Like a Mustard Seed in a Ring
“[Rabbi Berekhiah’s] disciples said to him: Rabbi from above to below we know, but from below to above we do not know. He replied: Is it not all one—below to above and above to below? They said: Rabbi, ascending is not like descending! One can run while descending, but it is not so while ascending. Moreover, the one who ascends can do so by a way other than the [way] he descends.
He sat and expounded for them: ‘Shekhinah is below just as Shekhinah is above’ (Seder Rabba de-Vereshit §440, 745). And what is Shekhinah? Say that this is the light emanated from the primordial light, Ḥokhmah. It also מְסַבֵּב (mesabev), turns everything around, as is written, Fullness—all the earth is His glory (Isaiah 6:3). What is its function here? A parable: To what can the matter be compared? A king had seven sons, and he assigned each one his place. He said to them, ‘Sit, this one on the back of that one.’ The lowest one said, ‘I will not dwell below! I will not be so far from you!’ Saying to them, ‘I will hereby מְסוֹבֵב (mesovev), swing round, and see you all day long [cf. BT Ta’anit 31a; Vayiqrah Rabbah 4:8; Jeremiah 31:21].’ As is written, Fullness—all the earth is His glory. Why is He in their midst? To stand them up and make them endure” (Bahir §171).
“It has been taught: There are ten גַלגַלִים (galgalim), spheres, and ten מַאֲמָרוֹת (ma’amarot), commands. Each and every sphere has its command. Not that it is surrounded by it, but rather it turns it [see Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Yesodei ha-Torah 1:5; Guide of the Perplexed, 2:4–6].
This world is like a mustard seed in a ring. Why? Because of the spirit that blows upon it and sustains it. If this spirit were to be interrupted, the world would wither in an instant [cf. Isaiah 40:7–8; Job 34:14; BT Bava Batra 25a–b]” (Bahir §179).
“All the lights expanding, large and small, appear as the hub of a wheel [lit., כְּעֵין גַלגַל (ke-ein galgal), as the eye of a wheel]. All the spheres and worlds and their hosts appear in the center like a mustard seed. And they all go to and fro, whirling, never still….
From the abundant efflux of the great and awesome firmament spread the mighty seraphim, capable masters standing watch, conducting all the worlds—conducting mysterious things arranged by the blessed Holy One when He created the 18,000 worlds [see BT Avodah Zarah 3b; Zohar 1:23b–24a (TZ); Rabbenu Baḥya ben Asher on Numbers 10:35].
Within this firmament the spheres and their hosts are fixed. Because of its overwhelming strength, the spheres appear as a mustard seed. And from this exquisite firmament emanates one fine and lovely spark comprising every kind of תִפאֶרֶת (tif’eret), beauty. It is the light that stands above, reward of the world, covering it” (Berit Menuḥa, Second Way: The Way of Love, First Vowel, Sixth Vowel).
“קָו הַמִדָּה (Qav ha-Middah): Length and Breadth. Qav ha-Middah: Depth and Height. Qav ha-Middah: Circle and Square.
Established to be known through thirteen gates—twenty-six on the two sides. When they are engraved in their engravings, they are all one within this measure. Qav ha-Middah ascends and descends, engraved in its engravings on all sides.
Light Not Existing in Light, engraves, and the Spark of All Sparks bursts forth, striking within the Will of Wills, secreted within it, unknown.
When this Will desires to ramify, this Spark—concealed within Will, befitting and not befitting to exist as color—shoots out. When this Will ramifies, this Spark—splaying color and no color—strikes, entering into that extension, splaying forth in its colors. It ascends, becoming actualized through its ascent within Will and its emanation.
Will strikes its extension in concealment, unknown—emitting gossamer lights, coalescing as one. When they seek to emerge, that Spark, imbued with colors, strikes the extension and it becomes constricted. On account of the pressure, those diaphanous lights emerge, audible as one. Then the Spark displays colors within them, all dyed at once: white, red, green, and black. The Spark lingered there for twelve months, and then they were uprooted, and planted in another place.
This Spark ascends and descends, and is called בּוּצִינָא דְּקַרְדִינוּתָא (botsina de-qardinuta), Lamp of Adamantine Darkness. Enhancing and striking all the luminous shoots, it decrees, ‘Grow!’ [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 10:6]. Then springs gush forth from that supernal, primordial extension, irrigating and illuminating them all, and they flourish.
With the בּוּצִיצָא דְּקַרְדִינוּתָא (botsitsa de-qardinuta), Spark of Adamantine Darkness, the One who Shines, shines—ascending and descending, spreading out in all directions. Then it is called קָו מִדָּה (qav middah), Line of Measure, its measurement enduring above and below.
Line of Measure—Spark of Adamantine Darkness, Concealed of all Concealed, lustrous measure, configuring beauty for all. The beauty itself, emerging from the first extension, configures them. They stand within it, poised for calibration above and below.
One who attains this mystery and knows it, merits to know the wisdom of his Master. Happy is his portion in this world and in the world that is coming!” (Zohar Ḥadash 57a).