Weeping and Yearning of the Lower Waters

by tillerofthesoil

“The disciples asked Rabbi Berekhiah, ‘Allow us [to speak] words before you,’ but permission was not given. Once he did permit them only to see if they had focused themselves. He scrutinized them saying: Let me hear your wisdom. They opened, saying: 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 ‘The blessed Holy One took up the primordial waters 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. Rabbi Ḥama said: Through the merit of rendering kindness a man learns Torah, as is written, Oh, every one who thirsts go to the water, and who has no silver, buy food and eat (Isaiah 55:1). Go to Him and He will render kindness to you, and you will buy food and eat. Another interpretation: And who has no silver, as is written, Mine is the silver and mine the gold, says YHVH of Armies (Haggai 2:8)” (Bahir §51). 

“On the third day all the earth was flat like a plain and the waters covered the surface of all the earth. When the word of Gevurah was uttered, Let the waters [under the heavens] be gathered [in one place so that the dry land will appear] (Genesis 1:9)… the waters were rolled together and gathered into the valleys, as is said, and the gathering of waters He called Seas, [and Elohim saw that it was good] (ibid., 10). The waters became הֵעִיזוּ פְּנֵיהֶם (heizu peneihem), insolent, and attempted to ascend to heaven as at first until He rebuked and subdued them and placed them beneath the soles of His feet, as is said, Who makes a way in the sea and a path in עַזִּים (azzim), fierce, waters (Isaiah 43:16)” (Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 18 [MS Oxford], cf. Alfa Beita de-Ven Sira, 232–34).

Elohim said, ‘Let the waters under heaven be gathered to one place’ (Genesis 1:9). Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nasi] opened, saying, ‘More than the sound of many waters, the sea’s majestic breakers, majestic on high is YHWH (Psalms 93:4). More than the sound of many waters—when the blessed Holy One commanded the waters to gather in one place, they dashed to and fro, exalting themselves on high.’

Rabbi Yitsḥaq said, ‘At that time the waters surged over the earth, which was immersed within them, covering it over. The blessed Holy One said to them, ‘Not like this! Rather, שֶׁיִּתְכַּנְּסוּ בְּצִמְצוּם כֻּלָּם אֶל מָקוֹם אֶחָד (she-yitkansu be-tsimtsum kullam el maqom eḥad), gather yourselves together to one place, and let the dry land appear’ (Genesis ibid.), implying that the earth existed previously as dry land without moisture amidst the waters. It is not written dry land, but rather the dry land….

David said further, ‘You are the one who made the entire world, and You made the waters. In their great abundance the waters engulfed the whole world, but You decreed that they assemble, entirely be-tsimtsum, contracted, to one place. So may it be Your will before You that Your Shekhinah that fills the entire world be contracted in Your house, for it is more fitting that She abide there, as is written: holiness befits Your house (Psalms 93:5); and not for a short while, but rather, for all time (ibid.)” (Zohar Ḥadash 12c).

“Rabbi Berekhiah said: The upper waters receded from the lowers waters with weeping, as is written, The wellsprings of rivers he blocked from weeping (Job 28:11). Rabbi Tanḥuma proves it from here: He makes the earth through His power… as He sounds His voice—a roar of water in the heavens (Jeremiah 10:12). Voice—nothing but weeping, as is said, A voice in Ramah is heard, lament and bitter weeping (ibid. 31:14)” (Bereshit Rabbah 5:4, cf. Schäfer, Synopse zur Hekhalot-Literatur, §438; Rabbenu Baḥya on Leviticus 2:13).

“Rabbi Akiva expounded: When אִישׁ וְאִשָּׁה (ish ve-ishah), husband and wife, are worthy, Shekhinah [יהוה] abides between them; if not אֵשׁ (esh), fire, consumes them” (BT Sotah 17a).

“What is the Tree you spoke of? He said to him: The powers of the blessed Holy One—this one on the back of that one. 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? [Lower] Ḥokhmah—soul of the righteous פּוֹרְחִין (porḥin), gushing, from the spring to the great channel, ascending and clinging to the Tree. What causes פּוֹרֵחַ (poreaḥ), blossoming? Israel: when they are righteous and good Shekhinah שְׁרוּיָה (sheruyah), abides, in their midst—[above] because of their [good] deeds שֶׁרְוָיָה (she-revayah), She overflows, in the blessed Holy One’s lap, making them fruitful and multiplied [cf. BT Shabbat 30b; Yevamot 64a]. And how do we know that the Shekhinah is called ‘water’? As is written, Riding through heavens with your help—in His triumph through the skies (Deuteronomy 33:26), and it is written, skies stream justice (Isaiah 45:8). And tsedeq, justice, is the Shekhinah, as is written, Tsedeq, righteousness, lodged in Her (ibid. 1:21). Tsedeq was given to David, as is written, YHVH shall reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations (Psalms 146:10). It is also written, [And David captured the stronghold of] Zion, which is the city of David (1 Chronicles 11:5)” (Bahir §119).

“Desire of the female toward the male arouses only when a spirit enters her and she gushes water toward upper, masculine waters [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 13:13]. Similarly Assembly of Israel arouses desire towards the blessed Holy One only by the spirit of the righteous entering Her. Then waters flow within Her toward waters of the male, all becoming one desire, one cluster, one nexus. Rapture, total rapture! An amble by the blessed Holy One with souls of the righteous” (Zohar 1:60b, cf. ibid. 1:244a–b).

“His 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 replied: Go out and see! He sat and expounded for them: Shekhinah is below just as Shekhinah is above. And what is ‘Shekhinah‘? Say that this is the light emanated from the primordial light, which is Ḥokhmah. He also surrounds everything, as is written, The fullness of all the earth is His glory (Isaiah 6:3). What is His function here? A parable: To what can the matter be compared? To a king who had seven sons, and [he assigned] each one his place, saying 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!’ He said to them, ‘I will hereby swing round and see you all the entire day [cf. BT Ta’anit 31a].’ Behold: The fullness of all the earth is His glory. And why is He in their midst? To stand them up and make them endure” (Bahir §171, cf. BT Ḥullin 60b; Zohar 1:20a).

“This conflict is for the sake of Heaven, because the lower waters weep, saying: We yearn to be before the supernal King of all supernals! And they ask to be raised on high [cf. Zohar 1:17b: ‘A conflict of passionate love’]” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 19b).