The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: תָּלִי

A Mighty Tree: its Top Reaches the Heavens and its Branches to the End of all the Earth


SCATAGLINI (1)There is a tree in the earth and its height is great. The tree grew and became mighty, and its top reaches the heavens and its branches to the end of all the earth. Its foliage is lovely and its fruit great, and there is food for all in it. Beneath it the beasts of the field are shaded, and in its branches the birds of the heavens dwell, and all flesh is nourished from it (Daniel 4:7–9).

“I am the one who planted this tree for all the world to delight in. With it I spanned the All, calling it All, for all depends on it, all emanates from it, all need it, all gaze upon it and await it. From here souls fly forth in joy. Alone I was when I made it. When I spread out My earth, in which I planted and rooted this tree—giving them joy in one another, rejoicing along with them—who was with Me (Isaiah 44:24)? To whom could I reveal this secret of Mine?” (Bahir §22).

“They asked [Rabbi Berakhiyah], ‘What is the letter צ (tsadi)?’ He said: ‘This is נ (nun) and י (yod)—צ (tsadi). Its partner [ץ (final tsadi)] is also נ (nun) and י (yod) [alluding to יִנּוֹן (yinnon), bear seed (Psalms 72:17)]. Therefore it is written, צַדִּיק (Tsaddiq), the Righteous One, is a יְסוֹד עוֹלָם (yesod olam), lasting foundation (Proverbs 10:25)” (Bahir §61, cf. ibid. §86).

One pillar extends from earth to the firmament. Its name is צַדִּיק (Tsaddiq)Righteous One, named for the righteous. When there are righteous people in the world, the pillar is strengthened; if not, it is weakened. It upholds the entire world, as is written, The righteous one is the יְסוֹד עוֹלָם (yesod olam), foundation of the world (Proverbs 10:25). If it weakens, the world cannot endure. So if the world contains just one righteous person, that person sustains the world [cf. BT Yoma 38b]” (Bahir §102).

“The blessed Holy One has a single tree containing twelve גְבוּלֵי אֲלַכְסוֹן (gevulei alakhson), diagonal borders: The northeast border, the southeast border; the upper east border, the lower east border; the southwest border, the northwest border; the upper west border, the lower west border; the upper south border, the lower south border; the upper north border, the lower north border. ‘Deepening and expanding until evermore—זְרֹעֹת עוֹלָם (zero’ot olam), arms everlasting [alt., arms of the world] (Deuteronomy 33:27)’ (Sefer Yetsirah §47). On the inside of them is the Tree. Corresponding to these diagonals are twelve officials. Inside the Wheel there are also twelve officials. Including the diagonals themselves reckons thirty-six officials. Each of these has another, as is written for he who is high has a higher one watching him (Ecclesiastes 5:7) [reckoning seventy-two]. It therefore comes out that the east has nine, the west has nine, the north has nine, and the south has nine. These are twelve, twelve, twelve, and they are the officials in the תָּלִי (Tali) in every other one. Even though there are twelve in each of the three, they are all attached to each other. Therefore, all thirty-six powers are in the first one, which is the Tali. And if you seek them in the Wheel, you will find the very same ones. And if you seek them in the Heart, you will again find the very same ones. Each one therefore has thirty-six; All of them are no more than thirty-six צוּרוֹת (tsurot), forms, and all of them are perfected in thirty-two [forms]; thirty-two given to thirty-two, and there remained [out of thirty-six] four; and they are sixty-four forms. How do we know that thirty-two are delivered to thirty-two? As is written, for he who is high has a higher one watching him—thus, there are sixty-four. But eight is [yet] lacking from the seventy-two names, and this is [alluded] in and still higher ones over them (ibid.)—these are the seven days of the week [i.e., the seven lower sefirot]. But one is lacking, and that is [alluded] in And the gain of the land is in everything—a king, is subject to the field (ibid. 5:8) [מֶלֶךְ (melekh), a king—מַלְכוּת (malkhut), Kingdom]. What is this gain? The place from which the earth was hewn. It is a gain over what existed previously. And what is this gain? When that which people see in the world is taken from its radiance—then it is a gain” (Bahir §95).

“Rabbi Berakhiyah sat and expounded: What is the תָּלִי (Tali)? This is the likeness that is before the blessed Holy One, as is written, His locks are תַּלְתַּלִּים (taltallim), curled (Song of Songs 5:11) [the תָּלִי (Tali) is like a serpentine spine which twists the heavens, i.e., Draco, Axis Mundi, see Baraita de-Shemu’el, 1: ‘The elusive Serpent (Job 26:13) is the Tali‘; Sefer Yetsirah §59a: ‘The Tali in the world is like a king on his throne.’ On the resmblence of the spine and a serpent, see BT Bava Qamma 16a]. What is the גַלגַל (galgal), Wheel? It is the בֶּטֶן (beten), Belly [‘Mother of the World,’ Binah, see Bahir §104. On the ‘wheel,’ cf. BT Shabbat 151a]. What is the לֵב (lev), Heart? Heart of the heavens (Deuteronomy 4:11). In it are the ל״ב (thirty-two) paths of Wisdom” (Bahir §106).

“These are the explicit, precious, and magnificent names [cf. BT Qiddushin 72b]. There are twelve names, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel:

אהציצהרון אכליתהרון שמקתרון דמושהרון וצפצפסיתרון הורמירון ברחיהרון ערש גדראון בסאוה מנאהון חזהויה הוהירי האה אהיה והראיתהון

All of them are encompassed by the Heart of the heavens. They comprise male and female, and the officials. The Tali, the Wheel, and the Heart—they are the wellsprings of Wisdom” (Bahir §112).



Threads of the Mind: Any Time that You Tread Through them Peace will be Upon You

Breslov_tzitzit“By means of thirty-two wondrous paths of wisdom Yah YHWH of armies, God of Israel, the Living God, Almighty, high and exalted, dwelling for ever, and Holy is His Name (Isaiah 57:15), carved out. He created His world with three סֶפָרִים (sefarim), ciphers: with בְסֶפֶר וּסְפַר וְסִיפּור (ve-sefer u-sefar ve-sippur), with book, and census, and recounting” (Sefer Yetsirah §1).

“What is the reason that we place blue wool in the tsitsit? And why are there thirty-two [tassels, fringes]? A parable: To what can this be compared? To a king who had a lovely garden, and in it were thirty-two paths. He placed a guard over them to make known that all these paths belong to him alone. He said to him, ‘Guard them and traverse them each day, and at any time that you tread through them peace will be upon you.’ What did the guard do? He appointed other guards over them. He said, If I remain alone on these paths, it is impossible for me, a single guard, to maintain them all. And furthermore, the world may say ‘He is king.’ This is why there are other guards guarding all the paths. These are the thirty-two paths.

What is the reason for the blue? The guard said, ‘Perhaps those other guards will say that the garden belongs to us.’ He therefore gave them a sign, and told them, ‘And look this is the king’s sign, making it known that the garden belongs to him. He is the one who made these paths, and they are not mine. This is his seal.’

A parable: A king and his daughter had servants, and they wanted to travel abroad. But [the servants] were afraid, being in terror of the king. He therefore gave them his sign. They were also afraid of the daughter, and she [too] gave them a sign. They said, ‘From now on, with these two signs YHWH guards you from all harm, He guards your life (Psalms 121:7)” (Bahir §92–§93).

“What is the earth from which the heavens were carved? It is the Throne of the blessed Holy One. It is the אֶבֶן יְקָרָה (even yeqarah), precious Stone, and the sea of Wisdom, corresponding to the blue in the tsitsit. Rabbi Meir thus said: Why is blue chosen above all other colours? [‘Whoever fulfills the mitsvah of tsitsit is as though he greeted the face of Shekhinah,] for the blue resembles the sea, and the sea resembles the sky, and the sky resembles the Throne of Glory’ (Sifrei, Numbers 115) [cf. BT Menaḥot 43b: ‘(Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai taught:) Whoever is diligent with this mitsvah merits receiving the face of Shekhinah‘]. Therefore it is written And they saw the God of Israel, and beneath His feet was like a fashioning of סַפִּיר (sappir), [blue] sapphire, pavement and like the very heavens for pureness (Exodus 24:10). It is furthermore written [And above the firmament that was over their heads was] the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of אֶבֶן סַפִּיר (even sappir), a (blue) sapphire stone: [and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it] (Ezekiel 1:26)” (Bahir §96).

Ḥokhmah—expanding in thirty-two directions and issuing from the Concealed Brain, from the radiance within. That which the Holy Ancient One shines into Ḥokhmah is the beginning of what is revealed. It becomes three heads, with one head encompassing them. These three expand in Ze’eir Anpin, and from these all shine” (Zohar 3:289b, Idra Zuta).

“חוּטִי הַשֶׂכֶל (Ḥuti ha-sekhel), threads of the mind [i.e., tsitsit], expand from the blessed Holy One, each one emanating to watch over Israel” (Berit Menuḥa: Sixth Way, Way of the Intellect).

“And what is ן (nun) [in אֹזֶן (ozen), ear]? To teach you that the brain is the root of the חוּט הַשִׁדרָה (ḥut ha-shidrah), spinal cord, and from there it draws constantly. If not for the spinal cord, the brain would not exist, for the entire trunk is for the sake of the brain, and if the entire trunk were not to exist, the brain would not exist. The spinal cord is the channel from the brain to the entire body, and this is the bent נ (nun). But this ן (nun) [in אֹזֶן (ozen), ear] is elongated! The elongated ן (nun) always comes at the end of a word to teach you that the elongated ן (nun) comprises the bent and the elongated, but the bent is the foundation. This teaches you that the elongated ן (nun) comprises male and female” (Bahir §83).

“Seventh is east to עוֹלָם (olam), eternity, whence comes the seed of Israel. For the spinal cord draws from the brain of man and reaches to the אַמָּה (ammah), cubit [i.e., phallus], whence comes seed. As is written: מִמִּזְרָח אָבִיא זַרְעֶךָ (mimizraḥ avia zarekha), From the east I will bring your seed (Isaiah 43:5) [מִזְרָח (mizraḥ), ‘east,’ shares a root with לִזרוֹחַ (lizroaḥ), ‘to shine,’ and sounds like זַרְעֶךָ (zarekha), your seed. Cf. Bahir §73, §155, §159 ad loc; BT Bava Batra 25a: ‘Rabbi Abbahu said, Shekhinah (receives) in the west’]. When Israel is good before the Omnipresent, I will bring your seed and you will have new seed. But when Israel is bad, the seed is from that which has already come into the world, as is written, A generation goes and a generation comes (Ecclesiastes 1:4), teaching us that it has come already” (Bahir §155).

Wisdoms cry aloud outside, in the squares she lifts her voice (Proverbs 1:20)? This verse is difficult: first it is written Wisdoms cry aloud outside, and then, in the squares she lifts her voice—its beginning does not match the end, nor its end the beginning! However, Wisdoms cry out in the the streets—when it flows from the concealed brain of Arikh Anpin to the brain of Ze’eir Anpin through those strands, it is as if two brains join outside, becoming one brain. And when there is flow from one to the other, it is written she lifts her voice—in the singular.

Because of the flow from brain to brain through those strands, they are not coarse. Why? Because if they were coarse, nothing could flow through them to the brain. Thus, no wisdom emerges from a person who is coarse and angry, as is written: Words of the wise said gently are heard (Ecclesiastes 9:17). From here we learn that if the hair on a person’s head is coarse, wisdom does not settle within him [see BT Pesaḥim 66b: ‘Regarding any person who becomes angry, if he is a sage, his wisdom departs from him; if he is a prophet, his prophecy departs from him’].

Consequently, they are long, to bring benefit to all. What is meant by ‘all’? To enter חוּטָא דְּשִׁדְרָה (ḥuta de-shidrah), the spinal cord, which drinks from the brain. Therefore the hair of the head does not overhang the hair of the beard; for the hair of the head hangs and rises over the ears, behind, not overhanging the beard, because one must not mingle with the other, since each branches out on its own path” (Zohar 3:131b, Idra Rabba).

He who Pronounces the Name shall be Doomed to Die

Should your brother, your mother’s son, or your son or your daughter or the wife of your bosom or your companion who is like your own self incite you in secret, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” that you did not know, neither you nor your fathers… you shall not spare him and you shall not pity him and shall not shield him. But you shall surely kill him (Deuteronomy 13:7–10).

“On the eve of the Passover Jesus the Nazarene was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, ‘He is going forth to be stoned because he has practised sorcery and enticed Israel. Any one who can say anything in his favor, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.’ But since nothing was brought forward in his favor he was hanged on the eve of the Passover!—Ulla said: ‘Do you suppose that he was one for whom a defence could be made? Was he not an enticer concerning whom Scripture says, you shall not pity him and shall not shield him? (Deuteronomy 13:9). With Jesus however it was different, for he was connected with the government'” (BT Sanhedrin 43a, cf. Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 69, 97a).

“Our Rabbis taught: Always let the left hand repulse but the right hand draw near unlike Elisha, who pushed away Gehazi with his two hands, and unlike Yehoshua son of Peraḥya, who pushed away Jesus the Nazarene with his two hands.

… What of Rabbi Yehoshua son of Peraḥya?—when King Yannai [Hyrcanus] was slaughtering the rabbis, Rabbi Yehoshua son of Peraḥya and Jesus fled to Alexandria of Egypt. When there was peace, Shim’on son of Shetaḥ sent to him: ‘From me, Jerusalem the holy city, to you, Alexandria of Egypt my sister. My husband dwells within you and I am desolate.’ He arose, went, and found himself in a certain inn, where great honour was shown him. ‘How beautiful is this אַכְסַנִיָא (aḥsaniya)!’ [the word denotes both ‘inn’ and ‘innkeeper.’ Rabbi Yehoshua used it in the first sense; the answer assumes the second to be meant]. Thereupon [Jesus] said to him, ‘Rabbi, her eyes are narrow.’ ‘Wicked one! This is how you engage yourself?’ He sounded four hundred ram’s horns and excommunicated him. He came before him many times pleading, ‘Receive me!’ But he would take no notice of him. One day he was reciting the Shema, when Jesus came before him. He intended to receive him and gestured to him with his hand [cf. M Berakhot 5:1: ‘Even if a snake is wound round his heel he should not interrupt’]. [Jesus] thinking that it was to shoo him away, went, put up a brick, and worshipped it. ‘Repent,’ he said to him. He replied, ‘[But] I have received from you: He who offends and causes others to offend is not given the opportunity to repent.’ And a master has said, ‘Jesus the Nazarene practised magic and led Israel astray'” (BT Sanhedrin 107b).

“Ten kavs of witchcraft descended to the world: nine were taken by Egypt and one by the rest of the world” (BT Qiddushin 49b).

“Son of Stada brought forth witchcraft from Egypt by means of scratches [in the form of charms] upon his flesh… Was he then the son of Stada: surely he was the son of Pandira?—Rav Ḥisda said: The husband was Stada, the lover was Pandira. But the husband was Pappos son of Yehudah?—his mother was סְטָדָא (Stadtha). But his mother was Miriam the hairdresser?—it is as we say in Pumbedita: This one has סָטָת דָּא (satath da), veered, from her husband” (BT Shabbat 104b, cf. BT Sanhedrin 67a).

“Rabbi Shim’on the Devout said: ‘There are 974 generations who pressed themselves forward to be created before the world was created, but were not created: the blessed Holy One arose and planted them in each and every generation, and it is they who are the impudent of the generation” (BT Ḥagigah 13b).

And the son of an Israelite woman, he being the son of an Egyptian man, went out among the Children of Israel, and the son of the Israelite woman and a certain Israelite man brawled in the camp [and the son of the Israelite woman pronounced the Name, vilifying it… וְנֹקֵב שֵׁם יְהוָה מוֹת יוּמָת (ve-noqev shem Adonai mot yumat)And he who pronounces YHWH’s name shall be doomed to dieיֵשׁוּ (yeshu), Jesus] (Leviticus 24:10–11; 16).

[And the son of an Israelite woman…] went out. Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘He went out from the sphere of all, he went out from the sphere of faith, and he went out from the sphere of the share of Israel. ‘Brawled in the camp—from here we learn: Whoever comes from polluted seed eventually exposes if before all. What causes this? Filth of the evil portion within him, for he has no share in the entire sphere of Israel.

Rabbi Ḥiyya opened, ‘It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, the glory of kings, to probe a matter (Proverbs 25:2). It is the glory of God to conceal a matter—for a human is not permitted to divulge hidden matters not intended to be revealed, things covered by the Ancient of Days, as is said: that they may eat their fill and cover themselves elegantly (Isaiah 23:18). That they may eat their fill—until that place permitted to you, no farther. Nevertheless, and cover themselves עָתִיק (athiq), elegantly—and cover עָתִּיק (attiq), the Ancient One, surely!

Alternatively, that they may eat their fill—the Companions who know ways and paths, to walk in the way of faith fittingly, such as the generation in which Rabbi Shim’on dwells. And cover the Ancient One—from other generations, for none of them are worthy to eat their fill and to have matters revealed among them. Rather, cover the Ancient One—as is said: Do not let your mouth make your flesh sin (Ecclesiastes 5:5). In the days of Rabbi Shim’on, a person would say to his fellow, ‘Open your mouth and let your words shine!’ After he passed away, they would say, ‘Do not let your mouth make your flesh sin.’ In his days, to eat their fill; and after he passed away, and cover the Ancient One—for the Companions stammer and cannot comprehend.

Alternatively, to eat their fill—of those matters that are revealed. And cover the Ancient One—those matters that are covered.

The son of the Israelite woman pronounced the Name (Leviticus 24:11). What is meant by וַיִּקֹּב (va-yiqqov), pronounced? Rabbi Abba said, ‘Va-yiqqov, Pierced, surely—as is said: וַיִּקֹּב (Va-yiqqov), He pierced, a hole in its door (2 Kings 12:10)—piercing what had been closed up.’

His mother’s name was Shelomith daughter of Dibri (Leviticus 24:11). Until here, Scripture concealed his mother’s name; once it is written וַיִּקֹּב (va-yiqqov), pierced, Scripture נָקִיב (neqeiv), designated, his mother’s name [as if to say, ‘נָקַב (naqav), Cursed, be the one who bore and raised a son such as this’]. Rabbi Abba said, ‘Were it not that the Holy Lamp exists in the world, I would not be permitted to reveal. From here on, this word is conveyed only to the Companions, who are among the Reapers of the Field. Contrarily, any who seek to reveal to those who do not know—may their spirit expire!

Come and see: It is written and the son of the Israelite woman and a certain Israelite man brawled in the camp (Leviticus 24:10). This verse has already been established; but this is the son of another wife of his father, husband of Shelomith. When that Egyptian copulated with [Shelomith] in the middle of the night, and [her husband] returned home and realized what had happened, he separated from her and no longer cohabited with her. He took another wife and engendered this one, called a certain Israelite man, whereas the other one is the son of the Israelite woman [cf. Vayiqra Rabbah 32:4: ‘He was definitely a bastard’; Zohar 2:90b: ‘Rabbi Yitsḥak said, Honor your father—your father (Exodus 20:12), precisely, for look, one who covets a woman and engenders a child, that child will honor another who is not his father!’]. If they brawled with one another, what need is there here for the Holy Name, and why did he curse the Holy Name? Well, in the midst of fighting, that certain Israelite man said something about [the other one’s] mother. Immediately, וַיִּקּוֹב בֶּן הָאִשָּׁה הַיִּשְׂרְאֵלִית (va-yiqqov ben ha-ishah ha-yisre’elit), the son of the Israelite woman pierced—as is said: (Va-yiqqov), He pierced, a hole in its door (2 Kings 12:10). Mystery of the matter: He took the ה״ (he) of the Holy Name [יהוה (YHWH)] and cursed, to defend his mother. This is piercing, for he pierced the Holy Name. This is uttered for the Reapers of the Field. Mystery of the matter: Such is the way of an adulteress: [she eats and wipes her mouth, and says, ‘I have done no wrong’] (Proverbs 30:20). Happy is the share of the righteous, who know the matter and conceal it! Thus it is said Have your quarrel with your neighbor, but another’s secret do not reveal (ibid. 25:9).

The final ה״ (he) [of יהוה (YHWH)] was the Female, suckling on two sides. Consequently, She took the weapons of the King to wreak Her vengeance. Take out the one who cursed (Leviticus 24:14). Thus it is written Every man shall revere his mother and his father (ibid. 19:3), reverence for one’s mother preceding that of one’s father. Happy are Israel in this world and in the world that is coming!

Alternatively… Rabbi Yitsḥaq said, ‘They brawled with one another and he said something about [the other one’s] mother, and that his father was the one killed by the Holy Name—as has been established: It is written הַלְהָרְגֵנִי אַתָּה אֹמֵר (Ha-lehargeni attah omer), Do you speak to kill me [as you killed the Egyptian]? (Exodus 2:14), for Moses killed him by the Holy Name. So he extended a word toward him. This is why it is written The son of the Israelite woman pronounced the Name, cursing it, and he was brought to Moses. Why? Because it pertained to Moses, since he had killed [the man’s] father by the Holy Name. Therefore, he was brought to Moses. Once Moses perceived, immediately, he was put under guard… (Leviticus 24:12); so father and son fell into Moses’ hands” (Zohar 3:105b–106b).

ספר יצירה (Sefer Yetsirah) The Book of Formation (MS K)

et-si-nous-parlions-de-la-typographie-hebraique.jpg[§1] By means of thirty-two wondrous paths of wisdom Yah YHWH of armies, God of Israel, the Living God, Almighty, high and exalted, dwelling for ever, and Holy is His Name (Isaiah 57:15), carved out. He created His world with three סֶפָרִים (sefarim), ciphers: with ספר ,ספר and ספר.

[§2] The ten סְפִירוֹת בְּלִימָה (sefiroth belimah), numerals of nothingness, are the basis and the twenty-two letters are the foundation: three mothers, seven doubles, and twelve simple [letters].

[§3] The ten sefiroth belimah are the basis—like the number of the ten fingers, five opposite five and the covenant of the singular One is exactly in the middle in the covenant of the tongue and the circumcision of the flesh.

[§4] The ten sefiroth belimah are the basis—ten and not nine, ten and not eleven. Understand with wisdom, and be wise with understanding. Test them and investigate them, and get the thing clearly worked out and restore the Creator to His place.

[§5] The ten sefiroth belimah are the basis: restrain your mouth from speaking, restrain your heart from thinking. And if your heart races return to the place, thus it is written: running and returning (Ezekiel 1:14). And concerning this the Covenant was made.

[§6] The ten sefiroth belimah are the basis. Their end is embedded in their beginning like a flame bound to a burning coal. For the Lord is singular, and He has none second to Him; and before one, what can you count?

[§7] The ten sefiroth belimah are the basis; their measure is ten yet they have no limit: depth of beginning and depth of end, depth of good and depth of evil, depth of above and depth of below, depth of east and depth of west, depth of north and depth of south. And the singular Lord, a trustworthy divine king, rules over them all from His holy abode to eternities of eternity.

[§8] The ten sefiroth belimah are the basis. Their appearance is like the sight of lightning, and their end?—they have no limit. And His word is in them as though running and returning (Ezekiel 1:14), and they pursue His command like the storm wind, and before His throne they bow down.

[§9] The twenty-two letters are the foundation: three mothers, seven doubles, and twelve simple [letters].

[§10] Ten sefiroth, that is to say: One—רוּחַ אֱלֹהִים חַיִּים (rhuaḥ Elohim ḥayyim), Breath of the Living God. Twice blessed is the name of the חֵי הַעוֹלָמִים (ḥei ha-olamim), Vitality of the Worlds. Voice, and breath, and word—this is רוּחַ הַקֹּדֶשׁ (rhuaḥ ha-qodesh), the Holy Spirit.

[§12] Two—air from Breath: He carved and hewed in it the twenty-two basic letters—three mothers, and seven doubles, and twelve simple [letters]. And the Breath is one of them.

[§13] Three—water from air: He carved and hewed in it תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ (thohu wah-vohu), welter and waste (Genesis 1:1), רֶפֶשׁ וָטִיט (rhefesh wah-tit), mud and mire (Isaiah 57:20). He carved them like a sort of garden-bed. He erected them like a sort of wall, and he wove them like a sort of roof [or: ceiling].

[§14] Four—fire from water: He carved them and hewed in it the throne of glory, and the ofanim and the serafim, and the holy living beings, and the ministering angels. And from the three of them He founded His abode, as it is said: He makes His messengers the winds, His ministers, glowing fire (Psalms 104:4).

[§15] Five—He sealed above. He chose three simple letters and embedded them in His great Name. And He sealed with them the six borders [of the world], and He turned upwards and scaled 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] These ten sefiroth belimah are the basis: the Breath of the Living God; and air, water, fire; above, below, east, west, north and south.

[§17a] The twenty-two letters: they are hewn out in the air, carved out by voice, embedded in the mouth in five positions: אחה״ע בומ״ף גיכ״ק דטלנ״ת זסשר״ץ (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] The twenty-two letters are their foundation. It is embedded on a wheel with 231 gates. The wheel rotates backwards and forwards. And this is the sign: if for good, above—עֹנֶג (oneg), delight; if for evil, below—נֶגַע (nega), affliction.

[§19] Twenty-two letters: He carved them out, He hewed them, He weighed them, He exchanged them, He combined them and formed with them the נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh), Soul, of all creation and the נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh), life-breath [or: vital spirit], of all that would be formed [cf. M Sanhedrin 4:5]. How did He weigh and exchange them? א (Alef) with them all, and all of them with א (alef); ב (beth) with them all, and all of them with ב (beth). And they all rotate in turn. The result is that [they go out] by two hundred and thirty-one [gates]; the result is that all creation and all speech go out by one name.

[§20] He formed מַמָשׁ (mamash), something, from תֹהוּ (thohu), nothing, and He made them its existence, and He hewed out great columns from אֲוִיר (awir), intangible air [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 1:5]. This is the sign:

[§21 (Cordovero)] אל בת גש דר הק וצ זפ חע טס ינ כמ אב גת דש הר וק זצ חפ טע יס כנ למ אג דת הש ור זק חצ טפ יע כס לנ במ אד בג הת וש זר חק טצ יפ כע לס מנ אה בד ות זש חר טק יצ כפ לע מס גנ או בה גד זת חש טר יק כצ לפ מע נס אז בו גה חת טש יר כק לצ מפ נע דס אח בז גו דה טת יש כר לק מצ נפ סע אט בח גז דו ית כש לר מק נצ ספ הע אי בט גח דז הו כת לש מר נק סצ עפ אכ בי גט דח הז לת מש נר סק עצ ופ אל בכ גי דט הח וז מת נש סר עק פצ אמ בל גכ די הט וח נת סש ער פק זצ אנ במ גל דכ הי וט זח סת עש פר צק אס בנ גמ דל הכ וי זט עת פש צר חק אע בס גנ דמ הל וכ זי חט פת צש קר אפ בע גס דנ המ ול זכ חי צת קש טר אצ בפ גע דס הנ ומ זל חכ טי קת רש אק בצ גפ דע הס ונ זמ חל טכ רת יש אר בק גצ דפ הע וס זנ חמ טל יכ שת אש בר גק דצ הפ וע זס חנ טמ יל כת את בש גר דק הצ ופ זע חס טנ ימ כל

[§22] He looks and exchanges; He makes all creation and all speech one name. And a sign for the matter: twenty-two objects and one body.

[§23] Three mothers: א מ ש (alef, mem, shin). Their basis is the scale of acquittal and the scale of guilt, and the tongue of law holds the balance between them.

[§24] Three mothers: א מ ש (alef, mem, shin)—a great mystery, hidden and ineffable, and sealed with six seals. And from it goes out fire, and water and air, and it is divided into male and female.

[§25] Three—fire, water and air; fire above, water below, and air is between them. And this is a sign for the matter that fire evaporates water.

[§26] Three mothers: א מ ש (alef, mem, shin). מ (Mem) lifts up, and ש (shin) hisses, and א (alef) is the balancing item.

[§27] Three mothers: א מ ש (alef, mem, shin). And from them were born three fathers from whom everything was created.

[§28] Three mothers: א מ ש (alef, mem, shin)—in the world: air, and water and fire. Heavens were created first from fire, and earth was created from water, and light [air] was created from the רוּחַ (rhuaḥ), breath, holding the balance between them.

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

[§30] Three mothers א מ ש (alef, mem, shin)—in a נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh), person. The head was created from fire, the belly from water, and the chest from air holding the balance between them.

[§31] Three mothers א מ ש (alef, mem, shin). He carved them, hewed them, combined them and formed with them the three mother [letters] in the world, and the three mother [letters] in the year, and the three mother [letters] in a person—male and female.

[§32] He made א (alef) rule over רוּחַ (rhuaḥ), breath, and bound to it a crown, and combined them with each other, and sealed with them אֲוִיר (awir), atmosphere, in the world, humidity in the year, and the chest in a person—male with א מ ש (alef, mem, shin) and female with ש מ א (shin, mem, alef).

[§33] He made מ (mem) rule over מַיִּם (mayyim), 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 מ ש א (mem, shin, alef), and female with מ א ש (mem, alef, shin).

[§34] He made ש (shin) rule over אֵשׁ (esh), fire, and bound to it a crown, and combined them with each other, and sealed with it heavens in the world, heat in the year, and the head in a person, male with ש מ א (shin, mem, alef), and female with ש א מ (shin, alef, mem).

[§35] How did he combine 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, earth/water. Man’s head is fire, his belly water, his heart breath/air.

[§36] Three mothers: א מ ש (alef, mem, shin). There was formed with א (alef): breath, air, humidity, chest, law, and tongue. There was formed with מ (mem): earth, cold, belly, and the scale of acquittal. There was formed with ש (shin): heavens, heat, head, and the scale of guilt. This is א מ ש (alef, mem, shin). The end.

[§37] Seven doubles: בּג״ד כּפר״ת (beth, gimel, daleth, kaf, peh, resh, taw). They are pronounced with the tongue in two different positions. Their basis is life and peace, wisdom, wealth, prosperity, beauty and mastery. They are pronounced with the tongue in two different positions: ב (beth, veth), ג (gimel, ghimel), ד (daleth, dhaleth), כ (kaf, khaf), פ (peh, feh), ר (resh, rhesh), ת (taw, thaw)—דָּגֵּשׁ (dagesh), and רָפֵה (rafeh), 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 prosperity is desolation; the opposite of beauty is ugliness; and the opposite of mastery is slavery.

[§38] Seven doubles: בּג״ד כּפר״ת (beth, gimel, daleth, kaf, peh, resh, taw), corresponding to seven קָצֶווֹת (qatse’ot), borders [or: edges]: a place of borders and a holy place; one—a place set within a place; two—the upper border, three—the lower border, four—the eastern border, five—the western border, six—the northern border, seven, the eternal border, and the holy Temple set in the middle and it supports them all.

[§39] Seven doubles: בּג״ד כּפר״ת (beth, gimel, daleth, kaf, peh, resh, taw). He carved and hewed them, He combined them, and formed with them the planets in the world, the days in the year, and the gates in a person by sevens.

[§40] How did he combine them? Two stones build two houses; three build six; four build twenty-four; five build one hundred and twenty; six build seven hundred and twenty; seven build five thousand and forty [i.e., factorials]. From here on go out and ponder what the mouth cannot speak, and what the ear cannot hear.

[§42] And with them were carved out seven firmaments, seven earths, seven hours and seven times. Therefore He loved the seventh under the heavens.

[§43a] These are the seven planets in the world: חַמָה (ḥamah), Sun, נוֹגַה (noghah), Venus, כּוֹכָב (kokhav), Mercury, לְבָנָה (levanah), Moon, שַׁבְתַאִי (shabbethai), Saturn, צֶדֶק (tsedheq), Jupiter, מַאְדִים (ma’adhim), Mars. And the days in the year: the seven days of creation. And the seven gates in a person: two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, and the mouth [cf. Deuteronomy 16:18: Judges and overseers you shall set for yourself within all your gates].

[§45] Twelve simple letters: הוזחט״י לנסעצ״ק (he waw zayin ḥeth teth yod, lamed nun samekh ’ayin tsadhi qof). Their basis is seeing, hearing, smelling, conversing, tasting, mating, doing, walking, raging, laughing, contemplating, sleeping.

[§47] Their measure is twelve גְבוּלֵי אֲלַכְסוֹן (gevulei alakhson), diagonal borders [or: edges, lines]: the north-eastern border, the south-eastern border, the upper eastern border, the lower eastern border, the lower northern border, the north-western border, the upper northern border, the lower western border, the south-western border, the upper western border, the lower southern border, the upper southern border. Deepening and expanding until evermore—זְרֹעֹת עוֹלָם (zero’ot olam), arms everlasting [alt., arms of the world] (Deuteronomy 33:27).

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

[§48b] Three—each one stands by itself; seven are at loggerheads—three against three, and one is the law which holds the balance between them. Twelve stand in battle array: three love but three hate; three give life but three kill. And the divine, trustworthy King rules over them all—one on top of three, and three on top of seven, and seven on top of twelve. And they all cling to each other.

[§49a] Twelve simple letters: הוזחט״י לנסעצ״ק (he waw zayin ḥeth teth yod, lamed nun samekh ’ayin tsadhi qof). He carved them and hewed them out, He weighed them and exchanged them, and formed with them the twelve constellations in the world, twelve months in the year, and the twelve principal organs in a person.

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

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

[§56] These are the twenty-two letters [on which] Yah YHWH of Armies, God of Israel, the Living God, Almighty, high and exalted, dwelling for ever, and Holy is His Name [founded the world] (Isaiah 57:15).

[§58] Three fathers and their generations, and seven dominant ones and their hosts, and the twelve diagonal borders [or: edges]. And a proof for the matter—trustworthy witnesses: the world, the year and a person.

[§59a] There is a law of ten, three, seven and twelve. They are officials over the תָּלִי (Tali) [alt., תְלִי (Theli)], the Wheel, and the Heart.

[§59b] The Tali 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 brings evil to light and evil brings good to light. Good is stored up for the good and evil is kept for the evil.

[§61] When Abraham our father observed, and looked, and saw, and investigated, and understood, and carved, and hewed, and combined, and formed, and succeeded, the Lord of all was revealed to him. And He made him sit in his lap, and kissed him upon his head. He called him His friend and named him His son, and made a covenant with him and his seed for ever. And he trusted in YHWH, and He reckoned it to his merit (Genesis 15:6). He made with him a covenant between the ten toes of his feet—it is the covenant of circumcision. He made with him a covenant between the ten fingers of his hands—it is the covenant of the tongue. He bound twenty [-two] letters into his tongue, and the Omnipresent revealed to him His secret. He drew them out in water, he burned them with fire, he shook them in the air, he branded them into the seven, he led them into the twelve constellations.

[§62] (1) Air and temperate state and chest; earth, cold and the 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 בּג״ד כּפר״ת (beth, gimel, daleth, kaf, peh, resh, taw).

(3) Aries, Nisan, the liver; Taurus, Iyyar, the gall; 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, Shevet, the right foot; Pisces, Adhar, the left foot. This is הוזחט״י לנסעצ״ק (hewawzayin, ḥeth, teth, yod, lamed, nun, samekh, ‘ayin, tsadhi, qof).

1 Three are hostile and these are they: the tongue, the liver and the gal.

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 There are three which are in man’s control: the feet, the hands and the mouth.

6 There are three which are not in man’s control: his two eyes, his ears and his nostrils.

7 Three evil things are heard by the ear: cursing, blasphemy and an evil report.

8 Three good things are heard by the ear: blessing, a good report 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 things 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 too much.

12 Three things are good for the tongue: silence, reticence, and speaking the truth.

Whoever understands this book and keeps it has the assurance that he is a son of the World that is Coming. This is the book of Abraham our father, peace be upon him, which is called The Book of Formation.

There is no limit to the wisdom of everyone who looks into it. And the mysteries of the upper and lower world will be revealed to everyone who occupies himself with it and studies it and knows its mysteries, and he has the assurance that he is a son of the World that is Coming. This book, which is called The Secret of Intercalation on which the whole world depends, should not be handed over to anyone except he who turns away from evil and fears God and waits and hopes for his Creator, as it is said, steadfast love surrounds him who trusts in YHWH (Psalms 32:10), and it says, Israel is saved by YHWH with an everlasting salvation, you will not be put to shame or confounded to all eternity (Isaiah 45:17).

Just as Big Fish Swallow Up Small Fish

Talmud Teacher“Tannaim and Amoraim, you come from the aspect of the qualities of the blessed Holy One. You have labored much to purify my daughter the Halakhah [Malkhut] from the husks of the mixed multitude, which are the evil questions which cannot be interpreted or explained away. Of them it says: The crooked cannot תְקֹן (teqon), turn, straight nor can the lack be counted (Ecclesiastes 1:15). But תִּיקוּ (tiqu), ‘It is undecided,’ applies to them [a phrase employed in the Gemara and interpreted as an acronym: תִּשְׁבִּי יְתָרֵץ קֻשְׁיוֹת וְאִבַּעְיוֹת (Tishbi yetarets qushyot ve-iba’eyot), the Tishbite (i.e., Elijah) will resolve difficult questions and problems]. Anything undecided concerning a prohibition is handled as a stricture. It is a תִּיקּוּן (tiqqun), correction, without final ן (nun), [indicating] it can not be corrected, since it lacks final ן (nun), which is the World that is Coming [namely, Binah and Her ן״ (fifty) gates]. For תִּיקוּ (tiqu), undecided, in the World that is Coming is שְׁתִיקָה (shetiqah), silence, as in ‘שְׁתוֹק (shetoq), Silence! For so it arose in thought.’

There are questions that are the garments of the Halakhah of which it says filigree of gold—as is written: All the princess’s treasure is pearls, filigree of gold her raiment. [In embroidered stuff she is led to the king, maidens in train, her companions] (Psalms 45:14). You [Amoraim], cut into several legal sentences and later fix and explain them away using various arguments.

If one chapter of the Mishnah is missing, and it has been maintained that something is missing from the Mishnah, you מְתַקְּנִין (me-taqqnin), repair it. [For example, where it is stated in the Gemara: ‘A clause has been omitted, for this is the way we have learned it’] such is a lack that can be counted. If a simpleton comes and spreads an evil report of the craftsman that cuts the garments, saying: The Torah is lacking. Yet, it is written: The תּוֹרַת (torat), teaching, of YHWH is perfect (Psalms 19:8)—perfect, in all the members of the body, the 248 positive decrees, as is written: You are all beautiful, my love, and there is no flaw in you (Song of Songs 4:7)—perfect, in Her garments. How can anything be lacking in the Mishnah?

Say to him: Look carefully and find the [missing] piece. You may find it mixed with other verses and Mishnahyot [meaning, it is the custom of Torah to be lacking in one place and abundant in another], for it is the way of the craftsman to cut garments into several pieces [and that which is missing in one place is filled out in another]. The students, inexperienced in connecting the Halakhah to those pieces confuse the sentences and questions, and cannot explain the dilemmas until the craftsman comes and explains all the doubts they have. At that time, Halakhah, the princess [Malkhut], rises before the King, perfect in everything, in body, garments and jewelry. And in it is fulfilled: And I will see it, to remember the everlasting covenant (Genesis 9:16). Sometimes the craftsman has an experienced student whom he sends to correct them.

They all rose and said: Faithful Shepherd, surely you are the craftsman, for it says of you, ‘Moses received the Torah at Sinai’ (M Avot 1:1). From that time onward, everyone is your student, from Joshua to the end of all generations. This is what we learned, that he ‘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]’ to the end of all (ibid.). And who is your skilled student? We see that it has been said to let everything wait until Elijah comes” (Zohar 3:27b, Ra’aya Meheimna Tsav).

“We learned that fish and locusts do not require [ritual] slaughter [in order to be eaten, rather, it is their gathering which makes them permissible, see BT Ḥullin 27b]. Such are the Masters of Mishnah. They are consumed without slaughter [by the Angel of Death]. It says of them, And was gathered to his kinfolk (Genesis 49:33). Like fish of the sea live in the sea, so do the pupils of sages and Masters of Mishnah live in the sea—if they are separated from Torah they immediately die. תַּנִּינָא דְּמַתְנִיתִין (Tannina de-Matnitin), Rehearser of Mishnah, wherein proliferate תַנִינֵי יַמָּא (taninei yama), sea monsters. If those [beasts] who live on dry land [i.e., those without Torah and mitsvot] fall into the water but cannot swim they die. However, [only] the Masters of Kabbalah who are above all are אָדָם (adam), human [and know how to tread deep water, i.e., the sea of Torah and Her hidden depths, cf. BT Baba Metsi’a 114b; Keritot 6b]. Of them it says Hold sway over the fish of the sea and the fowl of the heavens (Genesis 1:26), who are מָארֵי מַתְנִיתִין תַּנִּינָיָּא (marei Matnitin taninaya), Masters of Mishnah—sea monsters [who prey on small fish]. הַתַּנִּינִם הַגָּדוֹל (Ha-taninim ha-gadol), the great sea monster (Genesis 1:21), is the נָחָשׁ בָּרִחַ (naḥash bariaḥ), fleeing serpent (Isaiah 27:1), corresponding to: וְהַבְּרִיחַ (ve-ha-beriaḥ), and the crossbar, in the middle board [shall מַבְרִחַ (maberiaḥ), shoot through, from end to end] (Exodus 26:28).

When תַּנִּינִם (tanninim), sea monsters [punning on תַּנָּאִים (Tannaim), Rehearsers]—the Masters of Mishnah—have a disagreement among them, asking each other difficult questions, [one then] swallows his colleague [as large fish swallow small fish]. This concerns a young pupil who has not reached the rank of teaching yet teaches, which is punishable by death. But if they are matched [both being big fish] and have an argument or difficulty, it says of them in the end, וָהֵב בְּסוּפָה (waheb be-sufah), against Waheb in a whirlwind (Numbers 21:14), which has been interpreted: אַהֲבָה בְּסוֹפָהּ (ahava be-sofa), love at its end (BT Qiddushin 30b) [cf. Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 6a].

In the meantime a נוּנָא רַבָּא (nuna raba), great fish, came [namely, Rav Hamnuna Saba], saying, ‘[Moses] Faithful Shepherd, אֵיתָן (Etan), Staunch, is your settlement, and set in the rock your nest (Numbers 24:21). [The תַּנָּאִים (Tannaim), Rehearsers, say] תַּנְיָ (tanya), ‘It was taught‘ [and this] assists you because the fish have their nest in the Rock [Malkhut]. אֵיתָן (Eitan), staunch, is [the letters of] תַּנְיָ (tanya), ‘It was taught,’ rearranged; אֵתָנִים (Etanim), Mighty (Job 12:19), is [the letters of] תַּנָּאִים (Tannaim), Rehearsers, rearranged. Beware of them, because you are heavy-mouthed and heavy-tongued (Exodus 4:10). And whoever wishes to attack the fish of the sea in the Rock—Masters of Mishnah, the תַּנָּאִים (Tannaim)—needs to be fierce and of a sharp and polished tongue to bore to the great abyss which lies there.

For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end he shall speak, and not lie: [though he tarries, wait for him; because he will surely come, he will not delay] (Habakkuk 2:3). It has been explained that this verse pierces and descends to the great abyss. Who is it that shall descend to the great abyss to find that time [of the End] but You, of whom it says, Your justice like the unending mountains, Your judgment, the great abyss (Psalms 36:7). Many Masters of Mishnah wanted to penetrate the depth of הֲלָכָה (Halakhah), [religious] performance, to find there the time of the coming of redemption, but went down and did not come up [הֲלָכָה (Halakhah), conduct, alludes to הַכַּלָה (ha-Kalah), the Bride, i.e., Malkhut, Shekhinah]. Though their tongue was Like a hammer that shatters the rock in pieces (Jeremiah 23:29), their hammer was too weak and could not penetrate that Rock [to discover the End]. Whoever penetrates that Rock without permission, a serpent will come to bite him; others bore into Her until they reach the great abyss but do not come up from there [cf. Ecclesiastes 10:8: He who digs a pit will fall in it, and he breaches a wall, a snake will bite him]…’ 

And you [Moses, Faithful Shepherd] aid yourself by תַּנְיָא (tanya), ‘it was taught,’ more than all of them, since you are the Leviathan of the sea of Torah. For the master of all fishes is called לִוְיָתָן (Livyatan), Leviathan, named after Torah, of which it says, For they are a לִוְיַת (livyat), garland of grace, on your head (Proverbs 1:9). Because of you Man and beast YHWH rescues (Psalms 36:7). Man—of him it has been said [The Torah (is maintained by)] a man who dies in a tent (Numbers 19:14), and the Masters of Mishnah have taught that Torah does not remain except for one who kills himself for Her, and death is only poverty [cf. M Avot 6:4; BT Tamid 32a: What shall a man do to live? Let him kill himself. What should a man do to kill himself? Let him keep himself alive]. Beast—the ignorant, who are submissive like horses and mules to the Masters of Mishnah” (Zohar 3:278a-80b, Ra’aya Meheimna Ki Tetse).

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

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! Teach me 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), these are the 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 (lulabin), palm branches, and אֶתְרוֹגִין (etrogin), citrons, in their hands, we know that Israel came out victorious [cf. BT Sukkah 55b]” (Vayiqrah Rabbah 30:2).

And all the holy forms oversee all the nations. But Israel is holy [of Holies], taking the גוּף (guf), trunk, of the אִילָּן (illan), Tree, and its Heart, for the Heart is the stately fruit of the גוּף (guf), body. So too Israel takes עֵץ הָדָר (ets hadar), fruit of a stately tree (Leviticus 23:40). The date palm is surrounded by its branches all around with its לוּלָב (lulav), palm branch, in the middle. So too, Israel takes the trunk of this tree which is its heart. And corresponding to the trunk is the חוּט הַשִׁדרָה (ḥut ha-shidrah), spinal cord, which is the עִיקָּר (iqqar), root, of the body. What is the לוּלָב (lulav), palm branch? לוֹ לֵב (Lo lev), to it the heart [is attached]—even the Heart depends on it. And what is the לֵב (lev), Heart? In it are ל״ב (thirty-two) wondrous paths of Wisdom. In each path there is also a form keeping guard. Therefore it is written, To guard the way to the tree of life (Genesis 3:24) ” (Bahir §98, cf. Zohar 3:104a).

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

A king had an idea to plant ten male trees in a garden. All of them were date palms. He said, ‘Since they are all the same kind, it is impossible for them to endure.’ What did he do? He planted a אֶתְרוֹג (etrog), citron, among them. This was one of those which he had intended 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 פְּרִי עֵץ הָדָר (pri ets hadar), fruit of a stately tree? The Targum renders this, פֵּרֵי אִילָנָא אֶתְרוֹגִין וְלֻלַּבּין וַהֲדַסִּין וְעַרְבִין (pri illana etrogin ve-lulabin va-hadassin ve-arvin), Fruit of the citron tree, palm branches, [myrtles and willows]” (Bahir §172).

What is this that is holy? It is the אֶתְרוֹג (etrog), citron, which is the stateliness of them all. Why is it called stately? Do not read הָדָר (hadar), stately, but הַדַר ­(ha-dar), the guest [from the root לָדוּר (la-dur), to dwell, sojourn, cf. BT Sukkah 35a]. This refers to the אֶתְרוֹג (etrog), citron, which is not bound together with the לוּלָב (lulav), palm branch. [Yet] without it the mitsvah of לוּלָב (lulav), palm branch, cannot be fulfilled. It is also bound with them all. It is with each one of them, and is 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 main part 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 legs 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) to Nahaliel—the place which is נִיתַן (niten), given, that is the brain.

To Nahaliel and from Nahaliel to Bamoth. What is בָּמוֹת (Bamoth)? As the Targum renders it: רָמָתָא (ramatha), Heights. This is the סְגוֹלְתָּא (segolta), that 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 בָּמוֹת (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 cracked 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)אֶתְרוֹג (etrog), citron” (Rabbi Ḥayyim Vital, Sefer ha-Liqqutim).

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 (Psalms 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 cut down the shoots. Rabbi Akiva went out in peace.

… Our Rabbis taught: Once Rabbi Yehoshua 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)]. Thereupon Rabbi Yehoshua said to his disciples: Son of Zoma is still outside [cf. Heikhalot Rabbati §93: ‘Rabbi Yishma’el said: Thus ran 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 cut down the shoots. 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 Metatron to sit and write the merits of Israel. He said: It is taught as a tradition that on high there is no sitting and no emulation [or: competition], and no back, and no fatigue. Perhaps—perish the thought—there are two authorities! [Thereupon] they led Metatron forth, and punished him with sixty fiery lashes, 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 heavenly echo went forth and said: Return, you backsliding children (Jeremiah 3:22)—except Aḥer.

[Thereupon] he said: Since this man has been banished from that world, let me go forth and enjoy this world. So Aḥer went into evil courses. 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 evil courses, Aḥer asked Rabbi Meir, 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 evil courses, Aḥer asked Rabbi Meir: 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 Meir] said to him: Then, you, too, return! He replied: I have already heard from behind the Curtain: Return, you backsliding children (Jeremiah 3:22)—except Aḥer.

Our Rabbis taught: Once Aḥer was riding on a horse on the Sabbath, and Rabbi Meir was walking behind him to learn Torah at his mouth. He said to him: Meir, 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: Return, you backsliding children (Jeremiah 3:22)—except Aḥer.

[Rabbi Meir] 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 Meir 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 Meir 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 Meir 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 Meir 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 Meir ate the date and threw the pit 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 Meir he does not utter. Rabbah asked him, Why?—because he learnt traditions at the mouth of Aḥer. [Rabbah] said to him: But why? Rabbi Meir found a pomegranate; he ate [the fruit] within it, and the shell he threw away! He answered: Now He says: Meir 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? ‘Woe is Me. I am lighter than My head, and I am lighter than My arm.’ 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 Ammi 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 Meir: 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 the דוֹגמָא (dogma), Example, among His ten thousand. And Resh Lakish 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).

“תֹהוּ (Tohu), welter—a green line encompassing the whole world, from which darkness issued; בֹהוּ (vohu), 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, about which we have learnt: 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 1:7). 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).

“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 מְטַטְרוֹן אָדָם הַקָּטָן (Metatron adam ha-qatan), Metatron the Lesser Man [cf. 3 Enoch 12:5]. 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 many 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 מְטַטְרוֹן (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 female 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 3:222b, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineas).

“The tefillin of the Master of the Universe are Keter [cf. BT Berakhot 6a, 7a]. And what is the crown of the Master of the Universe? It is יְהֹוָה (YHWH): י (yod) is Ḥokhmah, ה (he) is Binah, and ו (vav) is 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 [Prasie Him, the heavens of the heavens,] and the waters above the heavens (Psalms 148:4), which are male upper waters [ten sefirot of direct light], and female 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 usually understood, but flowing light [it is composed of Ḥokhmah, called ‘light,’ and from the aspect of Ḥassadim it is flowing (Sullam)]. This is why its name is ‘flowing water.’ And this light is never interrupted, nor is it cut off, nor separated. And because it is from Keter, it is called ‘infinite,’ for Keter is called [light] אֵין סוֹף (ein sof), Without End” (Zohar 3:258a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).