The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: חַרְדַּל

Like a Mustard Seed in a Ring

Emeq ha-Melekh

“[Rabbi Berekhiah’s] disciples said to him: Rabbi from above to below we know, but from below to above we do not know. He replied: Is it not all one—below to above and above to below? They said: Rabbi, ascending is not like descending! One can run while descending, but it is not so while ascending. Moreover, the one who ascends can do so by a way other than the [way] he descends.

He sat and expounded for them: ‘Shekhinah is below just as Shekhinah is above’ (Seder Rabba de-Vereshit §440, 745). And what is Shekhinah? Say that this is the light emanated from the primordial light, Ḥokhmah. It also מְסַבֵּב (mesabev), turns everything around, as is written, Fullness—all the earth is His glory (Isaiah 6:3). What is its function here? A parable: To what can the matter be compared? A king had seven sons, and he assigned each one his place. He said to them, ‘Sit, this one on the back of that one.’ The lowest one said, ‘I will not dwell below! I will not be so far from you!’ Saying to them, ‘I will hereby מְסוֹבֵב (mesovev), swing round, and see you all day long [cf. BT Ta’anit 31a; Vayiqrah Rabbah 4:8; Jeremiah 31:21].’ As is written, Fullness—all the earth is His glory. Why is He in their midst? To stand them up and make them endure” (Bahir §171).

“It has been taught: There are ten גַּלְגָּלִים (galggalim), spheres, and ten מַאֲמָרוֹת (ma’amarot), commands. Each and every sphere has its command. Not that it is surrounded by it, but rather it turns it [see Maimonides, Mishneh TorahHilkhot Yesodei ha-Torah 1:5; Guide of the Perplexed, 2:4–6].

This world is like a mustard seed in a ringWhy? Because of the spirit that blows upon it and sustains it. If this spirit were to be interrupted, the world would wither in an instant [cf. Isaiah 40:7–8; Job 34:14; BT Bava Batra 25a–b]” (Bahir §179).

“All the lights expanding, large and small, appear as the hub of a wheel [lit., כְּעֵין גַּלְגַּל (ke-ein galggal), as the eye of a wheel; or: as the look of a wheel]. All the spheres and worlds and their hosts appear in the center like a mustard seed. And they all go to and fro, whirling, never still….

From the abundant efflux of the great and awesome firmament spread the mighty seraphim, capable masters standing watch, conducting all the worlds—conducting mysterious things arranged by the blessed Holy One when He created the 18,000 worlds [see BT Avodah Zarah 3b; Zohar 1:23b–24a (TZ); Rabbenu Baḥya ben Asher on Numbers 10:35].

Within this firmament the spheres and their hosts are fixed. Because of its overwhelming strength, the spheres appear as a mustard seed. And from this exquisite firmament emanates one fine and lovely spark comprising every kind of תִפאֶרֶת (tif’eret), beauty. It is the light that stands above, reward of the world, covering it” (Berit Menuḥa, Second Way: The Way of Love, First Vowel, Sixth Vowel).

“קָו הַמִדָּה (Qav ha-Middah): Length and Breadth. Qav ha-Middah: Depth and Height. Qav ha-Middah: Circle and Square.

Established to be known through thirteen gates—twenty-six on the two sides. When they are engraved in their engravings, they are all one within this measure. Qav ha-Middah ascends and descends, engraved in its engravings on all sides.

Light Not Existing in Light, engraves, and the Spark of All Sparks bursts forth, striking within the Will of Wills, secreted within it, unknown.

When this Will desires to ramify, this Spark—concealed within Will, befitting and not befitting to exist as color—shoots out. When this Will ramifies, this Spark—splaying color and no color—strikes, entering into that extension, splaying forth in its colors. It ascends, becoming actualized through its ascent within Will and its emanation.

Will strikes its extension in concealment, unknown—emitting gossamer lights, coalescing as one. When they seek to emerge, that Spark, imbued with colors, strikes the extension and it becomes constricted. On account of the pressure, those diaphanous lights emerge, audible as one. Then the Spark displays colors within them, all dyed at once: white, red, green, and black. The Spark lingered there for twelve months, and then they were uprooted, and planted in another place.

This Spark ascends and descends, and is called בּוּצִינָא דְּקַרְדִינוּתָא (botsina de-qardinuta), Lamp of Adamantine Darkness. Enhancing and striking all the luminous shoots, it decrees, ‘Grow!’ [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 10:6]. Then springs gush forth from that supernal, primordial extension, irrigating and illuminating them all, and they flourish.

With the בּוּצִיצָא דְּקַרְדִינוּתָא (botsitsa de-qardinuta), Spark of Adamantine Darkness, the One who Shines, shines—ascending and descending, spreading out in all directions. Then it is called קָו מִדָּה (qav middah), Line of Measure, its measurement enduring above and below.

Line of Measure—Spark of Adamantine Darkness, Concealed of all Concealed, lustrous measure, configuring beauty for all. The beauty itself, emerging from the first extension, configures them. They stand within it, poised for calibration above and below.

One who attains this mystery and knows it, merits to know the wisdom of his Master. Happy is his portion in this world and in the world that is coming!” (Zohar Ḥadash 57a).

The Cave is Filled by the Sea, yet the Sea is not Diminished

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And the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting and the glory of YHWH filled the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:34).

“Rabbi Yehoshu’a of Sikhnin said in the name of Rabbi Levi: Why was the Tent of Meeting compared to a cave on the seashore? When the sea rises and floods it, the cave is filled by the sea, yet the sea is not diminished. So too, the Tent of Meeting was filled with the splendor of the Shekhinah, as is said, on [Israel’s] יוֹם כַּלֹּת (yom kallot), bridal day, Moses [set up the Tabernacle] (Numbers 7:1)” (Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana 1:2, cf. Tanḥuma, Vayakhel, 7; Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 19a).

As I beheld the living beings, behold, one wheel on the earth alongside the living beings (Ezekiel 1:15). Rabbi El’azar said, ‘This is a certain angel who stands on earth and whose head extends close to the living beings.’ In a matnita [tannaitic tradition] it is taught: His name is Sandalfon, who is taller than his companion by a journeying distance of five hundred years. He stands behind the Chariot, binding crowns for his Maker. But is it so? Behold it is written: Blessed be the glory of YHWH from His place (Ezekiel 3:12) accordingly, none knows His place!—he pronounces the Name over the crown, and it goes and rests on His head.

Rava said: All that Ezekiel saw Isaiah saw. What does Ezekiel resemble? A villager who saw the king [and prophesied from afar, i.e., exile]. And what does Isaiah [who said: The fullness of all the land is His glory (Isaiah 6:3)] resemble? A townsman who saw the king [and prophesied from within the land of Israel]” (BT Ḥagigah 13b).

“Rabbi Dosa says: Behold, it says, You shall not be able to see My face, for no human can see Me and live (Exodus 33:20). While they are living, they do not see, but in the hour of their death, they do see. Thus it says, Before Him will kneel all who go down to the dust whose life is undone (Psalms 22:30). Rabbi Akiva says: For no human can see Me and liveeven the living beings that carry the Throne cannot see the Glory! Son of Azzai said: I do not mean to repudiate my master’s words, but to add to his words: For no human can see Me and liveeven the ministering angels, whose life is the life of eternity, do not see the Glory!” (Sifra, Vayiqra, dibbura dindavah 2:12, 4a).

What is From His place (Ezekiel 3:12)? Because no one knows 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 worthy woman, lovely and refined in all that she did, they said: ‘She undoubtedly was taken from the side of the light, for her deeds give light to the world.’ They then asked her: ‘Where are you from?’ She replied: ‘From my place.’ They said: ‘If so, the people of your place must be great! Blessed are you and blessed is your place!’” (Bahir §132).

His disciples said to him: From above to below we know. But from below to above we do not know. He replied: Is it not all one—below to above and above to below? They said: Our Rabbi, ascending is not like descending. One can run while descending, but it is not so while ascending. He replied: Go out and see.

He sat and expounded for them: ‘Shekhinah is below just as Shekhinah is above’ (Seder Rabba de-Vereshit) [see Wertheimer, Battey Midrashot 1:30]. And what is Shekhinah? Say that this is the light emanated from the primordial light, Ḥokhmah. It also surrounds everything, as is written: The fullness of all the land is His glory (Isaiah 6:3). What is its function here? A parable: A king had seven sons, and he assigned each one his place. He said to them, ‘Sit, this one on the back of that one.’ The lowest one said, ‘I will not dwell below! I will not be so far from you!’ He said to them, ‘I will hereby turn and see you all day long.’ This is The fullness of all the land is His glory. Why is He in their midst? To stand them up and make them endure” (Bahir §171).

“All beings above and below cannot grasp, till finally they declare: Blessed be the glory of YHWH from His place! (Ezekiel 3:12). Those below proclaim that He is above, as is written: Your glory is above the heavens (Psalms 113:4). Those above proclaim that He is below, as is written: Your glory is over all the earth (ibid. 57:12). Finally all of them, above and below, declare: Blessed be the glory of YHWH from His place! For He is unknowable; no one has ever been able to comprehend Him” (Zohar 1:103a).

His majesty covers the heavens, and His splendor fills the earth (Habakkuk 3:3).

“What is the difference between them [ס (samekh) and ם (mem)]? Well, when enclosed and hidden within itself, within the supernal point above, She [Binah] assumes the form of the letter ס (samekh), enclosed within and hidden, ascending above. And when She returns and sits רְבִיעָא (revi’a), crouching, over children below to suckle them, She assumes the form of the letter ם (mem) [which is] רְבִיעָא (revi’a), quadrilateral, enclosed in four directions of the world [the first appearance of the letter ס (samekh) in the Torah is in the word הַסֹּבֵב (ha-sovev), surrounds (Genesis 2:11), and its second appearance is in the word וַיִּסְגֹּר (va-yisggor), closed (ibid., 21), see Bereshit Rabbah 17:6]” (Zohar 2:127a, cf. BT Shabbat 104a).

“He surrounds all the worlds, and none but He surrounds them in any direction, up or down or to the four corners of the compass, and no one has escaped outside His realm, for He fills all the worlds and there is no other that fills them [cf. BT Berakhot 10a]. He grants life, and there is no other god above Him to give Him life, as is said: You enliven them all (Nehemiah 9:6), and for Him Daniel said: And all earth’s dwellers are counted as naught, and as He chooses He does with the array of the heavens and the earth’s dwellers, [and there is none who can protest against Him and say to Him, ‘What have You done?’] (Daniel 4:32). He binds and unites kind to its kind above and below, and the four elements would have no proximity except with the blessed Holy One in their midst” (Zohar 3:225a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

The World He Made is like a Ball Thrown from Hand to Hand

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He stretches Zaphon over the void, hangs earth over emptiness (Job 26:7).

“It is taught: Rabbi Yose says: Woe to creatures who see but know not what they see, who stand but know not on what they stand. What does the earth stand on? On the pillars, for it is said: He makes the earth shake in its setting, and its pillars shutter (Job 9:6). The pillars upon the waters, for it is said: Who stamps firm the earth on the waters (Psalms 136:6). The waters upon the mountains, for it is said: over mountains the waters stood (ibid. 104:6). The mountains on the wind, for it is said: He that forms the mountains, and creates the wind (Amos 4:13). The wind upon the storm, for it is said: Stormwind that performs His command (Psalms 148:8). Storm is תְּלוּיָה (teluyah), suspended, on the arm of the blessed Holy One for it is said: [A refuge, the God of old,] from beneath the arms of the world (Deuteronomy 33:27). But the Sages say: [The world] stands on twelve pillars, for it is said: He set out the boundaries of peoples, by the number of the sons of Israel (ibid. 32:8). And some say seven pillars, for it is said: Wisdom has built her house, she has her pillars, seven (Proverbs 9:1). Rabbi El’azar son of Shammua’ says: [It stands] on one pillar, and its name is ‘Righteous,’ for it is said: The Righteous One is the foundation of the world (Proverbs 10:25)” (BT Ḥagigah 12b).

“Rabbi Yehudah opened, God said, ‘Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters…’ (Genesis 1:6). Come and see: When the blessed Holy One created the world, He created seven רְקִיעִים (reqi’im), heavens, above; He created seven earths; He created seven seas; He created seven rivers; He created seven days; He created seven weeks; He created seven years seven times, seven thousand years that the world exists. The blessed Holy One is in the seventh of all [cf. Sefer Yetsirah §39, §42].

Seven שְׁחָקִים (sheaqim), heavens, above, and in each and every one: ministers, stars, and constellations, serving in each and every firmament—all dwelling one above the other, to receive the yoke of their Master’s kingdom. In all of those firmaments are various chariots and ministers, one upon another—some with six wings, some with four wings; some with four faces; some with two faces, some with one; some flaming fire, some water, some wind, as is written: He makes His angels winds, His ministers flaming fire (Psalms 104:4).

All those רְקִיעִין (reqi’in), firmaments, one upon the other, are like skins of an onion, some below and some above. Every firmament moves and trembles from fear of their Master; at His command they move, and at His command they stand still. And above them all, the blessed Holy One, conveying all by His power and might.

Correspondingly, seven earths below, all in the inhabited realm, although some are higher and some are lower, and the land of Israel is highest of all, and Jerusalem is highest of habitation [cf. Ibn Ezra on Genesis 1:2: ‘As to the Midrash that there are seven earths it means that the realm inhabited by human beings is divided into seven zones (or climates);’ Zohar 1:177a; 2:30b].

[Yet] our Companions who dwell in the south have seen in the books of the ancients and in the Book of Adam that those earths are divided as follows: they exist below corresponding to those firmaments above, one upon another, one upon another, and between each earth and the next is a firmament separating one from another. So all those earths are distinguished by names, and in each of them is a Garden of Eden and a Hell. In them are creatures, differing from one another, corresponding to the pattern above: some with two faces, some with four, some with one, and the appearance of these is unlike those.

Now you might say, ‘But all inhabitants of the world issued from Adam! How did Adam descend to all those earths and engender children? And how many wives did he have? Well, Adam existed only in the highest world of all called תֵּבֵל (Tevel), Firm Land, as is said: He commanded לְתֵבֵל אַרְצוֹ (le-Tevel Artso), His earth Firm Land [cf. Proverbs 8:31: Playing בְּתֵבֵל אַרְצוֹ (be-Tevel Artso), with His inhabited world]. This תֵּבֵל (Tevel), Firm Land, is linked with the firmament above and joined with the supernal Name, as is written: He judges תֵּבֵל (Tevel), the Firm Land, with righteousness (Psalms 9:9)—with righteousness [i.e., Shekhinah], surely! So the children of Adam exist in this highest one called תֵּבֵל (Tevel), Firm Land, and they are superior to all, corresponding to the pattern above.

How so? Just as above there are firmaments, with one firmament highest of all, above which is the throne of the blessed Holy One, as is said: like the appearance of sapphire, image of a throne. And upon the image of a throne, an image like the appearance of a human being upon it above (Ezekiel 1:26)—so here too in this תֵּבֵל (Tevel), Firm Land, is a king of all. And who is that? The human being, who is not to be found among all those lower ones.

And those lower ones, where did they come from? Well, from residual vapors of the earth, assisted by the firmament above, issue creatures differing from one another, some clothed in shells, like those worms found in the earth—some of them red, black, or white shells, some any color. All the creatures are like that, and they endure for only ten years or so.

[Yet] in the book of Hamnuna Sava it is explained further that all the inhabited world מִתְגַּלְגְּלָא בְּעִגּוּלָא כַּכַּדּוּר (mitgalgela be-iggula ka-kadur), revolves in a circle like a ball, some below and some above. All those creatures differ in their appearance, due to the difference of the atmosphere in every place, and they remain in existence like human beings. Consequently, there is a place in the inhabited world where day shines for some, while for others it is dark—for these it is day, while for those it is night. And there is a place where it is entirely day, and night exists for only a brief time [cf. Plato, Timaeus 62d–63a].

And that which is said in the books of the ancients and in the Book of Adam is correct, for it is written: I praise You, for awesomely and wondrously am I made, wondrous are Your works, and my soul deeply knows it (Psalms 139:14), and it is written: How many are Your works, O YHWH! All of them You made in wisdom; the earth is filled with Your creatures (ibid. 104:24). So all is fine [since these and those are the words of the Living God]. This mystery has been transmitted to the masters of wisdom and not to markers of boundaries, for it is a deep mystery of Torah.

Similarly, in the sea, which has numerous creatures differing from one another, as is written: This sea, vast and broad of reach, [gliding creatures there beyond number, living beings small and great]. There ships go, [Leviathan whom You fashioned to play with] (Psalms 104:25–26). All interdependent, all interlinked, and all corresponding to the pattern above. And in all those worlds, none rules but the human being, with the blessed Holy One over him.

Rabbi Nehorai Sava sailed on the Great Sea, and the sea grew stormy and all those aboard the ship perished. A miracle happened to him and he descended through certain pathways in the heart of the sea and emerged beneath the sea into an inhabited land. He saw some of those creatures—all of them small—and they were praying, but he did not know what they were saying. A miracle happened to him and he ascended. He said, ‘Happy are the righteous, who engage in Torah and know concealed mysteries above and below! Woe to those who dispute their words and do not believe!

From that day on, when he came to the house of study and they were uttering a word of Torah, he would weep. They asked him, ‘Why are you weeping?’ He replied, ‘Because I transgressed believing in the Rabbis, and I fear the judgment of that world” (Zohar 3:10a, cf. ZḤ 15a [MhN]; Scholem, “Parashah Ḥadashah,” 441–42).

One silver bowl (Numbers 7:13)—the world He made is כַּכַּדּוּר (ka-kadur), like a ball, thrown from hand to hand” (Bemidbar Rabbah 13:14).

“It has been taught: There are ten גַלגַלִים (galgalim), [nested] spheres, and ten מַאֲמָרוֹת (ma’amarot), commands. Each and every sphere has its command—not that it is surrounded by it, but rather it turns it. This world is [like] a mustard seed in a ring. Why? Because of the breath that blows upon it and sustains it. If this breath were to be interrupted, the world would wither in an instant” (Bahir §179, cf. Maimonides, Mishneh TorahHilkhot Yesodei ha-Torah 1:5).

“Sound of a גַּלְגַּלָּא מִתְגַּלְגְּלָא (galgalla mitgalgela), sphere revolving, from below to above; her braided chariots whirling, a sweet sound ascending and descending, drifting through the world. Sound of a shofar drawn out in depths of rungs, turning the sphere. Around her lie two מַגְרוֹפִין (magrofyan), spades [or: shovels, ladles, hydraulica, see BT Arakhin 10b–11a], on the right and on the left, in two colors intermingling—this one white, that one red—both turning the sphere above. When turning to the right, white ascends; when turning to the left, red descends. The sphere turns constantly, never subsiding. Two birds ascend chirping, one to the south, one to the north, soaring through the air. The chirping and the sweet sound of the sphere join as one, the A psalm, a song for the Sabbath day (Psalms 92:1), and all blessings flow whisperingly in this sweetness through the passionate sound of the shofar” (Zohar 1:233b, cf. BT Yoma 20b; Guide of the Perplexed 2:8; Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 75–76, 27b).