“Whoever מִסְתַּכֵּל (mistakel), delves into, four things would be better off if he had not come into the world: What is above, what is below, what is before, and what is after.
One may not expound on forbidden sexual relations in the presence of three, nor the Account of Creation in the presence of two, nor the Chariot in the presence of one, unless he is a sage who understands from his own knowledge” (M Ḥagigah 2:1).
“From where are these matters [derived by the Mishnah]? The Rabbis taught: For, pray, ask of the first days that were before you (Deuteronomy 4:32); one may inquire, but two may not inquire. One might have thought that one may inquire concerning before the creation of the world, therefore it is written: from the day Elohim created a human on the earth (ibid.). One might have thought that one may [also] not inquire concerning the six days of creation, therefore it is written: the first days that were before you. One might have thought one may [also] inquire concerning what is above and what is below, what is before and what is after, therefore it is written: And from one end of the heavens to the other end of the heavens (ibid.). From one end of the heavens to the other end of the heavens you may inquire, but you may not inquire what is above, what is below, what is before, what is after….
‘Nor the [Account of the] Chariot in the presence of one’ (M Ḥagigah 2:1). Rabbi Ḥiyya taught: But רָאשֵׁי פְּרָקִים (rashei peraqim), chapter headings, may be transmitted to him. Rabbi Zera said: Chapter headings may be transmitted only to the head of a court or to one whose heart is anxious within him. Others say: Only if his heart is anxious within him [refers to one individual possessing both qualities]. Rabbi Ammi said: Secrets of Torah may be transmitted only to one who possesses five things, [namely], The commander of fifty, and notable and councillor, and the cunning charmer, and the skillful enchanter (Isaiah 3:3) [see BT Ḥagigah 14a: ‘The commander of fifty—do not read שַׂר חֲמִשִּׁים (sar ḥamishim), the commander of fifty, but שַׂר חוּמָּשִׁין (sar ḥummashin), prince of the Five Books (of Moses); it means one who knows how to argue in the five books of Torah…. And notable—one for whose sake favor is shown to his (entire) generation, like Rabbi Ḥanina son of Dosa on high (see BT Ta’anit 24b–25a); [or] below, like Rabbi Abbahu at the court of Caesar. The councillor—one who knows how to determine the intercalation of years and the fixation of months; cunning—a disciple who makes his masters wise; חֲרָשִׁים (ḥarashim), charmer—at the moment that he opens words of Torah, all become as though they were חֵרְשִׁין (ḥershin), deaf (since they cannot fathom his profundity); and the skillful—one who understands one thing from another; לָחַשׁ (laḥash), enchanter—one who is worthy to have transmitted to him words of Torah, which were given in לָחַשׁ (laḥash), a whisper’]. Rabbi Ammi further said: Words of Torah are not to be transmitted to a gentile, as is said, He did not thus to all the nations, and they knew not the laws (Psalms 147:20).
Rabbi Yoḥanan said to Rabbi El’azar: Come, I will instruct you in the Account of the Chariot. He replied: I am not old enough. When he was old enough, Rabbi Yoḥanan’s soul was at rest [i.e., he had passed away]. Rabbi Assi [then] said to him: Come, I will instruct you in the Account of the Chariot. He replied: Had I been worthy, I should have been instructed by Rabbi Yoḥanan, your master.
Rav Yosef was studying the Account of the Chariot; the elders of Pumbedita were studying the Account of Creation. They said to him: Let the master teach us the מַעֲשֵׂה מֶרְכָּבָה (ma’aseh merkavah), Account of the Chariot. He replied: Teach me the מַעֲשֵׂה בְּרֵאשִׁית (ma’aseh bereshit), Account of Creation. After they had taught him, they said to him: Let the master instruct us in the Account of the Chariot. He replied: We have learnt concerning it: Honey and milk are under your tongue (Song of Songs 4:11). The things that are sweeter than honey and milk should remain under your tongue. Rabbi Abbahu said: [It is inferred] from this verse: There are כְּבָשִׂים (kevasim), sheep, for your clothing (Proverbs 27:26). The things which are כִּבְשׁוֹנוֹ (kivshono), concealed things, of the world should be under your clothing [cf. BT Mo’ed Qatan 16a–b; Pesaḥim 119a]. They [then] said to him: We have already learned as far as, And he said to me, Human being, [stand upon your feet, and I will speak to you] (Ezekiel 2:1). He replied: This is the Account of the Chariot [i.e., if you have learnt thus far, you have learnt much, for this passage includes the very verses (Ezekiel 1:27–28) the teaching of which the Rabbis prohibited].
An objection was raised: How far does [the portion of] the Account of the Chariot extend? Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nasi] said: As far as the second And I saw (Ezekiel 1:27). Rabbi Yitsḥaq said: As far as חַשְׁמַל (ḥashmal), amber (ibid.)—as far as I saw may be taught [i.e., Rabbi and Rabbi Yitsḥaq indicated not how far the Account of the Chariot extended, but how far it was permissible to teach]; from here onward, [only] chapter headings may be transmitted. However, some say: As far as I saw chapter headings may be transmitted; from here onward, if he is a sage who understands from his own knowledge, Yes; if not, No. But may one expound on [the mysteries of] ḥashmal? For behold there was once a child who expounded on [the mysteries of] ḥashmal, and a fire went forth and consumed him—the child is different, for he had not reached the [fitting] age. Rav Yehudah said: That man be remembered for blessing [cf. Nehemiah 5:19: Think upon me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people], namely, Ḥananyah son of Ḥizqiyah: if it were not for him, the Book of Ezekiel would have been hidden away, for its words contradict the words of Torah [cf. Ezekiel 18:4, 20 with Exodus 20:5, 24:7; Ezekiel 44:31 with Leviticus 22:8; Ezekiel 44:22 with Leviticus 21:14; also Ezekiel 45:20, which mentions a sacrifice for the seventh day of the first month, entirely unknown from the Torah; Rashi to the above verses of Ezekiel, and BT Menaḥot 45a, Qiddushin 78a]. What did he do? Three hundred jars of oil were brought up to him, and he sat in an upper chamber and expounded on it.
The Rabbis taught: There was once a child who was reading the Book of Ezekiel at his teacher’s house, and he discerned what ḥashmal was and a fire went forth from ḥashmal and consumed him. So they sought to hide the Book of Ezekiel, but Ḥananyah son of Ḥizqiyah said to them: If he was a sage, is everyone a sage [that they may understand this book and endanger themselves]? What does חַשְׁמַל (ḥashmal) mean? Rav Yehudah said: חַיּוֹת אֵשׁ מְמַלְּלוֹת (ḥayyot esh memallelot), fiery beings speaking. In a baraita it is taught: At times חָשׁוֹת (ḥashot), they are silent, at times מְמַלְּלוֹת (memallelot), they speak. When an utterance emanates from the mouth of the blessed Holy One they are silent, and when an utterance does not emanate from the mouth of the blessed Holy One they speak.
And the living beings running and returning like the appearance of lightning (Ezekiel 1:14) [cf. Sefer Yetsirah §5, §8]. What is running and returning? Rav Yehudah said: Like the [sparks of] אוֹר (or), light, that escape from the mouth of a kiln. What is like the appearance of lightning? Rabbi Yose son of Ḥanina said: Like the light that escapes from between the potsherds [i.e., perforated earthen pieces used in smelting gold; בָּזָק (bazaq), lightning, is here explained according to its Aramaic sense: בְּזַק (bezaq), a fragment, piece of pottery’].
And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire engulfing itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of its midst as the color of חַשְׁמַל (ḥashmal), amber, out of the midst of the fire (Ezekiel 1:4). Where did it go? Rav Yehudah said that Rav said: It went to subdue the whole world under the wicked Nebuchadnezzar. But why all this? That the peoples of the world not say: Into the hand of a low people the blessed Holy One delivered His children. The blessed Holy One said: Who caused Me to be an attendant to servants of molten idols? The iniquities of Israel, they caused Me.
As I beheld the living beings, behold, one wheel on the earth alongside the living beings (ibid., 15). Rabbi El’azar said, ‘This is a certain angel who stands on earth and whose head extends close to the living beings.’ In a matnita [tannaitic tradition] it is taught: His name is Sandalfon, who is taller than his companion [Metatron] by a journeying distance of five hundred years. He stands behind the Chariot, binding crowns for his Maker. But is it so? Behold it is written: Blessed be the glory of YHWH from His place (ibid. 3:12) accordingly, no one knows His place!—he pronounces the Name over the crown, and it goes and rests on His head.
Rava said: All that Ezekiel saw Isaiah saw. What does Ezekiel resemble? A villager who saw the king [and prophesied from afar, i.e., exile]. And what does Isaiah resemble? A townsman who saw the king [and prophesied from within the land of Israel].
Resh Laqish said: What is: Let me sing unto YHWH for גָאֹה גָּאָה (ga’oh ga’ah), He surged, O surged (Exodus 15:1)? A song to Him who שֶׁמִּתְגָּאֶה עַל הַגֵּאִים (shemitga’eh al ha-ge’im), is exalted over the exalted ones. For a Master said: The king of the wild animals is the lion; the king of the cattle is the ox; the king of the birds is the eagle; and man is exalted over them; and the blessed Holy One is exalted over all of them, and over the whole world.
One verse says: As for the likeness of their faces, they had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and the four had the face of an ox on the left side; [the four also had the face of an eagle] (Ezekiel 10:1). And [elsewhere] it is written: And every one had four faces: the first face was the face of a cherub, and the second face was the face of a man, and the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle (ibid. 10:14); but the ox is not mentioned! Resh Laqish said: Ezekiel sought compassion for it and changed it into a cherub. He said before Him: Master of the Universe, shall an accuser become an advocate! [i.e., the ox would be a reminder of Israel’s sin with the golden calf].
What is כְּרוּב (keruv), cherub? Rabbi Abbahu said: כְּרַבְיָא (Keravya), like a child; for in Babylonia a child is called רַבְיָא (ravya). Rav Pappa said to Abayye: But according to this, what is, the first face was the face of a cherub, and the second face was the face of a man, and the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle: are not the face of a cherub and the face of a man the same? [The one is] a big face, and [the other is] a small face.
One verse says: Each one had six wings (Isaiah 6:2) and another verse says: And each one had four faces, and each one had four wings (Ezekiel 1:6)! [cf. Targum Yonatan ad loc.; Rashi ad loc.]. There is no contradiction: the one refers to the time when the Temple was not standing, [when] as it were, the wings of the living beings were diminished. Which of them were taken away? Rav Ḥananel said that Rav said: Those with which they utter song. [For] here it is written: And with two he did fly. And one cried to another, and said, [Holy, holy, holy, is YHWH of armies: the whole land is filled with His glory] (Isaiah 6:2–3), and [elsewhere] it is written: Let your eyes but fly over it, it is gone [for it will surely sprout wings, like an eagle fly off to the heavens] (Proverbs 23:5). But our Rabbis said: Those with which they cover their feet, as is said, And their feet were straight feet (Ezekiel 1:7), and if these [wings] had not been taken away, how could he have known [that their feet were straight feet]! Perhaps, [their feet] were uncovered and he saw them. For if you do not say so, [then from the words], As for the likeness of their faces, they had the face of a man (ibid., 10), [one might infer] likewise that [the wings covering them] were taken away! Therefore they must have been uncovered, and he saw them; similarly here, they were uncovered, and he saw them. But how can they be compared? Granted that it is customary to uncover one’s face before one’s master, but it is not customary to uncover one’s feet before one’s master!…
Our Rabbis taught: Once Rabbi Yoḥanan son of Zakkai was riding on a donkey, travelling on the road, and Rabbi El’azar son of Arakh was guiding the donkey behind him. [Rabbi El’azar] said to him, ‘Master, teach me one chapter of the Account of the Chariot [based on Ezekiel’s vision].’ He replied, ‘Have I not taught you: “Nor [may one expound on the Account of the] Chariot in the presence of one, unless he is a sage who understands from his own knowledge”’? [Rabbi El’azar] replied, ‘Master, permit me to say before you one thing that you have taught me [in other words, he humbly requested to recite before him his own understanding of this matter].’ He replied, ‘Speak!’ Immediately, Rabbi Yoḥanan son of Zakkai dismounted from the donkey and enwrapped himself and sat upon a stone beneath an olive tree. [Rabbi El’azar] said to him, ‘Master, why did you dismount from the donkey’? He replied, ‘Is it possible that while you are expounding on the Account of the Chariot, and Shekhinah is with us, and the ministering angels accompany us, that I should ride on the donkey?’ Immediately, Rabbi El’azar son of Arakh opened with the Account of the Chariot, and fire came down from the heavens and engulfed all the trees in the field, whereupon they all burst into song.
What was the song they uttered? Praise YHWH from the earth, sea monsters and all you deeps… fruit trees and all the cedars… Hallelujah (Psalms 148:7–14). An angel [then] answered from the fire and said: This is the very Account of the Chariot. Rabbi Yoḥanan son of Zakkai rose and kissed him on his head and said: Blessed be YHWH God of Israel, who has given a son to Abraham our father, who knows how to understand, and to probe, and to expound on the Account of the Chariot [cf. Sefer Yetsirah §61]—there are some who preach well but do not practice well [lit., some who expound well but do not fulfill well], others practice well but do not preach well, but you preach well and practice well. Happy are you, O Abraham our father, that Rabbi El’azar son of Arakh has come forth from your loins.
Now when these things were told to Rabbi Yehoshu’a, he and Rabbi Yose the Priest were walking on the way. They said: Let us also expound on the Account of the Chariot [being only two, they would not be infringing the Mishnah’s law concerning the study of the Account of the Chariot]; so Rabbi Yehoshu’a opened and expounded. Now that day was the cycle of Tammuz [i.e., summer solstice]; [nevertheless] the heavens became overcast with clouds and a kind of rainbow appeared in the cloud [cf. Ezekiel 1:28], and the ministering angels assembled and came to listen like people who assemble and come to watch the rejoicing of a bridegroom and bride. Rabbi Yose the Priest went and related what happened before Rabbi Yoḥanan son of Zakkai [who] said: Happy are you, and happy is she that bore you; happy are my eyes that saw this. Moreover, in my dream, you and I were reclining on Mount Sinai, when an echo [went] from the heavens [saying]: Ascend here, ascend here! Large chambers and fine dining couches are prepared for you; you and your disciples and your disciples’ disciples are designated for the third class [of the seven classes admitted after death into the Divine Presence, see Midrash Tehillim on 11:7].
But is this so? For behold it is taught: Rabbi Yose son of Rabbi Yehudah said: There were three discourses: Rabbi Yehoshu’a discoursed before Rabbi Yoḥanan son of Zakkai, Rabbi Akiva discoursed before Rabbi Yehoshu’a, Ḥananya son of Ḥakhinai discoursed before Rabbi Akiva—whereas Rabbi El’azar son of Araq he does not count!—one who discoursed [himself], and others discoursed before him, he counts; one who discoursed [himself], but others did not discourse before him, he does not count. But behold there is Ḥananya son of Ḥakhinai before whom others did not discourse, yet he counts him! He at least discoursed before one who discoursed [before others, Ḥananya son of Ḥakhinai has to be mentioned on account of Rabbi Akiva, to show that the latter not only discoursed himself but that also another discoursed before him; but Rabbi El’azar son of Arakh did not discourse before a master who in his turn discoursed before others, nor did any one discourse before him, hence he is not counted]. The Rabbis taught: Four entered the פַּרדֵס (pardes), Orchard: Son of Azzai, and Son of Zoma, Aḥer and Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Akiva said to them, ‘When you come to the place of pure marble stones, do not say, ‘Water! Water!’ For it is said, A speaker of lies shall not stand firm before my eyes (Psalms 101:7).’ Son of Azzai glimpsed and died. Of him it says, Grievous in the eyes of YHWH is the death of His faithful ones (ibid. 116:15).
Son of Zoma glimpsed and was harmed. Of him it says, If you find honey, eat just what you need, lest you have your fill of it and throw it up (Proverbs 25:16). Aḥer cut down the shoots. Rabbi Akiva went out in peace” (BT Ḥagigah 11b, 13a–b, 14b).
“Rabbi Ḥanina son of Ḥakhinai says, ‘One who stays awake at night [without delving into Torah at this auspicious time, see BT Eruvin 65a], or one who walks on the way alone [unaccompanied by someone with whom he can discuss words of Torah, see BT Ta’anit 10b], or one who turns his heart to that which is futile—such a person endangers his life. Rabbi Neḥunia son of ha-Qannah said, ‘One who takes on himself the yoke of Torah will be spared the yoke of government and the yoke of a worldly occupation [lit., דֶּרֶךְ אֶרֶץ (derekh erets), way of the land], but one who throws off the yoke of Torah will bear the yoke of government and the yoke of worldly occupations” (M Avot 3:4–5).
“Rav Raḥmai’s disciples asked him: What is written: A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet upon shigionoth (Habakkuk 3:1)? A prayer—it should be praise. But whoever turns his heart from worldly affairs and delves into the Account of the Chariot is accepted before the blessed Holy One as if he prayed the entire day. It is therefore called prayer. What is שִׁגְיֹנוֹת (shigyonot), shigionoth? As is written, You will always תִּשְׁגֶּה (tishgeh), dote, in her love (Proverbs 5:19). What is this speaking of? The Account of the Chariot, as is written, YHWH, I have heard the report of You, am in awe, [O YHWH, of Your acts] (Habakkuk 3:2)” (Bahir §68, cf. ibid. §97).
“Rav Raḥmai said: What is, And the way of life—stern rebukes (Proverbs 6:23)? To teach that when a person accustoms himself to study the Account of Creation and the Account of the Chariot, it is impossible that he not stumble, as is written, This stumbling block is in your hand (Isaiah 3:6) [see BT Gittin 43a]—matters that no one can learn unless he stumbles in them. Now the Torah says, stern rebukes, but in truth he acquires the way of life. Thus, whoever wants to be worthy of the way of life endures stern rebukes” (Bahir §150).
“And in Ḥagigah [12a–13b] the question is asked: ‘How far does [the portion of] the Account of the Chariot extend?’ And the answer was given: ‘From וָאֵרֶא (va-ere), and I looked (Ezekiel 1:4) until חַשְׁמַל (ḥashmal), amber (ibid., 27)’—חַיּוֹת אֵשׁ מְמַלְּלוֹת (ḥayyot esh memallelot), fiery beings speaking. For from the side of Gevurah, they are called חֵיוָן אֶשָּׁא (ḥeyvan esha), beings of fire, and the river that flows from the perspiration of these living beings is Yesod. All three of them [Netsaḥ, Hod, and Yesod] form a chariot for the תִפְאֶרֶת אָדָם (Tif’eret Adam), Beauty of Man [Ze’eir Anpin].
The Account of the Chariot is Malkhut and in these three [Netsaḥ, Hod, and Yesod] are Ḥokhmah, Binah, and Da’at. For this reason the Masters of Mishnah taught: ‘One may not expound on the Account of the Chariot in the presence of one, unless he is a sage who understands from his own knowledge’ (BT Ḥagigah 13a).
And there is a chariot beneath זְּעֵיר אַנְפִּין (Ze’eir Anpin), Small Countenance, and he is מְטַטְרוֹן אָדָם הַקָּטָן (Metatron adam ha-qatan), Metatron the Lesser Man [cf. 3 Enoch §15, §73, §76; BT Yevamot 16b; Sanhedrin 38b]. And in his chariot, which is an orchard, they are hurrying from the sea of Torah, flowing out of his orchard to three of the four, about whom it was said that four entered the פַּרדֵס (Pardes), Orchard. And we have already learnt this….
When Ezekiel saw Shekhinah among the קְלִיפִּין (qelippin), shells [or: husks] he saw ten sefirot with Her, without any separation at all, and they are the מוֹחָא (moḥa), marrow, within them all. He saw them within the River כְּבָר (Kevar) down below, that is, The רֶכֶב (rekhev), chariots, of Elohim are myriads, [אַלְפֵי שִׁנְאָן (alfei shinan), thousands repeated] (Psalms 68:18)—every myriad is ten thousand; myriads—twenty thousand, from this you must remove two שֶׁאֵינָן (sheinan), which are lacking. Eighteen thousand are left, in sum: ח״י (eighteen) worlds which include ten sefirot, clothed in טֵ״ט (tet; eighteen) of מְטַטְרוֹן (Metatron). And טֵ״ט (tet) of טֹטָפֹת (totafot), frontlets, of which is said, And they shall be as frontlets between your eyes (Deuteronomy 6:8). What are eyes? They are those above [i.e., Ezekiel 1:18: As for their rims (or: brows), they had height and they had terror, for the rims (or: brows) of all four were covered all over with eyes], of which is said, [Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the River Kevar, that] the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of Elohim (Ezekiel 1:1). These are the ten מַרְאוֹת (marot), visions, of Metatron, whom [Ezekiel] saw as a candle within a lantern—nine uncovered; one covered….
The seventh embellishment: As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain (Ezekiel 1:28). The Rabbis said: The Account of the Chariot is from וָאֵרֶא (va-ere), and I looked (ibid. 1:4) until As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, this is the Account of the Chariot. And the Sages said further: When Rabbi El’azar son of Arakh expounded the Account of the Chariot fire came down from the heavens and engulfed the trees, and the ministering angels assembled as though at a wedding feast [cf. BT Ḥagigah 14b]. For there is no יִחוּדָא וְקִשּׁוּרָא (yiḥuda ve-qishura), unity and tying, of the Chariot to the Name יְהֹוָה (YHWH) with אֲדֹנָי (Adonai) except with the Righteous One—קֶשֶׁת (qeshet), Bow. In him יְאֲהַדֹוָנָהי (YAHDWNHY), the supernal Chariot, is complete.
Shekhinah is the Account of Creation, and it has been taught: ‘One may not expound on… the Account of Creation in the presence of two’ (M Ḥagigah 2:1). Because the branches of the Tree [which are the living beings], are divided above in the wings of the living beings, with יְהֹוָה (YHWH) to the right, and with אֲדֹנָי (Adonai) to the left, that the bridegroom is to the right while the bride is to the left. And when She is brought to the wedding canopy with a number of types of melody Israel must arouse them from below with songs and praises and all sorts of melody in prayer, for, behold, they are approaching the wedding canopy.
And Israel must give qiddushin to the bride [see M Qiddushin 1:1: ‘A woman is acquired in three ways, and she acquires herself in two ways. She is acquired through money, through a document, or through sexual intercourse’], with the knot of the hand tefillin, so that She be tied to Him, and crown them with the head tefillin, which is פְּאֵר (pe’er), glory, as is said, Bind פְּאֵרְךָ (pe’erkha), your turban, upon you, [and put on your shoes upon your feet, and cover not your lips, and eat not man’s bread of sorrow] (Ezekiel 24:17). And the three loops of the strap parallel the three holies: Holy, holy, holy (Isaiah 6:3), they declare you thrice holy. And they must be blessed with seven blessings, which are the seven blessings of the recitation of Shema: two before and one after in the morning, and two before and two after in the evening.
And the bride in the wedding canopy is in the form of the corners of tsitsit—מוּזְהָבוֹת (muzhavot), gilded [cf. מִשְׁבְּצוֹת (mishbetsot), Brocade, Filigree, see Exodus 28:13; Psalms 45:14; Bahir §53, §54, §63]. And the blue and the white are the Throne of Judgment and the Throne of Mercy, this contained in that. And there are a number of knots and links surrounding [the corners] with numerous pearls and precious stones; full of סְגוּלוֹת (segulot), treasures, surrounding it in the form of bells and pomegranates of the garments of the King and Matronita, which are the four vestments of white, and four vestments of gold, from the aspect of the two names: יְהֹוָה אֲדֹנָי (YHWH Adonai). Just as is His name, so is His throne, so is His wedding canopy, so is His garment. His name is marked on all when He wishes to let enter into His palace His groom and bride to be there, in the eighteen blessings of the prayer, which is As the appearance of the bow.
[And regarding the Amidah they taught:] ‘One may not expound on the Account of the Chariot in the presence of one,’ since he who expounds to a single person is with him [together] they are [really] two. And he should not let his voice be heard in prayer, for Her lips alone moving and her voice not heard (1 Samuel 1:13). And in this lies the mystery of and the stranger who draws near shall be put to death (Numbers 3:38). And so it is with prayer: one should pray quietly, that his prayer not be heard by his companion [this being what they meant when they said, ‘One may not expound on the Account of the Chariot in the presence of one’]. It is just as one who is expounding to his companion and he wants to hush the speech to him; he does not have to do anything other than speak in silence, and then his companion will not hear. All this is why the Rabbis taught, ‘One who raises his voice during his prayer is among those of little faith […. Rav Huna said: This was meant to apply only if he is able to concentrate his attention when speaking in a whisper, but if he cannot concentrate his attention when speaking in a whisper, it is allowed. And this is the case only when he is praying alone, but if he is with the congregation he may disturb the congregation]’ (BT Berakhot 24b).
And this is why the supernal beings of fire מְמַלְּלָן (memallelan), rustle, like the branches of the Tree, [which are the ministering angels] who assemble there at the rejoicing of a bridegroom and bride. And where is this to happen? At the unification of the recitation of Shema [the mystery of the wedding canopy] for there [it is said]: I heard the noise of their wings (Ezekiel 1:24). And there are sixty-four for each of the four wings, multiplied by four, reckoning two-hundred and fifty six, and this is: רָנּ״וּ (Rannu), sing with gladness, for Jacob (Jeremiah 31:6) [cf. Targum Yonatan ad loc.; Rashi ad loc.]. And when will this be? After He has wreaked vengeance on those who hate Him and burnt their deities, as is written: and when the wicked perish—רִנָּה (rinnah), glad song [numerically equivalent to two-hundred and fifty six, counting one for the word itself] (Proverbs 11:10).
And the sixty-four are derived from eight [iterations of] אָ״ז (az), then; and thus the sixty-four is [derived] from eight az. [And with the sixty-four on] each of the four sides is רָנּ״וּ (two-hundred and fifty six). And when he reaches ל״ב (thirty-two), which is four [iterations of] אָ״ז (az), then, which is four [times] ח״ (eight), י״ (ten) is attached from every side, making חַי יְהוָה (ḥai Adonai), YHWH lives (Psalms 18:47) in the ח״י (eighteen) blessings of the [Amidah] prayer, in which there are eighteen iterations of YHWH, for a total of seventy-two [letters, see Psalms 29]. At the time YHWH is joined with Adonai by the Vitality of the Worlds, [namely:] יְאֲהדֹוָנָהי (YAHDWNHY). Immediately, the beings of fire fall silent. What is written of them? When they stood, they let down their wings (Ezekiel 1:24)—when Israel stands in prayer they let down their wings, that their presence should not be felt, until that time [they fall silent].
And this is Her lips alone moving and her voice not heard (1 Samuel 1:13). Lips—wings of the living beings. For the חַשְׁמַל (ḥashmal), amber, was [previously] חֵיוָן אֶשָּׁא מְמַלְּלָן (ḥeyvan esha memal’lan), fiery beings speaking, while [now] they are silent [cf. BT Ḥagigah 13b: In a baraita it is taught: [חַשְׁמַל (Ḥashmal), means], עִתִים חֲשׁוֹת עִתִים מְמַלְּלוֹת (itim ḥashot itim memallelot), at times they are silent, at times they speak—when an utterance emanates from the mouth of the blessed Holy One they are silent, and when an utterance does not emanate from the mouth of the blessed Holy One they speak; ZḤ 38b]. And this is why silent prayer was ordained, and thus the Account of the Chariot is without sound, for he speaks there to himself in a whisper.
Three prayers were ordained [Shaḥarit, Minḥa, and Ma’ariv] and in each one YHWH is [iterated] eighteen [times], making seventy-two letters in each [Amidah] prayer, in the [concluding sentences of each of the] eighteen blessings, [and three times seventy-two] makes 216 [letters] that are included in חֶסֶד (Ḥesed) [numerically equivalent to seventy-two]. [Three times seventy-two], together with the thirty-two paths comes to 250 less two [namely 248, the numerical value of אַבְרָהָם (Avraham) who corresponds to Ḥesed (see Bahir §8)] that are included in the middle pillar.
From what is said about the sacrifices, prayer can be learned, and prayer is deduced from the sacrifices. Just as is said [above about prayer], I heard the noise of their wings (Ezekiel 1:24), so with regard to the Cherubs [which are the mystery of sacrifice, namely of the unification of the holy Name YHWH and Adonai that is attained through sacrifice, as is said, And when Moses came into the Tent of Meeting to speak with Him,] he would hear the voice being spoken to him [from above the covering that is over the Ark of the Covenant, from between the two cherubim, and He would speak to him] (Numbers 7:89). Just as with the ramp [of the altar], on which sacrifices and burnt offerings ascend and descend, so in the prayer two angels ascend and two descend. And so it was at Mount Sinai, where Moses and Aaron ascended the mountain and descended; two went up and two came down. And all the decrees of Torah are implied in this decree [of prayer].
And thus, when Rabbi Akiva would open the Account of the Chariot, his mouth was Sinai and his voice was a ladder on which angels ascended and descended [סִינַי (Sinai) and סֻלָּם (sullam), ladder, are numerically equivalent; סוּלָּם (sullam), ladder, and קוֹל (qol), voice, are numerically equivalent (Ba’al ha-Turim), cf. Genesis 28:12: and, look, סֻלָּם (sullam), a ramp, was set against the ground with its top reaching the heavens, and, look, messengers of God were going up and coming down it]. With each and every word of his the angel Metatron would ride. He is a carriage for Shekhinah, for within him are the sefirot of the middle pillar, which is יוֹד הֵא וָאו הֵא (Yod He Vav He). They are within, while the Shekhinah, comprised of ten sefirot, is without. And the blessed Holy One and His Shekhinah are רֶכֶב וּמֶרְכָּבָה (rekhev u-merkavah), Carriage and Chariot. The middle pillar is a carriage to the Cause of Causes, while His Shekhinah is a carriage for the middle pillar. And the Cause of Causes is the unity of all, the order of all, and shines within all. His light passes through soul, body and garment, but there is no change in Him, no partnership, reckoning, figure, nor image of any chariot, appearance, nor an imagining the mind’s eye can perceive. The upper and lower rungs convey and are a chariot for Him, but over Him, none ride” (Zohar 3:222b, 226b, 229b–230a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).