The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: בֹּהוּ

A Thousand Years in Your Eyes are like a Day Gone

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“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 Amora sat and expounded: What is fullness—the blessing of YHWH. To the west and the south His possession (Deuteronomy 33:23)? It means that everyplace ב (bet) is said is blessed, and this is: fullness—בִּרְכַּת (birkat), the blessing, of YHWH. From there those in need drink. And from the fullness She offered counsel at the beginning (Proverbs 9:10).

A parable: A king wanted to build a palace for himself among mighty cliffs [cf. Shem Tov ibn Shem Tov, MS British Museum 711]. He cut rocks and hewed boulders, uncovering a great spring of living water. The king then said, ‘Since I have flowing water, I will plant a garden. Then I will delight in it, and so will the entire world.’ As is written, And I was by Him an intimate, I was His delight day after day (Proverbs 8:30). Torah says, ‘For two thousand years I was in the blessed Holy One’s lap, as His delight,’ therefore the verse reads: day after day; a day of the blessed Holy One is a thousand years, as is written, For a thousand years in Your eyes are like a day gone (Psalms 90:4). From here on: at times, as is said, each time (Proverbs 8:30). But the remainder is לְעוֹלָם (le-olam), for remote eons, as is said: [I exhale,] and for My praise, hold it for you, [so as not to cut you off] (Isaiah 48:9) [cf. Naḥmanides, Perush le-Sefer Yetsirah, 1:1, §1]. What is My praise? As is written, Praise for David. Let Me exalt you (Psalms 145:1–2). Why is this praise? Because: Let Me exalt you. And what is this exaltation? Let Me bless your name לְעוֹלָם (le-olam), forevermore (ibid.).

What is בְּרָכָה (berakhah), blessing? A parable: A king planted trees in his garden. Although rains fell constantly, and it was absorbed, and the soil was wet, he must water it from a spring, as is written, The beginning—wisdom, the fear of YHWH, good knowledge to all who perform it (Psalms 111:10). And if you say it lacks something [i.e., an end], look: His praise stands for all time (ibid.)” (Bahir §§5–6).

“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 it surely was! [cf. Bahir §2]. And in the end, תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ (tohu va-vohu), welter and waste, with darkness—YHWH alone will be exalted on that day (Isaiah 2:11) (Zohar 2:176b, Sifra di Tsni’uta).

Welter and Waste, Nothingness and Naught

“Rav Yehudah said that Rav said: Ten things were created the first day: heaven and earth, תֹּהוּ (tohu) and בֹּהוּ (bohu), light and darkness, wind and water, the quantity of day and the quantity of night. Heaven and earth, as is written, In the beginning Elohim created heaven and earth (Genesis 1:1). Tohu and bohu, as is written, And the earth then was tohu, welter, and bohu, waste (ibid., 2). Light and darkness: darkness, as is written, And darkness over the face of the deep (ibid.); light, as is written, And Elohim said, ‘Let there be light’ (ibid., 3). Wind and water, as is written: And Elohim’s breath hovering over the waters (ibid., 2). The quantity of day and the quantity of night, as is written, And it was evening and it was morning, first day (ibid., 5). It is taught: Tohu—a pale line, encompassing the whole world, from which darkness issued, as is said, He set darkness His hiding-place (Psalms 18:12). Bohu—these are the slimy stones sunk in the abyss, from which water issues, as is said, And He shall stretch over it the line of tohu, welter, and the weight-stones of bohu, waste (Isaiah 34:11)” (BT Ḥagigah 12a).

“There were four exiles [Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome, see Vayiqra Rabbah 13:5], three corresponding to three shells of the nut. First: ‘תֹּהוּ (Tohu), welter—a pale line [encompassing the whole world…]’ (BT Ḥagigah 12a)—pale shell of the nut. Second: ‘בֹּהוּ (Bohu), waste—these are the slimy stones’ (ibid.)—strong boulders from which Masters of Mishnah legislate various decrees. They cling to them for they yield waters of Torah; called ‘slimy stones from which water issues’ (ibid.). Third: The thick shell, a third exile which was short—darkness (Genesis 1:2). Fourth: A great abyss, which is the cavity of the nut: And darkness over the abyss (ibid.)” (Zohar 3:227a, Ra’aya Meheimna Ki Tetse, cf. Bereshit Rabbah 2:4–5).

For thus said YHWH, Creator of the heavens, He is the Elohim, Fashioner of earth and its Maker, He founded it. Not for תֹהוּ (tohu), nothing, did He create it, to dwell there He fashioned it (Isaiah 45:18).

“Out of tohu, nothing, He fashioned מַמָּשׁ (mamash), something, making what is not into what is” (Sefer Yetsirah §20 [MS S]).

“Rabbi Berekhiah said: It is written, And the earth was welter and waste (Genesis 1:2). Was—what does it mean? Welter, already was. What is תֹהוּ (tohu), welter? A thing הַמָתְּהֵא (hamatehe), bewildering, the sons of man, returning to waste. What is בֹהוּ (vohu), waste? A thing which possesses מַמָּשׁ (mamash), substance, as is written, [vohu]—בּוֹ הוּא (bo hu), it is in it [i.e., bohu clothes tohu, see Rabbi Avraham bar Ḥiyya, Hegyon ha-Nefesh, 2b]” (Bahir §2).

What is, One against the other ha-Elohim has set (Ecclesiastes 7:14)? He created בֹהוּ (vohu), waste (Genesis 1:2), and its place is in peace. He created תֹהוּ (tohu), welter (ibid.), and its place is in evil. Bohu is in peace, as is written, Who makes peace in His heights (Job 25:2). Teaching that Michael, the prince to the right of blessed Holy One, is water and hail. Gabriel, the prince to His left is fire. And the prince of peace holds the balance between them: Who makes peace in His heights. But how do we know it is bohu? Making and creating evil (Isaiah 45:7)—evil, is from tohu, and peace, is from bohu. He created tohu, and its place is in evil, as is written, making peace, and creating evil [on the association of matter with evil, cf. Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed, Introduction; 1:18; 3:8]” (Bahir §§11–12, cf. ibid., §163).

תֹּהוּ (Tohu), welter, from which the evil emanates that מְתָהֵה (metaheh), bewildering, the sons of man. And what is it? It is that of which is written: And YHWH’s fire came down and consumed the offering and the wood and the dirt, and the water that was in the trench it licked up (I Kings 18:38). It is also written For YHWH your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God (Deuteronomy 4:24)” (Bahir §135).

“A certain philosopher asked Rabban Gamaliel, saying: Your God was indeed a great artist but surely He found good materials which assisted Him. He said: What are they? תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ (Tohu va-vohu), welter and waste (Genesis 1:2), darkness, water, wind, and the deep. Woe to that man, of all of them creation is mentioned: Tohu and bohu: He fashions, light and creates darkness (Isaiah 45:7); water: Praise Him, utmost heavens, and the waters above the heavens (Psalms 148:4)—why? For He commanded, and they were created (ibid., 5); wind: He fashions the mountains and creates the wind (Amos 4:13); the depths: When there were no deeps I was spawned, when there were no wellsprings, heavy with water (Proverbs 8:24)” (Bereshit Rabbah 1:9).

One bull from the herd, one ram, one yearling ram for the burnt offering. [One goat for an offence offering] (Numbers 7:15–16)—you have here three kinds of burnt offerings, corresponding to heavens, earth, and sea….

Why three kinds for burnt offerings and one for an offence offering? Corresponding to four elements from which the blessed Holy One created the world, three of them being of a supernal [nature], one higher than the other, and the fourth the lowest, heaviest of them all [see Aristotle, Physics]. They are as follows: The earth is the heaviest of them all, and corresponding to it the goat was offered [cf. Leviticus 16:21]. Water is above earth; air, from which the wind is formed, is above earth, and fire is above air, for fire is lighter than all the others, rising up to the firmament. And a sign for the matter: When a flame escapes from the coal it flies upwards. And so [the Greeks] they say that fire surrounds the entire world above the firmament. Corresponding to fire, wind, and water, which are עֶלְיוֹנִים (elyonim), of a supernal [nature], three kinds of הָעוֹלָה (ha-olah), burnt offerings, were made” (Bemidbar Rabbah 14:12).

“Water from wind: He engraved and hewed in it תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ (tohu va-vohu), welter and waste (Genesis 1:1), mud and muck (Isaiah 57:20). He engraved them like a sort of garden-bed. He erected them like a sort of wall, and he wove them like a sort of roof. And he poured out snow over them and it became dust, for it is said: To the snow He says: ‘Become earth’ (Job 37:6) [cf. Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 3]. ‘Tohu—a pale line, encompassing the whole world…. Bohu—these are the slimy stones sunk in the abyss, from which water issues’ (JT Ḥagigah 77c; BT Ḥagigah 12a)” (Sefer Yetsirah §13 [A]).

“Know that the Creator (may He be blessed) created the human being; He created him in image and form, arraying him from four distinct substances—from fire, air, water, and earth, as is said: The earth was chaos and void, with darkness over the face of the abyss, and the wind of God (Genesis 1:2). These are the four substances previously mentioned. As is said: There is a place among the coastal towns where they call fire תֹּהוּ (tohu), chaos—this is the first element; וָבֹהוּ וְחֹשֶׁךְ (va-vohu va-ḥoshekh), void and darkness—they are water and earth. How do we know that darkness implies earth? As is said: its name is covered with darkness (Ecclesiastes 6:4), and they have explained that this refers to a clod of earth; and רוּחַ (ruaḥ), wind, is air itself” (Zohar Ḥadash 6d).

The earth was תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ (Tohu va-vohu), chaos and void (Genesis 1:2). Was, precisely, previously. Snow in water. Through the potency of snow in water emerged slime. Blazing fire struck it, refuse came to be, and תֹּהוּ (tohu), chaos, was produced—abode of slime, nest of refuse. וָבֹהוּ (Va-vohu), And void—sifting sifted from refuse, settling upon it. חֹשֶׁךְ (Ḥoshekh), Darkness (ibid.)—mystery of blazing fire. That darkness covers tohu, over the refuse, and thereby it is empowered.

וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים (Ve-ruaḥ Elohim), And a wind of God (ibid.)—רוּחַ קוּדְשָׁא (Ruaḥ Qudsha), Holy Spirit, emerging from the living God, hovering over the face of the waters (ibid.). Once this wind blew, one fine film clarified from that refuse, like filthy froth flying off, clarified, refined again and again, till that filth is left lacking any filth at all. So was tohu clarified and refined, from it emerging a great, mighty wind, splitting mountains and shattering rocks (1 Kings 19:11), the one seen by Elijah. Bohu was clarified and refined, from it emerging an earthquake, as is written: After the wind—an earthquake (ibid.). Darkness clarified, embracing fire within its mystery, as is written: After the earthquake—fire (ibid., 12). Wind clarified, and embraced in its mystery was the sound of sheer silence (ibid.)

תֹּהוּ (Tohu)—a colorless, formless realm, not embraced by the mystery of form. Now within form—as one contemplates it, no form at all. Everything has a garment in which to be clothed, except for this: though appearing upon it, it does not exist at all, never did.

בֹּהוּ (Bohu)—this has shape and form: stones sunk within the shell of tohu, emerging from the shell in which they are sunk, conveying benefit to the world. Through the form of a garment they convey benefit from above to below, ascending from below to above. So they are hollow and moist, suspended in the air—sometimes suspended in the air, sometimes concealed on a cloudy day [cf. BT Ta’anit 8b], generating water from the abyss to nourish tohu, for then frivolity and folly prevail as tohu spreads through the world…” (Zohar 1:16a).

Your wonder known in the darkness, Your bounty in the land of נְשִׁיָּה (neshiyyah), oblivion (Psalms 88:13).

“תֹּהוּ (Tohu), Chaos—this is נְשִׁיָּה (Neshiyyah), because no image at all can be seen within it, so that אִתְנְשֵׁי (itneshei), it is forgotten, entirely; so it is called Neshiyyah, Oblivion. בֹהוּ (Vohu), Void—this is אַרְקָא (Arqa), Earth, a site not forgotten” (Zohar 1:40a, Heikhalot Be-Reshit).

“בֶּן מְנַשֶּׁה (Ben menasheh), son of Manasseh (Numbers 27:1)—the Cause of Causes who is called מְנַשֶּׁה (menasheh), Forgetting. Why is the Cause of Causes called Forgetting? Because He is a place to which forgetting and נִשָׁיוֹן (nishayon), oblivion, pertain, as in the expression כִּי נַשַּׁנִי אֱלֹהִים (ki nashani Elohim), For God has made me forget (Genesis 41:51).

Why? Because concerning all the rungs and causes one should search for their reality from the depth of supernal Ḥokhmah. From there it is possible to understand one thing from another. However, concerning the Cause of Causes there are no sides anywhere to search, to probe; nothing can be known of Him; for He is hidden and concealed in the mystery of הַאַיִן וְהַאֶפֶס (ha-ayin ve-ha-efes), Nothingness and Naught.

Therefore forgetting pertains to Him, as regards comprehension of this place. So open your eyes and see this great and awesome mystery. Happy is he whose eyes shine from this mystery, in this world and the world that is coming” (Rabbi David ben Yehudah he-Ḥasid, Sefer Mar’ot Ha-Tsove’ot, 227:15–23, adapted from Matt, The Book of Mirrors, p. 21–22).

He is Sleeping Among His People

And Haman said to King Ahasuerus: “There is a certain people scattered and separate from the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom, and their rules are different from every people’s and they do not observe the king’s rules, and it does not pay for the king to leave them in peace. If it please the king, let it be written to wipe them out, and ten thousand talents of silver will I measure out to the court overseers to bring into the king’s treasury.” And the king removed his ring from his hand and gave it to Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, foe of the Jews (Esther 3:8–9, cf. Exodus 1:8).

“Just as oil will not mix with other liquids, so Israel do not mix with the other peoples of the world, as is written, You shall not intermarry with them (Deuteronomy 7:3)” (Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah 1:21).

“[However,] Rabbi El’azar said: The blessed Holy One did not scatter Israel among the peoples except that converts be added to them, for it is said: And I will sow her [Israel] for Myself in the earth (Hosea 2:25); surely a man sows a se’ah in order to harvest many korin! And from this Rabbi Yoḥanan said: and I will have compassion upon her that had not obtained compassion [and I will say to them who were not My people, you are My people; and they shall say, You are my God] (ibid.)” (BT Pesaḥim 87b).

And Haman said to King Aheshurues: יֶשְׁנוֹ עַם אֶחָד (Yeshno am ead), there is one people (Esther 3:8), the very same of whom it is said, [Hear, O Israel! YHWH our God, YHWH is] אֶחָד (ead), One (Deuteronomy 6:4). [Do not read יֶשְׁנוֹ עַם אֶחָד (yeshno am eḥad), there is one people, but rather:] יָשֵׁן לוֹ מֵעַמּוֹ (yashen lo me-ammo), He is sleeping despite [or: among] His people” (Ester Rabbah 7:12, cf. BT Megillah 15b; Abba Guryon 5; Leqaḥ Tov 3:11, 5:14; Aggadat Ester 4:1, 17; Rabbi Ḥayyim Vital, Pri Ets Ḥayyim, Purim 5).

That night the sleep of the king was shaken (Esther 6:1). The heavens, the throne of the King of the King of Kings, the blessed Holy One, were shaken when He saw Israel in such distress. But is there sleep before הַמָּקוֹם (ha-maqom), the Omnipresent?! Is it not said, Behold, He neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalms 121:4)? Rather, in a time when Israel is in distress and the peoples of the world are at peace, it says, Awake, why sleep, O Master! [Rouse up, neglect not forever. Why do תַסְתִּיר (tastir), You hide, Your face, forget our affliction, our oppression?] (Psalms 44:24–25) [cf. BT Ḥullin 139b: ‘Where is אֶסְתֵּר (ester), Esther, in the Torah? Let Me אַסְתִּירָה (astirah), hide, My face from them (Deuteronomy 32:20)’].

King Ahasuerus’ sleep was also disturbed, because he saw in a dream Haman seizing a sword to kill him, and he awoke in terror from his sleep and told his scribes to bring [the royal annals] the Book of Acts to see what events had occurred, and they opened the book and found how Mordecai had informed against Bigthan and Teresh. So when they said to the king, Look, Haman is standing in the court (Esther 6:5), the king said: ‘What I saw in my dream is true; he has only come at this time of day to kill me’” (Ester Rabbah 10:1).

“[Preparing to impale Mordecai] Haman went about looking for a stake fifty cubits long, but could not find any, save that was in his house, which Parshandatha his son had brought from Kedronia, which is Kerdos. Because Haman’s son was ruler there; and there he saw the stake, which was from Noah’s ark. And Haman uprooted it from his house, so that the curse of Darius might be fulfilled in him, as is written, [Also I have made a decree, that] whosoever shall alter this word, let timber be pulled down from his house, and being set up, let him be impaled (Ezra 6:11). And this word found favor with Haman, and he prepared a gallows for himself; he erected it and perfected it. A heavenly voice called out saying, ‘How proper and fitting is this gallows for you.’

That night [the king could not sleep….] (Esther 6:1): On that night sleep [deserted] the carpenters who were preparing the gallows for Haman. On that night sleep deserted the smiths who were preparing the nails to be set in the gallows. On that night sleep deserted the King of Kings. Were in not written, one would dare not say it, as is written: Awake, why sleep, O Master! (Psalms 44:24); And the Master awoke as one sleeping, [like a warrior shaking off wine] (Psalms 78:65). On that very night the blessed Holy One was revealed. [And they impaled Haman on the stake that he had readied for Mordecai, and the king’s wrath subsided…. On the contrary, it was the Jews who dominated their foes (Esther 7:10, 9:1)]” (Targum Ester, see Kasher and Klein, New Fragments of Targum to Esther, p. 154–55).

“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. 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]” (Zohar 2:176b, Sifra di-Tsni’uta).

“Eyes of the White Head are different from other eyes. There is no lid over the eye, nor any eyebrows. Why? Because it is written: Behold, He neither slumbers nor sleeps, the Guardian of Israel (Psalms 121:4)—Israel above. And it is written: that Your eyes may be open (1 Kings 8:52). And it has been taught: Whatever comes in Compassion has no lid over the eye, nor any eyebrows. All the more so, the White Head, which has no need.

Rabbi Shim’on said to Abba, ‘To what does this allude?’ He replied, ‘To fish, fish of the sea, whose eyes have neither lids nor brows, and they do not sleep and need no protection for the eye. All the more so, the Ancient of Ancients—who needs no protection; and all the more so, since He watches over all, and all is nourished by Him, and He does not sleep, as is written: Behold, He neither slumbers nor sleeps, the Guardian of Israel—Israel above.

It is written: Behold, the eye of YHWH is upon those who revere Him (Psalms 33:18), and it is written: The eyes of YHWH range over the whole earth (Zechariah 4:10). There is no contradiction. One refers to זְעֵיר אַנפִּין (Ze’eir Anpin), Small Countenance, and the other to אֲרִיך אַנְפִּין (Arikh Anpin), Elongated Countenance. Nevertheless, there are two eyes, turning into one. This eye is white within white, and a white including all whites” (Zohar 3:129b, Idra Rabba, cf. Zohar 3:137b–138a, Idra Rabba).

Primordial Kings were Destroyed: Would you ever Imagine that they were Nullified?

“‘The world was created through ten sayings’ (M Avot 5:1)…. And in three are these [sayings] included: YHWH through Wisdom founded earth, set heavens firm through Discernment. Through His Knowledge the deeps burst open (Proverbs 3:19–20)” (Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 17–18).

“[Mar Raḥmai son of Bibi’s] disciples asked: What is דָּלֶת (dalet)? He said to them: A parable: [To what can the matter be compared?] There were once עֲשָׂרָה (asarah), ten, kings in one place, and all of them rich, but one of them, though עָשִׁיר (ashir), rich, was not [as rich] as any of them. Even though his wealth was great, he was called דָּל (dal), ‘poor,’ compared to the others….

What are the ten kings? They are seven voices, and three sayings. But what sayings? And YHWH has proclaimed you today [to be to Him a treasured people, as He has spoken to you, and to keep all His commands, and to set you high above all the nations that He made, for praise and for reclaim and for glory, and for you to be a holy people to YHWH your God, as He has spoken] (Deuteronomy 26:18). But what three? The beginning of wisdom is—get חָכְמָה (ḥokhmah), wisdom, and in all that you get, get בִינָה (vinah), discernment (Proverbs 4:7), as is written, [Yet it is a spirit in man,] and Shaddai’s breath that grants discernment (Job 32:8)—Shaddai’s breath is תְּבִינֵם (tevinem), Discernment. What is third? As the old man said to the child, ‘What is too wondrous for you, do not expound; what is concealed from you, do not inquire. You have no business with hidden matters!’ (BT Ḥagigah 13a)” (Bahir §§27, 49).

“It has been taught: The Book of Concealment, a book 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” (Zohar 2:176b, Sifra di-Tsni’uta).

“When Rabbi Shim’on opened, the earth quaked and the Companions trembled. He revealed in mystery, and opened, saying, ‘These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before a king reigned over the Children of Israel (Genesis 36:31). Happy are you, O righteous ones, to whom are revealed mysteries of mysteries of Torah, which have not been revealed to holy ones of the Highest. Who will examine this? Who will be worthy of this? It is testimony to faith of total faith. May the prayer be accepted, that it may not be considered a sin to reveal this.

‘And what will the Companions say? For this verse is difficult, since it should not have been written so, because we see that there were numerous kings before the Children of Israel appeared and before they had a king; so what is intended here? Well, it is mystery of mysteries, which humans cannot know or perceive or arouse in their minds.

‘It has been taught: Before the Ancient of Ancients, Concealed of the Concealed, had prepared adornments of the King and crowns of crowns, there was neither beginning nor end. He engraved and gauged within Himself, and spread before Himself one curtain, in which He engraved and gauged kings, but His adornments did not endure. As is written: These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before a king reigned—Primordial King—over the Children of Israel, the Primordial One (Genesis 36:31). All those who had been engraved were called by name, but they did not endure, so He eventually put them aside and concealed them. Afterward, He ascended in that curtain and was arrayed perfectly” (Zohar 3:128a, Idra Rabba).

“Until He Himself was arrayed in His enhancements, all those that He intended to arrange did not endure, and all those worlds were destroyed…. Would you ever imagine that they were nullified? Look, they are all included in [Primordial] Adam! Rather, they were nullified and removed from that arrangement, until the image of Adam appeared. When this image appeared they were all engraved and transformed into another existence. Some of them became fragrantly firm, some of them not entirely so, and some of them not at all.

Now, you might say, ‘But it is written He died… he died (Genesis 36:33–39)—implying that they were nullified completely.’ Not so! Rather, anyone who descends from his original rung of existence is said to have died, as is written: The King of Egypt died (Exodus 2:23)—meaning that he descended from the rung that he occupied. Once Adam was arrayed, they were called by different names and became fragrantly firm existing in Him, enduring in their places… transformed into another existence, settling securely” (Zohar 3:135b, Idra Rabba).

“Before the world was created, they did not gaze face-to-face, and therefore primordial worlds were destroyed, and primordial worlds were fashioned in disarray. That which is disarrayed is called ‘flashing sparks’—like a blacksmith pounding an iron tool, scattering sparks in every direction; and those flying forth flash and scintillate and are immediately extinguished. These are called Primordial Worlds. Thus they were destroyed and did not endure, until the Holy Ancient One was arrayed and the Artisan proceeded to His artistry” (Zohar 3:292b, Idra Zuta).

“Nothing in the world, be it ever so small, lacks a place in which to be hidden and absorbed; it is never lost” (Zohar 2:99b).

“Israel is the kernel of the world; Israel arose in thought. Other nations, who are the shell preceded, as is written: אֵלֶּה (elleh), these, are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned over the Children of Israel (Genesis 36:31). Yet the blessed Holy One intends to initiate the kernel without the shell, as is written: Holy is Israel to YHWH, the first fruits of His harvest (Jeremiah 2:3)—the kernel preceding the shell. Although the kernel will arise without a shell, who would dare to extend his hand to eat of it? All who eat of it will be held guilty; evil will befall them—declares YHWH (ibid.)” (Zohar 2:108b, Sava de-Mishpatim).

“אֵלֶּה (Elleh), these are, the generations of the heavens and the earth (Genesis 2:4). It has been established: ‘Wherever these are is written it invalidates the preceding’ (Bereshit Rabbah 30:3) [on the principle ‘These are invalidates the preceding,’ see Bereshit Rabbah 12:3, 30:3; Shemot Rabbah 1:2; 30:3; Bemidbar Rabbah 3:10; Rut Rabbah 8:1; Tanḥuma, Shemot 2, Mishpatim 3; Tanḥuma (Buber), Shemot 3, Mishpatim 2; Zohar 1:59b; 2:16a (MhN), 223a. Cf. Mekhilta, Neziqin 1]. And these are the generations of תֹּהוּ (tohu) hinted at in the second verse: The earth then was tohu, welter (Genesis 1:2). Regarding those it is said the blessed Holy One created worlds and destroyed them [see Bereshit Rabbah 3:7; 9:2]. Thus, it is written: The earth then was welter and waste (Genesis 1:2). Why did the blessed Holy One create worlds to destroy them? It would have been better had He not created them at all! But this is certainly a great mystery. What is ‘and destroying them’? It cannot be that the blessed Holy One destroyed the makings of His own hands. Furthermore, these are the heavens of which is said, For the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, [but the earth shall grow old like a garment, and they that dwell in it shall die in like manner: but My redemption shall be forever, and My righteousness shall not be abolished] (Isaiah 51:6) [cf. Psalms 102:26–27]. If so, does the blessed Holy One [create] and shatter?

The mystery is that the blessed Holy One created the world by Torah, as is written: בְּרֵאשִׁית (Bereshit), with beginning (Genesis 1:1), about which is written: YHWH created me at the רֵאשִׁית (reshit), outset, of His way, [before His works of old] (Proverbs 8:22). And by this reshitbeginning, He created the [supernal] heavens and the earth [i.e., the six sefirot whose creation are hinted at by the permutation of בְּרֵאשִׁית (bereshit): בָּרָא שִׁית (bara shit), He created six]. He sustained them with the covenant which is in בְּרֵאשִׁית (bereshit) [i.e., בְּרִית אֵשׁ (berit esh), covenant of fire], as is written: Were it not for בְרִיתִי (veriti), My covenant, day and night, I would not have established the laws of the heavens and earth (Jeremiah 33:25). These are: The heavens are the heavens of YHWH (Psalms 115:16). And the land of the living comprises seven zones [lit., lands, see Zohar 3:10a], about which King David wrote, I will walk before YHWH in the lands of the living (Psalms 116:9).

Afterwards He created the heavens and the earth upon תֹּהוּ (tohu), welter, without any foundation—the covenant—to support them [cf. Job 26:7]. Because of this the blessed Holy One, wanted to give Torah—the covenant of circumcision—to the nations of the world but because they did not want to receive it the land remained parched and dry [see BT Avodah Zarah 2b–3b; Sifre Deuteronomy 33:2]. Thus: Let the waters under heaven be gathered together to one place, and let the dry land appear (Genesis 1:9). Waters—Torah. To one place—Israel, because the souls of Israel come from that Place, of which is written: Blessed be the glory of YHWH from His place (Ezekiel 3:12). The glory of YHWH—lower Shekhinah; from His place—upper Shekhinah. And since their souls come from there then certainly יהוה (YHWH) rests on them. Of them is written: Yes, YHWH’s portion is His people (Deuteronomy 32:9).

Torah is [for creating] יִשּׁוּבָא דְּעָלְמָא (yishuva de-alma), the civilized world. The nations of the world who did not accept her have remained wasted and dry. This is ‘The blessed Holy One created worlds and destroyed them’—those who did not keep the decrees of Torah. It does not mean He destroyed His own makings as people might think [see for example BT Sanhedrin 103a in the name of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai: ‘The blessed Holy One wished to hurl the world back into welter and waste on account of Jehoiakim, but that He gazed at (the rest of) his generation, and His mind was appeased’]. Why should He destroy His own children?! Of whom is written: ‘בְּהִבָּרְאָם, (Be-hibbare’am), when they were created (Genesis 2:4). Do not read בְּהִבָּרְאָם (be-hibbare’am), when they were created, but rather בְּה״ בְּרָאָם (be-he bera’am), with ה (heHe created them’ (BT Menaḥot 29b) [cf. ZḤ 2d]. Because of those converts from among the nations of the world the small ה (he) of אַבְרָהָם (Avraham), Abraham, fell during the Fifth Millennium [on the especially small ה (he) of Genesis 2:4, see Bereshit Rabbah 12:9; Zohar 1:91b, 93a, 105b, 128b, 154b, 230b; 3:117a]. [And the river was wasted and dried up (Isaiah 19:5):] Wasted—the First Temple; dried up—the Second Temple.

Moses wanted to bring them [i.e., the motley throng, the mixed multitude] under the wings of the Shekhinah and thought that they too were drawn down from ה (he). Thus he caused the fall of ה (he) of אַבְרָהָם (Avraham), Abraham. This brought upon him descent, as is written: Go, get you down, for your people… have become corrupt (Exodus 32:7). They did not receive the small ה (he) with awe of י (yod) and with the love of [the first] ה (he). So he fell from his rung, which is ו (vav)” (Zohar 1:24b–25a, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar).