The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: שִׁיעוּר קוֹמָה

Ten Pure White Radiancies, Ten Sefirot—These Above Those

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“Ten סְפִירוּת בְּלִימָה (sefirot beli-mah), ciphers of emptiness—their measure is ten yet they have no limit” (Sefer Yetsirah §7).

You shall surely tithe all the yield of your seed that comes out in the field year after year (Deuteronomy 14:22)—at all times you must reckon each of the rungs, ‘Ten and not nine, ten and not eleven’ (Sefer Yetsirah §4).

Another explanation: עַשֵּׂר תְּעַשֵּׂר (Aser ta’aser), You shall surely tithe [lit., tithe you will tithe]. Why two times? Because here there is a deep and hidden mystery which the mouth cannot speak nor the ear hear. You already know that tithe alludes to ten lower [sefirot]. Until here I have permission to explain. If you are one of the enlightened, you will understand this great mystery with your fullest intellectual capacity and will surely not let it out of your mouth: Here below we give our tithes according to the supernal model—so that man imitate his Creator” (Rabbi David ben Yehudah he-Ḥasid, Sefer Mar’ot Ha-Tsove’ot, 236:29–237:3, adapted from Matt, The Book of Mirrors, p. 26, cf. Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 31a–b).

The things hidden are for YHWH our God and things revealed for us and for our children forever (Deuteronomy 29:28). Understand this verse by its inner sense, deep and sealed though it may be. For YHWH—the Cause of Causes, for all proclaim that they are His; each of the עֶשֶׂר צַחְצָחוֹת (eser tsaḥtsaḥot), ten pure white radiancies, that comprise אֲרִיך אַנְפִּין (arikh anpin), Elongated Countenance, form ten inner rungs. And for our children—ten that parallel ten rungs within supernal Keter who are not revealed but remain concealed and hidden, imperceptible to the inquirer. For they belong to the Cause of Causes, blessed be the glory of His name and His majesty forever. Therefore, the enlightened will understand and will remain silent for God, and he alone will see wonders from the holy Torah He gave us from His very own treasury” (Rabbi David ben Yehudah he-Ḥasid, Sefer Mar’ot Ha-Tsove’ot, 252, adapted from Idel, “The Image of Man Above the Sefirot: R. David ben Yehuda he-Ḥasid’s theosophy of ten supernal ‘ṣaḥṣaḥot’ and its reverberations.” Kabbalah: Journal for the Study of Jewish Mystical Texts 20 [2009], p. 181–212).

“Come and see: How many hidden causes are clothed and conveyed by the sefirot! The sefirot are but chariots to them, for they are concealed from human thought. Of them is written: For he who is high has a higher one watching him, and still higher ones over them (Ecclesiastes 5:7)—נְהוֹרִין מְצוּחְצָחִין (nehorin metsuḥtsaḥin), glaring white lights, these above those, but those that are receptacles are darkness compared to the others above them. And their is no light that can exist before עִלַּת הָעִלּוֹת (illat ha-illot), the Cause of Causes, all lights are darkened before Him” (Zohar 1:23a, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar).

I Will Climb into the Palm Tree and Take Hold of its Branches


“Rabbi Yishma’el says: [The mitsvah of the four species requires] three הֲדַסִּים (hadassim), myrtle branches, two עֲרָבוֹת (aravot), willow branches, one לוּלָב (lulav), palm branch, and one אֶתְרוֹג (etrog), citron” (M Sukkah 3:4).

Make me know the path of life. Joys overflow in Your presence, delights in Your right hand forever (Psalms 16:11).

Israel said before the blessed Holy One: ‘Master of the Universe! Make me know the path of life [חַיִּים (ḥayyim), life, is numerically equivalent to לוּלָב (lulav), palm branch]!’ He said to them, ‘Here are the Ten Days of Repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur: שֹׂבַע שְׂמָחוֹת (sova’a semaot), joys overflow, in Your presence—rather read: שֶׁבַע שְׂמָחוֹת (sheva semaot), seven joys, of the festival, and what are they? The four species, plus סֻכָּה (sukkah), hut, the Ḥagigah (festal) offering, and rejoicing. What is delights in Your right hand נֶצַח (netsaḥ), forever? Rabbi Avin said, ‘This is the palm branch, like one who is מְנַצֵחַ (menatseaḥ), victorious, holds a wand. What is this like? Two who entered before the judge, but we do not know who won, unless we see one of them holding a wand in his hand and then we know that he won. Similarly, Israel and the nations of the world go in and contend with the blessed Holy One on Rosh Hashanah, and we do not know who won, but when Israel depart from His presence with their לֻלַּבּין (lullabbin), palm branches, and אֶתְרוֹגִין (etrogin), citrons, in their hands, we know that Israel came out victorious [cf. BT Sukkah 55b]” (Vayiqra Rabbah 30:2, cf. Midrash Tehilim 17:5).

Now, all the holy forms are appointed over all the peoples, but ‘Israel is holy’ (BT Ḥullin 7b), they pluck [a beautiful] נוֹף (nof), branch (Psalms 48:3) [from] the Tree. And his heart, what [is the] heart? The stately fruit of the גוּף (guf), body. So Israel plucks fruit of a stately tree (Leviticus 23:40)—a date palm surrounded by his branches all around with his palm branch in the middle. So Israel plucks a branch of this Tree, which is His Heart. And corresponding to the branch is the spinal cord in man, the root of the guf, trunk. What is this לוּלָב (lulav), palm branch? It denotes: ל״ו ל״ב (Thirty-six, thirty-two)—to לֵב (lev), the Heart, thirty-six are added. And what is this Heart? In Him are ‘Thirty-two wondrous paths of Wisdom’ (Sefer Yetsirah §1). In each path there is also a form keeping guard, as is written, To guard the way to the tree of life (Genesis 3:24)” (Bahir §98, cf. Zohar 3:104a; TZ 21, 47b).

Rabbi Berekhiah sat and expounded: What is the לוּלָב (lulav), palm branch, that we discussed? We said: ל״ו (thirty-six) given over to ל״ב (thirty-two). But how? He replied: There are three princes: תָּלִי (Tali) [alt., תְלִי (Theli), like a serpentine spine which twists the heavens, i.e., Draco, Axis Mundi], Wheel, and Heart. Each one is twelve, and the three therefore reckon thirty-six, by which the world is sustained [see BT Sanhedrin 97b; Sukkah 45b], as is written: The Righteous One is foundation of the world (Proverbs 10:25)” (Bahir §101).

A parable: A king wished to plant nine male trees in his garden, all of them palms. What did he do? He said: Since they are all of the same kind it is impossible for them to endure. What did he do? He planted a אֶתְרוֹג (etrog), citron, among them, and it was one of those nine which arose in thought to be male. And why is the citron, female? Because it is written, The fruit of a stately tree, fronds of palm trees, [and a branch of a leafy tree and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before YHWH your God seven days] (Leviticus 23:40). What is the fruit of a stately tree? The Targum renders this, fruit of the citron tree, palm branches, [myrtles and willows]” (Bahir §172).

What is [Holy, holy,holy (Isaiah 6:3)? This the אֶתְרוֹג (etrog), citron, stateliness of all. Why is it called stately (Leviticus 23:40)? Do not read הָדָר (hadar), stately, but הַדַר ­(ha-dar), the Dweller [cf. BT Sukkah 35a]. This is the etrog, citron—separate from the לוּלָב (lulav), palm branch, bunch. Yet no mitsvah of lulav, palm branch, exists without it. For it is also bound with All [the Righteous One; Yesod, see Zohar 1:221a]. With each one; unified with them all.

What does the לוּלָב (lulav), palm branch, correspond to? The spinal cord. Therefore it is written, [Fronds of palm trees,] and a branch of a leafy tree and willows of the brook (Leviticus 23:40). The branches must cover the majority [of the bunch]. If its branches do not cover its majority, it is invalid. Why? What is this like? A man has arms, and with them he protects his head. He has two arms, and his head makes three: a branch of a leafy tree. A branch is to the left, and the leaves are to the right. It then comes out that the tree is in the middle. And why is it called a tree? Because it is the root of the Tree.

What are willows of the brook (Leviticus 23:40)? There are two [willow branches in the לוּלָב (lulav), palm branch], and these correspond to the two thighs in man. Why are they called עַרְבֵי נָחַל (arvei naḥal), willows of the brook? Because the greater of the two is inclined toward the מַעֲרֵב (ma’arev), west, and draws its power from there. The one to the north is smaller than it by a journey of five hundred years. It is on the northwest side, through which it functions. It is named after it, since they are both עֲרָבִים (aravim), mixed.

Another interpretation: עַרְבֵי נָחַל (Arvei naḥal), willows of the brook—sometimes their functions מְעָרְבִים (me’arvim), are mixed, this with that. And why are they called willows of the brook? Say because of the place in which they are steady, which is called נָחַל (naḥal), brook [or: river]. Therefore it is written All the rivers go to the sea, and the sea is not full (Ecclesiastes 1:7). What is this sea? We say that it is the אֶתְרוֹג (etrog), citron.

How do we know that each of the seven qualities [sefirot] is called נָחַל (naḥal), river? Because it is written, And from Mattanah to Nahaliel and from Nahaliel to Bamoth (Numbers 21:19) [cf. M Avot 6:2]. Do not read נַחֲלִיאֵל (naḥaliel), Nahaliel, but נַחֲלֵי אֵל (naḥlei El), rivers of God. And all six then go on one way to the Sea. What is this way? It is the one that decides between them. Therefore it is written: Before Him went the pestilence, and burning fever went forth at His feet (Habakkuk 3:5). All of them go to that channel, and from that channel to the Sea. This is And from מַּתָּנָה (mattanah), Mattanah, to Nahaliel—a place which is נִתַן (nitan), given, namely from the brain to Nahaliel and from Nahaliel to Bamoth.

What is Bamoth? As the Targum renders it: רָמָתָא (ramata), Heights. This is the סְגוּלָּה (segullah), which follows the זַרְקָא (zarqa). And from Bamoth to the valley that is in the steppes of Moab, by the top of Pisgah looking out over the wasteland (Numbers 21:19). And from Bamoth, Heights, to the valley that is in the steppes of Moab—that which is מְזוּמָן (mezuman), ready. And what is that which was in the steppes of Moab? Do not read מוֹאָב (mo’av), Moab, but מִאָב (mi-av), from father. This is the Father of whom is written, Because Abraham has listened to My voice and has kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, [and My teachings] (Genesis 26:5).

What is הַשָּׂדֶה (ha-sadeh), the steppes [or: the field]? It is the one that is at the top of Pisgah, and which is also looking out over the wasteland. יְשִׁימֹן (Yeshimon), the wasteland, is translated as שְׁמַיָּא (shemayya), heavens. Regarding that channel, it is written, A garden spring, a garden of fresh water and streams from Lebanon (Song of Songs 4:15). What is Lebanon? We say this is Ḥokhmah. What are עַרְבֵי נָחַל (arvei naḥal), willows of the brook? We say this is that which gives נַחֲלָה (naḥalah), a heritage, to Israel. And that is two אוֹפַנִי הַמֶרְכָּבָה (ofani ha-merkavah), wheels of the Chariot.

We learned that there are ten גַלגַלִים (galgalim), spheres [or: wheels], and ten utterances. Each sphere has its utterance. Not that it is surrounded by it, but rather it surrounds it. This world is like a mustard seed in a ring. Why? Because of the breath that blows upon it, by which it is sustained. If this breath were to be interrupted the world would wither in an instant [in the mystery of You enliven them all (Nehemiah 9:6)]” (Bahir §§175–179).

Why was she called תָמָר (tamar), Date Palm, and not any other name? Because she was female. Can we then say that she was female [i.e., was this something extraordinary]? But it is because she included both male and female. For every date palm includes both male and female. How is this? The לוּלָב (lulav), palm branch, is male. The fruit is male on the outside and female on the inside. And how so? The pit of a date is cleft like a woman. Corresponding to it is the power of the moon above” (Bahir §198).

“A אַמָּה (ammah), cubit [lit., arm], is the measure of the body in four directions and up and down, making six cubits. And each arm has three joints, making eighteen joints in the six cubits, being the secret of the eighteen wavings with the lulav in six directions, three in each direction. Of them it is said: קוֹמָתֵךְ (Qomatekh), Your stature, is like a palm tree (Song of Songs 7:8). And this is the שִׁיעוּר קוֹמָה (shi’ur qomah), measure of the stature, the מִקְוֵה יִשְׂרָאֵל (Miqveh Yisra’el), Gathering of Israel (Jeremiah 14:8) in Shekhinah” (Zohar 3:228a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

“She [Malkhut] is raised with the four species up to Thought [Ḥokhmah], as is written: I thought: I will climb, the palm, [I will grasp its stalks] (Song of Songs 7:9). אֶעֱלֶה (E’eleh), I will climb—a sign: אֶתְרוֹג (etrog), citron, עֲרָבָה (aravah), willow, לוּלָב (lulav), palm branch, and הֲדָס (hadas), myrtle” (Zohar 3:283b, Ra’aya Meheimna Ki Tetse, cf. Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 29b).

אַל תְּבוֹאֵנִי רֶגֶל גַּאֲוָה (Al tevo’eni regel ga’avah), Let no haughty foot overtake me, nor the hand of the wicked repel me (Psalms 36:12)אֶתְרֹג (etrog), citron” (Rabbi Ḥayyim Vital, Sefer ha-Liqqutim).

Prayer Should be Elevated Just as One Aims the Stone in a Sling


“Rabbi Pinḥas said in the name of Rabbi Me’ir, and Rabbi Yirmeyah said in the name of Rabbi Abba, ‘When Israel prays, you do not find them all praying as one, but rather each assembly prays on its own, one after the other. When they have all finished, the angel appointed over prayers gathers all the prayers offered in all the synagogues and fashions them into עֲטָרוֹת (atarot), diadems, which he places on the head of the blessed Holy One” (Shemot Rabbah 21:4, cf. Zohar 2:201b).

Rabbi Shim’on opened, saying: Listen, all supernal ones. Gather, all mortals, masters of the academy above and below. Elijah [i.e., Sandalfon], upon an oath, ask permission from the blessed Holy One to descend here because a great battle awaits you. Come down, Enoch [i.e., Metatron], you and all the masters of the academy under your supervision. Not for my glory, but for the glory of Shekhinah.

He opened as before, expounding זַרְקָא (zarqa), מַקָּף (maqqaf), and so forth, saying: Certainly by the musical intonation, זַרְקָא (zarqa), the prayer should be raised to that known site, like one aims the stone in a sling [cf. Bahir §§89–91, 178]. Just as one aims the stone carefully, so as not to miss the target, so should thought be raised with prayer to that תַּגָּא (tagga), coronet, set and adorned. Of this stone they said, ‘[In uttering the tefillah, when one bows, one should bow at בָּרוּך (barukh), “blessed,”] and stand upright with [the mention of] the Name’ (BT Berakhot 12a).

And when he raises Her from that site conducting Her to Her husband [one should not interrupt his prayer] even if a serpent is wound around his feet, and even though: and you shall bite his heel (Genesis 3:15) [cf. Psalms 91:13; BT Berakhot 30b: ‘Even if a king greets him he should not answer him. And even if a serpent is wound round his heel he should not break off’]. Nevertheless, the stone is hinted at by the י (yod) of יַעֲקֹב (Ya’aqov), which is composed of י (yod) and עָקֵב (aqev), heel, as is written: Through the name of the Shepherd and Israel’s Stone (Genesis 49:24)—he does not stop and must raise Her to אֵין סוֹף (Ein Sof) [cf. Zohar 1:65a: ‘Come and see: All transpires in the mystery of faith, so that one is satisfied by the other (i.e., so that the lower is satisfied by the higher, and vice versa), so that the one who must, ascends to Ein Sof ‘]. ‘When one bows, one should bow at בָּרוּך (barukh), “blessed”’ (BT Berakhot 12a)—he must draw Her down ceaselessly without causing any separation between Her above or below.

Sometimes He is Her husband ו (vav), the Righteous One [Yesod] who includes the six joints of two legs. Then She descends toward Him for the purpose of coupling according to the mystery of two legs [Netsaḥ and Hod]. But at other times, He is Her husband ו (vav) [Tif’eret] which includes the six joints of the two arms: beginning, middle and end. Then She grows and ascends to the two arms [Ḥesed and Gevurah]. At other times He [Ze’eir Anpin] is Her husband and stands between Father [Ḥokhmah] and Mother [Binah]. This is when He is called בֵּן יָהּ (Ben Yah), Son of God, and She should be elevated there to Him for coupling. At other times, Her husband is Keter with ו (vav) inserted between י י (yod, yod) like so: א (alef). Then She should be elevated to Him, as She grows with Him and reaches exactly the same rung as He does. When She ascends to Keter, it is written of Her: the stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone (Psalms 118:22).

When She rises up to the Head of all Heads the angels ask ‘Where is the place of His glory to admire Him?’ And when She rises She becomes just like a תַּגָּא (tagga), coronet, on the head of א (alef)—כֶּתֶר (Keter), Crown. When She descends: a point underneath [like so: וִ]. So when She ascends She is called עֲטָרָה (atarah), Diadem, in the mystery of musical intonations, and when She descends, She is called נְקוּדָה (nequdah), Point. When She mates She is like so: וּ. When She is a coronet on His head She is called the letter ז (zayin). The sign of the covenant consists of this because it is the seventh letter in all. Indeed, this Stone is בִּנְיָינָא (binyyana), building, of all the worlds [cf. BT Niddah 45b: ‘And YHWH God יִּבֶן (yi-ven), built, the rib He had taken from the human into a woman (Genesis 2:21)—the blessed Holy One placed more בִּינָה (binah), understanding, in women than in men’; Sanhedrin 93b: ‘בִּינָה (Binah), understanding, one thing from another’; ibid., 110a: ‘The wise woman has built her house (Proverbs 14:1)—wife of On son of Peleth; and Folly with her own hands destroys it (ibid.)—Korah’s wife’]. Because of this: a whole and honest weight-stone you shall have (Deuteronomy 25:15). She is the quantity בֵּין (bein), between, each and every sefirah, and every sefirah amounts with Her to ten. Her stature is ו (vav). Through Her every cubit between each and every sefirah becomes ten cubits. And the secret of the matter: ten cubits the length of the board (Exodus 26:16), and She is between them all. She is ten between every sefirah and ten multiplied by ten totals one hundred; when מֵאָה (me’ah), one hundred, is reversed [you have:] אַמָּה (ammah), cubit.

Each and every quantity [that Malkhut measures] is called a world [a quantity of its own]. These are י (yod) and ו (vav)—שִׁעוּר וּמִדָּה (shiur u-middah), height and width [or: stature and quantity]. ו (Vav) is the שֶׁקֶל (sheqel), weight [of the light (Sullam)]; י (yod) is the מִדָּה (middah), width. And the measurement of the quantity is five cubits long and five cubits wide. This corresponds to the measurement of every firmament, which is five-hundred parasangs long and five-hundred parasangs wide. This is the mystery of ה ה (he, he) [in יהוה (YHWH)]; the first ה (he) alludes to width and the lower ה (he) to length, as explained elsewhere.

So here you have the שִׁיעוּר קוֹמָה (shi’ur qomah), measure of the stature, of Him [Ze’eir Anpin] in יהוה (YHWH), because ו (vav) alludes to firmament of the heavens [Tif’eret of Ze’eir Anpin (Sullam)]. Its five firmaments, namely the last ה (he) of יהוה (YHWH), is called Five Heavens. This is the additional יהוה (YHWH) that indicates the five firmaments included in the heavens. The upper five firmaments are called Heavens of the Heavens. These are ה ה (he, he) of יהוה (YHWH). The ו (vav) is their sixth firmament. י (Yod) of יהוה (YHWH) is the mystery of Malkhut [the seventh firmament and seven plus seven equals fourteen]. Here are those lands, seven upon seven lands that cover each other like onion rings, which surround each other on all sides. They are all alluded to in the two eyes, and the three colors in the eye: white, red and green. Its white color is Ḥesed, its red color, which are red streaks, are Gevurah and its green color is Tif’eret. The two eyelids are Netsaḥ and Hod, the eye itself is Yesod and the black point is Malkhut.

The י (yod) in the Name יהוה (YHWH) is called a small, or short, world. The ו (vav) in יהוה (YHWH), which is Tif’eret, is the long world. Whomever wishes that his desires be fulfilled by the long world should pray at length, and whoever prays to the short world should pray quickly. Therefore, it has been explained that in a place where they are told to make it short a person should not pray at length [cf. Exodus 14:15]. To pray quickly is like the prayer of Moses, who recited the following short prayer, אֵל (El), pray, heal her, pray (Numbers 12:13) [see Sifrei, Numbers 105 ad loc.], as he addressed the [infinitesimal] point of י (yod) [which is the small, or short, world].

[The place where it was recommended that one should pray at length during times when one is not allowed to curtail the prayer stems from an aspect of ו (vav), as in] וּלְהִתְנַפֵּל (ul-hitnapel), to fall down, [as Moses did:] וָאֶתְנַפַּל (va-etnapal), And I threw myself, before יְהוָה (YHWH) (Deuteronomy 9:18)—פ (peh) because forty days and forty nights (ibid.), reckons eighty, which is the sum of פ״ (forty) [all this relates to the mystery of the letters פ (peh) and ו (vav), which appear in the word וָאֶתְנַפַּל (va-etnapal)]. Everything appears in the two מ (mem) one open מ (mem) and one closed final ם (mem) [cf. BT Shabbat 104a], with the י (yod) as a point in the middle, which forms the word מַיִם (mayim), water. From the aspect of Ḥesed, one should pray at length.

In the Holy Name יהוה (YHWH) rises by the fourth tune of the musical intonations. And one should prolong this intonation, which is fourth over the Name of יהוה (YHWH), the mystery of the תְקִיעָה (teqi’ah). The place to make it short is from the aspect of Gevurah, the intonations of שְׁבָרִים (shevarim). This is called the תְּבִיר (tevir), break, of the musical intonations. The middle, which is neither prolonged nor shortened, is the mystery of תְרוּעָה (teru’ah). This is the middle pillar and is the mystery of the musical intonations called שַׁלשֶׁלֶת (shalshelet), Chain, as it interlinks them [i.e., the right and left pillars] according to the mystery of the שֶׁקֶל הַקֹּדֶשׁ (sheqel ha-qodesh), consecrated coin [שֶׁקֶל (sheqel), coin, is numerically equivalent to נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh), person].

Corresponding to the רְבִיעַ (revi’i), fourth, [musical intonation] which rises there, is חוֹלָם (olam) among the vowels, which is also Ḥesed. The שְׁבָרִים (shevarim) [or the תְּבִיר (tevir), break, of the musical intonations] corresponds, to שְׁבָא (sheva). In pronouncing this fourth one should raise his voice and in pronouncing the other [referring to the תְּבִיר (tevir), which is Gevurah], one should lower his voice. Because of this, it is called שְׁבָרִים (shevarim) [cognate with: שֶׁבֶר (shever), break] as the voice should be lowered [lit., שָׁבוּר (shavoor), broken]. This is done in secret, as is written of the lower Shekhinah: And Her voice not heard (1 Samuel 1:13). תְּרוּעָה (Teruah) is mystery of the middle pillar, called שַׁלְשֶׁלֶת (shalshelet), Chain [this is also the mystery of the י (yod), located between the two ם (mem) of אַרְבָּעִים יוֹם וְאַרְבָּעִים לַיְלָה (arba’im yom ve-arba’im lailah), forty days and forty nights. This is the mystery of segolta among the intonations (Sullam)].

The fourth of the musical intonations is for raising the voice, the tevir of the musical intonations is for lowering the pitch. Chain holds to the two pillars as a chain joining them to each other. It is like the רְבִיעִי (revi’i) with which one prolongs the word with melody. It is a vowel like the Ḥolam. There is no vowel among the points that does not have a corresponding musical intonation [see Bahir §§36–44]. For example, the vowel Segol corresponds to the musical intonation segolta, the vowel sheva corresponds to the musical intonation zaqef gadol. There is always a vowel corresponding to a musical intonation for all those who know the hidden mysteries.

Rabbi Shim’on opened saying: zarqa, maqqaf, shofar holekh, segolta. The vowel to the right is יְהוָה מֶלֶךְ (Adonai melekh), YHWH reigns (Psalms 96:10). The vowel to the left, shuruq is יְהוָה מָלָךְ (Adonai malakh), YHWH reigned (Psalms 93:1). The vowel [iriq] in the middle, Tif’eret, is יְהוָה יִמְלֹךְ (Adonai yimlokh), YHWH shall reign (Exodus 15:18). Rabbi Aḥa said: YHWH reigns—the supernal world; YHWH shall reignTif’eret; YHWH reigned—the Ark of the Covenant” (Zohar 1:23a–24b, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar).

שיעור קומה (Shi’ur Qomah), Measure of the Stature (MS 10675)


With the help of the Rock, and His redemption, with the aid of Heaven; with the help of God we will open and we will close. My help is from YHWH, maker of heaven and earth (Psalms 121:2).

I will begin to write the שִׁיעוּר קוֹמָה (shi’ur qomah), measure of the stature. “All Israel has a portion of the world to come, as is said, Your people, all of them righteous, shall forever possess the land, the shoot I have planted, My handiwork in which to glory (Isaiah 60:21)” (M Sanhedrin 10:1).

Rabbi Yishma’el said, ‘I saw the King of kings of kings, the blessed Holy One seated on a high and lofty throne [and the skirts of His robe filled the Temple] (Isaiah 6:1) with His soldiers standing before Him, at His right and at His left (1 Kings 22:19). The Prince of the Countenance מִיטַּטְרוֹן (Mitatron), רוּחַ פִּסְקוֹנִית (Ruaḥ Pisqonit), פסקון (PiSQON), איטמון (‘ITMON) [see BT Sanhedrin 44b], הגאון (ha-GA’ON), אגרון (‘GRON), סגרון (SiGRON), דניגרון (DaNIGRON), מיתון (MITON), מיכון (MIKON), הסתס (HaSTaS), הסקס (HaSQaS), סרתם (SaRTaM), הסכם (HaSKaM), חיקרון (ḤIQRON), זיוא (ZIVA), רבא (RaBA), באנטסזנטף (BANTaSZaNTaF) spoke to me.

Rabbi Yishma’el said, ‘What is the shi’ur qomah, measure of the stature, of the blessed Holy One concealed from all creatures?’ The parasangs of His feet fill the entire world, as is said: The heavens are My throne and the earth is My footstool. [What house would you build for Me and what place for My resting…?] (Isaiah 66:1). The height of His soles is 30 million parasangs. His right sole is called פרסמיה אטרקט שמה (PaRSaMIaH ATRaQaT ShaMaH) and the left אגומץ (AGOMaTs). From His [right] sole to the ankle is 150 million parasangs. Similarly the left. The right ankle is called צגמיה (TsaGMiyah) and the left אסתמץ (ASTaMaTs). From His [right] ankle to the knees is 190,005,200 parasangs. Similarly the left. The right calf is called קנגגו מהדיה טססקם (QaNGaGO MaHaDIaH TaSaSQaM) and the left מנגהווזיא זזיא (MaNGaHOVVaZIYA… ZaZiYA). From His [right] knee to the thigh is 120,001,200 parasangs. And similarly the left. The right knee is called סתמגץ יהמיי (SaTMaGaTs YeHaMiYI) and that of the left is called מגהנוריא (MaGHaNuRiYA). The right thigh is called ששתסתפרניסי (ShaShTaSTaPaRNISiYi) and the left is called תפגניחזיזא (TaFGaNiaZIZA). From His thighs to the neck is 240 million parasangs. His loins are called ‘Astanah…dadiyah. On His heart are placed seventy names: Tsats, TsedeqTsaḥi’el, TsurTseviTsaddiqSa’af, Saḥats, Tseva’otShaddaiElohimZanYah, Yah, YHWH, TsaḥDagulEdomSasas‘A’, Va’a’a, ‘Aya’, ‘Aha, Hav, Yah, Ho, Veḥo, Tsatsats, …faf, Nats, Heh, ḤaiḤai, Ḥai, Hahabav, AravotYav, HeH, VaH, Mamam, …Nan, Havav, YaH, Yahah, ḤafetsKatsets, ‘Ay, Za’, Tsa’a’, Za’, ‘A’a’,… Heh, KesherBozaḥ, Niter, Ya’, Ya’, Yod, HonFa’af, Ra’u, Yayay, …f, Vavav, Vro, Bavav, Bavav, Tatat, Bafaḥ, Palal, Sis, are its letters. Blessed be the name of His glorious kingdom forever and ever. Blessed be the name of His glorious kingdom forever and ever. Blessed be the name of His glorious kingdom forever and ever.

His neck 130,000,800 parasangs. His neck is called סנגיהו יבה תיקץ (SaNGIHU YaVaH TIQaTs). The circumference of His head is 3,000,000,033 and a third parasangs, something the tongue is unable to tell nor the ear hear [cf. Sifre Bemidbar 102; BT Shevu’ot 20b; Rosh ha-Shanah 27a; Sefer Yetsirah §40]. אתר הודריא עטסי (‘ATaR HODaRiYA’ ‘ATaSYa) is its name. His beard is 11,500 parasangs. Its name is הדרק סמיא (HaDRaQ SaMiYA’). The appearance of the cheeks is like the form of the רוּחַ (ruaḥ), breath [or: spirit], and like the form of the נְשָׁמָה (neshamah), soul. No creature can recognize it [or: no creature is able to gaze upon His Crown]. His body is like aquamarine (Daniel 10:6), the splendor of His glory is luminous, נוֹרָא (nora), awesome [alt., נוּרָא (nura), fire] in the darkness, cloud and dense fog (Psalms 97:2). Surrounding it are the princes of the Countenance and the seraphim pour themselves out before Him as water pouring from a pitcher. We have nothing in our hands but the names that have been revealed to us. The nose is called לגבגצייא (LaGBaGTsiYYA), but גגטפייא (GaGTaFIYA’) is [also] its name. His tongue extends from one end of the world to the other [cf. Teli], as is said: [Great is our Master, abounding in power, His wisdom is beyond number (Psalms 147:5).] He tells His word to Jacob, His statutes and laws to Israel (ibid., 19). אססגיחוואיא (‘ASaSGiU’YA’) is its name. The width of His forehead is [130,000,800 parasangs]. מססגיהו נאייא (MaSaSGIHU NA’YaYA’) is its name. On His forehead are written seventy-two letters:

ייהו היה יוה ויה הא הא הי הי יה הא הה ווה ייהו וה ויהו הה יה י הא יה יהו הו הו ייהיו היה ויה יהו הא הא היה ויה

The black of His right eye 11,500 parasangs, and similarly, the left. The right is called ורק אט טיסום (‘URiQ ‘AT TISUM) and the name of its prince is רחביאל (ReaVI’EL) [alt., רחמיאל (RaMI’EL)]. The left is called מטטגריעמציא (MeTaTGaRI’AMTsIA). The flashes of their lights [extend] to all creatures. The white of His right eye is 20,000, and similarly the left. The  right is called פדרפססיא (PaDRaPaSSiYA) and the left… וקצתיא (U-QTsaTIA’).

From His right shoulder to the left is 160,000,000 parasangs. The right shoulder is called מטטגהיה אנגץ (MeTaTGHI’Ha’ ANGaTs) and the left תתמהנגיא (TaTMaHNaGIA’). It [also] has another name: שלמהינגיא (ShaLMaHINGIA’). From His right arm to the left is 120,000,000. The arms are folded. The right arm is called גברהזזיא עכסי (GeVaRHaZaZIA ’AKhSI) [alt., בגדהוזיא טכסי (BeGaDHUZIA TaKhSI), i.e., ‘order of the alef-bet‘] and the left מטטגהגציקו (MeTaTGaHaGTsIQU). The fingers of [His right] hand are 100,000,000 parasangs each. Similarly the left. [Those] of the right [are called] תתמה (TaTMaH), תץמץ (TaTsMaTs), גגמוה (GaGMUH), גגשמש (GaGShaMaSh)גגשש (GaGShaS) and [those] of the left [are called] תץמץ (TaTsMaTs), תתמה (TaTMaH)אגגמץ (AGaGMaTs), אגגמת (UGMaTs), and שושנס (ShOShNaS). And thus you may count from the big one onwards [i.e., the names mentioned are to be attributed to the fingers in this order beginning with the thumb].

The palm of [His right] hand is 40,000,000 parasangs and similarly the left. The name of the right is זזיא אטגרי (ZaZIA ATGaRiYi) and the left is called שקזזיא (SheQiZaZiYa’). His toes [on the right] are 10,000,000 parasangs. 2,000,000 parasangs for each toe. And similarly the left. [The names of those] on the right is אדמץ (ADoMaTs), אסומת (ASUMaT), דרמנת (DaRMaNaT), כבטא (KaVTA)…, …רמון (…RaMON), and [those] of the left are ישנין (YeShNaYaN), בזנין (BaZNaYan), הצמת (HaTsMaT), אהוז (AHUZ), תהמום (TaHaMUM). From the hands you count onwards. Therefore He is called the great, mighty, and awesome God (Deuteronomy 10:17), as is said: [And you shall knowthat YHWH your God, He is God, the steadfast god keeping the covenant and the faith for those who love Him and keeping His commands to the thousandth generation (ibid. 7:9).

‘But then [Mitatron] told me how to calculate the parasangs. What is their measure? Each parasang is three miles, each mile is 10,000 cubits, each cubit is two spans—measured according to God’s span, which spans the entire world,’ as is said: Who with his hand’s hollow has measured the waters, the heavens has gauged with a span, [and meted earth’s dust with a measure, weighed with a scale the mountains and the hills with a balance?] (Isaiah 40:12).

Rabbi Natan, Rabbi Yishma’el’s discple, says, ‘Even [regarding] the nose he gave me an exact measurement; similarly the lip, and the cheeks. The appearance of the face and the cheeks was like the measure and the form of a soul. No creature can recognize it. Even though he gave me the measurement of the forehead, the width of the forehead is like the height of the neck. Similarly, the shoulder is like the length of the nose, the nose is like the length of the little finger [cf. BT Bekhorot 44a: “One whose nose is excessively large (is unfit for priesthood). A Tanna taught: As (the width of) a small finger”]. The height of the cheeks is [like] half the circumference of the head. Similarly the measure of any person. His lip is like 77,0000. The name of upper lip is גברהטיא (GaVeRHaTIA) [perhaps: גָּבֶר הֲטָיָה (gaver hatayah), bold curve], that of the lower is הזרהגיא (HaZeRHaGIA) [perhaps: חֲזָרָה גָּיְא (ḥazarah gaye), returning valley; alt., הַשָׁרָה גָּיְא (hasharah gaye), a steep valley]. His mouth is a consuming fire, whatever [it] speaks…. סדרסא (SaDRaSa) is its name. What [He] desires, the breath in His mouth speaks. The crown on His head is 500,000 by 500,000; Israel is its name. On the precious stone that is between its horns are engraved ‘Israel, My people, is mine. Israel, My people, is mine.’ My lover is shining white and ruddy… his head is purest gold, his locks are curls… his eyes are like doves by streams of water… his cheeks are like beds of spices… (Song of Songs 5:10–13).’

20,000,000 parasangs. Anyone who does not finish with this verse is deviating [from the correct path]. Sprouting aromatic scents. His lips are lilies, dripping liquid myrrh. His arms are coils of gold inset with ruby. His loins are fine-wrought ivory…. His mouth is sweetest drink, all of him, delight. This is my lover and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem (ibid., 14–16). אנטיה טחון יחון טוב טהור יוד יוד יוד יה יה יה חסין יה (‘ANTiYYAH TaḤUN YaḤUN TOV TiHUR Yod Yod Yod Yah Yah Yah ḤaSIN Yah) in place of Yah YahHoly, holy, holy, is YHWH of Armies. The fullness of all the earth is His glory (Isaiah 6:3). His eyebrows are like the measure of the height of the eye. The right eye is called הדרזולד (HaDRaZOLaD) and the left אפדה צציהו (AFDaH TsaTsiYHU). His sideburns are like the height of the forehead. That of the right is called אצטהייא (ATsTaHiYYA) and the left מטטהוצציא (MeTaTHOTsTsIA). Thus the total measure is 100,000,000,000 parasangs high and 10,000,000,000 parasangs wide.

Rabbi Yishma’el said: When I said this thing before Rabbi Akiva, he said to me: Whoever knows the shi’ur qomah, measure of the stature, of the יוֹצֵר בְּרֵאשִׁית (yotser bereshit), Fashioner of Beginning [cf. 3 Enoch 11:1; JT Berakhot 10b], and the praise of the blessed Holy One is protected from all creatures, secure in being a son of the world to come, and they will lengthen his days. Rabbi Yishma’el said: Akiva and I are guarantors in this matter, but only if one recites this mishnah each day.

Blessed is God forever. Amen and amen.

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 YHWH 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 (qitstsets 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 YHWH, 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 YHWH 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 YHWH of Armies (Malachi 2:7)? If the rabbi is like an messenger of YHWH 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: YHWH 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 YHWH. And after the earthquake—fire. Not in the fire is YHWH. And after the fire, a sound of minute stillness (1 Kings 19:11–12). [And He said, ‘Go and stand on the mountain before YHWH,and, look, YHWH 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 (YHWH)], 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 YHWH 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 YHWH; מִמְתִים (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 YHWH; מִמְתִים (mi-metim), of them that die, מֵחֶלֶד (me-ḥeled), from those fleeting, of portion in life. By Your hand, O YHWH. Here are two modes: by Your hand, O YHWH, and חֶלֶד (ḥeled), fleetingBy Your hand O YHWH—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 (YHWH) spelled out in its full ten letter expanded form: יוד הי ואו הי (Yod He Vav He); alt., יְאֲהדֹוָנָהי (YAHDWNHY)]. 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 (YAHDWNHY)—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 (YHWH): 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 YHWH, 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 YHWH, 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 (YAHDWNHY). [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).