The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: מַיִם

Weeping and Yearning of the Lower Waters

“The disciples asked Rabbi Berekhiah, ‘Allow us [to speak] words before you,’ but permission was not given. Once he did permit them only to see if they had focused themselves. He scrutinized them saying: Let me hear your wisdom. They opened, saying: In the beginning (Genesis 1:1)—one. Though a spirit grows faint before Me, the life-breath—it is I who made it (Isaiah 57:16) [—two]. God’s stream is filled with water (Psalms 65:10) [—three]. What is פֶּלֶג אֱלֹהִים (peleg Elohim), God’s stream? Thus our Rabbi taught us ‘The blessed Holy One took up the primordial waters and divided them. He placed half of them in the firmament and half of them in the ocean, this is פַּלַג אֱלֹהִים מְלֹא מָיִם (palag Elohim melo mayim), God split the fullness of water‘ (Bereshit Rabbah 4:4). And by it man learns Torah. Rabbi Ḥama said: Through the merit of rendering kindness a man learns Torah, as is written, Oh, every one who thirsts go to the water, and who has no silver, buy food and eat (Isaiah 55:1). Go to Him and He will render kindness to you, and you will buy food and eat. Another interpretation: And who has no silver, as is written, Mine is the silver and mine the gold, says YHVH of Armies (Haggai 2:8)” (Bahir §51). 

“On the third day all the earth was flat like a plain and the waters covered the surface of all the earth. When the word of Gevurah was uttered, Let the waters [under the heavens] be gathered [in one place so that the dry land will appear] (Genesis 1:9)… the waters were rolled together and gathered into the valleys, as is said, and the gathering of waters He called Seas, [and Elohim saw that it was good] (ibid., 10). The waters became הֵעִיזוּ פְּנֵיהֶם (heizu peneihem), insolent, and attempted to ascend to heaven as at first until He rebuked and subdued them and placed them beneath the soles of His feet, as is said, Who makes a way in the sea and a path in עַזִּים (azzim), fierce, waters (Isaiah 43:16)” (Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 18 [MS Oxford], cf. Alfa Beita de-Ven Sira, 232–34).

Elohim said, ‘Let the waters under heaven be gathered to one place’ (Genesis 1:9). Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nasi] opened, saying, ‘More than the sound of many waters, the sea’s majestic breakers, majestic on high is YHWH (Psalms 93:4). More than the sound of many waters—when the blessed Holy One commanded the waters to gather in one place, they dashed to and fro, exalting themselves on high.’

Rabbi Yitsḥaq said, ‘At that time the waters surged over the earth, which was immersed within them, covering it over. The blessed Holy One said to them, ‘Not like this! Rather, שֶׁיִּתְכַּנְּסוּ בְּצִמְצוּם כֻּלָּם אֶל מָקוֹם אֶחָד (she-yitkansu be-tsimtsum kullam el maqom eḥad), gather yourselves together to one place, and let the dry land appear’ (Genesis ibid.), implying that the earth existed previously as dry land without moisture amidst the waters. It is not written dry land, but rather the dry land….

David said further, ‘You are the one who made the entire world, and You made the waters. In their great abundance the waters engulfed the whole world, but You decreed that they assemble, entirely be-tsimtsum, contracted, to one place. So may it be Your will before You that Your Shekhinah that fills the entire world be contracted in Your house, for it is more fitting that She abide there, as is written: holiness befits Your house (Psalms 93:5); and not for a short while, but rather, for all time (ibid.)” (Zohar Ḥadash 12c).

“Rabbi Berekhiah said: The upper waters receded from the lowers waters with weeping, as is written, The wellsprings of rivers he blocked from weeping (Job 28:11). Rabbi Tanḥuma proves it from here: He makes the earth through His power… as He sounds His voice—a roar of water in the heavens (Jeremiah 10:12). Voice—nothing but weeping, as is said, A voice in Ramah is heard, lament and bitter weeping (ibid. 31:14)” (Bereshit Rabbah 5:4, cf. Schäfer, Synopse zur Hekhalot-Literatur, §438; Rabbenu Baḥya on Leviticus 2:13).

“Rabbi Akiva expounded: When אִישׁ וְאִשָּׁה (ish ve-ishah), husband and wife, are worthy, Shekhinah [יהוה] abides between them; if not אֵשׁ (esh), fire, consumes them” (BT Sotah 17a).

“What is the Tree you spoke of? He said to him: The powers of the blessed Holy One—this one on the back of that one. Just as a tree produces fruit by means of water, so too the blessed Holy One multiplies the powers of the Tree by means of water. And what is ‘water’ of the blessed Holy One? [Lower] Ḥokhmah—soul of the righteous פּוֹרְחִין (porḥin), gushing, from the spring to the great channel, ascending and clinging to the Tree. What causes פּוֹרֵחַ (poreaḥ), blossoming? Israel: when they are righteous and good Shekhinah שְׁרוּיָה (sheruyah), abides, in their midst—[above] because of their [good] deeds שֶׁרְוָיָה (she-revayah), She overflows, in the blessed Holy One’s lap, making them fruitful and multiplied [cf. BT Shabbat 30b; Yevamot 64a]. And how do we know that the Shekhinah is called ‘water’? As is written, Riding through heavens with your help—in His triumph through the skies (Deuteronomy 33:26), and it is written, skies stream justice (Isaiah 45:8). And tsedeq, justice, is the Shekhinah, as is written, Tsedeq, righteousness, lodged in Her (ibid. 1:21). Tsedeq was given to David, as is written, YHVH shall reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations (Psalms 146:10). It is also written, [And David captured the stronghold of] Zion, which is the city of David (1 Chronicles 11:5)” (Bahir §119).

“Desire of the female toward the male arouses only when a spirit enters her and she gushes water toward upper, masculine waters [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 13:13]. Similarly Assembly of Israel arouses desire towards the blessed Holy One only by the spirit of the righteous entering Her. Then waters flow within Her toward waters of the male, all becoming one desire, one cluster, one nexus. Rapture, total rapture! An amble by the blessed Holy One with souls of the righteous” (Zohar 1:60b, cf. ibid. 1:244a–b).

“His 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 replied: Go out and see! He sat and expounded for them: Shekhinah is below just as Shekhinah is above. And what is ‘Shekhinah‘? Say that this is the light emanated from the primordial light, which is Ḥokhmah. He also surrounds everything, as is written, The fullness of all the earth is His glory (Isaiah 6:3). What is His function here? A parable: To what can the matter be compared? To a king who had seven sons, and [he assigned] each one his place, saying 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 swing round and see you all the entire day [cf. BT Ta’anit 31a].’ Behold: The fullness of all the earth is His glory. And why is He in their midst? To stand them up and make them endure” (Bahir §171, cf. BT Ḥullin 60b; Zohar 1:20a).

“This conflict is for the sake of Heaven, because the lower waters weep, saying: We yearn to be before the supernal King of all supernals! And they ask to be raised on high [cf. Zohar 1:17b: ‘A conflict of passionate love’]” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 19b).

He Will Open for You His Goodly Treasure: The Twentieth Day of the Omer—an Opening to Hope

Ilan Sefirot - Kabbalistic Divinity map. Amsterdam, 18th century, NLI

“Rafram son of Papa also said in the name of Rav Ḥisda: Since the day when the Temple was destroyed, rain no longer comes down from the ‘good treasury,’ as it says, YHWH will open for you His goodly treasure (Deuteronomy 28:12): When Israel act according to the will of the Omnipresent and are settled in their own land, then rain comes down from a ‘good treasury,’ but when Israel are not settled on their own land, then the rain does not come down from a ‘good treasury’” (BT Bava Batra 25b).

“Happy is one who succeeds in cleaving to the blessed Holy One fittingly! Happy is he in this world and in the world that is coming. [Seven days and seven days (1 Kings 8:65)—whoever joins these with these] the blessed Holy One opens for him holy treasure when his prayer needs to be received, as is written: YHWH will open for you His goodly treasurethe heavens (Deuteronomy 28:12). אֶת הַשָּׁמַיִם (Et ha-shamayim), The heavens—treasures above and below; seven days and seven days, all of them one, as is written: His goodly treasureHis treasure, singular, of et ha-shamayimthe heavensseven and seven channels (Zechariah 4:2), and they are one” (Zohar 1:204b).

Seven and seven (Zechariah 4:2)—all transcendent: one contained within its fellow. They are seven, each one contained within its companion. Now, you might say, ‘Six would have been better, so that each one can be combined within the other, because in this case one remains! With which shall it be combined?’ The answer is that when they all ascend, totaling twelve, the one positioned above them all, completing the number thirteen, is encompassed by the one standing above it. This last one is the lofty point from which all emerge….

When Solomon built the Temple and the lower world was in perfect accord with the upper world, Israel was entirely righteous, ascending numerous, lofty rungs. Then, Throne of Glory rose in rapture with abundant delight, with profuse exaltation. Then, Song of Songs of Solomon (Song of Songs 1:1), ascending in bliss, descending in bliss, joining in bliss—all worlds in bliss.

Song—for the blessed Holy One. Of Songs—for upper and lower realms. Which is Solomon’s—joining of all worlds in rapture, to the King who possesses peace completely.

Uttered by Elijah: ‘Song of Songs. It is written: YHWH will open for you His goodly treasure, the heavens (Deuteronomy 28:12). When the blessed Holy One created the world, He created sublime שִׁיתּין (shittin), channels—founts conducting rain of blessing and transcendent sanctifications from above. These drew first from the Fount of Life, from the supernal place from which they emerged [cf. BT Sukkah 49a]. 

In the beginning, before the world was created, a single desire called Hidden Thought arose and was revealed. Everything was set within that Hidden Thought, everything that existed, and that would come to exist. From that Thought arose the desire to create the world, and a subtle flow comprising hiddenness of Thought issued forth, inaudible, unrevealed. It can be perceived with wisdom that has been conferred—and not conferred—to the wise of heart, because it has not been revealed beyond.

From this flow five founts emerged, plus one that was sealed, and one absorbing all. These springs existed when the world was created, as is written: בְּרֵאשִׁית (Be-reshit), With beginning, ____ created אֱלֹהִים (Elohim), God (Genesis 1:1). בְּרֵאשִׁית (Be-reshit)—בָּרָא שִׁיתּ (bara shit), created a hollow. This hollow is a fount collecting all founts, nourishing worlds. The heavens (ibid.)—those six lofty springs, above all, conveying into this hollow. 

From the day the world was created until the Temple was built, they were sealed, entirely closed. If you say, ‘But Abraham [Ḥesed] was in the world’—behold it is written: And there was famine in the land (ibid. 12:10). Of Isaac [Gevurah]: And there was a famine in the land besides the former famine (ibid. 26:1). Similarly with Jacob [Tif’eret], it is written: And there was famine in all the lands (ibid. 41:54). Of Moses [Netsaḥ], it is written in several places: Who will feed us? (Numbers 11:4, 18); the people thirsted for water there (Exodus 17:3); there was no water for the community (ibid. 20:2). Of Joshua [Hod], despite their having entered the land, it is written: the manna ceased… and they ate of the produce of the land (Joshua 5:12). In the days of the Judges, it is written: In the days when the judges judgedthere was a famine in the land (Ruth 1:1) [cf. BT Bava Batra 14b: ‘Samuel wrote Judges and Ruth’]. Of David [Malkhut], it is written: There was a famine during the reign of David (2 Samuel 21:1) [on the Patriarchs etc., and their corresponding sefirot, see Bahir §135–§136Zohar 1:21b; 3:255b (RM)].

How can this all be explained? The explanation is that those channels had not opened, and the world was nourished only from a squeezed-out ooze, with no opening at all—aside from the resin exuded from a tree, dripping below, or from a rock. When Solomon [Yesod] came and the Temple was built, all the worlds were in a single balance, above and below. Then the hollow that receives and gathers from all lofty channels opened up. When did it open up? When those lofty channels opened up. Once that hollow opened up, blessings flowed to the world.

When did it open? When a crooked one that sat at its feet was removed. When that one was banished, שִׁיתּ (shit), hollow, became שִׁיר (shir), Song, and goodly treasure (Deuteronomy 28:12) opened up.

By whose strength? The heavens (ibid.). These are the rest of the שִׁיתּין (shittin), channels—that is, הַשִּׁירִים (ha-shirim), Songs—for they all opened up and were perfected to bestow nourishment for all the worlds. Then it is written: Judah and Israel dwelt in safetyeveryone under his own vine and under his own fig tree (1 Kings 5:5); and it is written: They ate and drank and rejoiced (ibid. 4:20)—for this שִׁיתּ (shit), hollow, and the שִׁיתּין (shittin), channels, had opened [cf. BT Sukkah 53a].

All sublime delicacies descended into all worlds. Then ardor was aroused from among them toward supernal King, all becoming one, with no division. In this way, praise transcending all praises ascends toward the King who possesses peace, fashioning total delight above and below.

It is written: שִׁיר (shir), A songto You is silent praise, [God in Zion; and to You a vow will be paid] (Psalms 65:1–2). King David knew by the holy spirit that this song was destined to be revealed in the world, and he said: Song—destined to be revealed. To You it is silent—hidden, for permission to reveal this homage is lacking. But this adulation and praise pertains to God in Zion—when the Temple is built, for it mirrors the supernal Temple. Then, a vow will be paid [on David’s vow, see Psalms 132:1–5. David longed to build the Temple, see 2 Samuel 7:2: Seepray, I dwell in a cedarwood house while the Ark of God dwells within curtains]” (Zohar Ḥadash, 62b, 62d–63a).

ספר יצירה (Sefer Yetsirah), The Scroll of Formation, with Introduction from MS Vatican 299

et-si-nous-parlions-de-la-typographie-hebraique

These are the five scrolls and five chapters and five orders that Son of Sira revealed to Uziel his son and Yosef his grandson: Sefer Yetsirah, Sefer Tagi[n], Sefer Dikdukin, Sefer Pesiqta Batrei Apei Mishkan, Sefer Zerubbavel. Five chapters: Pereq Rabbi Shim’on bar Yoḥai, Pereq Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Pereq Otiyyot de-Rabbi Akiva, Pereq Ma’aseh Mishkan, Pereq Derekh Erets. Five orders: Seder Olam, Seder Tequfot, Seder Shaot, Seder Ibbur, Seder Halakhot [alt., Seder Heikhalot]. And when he had revealed all the mysteries the entire army on high shuddered. Now, the Holy Spirit issued, saying: Who revealed My secrets to the sons of man? Son of עצש״ט (‘ATsShT) stood up and said: I, Buzi son of Buzi [cf. Ezekiel 1:3]. The blessed Holy One said to him: [If you find honey, eat] just what you need, [lest you have your fill of it and throw it up] (Proverbs 25:16). Immediately Yosef sat down and wrote from ‘ATsShT those fifteen matters. He wrote five scrolls with a stylus—Sefer Yetsirah with which the blessed Holy One fashioned His world.

Who will utter YHWH’s mighty acts, will make heard all His praise? (Psalms 106:2)—none can utter His mighty acts or make heard all His praise. Even the ministering angels cannot recount מִקְצָת (miqtsat), some of [or: the best of those], mighty acts or expound on what צִפָּה (tsipah), He envisioned, created and actualized. For at the beginning when the blessed Holy One created the world, He was alone [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 1:4 on Isaiah 44:24]. It arose in His thought to create the world and He etched its foundations on the earth [cf. Isaiah 44:13; Proverbs 8:27], but they did not endure until He created with Torah Sefer Yetsirah—He gazed into it and understood in His wisdom. Thus He fashioned the world: His eyes gazing into Sefer Yetsirah, and His hands roaming and building the world [cf. 2 Chronicles 16:9].

To divide [between the holy and the profane]: Like a man who builds buildings and possesses a scroll and he looks at it, thus the blessed Holy One did. As soon as He fashioned His world and finished it, He placed it in Torah—treasured away at the start, preceding 974 generations before the creation of the world [cf. Proverbs 8:23; BT Ḥagigah 13b]. Now, when Abraham our father was born the ministering angels said before the blessed Holy One: Master of the World: There is one friend to You in this world yet from him something is concealed? Immediately the blessed Holy One said: Shall I conceal from Abraham [what I am about to do?] (Genesis 18:17). He sought the permission of Torah, saying: Come וּנַשִּׂיאךְ (u-nassik), and we shall marry you off, to Abraham My friend (Isaiah 41:8). She said before Him: Not until a humble man [Moses] will come and יִשָּׂא (yissa), lift up, [this] humble one. Immediately the blessed Holy One sought the permission of Sefer Yetsirah, and she said: Yes. He handed her on to Abraham.

Now, he sat alone and studied Sefer Yetsirah but he was unable to understand a thing until a heavenly echo issued saying to him: You seek to make yourself equal to Me? I am One and I created Sefer Yetsirah. I delved into it and I performed all that is written in it and you will not be able to understand a single [thing]. Draw a companion near to yourself and you will look into it and understand [cf. Ḥagigah 2:1]. Immediately Abraham went to Shem, his master, and sat with him three years and they looked into it and they knew how to fashion the world. And to this day, there is none who will understand it alone—only two sages [can], even they will not understand it in less than three years. Yet when they [do] understand it, they are able to perform anything their hearts desire. And when Abraham understood it, he added more wisdom to it and learned the entire Torah.

Rava, too, wanted to understand it alone. Rabbi Zera said: But it is written: A sword against הַבַּדִּים (ha-baddim), the soothsayers, exposed as fools (Jeremiah 50:36)—a sword against Israel’s enemies who sit בַּד בְּבַד (bad be-vad), apart, occupied with Torah [see BT Berakhot 63b ad loc.: ‘The Torah is only acquired in company’; cf. Ta’anit 7a; Makkot 10a]. If so, let us go and occupy ourselves with Sefer Yetsirah. And so they sat together and occupied themselves with it for three years and understood it. Once a calf was created for them and they slaughtered it and enjoyed it for the completion of the tractate [see BT Sanhedrin 65b]. But when they slaughtered it, they forgot it. They sat another three years and produced it again.

Son of Sira, too, wanted to understand it alone. A heavenly echo issued saying: Two are better than one, [for they get good reward for their toil] (Ecclesiastes 4:9). He went [and sat] next to Jeremiah and they occupied themselves with it for three years and understood it and an individual was created before them [בֶּן סִירַא (Ben Sira), Son of Sira, is numerically equivalent to יִרְמְיָהוּ (Yirmeyahu), Jeremiah, and אַבּוּ אַהֲרוֹן (Abu Aharon), i.e., Aharon ben Shemu’el ha-Nasi]. Written on his forehead was: וַיהוָה אֱלֹהִים אֱמֵת (va-Adonai Elohim Emet), but YHWH is the God of truth (Jeremiah 10:10). Now, in his hand was a knife and he was erasing א (alef) from אֱמֵת (emet), truth [leaving, מֵת (met), dead]. [Jeremiah rent his clothes (JTS MS 1887, fol. 129b)] he said: Why are you doing that? For it can’t possibly be true! He said to them: I will fashion a parable for you: What is this like? A man who is a builder and a sage. And when the sons of man saw him they made him king over them. Days later, others came and they learned the craft. They abandoned the first [king] and went after the others. Likewise, the blessed Holy One, exalted will be His name, gazes into Sefer Yetsirah and fashions the world, reigning over all His creations. And when you have come and done like Him, what will be the end of the matter? All will leave Him and go after you. What will become of He who fashioned you? They said to him: If so what will we do [now]? He said to them: Turn him back. And they made that man dust and ashes.

[§1] Yah YHWH of Armies, God of Israel, Living God, El Shaddai. Lofty and high One, who dwells forever and holy His Name (Isaiah 57:15) engraved thirty-two wondrous paths with wisdom [cf. Targum Yerushalmi on Genesis 1:1; TanḥumaBereshit 1; Zohar 1:15a; 3:82b, 257a (last two RM). Alt., “In thirty-two paths, wonders of wisdom, He engraved Yah YHWH of Armies…,” see Rabbi Asher ben David, Sefer ha-Yiḥud]. He created His world with three סֶפָרִים (sefarim), ciphers: ספר ספר ספר.

[§2] Ten סְפִירוֹת בְּלִימָה (sefiroth belimah), ciphers of emptiness [cf. Job 26:7: He hangs earth over בְּלִי מָה (beli-mah), emptiness; Avot 5:1], and twenty-two elemental letters—three mothers, seven doubles, and twelve simple ones.

[§3] Ten sefiroth belimah—like the number of the ten fingers, five opposite five and בְּרִית (berith), the covenant, of the singular One precisely in the middle in מִלַּת (millath), the word, of the tongue and millath, the circumcision, of the skin.

[§4] Ten sefiroth belimah—ten and not nine, ten and not eleven. Understand in wisdom, be wise in understanding. Probe them, from them explore. Establish a matter on its sound basis, and restore [יוֹצֵר [בְּרֵאשִׁית (yotser [bereshith]), the Fashioner [of the Beginning], to מְכוֹנוֹ (mekhon), His abode [cf. 1 Kings 8:43: You will hearken in the heavens, מְכוֹן שִׁבְתֶּךָ (mekhon shivtekha), the firm place of Your dwelling; Psalms 89:15: Justice and law are mekhon, the base, of Your throne].

[§5] Ten sefiroth בְּלִימָה (belimah)—בְּלֹם (belom), bridle, your mouth from speaking, bridle your heart from לְהַרְהֵר (le-harher), conceiving [cf. Psalms 32:9: Be not like a horse, like a mule, without sense, the bit and the reins his adornment—לִבְלוֹם (livlom), to keep, him from drawing near you; Daniel 4:2: I saw a dream and it frightened me, and הַרְהֹרִין (harhorin), thoughts, upon my couch and visions in my head panicked me]. And if your heart races return to the Place, as is written, Racing back and forth (Ezekiel 1:14)—concerning this a pact was sealed [cf. Rabbi Moshe de León, Sheqel ha-Qodesh 113].

[§6] Ten sefiroth belimah—their end is embedded in their beginning like a flame bound to a burning coal [cf. Isaiah 46:10; Ezekiel 1:13]. For the Lord is singular, He has none second to Him [cf. Ecclesiastes 4:8: There is one without a second, neither son nor brother he has]. Before one, what do you count?

[§7] Ten sefiroth belimah—their measure is ten, yet they have no end: depth of first and depth of last; depth of good and depth of evil; depth of over and depth of under; depth of east and depth of west; depth of north and depth of south. And a singular Lord—”אֵל מֶלֶךְ נֶאֱמָן (el melek ne’eman), God, steadfast King” (BT Shabbat 119b)—reigning over them all from His holy dwelling for ever and ever.

[§8] Ten sefiroth belimah—a vision of them is like the sight of lightening [or: sparks] (Ezekiel 1:14). וְתַכְלִיתָם אֵין לָהֶן קֵץ (We-thakhlitham ein la-hen qets), and their limit? They have no end [cf. Psalms 119:96: For each תִּכְלָה (tikhlah), finite thing, I saw קֵץ (qets), an end—but מִצְוָתְךָ (mitswathekha), Your command, is exceedingly broad]. And דְּבָרוֹ (devaro), His word, is in them racing back and forth (ibid.), and they pursue מַאֲמָרוֹ (ma’amaro), His command, like the storm [cf. BT Ḥagigah 12b], and before His Throne they bow down [cf. BT Bava Batra 25a; Avot de-Rabbi Natan A, 37].

[§9] Twenty-two elemental letters—three mothers, seven doubles, and twelve simple ones.

[§10] Ten sefiroth, that is to say: One—רוּחַ אֱלֹהִים חַיִּים (rhuaḥ Elohim ḥayyim), Breath of the Living God [cf. Genesis 1:2: … God’s breath hovering over the waters]. בָּרוּךְ וּמְבֹרָךְ (Barukh u-mevorakh), blessed and blessed, is the name of חֵי הַעוֹלָמִים (ḥei ha-olamim), the Vitality of Worlds. Voice, breath, word—רוּחַ הַקֹּדֶשׁ (rhuaḥ ha-qodesh), the Holy Breath [or: Spirit; cf. Zohar 1:246a].

[§12] Two—רוּחַ מֵרוּחַ (rhuaḥ me-rhuaḥ), wind from Breath: He engraved and hewed with it twenty-two elemental letters—three mothers, and seven doubles, and twelve simple ones, and breath is one of them [cf. Rabbi Shabbetai Donnolo, Sefer Hakhmoni].

[§13] Three—water from wind: He engraved and hewed with them תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ (thohu wa-vohu), welter and waste (Genesis 1:1), mud and clay (Isaiah 57:20). He engraved them like a sort of garden-bed. He stood them up like a sort of wall, and He thatched them like a sort of roof.

[§14] Four—fire from water: He engraved them and hewed with [fire] the Throne of Glory, וְאוֹפַנִּים וּשְׂרָפִים (ve-ofannim u-serafim), and whirlers and burners, holy living beings and ministering angels. And from the three of them He founded His dwelling, as is said: He makes His messengers the winds, His ministers, glowing fire (Psalms 104:4) [see Shemot Rabbah 15:22 ad loc.].

[§15] Five—He sealed above. He chose three simple [letters] and embedded them in His great Name. And He sealed with them six קְצָווֹת (qetsawoth), ends, and He turned upwards and sealed it [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 10:3 in the name of Rabbi Ḥama]. Six—He sealed below, and He turned downwards [in front] and sealed it. Seven—He sealed the east, and He turned downwards [in front] and sealed it. Eight—He sealed the west, and He turned behind and sealed it. Nine—He sealed the south, and He turned to His right and sealed it. Ten—He sealed the north, and He turned to His left and sealed it.

[§16] Ten sefiroth belimahרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים חַיִּים (rhuaḥ Elohim ḥayyim), Breath of the Living God; and rhuaḥwind, water, fire; up, down, east, west, north and south.

[§17a] Twenty-two letters—they are engraved by voice, hewn by breath, embedded in the mouth in five places: אח הע בו מף גי כק דט לנת זס שרץ (alef ḥeth he ‘ayin, beth waw mem peh, gimel yod khaf qof, daleth teth lamed nun taw, zayin samekh shin resh tsadhi) [קְדוּשָׁה (qedhushah), Holiness].

[§18] Twenty-two letters—their foundation is embedded <in the תְּלִי (Teli)> in the wheel with 231 gates [cf. Zohar 1:33b]. He rotates the wheel, turning it forward and backward [cf. BT Shabbat 151b; Zohar 1:110a on Job 37:12]. And this is the sign: if for good, upward—from עֹנֶג (‘oneg), pleasure; if for evil, downward—from נֶגַע (nega’), plague.

[§19a] Twenty-two letters—He engraved them, hewed them, weighed them, permuted them, and transposed them, fashioning with them the נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh), life-breath, of all that is fashioned, and the nefesh of all that is destined to be fashioned [cf. M Sanhedrin 4:5; Tanḥuma–Yelammedenu].

[§19b] How did He weigh and permute them? א (Alef) with them all, and all of them with alef; ב (beth) with them all, and all of them with beth. And they rotate in turn. Found through 231 gates, from which all was created—all speech and everything fashioned is found emerging from one name.

[§20 (MS S)] Out of תֹהוּ (thohu), nothing, He fashioned מַמָּשׁ (mammash), something, making what is not [into] what is. He hewed great big pillars out of אֲוִיר (awir), air, that cannot be grasped [cf. BT Ḥagigah 12b; Bereshit Rabbah 1:5]. And this is their mnemonic: קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ (qadosh, qadosh, qadosh), holy, holy, holy (Isaiah 6:3) [—numerically equivalent to 1230 and in its reduced value to six, which in turn is the reduced numerical value of the 231 gates].

[§21 (according to Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, Pardes Rimonim, 30:5)] 

אל בת גש דר הק וץ זף חע טס ין כם 

אב גת דש הר וק זץ חף חע יס כן לם 

אג דת הש ור זק חץ טף יע כס לן בם 

אד בג הת וש זר חק טץ יף כע לס מן 

אה בר ות זש חר טק ין כף לע מס גן 

או בה גד זת חש טג יק כץ לף מע נס 

אז בו גה חת טש יד כק לץ חף נע דס 

אח בז גו דה טת יש כר לק מץ נף סע 

אט בח גז דו ית כש לר מק נץ סף הע 

אי בט גח דז הו כת לש מר נק סץ עף 

אב בי גט דח הז לת מש נר סק עץ יף 

אל בך גי דט הח וז מת נש סר עק פץ 

אמ בל גס די הט זה צת סש ער פק זן 

אג בם גך דק הי וט זח סת עש פר צק 

אס בג גמ דל הס וי זט עת פש צר חק 

אע בס גנ דמ הל וכ זי חט פת צש קר 

אף בע גס דנ המ ול זכ חי צת קש טר 

אץ בף גע דס הג ומ זל חס טי קת רש 

אק בץ גף דע הס וג זם חל טב רת יש 

אר בק גץ דף הע וס זג חמ טל יב שת 

אש בר גק דן הף וע זס חג טמ יל כת 

את בש גר דק הץ וף זע חס טן ימ כל

[§22] He gazes and exchanges—making all that is fashioned and all speech one name. And a mnemonic for the matter: twenty-two חֲפָצִים (ḥafatsim), precious things, and one body [cf. Proverbs 8:11: For wisdom is better than rubies, all ḥafatsim, precious things, can’t match her worth].

[§23] Three mothers: א מ ש (alef, mem, shin)—their foundation is כַּף זְכוּת (kaf zekhuth), a scale [lit., palm] of merit, and כַּף חוֹבָה (kaf ḥovah), a scale of debt, and לְשׁוֹן חֹק (leshon ḥoq), a language [lit., tongue] of fixed law, holds the balance between them [cf. BT Qiddushin 40b; Midrash Tehillim 30:4].

[§24] Three mothers: alef, mem, shin—a great mystery, hidden and wondrous, sealed with six signets. And from it issues fire, water, and wind, and they divide into male and female [cf. Shemot Rabbah 15:22].

[§25] Three [fathers]—fire, water, and wind; fire above, water below, and wind between them. And this is a sign for the matter: fire lifts water [causing it to evaporate, cf. Isaiah 64:1: as fire makes water seethe].

[§26] Three mothers: alef, mem, shin—מֵם דּוֹמֶמֶת (mem domemeth), mem is mute; שִׁין שׁוֹרֶקֶת (shin shoreqeth), shin hisses [or: whistles; hushes, with שִׁנַּיִם (shinnaim), teeth]; and אָלֶף (alef), a fixed law, holds the balance between them.

[§27] Three mothers: alef, mem, shin—from them were born three fathers. From them all was created [cf. Zohar 2:23b–24a].

[§28] Three mothers: alef, mem, shin—in the world; [three fathers]—wind, water, fire. Heavens were created first from fire, and earth was created from water [cf. Tanḥuma (Buber), Bereshit 19], and אֲוִיר (awir), air [alt.,אוֹר (or), light,] was created from wind, holding the balance between them.

[§29] Three mothers: alef, mem, shin—in the year: fire, water, wind. Heat was created from fire, and cold was created from water, and humidity from wind holding the balance between them.

[§30] Three mothers: alef, mem, shin—in a nefesh, person. The head was created from fire, the belly from water, and the chest from rhuaḥ, breath [or: wind], holding the balance between them.

[§31] Three mothers: alef, mem, shin—He engraved them, hewed them, transposed them, fashioning with them the three mothers in the world, and the three mothers in the year, and the three mothers in a person—male and female.

[§32] He made alef king over wind, and bound to it a crown [cf. BT Menaḥot 29b], and transposed them, this with that, sealing with them אֲוִיר (awir), atmosphere, in the world, humidity in the year, and the chest in a person—male with alef, mem, shin, and female with shin, memalef.

[§33] He made מ (mem) king over מַיִם (mayim), water, and bound to it a crown, and sealed with it earth in the world, cold in the year, and the fruit of the belly in a person; male with mem, shinalef, and female with memalef, shin.

[§34] He made ש (shin) king over אֵשׁ (esh), fire, and bound to it a crown, and transposed them, this with that, sealing with it heavens in the world, heat in the year, and the head in a person, male with shin, memalef, and female with shinalef, mem.

[§35 (MS A)] How did He transpose them? אמש אשם מאש משא שמא שאם (Alef mem shin, alef shin mem, mem alef shin, mem shin alef, shin mem alef, shin alef mem)—heavens, fire; air, breath [or: wind]; earth, water. Man’s head: fire; his belly: water; his heart: breath.

[§36 (MS A)] Three mothers: alef, mem, shin. There was fashioned with alef: breath, air, humidity, chest, a fixed law, and a tongue. There was fashioned with mem: earth, cold, belly, and the scale of merit. There was fashioned with shin: heavens, heat, head, and the scale of debt. This is alef, mem, shin. The end.

[§37] Seven doubles: בגד כפרת (beth, gimel, daleth, kaf, peh, resh, taw)—they are pronounced with the tongue in two places. Their foundation is life and peace, wisdom and wealth, seed, favor, and mastery. They are pronounced with the tongue in two places: ב (beth, veth), ג (gimel, ghimel), ד (daleth, dhaleth), כ (kaf, khaf), פ (peh, feh), ר (resh, rhesh), ת (taw, thaw)—דָּגֵּשׁ (dagesh) and רְפֵי (rhefei), soft and hard, a paradigm of strong and weak. They are doubles because they are opposites. The opposite of life is death; the opposite of peace is war [lit., evil]; the opposite of wisdom is folly; the opposite of wealth is poverty; the opposite of seed is ruin; the opposite of favor is spurn; and the opposite of mastery is slavery.

[§38] Seven doubles: beth, gimel, daleth, kaf, peh, resh, taw—corresponding to seven קְצָווֹת (qetsawoth), ends [or: reaches, extremities, see Bahir §82]: a place of ends and a holy place; one—a place set within a place; two—the upper reaches; three—the lower reaches; four—the eastern reaches; five—the western reaches; six—the northern reaches; seven—the everlasting reaches, and the holy הֵיכָל (heikhal), Palace [or: Chamber, Hall, Temple], stands firm in the middle and it bears them all [cf. Bahir §154].

[§39] Seven doubles: beth, gimel, daleth, kaf, peh, resh, taw—He engraved and hewed them. He transposed them, fashioning with them the planets in the world, the days in the year, and the gates in a person by sevens.

[§40] How did He transpose them? Two stones build two houses; three build six houses; four build twenty-four houses; five build one hundred and twenty houses; six build seven hundred and twenty houses; seven build five thousand and forty [i.e., factorials]. From here on go out and tally what the mouth is unable to speak, and what the ear is unable to hear [cf. Isaiah 64:3: They never had seen, they never gave ear, no eye has seen God besides You; Sa’adia Gaon, Perush Sefer Yetsirah].

[§42] And with them were engraved seven firmaments, seven earths, seven hours and seven times. Therefore He loved the seventh under the heavens [cf. Ecclesiastes 3:1–8; Vayiqra Rabbah 29:11].

[§43a] These are the seven planets in the world: חַמָה (ḥamah), Sun, נוֹגַה (noghah), Venus, כּוֹכָב (kokhav), Mercury, לְבָנָה (levanah), Moon, שַׁבְּתַי (shabbethai), Saturn, צֶדֶק (tsedheq), Jupiter, מַאְדִים (ma’adhim), Mars. And days in the year: the seven days of Creation. And seven gates in a person: two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, and the mouth.

[§45] Twelve simple ones: הו זח טי לנ סע צק (he waw zayin ḥeth teth yod, lamed nun samekh ’ayin tsadhi qof)—their foundation is seeing, hearing, smelling, conversing, tasting, mating, doing, walking, impatience, laughing, fantasizing [lit., conceiving], sleeping.

[§47] Their measure is twelve גְבוּלֵי אֲלַכְסוֹן (gevulei alakhson), diagonal borders: a north-eastern border, a south-eastern border—an upper eastern border, a lower eastern border; a north-western border, a south-western border—an upper western border, a lower western border; an upper northern border, a lower northern border; an upper southern border, a lower southern border; deepening and expanding until evermore, זְרֹעֹת עוֹלָם (zero’oth olam), arms of the world (Deuteronomy 33:27) [cf. BT Ḥagigah 12b ad loc.; Bahir §95. On the various compound directions, see M Yoma 5:5; Zevaḥim 5:3; Zohar 1:120b; 3:118b, 120a].

[§48a] He made them a sort of מְרִיבָה (merivah), rivalry, arranging them in battle [array], One opposite the other God made them (Ecclesiastes 7:14).

[§48b] Three—each one stands alone; seven are at loggerheads—three against three, and one which holds the balance between them. Twelve stand in battle [array]: three love but three hate; three give life but three kill. God, a steadfast King, reigning over them all—one atop three, and three atop seven, and seven atop twelve. And they all hold fast to each other [cf. Bahir §118].

[§49a] Twelve simple letters: הו זח טי לנ סע צק (he waw zayin ḥeth teth yod, lamed nun samekh ’ayin tsadhi qof)—He engraved them and hewed them, He weighed them and permuted them, fashioning with them the twelve constellations in the world, twelve months in the year, and the twelve מַנְהִיגִים (manhigim), conductors, in a person [see Bahir §94].

These [§49b] are the twelve constellations in the world: טָלֶה (taleh), Aries, שׁוֹר (shor), Taurus, תְּאוֹמִים (te’omim), Gemini, סַרְטָן (sartan), Cancer, אַרְיֵה (arhyeh), Leo, בְּתוּלָה (bethulah), Virgo, מֹאזְנַיִם (moznayim), Libra, עַקְרָב (‘aqrhav), Scorpio, קַשָּׁת (qashath), Sagittarius, גְּדִי (gedhi), Capricorn, דְּלִי (deli), Aquarius, דָּגִים (daghim), Pisces. And these are the twelve months: נִיסָן (Nisan), אִייָר (Iyyar), סִיוָן (Siwan), תַמוּז (Thammuz), אָב (Av), אֱלוּל (Elul), תִּשְׁרֵי (Tishrhei), מַרְחֶשְׁוָן (Marḥeshwan), כִּסְלֵיו (Kislew), טֵבֵת (Teveth), שְׁבָט (Shevat), אֲדָר (Adhar). And these are the twelve manhigim, conductors, in a person: the right hand, the left hand, the right foot, the left foot, two kidneys, the liver, the gallbladder, the spleen, the gullet, the stomach, and the intestines. 

[§50] Three mothers, and seven doubles, and twelve simple ones.

[§56] These are twenty-two letters [engraved and hewed by] YahYHWH of Armies, God of Israel, Living God, lofty and high One, who dwells forever and holy His Name (Isaiah 57:15).

[§58] Three fathers and their generations, and seven כּוֹבְשִׁים (kovshim), conquerers, and their armies [cf. Numbers 32:22: The land נִכְבְּשָׁה (nikhbeshah), is conquered, before YHWH], and the twelve diagonal borders. And a proof for the matter, trusty witnesses (Isaiah 8:2): the world, the year, and a person.

[§59a] There is a fixed law of ten, three, seven, and twelve. They are overseers in Teli, Wheel, and Heart [cf. Bahir §95].

[§59b] The Teli in the world is like a king on his throne; the Wheel in the year is like a king in a province; the Heart in a person is like a king at war.

[§60b] One opposite the other God made them (Ecclesiastes 7:14)—good opposite evil; good from good and evil from evil. Good discerning evil and evil discerning good. Good is treasured away for the good and evil is kept for the evil.

[§61] When Abraham our father gazed—looking, seeing, probing, understanding, engraving, hewing, transposing, and fashioning—he succeeded. Immediately the Lord of All was revealed to him, making him sit in His lap, kissing him upon the head, and calling him His friend [see Isaiah 41:8], naming him His son, and sealing a pact with him and his seed forever. And he trusted in YHWH, and He reckoned it to his merit (Genesis 15:6). [And He invoked upon him the glory of YHWH, as is written, Before I fashioned you in the belly I knew you (Jeremiah 1:5) (MS A)]. Sealing a pact with him: between the ten toes of his feet—circumcision of the skin. Sealing a pact with him: between the ten fingers of his hands—covenant of the tongue. Binding twenty [-two] letters with his tongue [or: in his tongue], the Omnipresent revealing to him His secret. He drew them out with fire like water—burning them with fire, rattling them with wind [or: shaking them into wind]. He branded them in seven, leading them with twelve constellations.

[§62] (1) אֲוִיר וּרְוָיָה וּגְוִיָּה (Awir, u-rewayah u-gewiyyah), air, satiety, and chest [cf. Psalms 66:12: We came into fire and water—and You brought us out לָרְוָיָה (le-rewayah), to satiety; Ezekiel 1:11: two covered גְּוִיֹּתֵיהֶנָה (gewiyyotheihenah), their chests]; earth, cold and belly; heavens and heat and the head. This is א מ ש (alef, mem, shin).

(2) Saturn, Sabbath and the mouth; Jupiter, the first day of the week and the right eye; Mars, the second day of the week and the left eye; the Sun, the third day of the week and the right nostril; Venus, the fourth day of the week and the left nostril; Mercury, the fifth day of the week and the right ear; the Moon, the sixth day of the week and the left ear. This is בגד כפרת (beth, gimel, daleth, kaf, peh, resh, taw).

(3) Aries, Nisan, the liver; Taurus, Iyyar, the gallbladder; Gemini, Siwan, the spleen; Cancer, Thammuz, the gullet; Leo, Av, the right kidney; Virgo, Elul, the left kidney; Libra, Tishrhei, the intestines; Scorpio, Marḥeshwan, the stomach; Sagittarius, Kislew, the right hand; Capricorn, Teveth, the left hand; Aquarius, Shevat, the right foot; Pisces, Adhar, the left foot. This is הו זח טי לנ סע צק (hewawzayinḥeth, teth, yod, lamed, nun, samekh, ‘ayin, tsadhi, qof).

[§63] 1 Three hate and these are they: the tongue, the liver, and the gallbladder.

2 Three love: the heart, the ears, and the eyes.

3 Three give life: the two nostrils and the liver of the left side.

4 Three kill: the two lower orifices and the mouth.

5 Three are in man’s control: the feet, the hands, and the mouth.

6 Three are not in man’s control: his two eyes, his ears, and his nostrils [on the voluntary and involuntary organs, see Bereshit Rabbah 67:3].

7 Three are bad tidings for the ear: cursing, blasphemy, and an evil rumor [or: bad news, see Jeremiah 49:23; Psalms 112:7].

8 Three are good tidings for the ear: blessing, a good report [or: good news, see Proverbs 25:25], and praise.

9 Three sights are bad for the eye: adultery, an evil eye, and a deceptive look.

10 Three sights are good for the eye: modesty, a good eye, and a trustworthy look.

11 Three are bad for the tongue: He who speaks in the presence of the slanderer, he who speaks one thing with the mouth but another with the heart, and he who speaks more than enough.

12 Three are good for the tongue: silence, holding the tongue, and speaking truth [cf. Sefer Yetsirah §5; M Avot 1:17].

[§64] Whoever understands this scroll and keeps it has the assurance that he is a son of the world to come. This is the scroll of Abraham our father, peace be upon him, which is called The Scroll of Formation [or: The Scroll of Fashioning; Hilkhot Yetsirah (The Laws of Formation), see BT Sanhedrin 65b].

There is no measure to the wisdom of anyone who looks into it. And the mysteries of the upper and lower world will be revealed to anyone who occupies himself with it and studies it and knows its mysteries—he has the assurance that he is a son of the world to come. This scroll, which is called סוֹד הָעִבּוּר (sod ha-ibbur), The Secret of Intercalation [lit., ‘The Secret of Impregnation,’ a system of insertion of leap days, weeks, or years to keep the Jewish calendar synchronized with the moon’s phases, cf. BT Rosh ha-Shanah 20b. On the laws of intercalation, see for example M Sanhedrin 1:2; Arakhin 2:2. Cf. Pirqe de-Rabbi Eli’ezer, 8], on which the whole world depends, should not be handed on to anyone except he who turns away from evil and is in awe of אֱלֹהִים (Elohim), God, and waits and hopes for his Maker, as is said, Steadfast love surrounds him who trusts in YHWH (Psalms 32:10), and it says, Israel is victorious through YHWH, an everlasting victory. You shall not be shamed and shall not be disgraced forever more (Isaiah 45:17).

Water Runs Out from the Sea

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“Water means nothing but Torah, as it says, Oh, every one who thirsts go to the water (Isaiah 55:1)” (BT Bava Qamma 82a).

“Torah is compared to water, as is written, Oh, every one who thirsts go to the water (Isaiah 55:1)—just as the world cannot survive without it and a man purifies himself with it, so too the world cannot not survive without Torah, which teaches man how to purify himself. And just as water, a man does not plant a tree and does not build a house if he has no water, so too the world cannot survive without Torah. And just as water is vital for the world, so too Torah is vital for the world. Just as with water, anyone who does not know how to swim in it will cause himself to be lost from the world, so too anyone who is not able to find words of Torah is lost from the world. Just as water can be drawn to any place one desires, so too Torah is drawn in all the world. Just as water is not preserved in silver containers nor in gold containers but rather in ones of clay, so too Torah is not preserved by the arrogant, but by one with a humble spirit. And Rabbi Eḥa says: ‘But wisdom found from nothing (Job 28:12). What is from nothing? From those who make themselves as nothing.’ And just as with water there is none who oversees it [in order to sell it], so too Torah” (Tanḥuma, Ki Tavo 3).

“Rabbi Ḥanina son of Idi said: Why are words of Torah likened to water, as is written, Oh, every one who thirsts go to the water (Isaiah 55:1)? To teach you that just as water flows from a high place to a low place, so words of Torah leave the one who is arrogant and stay with the one who is humble” (BT Ta’anit 7a).

“The disciples asked Rabbi Berekhiah, ‘Allow us [to speak] words before you,’ but permission was not given. Another time he did permit them, only to determine if they had focused themselves. One day he scrutinized them saying, ‘Let me hear your wisdom.’ They opened and said: In the beginning (Genesis 1:1)—one. Though a spirit grows faint before Me, the life-breath—it is I who made it (Isaiah 57:16) [—two]. God’s stream is filled with water (Psalms 65:10) [—three]. What is פֶּלֶג אֱלֹהִים (peleg Elohim), God’s stream? Thus our Rabbi taught us that the blessed Holy One took up the waters of Creation and divided them. ‘He placed half of them in the firmament and half of them in the ocean, this is פַּלַג אֱלֹהִים מְלֹא מָיִם (palag Elohim melo mayim), God split the fullness of water‘ (Bereshit Rabbah 4:4). And by it man learns Torah. Others say: Through the merit of rendering kindness, a man learns Torah, as is written, Woe, everyone that thirsts, come to the waters, and he that has no silver; come, buy, and eat (Isaiah 55:1). Go to Him and He will render loving-kindness to you, and you will buy and eat” (Bahir §51).

“‘Blessed be YHWH, Who is blessed’—gushing of blessings from the source of life to the place from which all saturation streams, saturating all. Since He is a source, in mystery of sign of the covenant, we call Him ‘Who is blessed’—spring of the well. Once they reach there, surely the well is filled, for its waters never cease” (Zohar 2:135b).

Woe to anyone who compares Him to any quality, even to one of His own qualities, and certainly not to humans whose foundation is in the dust (Job 4:19), who are perishable and worthless. But the likening [that we employ] is only according to His power over that quality, or even over all the creatures. There is no [likening] above that quality, and when [His power] retreats, there is no quality, nor likeness, nor form [cf. BT Berakhot 33b; Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed, 1:56–60].

This is like the sea. Water of the sea that flows from it has no conceivable shape or form. But by the flow of the sea water over the vessel, which is the earth, it takes on a form, and we can then reckonthe source of the sea is one. A spring emerges from it, according to its expansion in a round vessel, which is י (yod). The source is one, and the spring that emerges from it is second. Afterwards He made a large vessel, similar to a large excavation, which was filled with the water that flowed from the spring. This is called Sea, it is the third vessel. And that large vessel streams as into long receptacles. And so there is a מָקוֹר (maqor), source, a מַעְיָין (ma’ayyan), spring, a יָם (yam), sea, and seven נְחָלִין (nealin), wadis, which amount to ten. If the Artisan will break these vessels that He fashioned, the water will return to the source and the broken vessels will remain dry without water [cf. Psalms 74:13; M Kelim 2:1; Bereshit Rabbah 12:5; MS Vatican 274, 83a; MS Frankfurt, 24a; Rabbi Ḥayyim Vital, Mevo She’arim, 2:2, 1–11; Sha’ar ha-Haqdamot, Derush be-Olam ha-Niqqudim].

So the עִלַּת הָעִלּוֹת (illat ha-illot), Cause of Causes, made ten sefirot and called Keter מָקוֹר (maqor), Source, and there is no end to the welling of its light. Therefore, He called Himself אֵין סוֹף (ein sof), Without End, and He has no likeness or image. There is no vessel there able to conceive Him or have any knowledge of Him at all. Therefore, it has been said of Him, ‘What is too wondrous for you, do not expound; what is concealed from you, do not inquire. [You have no business with hidden matters!]’ (Ben Sira) [cf. BT Ḥagigah 13a; Megillah 25a].

Afterwards He made a small vessel: י (yod). It was filled from [the source] and He called it ‘A Wellspring of Wisdom.’ He called himself in it Wise, and the vessel He called Ḥokhmah. Then, He made a large vessel and called it יָם (yam), Sea. He named it Binah and He called Himself an Understanding One.

He is wise of Himself and understands Himself because Ḥokhmah is not called Ḥokhmah of its own accord [cf. Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed 1:56–57], rather because the Wise One filled it with His own welling. Binah is not called so of its own accord, but rather because of the Understanding One who filled it from His own, and if He had removed Himself and risen from it, it would have remained dry, [as is written]: Water runs out from the sea and the river is parched and dries up (Job 14:11) [cf. Isaiah 19:5].

Afterwards, and strike it into seven נְחָלִים (neḥalim), wadis, [that one may trod upon it dry-shod] (Isaiah 11:15). He made seven precious vessels and called them גְּדֻלָּה (gedullah), Greatness, גְּבוּרָה (gevurah), Might, תִּפְאֶרֶת (tif’eret), Splendor, נֵּצַח (netsaḥ), Triumph, הוֹד (hod), Grandeur, כֹּל (kol), All, and הַמַּמְלָכָה (ha-mamelakhah), the Kingship. He called himself Great in Greatness and also חָסִיד (ḥasid), Devout, Glorious in Glory and Triumphant in Battles. In Majesty He called Himself  ‘The Majesty our Creator,’ and in יְסוֹד (yesod), Foundation, He called Himself צַדִיק (tsaddiq), Righteous One, Yesod, Foundation [of the World] (Proverbs 10:25), support of all vessels [sefirot], and all the worlds [cf. Bahir §102, §180]. And in Kingship, He called Himself King: [Yours, O YHWH,] the גְּדֻלָּה (gedullah), greatness, and the גְּבוּרָה (gevurah), might, and the תִּפְאֶרֶת (tif’eret), splendor, and the נֵּצַח (netsaḥ), triumph, and the הוֹד (hod), grandeur, indeed, כֹל (khol), all, in the heavens and on the earth. Yours, O YHWH, is הַמַּמְלָכָה (ha-mamelakhah), the kingship [and what is exalted as head over all] (1 Chronicles 29:11).

All is in His authority—whether to lessen the vessels, or, to increase or decrease their gushing, as is His desire with them. He does not have over Him a god to increase or decrease in Him. Then He created servants for these vessels [of Atsilut], a throne with four pillars and six steps for the throne. They are all ten. All—Throne like the cup of blessing to which they ascribed ten things because of the Torah given in עֲשָׂרָה דִּבְּרָן (asarah dibbran), Ten Utterances, and because of the world, which was the Work of Creation [Beri’ah] that was created with עֲשָׂרָה מַאֲמָרוֹת (asarah ma’amarot), Ten Sayings.

He then arrayed groups to serve the Throne: Malakhim, Er’elim, Serafim, Ḥayyot, Ofanim, Ḥashmalim, elim, elohim, sons of Elohim, and Ishim [cf. BT Ḥagigah 12b; Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Yesodei ha-Torah 2:7; Berit Menuḥa: The Third Way: The Way of Peace]. He made servants for these, Samael and all his band, that are like clouds to ride on in order to descend to earth, and they are like horses” (Zohar 2:42b–43aRa’aya Meheimna Bo).

When You Reach the Pure Marble Stones do not Say “Water! Water!”

“All the holy Writings render the hands unclean [i.e., are canonical]…. Rabbi Shim’on son of Azzai said, ‘I have a received a tradition from the mouths of seventy-two elders, on the day they inducted Rabbi El’azar son of Azariyah into his seat [as head] at the Academy, that the Song of Songs and Qohelet render the hands unclean.’

Rabbi Akiva said, ‘Perish the thought! No one from Israel has ever disputed concerning the Song of Songs that it does not render the hands unclean, since the whole world is not worthy of the day that the Song of Songs was given to Israel. For all the Writings are holy, but the Song of Songs is Holy of Holies, and if they have disputed they have not disputed concerning it but concerning Qohelet’” (M Yadayim 3:5).

“Our Rabbis taught: He who recites a verse of the Song of Songs and treats it as a [profane] song, and one who recites a verse at the banqueting house—not in its [fitting] time—brings evil upon the world” (BT Sanhedrin 101a).

“The Rabbis taught: Four entered the פַּרדֵס (pardes), Orchard: Son of Azzai, and Son of Zoma, Aḥer and Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Akiva said to them, ‘When you come to the place of pure marble stones, do not say, ‘Water! Water!’ For it is said, A speaker of lies shall not stand firm before my eyes (Psalms 101:7).’ Son of Azzai glimpsed and died. Of him it says, Grievous in the eyes of YHVH is the death of His faithful ones (ibid. 116:15).

Son of Zoma glimpsed and was harmed. Of him it says, If you find honey, eat just what you need, lest you have your fill of it and throw it up (Proverbs 25:16). Aḥer קִיצֵּץ בַּנְּטִיעוֹת (qitsets ba-neti’ot), severed the saplings. Rabbi Akiva emerged in peace….

Our Rabbis taught: Once Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Ḥananyah was standing on a step on the Temple Mount, and Son of Zoma saw him and did not stand up before him. He said to him: From where to where, Son of Zoma [i.e., what is on your mind]? He replied: I was gazing between the upper and the lower waters, and there is only a bare three fingers’ [breadth] between them, for it is said: And the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters (Genesis 1:2)—like a dove which hovers over her young without touching [cf. JT Ḥagigah 2:1: Like an eagle who rouses his nest, over his fledglings he hovers…  (Deuteronomy 32:11)]. Afterwards Rabbi Yehoshu’a said to his disciples: Son of Zoma is still outside [cf. Heikhalot Rabbati §93: ‘Rabbi Yishma’el said: Thus was the teaching as to the vision of the Chariot: He who beholds the Chariot has no right to stand up (out of courtesy to a superior), except before three authorities only: before a king and before a high priest and before a Sanhedrin. And should he stand up he would be guilty of death because he had stood up before it, and he would lessen his days and cut short his years’; Ben Sira: ‘Do not seek out what is too wondrous for you; do not inquire into that which is concealed from you’; BT Megillah 25a–b; Ḥagigah 11b: ‘From one end of heaven to the other you may inquire, but you may not inquire what is above, what is below, what is before, what is after’]….

Aḥer severed the saplings. Of him it says, Do not let your mouth make your body offend, [nor say before God that it was a mistake] (Ecclesiastes 5:5). What does it refer to? He saw that permission was granted to Mitatron to sit and write the merits of Israel [on the significance of the alternate spellings מְטַּטְרוֹן (Metatron) and מִיטַּטְרוֹן (Mitatron), see Zohar 2:277a; TZ, intro, 15a; TZ 21, 44a, 61a; Z 39d]. He said: It is taught as a tradition that on high there is no standing and no sitting, no jealousy and no rivalry, no nape and no fatigue [cf. BT Berakhot 17a]. Perhaps—perish the thought—there are two authorities! [Immediately] they led Mitatron forth, and punished him with sixty fiery lashes [see 3 Enoch 16], saying to him: Why did you not rise before him when you saw him? Permission was [then] given to him to erase the merits of Aḥer. A bat qol issued, saying: Turn back, rebellious children (Jeremiah 3:22)—except Aḥer.

[Afterwards] he said: Since this man has been banished from that world, let me go forth and enjoy this world. So Aḥer went into bad ways [lit., תַרְבּוּת רָעָה (tarbut ra’ah), wicked culture, i.e., foreign culture]. He went forth, found a whore and demanded her. She said to him: Are you not Elisha son of Avuyah? [But] when he uprooted a radish out of its bed on the Sabbath and gave it to her, she said: It is an אַחֵר (aḥer), Other.

After he went into bad ways, Aḥer asked Rabbi Me’ir, saying to him: What is the meaning of the verse: One against the other God has set (Ecclesiastes 7:14)? He replied: It means that for everything that God created He created its counterpart. He created mountains, and created hills; He created seas, and created rivers. [Aḥer] said to him: Rabbi Akiva, your master, did not explain it so, but [as follows]: He created righteous, and created wicked; He created the Garden of Eden, and created Hell. Everyone has two portions, one in the Garden of Eden and one in Hell. The righteous man, having been declared innocent, takes his own portion and his fellow’s portion in the Garden of Eden. The wicked man, having been declared guilty, takes his own portion and his fellow’s portion in Hell.

Rav Mesharshiyya said: What is the verse? In the case of the righteous, it is written: Therefore in their land they shall possess double: [everlasting joy shall be unto them] (Isaiah 61:7). In the case of the wicked it is written: And destroy them with double destruction (Jeremiah 17:18).

After he went into bad ways, Aḥer asked Rabbi Me’ir: What is written: Gold and glass cannot equal it, nor its worth in golden vessels (Job 28:17)? He answered: These are the words of Torah, which are difficult to acquire like vessels of fine gold, but are easily destroyed like vessels of glass. [Aḥer] said to him: Rabbi Akiva, your master, did not explain it so, but [as follows]: Just as vessels of gold and vessels of glass, though they be broken, have a remedy, even so a discple of the wise, though he has sinned, has a remedy. [Rabbi Me’ir] said to him: Then, you, too, return! He replied: I have already heard from behind the Curtain: Turn back, rebellious children (Jeremiah 3:22)—except Aḥer.

Our Rabbis taught: Once Aḥer was riding on a horse on the Sabbath, and Rabbi Me’ir was walking behind him to learn Torah at his mouth. He said to him: Me’ir, turn back, for I have already measured by the paces of my horse that thus far extends the Sabbath limit [i.e., two thousand cubits (in all directions) from the place where a person makes his abode for the Sabbath, beyond which it is forbidden to go on the day of rest, see M Shabbat 24:5; Eruvin 4:3, 5:7]. He replied: You, too, go back! [Aḥer] answered: Have I not already told you that I have already heard from behind the Curtain: Turn back, rebellious children (Jeremiah 3:22)—except Aḥer.

[Rabbi Me’ir] prevailed upon him and took him to an academy. [Aḥer] said to a child: Recite for me your verse! [The child] answered: There is no peace, says YHVH, for the wicked (Isaiah 48:22). He then took him to a synagogue. [Aḥer] said to a child: Recite for me your verse! He answered: For though you wash yourself with lye, and use much soap, yet your crime is marked before Me, says YHVH God (Jeremiah 2:22). He took him to yet another synagogue, and he said to a child: Recite for me your verse! He answered: And when you are plundered, what will you do? Though you clothe yourself with crimson, though you deck yourself with ornaments of gold, though you enlarge your eyes with paint, in vain shall you make yourself fair; [your lovers will despise you, they will seek your life] (ibid. 4:30).

He took him to yet another synagogue until he took him to thirteen synagogues: all of them recited similarly. When he said to the last one, Recite for my your verse, he answered: וְלָרָשָׁע (ve-la-rasha), And to the wicked, God said: ‘Why do you recount My statutes [and bear My pact in your mouth, when you have despised chastisement and flung My words behind you?]  (Psalms 50:16). That child was a stutterer, so it sounded as though he answered: ‘וְלַאֱלִישָׁע (ve-la-elisha), But to Elisha, God said.’ Some say that [Aḥer] had a knife with him, and he cut him up and sent him to the thirteen synagogues: and some say that he said: Had I a knife in my hand I would have cut him up.

When Aḥer was laid to rest they said: Let him not be judged, nor let him enter the world to come. Let him not be judged, because he engaged in Torah; nor let him enter the world to come because he sinned. Rabbi Me’ir said: It were better that he should be judged and that he should enter the world to come. When I die I shall cause smoke to rise from his grave. When Rabbi Me’ir died, smoke rose up from Aḥer’s grave. Rabbi Yoḥanan said: A mighty deed to burn his master?! There was one amongst us, and we cannot save him; if I were to take him by the hand, who would snatch him from me! [But] he said: When I die, I shall extinguish the smoke from his grave. When Rabbi Yoḥanan died, the smoke ceased from Aḥer’s grave. A certain eulogizer [began]: Even the guard [of Hell] could not stand before you, O master!

Aḥer’s daughter [once] came before Rabbi and said to him: O master, support me! He asked her: ‘Whose daughter are you?’ She replied: I am Aḥer’s daughter. He said: Are any of his children left in the world? Look it is written: No son nor grandson in his kinfolk, and no remnant where he sojourned (Job 18:19). She answered: Remember his Torah and not his deeds. Immediately, a fire came down and licked Rabbi’s bench. Rabbi wept and said: If it be so on account of those who dishonour Her, how much more so on account of those who honour Her [i.e., Torah].

But how did Rabbi Me’ir learn Torah at the mouth of Aḥer? Behold Rabbah son of Son of Ḥana said that Rabbi Yoḥanan said: What is the meaning of the verse, For the priest’s lips should preserve knowledge, and they should seek the law from his mouth: for he is the messenger of YHVH of Armies (Malachi 2:7)? If the rabbi is like an messenger of YHVH of Armies, they should seek Torah from his mouth, but if not, they should not seek Torah from his mouth!—Resh Laqish answered: Rabbi Me’ir found a verse and expounded it [as follows]: Bend your ear and hear the words of the wise, and set your heart on My knowledge (Proverbs 22:17). It does not say, to their knowledge, but to My knowledge.

Rabbi Ḥanina said, [he decided it] from here: Listen, daughter, and look, incline your ear, and forget your people, and your father’s house (Psalms 45:11). The verses contradict one another! There is no contradiction: in the one case the verse refers to an adult [who, unlike a child, can use discrimination and avoid the teacher’s wrongdoing; hence the last two verses permit him to learn even from a heretic], in the other to a child.

When Rav Dimi came [to Babylon] he said: In the West [i.e., the Land of Israel] they say: Rabbi Me’ir ate a half-ripe date and threw the peel away. Rabba expounded: What is written? To the walnut garden I went down to see the buds of the brook (Song of Songs 6:11). Why are the disciples of the wise likened to a nut? To tell you that just as the nut, though it be spoiled with mud and filth, yet its contents are not made repulsive, so a disciple of the wise, although he may have offended, yet his Torah is not made repulsive.

Rabbah son of Shila [once] met Elijah. He said to him: What is the blessed Holy One doing? He answered: He utters traditions in the name of all the rabbis, but in the name of Rabbi Me’ir he does not utter. Rabbah asked him, Why?—because he learnt traditions at the mouth of Aḥer. [Rabbah] said to him: But why? Rabbi Me’ir found a pomegranate; he ate [the fruit] within it, and the shell he threw away! He answered: Now He says: Me’ir My son says: When a man suffers [by receiving lashes or the death penalty at the hands of the court, see BT Sanhedrin 46a], to what expression does the Shekhinah give utterance? ‘Oy, My head is lighter, my arm is lighter [see M Sanhedrin 6:5].’ If the blessed Holy One is so grieved over the blood of the wicked, how much more so over the blood of the righteous that is shed.

Shemu’el found Rav Yehudah leaning on the door-bolt weeping. So he said to him: O, long-toothed one, why do you weep? He replied: Is it a small thing that is written concerning the rabbis? Where is the scribe? where is the one who weighs? where is he that counts the towers? (Isaiah 33:18). Where is the scribe?—for they counted all the letters in the Torah. Where is the one who weighs?—for they weighed the light and the heavy in the Torah [i.e., by arguing from minor to major and vice versa]. Where is he that counts the towers?— for they taught three hundred halakhot concerning a ‘tower which flies in the air.’ And Rabbi Ami said: Doeg and Ahitophel raised three hundred questions concerning a ‘tower which flies in the air.’ Yet we have learnt: ‘Three kings and four commoners have no share in the world to come’ (BT Sanhedrin 90a). What then shall become of us? [Shemu’el] said to him, O, long-toothed one, there was mud in their hearts—but what of Aḥer [why did his study of Torah not save him?]—Greek song did not cease from his mouth. It is told of Aḥer that when he used to rise from the academy, many heretical books [lit., books of the sectarians] used to fall from his lap.

Nimos the weaver asked Rabbi Me’ir: Does all wool that goes down into the [dyeing] kettle come up [properly dyed, i.e., does the study of Torah serve to protect all students from transgression (Rashi)]? He replied: All that was clean on its mother comes up [properly dyed], all that was not clean on its mother does not come up [properly dyed].

Rabbi Akiva ascended in peace and descended in peace; and of him Scripture says: Draw me after you, let us run. [The king has brought me into his chamber] (Song of Songs 1:4) [cf. Sefer Yetsirah §5]. And Rabbi Akiva too the ministering angels sought to thrust away [from the Orchard]; [but] the blessed Holy One said to them: Let this elder be, for he is worthy to avail himself of My glory—what did he expound? Rabbah son of Son of Ḥana said that Rabbi Yoḥanan said: וְאָתָה (ve-atah), And He appeared, from the myriads of holy ones (Deuteronomy 33:2)—אוֹת הוּא (ot hu), He is the Sign, among His myriads.

And Rabbi Abbahu said: דָּגוּל מֵרְבָבָה (dagul mervavah), standing out among ten thousand (Song of Songs 5:10)—He is דוֹגמָא (dogma), the Example, among His ten thousand. And Resh Laqish said: YHVH of Armies is His name (Isaiah 48:2)—He is Lord among His Army—and Rabbi Ḥiyya son of Abba said that Rabbi Yoḥanan said: Not in the wind is YHVH. And after the earthquake—fire. Not in the fire is YHVH. And after the fire, a sound of minute stillness (1 Kings 19:11–12). [And He said, ‘Go and stand on the mountain before YHVH,and, look, YHVH passed over (ibid., 11)” (BT Ḥagigah 14b–16a).

When God began to create heaven and earth, and the earth then was welter and waste and darkness over the deep and God’s breath hovering over the waters, God said, “Let there be light.” And there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good, and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And it was evening and it was morning, first day. And God said, “Let there be a vault in the midst of the waters, and let it divide water from water.” And God made the vault and it divided the water beneath the vault from the water above the vault, and so it was. And God called the vault Heavens, and it was evening and it was morning, second day (Genesis 1:1–8).

“תֹּהוּ (Tohu), welter—a pale line encompassing the whole world, from which darkness issued…; בֹּהוּ (bohu), waste—these are the slimy stones sunk in the abyss, from which water issues” (BT Ḥagigah 12a).

“The universe diffracts into forty-five hues of colored light. Seven disperse into seven abysses, each one striking its own abyss, stones gyrating. The light penetrates those stones, piercing them, and water issues from them, each one sinking within an abyss, covering both sides. Water flows through those holes, light penetrates, striking all four sides of the abyss. Each light whirls around its partner, converging as one, splitting the water” (Zohar 1:51a–52a).

“From the right side, Malkhut is called Stone. And a number of slimy stones come from Her. From them issue the waters of Torah, of which we have learned: Rabbi Akiva said to his disciples, When you reach the pure marble stones, do not say: ‘Water! Water! lest you endanger yourselves—do not say that these waters are waters, literally, because A speaker of lies shall not stand firm before my eyes (Psalms 101:7). For these waters are Torah, and it is said of Her: Torah is light (Proverbs 6:23). And since this light issues from a spring whose waters fail not (Isaiah 58:11), She is called Water.

And from the left side, this Stone, י (yod), is called Burning Coal, whence the ten sefirot ‘[are] as a flame bound to a burning coal’ (Sefer Yetsirah §6). And it has four hues [יהוה (YHVH)], and they are ten: יוֹד הֵא וָאו הֵא (Yod He Vav He) [amounting to י״ד (fourteen) letters]. And it is the יָד (yad), hand, of גְדוּלָה (gedullah), Greatness, on the right, the hand of גְבוּרָה (gevurah), Might, on the left, and from the middle pillar, an upraised hand. Therefore, it is comprised of forty-two hues [יָד (yad), hand, is numerically equivalent to י״ד (fourteen), and fourteen times three equals forty-two]” (Zohar 3:246a–b, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

“Son of Azzai glimpsed into the sixth chamber and saw the brilliance of the atmosphere [lit., air] of the marble stones that adorned the chamber. His body could not endure and he opened his mouth and asked them: ‘These waters, what are they?’ And he died.

Son of Zoma glimpsed at the marble stones and thought that they were water. His body endured to ask, but his mind could not. And he was harmed….

Rabbi Akiva said: Son of Azzai was found worthy and stood at the gate of the sixth chamber. However, he saw the brilliance of the pure marble stones opened his mouth twice and said: ‘Water! Water!’ Immediately they cut his head off and threw upon him eleven thousand iron bars. This should be a lesson for future generations, that a man not err in this way at the gate of the sixth chamber” (Heikhalot Zutarti §§345, 410, cf. Heikhalot Rabbati §259).

“Four entered an orchard—and all of them were selected to this realm, to these four elements. Each one was bound to his domain: one to the aspect of fire, one to the aspect of water, one to the aspect of air, one to the aspect of dust. All of them succumbed to their element, just as they entered—aside from the perfectly pious one, who proceeded to the right side and cleaved to the right, ascending on high.

When he reached the site called Chamber of Love, he cleaved to it passionately. He said, ‘This chamber must be conjoined with the chamber above, with great love!’ Then he was perfected in the mystery of faith—and ascended and consummated lesser love with great love, as is fitting. So, he died with love, and his soul departed with this verse: You shall love (Deuteronomy 6:5) [see BT Berakhot 61b]. Happy is his share!

As for all the others, each of them descended below and was punished in that element that cascades below.

Elisha descended below, into the left side—which is fire—descending within, not ascending, and encountered that Other Side, called אֵל אַחֵר (el aḥer), another god (Exodus 34:14). Teshuva was denied him; and he was banished because he cleaved to it. So he is called אַחֵר (Aḥer), Another, as we have established.

Son of Azzai descended into the element of dust; and before he reached the burnt dust, which extends to the Other Side, he succumbed to that dust and died. Of this is written Precious in the eyes of YHVH is the death of His faithful ones (Psalms 116:15).

Son of Zoma descended into the element of רוּחָא (ruḥa), air, and encountered another רוּחָא (ruḥa), spirit, extending to the side of impurity. And because another spirit passed by him, נִפגַע (nifga), he went mad. What is nifga? The impure spirit called פֶּגַע רָע (Pega Ra), Evil Disaster (1 Kings 5:18), and so, nifga, he went mad. פָּגַע (Paga), He came upon, him; and he did not stabilize.

None of them escaped punishment. Concerning this, Solomon said: There is futility befalling earth: there are righteous people treated according to the conduct of the wicked (Ecclesiastes 8:14)—for these descended among those rungs and were punished!

Come and see: Because Rabbi Akiva ascended on high, as is fitting, he entered in peace and emerged in peace.

[Rabbi Akiva survived his mystical quest intact. Even so, his fate was to be counted among the martyrs of Israel during the Hadrianic persecutions of the second century. Rabbi Shim’on wonders: How could he and the other martyrs—righteous innocents—be deserving of death at the hands of the Romans? Surely they deserved to die by divine kiss and be gathered to Shekhinah. The complex verse in Psalms provides the key:] He posed a question, not clarified explicitly, as is written: מִמְתִים (mi-metim), from men, by Your hand, O YHVHמִמְתִים (mi-metim), from men, from those fleeting of portion in life (Psalms 17:14). [David] was bewildered how these were slain among the slain of the world—righteous innocents, who never sinned such that they should be punished. Come and see: מִמְתִים (mi-metim), of them that die, by Your hand, O YHVHמִמְתִים (mi-metim), of them that die, מֵחֶלֶד (me-ḥeled), from those fleeting, of portion in life. By Your hand, O YHVH. Here are two modes: by Your hand, O YHVH, and חֶלֶד (ḥeled), fleetingBy Your hand O YHVH—the blessed Holy One, for the soul is gathered to Him; of them that die מֵחֶלֶד (me-ḥeled)—the Other Side, ruling over the body, as is written: I will never see a human again among the inhabitants of חָדֶל (ḥadel), the world (Isaiah 38:11) (Zohar 2:254b, Heikhalot Pequdei).

“[Now a river runs out of Eden to water the garden and] from there splits off into four רָאשִׁים (rashim), streams [lit., heads] (Genesis 2:10)—these are the four who entered the פַּרדֵס (pardes), Orchard. One went up פִישׁוֹן (pishon), Pishon, which is פִּי שׁוֹנֶה הֲלָכוֹת (pi shoneh halakhot), ‘My mouth repeats laws of conduct’ [corresponding to the פְּשָׁט (peshat), plain, meaning of Torah]. The second went up גִּיחוֹן (giḥon), Gihon, where is buried the one of whom it is written: Whoever goes on his גָּחוֹן (gaḥon), belly (Leviticus 11:42)—גַּבְרִיאֵל (gavriel), Gabriel, גָּבַר אֵל (gavar El), Man of God [namely, Moses, cf. Psalms 90:1]. Of him is written: To גֶבֶר (gever), a man, whose way is hidden, and God has hedged him about (Job 3:23)—no man knew the place of his grave nor will until the very day when he will be revealed there. And it is רֶמֶז (remez), hints, and to wise men hints [are sufficient].

The third went up חִדֶּקֶל (ḥideqel), Tigris—חַד (ḥad), sharp, and קַל (qal), light, and it is a חֲדִידָא (ḥadida), flawless, tongue, קַלָּא (qalla), quick, to דְרָשָׁא (derasha), homilies [cf. M Sotah 6:15: ‘With Son of Zoma died the last of the homilists’]. The fourth went up פְּרָת (perat), Euphrates, the brain [or: marrow, corresponding to the סוֹד (sod), secret, meaning of Torah] which is פְּרִיָּה (periyyah), flourishing, and רְבִיָּה (reviyyah), proliferation [cf. Genesis 1:28: פְּרוּ וּרְבוּ (peru u-revu), be fruitful and multiply]. Son of Zoma and Son of Azzai ascended with shells of Torah and were harmed by them, but Rabbi Akiva, who went up in the brain, of him it is said that he ascended in peace and descended in peace [cf. Rabbi Yosef Gikatilla, Perush ha-Niqqud: ‘In truth, to some of them it was a פַּרדֵס (pardes), paradise, and to others it was שְׁמָד (shemad), annihilation. And the mystery depends upon the secret (i.e., numerical value) of the שֵׁם ד״ (shem dalet), Four Letter Name’].

Rabbi El’azar said: Father, one day when we were in the academy, the Companions asked why Rabbi Akiva said to his disciples, When you reach the pure marble stones, do not say ‘Water! Water!’ or you may endanger yourselves, as is written, A speaker of lies shall not stand firm before my eyes (Psalms 101:7). Meanwhile, the סָבָא דְסָבִין (sava de-savin), Elder of Elders, descended, saying: ‘Rabbis, what are you engaging in?’ They said to him: ‘That which Rabbi Akiva said to his disciples concerning the pure marble stones.’ He said to them: ‘Indeed here is a supernal mystery, for it has been explained in the Academy on High. And in order that you not be neglected I have descended, since the mystery—a supernal mystery concealed from people of the generation—has been revealed among you [cf. Vayiqra Rabbah 29:4: ‘He confines His Shekhinah among those below. Why? So that if they err in a matter of Halakhah, the blessed Holy One enlightens their countenance’].’

These are surely the pure marble stones from which pure water flows. They are alluded to at the top and bottom of א (alef). The ו (vav), placed on a diagonal in between, is the Tree of Life. Whoever eats from that tree shall live forever. These two יוּדִין (yods) belonging to the א (alef) are hinted at in וַיִּיצֶר (va-yiytser), and formed (Genesis 2:7) [cf. BT Eruvin 18a]; one of the upper beings and the other of the lower beings stand for Wisdom at the beginning and Wisdom at the end [of יהוה (YHVH) spelled out in its full ten letter expanded form: יוֹד הֵא וָאו הֵא (Yod He Vav He); alt., יְאֲהדֹוָנָהי (YAHDVNHY)]. Mysteries of Wisdom, they are concealed supernal Wisdom, below supernal Keter. These are comparable to the two eyes from which two tears fell into the Great Sea. Why did the tears fall [see BT Berakhot 59a; Zohar 2:195b; 3:132a]? Because from these two tablets, Moses gave Torah to Israel. However, Israel was not worthy of receiving them, [so] they broke and fell (Exodus 32:19) causing the destruction of the First and Second Temples. Why did they fall? Because the letter ו (vav) flew out from them, which is the ו (vav) of וַיִּיצֶר (va-yiytser), and formed (Genesis 2:7). He gave them two others from the aspect of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. From here Torah was given in a manner of permitting and forbidding. From the right: Life; from the left: Death.

This is why Rabbi Akiva said to his disciples, When you reach the pure marble stones, do not say ‘Water! Water!’ Do not compare the pure marble stones to the other stones which are Life and Death: A wise man’s heart inclines him to his right hand but a fool’s heart is to the left (Ecclesiastes 10:2). Not only that, but you may endanger yourselves, because these are in separation, while the pure marble stones are in unity without separation of the whole. You may say, that when the Tree of Life departed from them [at the Sin of the Golden Calf] they fell and therefore they were separated from each other. However, A speaker of lies shall not stand firm before my eyes (Psalms 101:7), because there is no separation between them above. For those [tablets] that broke were of those [from the pure marble stones]. They approached to kiss him, but he vanished and was gone from them” (Zohar 1:26b, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar).

“And there is a chariot beneath זְּעֵיר אַנְפִּין (ze’eir anpin), Small Countenance, and he is מְטַּטְרוֹן אָדָם הַקָּטָן (metatron adam ha-qatan), Metatron the Lesser Man [cf. 3 Enoch 12]. And in his chariot, which is an orchard, they are hurrying from the sea of Torah, flowing out of his orchard to three of the four, about whom it was said that four entered the פַּרדֵס (pardes), Orchard. And we have already learnt this.

For he [Metatron] is the bird who was spotted by Rabbah son of Son of Ḥannah on the shore of the sea of Torah when the sea [Malkhut] reached its ankles [Netsaḥ and Hod], and its head reached to the top of the heavens [Tif’eret. On Rabbah son of Son of Ḥannah’s tall tales of his sea adventures and the various immense marine animals he encountered, see BT Bava Batra 73b–74a]. These three [namely, Son of Azzai, Son of Zoma, and Aḥer] did not fail in it because it contains numerous waters [of Ḥokhmah], but only, because of the forceful flow of the waters, and so have we learnt.

אבג (Alef, bet, gimel) include them and reckon six, the number of letters in מְטַּטְרוֹן (Metatron). ד (Dalet) is fourth: a sound of minute stillness (1 Kings 19:12). There came the King, for He is a man to sit on the throne.

א (Alef): יי (yod, yod)—upper waters, and lower waters, and there is nothing between them save a hair’s breadth, which is ו (vav), a slant line in between. It is the firmament [mystery of the וִילוֹן (vilon), Curtain, see BT Ḥagigah 12b] to divide water from water (Genesis 1:6). Thus there should be a separation between female and male, and that is why: and let it divide (Genesis 1:6). And the inner meaning of the matter: יְאֲהדֹוָנָהִי (YAHDVNHY)—the upper י (yod) is upper male waters and the lower י (yod) is lower, feminine waters. The six letters which come between are like the sum of ו (vav)—Metatron—which is between the א (alef).

Furthermore: י (yod)—a point; ו (vav)—a wheel. And there is no movement in the wheel at the six spokes [lit., extremities], as the numerical value of ו (vav), but only at the point. And this point is the unity of everything, and is witness to that Unity who has no second, and about whom the rabbis taught that one has to proclaim His unity in order to establish His kingship over the heavens and the earth and the four directions of the world.

ב (Bet)—heavens and earth [Tif’eret and Malkhut]; ג (gimel)—the pillar that bears them [Yesod]; ד (dalet)—the four living beings [of the Chariot]; ה (he)—the throne; ו (vav)—six steps [sefirot] up to the throne.

Moreover, א ב ג ד ה ו ז ח ט (alef, bet, gimel, dalet, he, vav, zayin, ḥet, tet): אָדָם (adam), Man [which has a reduced numerical value of nine, alluding to the first nine sefirot of Ze’eir Anpin]; י (yod)—יִיחוּד (yiḥud), He is Singular; Malkhut, tenth of אָדָם (adam), Man. The nine [sefirot] correspond to the nine letters. Happy are those of Israel who know the secret of their Master!” (Zohar 3:223b, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineas).

“Tefillin of the Master of the UniverseKeter [cf. BT Berakhot 6a, 7a]. And what is Keter of the Master of the Universe? It is יְהֹוָה (YHVH): י (yod)Ḥokhmah; ה (he)Binah; ו (vav)Tif’eret, which includes the six sefirot. ה (He) is Malkhut. And this is the reason: And who is כְּ (ke), like, Your people Israel, a unique nation upon earth (2 Samuel 2:23); כִּי (Ki), for, what great nation is there that has gods close to it כַּיהוָה (ka-Adonai), like YHVH, our God whenever we call to Him? (Deuteronomy 4:7); [also there is an aforementioned verse: There is no one holy כַּיהוָה (ka-Adonai), like YHVH, for there is no one beside You, and ther is no bastion like our God (1 Samuel 2:2)]. All four verses are inscribed with כ (kaf), and the mystery of the letter כ (kaf) is י י (yod, yod): יְאֲהדֹוָנָהי (YAHDVNHY). [And this is the inner meaning of:] עֲשָׂרָה עֲשָׂרָה הַכַּף (asarah asarah ha-kaf), ten ten (shekels) the ladle, by the sanctuary shekel (Numbers 7:86)—כ (kaf), from כֶּתֶר (keter), Crown, comprised of ten sefirot and they comprise [ten sefirot of direct light] from above downwards, and ten sefirot [of reflected light], are upwards from below.

And these are [Praise Him, the heavens of the heavens,] and the waters above the heavens (Psalms 148:4), which are masculine upper waters [ten sefirot of direct light], and feminine lower waters [the waters beneath the firmament (Genesis 1:7)—ten sefirot of reflected light]. And of them Rabbi Akiva said to his disciples: When you reach the pure marble stones, do not say: Water! Water! lest you endanger yourselves. For these are not waters as is normally understood, but rather אוֹר נוֹבֵעַ (or nove’a), ‘flowing light.’ This is why its name is מַיִם נוֹבְעִים (mayim nove’im), Flowing Water. And this light is never interrupted, nor is it cut off, nor separated. And because it is from Keter, it is called שֶׁאֵין לָהֶם סוֹף (she-ein lahem sof), Endless, for Keter is called אֵין סוֹף (ein sof), Without End [אוֹר (or), light, and אֵין סוֹף (Ein Sof) are numerically equivalent]” (Zohar 3:258a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).