Radiance Surrounding It

by tillerofthesoil

“Rabbi Shim’on son of Gamli’el says that [apart from Hebrew] even [Torah] scrolls are permitted to be written only in Greek’ (M Megillah 1:8). Rabbi Abbahu said in the name of Rabbi Yoḥanan: The Halakhah follows Rabbi Shim’on son of Gamli’el. Rabbi Yoḥanan also said: What is the reason of Rabbi Shim’on son of Gamli’el? It says, May God enlarge Japheth, may he dwell in the tents of Shem (Genesis 9:27)—that the words of Japheth shall be in the tents of Shem [cf. ibid. 10:2: The sons of Japheth: Gomer and Magog and Madai and Javan…. Javan was the legendary ancestor of the Ionians, a section of the Greek people]. But why not say [the words of] Gomer and Magog? Rabbi Ḥiyya son of Abba said: The reason is because it is written, יַפְתְּ אֱלֹהִים לְיֶפֶת (Yaft Elohim le-Yefet), May God enlarge Japheth—let יָפְיוּתוֹ (yafyuto), the beauty, of יֶפֶת (Yefet), Japheth, be in the tents of Shem [eldest son of Noah, father of the ‘Semitic’ peoples, including the Jewish people]” (BT Megillah 9a–b).

That has no blemish (Numbers 19:2)—kingdom of Greece, who are near the paths of faith” (Zohar 2:237a, cf. Bereshit Rabbah 2:4–5).

Radiance surrounding it (Ezekiel 1:4)—Greece, surrounded by radiance, but not itself radiant, as is written: surrounding. For there is none among all the kingdoms that approach the path of faith as they do. Here, too, among these shells, none approach the kernel [Israel] like this one. Surrounded by radiance, but radiance is not in it. Radiance emerges from the kernel—shining and encircling” (Zohar Ḥadash 38b).

“[The ancient Greeks] were close to the path of truth, but then came other learned men and Aristotle with his companions who sought wisdom in guess work. They have neither part nor lot in the wisdom of Torah” (Rabbi Moses de León, Sefer ha-Mishqal, 62–63).