The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: רוּחַ הַקֹּדֶשׁ

A Thousand Years in Your Eyes are like Yesterday Gone

083.011.003 (1)

“It has been taught: Rabbi Abba said in the name of Rabbi Yoḥanan, ‘Before the blessed Holy One created the world, He and His Name were one. It arose in His mind to create the world, and He created first a thousand worlds, as is said: the thousand are yours, Solomon (Song of Songs 8:12). Afterward He created other worlds—to show that all is naught before Him” (Zohar Ḥadash 2d, cf. Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 3).

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

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

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

“It has been taught: The Book of Concealment, a book balanced on scales. For until there was a balance, they did not gaze face-to-face, and the primordial kings died and their weapons vanished and the earth was nullified. Until the head of Desire of all Desires arranged and bestowed garments of glory [on ‘a balance,’ see Bereshit Rabbah 12:15; on ‘they did not gaze face-to-face,’ see BT Bava Batra 99a; on ‘the primordial kings,’ see Genesis 36:31–39].

This balance hangs in a place that is not; weighed upon it were those who did not exist. The balance stands on its own, ungrasped and unseen. Upon it rose and upon it rise those who were not, and who were, and who will be.

Secrecy within secrecy was prepared and arranged in a single skull filled with crystalline dew. Membrane of air, purified and sealed; those strands of clean fleece hanging evenly. Will of Wills is revealed through prayer of those below [on the forehead as expressing the Will, see Zohar 3:129 (IR) on Exodus 28:38]. Open-eyed watching, never sleeping, ever vigilant; supervision below by supervision of radiance above. Two nostrils of an official arousing breath for all [as a nose supervising commandingly, cf. Zohar 3:137b–138a (IR); on טַלָּא דִּבְדוֹלְחָא (talla di-vdulḥa), crystalline dew, cf. Rashi on Numbers 11:7; Ibn Ezra on Genesis 2:12].

בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ (Be-reshit bara Elohim et ha-shamayim ve-et ha-arets), In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). שִׁיתָא (Shita), six [words]—בְּרֵאשִׁית (be-reshit), in the beginning, above them. All of them are below, suspended from the seven [features] of the skull until Glory of Glories [cf. BT Shabbat 152a: ‘The glory of a face is the beard’].

The second earth is not included in the calculation, as has been said, and it emerged from that which was cursed, as is written: from the soil that YHWH cursed (Genesis 5:29). הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ וְחֹשֶׁךְ עַל פְּנֵי תְהוֹם וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים מְרַחֶפֶת עַל פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם (Hayetah tohu va-vohu ve-ḥoshekh al penei tehom ve-ruaḥ Elohim meraḥefet al penei ha-mayim), Was waste and empty, with darkness over the face of the abyss and the wind of God hovering over the face of the waters (ibid. 1:2)—thirteen [words] suspended from thirteen [‘strands of clean fleece’] of Glory of Glories [i.e., the divine beard; on the thirteen attributes of Compassion, see Exodus 34:6–7].

Six thousand years are suspended from the first six; seventh above them, fortified alone. All will be destroyed in twelve hours [cf. the twelve hour rise and fall of Adam, described in Avot de-Rabbi Natan A, 1; B, 1; Vayiqra Rabbah 29:1; BT Sanhedrin 38b], as is written: was waste and empty…. Thirteen, He will raise them in Compassion—renewing themselves as before—and all those six will rise, since it is written created, and afterward is written was, for it surely was! [cf. Bahir §2]. And in the end, תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ (tohu va-vohu), welter and waste, with darkness—YHWH alone will be exalted on that day (Isaiah 2:11) (Zohar 2:176b, Sifra di Tsni’uta).

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).

Decline of the Generations: As for Us the Opening is no Bigger than the Eye of a Fine Needle

“Moses received Torah from Sinai and handed it on to Joshua; Joshua to the elders; the elders to the prophets; and the prophets handed it on to the men of the Great Assembly. They said three things: Be careful in judgment; raise up many disciples; and make a fence for Torah” (M Avot 1:1).

“Rabbah son of Son of Ḥana said in the name of Rabbi Yoḥanan, reporting Rabbi Yehudah son of Ila’i: See what a difference there is between the earlier and the later generations. The earlier generations made their Torah permanent and their ordinary work occasional, and both prospered in their hands. The later generations made their ordinary work permanent and their Torah occasional, and neither prospered in their hands” (BT Berakhot 35b, cf. Gittin 81a).

“Rabbi Zera said that Rava son of Zamina said: ‘If the early ones were like angels then we are like human beings, but if the early ones were like human beings then we are like donkeys; not like the donkey of Rabbi Ḥanina son of Dosa or the donkey of Rabbi Pinḥas son of Ya’ir but like ordinary donkeys’” (BT Shabbat 112b).

“Compared with Sarah, all other people are like a monkey to a human being, and compared with Eve Sarah was like a monkey to a human being, and compared with Adam Eve was like a monkey to a human being, and compared with the Shekhinah Adam was like a monkey to a human being. The beauty of Rabbi Kahana was a reflection of the beauty of Rabbi Abbahu; the beauty of Rabbi Abbahu was a reflection of the beauty of our father Jacob, and the beauty of Jacob was a reflection of the beauty of Adam” (BT Bava Batra 58a).

“Rabbi Yoḥanan said: ‘The heart of the earlier ones was open like the entrance to the outer hall of the Temple, while the heart of the later ones was open only like the entrance to the inner hall [which was smaller]. But as for us the opening is no bigger than the eye of a fine needle….’ Abbaye said: ‘We are like a peg in a wall with regard to Gemara.’ Rava said: ‘We are like a finger in wax with regard to common sense.’ Rabbi Ashi said: ‘We are like a finger in a pit with regard to forgetfulness’” (BT Eruvin 53a).

“Rav said: Torah is destined to be forgotten in Israel, as is said, [If you do not keep to do all the words of this teaching written in this book to fear this solemn and fearsome name, YHWH your God,] YHWH will make your plagues and the plagues of your seed הִפְלָא (hifla), astounding, [great and relentless plagues, evil and relentless illnesses] (Deuteronomy 28:59): now, I do not know what this astonishment is, but when it is said, [And the Master said, Inasmuch as this people approached with its mouth and with its lips honored Me but kept its heart far from Me, and their reverence for Me was a commandment of men learned by rote,] therefore will I continue to strike this people with הַפְלֵא וָפֶלֶא (ha-fle va-fele), wonder upon wonder, [and the wisdom of its wise men shall vanish and the discernment of its discerners disappear] (Isaiah 29:13–14), it follows that this wonder refers to Torah” (BT Shabbat 138b).

“Rabbi Yoḥanan said: The fingernail of the earlier generations is better than the belly of the later generations. Resh Laqish said to him: On the contrary, the latter generations are better, although they are oppressed by the governments, they are occupying themselves with Torah. He [Rabbi Yoḥanan] replied: The Temple will prove it for it came back to the former generations, but not to the latter ones. The question was put to Rabbi El’azar: Were the earlier generations better, or the later ones? He answered: Look upon the Temple! Some say he answered: The Temple is your witness” (BT Yoma 9b).

“Come and hear: When the First Temple was destroyed, the cities with pastureland [… for the Levites] (Numbers 35:2) were abolished, the Urim and Thummim ceased, and there was no more a king from the House of David. However, if a person should whisper to you [that, in fact, the Urim and Thummim remained, as is written with regard to the time of the Second Temple:] And the governor said to them, that they should not eat of the most holy things, till a priest could consult with Urim and with Thummim (Ezra 2:63), reply to him: like a man says to his fellow, ‘Until the dead live and the Messiah, son of David, comes!’ [i.e., the distant future].

However, Rav Naḥman son of Yitsḥaq said: Who are the former prophets? This excludes Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi who are the latter prophets. For our Rabbis have taught: When Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi died, the רוּחַ הַקֹּדֶשׁ (ruaḥ ha-qodesh), Holy Spirit, departed from Israel; nevertheless they made use of the בַּת קוֹל (bat qol), Daughter of Voice [i.e, a reverberating sound or echo, see Tosefta, Sotah 13:3; JT Sotah 9:12, 24b; BT Yoma 9b, Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah on 8:10].

On one occasion they were sitting in the upper chamber of Gurya’s house in Jericho; Daughter of Voice was granted to them from the heavens, announcing, ‘There is in your midst one man who is deserving that the Shekhinah should rest upon him, but his generation is unworthy of it.’ They all looked at Hillel the elder; and when he died, they lamented over him, ‘Alas, the devout man! Alas, the humble man! Disciple of Ezra!’ On another occasion they were sitting in an upper chamber in Yavneh; Daughter of Voice was granted to them from the heavens, announcing, ‘There is in your midst one man who is deserving that Shekhinah should alight upon him, but his generation is unworthy of it.’ They all looked at Shemu’el the Little; and when he died, they lamented over him, ‘Alas, the humble man! Alas, the devout man! Disciple of Hillel!’ At the time of his death he also said, ‘Shim’on [son of Gamaliel] and Yishma’el [son of Elisha the High Priest are destined] for the sword and their companions for death, and the rest of the people for plunder, and great distress will come upon the people.’

They also wished to lament over Rabbi Yehudah son of Bava [a victim of the Hadrianic Persecution], ‘Alas, the devout man! Alas, the humble man!’ But the hour was unstable and they could not lament publicly over those who had been murdered by the government” (BT Sotah 48b).

“Our Rabbis have taught: Hillel the Elder had eighty disciples, thirty of whom were worthy of the Shekhinah resting upon them, as [it did upon] Moses our Master, thirty of whom were worthy that the sun should stand still for them [as it did for] Joshua son of Nun [see Joshua 10:12], [and the remaining] twenty were ordinary. The greatest of them was Yonatan son of Uzziel [cf. BT Megillah 3a], the smallest of them was Yoḥanan son of Zakkai.

They said of Rabbi Yoḥanan son of Zakkai that he did not leave [unstudied] Scripture, Mishnah, Gemara, Halakhah, Aggadah, details of the Torah, details of the Scribes, inferences a minori ad majus, analogies, [the calculation of] seasons, gematriyyot, the speech of the ministering angels, the speech of spirits, and the speech of palm-trees, parables of launderers and fox fables, great matters or small matters; great matters mean the Account of the Chariot, small matters [such as halakhot that were ultimately formulated in the framework of] the disputes of Abbaye and Raba; in order to fulfil what is said, To pass substance on to my lovers, and their storehouses to fill (Proverbs 8:21). And if the smallest of them was so great, how much more so was the greatest? They said of Yonatan son of Uzziel that when he used to sit and occupy himself with the study of Torah, every bird that flew above him was burnt immediately” (BT Sukkah 28a).

“Rav Papa said to Abbaye: How is it that for the former generations miracles were performed and for us miracles are not performed? It cannot be because of their [superiority in] study, because in the years of Rav Yehudah the whole of their studies was confined to נְזִיקִין (neziqin), Damages, and we study all six orders [of the Mishnah]… and yet when Rav Yehudah took off one shoe, rain used to come, whereas we torment ourselves and cry loudly, and no notice is taken of us! He replied: The former generations used to be ready to sacrifice their lives for the sanctity of the Name; we do not sacrifice our lives for the sanctity of the Name” (BT Berakhot 20a).

In the footsteps of Messiah impudence will swell; prices will surge; the vine will give its fruit but wine will be costly [or: scarce]; the kingdom will turn to sectarianism; and there will be no rebuke. The meeting place [of the Sages] will become a whorehouse; the Galilee will be destroyed; the highland will be desolate; the border people will wander from city to city and none will show them mercy; the wisdom of scribes will stink; sin‑fearing people will be detested; truth will be missing; young men will humiliate the elderly; the elderly will stand while the young sit; the son reviles the father, the daughter rises against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies are the people of his household (Micah 7:6); The face of the generation is like the face of a dog; sons have no shame in front of their fathers; and on what can one depend? Our Father in Heaven”(M Sotah 9:15; BT Sotah 49b, cf. Plato, The Republic 562b).

“But verging on the days of the Messiah, even children of the world are destined to find hidden treasures of wisdom, thereby discovering calculations of the end. At that time it will be revealed to all, as is written: For then (Zephaniah 3:9). What does then mean? When Assembly of Israel rises from the dust, raised by the blessed Holy One. Then I will transform the language of the peoples into a purer one, so they may all call upon the name of YHWH and serve Him shoulder to shoulder (ibid.)” (Zohar 1:118a).

“Rabbi Simon said in the name of Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi: מנצפ״ך (MNTsPK)—צוֹפִים (tsofim), Watchers [i.e., the visionary prophets], uttered them [i.e., the open form of the letters], Halakhah from Sinai [see BT Shabbat 104a]. Rabbi Yirmeyah said in the name of Rabbi Ḥiyya son of Abba: They are what the Watchers instituted [hence the mnemonic מנצפ״ך rather than כמנפ״ץ following the order of the Hebrew alphabet].

It once happened on a stormy day that the Sages did not attend the House of Assembly. Some children were there and they said, ‘Come and let us make a House of Assembly! What is the reason it is written מֵ״ם מֵ״ם נוּ״ן נוּ״ן צָדִּ״י צָדִּ״י פֵּ״א פֵּ״א כָּ״ף כָּ״ף [i.e., why do these letters have two forms]? These [teach that Torah was transmitted] from מַאֲמָר לְמַאֲמָר (ma’amar le-ma’amar), from utterance to utterance, נֶאֱמָן לְנֶאֱמָן (ne’eman le-ne’eman), from steadfast to steadfast, צַדִּיק לְצַדִּיק (tsaddiq le-tsaddiq), from righteous to righteous, פֶּה לְפֶה (peh le-feh), from mouth to mouth, and כַּף לְכָף (kaf le-khaf), from palm to palm…’” (Bereshit Rabbah 1:11).

The words of the wise are כַּדָּרְבֹנוֹת (ka-darvonot), like goads (Ecclesiastes 12:11). Rabbi Berekiah the Kohen said: כְּכַדּוּר שֶׁל בָּנוֹת (ke-khadur shel banot), like a girls’ ball. As with a child’s סְפַיְרָה (sefairah), ball, which they pickup and throw about, this way and that, so too the words of the wise” (Bemidbar Rabbah 14:4, cf. Tanḥuma, Beha’alotkha 15).

The words of the wise are כַּדָּרְבֹנוֹת (ka-darvonot), like goads (Ecclesiastes 12:11)—כְּכַדּוּר שֶׁל בָּנוֹת (ke-khadur shel banot), like a girls’ ball. What is a ball turned from hand to hand which has never fallen to the ground? [Tradition,] thus: Not a single word has fallen of all the good words that YHWH your God has spoken (Joshua 23:14).

What is a ball tossed by hands which has never fallen to the ground? [קַבָּלָה (Qabbalah), tradition,] thus: ‘Moses קִבֵּל (qibbel), received, Torah from Sinai and handed it on to Joshua; Joshua to the elders; the elders to the prophets, and the prophets handed it on to the men of the Great Assembly’ (M Avot 1:1)” (Qohelet Rabbah on 12:11, cf. Tanḥuma, Beha’alotkha 15).

“Every man must conduct himself to employ this Name [i.e., this book] with fear of sin and humility. Love is first, desirable actions second, and fear is third [cf. M Sotah 9:15; BT Avodah Zarah 20b; Zohar 3:145a; Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 5b]. And happy is the man whose Creator has granted the understanding and knowledge to fathom the mystery of this great Name which all the Sages, men of God who have illuminated our Torah, have employed and handed one to the other in great secrecy and with perfect intention, mouth to mouth (Numbers 12:8) [cf. BT Ḥagigah 13a; Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed 1:71].

These are the names of the heads of the generations who employed this Name—see the greatness of these men and how they acted with the necessary honor in these matters: The first to employ it was Adam [cf. Pirqe de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 8Zohar 1:52a; 2:55a], who employed it many days to know wisdom and understanding. He handed it on to Seth and Seth composed many books of unfathomable wisdom and arranged all the orders of the מֶרְכָּבָה (merkavah), Chariot, by the discernment of this Name. Seth handed it on to Enosh who went astray and misled the sons of his generation and so the generation of the Flood started to stray from the way and to spread whoring [cf. TanḥumaBereshit, 12:3; Job 21:14]. With great lust they gazed at the הַרַּכֶּבֶת הַכֹּחוֹת (ha-rakevet ha-koḥot), ladder of forces [of cause and effect], saying, ‘As it is fitting for these to הַרְכִּיב (harkiv), mount, each other, so will we do.’

And Enosh handed it on to Arpachshad [cf. Jubilees 9:4] who became very wise in it and Arpachshad handed it on to Methuselah [cf. Yalqut ShimoniBereshit, 5:42], but Enoch the father of Methuselah, did not favor it because he feared he might seize it and incur guilt. Methuselah handed it on to Lamech and Lamech handed it on to Noah.

Noah handed it on to his son Shem and Shem established his academy and dispersed the wisdom to enlighten many to return faithfully to the Good and he reigned over all the princes of the earth and all princes of the peoples served at his table [on Shem as the youngest, yet, wisest of Noah’s sons, see BT Sanhedrin 69b. On Shem’s academy, see BT Makkot 23b; Avodah Zarah 36b; Bereshit Rabbah 63:7, 67:8].

Shem handed it on to his son Eber and Eber handed it on to Abraham and Eber handed it on to Isaac and Eber handed it on to Jacob [each generation receiving from the source]. And Abraham added wisdom and knowledge to it and handed it on to his son Isaac in exacting detail [cf. MS Vatican 299; Bahir §192]. And Jacob handed it on to his sons, but to Levi he gave the main part [see Rabbi Yosef Gikatilla, Sha’arei Tsedeq, 2b, on Deuteronomy 33:8]. And Levi handed it on to Amram and Amram handed it on to Moses and Moses attained an exceedingly lofty and wondrous wisdom with it  [cf. BT Yevamot 49b: ‘All the prophets gazed through a dim glass, whereas Moses our Rabbi gazed through a clear glass’; BT Rosh ha-Shanah 21b; Nedarim 38a: ‘Fifty gates of Binah were created in the world, and all were given to Moses save one, as it says, And You made him little less than אֱלֹהִים (Elohim) (Psalms 8:6)].

Moses handed it on to Aaron and Aaron to his sons Nadab and Abihu who delved deeply to know the matter but were punished as the Torah informs us [see Leviticus 10:1–2; cf. Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana 26:9; Zohar 2:126a]. However, the קַבָּלָה (qabbalah), tradition, remained with Phinehas. And he delved to know more than all who preceded him and Phinehas handed it on to Joshua, although Joshua learned this teaching—this profound secret—from Moses [cf. Ba’al ha-Turim on Numbers 27:20: ‘And YHWH said to Moses, ‘Take you Joshua son of Nun, a man who has spirit within him, and lay your hand upon him… and you shall set something of you grandeur upon him in order that all the Israelite community will heed’ (Numbers 27:18–20)—מֵהוֹדְךָ (me-hodekha), something of your grandeur, is numerically equivalent to הַסוֹד (ha-sod), the secret’].

Joshua handed it on to Caleb and Caleb handed it on to his brother’s son Othniel who became very strong, as is written, [And Caleb said, ‘Whoever strikes Kiriath-Sepher (Scribe Townand takes it, to him I shall give Achsah my daughter as wife.’And Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, took it (Joshua 15:16–17; Judges 1:12–13).

Othniel handed it on to Ehud and Ehud to his sons but all of them were punished, however, he handed it on to Machir son of Jair and Machir handed it on to Eli and Eli to Samuel and Samuel delved to know like Moses, quality by quality [see BT Berakhot 31a on Psalms 99:6], and he arranged several wards and handed it on to Saul but he did not know how to wield it and was punished. Saul handed it on to David and David to his son Chileab and Chileab to his brother Solomon and in it Solomon became wise, more than all who preceded him, as is written, And he was wiser than all men [… and his fame was in all the nations round about] (1 Kings 5:11). Solomon handed it on to Benaiah and Benaiah hid it in the Temple archives. Then came the wise kings of Judah and took it out from there [see 2 Chronicles 17:3–9].

There are those who say that Solomon handed it on to Amos, and Amos to Isaiah and Isaiah to Zephaniah and Zephaniah to Jeremiah and Jeremiah to Baruch and Baruch to Ezra and Ezra and his court were wise and discerning [cf. BT Megillah 15a: ‘Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Korḥa said: Malachi is the same as Ezra, and the Sages say that Malachi was his proper name…’]. Their number was as the number of the one hundred-twenty righteous, chieftains of the Israelites who stood in the breach [see Ezra 10:14; cf. Psalms 106:23]. And Ezra and his court handed it on to Shemaiah and Avtalion, sons of Sennacherib king of Assyria who came to shelter under His wings [i.e., to convert, see BT Gittin 57b]. When the Sages saw that they were deserving of this name they handed it on to them and Shemaiah and Avtalion handed it on to Hillel and Shammai. [Hillel] was a descendent of the royal house of David as is found in Chronicles [see 1 Chronicles 3; BT Ketubbot 62b: ‘Rabbi (Yehudah ha-Nasi) descended from (Hillel, who, in turn, descended from David’s son) Shephatiah the son of Avital’].

Hillel and Shammai handed it on to Yonatan son of Uzziel and to Rabbi Yoḥanan son of Zakkai [see BT Sukkah 28a], and they plumbed its depths according to their reach [but not like Rabbi Neḥunia son of ha-Qannah, see Heikhalot Rabbati §203], and they handed it on to Rabbi Eli’ezer the Great. Rabbi Eli’ezer the Great handed it on to Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Akiva to Yehudah ha-Nasi, until Rabbi Shim’on [son of Yoḥai] came, but from the days of Rabbi Shim’on it remained hidden and closed [cf. Zohar 1:224b–225a; 3:58a: ‘Come and see: Among generations to come, Torah is destined to be forgotten, and the wise-hearted will gather in the Holy Chamber, yet there will be no one who can close and open (i.e., to declare forbidden, or pure, and permitted, or pure). Woe to that generation! From here on, there will be no generation like this one until King Messiah arrives’], except for a few later sages who grasped and understood it according to [mere] intellect such as the Geonim who delved to know the mysteries of the blessed Holy One according to the wisdom of the time and according to the [limited] wisdom of the generation.

When it arose in thought before the Creator to create this world with this Name, to extend a cord (Isaiah 44:13), and stand Mount Moriah by His qualities—the mountain God desired for His dwelling (Psalms 68:17)—He stood the table at the north with all sorts of food, created orbs to praise His Name, and servants performing His pleasure (ibid. 103:21). And with this Name, hung the world over its position. He built the Temple such that through windows this very light, without end and without limit, might dwell and illuminate. From this Name pillars of understanding were rooted, walls of wisdom, and windows of light. With this Name the Temple was filled with illustrious זוֹהַר (zohar), radiance [see BT Menaḥot 86b; Tanḥuma (Buber), Beha’alotkha 2:1; Vayiqra Rabbah 31:7].

He is our God and we are His servants but there are none who may approach Him proudly to see His beauty, except three. Their sign is, שְּׁמִי לְעֹלָם (shemi le-olam), My name forever [and thus am I invoked in all ages] (Exodus 3:17) [cf. BT Sanhedrin 38b on Exodus 23:21], and they are: שְׁמוּעִיאֵל (Shemui’el), מְטַטְרוֹן (Metatron), and יָהוֹאֵל (Yaho’el) [cf. Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 55, 89a]. [Since the gates of light have been closed from the time of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai] these three angels reveal secrets of the Name to created beings in order to make known His splendor and the triumph of His strength. It is the root of our Torah and the essence of our faith, the place of Rest. The first to make known the singularity of the Creator and His covenant with Israel. To make known His dominion with them and His partnership with them [see, e.g., Zohar 1:5a]. It is named in memory of the mystery of His wisdom: סֵפֶר בְּרִית הַמְנוּחָה (sefer berit ha-menuḥa), The Book of the Covenant of Rest.

Happy the man whose strength is in You (Psalms 84:6)—to know His highways, His conduct; My God’s processions, my King in holiness (ibid. 68:25)—His wondrousness. And thus I have recounted the names of the Sages who have employed it [i.e., the secret of the great Name]….

And now you will be able to grasp and understand the strength of your God, the essence of His vast wonders, more than what the ancients grasped in their great wisdom. For the truth is that the first generations they are the very wisest (Proverbs 30:24), the middle generations they are not all so, and the last generations are [even] wiser than the first, for this accords with the nature and יְצִירַת הָעוֹלָם (yetsirat ha-olam), formation of the world. As with the rotation of the wheel [of a watermill, i.e., the vicissitudes of fortune; cf. BT Shabbat 151b], the first ones which ascend are full, the middle ones pour, and the last ones draw and ascend in order to pour as well [cf. Rabbi Yeshayahu ben Mall di Trani, She’elot u-Teshuvot Rid, № 62]….

Daughters of Jerusalem, swear to me by the gazelles, by the deer in the field, that you will never awaken love until it is ripe (Song of Songs 2:7; 3:5). For although King Solomon in his great wisdom understood how to vocalize יהוה (YHWH) he swore in the name of all the holy nation not to ponder it until the day the blessed Holy One bestows compassion on His people and their Land, and open before them the gates of light. And now as I said, the gates of wisdom have begun to open, and therefore, one may study and gain great wisdom” (Berit MenuḥaIntroduction; The Second Way: The Way of Love, Eighth Vowel, Ninth Vowel).

“Rabbi Shim’on replied… ‘We have revealed what was not revealed to the ancient ones!’” (Zohar 3:287a).

Recount to the last generation (Psalms 48:14).