“[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 Torah, Hilkhot Yesodei ha-Torah 1:5; Guide of the Perplexed, 2:4–6].
This world is like a mustard seed in a ring. Why? 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).
“Sevenths are always beloved. [With the firmaments] above, the seventh is beloved: שָׁמַיִם (shamayim), Heavens, שְׁמֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם (shemei ha-shamayim), Heavens beyond the Heavens, רָקִיעַ (raqi’a), Firmament, שְׁחָקִים (sheḥaqim), Skies, זְבוּל (zevul), Loft, מָעוֹן (ma’on), Dwelling, and עֲרָבוֹת (aravot), Clouds—and it is written, Pave the way for the Rider of Clouds, for Yah is His name (Psalms 68:5). With the earths [below] the seventh is beloved: אֶרֶץ (erets), Earth, אֲדָמָה (adamah), Ground, אַרְקָא (arqa), Earth [Aramaic], גַּיְא (gai), Valley, צִיָּה (tsiyyah), Dry Region, נְשִׁיָּה (neshiyyah), Oblivion, תֵּבֵל (tevel), Firm Land [or: World]—and it is written, And He judges תֵּבֵל (tevel), the world, in righteousness, lays down law to the peoples in truth (Psalms 9:9). With generations the seventh is beloved: Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch—and it is written, And Enoch walked with God (Genesis 5:24). With fathers the seventh is beloved: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Levi, Kohath, Amram, and Moses—and it is written, And Moses had gone up to God (Exodus 19:3). With sons the seventh is beloved, as is said, David the seventh (1 Chronicles 2:15). With kings the seventh is beloved: Saul, Ish-Bosheth, David, Solomon, Rehoboam, Abijah, and Asa—and it is written, And Asa called to YHWH [his God…] (2 Chronicles 14:10). With years the seventh is beloved, as is said, But in the seventh you shall let it go and let it lie fallow (Exodus 23:11). Withשְׁמִטִּין (shemittin), years of release, the seventh is beloved, as is said, And you shall hallow the fiftieth year (Leviticus 25:10). With days the seventh is beloved, as is said, And God blessed the seventh day [and hallowed it…] (Genesis 2:3). With months the seventh is beloved, as is said, ‘In the seventh month on the first of the month [you shall have a sabbath’] (Leviticus 23:24)” (Vayiqra Rabbah 29:11).
He counts the number of stars, to all of them gives names (Psalms 147:4).
“Rabbi Yehudah said: There are two firmaments, as is said: Look, YHWH your God’s are the heavens and the heavens beyond the heavens (Deuteronomy 10:14). Resh Laqish said: [There are] seven, namely, וִילוֹן (vilon), Curtain; רָקִיעַ (raqi’a), Firmament; שְׁחָקִים (sheḥaqim), Skies; זְבֻל (zevul), Loft; מָעוֹן (ma’on), Dwelling; מָכוֹן (makhon), Site; and עֲרָבוֹת (aravot), Clouds. The one called Vilon, Curtain, serves no purpose except that it enters in the morning and goes forth in the evening and renews every day the work of creation, as is said: [He is enthroned on the rim of the earth, and its dwellers are like grasshoppers.] He spreads out the heavens like gauze and stretches them like a tent to dwell in (Isaiah 40:22).
The one called Raqi’a, Firmament, is that in which sun and moon, stars and constellations are set, ast is said: AndElohimset them in the firmament of the heavens to light up the earth (Genesis 1:17).
The one called Sheḥaqim, Skies, is that in which millstones stand and grind manna for the righteous, as is said: And He charged the skies above, and the doors of the heavens He opened, and rained on them manna to eat (Psalms 78:23–24).
The one called Zevul, Loft, is that in which [the heavenly] Jerusalem [see BT Ta’anit 5a] and the Temple and the Altar are built, and Michael, the great prince [over Israel, see Daniel 12:1; BT Yoma 77a], stands and offers up an offering there, as is said: I indeed have built You a lofty house, a firm place for Your dwelling forever (1 Kings 8:13). And whence do we derive that it is called שָׁמָיִם (shamayim), Heavens? For it is written: Look מִשָּׁמַיִם (mi-shamayim), from the heavens, and see, from Your holy and glorious זְבֻל (zevul), abode (Isaiah 63:15).
The one called Ma’on, Dwelling, is that in which there are groups of ministering angels, who utter song by night, and are silent by day for the sake of Israel’s honor, as is said: By day YHWH ordains His kindness and by night His song is with me (Psalms 42:9) [cf. BT Avodah Zarah 3b ad loc.]…. And whence do we derive that [Ma’on, Dwelling,] is called shamayim, Heavens? As is said: Look down from Your holy dwelling place, from the heavens, [and bless your people Israel…] (Deuteronomy 26:15).
The one called Makhon, Site, is that in which there are storehouses of snow and storehouses of hail [see Job 38:22], and the upper recess of harmful dew and the upper recess of rain-pellets [to strike down produce (Rashi)], the chamber of the storm and whirlwind, and the cave of vapor, and their doors are of fire, as is said: YHWH will open for you His goodly treasure (Deuteronomy 28:12). But are these to be found in the Raqi’a, Firmament? Surely, they are to be found on the earth, for it is written: Praise YHWH from the earth, sea monsters and all you deeps. Fire and hail, snow and smoke, stormwind that performs (Psalms 148:7–8). Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav: David entreated concerning them, and caused them to come down to the earth. He said before Him: Master of the Universe, Not a god desiring wickedness are You, no evil will sojourn by You (ibid. 5:5); righteous are You, O Lord, [let not] evil sojourn in Your abode. And how do we know that [Makhon, Site,] is called shamayim, Heavens? As is written: And You shall hearken in the heavens, מְכוֹן (mekhon), the firm place, of Your dwelling (1 Kings 8:39).
The one called Aravot, Clouds, in which there are righteousness, justice, charity, גִנְזֵי (ginzei), treasuries, of life, treasuries of peace, treasuries of blessings, the neshamot, souls, of the righteous, and the ruḥot, spirits, and neshamot, souls, that are to be created in the future, and the dew with which the blessed Holy One will revive the dead….
There are [also] the ofannim and the serafim, and the holy living beings, and the ministering angels, and the Throne of Glory; and the King, the Living God, lofty and holy (Isaiah 57:15), dwells over them in Aravot, Clouds, as is said: Sing to God, hymn His name. Pave the way for the Rider of Clouds, for Yah is His name (Psalms 68:5). And how do we know that [Aravot which is also means ‘plains, steppes, willows’] is called shamayim, Heavens? From ‘riding,’ which is iterated in two verses. Here it is written: Sing to… the Rider of Clouds. And elsewhere it is written: Riding through heavens as your help (Deuteronomy 33:26). And darkness and cloud and thick darkness surround Him, as is said: He set darkness His hiding-place round Him, His abode darkness of water, the clouds of the skies (Psalms 18:12). But is there any darkness before Heaven? For behold it is written: He lays bare the deep and the hidden things, knows what is in darkness, and light dwells with Him (Daniel 2:22)—this is not difficult: the one refers to inner houses [in which there is only light], the other to outer houses [hidden in darkness of cloud and dense fog, cf. Tanḥuma (Buber), Beha’alotkha 2:1; Bemidbar Rabbah 15:8].
And Rav Aḥa son of Ya’aqov said: There is still another firmament above the heads of the living beings, for it is written: And there was a likeness over the heads of the beasts—a platform like the appearance of the fearsome ice stretched over their heads above (Ezekiel 1:22). Until here, you have permission to speak; from here forward you do not have permission to speak, for so it is written in the Book of Ben Sira: What is too wondrous for you, do not expound; what is concealed from you, do not inquire. You have no business with hidden matters! [see Ben Sira 3:21–22]” (BT Ḥagigah 12b–13a).
“Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘The blessed Holy One is called שָׁמַיִם (shamayim), Heavens. And because He is called Heavens, all those firmaments included in this name number seven, and when they join as one they are called Heavens, and are called the Name of the blessed Holy One. Who are those firmaments? As we have learned: וִילוֹן (vilon), Curtain, רָקִיעַ (raqi’a), Firmament, שְׁחָקִים (sheḥaqim), Skies, זְבֻל (zevul), Loft, מָעוֹן (ma’on), Dwelling, מָכוֹן (makhon), Site, and עֲרָבוֹת (aravot), Clouds. So we have learned in the Aggadta of the House of Rav Sava.
Rabbi Yitsḥaq said, ‘These are barraitas of the House of Rav Sava, and there are many such treating all these aspects, as we have learned.’
Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘I have learned an outside barraita—that corresponding to all these seven crowns [sefirot] of the King are found seven firmaments and seven planets running back and forth. They are called by names for their names although all those thrones of firmaments and seven planets are equivalent. שַׁבְתַאִי (Shabbtai), Saturn; צֶדֶק (tsedeq), Jupiter; מַאְדִים (ma’adim), Mars; חַמָּה (ḥammah), Sun; נוֹגַה (nogah), Venus; כּוֹכָב (kokhav); Mercury, לְבָנָה (levanah), Moon. These are equivalent to those, in concealment of words, regarding those of whom is written Let them stand and save you—the astrologers, the stargazers (Isaiah 47:13). All those matters are concealed, although these are not ways of Torah.
As for us, we follow ways of Torah, as is written: He gave them names like the names his father had called them (Genesis 26:18). We follow what the blessed Holy One spoke; and we follow Him, as is written: Walk in His ways (Deuteronomy 28:9).
Rabbi Yose said, ‘Matters are simple for the Companions and well known, although concealed.’
He said to him, ‘We have learned as follows—as Rabbi Yehudah said in the name of Rabbi Ḥiyya in our presence, and as they taught from those barraitas—’In the days of King Solomon, the moon assumed fullness.’ In many places, the words of those barraitas are well known’ [cf. Zohar 1:243b; Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana 5:12; Shemot Rabbah 15:26;Berit Menuḥa, The Second Way: The Way of Love, Eight Vowel].
Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘I raise my hands in prayer to the supernal Holy One, that these matters may be revealed by me in that world as they were concealed in my heart. We do not follow the ways of those barraitas; the ways of Torah we grasp!’
It has been taught: Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘Who can you find as great in wisdom as King David and King Solomon, within this crown known in those barraitas? The moon King David called Righteousness, since it is his, as is written: Open for me the gates of righteousness (Psalms 118:19). So too, King Solomon. It is called Righteousness, and the sun—who is called My Covenant—is called Justice; and they are Thrones of Glory for the King, as is written: Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne (ibid. 89:15). Righteous One and Righteousness, similarly, are on a single rung.’
It has been taught: Seven crowns, as established, are called nine; and even in those barraitas those seven firmaments are nine.
Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘How long will the Companions read these words? Look, we follow the blessed Holy One, and we know matters; through us has been revealed what was not revealed to the ancient ones!
From here on, all these words and all these barraitas—put them aside for those who have not entered and emerged. Thereby, they will come to inquire; and when they inquire, the Companions will say, Woe to the generation from which Rabbi Shim’on has departed! But come and see: From here on, there will be no generation like this—nor Torah being revealed to the Companions’” (Zohar 3:287a–b).
“The Faithful Shepherd began by saying: It is written: ‘Though our lips were full of praise like the expansive firmament’ [Morning Service for Sabbath and Festivals]. And the firmaments are seven in number. Vilon, Curtain; Raqi’a, Firmament; Sheḥaqim, Skies, are so called because therein the millstones grind mannah for the Righteous One in the World that is Coming. And the basis for the name שְׁחָקִים (sheḥaqim), Skies, is: וְשָׁחַקְתָּ (ve-shaḥaqta), and you shall pound it, to fine powder (Exodus 30:36). And they are Netsaḥ and Hod, about which it is said: And שְׁחָקִים (sheḥaqim), skies, stream justice (Isaiah 45:8), which is the lower Shekhinah.
Curtain—for it pours in the evening, and brings out in the morning. Firmament—Yesod, for in it the sun [Tif’eret] and the moon [Malkhut] give light, for they are the middle pillar and the lower Shekhinah, as is written: And אֱלֹהִים (Elohim),set them in the firmament of the heavens to light up the earth (Genesis 1:17). And the Righteous One [Yesod] is a sign (Exodus 13:16) when uniting Netsaḥ and Hod, and testimony (Psalms 60:1) when uniting Tif’eret and Malkhut.
Netsaḥ and Hod are the two halves of a body, like תְּאוֹמִים (te’omim), twins [alluding to the angels Sandalfon and Metatron, and the מַּזַּל תְּאוֹמִים (mazzal te’omim), constellation of Twins (Gemini). Cf. Exodus 31:18; Song of Songs 4:5, 5:2; BT Ḥagigah 12b], which is why they are called Sheḥaqim, Skies. The two of them together are ו ו (vav, vav) of וֶשֶׁט (veshet), esophagus, from the left side, and they are the two molar teeth from the right side [וֶשֶׁט (veshet) according to its expanded spelling contains two of the letter ו (vav)]” (Zohar 3:235b–236a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).
“The King’s Daughter [Malkhut] is bound by ropes in the prison of Her exile. She is a nest to Samael among the stars and the blessed Holy One swears Though you exalt yourself as the eagle, and though you set your nest among the stars, from there will I bring you down, says YHWH (Obadiah 1:4). And Shekhinah is נוֹגַה (nogah), Venus: The fire had נוֹגַה (nogah), a radiance (Ezekiel 1:13). Hence the בֵּית כְּנֶסֶת (beit kenesset), House of Assembly, is called אֵשׁנוֹגַה (eshnogah), radiant fire [i.e., ‘synagogue,’ in a foreign tongue].
The fire of מַאְדִים (ma’adim), Mars, derives from אוֹדֶם (odem), redness: A row of אוֹדֶם (odem),ruby, topaz, and malachite, the first row (Exodus 28:17). נוֹגַה (Nogah), Venus, is a white fire, and both are the face of the sun [Tif’eret], and the face of the moon [Malkhut]. Netsaḥ and Hod receive the whiteness from Ḥesed and the אוֹדֶם (odem), redness, from Gevurah; Aaron and David came from there; one received Compassion and the other received Judgment. David came from the left side: and he was ruddy (1 Samuel 16:12). Aaron is a man of Ḥesed, and the two true prophets [Netsaḥ and Hod] are from them. The face of Moses shines with prophecy from Binah [see Zohar 3:247b], which is the supernal חַמָּה (ḥammah), Sun, whence his prophecy came.
In them are Esau the wicked, [who is the] the servant אֱדוֹם (edom), Edom, and his female מַאְדִים (ma’adim), Mars, which is שְׁפִיכוּת דָּמִים (shefikhut damim), bloodshed, in Israel. She caused it to be fulfilled in the Matronita: He has made me desolate andfaint all the day (Lamentations 1:13). הוֹד (Hod), turned דָּוָה (davah), faint [הוֹד (Hod),read backwards is דָּוָה (davah), faint], and they [שֹׁמֵמָה (shomemah), desolate, and דָּוָה (davah), faint] correspond to Netsaḥ and Hod. Jachin and Boaz on both of which the House is supported, since a house of assembly is named after them אֵשׁנוֹגַה (eshnogah), bright fire, as we said” (Zohar 3:282b, Ra’aya MeheimnaKi Tetse).
“Young women without number (Song of Songs 6:8)—do not read עֲלָמוֹת (alamot), young women, but rather עוֹלָמוֹת (olamot), worlds” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 14b).
“As rungs diverge, you discover a pistachio cluster, until they link to their suitable sides” (Zohar 1:177b).
“Come and see: the world above and the world below are perfectly balanced” (Zohar 2:176b).
“All those firmaments, one upon the other, are like skins of an onion. Some below and some above” (Zohar 3:10a).
“There is a visionary mirror reflecting supernal colors, envisioned in that visionary mirror; there is vision within vision, and vision within vision, one above the other, all poised on specific rungs, presiding, called night vision. Through them spread all dreams of the world, these resembling those above” (Zohar 1:196a).
“All faces gaze at one another, included in each other—spreading in many directions and myriads, above and below, without measure, count, or number” (Zohar 3:240b).
“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” (Zohar Ḥadash, 62b).
“It has been taught: There are ten spheres and ten commands. Each 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 [cf. BT Bava Batra 25a–b]” (Bahir §179).
“All the lights expanding, large and small, appear as the hub of a wheel [lit., כְּעֵין גַּלְגָּל (ke-ein galggal), as the eye of a wheel; like the look of a wheel]. All the spheres and worlds and their armies appear in the center like a mustard seed. And they all go to and fro, whirling, never still” (Berit Menuḥa, Second Way: The Way of Love, First Vowel).
“Who am I? I am a mustard seed in the middle of the sphere of the moon, which itself is a mustard seed within the next sphere. So it is with that sphere and all it contains in relation to the next sphere. So it is with all the spheres—one inside the other—and all of them are a mustard seed within further expanses. And all of these are a mustard seed within further expanses. Your awe is invigorated, the love in your soul expands” (Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, Or Ne’erav 18b–19a, translated in Matt, The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism, p. 22).
“There is nothing—not even the tiniest thing [‘from the horns of wild oxen to nits’ (BT Shabbat 107b)]—that is not fastened to the links of this chain [of being]” (Rabbi Moshe de Léon, Sefer ha-Rimmon, translated in Matt, The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism, p. 26).
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 (sheḥaqim), 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 Torah, Hilkhot 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).
“When King Solomon descended to the depth of the nut, as is written: I descended to the nut garden (Song of Songs 6:11), he took the קְלִפָּה (qelipah), shell, of the אֱגוֹז (egoz), nut, contemplated all those shells, and realized that all the joy and delight of those spirits—shells of the nut—consists solely in clinging to human beings and leading them astray, as is written: The delights of the sons of men: demon after demon (Ecclesiastes 2:8)…. The blessed Holy One had to create everything in the world, arraying the world. All consists of a kernel within, with several shells covering the kernel. The entire world is like this, above and below, from the head of the mystery of the primordial point to the end of all rungs: all is this within that, that within this, so that one is the shell of another, which itself is the shell of another” (Zohar 1:19b–20a).