The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: Beri’ah

אבי״ע (ABiYA): Four Worlds

Add. 27006

“The Emperor said to Rabban Gamli’el, ‘He who created the mountains did not create the wind, as is written, יוֹצֵר (Yotser), He fashions, the mountains and בֹרֵא (vo’re), He creates, the wind, [עֹשֵׂה (oseh), He makes, dawn into darkness…] (Amos 4:13).’ [He said to him,] ‘If that is so with Adam, as is written, וַיִּבְרָא (va-yivra), And He created… (Genesis 1:27) וַיִּיצֶר (va-yiytser), And He formed (ibid. 2:7), so too He who בָּרָא (bara), created, this did not create that? A person’s [skull] is one handspan by one handspan with two orifices—He who bara, created, this did not create that? As is said, הֲנֹטַע (Ha-nota’a), Who plants, the ear, will He not hear? יֹצֵר (yotser), Who fashions, the eye, will He not look? (Psalms 94:9).’ He said to him, ‘Yes.’ [Rabban Gamli’el] said to him, ‘And at the moment of death are they reconciled?!’

A magus said to Ameimar, ‘From your middle part upwards [belongs] to Ohrmazd [the fragrant god of light]. From your middle part downwards [belongs] to Ahriman [the stinking god of darkness].’ Ameimar said to him, ‘If so, how does Ahriman leave Ohrmazd to pass water through the bottom?!’” (BT Sanhedrin 39a).

“What is יוֹצֵר (Yotser), fashioning, light and בוֹרֵא (vo’re), creating, darkness (Isaiah 45:7)? Since light possesses substance, יְצִירָה (yetsirah), formation, is written. Since darkness does not possesses substance, בְּרִיאָה (beri’ah), creation, is written. Similarly it says, Yotser, He fashions, the mountains and vo’re, creates, the wind (Amos 4:13). Or if you like, say: Light possesses הֲוָיָה (havayah), being, as is written, And Elohim said, ‘Let there be light’ (Genesis 1:3). And there is no being except by means of עֲשִׂיָּה (asiyyah), actualization, [therefore] read, yetsirah, formation. With darkness there is no actualizing, only separation and setting-aside, [therefore] read, beri’ah, creation. Just as one says, ‘So-and-so הִבְרִיא (hivri), regained health [lit., separated from illness; or: became fat, see Ibn Ezra, Haqdamat Peirush al ha-Torah; cf. Zohar 2:254b (Heikh)]’ (Bahir §13).

Male and female He created them (Genesis 1:27). Is it so, since it is written, And God created the human in His image, in the image of God He created him (ibid.)? And afterwards it is written, [‘It is not good for the human to be alone,] I shall make him a sustainer beside him’ (ibid. 2:18) and, He took one of the sides and closed over the flesh where it had been (ibid., 21). But survey what is written [in the Torah]: יְצִירָה (yetsirah), Formation; and it is written, בְּרִיאָה (beri’ah), Creation. Beri’ah—when the נְשָׁמָה (neshamah), soul, was created; עֲשִׂיָה (asiyyah), Actualization—male and female He עָשַׂה (assah), made, them; yetsirah—when the neshamah, soul, was combined with the body and all was brought together. And how do we know that yetsirah means ‘bringing together’? As is written, And YHWH Elohim יִּצֶר (yitser), fashioned, from the soil each beast of the field and each fowl of the heavens and brought each to the human to see what he would call it (ibid., 19). And look it is written, Male and female He created them (ibid. 5:2). It is also written, And God blessed them (ibid. 1:28)” (Bahir §198, cf. Guide of the Perplexed 2:30).

“It is written: He who בֹּרַאֲךָ (bora’akha), creates you, O Jacob; He who יֹצֶרְךָ (yotserkha), forms you, O Israel (Isaiah 43:1), and it is written: Thus says YHWH who עֹשֶׂךָ (osekha), makes you (ibid., 2). All these rungs mount up to one, as they have established: creates, forms, makes—all of them rungs one above the other, and all are one” (Zohar 1:177b, cf. ibid. 3:159b).

“On the side of Holiness, that אֱלֹהִים (Elohim), God, of truth, King over the world, is empowered by three elements: בְּרִיאָה (beri’ah), Creation; יְצִירָה (yetsirah), Formation; and by עֲשִׂיָה (asiyyah), Actualization. The mystery of each and every one is mentioned here. Corresponding to beri’ah, Creation: He took from their hand (Exodus 32:4)—something that until now contained nothing at all. Corresponding to yetsirah, Formation: וַיָּצַר (va-yatsar), and he fashioned, it (ibid.). Corresponding to asiyyah, Actualization, וַיַּעֲשֵׂהוּ (va-ya’aseihu), and made it, into a molten calf (ibid.). Who has ever seen such sorcerers in the whole world!” (Zohar 2:192b).

Ten sefirot of אֲצִילוּת (atsilut), Emanation: the King is in them, He and His self are one in them, He and His vitality are one in them [cf. Ibn Ezra on Exodus 34:6; Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed 1:68]. This is not so with the ten sefirot of בְּרִיאָה (beri’ah), Creation, because He and His vitality are not one, and He and His self are not one.

And the supernal One over all shines in the ten sefirot of Atsilut, and into the ten sefirot of Beri’ah. And He shines into the ten ranks of angels, and into the ten spheres of the firmament. Yet He does not change in any place [cf. Malachi 3:6: For I am YHWH, I change not].

Like a king that sends a document with his seal, and the likeness of the king is embossed in the wax of the seal. The sefirot of atsilut, Emanation, are precisely the likeness of the King. The sefirot of beri’ah, Creation, are the seal of the king, and the sefirot of yetsirah, Formation, are the angels which are the living beings, and they are the form of the seal in wax” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 3b).

Like a Hired Worker He Waits for His Pay

ImageLike a slave he pants for shade, like a hired worker he waits for his pay (Job 7:2).

“Antignos of Socho received the tradition from Shim’on the Righteous. He would say: Do not be as servants, who serve their master for the sake of reward. Rather, be as servants who serve their master not for the sake of reward. And the fear of Heaven should be upon you” (M Avot 1:3).

“Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nasi] would say: Be as careful with a minor mitsvah as with a major one, for you do not know the rewards of the mitsvot. Consider the cost of a mitsvah against its rewards, and the rewards of a transgression against its cost” (M Avot 2:1).

“Son of Heh-Heh said: According to the effort is the reward” (M Avot 5:26).

“Many masters of study, colleagues of yours, nightly cry out contradictions in the Oral Torah, crying like dogs who say ‘hav! hav!’, as is written: The leech has two daughters, הַב הַב (hav hav), ‘give’ and ‘give’ (Proverbs 30:15) [cf. BT Avodah Zarah 17a, ad loc.]. Give us wealth in this world, give us wealth in the next world, as it is taught: ‘Learn much Torah and you will be given much reward’ (M Avot 2:16). But there is no one who is occupied with Torah in order to raise the Shekhinah, from the exile and unite Her with the Husband, for their eyes are blind, and their hearts are sealed” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 97c).

Water Runs Out from the Sea


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let Us Make a Human in Our Image by Our Likeness


I am the first and I am the last; and besides Me there is no god (Isaiah 44:6). I am the first—I do not have a father; I am the last—I do not have a brother; and besides Me there is no god—I do not have a son” (Shemot Rabbah 29:4).

And God said, ‘Let us make a human’ (Genesis 1:26). It is not written הָאָדָם (ha-adam), the human, but rather אָדָם (adam), a human, indefinite—excluding the one above [namely, אָדָם הַקַדְמוֹן (adam ha-qadmon), the Primordial Human], who was made with a complete name [i.e., יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים (YHVH Elohim) (Genesis 2:7)]” (Zohar 2:178a, cf. ibid. 2:70a–b).

אֶדַּמֶּה לְעֶלְיוֹן (Edammeh le-Elyon), I will be compared to the Supernal (Isaiah 14:14)

And אֱלֹהִים (Elohimsaid, ‘Let us make a human’ (Genesis 1:26). The secret of יְהוָה (YHVHis for those who fear Him (Psalms 25:14).

The Elder of Elders opened, saying, ‘Shim’on, Shim’on, who is He who said, ‘Let us make a human’—who is this Elohim? Meanwhile, the Elder of Elders vanished. When Rabbi Shim’on heard that he called him Shim’on and not Rabbi Shim’on, he said to the Companions: This is indeed the blessed Holy One of whom is said, And the Ancient of Days took His seat (Daniel 7:9). Now is the time to reveal this secret which was previously forbidden, and permission has now been given to reveal it.

He opened, saying: A king had many buildings to build and he had an אֻמָּן (umman), artisan. That artisan did not do anything without the permission of the king, as is written, I was by Him, an אָמוֹן (amon), intimate (Proverbs 8:30) [cf. Bahir §5Guide of the Perplexed 2:4]. The king is most certainly supernal Ḥokhmah above, and the middle pillar is the king below. Elohim, the artisan above is supernal Mother. Elohim, the artisan below, is Shekhinah.

A wife is not permitted to do anything without the permission of her husband. Of all the structures [that emerged] by way of emanation Father would say to Mother, ‘Let there be’ such and such and so it was, immediately. As is written: And said, ‘Elohim let there be light’ and there was light (Genesis 1:3). And said—spoken to Elohim‘Let there be light.’ So Father uttered the words and immediately the artisan, Mother, faithfully performed the task. And this was the same with every structure by way of emanation—Father, would say, ‘Let there be a firmament’ or ‘Let there be lights, and all was performed immediately.

When the world of separation came, which is the world of those divided [see Zohar 1:158a], the artisan said to the architect‘Let us make a human in our image, by our likeness’ (Genesis 1:26). The architect said, ‘It is indeed good that man be made, but he will offend before you, because he is foolish, as is written, A wise son gladdens his father, but a foolish son is his mother’s sorrow (Proverbs 10:1).’

She said, ‘Because his crimes depend on Mother, and not Father, I wish to create him in My own image,’ as is written, And Elohim created the human in His image (Genesis 1:27). She did not want Father, to have any share [although often called Mother, Binah is also ‘World of the Male,’ encompassing the entire configuration of the sefirot from Ḥesed through Yesod. Together they constitute a masculine entity ready to join Shekhinah, see Zohar 1:147a, 149a, 96a, 160b, 246a–247a, 248b; 2:127b; ZḤ 72b (ShS)].

What is written at the time of the sin? For your crimes, your mother was sent away (Isaiah 50:1). The King said to Mother, ‘Did I not tell you that he was destined to offend?’ [cf. BT Shabbat 55a–bZohar Ḥadash 18c]. It was then that he exiled him and exiled Mother with him. Therefore, it is written: A wise son gladdens his father, but a foolish son is his mother’s sorrow. A wise son—man of אֲצִילוּת (atsilut), Emanation. A foolish son—man of בְּרִיָּה (beriah), Creation.

All the Companions rose and said ‘Rabbi! Rabbi! could there be such separation between Father and Mother, [so much so that] from the side of Father he is by way of Atsilut, but from the side of Mother by [way of] Beriah?! He said to them, ‘Companions, Companions, it is not so, because man of Atsilut is male and female, from the aspect of Father and from Mother. This is why Elohim said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light. ‘Let there be light’—from the side of Father; and there was light—from the side of Mother. So man had דוּ פַּרְצוּפִין (du partsufin), two faces [see BT Eruvin 18a].

But to him [of Beri’ah] there is neither image nor likeness [of Father or Mother]. Supernal Mother has but one epithet: Light and… Darkness (Isaiah 45:7), which amounts to eighty-six: Elohim [כִּנּוּי (kinnui), epithet, אֱלֹהִים (Elohim), and הַטֶבַע (ha-teva), Nature, are each numerically equivalent to eighty-six, cf. Rabbi Avraham Abulafia, Get ha-Shemot, 101b (MS Oxford, 1682)]. And that epithet is Light and Darkness [אוֹר וּחֹשֶׁךְ (or u-ḥoshek), Light and Darkness, is numerically equivalent to יִשְׂרָאֵל (yisra’el), Israel]. And because of that epithet of darkness, Father said that man of Beri’ah [Adam Rishon (First Man)], was destined to offend because he is light of the supernal garment.

Light—which the blessed Holy One created on the first day, hiding it away for the righteous alone [see BT Ḥagigah 12a; Bereshit Rabbah 3:6; Vayiqra Rabbah 11:7; Zohar 1:30b–31b; ZḤ 15b (MhN)]. Darkness—created on the first day for the wicked: And the wicked in darkness turn dumb (1 Samuel 2:9). On account of darkness, which would cause light to offend, Father did not wish to partake in his creation. Therefore, Mother said, ‘Let us make a human in our image, by our likeness. In our imagelight. By our likenessdarkness which is a garment for light, just as the body is a garment for the soul, as is written: With skin and flesh You clothed me (Job 10:11). They all rejoiced, saying, ‘How happy is our share that we had the privilege to hear words that were not to be heard until now.’

Rabbi Shim’on delved further, saying, See now that I, I am He, and no אֱלֹהִים (elohim), god, is by My side (Deuteronomy 32:39). Companions, listen to ancient words I wish to reveal since permission from above has been granted. Who is He who said, See now that I, I am He?’ He replied: The עִלַּת עַל כָּל עִלָּאִין (illat al kal illa’in), Cause above all Causes. He that is called עִלַּת הָעִלּוֹת (illat ha-illot), the Cause of Causes, is not high above all the supernal beings, but rather, is a cause among all the rest. Accordingly, every single one of these causes cannot act unless permission comes down from the cause above him, as I said before with, Let us make a human

Let us make—two rungs, and each lower rung said to the one above him, Let us make a human. The lower rung cannot act without permission from the one over him and the one over him cannot act until counsel comes down from the one over him. But He who is called עִלַּת עַל כָּל עִלּוֹת (illat al kal illot), Cause above all Causes, has no equal above nor below, as is written: To whom then will you liken Me, or shall I be equal? says the Holy One (Isaiah 40:25). He said, ‘See now that I, I am He, and no אֱלֹהִים (elohim), god, is by My side’—from whom to take counsel, unlike him of whom is written: And Elohim said, ‘Let us make a human.’

All the Companions rose and said, ‘Rabbi grant us permission to speak. Did you not already say that the Cause of Causes, said to Keter, ‘Let us make a human.’ He said to them: ‘Let your ears hear what your mouth speaks! Have I not just told you that He who is called the Cause of Causes is not He who is called the Cause above all Causes, for the Cause above all Causes has no second from whom He can take counsel. He is Singular, prior to all, and He has no partner [cf. Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles of Jewish Faith].

Accordingly, He said, ‘See now that I, I am He, and no god is by My side’ (Deuteronomy 32:39), from whom to take counsel [cf. BT Sanhedrin 38b; Bereshit Rabbah 8:8]; for He has no second, no partner, and no reckoning. [However,] there is a [certain] oneness in partnership in the manner of male and female, of whom it is said, [Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who spawned you.] כִּי אֶחָד קְרָאתִיו (Ki eḥad qerativ), for one I called him (Isaiah 51:2). But He is one without reckoning and without partnership, thus, He says, no god is by My side.’ They all rose, bowed before him and said, ‘Happy is the man whose Master gives him consent to reveal hidden mysteries that were not even revealed to the holy angels.’

He said to them, ‘Companions, we should complete this verse because it contains many mysteries. I put to death and give life (Deuteronomy 32:39)—I put to death and give life by the sefirot. From the right-side life, and from the left-side death. But if both do not agree by mediation of the middle pillar—unless all three settle together—Judgment cannot endure.

At times, all three agree to execute Judgement. Then appears an outstretched יַ״ד (yad), hand, receiving those who return. It is the הֲוָיָה (havayah), Being: יוד הא ואו הא (Yod He Vav He). This is Shekhinah, the right hand from the side of Ḥesed and the left hand from the the side of Gevurah. It is the Hand of YHVH from the aspect of the middle pillar. When a person repents, this יַ״ד (yad), hand, saves him from Judgement. However, when Judgment of the Cause above all Causes: [I smash and I also heal and] none rescues from My hand (Deuteronomy 32:39).

Furthermore, three times it has been said, אֲנִי אֲנִי אֲנִי (ani, ani, ani), I, I, I. [Three iterations of] א (alef) [at its beginning, and three iterations of] י (yod) [at its ending]. Here is the hint: יוד הי ואו הי (Yod He Vav He); יוד הא ואו הא (Yod He Vav He). [The verse also employs] three וָוִין (vavin), ands: וַאֲחַיֶּה (va-aḥayeh), and I give life... וַאֲנִי (va-ani), and I… וְאֵין (ve-ayin), and none They are also hinted at by these [two] names.

Despite all this the Companions have explained it concerning other אֱלֹהִים (elohim), gods, as is written: See now that I, I am He—the blessed Holy One and His Shekhinah. Of His Female is said, אֲנִי (ani), I am, הוּא (hu), He. And no god is by My side—[neither] Samael nor the serpent. I put to death and give lifeI put to death with My Shekhinah whoever is guilty and give life with Her to whoever is righteous. And none rescues from My hand—the יָד (yad), hand, of יהוה (YHVH) [numerically equivalent to י״ד (fourteen)]. יוד הא ואו הא (Yod He Vav He); and it is כוזו במוכסז כוזו (KWZWBMWKSZKWZW) [permutations of the Name]. All these explanations are true. But what we said before is that He is the Cause of Causes—the Cause above all others. And this mystery was not revealed to every sage and prophet [but only the select few among them].

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

Another explanation of the Companions: Let us make a human in our image, by our likenessthe ministering angels spoke this. He [Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai] said to them: Since the angels already know the past and future, they already knew that he was destined to offend. Why would they want to make him? [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 8:6]. 

Not only that, but Aza and Aza’el also opposed [see Bereshit Rabbati, (Albeck) 29:14–31:8]. When Shekhinah said to the blessed Holy One, Let us make a human, they protested: What is a human creature that You should know him, [the son of man, that You pay him mind?] (Psalms 144:3). Why do You wish to create man when You know that he is destined to offend before You, with her who is darkness, since light is male and darkness female—left, darkness of Creation [see Bahir §13]. At that moment, Shekhinah said to them: You will fall by the same reasoning that you denounce! [cf. BT Qiddushin 70a: ‘And he who declares unfit is unfit and never speaks in praise. And Shemu’el said: With his own blemish he stigmatizes as unfit’]. As is written: The sons of God saw that the daughters of men were comely, and they took themselves wives whomsoever they chose (Genesis 6:2), so they went astray after them. Fittingly Shekhinah caused them to fall from their holiness.

The Companions said, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi, Aza and Aza’el did not lie! For man was certainly destined to offend with the female.’ He replied: This is what Shekhinah said, ‘You have made accusations before me that go beyond those of all the hosts above. If you were better than humans in your actions, you would have had a right to accuse him, but man will offend with only one woman, while you [are destined to offend] with many women. Therefore, your offences surpass those of man, as is written: The sons of God saw that the daughters of men were comely, and they took themselves wives whomsoever they chose (Genesis 6:2). It is not written: the daughter of men, but rather the daughters of men. If man is liable, I have prepared תְּשׁוּבָה (teshuvah), repentance, for him to repair the offence.’

The Companions asked, ‘If so, why all this?’ Rabbi Shim’on replied: If the blessed Holy One had not created [the] good and evil [impulses], which are light and darkness, there would not have been any merit or liability for the man of Beri’ah. So man was created with both, as is written: See, I have set before you today life and good and death and evil, that I charge you today to love YHVH your God, to go in His ways and to keep His commands and His statutes and His Laws (Deuteronomy 30:15). They asked him [yet again]: Why all this? Better had He not created darkness. Then man would have no reward and no punishment [cf. Zohar 3:159a].

He said to them: It was right to create him in this way because Torah was created for his sake, since it contains punishments for the wicked and rewards for the righteous. Thus, there can be no reward for the righteous nor punishment for the wicked without the man of Beri’ah: Not for nothing did He create it, to dwell there He fashioned it (Isaiah 45:18). They said, ‘Indeed, now we have certainly heard what we had never heard before. It is now clear that the blessed Holy One did not create anything that was unnecessary’ [cf. M Avot 4:3].

Furthermore, Torah of Beri’ah is the garment of Shekhinah. If man had not been created, She would have remained without clothing, just like a pauper. Therefore, whoever offends strips Shekhinah of Her garments [cf. Leviticus 18:7]. This is the punishment for man. And whoever performs decrees of Torah clothes Shekhinah in Her garments. Accordingly, about the garments of tsitsit and tefillin it says, For it is his sole covering, it is his cloak for his skin—in what can he lie? (Exodus 22:26). This applies during exile when Shekhinah is stripped of Her garments.

Come and see: Darkness is black [fire, or ink] of Torah. Light is the white [fire, or negative space] of Torah [see Zohar 2:84a, 226b]” (Zohar 1:22a–23a, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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