §59a: ‘The Teli in the world is like a king on his throne.’ On the resemblance of the spine to a serpent, see BT Bava Qamma 16a]. What is the גַלגַל (galgal), Wheel? It is the בֶּטֶן (beten), Belly [‘Mother of the World,’ Binah, see Bahir §104. On the Wheel, see BT Shabbat 151a]. What is the לֵב (lev), Heart? Heart of the heavens (Deuteronomy 4:11). In it are the ל״ב (thirty-two) paths of Wisdom” (Bahir §106).

“Rav Raḥmai said: The righteous and devout in Israel who lift Me up over the whole world through their merits, from them the Heart is sustained, and the Heart sustains them [cf. JT Terumot 8:4, 46b]” (Bahir §97, cf. ibid., §185).

“Why is it called קָרְבָּן (qarbban), sacrifice? Because it מְקָרֵב (meqarev), draws near, the holy powers, as is written, וְקָרַב (ve-qarav), and join, them one to another, into one Tree; and they shall become one in your hand (Ezekiel 37:17)” (Bahir §109).

This is the Explicit Name that was written on Aaron’s forehead. The Explicit Name containing seventy-two letters and the Explicit Name containing twelve letters were handed over by the blessed Holy One to the [angel] מסמריה (MSMRYH) who stands before the Curtain. He gave them to Elijah on Mount Carmel, and with them he ascended and did not taste the taste of death. These are the explicit, the precious, and the magnificent names [cf. BT Qiddushin 72b]. There are twelve names, one for each of the Twelve Tribes of Israel:

אַהְצִי צְיַהְרוֹן אַבְרוֹחְיַהְרוֹן וּשבוּבַ נְומַקְרוֹן דַמוֹרַטְרוֹן צְפצַפְשִיתְרוֹן יֶהוֹֹדְמֵירוֹן וּחַייַהְרוֹן בְרַקיַהְאוֹן עַרשְיַהְ גְאוֹן כֵסֵאיַהְ מְנַגמהְוֹן הוּהוּ יַהְ הֶיוֹ יַה אַהְ אַהְוהְ דְמַהְדִירוֹן

All of them are encompassed by the Heart of the heavens, and are divided into four names, male and female, overseen by Teli, Wheel, and Heart—they are מַעְיָנוֹת הַחָכְמָה (ma’ayanot ha-ḥokhmah), the Wellsprings of Wisdom” (Bahir §112).