The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: אֱלֹהִים

The Binding: Now I Know that You Fear God

And it happened after these things that God tested Abraham. And He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ and he said, ‘Here I am.’ And He said, ‘Take, pray, your son, your only one, whom you love, Isaac, and go forth to the land of Moriah and offer him up as a burnt offering, on one of the mountains which I shall say to you.’ And Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey and took his two lads with him, and Isaac his son, and he split wood for the offering, and rose and went to the place that God had said to him (Genesis 22:1–3).

“Abraham our father was tested with ten trials and he withstood all of them, to make known how great is His love for our father Abraham” (M Avot 5:3).

It came to pass after these things that God נִסָּה (nissah), tested, Abraham (Genesis 22:1). It is written: You have given נֵּס (nes), a banner, to those in awe of You לְהִתְנוֹסֵס (le-hitnoses), to be unfurled (Psalms 60:6)—trial upon trial, elevation above elevation, to test them in the world, to elevate them in the world like a ship’s banner” (Bereshit Rabbah 55:1).

And He said to him, ‘Abraham! Take, pray, your son (Genesis 22:2). And Abraham, having pity upon Isaac, said before Him: Master of all Worlds concerning which son do You decree upon me? Is it concerning the son lacking circumcision, or the son born for circumcision? He answered him: Your only one. He rejoined: This one is the only son of his mother, and the other son is the only son of his mother. He said to him: whom you love. He said to Him: I love both of them. He said to him: Isaac” (Bereshit Rabbah 31:38).

“And what is the purpose [of the Binding]? אֶמֶת (Emet), truth: in order that the equity of God’s justice may be מְאוּמָת (me’umat), verified, in the world. Thus, if one says, ‘Whom He wishes to enrich, He enriches; to impoverish, He impoverishes; whom He desires, He makes a king; when He wished, He made Abraham wealthy, and when He wished He made him king,’ then you can answer, ‘Can you do what Abraham did?’ Abraham was a hundred years old when Isaac his son was born to him (Genesis 21:5). And after all this anguish [i.e., Sarah’s childlessness], it was said to him, ‘Take your son…’ (Genesis 22:2). And he did not refuse.

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….’ Rabbi El’azar said, ‘The matter may be compared to a householder who has two heifers, one strong, one weak. On whom does he place the yoke? So the blessed Holy One does not try the wicked but the righteous: YHWH probes the righteous (Psalms 11:5)….

One said, ‘I am more beloved than you, for I was circumcised when I was thirteen years old.’ The other said, ‘I am more beloved than you, for I was circumcised sooner, namely, on the eighth day.’ Ishmael said to him, ‘I am more beloved than you, because I could have objected but didn’t.’ At that moment Isaac said, ‘Would the blessed Holy One appear to me and tell me to cut off one of my limbs I would not object.’ The blessed Holy One said to him, ‘If I should tell you to offer yourself up to Me, you would not refuse’” (Bereshit Rabbah 55:1–4).

“[And Abraham made a great feast on the day Isaac was weaned (Genesis 21:8)]the adversary said to the Almighty, ‘Master of the Universe! To this old man did You graciously vouchsafe the fruit of the womb at the age of a hundred, yet of all that banquet which he prepared, he did not have one turtle-dove or pigeon to sacrifice to You! He only acted in honour of his son! Rabbi Shim’on son of Abba said: [Take,] pray, [your son, your only one, whom you love, Isaac…] (Genesis 22:2)—נָא (na), pray, can only denote entreaty. This may be compared to a king of flesh and blood who was confronted by many wars, which he won by the aid of a great warrior. Subsequently he was faced with a severe battle. Thereupon he said to him, ‘I pray you assist me in battle that people may not say, there was no reality in the earlier ones.’ So also did the blessed Holy One say to Abraham, ‘I have tested you with many trials and you withstood them all. Now, be firm, for My sake in this trial, that men may not say, there was no reality in the earlier ones….’

[The adversary said to Abraham on his way to Mount Moriah:] Look, you reproved many, and slack hands you strengthened. The stumbler your words lifted up, and bended knees you bolstered. But now it comes to you and you cannot stand it, it reaches you and you are dismayed (Job 4:2–5). He replied, I will walk in my wholeness (Psalms 26:2). ‘But,’ said [the adversary] to him, Is not your reverence your safety? (Job 4:6). ‘Remember,’ he retorted, What innocent man has died? (ibid.). Seeing that he [Abraham] would not listen, he said to him, And to me came a word in secret (ibid., 12) thus have I heard from behind the curtain, ‘the lamb will be for a burnt-offering, while Isaac will not be the burnt-offering.’ He [Abraham] replied, ‘It is the penalty of a liar, that should he even tell the truth, he is not listened to’” (BT Sanhedrin 89b, cf. Midrash Vayyosha 1:36).

“וַיְהִי (Vayhi), it came to pass, after these דְּבָרִים (devarim), things (Genesis 22:1). Rabbi Shim’on said: We have learned that the expression It came to pass in the days of denotes sorrow, while the phrase וַיְהִי (Vayhi), it came to pass—even without in the days of—is tinged with sorrow [see BT Megillah 10b; Bereshit Rabbah 41 (42):3].

It came to pass after—the lowest of all upper rungs. Who is that? דְּבָרִים (Devarim) [Shekhinah], as is said: I am not a man of דְּבָרִים (devarim), words (Exodus 4:10) [at the beginning of his career, Moses was heavy of mouth and heavy of tongue (Exodus 4:10), not yet filled with the divine word, not yet intimate with Shekhinah]. Who came after this rung? And Elohim tested Abraham (Genesis, ibid.) for the evil impulse came to accuse in the presence of the blessed Holy One. Here we should contemplate: Elohim tested Abraham. The verse should read: tested Isaac, since Isaac was already thirty-seven years old, and his father was no longer responsible for him. If Isaac had said, ‘I refuse,’ his father would not have been punished. So why is it written, Elohim tested Abraham, and not Elohim tested Isaac?

But Abraham, precisely! For he had to be encompassed by judgment [or: crowned by rigor], since previously Abraham had contained no judgment at all. Now water was embraced by fire. Abraham had been incomplete until now, when he was crowned to execute judgment, arraying it in its realm. His whole life long he had been incomplete until now, when water was completed by fire, fire by water.

So Elohim tested Abraham—not Isaac—calling him to be embraced by judgment. When he did so, fire entered water, becoming complete. One was judged, one executed judgment—encompassing one another. Therefore the evil impulse came to accuse Abraham, who was incomplete until he executed judgment upon Isaac. For the evil impulse appears after דְּבָרִים (devarim), coming to accuse.

Come and see the mystery of the word: Although we have said that Abraham is written, not Isaac, Isaac is encompassed by this verse through the mysterious wording: Elohim tested אֶת (et) Abraham. It is not written tested לְאַבְרָהָם (le-Avraham), Abraham, but rather נִסָּה אֶת אַבְרָהָם (nissah et-Avraham)—tested et Abraham, precisely! This is Isaac, for at that time he dwelled in low power. As soon as he was bound on the altar, initiated into judgment fittingly by Abraham, he was crowned in his realm alongside Abraham—fire and water encompassing one another, ascending. Then division became apparent: water versus fire.

Who would have created a compassionate father who turned cruel? It was only so that division would manifest: water versus fire, crowned in their realms, until Jacob appeared, and everything harmonized—triad of patriarchs completed above, and below arrayed….

Isaac said to Abraham his father, My father!… (Genesis 22:7). Why didn’t he answer him at all? Because he had withdrawn from a father’s mercy for his son, so it is written: Here I am my son (ibid.). Here I am—mercy [i.e., Abraham (Ḥesed)] has vanished, transformed into judgement [i.e., Isaac (Gevurah)]. Abraham said, and it is not written: His father said, for he did not appear as a father but rather as an adversary” (Zohar 1:119b–120a, TZ 139a).

“Son honors his father—Isaac to Abraham. When did he honor him? When he bound him on the altar, intending to offer him up as a sacrifice. Isaac was thirty-seven years old, while Abraham was an old man, so if he had kicked with one foot he could not have withstood him. Yet he honored his father, allowing himself to be bound like a lamb to fulfill his father’s will” (Zohar 1:103a).

Do not reach out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him, for now I know that you fear God and you have not held back your son, your only one, from Me (Genesis 22:12).

Abraham My servant (Genesis 26:24).

A Prayer of the Lowly When He Joins in Her Sorrow

Tisha bAv

If the prayer is not whole many demons pursue it, as is written: All her persecutors overtook her in her distress (Lamentations 1:3). This is why people pray: Yet He is compassionate… (Psalms 78:38). [He atones for] Crime (ibid.)—Samael, who is the Serpent; and does not destroy (ibid.)—the Angel of Destruction; and abundantly takes back His wrath and does not arouse all His fury (ibid.). And we pray that these four [namely: crime, destruction, wrath, and fury] do not pursue the prayer, as many demons are attached to these. There are seven ministers, who have seventy more attached to them. Those seventy bring allegations in each and every firmament through which the prayer passes and seven-hundred myriad demons are attached to them.

If the prayer ascends whole, with the mitsvah of wrapping tallit and tefillin of the head and of the hand, it is said of them: And all the peoples of the earth will see that the name of YHWH is called over you and they will fear you (Deuteronomy 28:10). The name of YHWH—this has already been explained as tefillin of the head. Whoever sees the name יהוה (YHWH) over the head in prayer, which is the name אֲדֹנָי (Adonai), shall immediately flee, as is written: A thousand fall at Your side (Psalms 91:7).

Because Jacob saw through the Holy Spirit the oppression of the last exile, in the end of days, it is said of him, And Jacob was greatly afraid, and he was distressed (Genesis 32:8). As a result, he divided the holy nation in exile into three parts, as is written: And he placed the slavegirls and their children first (ibid. 33:2). This means at first in the exile of Edom: and Leah and her children after them, and Rachel and Joseph last (ibid.). Because he saw their eventual poverty and suffering, he prayed for them: if… I return safely to my father’s house (ibid. 28:21), so that they may have the merit to be redeemed and return to the Temple. He said in prayer: and give me bread to eat and clothing to wear (ibid.).

Because of this exile, David described Shekhinah as hungry and exhausted and thirsty in the wilderness (2 Samuel 17:29), because he saw Shekhinah desolate and withering and then joined in Her sorrow. After he saw that the children of Israel repented with joy, he composed ten types of psalms [cf. Zohar 3:283a (RM); TZ Haqdamah, 3a–b]. At the end of them all, he said: A prayer of the lowly when he grows faint (Psalms 102:10). This prayer encompasses all other prayers and ascends before all other prayers [see Vayiqra Rabbah 3:2; Zohar 3:195a]. The other prayers, sung with a melody, are delayed in being presented before the King, and do not enter, until the prayer of the poor does.

Which is the prayer of the lowly? It is the evening prayer. Since She is without Her husband She is lowly and faint and may be taken freely by anyone. The Righteous One is withered and lowly under the rule of all peoples of the world, every people enslaves them and rules over them. This is similar to the evening prayer, because it is the aspect of the night of exile.

The prayer of Sabbath is a charity given to the lowly as the Masters of Mishnah explained that the sun during Sabbath is charity given to the poor [see BT Ta’anit 8b: ‘Rabbi Yitsḥaq further said: Sunshine on the Sabbath is an act of kindness towards the poor, as is said, But unto you that fear My name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and you shall go forth, and grow up like calves of the stall (Malachi 4:2)’]. Therefore, on every weekday a person should make himself a pauper at the gate of the King during the prayer of Amidah for the sake of Shekhinah, that he participate in the sorrow of Shekhinah as did David. He should cover himself with the proper vestments, namely tallit with tassels, as a poor man stands at the gate to the palace of the King, Adonai, because אֲדֹנָי (Adonai) is numerically equivalent to that of הֵיכָל (heikhal), palace. This is why it is said [at the beginning of the Amidah prayer:] Adonai open my lips (Psalms 51:17).

When a person opens his lips during the weekdays at Arvit [the evening prayer], an eagle descends to carry the prayer of the night upon its wings. This eagle is called Nuriel. It is called Uriel from the aspect of Ḥesed and Nuriel from the aspect of Gevurah, which is a burning fire about which is written: A river of fire was flowing and went out before Him (Daniel 7:10) [cf. BT Ḥagigah 13b ad loc.].

During Shaḥarit (Morning Service), the lion descends to receive the prayer with its arms and wings—every living being has four wings—this is the angel Michael. During Minḥah (Afternoon Service), the ox descends to receive the prayer with its horns and wings, and this is the angel Gabriel.

On Sabbath, the blessed Holy One descends with the three Patriarchs [Ḥesed, Gevurah, and Tif’eret] to receive His only Daughter [Shekhinah] through them. This is the secret of the Sabbath which consists of ש (shin) and בַּת (bat), daughter. The three lines of ש (shin) refer to the three Patriarchs. Through them, the blessed Holy One receives the prayer of Sabbath. At that time, the celestial living beings that are called by the name יהוה (YHWH) say, as is written: Lift up your heads, O gates, and lift up, eternal portals, that the King of glory may enter (Psalms 24:9).

At this time, seven הֵיכָלִין (heikhalin), chambers, are opened. The first chamber is the chamber of Love, the second is the chamber of Fear, the third is the chamber of Compassion, the fourth is the chamber of Prophecy from the aspect of the speculum that shines, the fifth is the chamber of Prophecy from the aspect of the dim glass, the sixth is the chamber of Justice and the seventh is in the chamber of Judgment. These chambers correspond to the seven sefirot. The chamber of Love is Ḥesed, Fear is Gevurah, Compassion is Tif’eret, the speculum that shines is Netsaḥ, the dim glass is Hod, Justice is Yesod and Judgment is Malkhut.

Of them is written: בְּרֵאשִׁית (Bereshit), In the beginning, which consists of בָּרָא שִׁית (bara shit), created six; אֱלֹהִים (Elohim) is in the seventh chamber. There are seven chambers below, and seven chambers above. The seven voices that correspond to them appear in the psalm, Grant to YHWH (Psalms 29:1), which includes eighteen [iterations of] יהוה (YHWH). By these the blessed Holy One sails through eighteen worlds according to the mystery of: The chariots of Elohim are myriads, thousands of thousands (Psalms 68:18) and there are 18,000 worlds [see BT Avodah Zarah 3b]. Many guardians of the gates stand before the chambers to receive the prayers and no prayer enters without being measured and weighed.

None can stand before the gate of prayers and prevent any prayer from entering. Of such a one is written: [Like arrows in the warrior’s hand, thus are sons born in youth. Happy the man who fills his quiver with them.] They shall not be shamed when they speak with their enemies at the gate (Psalms 127:5). This is the gate of the King. Since the prayer is a mitsvah and Shekhinah and Torah is the blessed Holy One they must not be separated. Torah and the mitsvah should be elevated with Love and Fear.

There are the 248 words in the recitation of Shema that were given in love and fear, and that are contained in the ה (he) of יהוה (YHWH). Therefore, the blessing: ‘He Who chooses His people Israel with love,’ is recited before the recitation of Shema to indicate that we draw solely from the aspect of Love, which is the mystery of the 248 positive mitsvot. These 248 positive mitsvot are included within Abraham [because אַבְרָהָם (Avraham), Abraham, is numerically equivalent to 248, and his is the quality of Loving-kindness]. It is written of him: The seed of Abraham My friend (Isaiah 41:8).

Tefillin are strength, as they were given from the aspect of Fear, which is the left. This is the Terror of Isaac, because all the prosecutors ascend to demand all the Judgments throughout the worlds. Thus, it is written: And by the arm of His strength (Isaiah 62:8). This is why it is written: Love אֶת יְהוָה (et-Adonai), YHWH, all His faithful (Psalms 31:24). But Tif’eret of יהוה (YHWH) comprises all, as it is the middle pillar. Hence it says of Jacob, And, look, YHWH was poised over him (Genesis 28:13). This was not mentioned in relation to Abraham or Isaac, because Jacob is the aspect of Tif’eret, which includes all, since it is the middle pillar. When called by the name Jacob, He includes the quality of Abraham, וה (vav, he), and the 248 positive mitsvot. Later, when he was called Israel, he rose by יוֹד הֵא וְאוֹ הֵא (Yod He Vav He). The mystery of יוֹד הֵא וְאוֹ הֵא (Yod He Vav He) appears in the expression ‘Israel arose in thought’ (Bereshit Rabbah 1:4) to be created because מַחֲשָׁבָה (maḥshavah), thought, consists of: מַה חַשָׁב (mah ḥashav), ‘What thought.’ מַה (Mah)—יוֹד הֵא וְאוֹ הֵא (Yod He Vav He) [numerically equivalent to מַה (mah)], in which the Holy Name lies. Because of Jacob, who is called Israel, it is written: And Elohim created the human in his image (Genesis 1:27) after the likeness of his Master.

Sons, life and sustenance are drawn down to the lower beings only through the aspect of the middle pillar, of which is written: My son, My firstborn is Israel (Exodus 4:22) [on ‘sons, life, and sustenance,’ see BT Mo’ed Qatan 28a]. This is the Tree of Life, as is written: The tree [grew and became mighty, and its top reached the heavens and its branches to the end of all the earth. Its foliage was lovely and its fruit great, and there was] food for all [in it] (Daniel 4:8–9). As for Shekhinah—Israel below are Her life; Torah—Her sustenance; and prayer—an offering which offers Shekhinah for coupling [with Ze’eir Anpin]. During the exile, it is said that Shekhinah said to Her husband: Give me sons, for if You don’t, I am a dead woman! (Genesis 30:1).

Shekhinah is an offering for the blessed Holy One which He receives with both the right and the left arm, and with the body. His coupling with Her is accomplished by the Righteous One [Yesod, called ‘sign’]. This is the sign of the tefillin, of Sabbath and of the holidays. So when prayer [Shekhinah] ascends [to Ze’eir Anpin] She should be joined with Him with all ten sefirot [because there can be no holiness with fewer than ten] which is His own holiness, His blessing and unity. Therefore, when a person wishes his prayer to ascend, he should raise it with all its movement, the musical intonations and the vowels, since the letters are horses, the vowels horsemen, and the musical intonations weapons. If the serpent aims to seize the prayer, one must prepare a sling against it, and the mystery of the matter lies in זַרְקָא (zarqa), מַקַּף (maqqaf), שׁוֹפָר הוֹלֵךְ (shofar holekh), and סְגוֹלְתָּא (segolta)” (Zohar 1:23a, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar, cf. Zohar 2:86b).

A Slanderer Separates an Intimate

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵא נְפָשׁוֹת רַבּוֹת עַל כָּל מַה שֶּׁבָּרָא חַי הָעוֹלָמִים Blessed are You, YHWH our God, King of the World, who creates many נְפָשׁוֹת (nefashot), forms of life. Over all He has created Vitality of the Worlds” (Bore Nefashot [Nusaḥ Baladi]).

“What is the reason we say, ‘over all He has created Vitality of the Worlds,’ and we do not say, ‘over all You have created’? Rather, we bless the blessed Holy One [for] He imbues Vitality of the Worlds [with] His wisdom, and He gives all. What is the reason we say, ‘Who made us holy through His mitsvot and commanded us,’ and we do we not say, ‘You made us holy through Your mitsvot, and You commanded us’? To teach that all the mitsvot are comprised in Vitality of the Worlds, and in His compassion for us He gave them to us in order to make us holy through them, that we [might] be worthy. What is the reason? For while we are in this world, we can merit the world to come. He is All, and in His hand is אוֹצָר כָּל הַנְּשָׁמוֹת (otsar kal ha-neshamot), the Treasury of Souls” (Bahir §§183–184).

“And what is The fullness of all the earth is His glory (Isaiah 6:3)? Only all the אָרֶץ (arets), earth, created on the first day, above, parallel to the אֶרֶץ (erets), land, of Israel [below], full of YHWH’s glory. And what is it? Ḥokhmah, Wisdom, as is written, The wise inherit glory (Proverbs 3:35), and it is said, Blessed be YHWH’s glory from His place (Ezekiel 3:12). What is YHWH’s glory? A parable: A king had a Matronita in his chamber, and all his mighty warriors delighted in her. She had children who came each day to see the face of the king and bow to him, asking, ‘Where is our mother?” ‘You cannot see her now,’ he replied. They said, ‘May she be blessed wherever she is!’ 

What is from His place? There is none who know His place. This is like a king’s daughter who came from afar, and nobody knew where she came from. When they saw that she was אֵשֶׁת חַיִל (eshet ḥayil), a mighty woman, lovely and honorable in all her deeds, they said, ‘Undoubtedly she was taken from the side of light, for her deeds give light to the world.’ Then they asked her, ‘Where are you from?’ ‘From my place,’ she replied. They said, ‘If so, the people of your place must be great. Blessed are you and blessed is your place.’ Is not this Glory [just] one among His [vast] armies, לֹא גָּרַע (lo gara), no less [and no more]? Why bless Her? [or: Is not this Glory one among His armies? לֹא גְּרַע (Lo gera), do not cut (Her) off! Why ‘bless’ Her? (i.e., why curse Her?)] A parable: To what can the matter be compared? A man had a lovely garden. Outside the garden, but near to it, there was a lovely piece of שָׂדֶה (sadeh), land [cf. Bahir §62]. He made a lovely garden in it. When he irrigates the garden, the water flows over the whole garden but does [not] reach that piece of land, which is [not] joined, even though all is one. Therefore, he opened a place [to her] and waters her separately.

Rav Raḥmai said: כָּבוֹד (Kavod), Glory, and לֵב (lev), Heart, are one—Glory is called a name corresponding to an action above, while Heart is called a name corresponding to an action below. However, they are one and the same—YHWH’s glory (Ezekiel 3:12) is the Heart of the heavens (Deuteronomy 4:11)” (Bahir §§130–134).

“He opened again, saying, ‘A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates an intimate‘ (Proverbs 16:28). A perverse man spreads—as we have said, the wicked cause a defect above. ‘And a slanderer אַלּוּף (aluf), separates, an intimate‘—he separates אַלּוּפוּ (Alufu), the Chief, of the world, namely the blessed Holy One.

Alternatively, A perverse man יְשַׁלַּח מָדוֹן (yishlaḥ madon), spreads strife. What is יְשַׁלַּח (yishlaḥ)? He drives away those plants. מָדוֹן (Madon)—for they imbibe from the side of דִינַא (Dina), Judgement.

And a slanderer separates an intimate‘—as we have said, they cause a defect above. Separates—for union no longer exists, he separates Matronita from the King, and the King from Matronita. So He is not called One, for He is called One only when they share one coupling. Woe to the wicked who perpetrate this! Happy are the masters of teshuvah who restore everything to its place!” (Zohar 3:16b).

“The sin of the primordial serpent: he joined below and it separated above. So he caused what he caused to the world. For one should separate below and join above… one should realize that יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים (YHWH Elohim) is entirely one, indivisible. יְהוָה (YHWH) is הָאֱלֹהִים (Ha-Elohim). Once one realizes all is one and does not impose division, even that Other Side will disappear from the world, not be drawn below” (Zohar 1:12b).

“One might ask: Why do we pray to the blessed Holy One on several rungs? Sometimes one prays through a certain sefirah or quality, sometimes one’s prayer is to the right, as it says, ‘He who desires to become wise should turn to the south’ (BT Bava Batra 25b). Sometimes to the left, ‘He who desires to become rich should turn to the north’ (ibid.). Sometimes to the middle pillar, sometimes to the Righteous One. Every prayer goes up to a certain rung but יהוה (YHWH) is truly in every sefirah” (Tiqqunei Zohar Ḥadash 109a).

“You might suggest that we have a problem here, since it is written that all the sacrifices are to יהוה (YHWH), and ask how, therefore, it can be said that there is a separation of the letters. This is said about those stages that were created and called by His name and not that they are He Himself, as is written: Everyone that is called by My name: for My glory I have created him, I have formed him; yea, I have made him (Isaiah 43:7). And there are the four letters of יהוה (YHWH) of אֲצִילוּת (Atsilut), Emanation, containing no separation nor cessation, for they are as fountains watering trees. And regarding those that were created they are likened, the י (yod) to a head, the ו (vav) to a body, while the ה ה (hehe) to ten fingers. But the Cause of Causes, Who is over everything is called יהוה (YHWH), of Him is said: To whom then will you liken Me, that I should be equal? says the Holy One (Isaiah 40:25). To whom then will you liken God or what likeness will you compare to Him? (Isaiah 40:18) For I am יְהוָה (YHWH) I do not change (Malachi 3:6). The sins of the creatures do not touch Him, nor separate in Him the י (yod) from the ה (he), nor the ו (vav) from the ה (he). For there is no separation in Him and it is said of Him: nor shall evil dwell with You (Psalms 5:5). He rules over all and there is none who rules over Him. He comprehends all and there is none who comprehends Him. And He is not called by יהוה (YHWH) nor by all the other names, but is known by His light that spreads over them. And when He departs from them, He has, of Himself, no name at all: deep deep, who can find Him? (Ecclesiastes 7:24)” (Zohar 3:224a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

“The Holy Ancient One, concealed of all concealed. Separate, separated from all, yet not separate; for all are joined to it, and it is joined to all. It itself is all! … The light of each and every spark, called Adornments of the King, Crowns of the King—each one shines into, joins onto the light within, within, no separating without. So all rises to one level, all is crowned with one word; no separating one from the other. It and Its name is one” (Zohar 3:288a, 296b Idra Zuta).

Let Us Make a Human in Our Image by Our Likeness

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I am the first and I am the last; and besides Me there is no god (Isaiah 44:6). I am the first—I do not have a father; I am the last—I do not have a brother; and besides Me there is no god—I do not have a son” (Shemot Rabbah 29:4).

And God said, ‘Let us make a human’ (Genesis 1:26). It is not written הָאָדָם (ha-adam), the human, but rather אָדָם (adam), a human, indefinite—excluding the one above [namely, אָדָם הַקַדְמוֹן (adam ha-qadmon), the Primordial Human], who was made with a complete name [i.e., יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים (YHVH Elohim) (Genesis 2:7)]” (Zohar 2:178a, cf. ibid. 2:70a–b).

אֶדַּמֶּה לְעֶלְיוֹן (Edammeh le-Elyon), I will be compared to the Supernal (Isaiah 14:14)

And אֱלֹהִים (Elohimsaid, ‘Let us make a human’ (Genesis 1:26). The secret of יְהוָה (YHVHis for those who fear Him (Psalms 25:14).

The Elder of Elders opened, saying, ‘Shim’on, Shim’on, who is He who said, ‘Let us make a human’—who is this Elohim? Meanwhile, the Elder of Elders vanished. When Rabbi Shim’on heard that he called him Shim’on and not Rabbi Shim’on, he said to the Companions: This is indeed the blessed Holy One of whom is said, And the Ancient of Days took His seat (Daniel 7:9). Now is the time to reveal this secret which was previously forbidden, and permission has now been given to reveal it.

He opened, saying: A king had many buildings to build and he had an אֻמָּן (umman), artisan. That artisan did not do anything without the permission of the king, as is written, I was by Him, an אָמוֹן (amon), intimate (Proverbs 8:30) [cf. Bahir §5Guide of the Perplexed 2:4]. The king is most certainly supernal Ḥokhmah above, and the middle pillar is the king below. Elohim, the artisan above is supernal Mother. Elohim, the artisan below, is Shekhinah.

A wife is not permitted to do anything without the permission of her husband. Of all the structures [that emerged] by way of emanation Father would say to Mother, ‘Let there be’ such and such and so it was, immediately. As is written: And said, ‘Elohim let there be light’ and there was light (Genesis 1:3). And said—spoken to Elohim‘Let there be light.’ So Father uttered the words and immediately the artisan, Mother, faithfully performed the task. And this was the same with every structure by way of emanation—Father, would say, ‘Let there be a firmament’ or ‘Let there be lights, and all was performed immediately.

When the world of separation came, which is the world of those divided [see Zohar 1:158a], the artisan said to the architect‘Let us make a human in our image, by our likeness’ (Genesis 1:26). The architect said, ‘It is indeed good that man be made, but he will offend before you, because he is foolish, as is written, A wise son gladdens his father, but a foolish son is his mother’s sorrow (Proverbs 10:1).’

She said, ‘Because his crimes depend on Mother, and not Father, I wish to create him in My own image,’ as is written, And Elohim created the human in His image (Genesis 1:27). She did not want Father, to have any share [although often called Mother, Binah is also ‘World of the Male,’ encompassing the entire configuration of the sefirot from Ḥesed through Yesod. Together they constitute a masculine entity ready to join Shekhinah, see Zohar 1:147a, 149a, 96a, 160b, 246a–247a, 248b; 2:127b; ZḤ 72b (ShS)].

What is written at the time of the sin? For your crimes, your mother was sent away (Isaiah 50:1). The King said to Mother, ‘Did I not tell you that he was destined to offend?’ [cf. BT Shabbat 55a–bZohar Ḥadash 18c]. It was then that he exiled him and exiled Mother with him. Therefore, it is written: A wise son gladdens his father, but a foolish son is his mother’s sorrow. A wise son—man of אֲצִילוּת (atsilut), Emanation. A foolish son—man of בְּרִיָּה (beriah), Creation.

All the Companions rose and said ‘Rabbi! Rabbi! could there be such separation between Father and Mother, [so much so that] from the side of Father he is by way of Atsilut, but from the side of Mother by [way of] Beriah?! He said to them, ‘Companions, Companions, it is not so, because man of Atsilut is male and female, from the aspect of Father and from Mother. This is why Elohim said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light. ‘Let there be light’—from the side of Father; and there was light—from the side of Mother. So man had דוּ פַּרְצוּפִין (du partsufin), two faces [see BT Eruvin 18a].

But to him [of Beri’ah] there is neither image nor likeness [of Father or Mother]. Supernal Mother has but one epithet: Light and… Darkness (Isaiah 45:7), which amounts to eighty-six: Elohim [כִּנּוּי (kinnui), epithet, אֱלֹהִים (Elohim), and הַטֶבַע (ha-teva), Nature, are each numerically equivalent to eighty-six, cf. Rabbi Avraham Abulafia, Get ha-Shemot, 101b (MS Oxford, 1682)]. And that epithet is Light and Darkness [אוֹר וּחֹשֶׁךְ (or u-ḥoshek), Light and Darkness, is numerically equivalent to יִשְׂרָאֵל (yisra’el), Israel]. And because of that epithet of darkness, Father said that man of Beri’ah [Adam Rishon (First Man)], was destined to offend because he is light of the supernal garment.

Light—which the blessed Holy One created on the first day, hiding it away for the righteous alone [see BT Ḥagigah 12a; Bereshit Rabbah 3:6; Vayiqra Rabbah 11:7; Zohar 1:30b–31b; ZḤ 15b (MhN)]. Darkness—created on the first day for the wicked: And the wicked in darkness turn dumb (1 Samuel 2:9). On account of darkness, which would cause light to offend, Father did not wish to partake in his creation. Therefore, Mother said, ‘Let us make a human in our image, by our likeness. In our imagelight. By our likenessdarkness which is a garment for light, just as the body is a garment for the soul, as is written: With skin and flesh You clothed me (Job 10:11). They all rejoiced, saying, ‘How happy is our share that we had the privilege to hear words that were not to be heard until now.’

Rabbi Shim’on delved further, saying, See now that I, I am He, and no אֱלֹהִים (elohim), god, is by My side (Deuteronomy 32:39). Companions, listen to ancient words I wish to reveal since permission from above has been granted. Who is He who said, See now that I, I am He?’ He replied: The עִלַּת עַל כָּל עִלָּאִין (illat al kal illa’in), Cause above all Causes. He that is called עִלַּת הָעִלּוֹת (illat ha-illot), the Cause of Causes, is not high above all the supernal beings, but rather, is a cause among all the rest. Accordingly, every single one of these causes cannot act unless permission comes down from the cause above him, as I said before with, Let us make a human

Let us make—two rungs, and each lower rung said to the one above him, Let us make a human. The lower rung cannot act without permission from the one over him and the one over him cannot act until counsel comes down from the one over him. But He who is called עִלַּת עַל כָּל עִלּוֹת (illat al kal illot), Cause above all Causes, has no equal above nor below, as is written: To whom then will you liken Me, or shall I be equal? says the Holy One (Isaiah 40:25). He said, ‘See now that I, I am He, and no אֱלֹהִים (elohim), god, is by My side’—from whom to take counsel, unlike him of whom is written: And Elohim said, ‘Let us make a human.’

All the Companions rose and said, ‘Rabbi grant us permission to speak. Did you not already say that the Cause of Causes, said to Keter, ‘Let us make a human.’ He said to them: ‘Let your ears hear what your mouth speaks! Have I not just told you that He who is called the Cause of Causes is not He who is called the Cause above all Causes, for the Cause above all Causes has no second from whom He can take counsel. He is Singular, prior to all, and He has no partner [cf. Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles of Jewish Faith].

Accordingly, He said, ‘See now that I, I am He, and no god is by My side’ (Deuteronomy 32:39), from whom to take counsel [cf. BT Sanhedrin 38b; Bereshit Rabbah 8:8]; for He has no second, no partner, and no reckoning. [However,] there is a [certain] oneness in partnership in the manner of male and female, of whom it is said, [Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who spawned you.] כִּי אֶחָד קְרָאתִיו (Ki eḥad qerativ), for one I called him (Isaiah 51:2). But He is one without reckoning and without partnership, thus, He says, no god is by My side.’ They all rose, bowed before him and said, ‘Happy is the man whose Master gives him consent to reveal hidden mysteries that were not even revealed to the holy angels.’

He said to them, ‘Companions, we should complete this verse because it contains many mysteries. I put to death and give life (Deuteronomy 32:39)—I put to death and give life by the sefirot. From the right-side life, and from the left-side death. But if both do not agree by mediation of the middle pillar—unless all three settle together—Judgment cannot endure.

At times, all three agree to execute Judgement. Then appears an outstretched יַ״ד (yad), hand, receiving those who return. It is the הֲוָיָה (havayah), Being: יוד הא ואו הא (Yod He Vav He). This is Shekhinah, the right hand from the side of Ḥesed and the left hand from the the side of Gevurah. It is the Hand of YHVH from the aspect of the middle pillar. When a person repents, this יַ״ד (yad), hand, saves him from Judgement. However, when Judgment of the Cause above all Causes: [I smash and I also heal and] none rescues from My hand (Deuteronomy 32:39).

Furthermore, three times it has been said, אֲנִי אֲנִי אֲנִי (ani, ani, ani), I, I, I. [Three iterations of] א (alef) [at its beginning, and three iterations of] י (yod) [at its ending]. Here is the hint: יוד הי ואו הי (Yod He Vav He); יוד הא ואו הא (Yod He Vav He). [The verse also employs] three וָוִין (vavin), ands: וַאֲחַיֶּה (va-aḥayeh), and I give life... וַאֲנִי (va-ani), and I… וְאֵין (ve-ayin), and none They are also hinted at by these [two] names.

Despite all this the Companions have explained it concerning other אֱלֹהִים (elohim), gods, as is written: See now that I, I am He—the blessed Holy One and His Shekhinah. Of His Female is said, אֲנִי (ani), I am, הוּא (hu), He. And no god is by My side—[neither] Samael nor the serpent. I put to death and give lifeI put to death with My Shekhinah whoever is guilty and give life with Her to whoever is righteous. And none rescues from My hand—the יָד (yad), hand, of יהוה (YHVH) [numerically equivalent to י״ד (fourteen)]. יוד הא ואו הא (Yod He Vav He); and it is כוזו במוכסז כוזו (KWZWBMWKSZKWZW) [permutations of the Name]. All these explanations are true. But what we said before is that He is the Cause of Causes—the Cause above all others. And this mystery was not revealed to every sage and prophet [but only the select few among them].

Come and see: How many hidden causes are clothed and conveyed by the sefirot! The sefirot are but chariots to them, for they are concealed from human thought. Of them is written: For he who is high has a higher one watching him, and still higher ones over them (Ecclesiastes 5:7)—glaring white lights, these above those, but those that are receptacles are darkness compared to the others above them. And their is no light that can exist before עִלַּת הָעִלּוֹת (illat ha-illot), the Cause of Causes, all lights are darkened before Him.

Another explanation of the Companions: Let us make a human in our image, by our likenessthe ministering angels spoke this. He [Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai] said to them: Since the angels already know the past and future, they already knew that he was destined to offend. Why would they want to make him? [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 8:6]. 

Not only that, but Aza and Aza’el also opposed [see Bereshit Rabbati, (Albeck) 29:14–31:8]. When Shekhinah said to the blessed Holy One, Let us make a human, they protested: What is a human creature that You should know him, [the son of man, that You pay him mind?] (Psalms 144:3). Why do You wish to create man when You know that he is destined to offend before You, with her who is darkness, since light is male and darkness female—left, darkness of Creation [see Bahir §13]. At that moment, Shekhinah said to them: You will fall by the same reasoning that you denounce! [cf. BT Qiddushin 70a: ‘And he who declares unfit is unfit and never speaks in praise. And Shemu’el said: With his own blemish he stigmatizes as unfit’]. As is written: The sons of God saw that the daughters of men were comely, and they took themselves wives whomsoever they chose (Genesis 6:2), so they went astray after them. Fittingly Shekhinah caused them to fall from their holiness.

The Companions said, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi, Aza and Aza’el did not lie! For man was certainly destined to offend with the female.’ He replied: This is what Shekhinah said, ‘You have made accusations before me that go beyond those of all the hosts above. If you were better than humans in your actions, you would have had a right to accuse him, but man will offend with only one woman, while you [are destined to offend] with many women. Therefore, your offences surpass those of man, as is written: The sons of God saw that the daughters of men were comely, and they took themselves wives whomsoever they chose (Genesis 6:2). It is not written: the daughter of men, but rather the daughters of men. If man is liable, I have prepared תְּשׁוּבָה (teshuvah), repentance, for him to repair the offence.’

The Companions asked, ‘If so, why all this?’ Rabbi Shim’on replied: If the blessed Holy One had not created [the] good and evil [impulses], which are light and darkness, there would not have been any merit or liability for the man of Beri’ah. So man was created with both, as is written: See, I have set before you today life and good and death and evil, that I charge you today to love YHVH your God, to go in His ways and to keep His commands and His statutes and His Laws (Deuteronomy 30:15). They asked him [yet again]: Why all this? Better had He not created darkness. Then man would have no reward and no punishment [cf. Zohar 3:159a].

He said to them: It was right to create him in this way because Torah was created for his sake, since it contains punishments for the wicked and rewards for the righteous. Thus, there can be no reward for the righteous nor punishment for the wicked without the man of Beri’ah: Not for nothing did He create it, to dwell there He fashioned it (Isaiah 45:18). They said, ‘Indeed, now we have certainly heard what we had never heard before. It is now clear that the blessed Holy One did not create anything that was unnecessary’ [cf. M Avot 4:3].

Furthermore, Torah of Beri’ah is the garment of Shekhinah. If man had not been created, She would have remained without clothing, just like a pauper. Therefore, whoever offends strips Shekhinah of Her garments [cf. Leviticus 18:7]. This is the punishment for man. And whoever performs decrees of Torah clothes Shekhinah in Her garments. Accordingly, about the garments of tsitsit and tefillin it says, For it is his sole covering, it is his cloak for his skin—in what can he lie? (Exodus 22:26). This applies during exile when Shekhinah is stripped of Her garments.

Come and see: Darkness is black [fire, or ink] of Torah. Light is the white [fire, or negative space] of Torah [see Zohar 2:84a, 226b]” (Zohar 1:22a–23a, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar).

Tail in the Head: The Elusive Serpent

2235_127246100159_9430_nWho tells from the first the last, and from old what is not yet done (Isaiah 46:10).

“Ten sefiroth belimah—their end is embedded in their beginning like a flame bound to a burning coal. For the Lord is singular, He has none second to Him. Before one, what do you count?

Ten sefiroth belimah—their measure is ten yet they have no limit: depth of first and depth of last; depth of good and depth of evil; depth of above and depth of below; depth of east and depth of west; depth of north and depth of south. And a singular Lord—God, steadfast King—reigning over them all from His holy dwelling for ever and ever” (Sefer Yetsirah §§6–7).

There is a thing of which one would say, “See this, it is new.” It already has been in the eons that were before us (Ecclesiastes 1:10).

That which was already has been, and what is to be already has been, and ha-Elohim seeks out the pursued (Ecclesiastes 3:15).

“Rabbi Ḥiyya opened, saying, ‘That which is has already been called by name, and what is to be [… already has been] (Ecclesiastes 3:15, 6:10). That which is has already [been]—corresponding to what we have learned: Before the blessed Holy One created this world, He created worlds and destroyed them, until the blessed Holy One entertained the desire to create this world, and He consulted the Torah. Then He was arrayed in His adornments and adorned with His crowns, and He created the world. All that exists in this world was already in His presence, rising before Him, arranged before Him (Zohar 3:61a–b).

“Gravings of engravings, like the appearance of a long serpent, extending here and theretail in the head, head behind the shoulders, pregnant and furious, guarded and hidden” (Zohar 2:176b, Sifra di Tsni’uta).

“תְּלִי (Teli)—a spark rendered as an illusory serpent. Its tail clinging to orbs, surrounding them. In its might it darkens the seven planets” (Berit Menuḥa: The Second Way, The Way of Love, Eighth Vowel).

The elusive Serpent (Job 26:13).