The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

תולדות ישו (Toledot Yeshu) The Genealogy of Jesus

Salvator Mundi attributed to Leonardo da VinciIn the year 3671 in the days of King Jannaeus, a great misfortune befell Israel, when there arose a certain disreputable man of the tribe of Judah, whose name was Yosef Pandera. He lived at Bethlehem, in Judah.

Near his house dwelt a widow and her lovely and chaste daughter named Miriam. Miriam was betrothed to Yoḥanan, of the royal house of David, a man learned in the Torah and God-fearing.

At the close of a certain Sabbath, Yosef Pandera, attractive and like a warrior in appearance, having gazed lustfully upon Miriam, knocked upon the door of her room and betrayed her by pretending that he was her betrothed husband, Yoḥanan. Even so, she was amazed at this improper conduct and submitted only against her will [the author may well be poking fun at the Christian genealogies when he (too) highlights the Davidic lineage of Yoḥanan, the man who did not impregnate Miriam].

Thereafter, when Yoḥanan came to her, Miriam expressed astonishment at behavior so foreign to his character. It was thus that they both came to know the crime of Yosef Pandera and the terrible mistake on the part of Miriam. Whereupon Yoḥanan went to Rabban Shim’on son of Shetah and related to him the tragic seduction. Lacking witnesses required for the punishment of Yosef Pandera, and Miriam being with child, Yoḥanan left for Babylonia [alt., Egypt].

Miriam gave birth to a son and named him יְהוֹשֻׁעַ (Yehoshu’a), Joshua, after her brother. This name later deteriorated to (Yeshu), Jesus [cf. BT Arakhin 32b: “Scripture reproved Joshua, for in all passages it is spelt: יְהוֹשֻׁעַ (Yehoshu’a), Joshua, but here, יֵשׁוּעַ (Yeshu’a), Joshua (Nehemiah 8:17)”]. On the eighth day he was circumcised. When he was old enough the lad was taken by Miriam to the house of study to be instructed in the Jewish tradition.

One day Jesus walked in front of the sages with his head uncovered, showing shameful disrespect. At this, the discussion arose as to whether this behavior did not truly indicate that Jesus was an illegitimate child and the son of a niddah. Moreover, the story tells that while the rabbis were discussing the tractate Neziqin, he gave his own impudent interpretation of the law and in an ensuing debate he held that Moses could not be the greatest of the prophets if he had to receive counsel from Jethro. This led to further inquiry as to the antecedents of Jesus, and it was discovered through Rabban Shim’on son of Shetah that he was the illegitimate son of Yosef Pandera. Miriam admitted it. After this became known, it was necessary for Jesus to flee to Upper Galilee.

After King Jannaeus, his wife Helene [Salome Alexandra] ruled over all Israel. In the Temple was to be found the Foundation Stone on which were engraved the letters of the Ineffable Name. Whoever learned the secret of the Name and its use would be able to do whatever he wished. Therefore, the sages took measures so that no one should gain this knowledge. Lions of brass were bound to two iron pillars at the gate of the place of burnt offerings. Should anyone enter and learn the Name, when he left the lions would roar at him and immediately the valuable secret would be forgotten.

Jesus came and learned the letters of the Name; he wrote them upon the parchment which he placed in an open cut on his thigh and then drew the flesh over the parchment. As he left, the lions roared and he forgot the secret. But when he came to his house he reopened the cut in his flesh with a knife an lifted out the writing. Then he remembered and obtained the use of the letters.

He gathered about himself three hundred and ten young men of Israel [cf. BT Sanhedrin 100a: “The blessed Holy One will give to every righteous man three hundred and ten worlds, as is written, So I may endow those who love Me with substance, and fill their treasuries (Proverbs 8:21)—now the numerical value ofׁ יש (yesh), substance, is 310”]. He accused those who spoke ill of his birth of being people who desired greatness and power for themselves. Jesus proclaimed, “I am the Messiah; and concerning me Isaiah prophesied and said, Behold, a young woman shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14).” He quoted other texts, insisting, “David my ancestor prophesied concerning me: YHWH, He said to me: You are My son. I Myself today did beget you (Psalms 2:7).”

The insurgents with him replied that if Jesus was the Messiah he should give them a convincing sign. They therefore, brought to him a lame man, who had never walked. Jesus spoke over the man the letters of the Ineffable Name, and the one afflicted with skin blanch was healed. Thereupon, they worshipped him as the Messiah, Son of the Highest.

When word of these happenings came to Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin decided to bring about the capture of Jesus. They sent messengers, Annanui and Ahaziah, who, pretending to be his disciples, said that they brought him an invitation from the leaders of Jerusalem to visit them. Jesus consented on condition the members of the Sanhedrin receive him as a lord. He started out toward Jerusalem and, arriving at Knob, acquired a donkey on which he rode into Jerusalem, as a fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah [see Zechariah 9:9: Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, your king comes unto you: he is just, and rescued; lowly, and riding upon a donkey, and upon a colt the foal of a donkey].

The sages bound him and led him before Queen Helene, with the accusation: “This man is a sorcerer and entices everyone.” Jesus replied, “The prophets long ago prophesied my coming: And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, [and a Branch shall grow out of his roots] (Isaiah 11:1), and I, I am He (Deuteronomy 32:39); but as for them, Scripture says Happy the man who has not walked in the wicked’s counsel (Psalms 1:1).”

Queen Helene asked the sages: “What he says, is it in your teaching?” They replied: “It is in our teaching, but it is not applicable to him, for it is in Scripture: But the prophet who willfully speaks a word in My name, which I have not charged him to speak in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die (Deuteronomy 18:20). He has not fulfilled the signs and conditions of the Messiah.”

Jesus spoke up: “Madam, I am the Messiah and I revive the dead.” A dead body was brought in; he pronounced the letters of the Ineffable Name and the corpse came to life. The Queen was greatly moved and said: “This is a true sign.” She reprimanded the sages and sent them humiliated from her presence. Jesus’ dissident followers increased and there was controversy in Israel.

Jesus went to Upper Galilee. The sages came before the Queen, complaining that Jesus practiced sorcery and was leading everyone astray. Therefore she sent Annanui and Ahaziah to fetch him.

They found him in Upper Galilee, proclaiming himself the Son of God. When they tried to take him there was a struggle, but Jesus said to the men of Upper Galilee: “Wage no battle.” He would prove himself by the power which came to him from his Father in Heaven. He spoke the Ineffable Name over the birds of clay and they flew into the air. He spoke the same letters over a millstone that had been placed upon the waters. He sat in it and it floated like a boat. When they saw this the people marveled. At the behest of Jesus, the emissaries departed and reported these wonders to the Queen. She trembled with astonishment.

Then the sages selected a man named Yehudah Isqarioto and brought him to the Sanctuary where he learned the letters of the Ineffable Name as Jesus had done.

When Jesus was summoned before the queen, this time there were present also the sages and Yehudah Isqarioto. Jesus said: “It is spoken of me, I will ascend into the heavens (Isaiah 14:13).” He lifted his arms like the wings of an eagle and he flew between the heavens and earth, to the amazement of everyone.

The elders asked Isqarioto to do likewise. He did, and flew toward heaven. Isqarioto attempted to force Jesus down to earth but neither one of the two could prevail against the other for both had the use of the Ineffable Name. However, Isqarioto defiled Jesus, so that they both lost their power and fell down to the earth, and in their condition of defilement the letters of the Ineffable Name escaped from them [according to an Italian manuscript (Leipzig BH 17 1–18): … he performed anal sex on him. Once he soiled him, and his seed went out from him (Leviticus 15:32), both of them fell to the ground. And all of the sages of the nations knew this secret and hid it, and cursed and banned Yehudah Isqarioto. And when they have a quarrel with another person, they say to him, “May what Yehudah Isqarioto did to Jesus be done to you!”]. Because of this deed of Yehudah they weep on the eve of the birth of Jesus [the Ninth of Tevet (December 24th C.E.)].

Jesus was seized. His head was covered with a garment and he was smitten with pomegranate twigs; but he could do nothing, for he no longer had the Ineffable Name.

Jesus was taken prisoner to the synagogue of Tiberias, and they bound him to a pillar. To allay his thirst they gave him vinegar to drink. On his head they set a crown of thorns. There was strife and wrangling between the elders and the unrestrained followers of Jesus, as a result of which the followers escaped with Jesus to the region of Antioch [alt., Egypt]; there Jesus remained until the eve of the Passover.

Jesus then resolved to go the Temple to acquire again the secret of the Name. That year the Passover came on a Sabbath day. On the eve of the Passover, Jesus, accompanied by his disciples, came to Jerusalem riding upon an donkey. Many bowed down before him. He entered the Temple with his three hundred and ten followers. One of them, Yehudah Isqarioto apprised the sages that Jesus was to be found in the Temple, that the disciples had taken a vow by the Ten Commandments not to reveal his identity but that he would point him out by bowing to him. So it was done and Jesus was seized. Asked his name, he replied to the question by several times giving the names Mattai, Nakki, Buni, Netzer, each time with a verse quoted by him and a counter-verse by the sages.

Jesus was put to death on the sixth hour on the eve of the Passover and of the Sabbath. When they tried to hang him on a tree it broke, for when he had possessed the power he had pronounced by the Ineffable Name that no tree should hold him. He had failed to pronounce the prohibition over the cabbage stalk [alt., carob stalk], for it was a plant more than a tree, and on it he was hanged until the hour for afternoon prayer, for it is written in Scripture, [And should there be against a man a death-sentence offense and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree,you shall not let his corpse stay the night on the tree [but you shall surely bury it on that day, for a hanged man is God’s curse…] (Deuteronomy 21:23). They buried him outside the city.

On the first day of the week his bold followers came to Queen Helene with the report that he who was slain was truly the Messiah and that he was not in his grave; he had ascended to heaven as he prophesied. Diligent search was made and he was not found in the grave where he had been buried. A gardener had taken him from the grave and had brought him into his garden and buried him in the sand over which the waters flowed into the garden.

Queen Helene demanded, on threat of a severe penalty, that the body of Jesus be shown to her within a period of three days. There was a great distress. When the keeper of the garden saw Rabbi Tanḥuma walking in the field and lamenting over the ultimatum of the Queen, the gardener related what he had done, in order that Jesus’ followers should not steal the body and then claim that he had ascended into heaven. The sages removed the body, tied it to the tail of a horse and transported it to the Queen, with the words, “This is Jesus who is said to have ascended to heaven.” Realizing that Jesus was a false prophet who enticed the people and led them astray, she mocked the followers but praised the sages.

The disciples went out among the nations—three went to the mountains of Ararat, three to Armenia, three to Rome and three to the kingdoms buy the sea, they deluded the people, but ultimately they were slain.

The erring followers amongst Israel said: “You have slain the Messiah of the Lord.” The Israelites answered: “You have believed in a false prophet.” There was endless strife and discord for thirty years.

The sages desired to separate from Israel those who continued to claim Jesus as the Messiah, and they called upon a greatly learned man, Shim’on Kefa, for help. Shim’on went to Antioch, main city of the Nazarenes and proclaimed to them: “I am the disciple of Jesus. He has sent me to show you the way. I will give you a sign as Jesus has done.”

Shim’on, having gained the secret of the Ineffable Name, healed one afflicted with skin blanch and a lame man by means of it and thus found acceptance as a true disciple. He told them that Jesus was in heaven, at the right hand of his Father, in fulfillment of YHWH’s utterance to my master: “Sit at My right hand till I make your enemies a stool for your feet” (Psalm 110:1). He added that Jesus desired that they separate themselves from the Jews and no longer follow their practices, as Isaiah had said, Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates: [they are a trouble unto me; I am weary of bearing them] (Isaiah 1:14). They were now to observe the first day of the week instead of the seventh, the Resurrection instead of the Passover, the Ascension into Heaven instead of the Feast of Weeks, the finding of the Cross instead of Rosh Hashanah, the Feast of the Circumcision instead of the Yom Kippur, the New Year instead of Ḥanukkah; they were to be indifferent with regard to circumcision and the dietary laws. Also they were to follow the teaching of turning the right if smitten on the left and the meek acceptance of suffering. All these new ordinances which Shim’on Kefa (or Paul, as he was known to the Nazarenes [cf. Acts 5:34, 22:3]) taught them were really meant to separate these Nazarenes from the people of Israel and to bring the internal strife to an end.


From the North Gold Flows

IMG_0953Silver has a crucible and gold a kiln, and YHWH tries hearts (Proverbs 17:3).

“Rabbi Yonatan said, ‘A potter does not test a weak vessel, for if he hits it just once, he will break it….’ Rabbi Yose son of Ḥaninah said, ‘When a flax maker knows that the flax is in good shape, then the more he beats it, the more it will improve and glisten’” (Bereshit Rabbah 55:1).

“This world is like a mustard seed in a ring. Why? Because of the [encircling] wind that beats it and sustains it. If this wind were to stop, the world would wither in an instant” (Bahir §179).

“Rav Ḥanan son of Abba has said in the name of Rav: Four winds blow every day and the north wind with all of them, for without this the world could not endure a single moment. The south wind is the most harsh, and were it not that the [angel] Son of Hawk stays it with his wings it would destroy the world, as it says, The hawk wing opens by Your understanding, spreads his wings toward the south (Job 39:26)—no; what it means is that it is the תְּדִירָה תְּדִירָה (tedirah tedirah), constant abode, of Shekhinah [שְׁכִינָה (shekhinah), Divine Presence, from לְשַׁכֵּן (le-shaken), ‘to dwell.’ She is also called דַּר (dar), Dweller]. For so said Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi: Let us be grateful to our ancestors for showing us the place of prayer, as is written, the heaven of heavens, with all their armies bow down to You (Nehemiah 9:6).

Rav Aḥa son of Ya’aqov protested: Perhaps, [the sun and moon bow down to the east], like a servant who has received a reward from his master and retires backwards, bowing as he goes [i.e., the verse refers to the sun and moon at their setting and not at their rising, and hence the Shekhinah is in the east]. This [indeed] is a difficulty. Rabbi Oshaya expressed the opinion that the Shekhinah is בְּכָל מָקוֹם (ba-khol maqom), everywhere. For Rabbi Oshaya said: What is the meaning of the verse, You, even You, are YHWH alone; You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, [with all their armies, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and You enliven them all] (ibid.). Your messengers are not like the messengers of flesh and blood. Messengers of flesh and blood return to the place from which they have been sent, but Your messengers return [and report on] their mission from the [very same] place which they have been sent, as it says, You send lighting bolts on their way, and they say to You, ‘Here we are!’ (Job 38:35). It does not say, they will come and say, but rather, on their way and they say, which shows that Shekhinah is everywhere.

Rabbi Yishma’el also holds that Shekhinah is everywhere, since the academy of Rabbi Yishma’el taught: From where do we know that Shekhinah is everywhere? Because it says, And, behold, the messenger that talked with me went forth, and another messenger went out to meet him (Zechariah 2:7). It does not say, went out after him, but went out to meet him. This shows that Shekhinah is everywhere. Rav Sheshet [the blind] also held Shekhinah is everywhere, because [when desiring to pray] he used to say to his attendant: Set me facing any way except the east. And this was not because Shekhinah is not there, but because the sectarians advise turning to the east. Rabbi Abbahu, however, said that Shekhinah is in the west; for so said Rabbi Abbahu: What is אוֹרִיָּה (oriyyah) [a Persian word meaning ‘evening,’ and by extension ‘west’]? It is equivalent to אֲוִיר יָהּ (avir Yah), divine air.

Rav Yehudah said: What is, Let my teaching יַעֲרֹף (ya’arof), drop, like rain (Deuteronomy 32:2)?—the west wind which comes מֵעָרפּוֹ (me-arpo), from the back, of the world [i.e., the sea, which is at the western side of the land of Israel]. My saying תִּזַּל (tizzal), flow, like dew (ibid.): this is the north wind which מַזָּלֶת אֶת הַזָּהָב (mazzelet et ha-zahav), makes gold flow, and so it says: הַזָּלִים זָהָב (Ha-zalim zahav), who pours gold, from the purse (Isaiah 46:6). Like שְׂעִירִם (se’irim), showers, on the green (Deuternomy ibid.): this is the east wind which rages through the world like a שָׂעִיר (sa’ir), goat-demon. And like cloudbursts on the grass (ibid.): this is the south wind which brings up showers and causes the grass to grow.

It has been taught: Rabbi Eli’ezer says that the world is like a veranda, and the north side is not enclosed, and so when the sun reaches the north-west corner, it swings round and returns [to the east] above the firmament. Rabbi Yehoshu’a, however, says that the world is like a tent, and the north side is enclosed [cf. Genesis 4:7: at the tent flap sin crouches], and when the sun reaches the north-west corner it circles and goes back behind the dome [till it reaches the east], as it says, [The sun rises and the sun sets, and to its place it glides, there it rises.It goes to the south and swings round to the north (Ecclesiastes 1:5–6): it goes to the south—by day, and swings round to the north—by night. Round and round goes the wind, and on its rounds the wind returns (ibid.): this refers to the eastern and western sides of the heavens, of which the sun sometimes goes round them and sometimes traverses [i.e., it goes round them in winter when it is below the horizon, and it traverses them in summer when it is above the horizon].

He [Rabbi Yehoshu’a] used to say: We have arrived at the view of Rabbi Eli’ezer, [since we have learnt]: From the sky-chamber comes the tempest (Job 37:9): this is the south wind; and from the wind’s dispersal the cold (ibid.): this is the north wind [which is open, and from which a cold wind comes]. From the breath of אֵל (El) the ice is made (ibid., 10): this is the west wind: and wide waters turn solid (ibid.): this is the east wind.’ But doesn’t the Master say that it is the south wind which brings showers and makes the grass grow?—there is no contradiction; when the rain falls gently [it is from the south], and when it falls heavily [it is from the east].

Rav Ḥisda said: What is meant by the verse, From the north gold comes (Job 37:22)? This refers to the north wind which makes gold flow; and so it says: Who pours gold from the purse (Isaiah 46:6).

Rafram son of Papa said in the name of Rav Ḥisda: Since the day when the Temple was destroyed the south wind has not brought rain, as it says, And he decreed on the right hand, and there was hunger; and he devoured on the left hand, and they were not satisfied: [they shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm] (Isaiah 9:19); and it is written, The north and the south, You created them (Psalms 89:13).

Rafram son of Papa also said in the name of Rav Ḥisda: Since the day when the Temple was destroyed, rain no longer comes down from the ‘good treasury,’ as it says, YHWH will open for you His goodly treasure (Deuteronomy 28:12): When Israel act according to the will of the Omnipresent and are settled in their own land, then rain comes down from a ‘good treasury,’ but when Israel are not settled on their own land, then the rain does not come down from a ‘good treasury’ [cf. Bahir §155; Zohar 2:161b; Rashi on BT Yevamot 62a].

Rabbi Yitsḥaq said: He who desires to become wise should turn to the south [when praying], and he who desires to become rich should turn to the north. And your mnemonic is that the table [in the Tabernacle] was to the north of the altar and the candlestick to the south [the table being the symbol of plenty, and the candlestick of knowledge]. Rabbi Yehoshu’a son Levi, however, said that he should always turn to the south, because through obtaining wisdom he will obtain wealth, as it says, length of days are in her right hand, in her left hand wealth and honor (Proverbs 3:16). But was it not Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi who said that Shekhinah is in the west?—[he means that] one should turn aside [slightly] to the south. Rabbi Ḥanina said to Rav Ashi [of Babylon]: Those like you who live to the north of the land of Israel should turn to the south. How do we know that Babylon is to the north of the land of Israel?—as is written [in a prophecy concerning the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians:] From the north, evil will be let loose on the inhabitants of the land (Jeremiah 1:14)” (BT Bava Batra 25a–b).

“They asked [Rabbi Akiva]: ‘Why is ח (ḥet) open? And why is its vowel a small pataḥ?’ He said: ‘Because all the רוּחוֹת (ruḥot), winds [or: directions], are closed up, except for the north, which is open for good and for evil.’ They said: ‘How can you say that it is for good? Is it not written, And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire engulfing itself (Ezekiel 1:4). Fire—nothing other than flaring anger, as is written, And fire came out from before YHWH and consumed them (Leviticus 10:2).’ He said: ‘There is no difficulty. One speaks of when Israel does the will of the Omnipresent, while the other speaks of when they do not do His will. When Israel does not do His will, then the fire draws near. But when they do His will, then the quality of Compassion encompasses and surrounds, as is written, Who pardons offences, and passes over rebellion (Micah 7:18).’

A parable: To what can the matter be compared? A king wanted to punish and whip his servants. One hegemon stood up and asked the reason for this punishment. When the king described the offence he said, ‘Your servants never did such a thing. I will be their bondsman until you investigate it more thoroughly.’ In the meantime, the king’s anger was calmed” (Bahir §34–§35).

From the north, evil will be תִּפָּתַח (tipataḥ), let loose, on the inhabitants of the land (Jeremiah 1:14).

“What is פַּתַח‬ (pataḥ)? It is an פֶּתַח (petaḥ), opening. Which opening? The north wind, open to all the world. It is the gate from which good and evil emerge. And what is good? [Rabbi Akiva] mocked them, saying: ‘Did I not tell you that it is a small pataḥ?’ They said: ‘We have forgotten, teach us a second time.’ He reviewed, saying: ‘A parable: A king had a throne. Sometimes he carried it on his arm, and sometimes on his head.’ ‘Why?’ they asked. ‘Because it was beautiful and he was hesitant to sit on it.’ They asked: ‘And where did he place it on his head?’ He replied: ‘In the open מ (mem), as is written, Truth from the earth will spring up, as justice from the heavens looks down (Psalms 85:12).’

Rabbi Amorai sat and expounded: What is the meaning of YHWH loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob (Psalms 87:2)? The gates of Zion, are the פִּתְחֵי עוֹלָם (pitḥei olam), portals of the world (Psalms 24:7). Now a gate is nothing other than an portal. Therefore we say, ‘Open the gates of Mercy for us.’ YHWH said: I love the gates of Zion when they are open. Why? Because they are on the side of evil. But when Israel does good before YHWH and are worthy that good be opened for them, then He loves them—more than all the dwellings of Jacob. They are all peace, as is written, Jacob was a simple man, a dweller in tents [cf. Zohar 1:167b: ‘a consummate man’] (Genesis 25:27).

This is like two men, one who is driven to do evil but does good, and the other who is driven to do good but does evil. Who is more praiseworthy? The one who is driven to do evil and does good, for he may do good again. It is therefore written: YHWH loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. They are all peace, as is written, Jacob was a simple man, a dweller in tents” (Bahir §37–§39).

“The blessed Holy One has a quality whose name is רָעָה (ra’ah), Evil. It is to the north of the blessed Holy One, as is written: From the north, evil will be let loose on all the inhabitants of the land (Jeremiah 1:14)—any evil that comes to all inhabitants of earth comes from the north.

What is this quality? It is the likeness of a hand. It has many messengers [i.e., fingers], and the name of them all is Evil. Some of them are big and some are small, but they all bring guilt to the world. This is because תֹהוּ (tohu), Chaos, is toward the north. Tohu is nothing other than רָעָה (ra’ah), Evil. It תָּהָא (taha), confounds, the world and causes people to offend. Every evil impulse that exists in man comes from there. And why is it placed to the left? Because it does not have any authority nor any place in the world except in the north [which is to one’s left when facing the rising sun in the east]. It is not accustomed to be anywhere except in the north. It does not want to be any place but in the north. If it remained in the south until it learned the manner of the south, how could it lead others astray? It would have to stay there days until it learned, and then it could not cause people to offend. It therefore is always in the north, to the left. This is the meaning of For the devisings of the human heart are evil from youth (Genesis 8:21). It is evil from his youth, and it does not incline other than to the left, for it is already accustomed to being there. It is regarding this that the blessed Holy One said to Israel If you really heed the voice of YHWH your God, and do what is right in His eyes, and hearken to His commands (Exodus 15:26)—not to the commands of the evil impulse. And keep all His statutes (ibid.)—not the statutes of the evil impulse [all the sickness that I put upon Egypt I will not put upon you,for I am YHWH your healer (ibid).

What does the evil impulse gain? What is this like? A king appointed clerks over the provinces of his kingdom, over his work and over his goods. Everything had its clerk. There was one clerk in charge of the storehouse containing fine food. Another was in charge of the storehouse containing stones. Everyone came to the storehouse containing fine food. The clerk in charge of the storehouse of stones came and saw that people were only buying from the other clerk. What did he do? He sent his messengers to raze the weak house. However, to the strong ones they could not do so. He said, ‘In the time that it takes to raze one of the strong, you can raze ten of the weak. People will then all come and buy stones from me, and I will not be inferior to the other.’ Therefore it is written, From the north, evil will be let loose on all the inhabitants of the land (Jeremiah 1:14). It then continues, For, I will call all the families of the kingdoms of the north, says YHWH; and they shall come, and they shall set everyone his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem (ibid., 15). Evil will be their trade, and the evil impulse will also constantly strive. הַשָׂטָן (Ha-satan), the adversary, turns aside, since he weighs down the whole world on the scale of liability. How do we know? As is written, and he turned aside to her (Genesis 38:16), and the Targum renders this וּסְטָא (u-seta), and he turned aside. It is likewise written שְׂטֵה (seteh), turn away, from it and pass on (Proverbs 4:15)” (Bahir §162–§164).

“And what is from there is the Shepherd, Israel’s Stone (Genesis 49:24)? That from There Israel’s Stone is sustained. What is it by name? Indeed, say: Supernal Justice [Binah]. What is it? The great צָפוּן (tsafun), hidden, light, called סֹחָרֶת (soḥaret), Dark. And the stone below is called דַּר (dar), Mother-of-Pearl” (Bahir §193).

“As for [Binah] being called צְפוֹנִית (tsefonit), north, this is because She is supernally concealed, and from Her side issues north and judgments are aroused from Her side—even though She is compassion and joy, as we have already established. When She emerges, north emerges within Her, included and connected with דָרוֹם (darom), south” (Zohar 3:120a).

I will Descend and Confine My Shekhinah within One Square Cubit

IMG_0941“Rabbi Yoḥanan said: The blessed Holy One—wherever you find His strength you find His meekness” (BT Megillah 31a).

And they shall make an ark of acacia wood (Exodus 25:10). Thus it is written, Shaddai, whom we find not, is lofty in power (Job 37:23). Our great teacher [Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nasi] said: We are indebted to Job, because he added to everything Elihu said. Job said to his companions: ‘Do you imagine that even all you have said exhausts His praise? Who can declare all the praises and mighty deeds of the blessed Holy One? All the things you have said, Why, these are but the least of His ways [the tag-end of the word that is heard of Him] (ibid. 26:14).

Elihu said: Shaddai, whom we find not lofty in power. He that hears this verse may exclaim: ‘Perhaps, perish the thought, this is blasphemy!’ [since Elihu expressed it so ambiguously as to make it possible to think that he was actually blaspheming]. But this is what Elihu meant: We will never find the blessed Holy One’s power [fully] displayed towards any of His creatures, for He does not visit His creatures with burdensome laws, but comes to each one according to his strength. For know that if blessed Holy One had come upon Israel with the full force of His strength when He gave them the Torah, they would not have been able to withstand it, as it says, If we hear again the voice of YHWH our God, we shall die (Deuteronomy 5:22). However, He came upon them according to their individual strength, for it says, YHWH’s voice in power (Psalms 29:4). It does not say in His power but in power, that is, according to the strength of each individual [cf. Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana 12:25].

Another interpretation: Shaddai, whom we find not, is lofty in power—when the blessed Holy One said to Moses, Make Me a Tabernacle, [that I may abide in their midst] (Exodus 25:8), he exclaimed in amazement, ‘The Glory of the blessed Holy One fills the heavens and earth, and yet He commands: Make Me a Tabernacle! Moreover, he saw prophetically that Solomon would one day build a Temple, much larger than the Tabernacle, and yet would say before the blessed Holy One: But can אֱלֹהִים (Elohimreally dwell on earth? Look, the heavens and the heavens beyond the heavens cannot contain You. How much less this house that I have built (1 Kings 8:27).

If Solomon said this of the Temple which was so much greater than the Tabernacle, then how much more could this be said of the Tabernacle? For this reason Moses said: He who dwells in the Most High’s shelter (Psalms 91:1), which Rabbi Yehudah son of Rabbi Shim’on explained: He who dwells in the shelter is Most High above all His creatures; and what does it mean by בְּצֵל (be-tsel), in the shadow of, Shaddai (ibid.)? בְּצַלְ אֵל (Be-tsal El), in the shadow of God. It does not say here In the shadow of the Compassionate, or In the shadow of the Gracious, but In the shadow of Shaddai; that means, in the shadow which בְּצַלְאֵל (Betsalel), Bezalel, constructed; and for this reason it says, In the shadow of Shaddai lies at night. The blessed Holy One said, ‘Not as you think do I think; twenty boards on the north, twenty on the south and eight in the west [suffices Me]; moreover, I will descend וַאֲצַמְצֵם (va-atsamtsem), and confine, My Shekhinah within one square cubit [cf. BT Berakhot 8a: ‘Rabbi Ḥiyya son of Ammi in the name of ‘Ulla: Since the day that the Temple was destroyed, the blessed Holy One has nothing in this world but the four cubits of Halakhah alone’]” (Shemot Rabbah 34:1).

Close is YHWH to all who call Him, to all who call to Him in truth (Psalms 145:18).

“Rabbi Pinḥas said in the name of Rabbi Yehudah son of Shim’on, ‘An idol appears to be near, but is actually far… the blessed Holy One appears to be far yet nothing is closer than He… like a person who speaks into his fellow’s ear and he hears him. And is it possible that a god could be closer to his creatures than this? For He is so close to His creatures it is as if they speak directly into His ear” (JT Berakhot 9:1, 13b).

“An idol is near but far. The blessed Holy One is far but near” (Devarim Rabbah 2:6).

From afar, YHWH appeared to me, saying, I love you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:2).

Rabbi Shim’on son of Azzai said: The Glory of which is written, The heavens and earth I fill (Jeremiah 23:24)—see how love for Israel caused the Glory to דָחָק (daḥaq), compress, as it were, in order to appear over the cover [of the Ark of the Covenant] between the two cherubim!” (Sifra, Nedavah 2, cf. Tanḥuma, Vayakhel, 7).

I am אֵל שַׁדַּי (El Shaddai). Walk in My presence and be blameless, and I will grant My covenant between Me and you (Genesis 17:1).

“Rabbi Yehudah raised a contradiction: [and the cherubim sheltered the Ark and its poles from above. And the poles extended, andthe ends of the poles could be seen [from the Holy Place in front of the sanctuary] (1 Kings 8:8), and it is written but they could not be seen from without (ibid.)—how is that possible? They were seen and not seen. Therefore it was also taught: ‘The ends of the poles could be seen—one might have assumed that they did not protrude from their place, thus it says: And the poles extended. One might assume that they tore the curtain and emerged, thus it says: but they could not be seen from without. How then? They pressed forth and protruded as the two breasts of a woman, as is said: A sachet of myrrh is my lover to me, all night between שָׁדַי (shaddai), my breasts (Song of Songs 1:13)’” (BT Yoma 54a).

A sachet of myrrh is my lover to me (Song of Songs 1:13)—of all the spices, none is sweeter than this myrrh. Similarly, the blessed Holy One is the most fitting thing in the world. And why does he compare the blessed Holy One to a sachet? Because it is written of Him: [Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? says YHWH.Do I not fill the heavens and earth? says YHWH (Jeremiah 23:24). But He צַמְצֵם (tsamtsem), contracts, His Shekhinah between the poles of the Ark, as it says, all night between my breasts (Song of Songs, ibid.)” (Midrash Shir ha-Shirim 15b [Grünhut]).

Mother of Pearl and Black Pearl: He Took a Fraction of Her Radiance and Made a Lovely Precious Stone

Pearl Nature Black Work Shell HD Background“Was light created on the first day? For, behold, it is written: And God placed [the two great lights] in the vault of the heavens (Genesis 1:17), and it is written: And it was evening and it was morning, fourth day (ibid., 19)—this is according to Rabbi El’azar. For Rabbi El’azar said: With the light the blessed Holy One created on the first day one could gaze from one end of the universe to the other; but as soon as the blessed Holy One foresaw the generation of the Flood and the generation of the Dispersion [i.e., the generation which built the Tower of Babel], and saw that their actions were corrupt, He arose and hid it away from them, as is said: The light of the wicked is withheld (Job 38:15). And for whom did He hide it? For the righteous in the time to come, for it is said: And God saw the light, that it was good (Genesis 1:4); and good means only the righteous, for it is said: Say you to the righteous, that it shall be good: [for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds] (Isaiah 3:10). As soon as the light saw that it had been treasured away for the righteous, it rejoiced, as is said: The light of the righteous rejoices (Proverbs 13:9)” (BT Ḥagigah 12a).

“It was taught: The light which was created in the six days of Creation cannot shine during the day because it dims the orb of the sun, nor by night, because it was created only to shine by day. Then where is it? It is treasured away  for the righteous in the time still to come, as it says, Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of the seven days, [in the day that YHWH binds up the hurt of His people, and heals the stroke of their wound] (Isaiah 30:26). Seven! surely there were only three, seeing that the luminaries were created on the fourth day! It is like a man who says, ‘I am providing so much for the seven days of my [wedding] feast. Rabbi Neḥemyah said: It refers to the seven days of mourning for Methuselah, when the blessed Holy One lavished light upon them [see BT Sanhedrin 108b]” (Bereshit Rabbah 3:6).

“Rabbi Yehudah son of Simon said, ‘With the light created by the blessed Holy One on the first day, one could gaze and see from one end of the universe to the other. When the Holy One foresaw the corruption of the generation of Enosh and the generation of the Flood, He hid it away from them, as is written: The light of the wicked is withheld (Job 38:15). Where did He hide it? In the Garden of Eden. אוֹר זָרֻעַ לַצַּדִּיק וּלְיִשְׁרֵי לֵב שִׂמְחָה (Or zaru’a la-tsaddiq u-le-yishrei simḥa), Light is sown for the righteous, joy for the upright in heart (Psalms 97:11) [ר עֲקִיבַה (R. Akiva)]” (Vayiqrah Rabbah 11:7).

“God said, ‘Let there be light!’ And there was light (Genesis 1:3)—primordial, transcendent light, already existent. From here issued all powers and forces, so Earth turned firm and fragrant, generating Her potencies. As the light shone, its radiance blazed from one end of the universe to the other. When it gazed upon the wicked of the world, it hid itself away, emerging only by its paths, concealed, unrevealed….

God said, ‘Let there be light!’ This is the light that the blessed Holy One created at first. It is the light of the eye. This is the light that the blessed Holy One showed Adam, who gazed with it from one end of the universe to the other” (Zohar 1:30b, 31b).

“Look at what we have learned in our Mishnah: With the light that the blessed Holy One created at first, one could gaze and see from the beginning of the world to its end. Come and see: The light of the sun is a sixty-thousand-and-seventy-fifth of the light of the speculum of the concealed light. If even at this light of the sun a person cannot gaze, how much more so at that light!

Yet we have said that a person could see with it from the beginning of the world to the end of the world! Well, so have we decreed in our Mishnah: With that light, a person could know and see—with the radiance of wisdom—all that was and all that will be, from the beginning of the world to the end of the world, and it has been concealed for the righteous in the world to come. What is meant by ‘in the world to come’? When the holy soul leaves this world and enters the world to come [cf. Tanḥuma, Vayiqra, 8: ‘The wise call it הַעוֹלָם הַבּא (ha-olam ha-ba), the world to come, not because it does not exist now, but for us today in this world it is still to come’; Zohar 3:290b (IZ): ‘The world that is coming, constantly coming, never ceasing’]” (Zohar Ḥadash 15b, Midrash ha-Ne’lam).

“Rabbi Neḥunyah son of ha-Qannah said: One verse says, They have not seen the light, bright though it be in the skies (Job 37:21). Another verse says, He set darkness His hiding-place round Him (Psalms 18:12), and it is also written, Cloud and dense fog around Him (Psalms 97:2). ‘A third verse comes and reconciles them’ (Baraita de-Rabbi Yishma’el 13), as is said, Darkness itself will not darken for You, and the night will light up like the day, the dark and light will be one (Psalms 139:12)” (Bahir §1).

Torah is light (Proverbs 6:23).

“Rabbi Boi said: I was set up from eternity, from the beginning, before the earth (Proverbs 8:23). What is מֵעוֹלָם (me-olam), from eternity? A matter necessary לְהֵעָלֵם (le-he’alem), to conceal, from all. Therefore it is written: The world, too, He has put in their heart [without man’s grasping at all what it is God has done from beginning to end] (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Do not read הָעֹלָם (ha-olam), the world, but rather הַעֲלָםָ (ha-alama), the concealing. Torah is saying, ‘I was first, so that I might be the beginning of the world,’ as is said, I was set up from eternity, from the beginning. You may think that the earth was before her, thus: before the earth (ibid). And what [was] בָּרָא (bara), created (Genesis 1:1)? All that was needed, then אֱלֹהִים (Elohim). Only then is it written: the heavens and the earth (ibid.)” (Bahir §10).

“Rabbi Berekhiyah said, ‘Why is it written, God said, ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light (Genesis 1:3), and not [simply] ‘And there was?’ This can be compared to a king who had a beautiful object and set it aside until he had prepared a place for it; then he placed it there, as is written: ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light—for it already was” (Bahir §25).

Unveil my eyes that I may look upon the wonders of Your Torah (Psalms 119:18).

“And Rabbi Yoḥanan said: There were two [iterations of] ‘light,’ as is written, [And God said, ‘Let there be light.’] And there was light (Genesis 1:3). Regarding both of them it is written, it was good (ibid., 4). The blessed Holy One took one and hid it for the righteous in the World that is Coming. Of this is written, How great Your goodness that You hid for those who fear You. You have wrought for those who shelter in You [before the eyes of humankind] (Psalms 31:20). We learn that no creature could gaze upon the primordial light [cf. Shemot Rabbah 35:1]. Therefore it is written, it was good. Furthermore it is written, And God saw that it was good (Genesis 1:21). The blessed Holy One saw all that He had made, and saw good—מַזְהִיר (mazhir), radiant, בָּהִיר (bahir), brilliance. He took of that good, and included in it the thirty-two paths of Wisdom, giving it to this world. This is the meaning of, For good learning I have given you, do not forsake My teaching (Proverbs 4:2). Say this is the treasury of Oral Torah.

The blessed Holy One said, ‘This quality is included in this world, and it is Oral Torah. If you keep her in this world, then you will be worthy of the World that is Coming, which is the good treasured away for the righteous.’ What is it? It is His strength. Therefore it is written, And His glow is as the light (Habakkuk 3:4). The glow that was taken from the primordial light will be [manifest] light if His children keep the teaching and the commandments that I have written to instruct them (Exodus 24:12) [cf. Zohar 2:166b].’ Therefore it is written, Hear, My son, your father’s reproof, and do not forsake your mother’s teaching (Proverbs 1:8).

And it is written, He has rays at His side: and there is His strength hidden (Habakkuk 3:4). What is His strength hidden? The light that was concealed: that You hid for those who fear You (Psalms 31:20). As is said: You have wrought for those who shelter in You (ibid.)—those who take refuge in Your shadow in this world, who keep Your teaching, and fulfill Your commandments. Who sanctify Your great Name, unifying it in private and in public, as it says: before the eyes of humankind (ibid.)” (Bahir §147–§148).

“Rabbi Berakhiyah sat and expounded: Each day we speak of הַעוֹלָם הַבּא (ha-olam ha-ba). Do we then understand what we are saying? The Targum renders this as עָלְמָא דְאָתֵי (alma de-atei), the World to Come. But what is it? We learned that before the world was created, it arose in thought to create a great shining light. A light so bright was created no creature could control it. When the blessed Holy One saw that no one could bear it, He took one-seventh and gave it to them in its place. The rest He treasured away for the righteous in the time to come, saying, ‘If they prove worthy of this seventh and guard it, I will give them the rest in the final world.’ It is therefore called the עוֹלָם הַבּא (olam ha-ba), World that is Coming, since it already came [before] the six days of Creation. Regarding this it is written, How great Your goodness that You hid for those who fear You (Psalms 31:20) [cf. Tanḥuma, Vayiqra, 8; Zohar 3:290b (IZ)]” (Bahir §160).

“And what is the fear of God? It is the primordial light. Thus Rabbi [Me’ir] said: Why is it written God said, ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light?’ (Genesis 1:3). Why does it not say, ‘and it was so?’ But this teaches that the light was so overwhelming that no creature could gaze upon it. The blessed Holy One therefore concealed it for the righteous in the time still to come. This is the quality of all סְחֹרָה (seḥorah), goods, in the world. It is also the power of the precious stones called דַּר וְסֹחָרֶת (dar ve-soḥaret), mother-of-pearl and black pearl (Esther 1:6) [see BT Megillah 12a]. And what is the quality of mother-of-pearl? To teach you that the blessed Holy One took a fraction of her radiance and made a lovely precious stone. In her He included all the commandments” (Bahir §190).

I am שְׁחוֹרָה (sheḥorah), dark, but desirable (Song of Songs 1:5), the speculum that does not shine but Father and Mother adorned Her so that Her husband be pleased with Her” (Zohar 1:49b).

“And what is from there is the Shepherd, Israel’s Stone (Genesis 49:24)? That מִשָּׁם (mi-sham), from There, Israel’s Stone is sustained [וְשָׁם (ve-sham), and There, is His strength hidden (Habakkuk 3:4)]. What is מִשֶּׁם (mishem), it by name? Indeed, say: צֶדֶק עֶליוֹן (tsedeq elyon), supernal Justice [upper ShekhinahBinah]. What is it? The great hidden light called סֹחָרֶת (Soḥaret) [which סְחוֹר סְחוֹר (seḥor seḥor), surrounds, everything, cf. Zohar 3:120a]. And the stone below is called דַּר (dar), Dweller [i.e., lower שְׁכִינָה (Shekhinah), Presence, from לְשַׁכֵּן (le-shaken), ‘to dwell,’ see Seder Rabba de-Vereshit: ‘Shekhinah is below just as Shekhinah is above’].

What is He has rays at מִיָּדוֹ (mi-yado), His side (Habakkuk 3:4)? These are the five fingers of the right יָד (yad), hand” (Bahir §193). 

“A precious stone set in a crown, as is written, the stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone (Psalms 118:22). It ascends to the place from which it was hewn, as is written, from there is the Shepherd, Israel’s Stone (Genesis 49:24)” (Bahir §91).


They Searched and Found One Flask of Oil Laying Undisturbed with the Seal of the High Priest: Blessings from Above Manifest Only at a Site of Substance, not Emptiness

tumblr_inline_nxrdmyLDHu1sfjjkp_1280.jpgAnd you shall make a lamp stand of pure gold…. Take you clear oil of beaten olives for the light, to kindle a lamp perpetually (Exodus 25:31, 27:20).

“What is Ḥanukkah? The Rabbis taught: On the twenty-fifth of Kislev the eight days of Ḥanukkah begin on which a lamentation for the dead and fasting are forbidden. For when the Greeks entered the Temple they defiled all the oils that were in the Temple, yet when the Hasmonean dynasty prevailed against and defeated them, they searched and found one flask of oil laying undisturbed with the seal of the High Priest. However, there was enough for only one day’s lighting. A miracle occurred and they lit from it eight days. The following year these [days] were appointed a Festival with Hallel and thanksgiving” (BT Shabbat 21b).

“Come and see how the character of the blessed Holy One differs from that of flesh and blood. In the case of flesh and blood, an empty vessel holds [more], but not a full one. However, the blessed Holy One is not so: a full vessel holds [more], but not an empty one” (BT Berakhot 40a).

And a certain woman from the wives of the acolyte prophets had cried out to Elisha, saying, “Your servant, my husband, died. And you know that your servant was a YHWH fearer. And the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves.” And Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?” And she said, “Your servant has nothing at all in the house except a flask of oil.” And he said, “Go, borrow vessels for yourself from outside, from all your neighbors—empty vessels, and not just a few. And you shall come and close the door behind you and behind your sons, and you shall pour into these vessels, and the full ones you shall set aside.” And she went from him and closed the door behind her and behind her sons. They were bringing the vessels to her and she was pouring. And it happened when the vessels were full that she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel,” and he said to her, “There are no more vessels.” And the oil stopped. And she came and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debt, and you and your sons will live off what is left (2 Kings 4:1–7).

Tell me, what do you have in the house? (2 Kings 4:2)… for supernal blessings settle only upon a place that is complete [i.e., full and not empty]. This is the mystery of In the heart of all who are wise-hearted I have set wisdom (Exodus 31:6), and similarly, He gives wisdom to the wise (Daniel 2:21) [cf. BT Berakhot 55a in the name of Rabbi Yoḥanan. On blessing not appearing in an empty place, see BT Sanhedrin 92a, in the name of Rabbi El’azar; Naḥmaindes on Exodus 25:24; Zohar 1:88a–b, 240a, 250a; 2:63b, 67a, 87b–88a, 154b–155a, 157b; 3:34a]” (Zohar 2:157b).

“Every wise person has his eyes and his words on his head, focused on Who is resting right there. With his eyes there he knows that the light kindled on his head needs oil. For the human body is a wick, and a light is kindled above. King Solomon cried out: Let… your head not lack oil (Ecclesiastes 9:8)—the light on one’s head needs oil, the oil of good deeds!” (Zohar 3:187a).

“Why is Israel compared to an olive? To teach that just as the olive does not produce its oil until it is crushed, so too Israel does not return except through suffering” (BT Menakhot 53b).

The Nature of the Wisdom of Kabbalah by Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag (Ba’al ha-Sullam)

Ba'al ha-Sullam PortraitBefore I start to elucidate the history of the wisdom of Kabbalah, discussed by many, I find it necessary to begin with a thorough clarification of the nature of this wisdom, which I believe so few know. And of course, it is impossible to speak of the history of something before we know the thing itself. Although this knowledge is wider and deeper than the ocean, I will make the greatest effort, with all the strength and knowledge I have acquired, to clarify and illuminate it from all perspectives, enough for any soul to draw the right conclusions, as they truly are, without leaving room for the fools to mislead themselves, as is often the case in such matters.

What does the Wisdom revolve around?

This question arises for any intelligent person. To answer it properly I will give a reliable and lasting definition: This wisdom is no more and no less than a sequence of roots, hanging down by way of cause and effect, according to absolute laws, interweaving for a single sublime purpose, called “The revelation of His divinity to His creatures in this world.” And here there is general and particular:

General—the whole of humanity, obligated to come to this great undertaking in the end, as is written, [They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain:] for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of YHWH, as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9); And they shall teach no more every man his fellow, and every man his brother, saying, Know YHWH: for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, [says YHWH: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their offence no more] (Jeremiah 31:33); Yet shall your Teacher not be moved into a corner any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher (Isaiah 30:20).

Particular—even before the perfection of the whole of humanity, this matter is fulfilled in a chosen few individuals in each and every generation. These are the ones who are endowed, in each generation, with certain degrees of revelation of His divinity, blessed be He. And these are the prophets and men of the Name.

And as our sages said, “There is no generation which does not contain men like Abraham… and Jacob, [Moses, and Samuel]” (Bereshit Rabbah 56:7). Thus you see that the revelation of His divinity is brought about in each generation, as our sages, whom we find trustworthy, say.

The multiplicity of פַּרצוּפִים (partsufim), configurations, סְפִירוֹת (sefirot), and עוֹלָמוֹת (olamot)worlds

However, according to the above, a question arises. Since this wisdom has but one, unique, clear purpose, why is there a multiplicity of partsufim, sefirot, and interchangeable connections, which are so abundant in books of Kabbalah? Indeed, if you take the body of a small animal, whose only task is to nourish itself so that it exist in this world long enough to father and propagate its species, you will find in it a complex structure of millions of fibers and tendons, as physiologists and anatomists have discovered. And there is much there that humans have yet to discover. From here you may draw the analogy of a vast array of networks [lit., chariots and channels] that must connect in order to actualize that sublime purpose.

Two conducts—from above downwards and from below upwards

This wisdom is generally divided into two parallel, identical sequences, like two drops in a pond. The only difference between them is that the first sequence emanates from above downwards, to this world, and the second sequence travels from below upwards, precisely by the same ways and chariots fixed at the root when they appear from above downwards. The first is called “the descending sequence of the olamot, partsufim, and sefirot,” in all their manifestations, whether enduring or transient. The second is called “attainments, or degrees, of prophecy and רוּחַ הַקוֹדֶשׁ (ruaḥ ha-qodesh), the Holy Spirit.” One rewarded with this must follow the same paths and ways, attaining each degree one by one, precisely by the same laws fixed in them upon their emanation from above downwards. A revelation of divinity does not appear immediately, but gradually, over a period of time, depending on the cleansing of the attainment, until one discovers all the degrees from above downwards. And because they come one after the other, and one above the other like rungs of a ladder, they are called מַדרֵגוֹת (madregot), “rungs.”

Abstract names

Many believe that all the words and the names in the wisdom of Kabbalah are abstractions. This is so because it engages with what is divine and spiritual, which is above time and space, where even our imagination has no power. For this reason they conclude that surely, these matters speak only of abstractions, even more sublime and exalted than abstractions, as from the outset they are totally devoid of imaginings. But this is not the case. On the contrary, Kabbalah uses only names and appellations that are concrete and real. It is an unbending rule for all the kabbalists that, “All that we do not attain, we do not define by name or word” [cf. Rabbi Azriel of Gerona, Commentary on the Ten Sefirot, in Rabbi Me’ir ibn Gabbai, Derekh Emunah, 2b–c: “Ein Sof cannot be conceived, certainly not expressed, though it is intimated in every thing, for there is nothing outside of it. No letter, no name, no writing, no thing can confine it”]. Here you must know that הַשָׂגָה (hasagah), “attainment,” implies grasping the final rung. Derived from the expression, “within תַּשִּׂיג (tasig), reach.” That is before something becomes absolutely apparent to the eyes, as though held in the hands, the kabbalists do not consider it attained, but only “understood,” and so forth.

The concreteness of the wisdom of Kabbalah

There are things, even in the material reality set before our eyes, whose essence we have no perception of. Such as electricity or magnetism, [formerly] called “fluidum.” Nevertheless, who can say that these terms are not true, when we know their function vividly? We could not be more indifferent to the fact that we have no appreciation of the essence of the thing itself, as with electricity.

This name, “electricity,” is as tangible for us as though it were entirely perceived by our senses. Even little children are familiar with the word, as well as they are familiar with words like “bread,” “sugar,” and so on. Moreover, if you wish to exercise your tools of perception a little, I will tell you that in general, as there is no perception of the Creator whatsoever, so too it impossible to apprehend the essence of any of His creations, even things we can touch with our hands.

Thus, all we know of our companions and those close to us in the world of actualization before us is nothing more than acquaintance with their activity, stirring our senses, which render us complete satisfaction although we have no perception whatsoever of the essence of the thing. Furthermore, you have no perception or attainment whatsoever even of yourself. All you know of yourself is nothing more than the activity emanating from your essence.

Now we can easily see that all the names and appellations that appear in books of Kabbalah are indeed concrete, even though we have no attainment in the matter at all. This is because those who engage in it are satisfied with their sense of its ultimate perfection, meaning only an awareness engendered by the encounter of the supernal light and those who attain it. Yet, this is quite sufficient, for this is the rule: “All that is reckoned and emerges from His providence, blessed be He, so as to be actualized in Creation, is completely satisfactory.” Similarly, one cannot hope for a sixth finger on one hand, because five fingers are quite sufficient.

The value of concrete language in the books of Kabbalah

Any reasonable person will understand that when dealing with spiritual matters, much less with the divine, we have no words or letters with which to contemplate. This is because our entire vocabulary is but combinations of letters of our senses and imagination. Yet, how can they be of assistance where there is neither imagination nor senses? Even if we take the subtlest thing we can in such matters, namely “supernal light,” or even “simple light,” it is still imaginary and borrowed from the “light of the sun,” “candlelight,” or the “light of satisfaction” one feels upon resolving some great doubt. Yet, how can we use these in spiritual matters or divine ways? They [seem to] offer nothing more than falsehood and deceit. Especially where one needs to find some rationale in these words to help him negotiate the research of this wisdom. Here the sage must employ rigorously accurate concrete definitions for those who seek.

Should the sage fail with a single word, he is certain to confuse and lead astray. One will not understand what he is saying at all, neither before or after, nor anything connected to that word, as is known to anyone who examines books of wisdom. Thus, one should wonder how is it possible for the kabbalists to use false words to explain the interconnections in this wisdom? Also, it is known that there is no definition by means of a false name, for “a lie has no legs” (BT Shabbat 104a), and no stance. Indeed, here one must have prior knowledge of the law of root and branch by which the worlds link to one another.

The law of root and branch by which the worlds are linked

The kabbalists have discovered that the form of the four worlds, namely אֲצִילוּת (atsilut), Emanation, בְּרִיאָה (beri’ah), Creation, יְצִירָה (yetsirah), Formation, and עֲשִׂיָה (assiyah), Actualization, beginning with the first and highest world, Atsilut, and ending in this material, tangible world, Assiyah, is exactly the same in any particular instance. This means that all that occurs in the first world is found unchanged in the next world below it as well. So too in all the worlds that follow, down to this tangible world. There is no difference between them, only a difference of rung, perceived in the substance of each world. The substance of the elements of reality in the first supernal world, is more refined than in all the ones below it. And the substance in the second world is more coarse than in that of the first world, yet more pure than all of a lower rung.

Similarly, this continues down to this world before us, whose substance of the elements in reality is coarser and darker than in all the worlds preceding it. However, the forms and elements of reality and all their phenomenon come unchanged and equal in every world, both in quantity and quality. They compared it to the impress of a seal: all of the seal’s contours and intricate details are perfectly transferred to the impression. So too with the worlds, in which each lower world is a replica of the world above it. Hence, all the contours of the higher world are meticulously copied, in both quantity and quality, in the lower world [see BT Sanhedrin 37a; Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 3b].

Hence, there is no element of reality, nor a single phenomenon in a lower world, for which you will not find the likeness of in the world above it, as identical as two drops in a pond. And they are called שׁוֹרֶשׁ (shoresh), root, and עָנָף (anaf), branch. Which is to say, any detail in the lower world is deemed the branch of its model, the root, in the higher world.

That was the intention of our sages when they said, “You cannot find a single blade of grass below that does not have a מַזָּל (mazal), constellation [or: flux], in the sky, striking it and telling it: ‘Grow!’” (Bereshit Rabbah 10:6) [cf. ZḤ 57a]. It follows that the root, called mazal compels it to grow and assume its quality and quantity, as with the impress of a seal. This is the law of root and branch, which pertains to every detail and phenomenon in reality—in each and every world, and in relation to the world above it.

The language of the kabbalists is a language of branches

This means that the branches point to their roots, being their דוּגמָאוֹת (doogma’ot), models, that necessarily exist in the upper world. This is because there is nothing in the reality of the lower world that is not drawn down from its upper world. As with the impress of a seal, the root in the upper world compels its branch in the lower world to reveal its entire form and content, as our sages said, that the mazal in the world above, corresponding to the “grass” in the world below, strikes it, forcing it to acheive its full growth. Because of this, each and every branch in this world defines its model fixed in the higher world very well.

Thus, the kabbalists have found a lexicon sufficient for an excellent spoken language. It allows them to converse with one another on the phenomena of the spiritual roots in the supernal worlds by merely mentioning the lower, material branch in this world that is well defined for our senses. Those who hear understand the supernal root to which this material branch points because it correlates to it, being its impression. Thus, all that exists in this material creation and all its phenomena have for them become familiar words and names, indicating their supernal roots. Although there cannot be a verbal expression in their spiritual place, as they are above any imagination, they have earned the right to be expressed by their branches, arrayed before our senses here in the material world.

This is the nature of the spoken language among the kabbalists, by which they convey their spiritual attainments from person to person and from generation to generation, both by word of mouth and in writing. They fully understand one another, with all the requisite accuracy for negotiating the research of this wisdom, by precise definitions with which he cannot fail. This is so because each branch has its own natural, unique definition, and this absolute definition points to its root in the supernal world.

Bear in mind that this language of branches in the wisdom of Kabbalah is better suited to explain the terms of the wisdom than any of our conventional languages. It is known from the theory of Nominalism that the tongues have been corrupted in the mouths of the masses. Due to excessive use, words have been emptied of their content and there are great difficulties conveying precise inferences by word of mouth or in writing. This is not case with Kabbalah’s Language of the Branches: it is derived from the names of the creatures and their phenomena, set before our eyes, and, as I said by the unalterable laws of Nature. Those who read or listen will never be led astray into misunderstanding the words presented to them, since these natural definitions are utterly unwavering and cannot be breached.

Conveyance from a wise kabbalist to an understanding disciple

Thus wrote Naḥmanides in the introduction to his Torah commentary: “And I bring with true covenant to all who scrutinize this book, that of all the hints that I write in the Secrets of Torah, I resolutely assert that my words will not be grasped by any mind or intellect, except from the mouth of a wise Kabbalist to the ear of an understanding recipient.” Likewise, Rav Ḥayyim Vital wrote in his introduction to Ets Ḥayyim, and also, in the words of our sages: “The Account of the Chariot is not expounded to one, unless he is a sage and understands of his own knowledge” (BT Ḥagigah 11b).

Their words are thoroughly understood when they say that one must receive from a wise kabbalist. However, why the necessity for a disciple to first be wise and understanding with his own mind? Moreover, if he isn’t so, then he must not be taught, even if he is the most righteous person in the world. Additionally, if one is already wise and understands with his own mind, what need has he to learn from others?

From the aforementioned, their words are understood with utter simplicity: We have seen that all the words and utterances of our lips cannot help us convey even a single word of spiritual, divine matters, above imagined time and space. Instead, there is a special language for these matters, being the Language of the Branches, indicating their relation to their supernal roots.

However, this language, though very well suited for its task of delving into this wisdom, more than other languages, is only so if the listener is wise in his own right, meaning that he knows and understands the way the branches correspond to their roots. It is because these relations are not at all clear when looking from below upwards. In other words, it is impossible to find any deduction or semblance in the supernal roots by observing the lower branches.

Quite the contrary, the lower is studied from the upper. Thus, one must first attain the supernal roots, the way they are in spirituality, above any imagination, with pure attainment. And once he has thoroughly attained the supernal roots with his own mind, he may examine the tangible branches in this world and know how each branch corresponds to its root in the supernal world, with all its sequences, in quantity and quality.

When one knows and thoroughly understands all this, there is a common language between him and his master, namely the Language of the Branches. Using it, the kabbalist may convey studies in the wisdom, conducted in the upper, spiritual worlds, both the ones he has received from his masters, as well as his expansion of the wisdom, which he discovered on his own. This is because now they have a common language and they understand each other.

However, when a disciple is not wise and comprehends the language on his own, meaning how the branches point to their roots, naturally, the master cannot convey even a single word of this spiritual wisdom, much less negotiate with him in the scrutiny of the wisdom. This is so because they have no common language they can use, and they become like a mute. Thus, it is necessary that the wisdom of Kabbalah will not be taught unless he is wise and understands with his own mind.

We must ask further: How then, has the disciple grown so wise as to know the relations of branch and root by tracing the supernal roots? The answer is that here one’s efforts are in vain. It is divine assistance that we need. He fills those who capture His fondness with wisdom, understanding, and knowledge to acquire sublime attainment. Here it is impossible to be assisted by any flesh and blood. Indeed, once He grows fond of a man and has endowed him with sublime attainment, he is then ready to come and receive the vastness of the wisdom of Kabbalah from a wise kabbalist, for only now do they have a common language [cf. BT Berakhot 55a: “Rabbi Yoḥanan said: The blessed Holy One gives wisdom only to one who already has wisdom, as it says, In the heart of every wise-hearted man I have set wisdom (Exodus 31:6). Rav Taḥalifa from the West (i.e., Israel) heard and repeated it before Rabbi Abbahu. He said to him: You learn it from there, but we learn it from here: He gives wisdom to the wise (Daniel 2:21).” On blessing not appearing in an empty place, see Naḥmaindes on Exodus 25:24; Zohar 1:88a–b, 240a, 250a; 2:63b, 67a, 87b–88a, 154b–155a, 157b; 3:34a].

Appellations foreign to the human spirit

With all that is said above, you will understand why we sometimes find appellations and terms quite foreign to the human spirit in books of Kabbalah. They abound in the principal books of Kabbalah, which are the Zohar and the Tiqqunim, and the books of the Ari. It is indeed baffling why these sages used such lowly appellations to express lofty, holy notions [for example: Zohar 3:97a–b, 152b, 255a–b (both RM)].

Yet, once you have acquired these notions you will understand fully. This is because it is now clear that no language in the world can be used to expound the wisdom, except one intended for just that purpose, namely the Language of the Branches, corresponding to their supernal roots. Thus, obviously, no branch or the appearance of a branch should be neglected because of its inferior rung, or not be used to express the desired idea in the network of the wisdom, since there is no other branch in our world to take its place.

As “two hairs do not suck from the same follicle” (BT Bava Batra 16a) so we do not have two branches that pertain to the same root. Hence, by neglecting any phenomenon, we forfeit the spiritual idea corresponding to it in the supernal world, since we do not have a single word to utter in its place, with which to indicate that particular root. In addition, such incidents impair the entire wisdom in all its vastness, since there is a missing link in the chain connected to that idea. This damages the entire wisdom, for there is no other wisdom in the world in which matters are so thoroughly interconnected by way of cause and effect as with the wisdom of Kabbalah—connected head to toe just like a long chain.

Therefore, even with a brief lapse in understanding, the entire wisdom darkens before our eyes, for all its parts are powerfully linked to each other, coalescing into one, literally. And from now on there is no wonder at the occasional use of strange appellations. They have no freedom of choice with appellations, to substitute the bad with the good, or the good with the bad. They must always use the branch or the phenomenon which points precisely to its supernal root with all the requisite measure. Moreover, they must broaden matters until they can be brought into focus for their fellow observers.

A Thousand Years in Your eyes are like Yesterday Gone

083.011.003 (1)“It has been taught: Rabbi Abba said in the name of Rabbi Yoḥanan, ‘Before the blessed Holy One created the world, He and His Name were one. It arose in His mind to create the world, and He created first a thousand worlds, as is said: the thousand are yours, Solomon (Song of Songs 8:12). Afterward He created other worlds—to show that all is naught before Him” (Zohar Ḥadash 2d, cf. Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 3).

“[Rabbi Yehudah said:] I learned from father in the mysteries of letters of the Holy Name, the duration of the world and the days of Creation—all a single mystery” (Zohar 1:117a).

“Rav Qattina said: The world is six thousand years, and one is desolate, as is written, And YHWH alone shall be exalted in that day (Isaiah 2:11). Abbaye said: It is desolate two, as is said, After two days will He revive us: on the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight (Hosea 6:2) [see Rabbi David ben Yehudah he-Ḥasid, Sefer Mar’ot Ha-Zove’ot, 106:13].

It has been taught in accordance with Rav Qattina: Just as the seventh year is one year of release in seven, so is the world: one thousand years out of seven shall be fallow, as is written, And YHWH alone shall be exalted in that day, and it is further said, A psalm, a song for the Sabbath day (Psalms 92:1)—the day that is altogether Sabbath. It is also said, For a thousand years in Your eyes are like yesterday gone (Psalms 90:4).

The Tanna debe Eliyyahu teaches: The world is six thousand years. Two thousand תֹּהוּ (tohu), chaos; two thousand תּוֹרָה (torah), Law; two thousand years the days of Messiah” (BT Sanhedrin 97a).

And there was evening (Genesis 1:5). Rabbi Yehudah son of Rabbi Shim’on said: It is not written let there be evening, but rather and there was evening: hence we know that an order of time existed before this. Rabbi Abbahu said: The blessed Holy One kept creating worlds and destroying them until He created these [i.e., heavens and earth]. Then He declared, ‘These please Me, those do not.’ Rabbi Pinḥas said: This is Rabbi Abbahu’s reason: And God saw all that He had done, and, look, it was very good (Genesis 1:31): ‘These please Me, those do not’” (Bereshit Rabbah 3:7).

“Rabbi Tanḥuma opened: Everything He has עָשָׂה (asah), done, aptly in its time (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Rabbi Tanḥuma said: The world was created in its time, and the world was not fit to be created earlier. Rabbi Abbahu said: Hence we learn that the blessed Holy One was creating worlds and destroying them, creating worlds and destroying them, until He created these [i.e., the heavens and earth], and then He said: ‘These please Me, those do not.’ Rabbi Pinḥas said: This is Rabbi Abbahu’s reason: And God saw all that He had עָשָׂה (asah), done, and, look, it was very good (Genesis 1:31): ‘These please Me, those do not’” (Bereshit Rabbah 9:2).

“Rabbi Berakhiyah said: It is written, And the earth was welter and waste (Genesis 1:2). Was—what does it mean? Welter, already was” (Bahir §2).

“It has been taught: The Book of Concealment, a book balanced on scales. For until there was a balance, they did not gaze face-to-face, and the primordial kings died and their weapons vanished and the earth was nullified. Until the head of Desire of all Desires arranged and bestowed garments of glory [on ‘a balance,’ see Bereshit Rabbah 12:15; on ‘they did not gaze face-to-face,’ see BT Bava Batra 99a; on ‘the primordial kings,’ see Genesis 36:31–39].

This balance hangs in a place that is not; weighed upon it were those who did not exist. The balance stands on its own, ungrasped and unseen. Upon it rose and upon it rise those who were not, and who were, and who will be.

Secrecy within secrecy was prepared and arranged in a single skull filled with crystalline dew. Membrane of air, purified and sealed; those strands of clean fleece hanging evenly. Will of Wills is revealed through prayer of those below [on the forehead as expressing the Will, see Zohar 3:129 (IR) on Exodus 28:38]. Open-eyed watching, never sleeping, ever vigilant; supervision below by supervision of radiance above. Two nostrils of an official arousing breath for all [as a nose supervising commandingly, cf. Zohar 3:137b–138a (IR); on טַלָּא דִּבְדוֹלְחָא (talla di-vdulḥa), crystalline dew, cf. Rashi on Numbers 11:7; Ibn Ezra on Genesis 2:12].

בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ (Be-reshit bara Elohim et ha-shamayim ve-et ha-arets), In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). שִׁיתָא (Shita), six [words]—בְּרֵאשִׁית (be-reshit), in the beginning, above them. All of them are below, suspended from the seven [features] of the skull until Glory of Glories [cf. BT Shabbat 152a: ‘The glory of a face is the beard’].

The second earth is not included in the calculation, as has been said, and it emerged from that which was cursed, as is written: from the soil that YHWH cursed (Genesis 5:29). הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ וְחֹשֶׁךְ עַל פְּנֵי תְהוֹם וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים מְרַחֶפֶת עַל פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם (Hayetah tohu va-vohu ve-ḥoshekh al penei tehom ve-ruaḥ Elohim meraḥefet al penei ha-mayim), Was waste and empty, with darkness over the face of the abyss and the wind of God hovering over the face of the waters (ibid. 1:2)—thirteen [words] suspended from thirteen [‘strands of clean fleece’] of Glory of Glories [i.e., the divine beard; on the thirteen attributes of Compassion, see Exodus 34:6–7].

Six thousand years are suspended from the first six; seventh above them, fortified alone. All will be destroyed in twelve hours [cf. the twelve hour rise and fall of Adam, described in Avot de-Rabbi Natan A, 1; B, 1; Vayiqra Rabbah 29:1; BT Sanhedrin 38b], as is written: was waste and empty…. Thirteen, He will raise them in Compassion—renewing themselves as before—and all those six will rise, since it is written created, and afterward is written was, for surely was! [cf. Bahir §2]. And in the end, תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ (tohu va-vohu), waste and empty, with darkness—YHWH alone will be exalted on that day (Isaiah 2:11) (Zohar 2:176b, Sifra di Tsni’uta).