The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

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When Love was Strong We could have Made Our Bed on the Blade of a Sword

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And they shall make an ark of acacia wood (Exodus 25:10). Thus it is written, Shaddai, whom we find not, is lofty in power (Job 37:23). Our great teacher [Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nasi] said: We are indebted to Job, because he added to everything Elihu said. Job said to his companions: ‘Do you imagine that even all you have said exhausts His praise? Who can declare all the praises and mighty deeds of the blessed Holy One? All the things you have said, Why, these are but the least of His ways [the tag-end of the word that is heard of Him] (ibid. 26:14).

Elihu said: Shaddai, whom we find not lofty in power. He that hears this verse may say: ‘Perhaps, perish the thought, this is blasphemy!’ But this is what Elihu meant: We will never find the blessed Holy One’s power [fully] displayed towards any of His creatures, for He does not visit His creatures with burdensome laws, but comes to each one according to his strength. For know that if blessed Holy One had come upon Israel with the full force of His strength when He gave them the Torah, they would not have been able to withstand it, as it says, If we hear again the voice of YHWH our God, we shall die (Deuteronomy 5:22). However, He came upon them according to their individual strength, for it says, YHWH’s voice in power (Psalms 29:4). It does not say בְּכֹחוֹ (be-khoḥo), in His power, but בַּכֹּחַ (ba-koaḥ), in power, that is, according to the strength of each individual [cf. Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana 12:25].

Another interpretation: Shaddai, whom we find not, is lofty in power—when the blessed Holy One said to Moses, Make Me a Tabernacle, [that I may abide in their midst] (Exodus 25:8), he said in amazement, ‘The Glory of the blessed Holy One fills the heavens and earth, and yet He commands Make Me a Tabernacle! Moreover, he foresaw that Solomon would one day build a Temple, much larger than the Tabernacle, and yet would say before the blessed Holy One: But can אֱלֹהִים (Elohimreally dwell on earth? Look, the heavens and the heavens beyond the heavens cannot contain You. How much less this house that I have built (1 Kings 8:27).

If Solomon said this of the Temple which was so much greater than the Tabernacle, then how much more could this be said of the Tabernacle? For this reason Moses said: He who dwells in the Most High’s shelter (Psalms 91:1), which Rabbi Yehudah son of Rabbi Shim’on expounded: He who dwells in the shelter is Most High above all His creatures. Now what is בְּצֵל (be-tsel), in the shadow of, Shaddai (ibid.)? בְּצַלְ אֵל (Be-tsal El), in the shadow of God. It does not say In the shadow of the Compassionate, or In the shadow of the Gracious, but In the shadow of Shaddai; in the shadow which בְּצַלְאֵל (Betsalel), Bezalel, constructed. And for this reason it says, In the shadow of Shaddai lies at night. The blessed Holy One said, ‘Not as you think do I think: twenty boards on the north, twenty on the south and eight in the west [is enough for Me]. Moreover, I will descend וַאֲצַמְצֵם (va-atsamtsem), and contract, My Shekhinah within one square cubit [cf. BT Berakhot 8a: ‘Rabbi Ḥiyya son of Ammi in the name of ‘Ulla: Since the day that the Temple was destroyed, the blessed Holy One has nothing in this world but the four cubits of Halakhah alone’]’” (Shemot Rabbah 34:1).

“When love was strong, we could have made our bed on the blade of a sword. Now that our love has grown weak, a bed of sixty [cubits] is not large enough for us. Rav Huna said: This is alluded to in the verses: At first [when Israel was loyal] it is said: And I shall meet with you there and speak with you, from above the covering [between the two cherubim that are on top of the Ark of the Covenant] (Exodus 25:22); and it is taught: The Ark measured nine handspans high and the cover one handspan, i.e., ten in all. Again it is written: And the house that King Solomon built was sixty cubits in length and twenty in width and thirty cubits in height (1 Kings 6:2). But in the end it is written: Thus said YHWH: The heavens are My throne and the earth is My footstool. What house would you build for Me [and what place for My resting, when all these My hand has made and Mine all these are?—said YHWH—But to this do I look, to the poor man and to the broken of spirit who trembles at My word] (Isaiah 66:1)” (BT Sanhedrin 7a).

Close is YHWH to all who call Him, to all who call to Him in truth (Psalms 145:18).

“Rabbi Pinḥas said in the name of Rabbi Yehudah son of Shim’on, ‘An idol appears to be near, but is actually far… the blessed Holy One appears to be far yet nothing is closer than He… like a person who speaks into his fellow’s ear and he hears him. And is it possible that a god could be closer to his creatures than this? For He is so close to His creatures it is as if they speak directly into His ear” (JT Berakhot 9:1, 13b).

“An idol is near but far. The blessed Holy One is far but near” (Devarim Rabbah 2:6).

From afar YHWH appeared to me: With everlasting love do I love you, therefore did I draw you in kindness (Jeremiah 31:2).

“Rabbi Shim’on son of Azzai said: The Glory of which is written, The heavens and earth do not I מָלֵא (male), fill? (Jeremiah 23:24)—see how love for Israel caused the Glory to דָחָק (daḥaq), compress, in order to appear over the cover [of the Ark of the Covenant] between the two cherubim!” (Sifra, Nedavah 2, cf. Tanḥuma, Vayakhel, 7).

I am אֵל שַׁדַּי (El Shaddai). Walk in My presence and be blameless, and I will grant My covenant between Me and you (Genesis 17:1).

“Rabbi Yehudah raised a contradiction: [And the cherubim sheltered the Ark and its poles from above. And the poles extended, andthe ends of the poles could be seen [from the Holy Place in front of the sanctuary] (1 Kings 8:8), and it is written but they could not be seen from without (ibid.)—how is that possible? They were seen and not seen. Therefore it was also taught: ‘The ends of the poles could be seen—one might have assumed that they did not protrude from their place, thus it says: And the poles extended. One might assume that they tore the פָּרוֹכֶת (parokhet), curtain, and emerged, thus it says: but they could not be seen from without. How then? They pressed forth and protruded as the two breasts of a woman, as is said: A sachet of myrrh is my lover to me, all night between שָׁדַי (shaddai), my breasts (Song of Songs 1:13)’” (BT Yoma 54a).

“[A certain Samaritan] said to [Rabbi Me’ir]: Is it possible that He of whom is written, The heavens and earth do not I fill? (Jeremiah 23:24) spoke to Moses from between the two poles of the Ark? He said to him: Bring me large mirrors. When he brought them he said to him, ‘Look at your reflection,’ and he saw it large. ‘Bring me a small mirror.’ He brought it. ‘Look at your reflection in it.’ He saw it small. He said to him: If you, who are but flesh and blood, can change yourself at will, how much more so He at whose word the world came into existence! Thus when He so wishes, The heavens and earth do not I fill? While when He wishes, He speaks to Moses from between the poles of the Ark. Rabbi Ḥanina son of Isei said: At times the world and its fullness cannot contain His glory, yet at times He speaks to man from between the hairs of his head, as is written, And YHWH answered Job from הַסְּעָרָה (ha-sea’arah), the whirlwind (Job 38:1)—from between שַׂעֲרוֹת (sa’arot), the hairs, of his head” (Bereshit Rabbah 4:4).

A sachet of myrrh is my lover to me (Song of Songs 1:13)—of all the spices, none is sweeter than this myrrh. Similarly, the blessed Holy One is the most fitting thing in the world. And why does he compare the blessed Holy One to a sachet? Because it is written of Him: [If a man should hide in secret places, would I not see him? said YHWH.] The heavens and earth do not I fill? (Jeremiah 23:24). But צַמְצֵם (tsamtsem), He contracts, His Shekhinah between the poles of the Ark, as it says, all night between my breasts (Song of Songs, ibid.)” (Midrash Shir ha-Shirim 15b [Grünhut]).

My Fathers Pray on My Behalf: Were it not for our Supplications on Behalf of the Living they would not Survive for even Half a Day!

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And they went up through the Negeb and he came to Hebron (Number 13:22)—it should read and they came! Rabba said: It teaches that Caleb held aloof from the plan of the spies and went and prostrated himself upon the graves of the patriarchs, saying to them, ‘My fathers, pray on my behalf that I may be delivered from the plan of the spies.’ As for Joshua, Moses had already prayed on his behalf; as is said: And Moses called Hosea the son of Nun יְהוֹשֻׁעַ (Yehoshu’a), Joshua (ibid., 16), [meaning], יָהּ יוֹשִׁיעַךָ (Yah yoshi’akha), May Yah save you, from the spies’ plan. That is the intention of what is written: But My servant Caleb, inasmuch as there was another spirit with him (ibid. 14:24)” (BT Sotah 34b).

“Why do they go to the cemetery? With regard to this there is a difference of opinion between Rabbi Levi son of Ḥama [alt., Rabbi Levi son of Laḥma] and Rabbi Ḥanina. One says: [To signify thereby], We are as the dead before You; and the other says: In order that the dead should intercede for mercy on our behalf. What is the difference between them? The difference is with regard to going to the cemetery of the nations” (BT Ta’anit 16a).

“The sons of Rabbi Ḥiyya went to the villages to cultivate their property, and they began to forget their learning. They tried very hard to recall it. One said to the other: Does our father know of our trouble? How should he know, replied the other, seeing that it is written, If sons grow great, he will not notice them (Job 14:21). The other said to him: But does he not know? Is it not written: But the flesh upon him will ache, נַפְשׁוֹ (nafsho), his own being, will mourn for him (ibid., 22). And Rabbi Yitsḥaq said [commenting on this]: The worm is as painful to the dead as a needle in the flesh of the living? [He replied]: It is explained that they know their own pain, they do not know the pain of others.

Is that so? Has it not been taught: It is related that a certain devout man gave a denar to a poor man on the eve of Rosh HaShanah in a year of drought, and his wife scolded him, and he went and passed the night in the cemetery, and he heard two רוּחוֹת (ruḥot), spirits, conversing with one another. One said to her companion: My dear, come and let us wander about the world and let us hear from behind הַפַּרְגּוֹד (ha-parggod), the curtain, what suffering is coming on the world [in the divine judgment pronounced on Rosh Hashanah]. Her companion said to her: I am not able, because I am buried in a matting of reeds [and not in a linen shroud]. But do go, and whatever you hear tell me.

So the other went and wandered about and returned. Her companion said to her: My dear, what have you heard from behind the curtain? She replied: I heard that whoever sows after the first rainfall [about the seventeenth of Heshvan (Rashi)] will have his crop destroyed by hail. So the man went and did not sow till after the second rainfall [which would be about six days after the first], with the result that everyone else’s crop was destroyed but his was not destroyed [not being sufficiently grown yet].

The next year he again went and passed the night in the cemetery, and heard the two spirits conversing with one another. One said to her companion: Come and let us wander about the world and hear from behind the curtain what punishment is coming upon the world. The other said to her: My dear, did I not tell you that I am not able because I am buried in a matting of reeds? But you go, and whatever you hear, come and tell me. So the other one went and wandered about the world and returned. She said to her: My dear, what have you heard from behind the curtain? She replied: I heard that whoever sows after the later rain will have his crop struck with blight. So the man went and sowed after the first rain with the result that everyone else’s crop was blighted but his was not blighted [being by now strong enough to resist]. His wife said to him: How is it that last year everyone else’s crop was destroyed but yours was not destroyed, and this year everyone else’s crop is blighted and yours is not blighted? So he related to her all his experiences.

The story goes that shortly afterwards a quarrel broke out between the wife of that devout man and the mother of the child [whose ruaḥ, spirit, the devout man had heard conversing], and the former said to the latter, Come and I will show you your daughter buried in a matting of reeds. The next year the man again went and spent the night in the cemetery and heard those conversing together. One said: My dear, come and let us wander about the world and hear from behind the curtain what suffering is coming upon the world. Said the other: My dear, leave me alone; our conversation has already been heard among the living. This would prove that they know?—perhaps some other man after his death went and told them.

Come and hear: for Ze’iri deposited some money with his landlady, and while he was away visiting Rav she died. So he went after her to the court of death and said to her, Where is my money? She replied to him: Go and take it from under the ground, in the hole of the doorpost, in such and such a place, and tell my mother to send me my comb and my tube of eye-paint by the hand of so-and-so who is coming here tomorrow. Does not this show that they know?—perhaps דוּמָה (Dumah) [lit., Silence, the angel presiding over the dead] announces to them beforehand [that so-and-so will die, but they know nothing else].

Come and hear: The father of Shemu’el had some money belonging to orphans deposited with him. When he died, Shemu’el was not with him, and they called him, ‘The son who consumes the money of orphans.’ So he went after his father to the cemetery, and said to them [the dead]. I am looking for Abba. They said to him: There are many of that name here. I want Abba son of Abba, he said. They replied: There are also several Abbas son of Abba here. He then said to them: I want Abba son of Abba the father of Shemu’el; where is he? They replied: He has gone up to the מְתִיבְתָּא רָקִיעַא (metivta raqia), celestial academy.

Meanwhile he saw Levi sitting outside. He said to him: Why are you sitting outside? Why have you not gone up? He replied: Because they said to me: For as many years as you did not go up to the academy of Rav Efes and hurt his feelings [see BT Ketubbot 13b], we will not let you go up to the celestial academy. Meanwhile his father came. Shemu’el observed that he was both weeping and laughing. He said to him: Why are you weeping? He replied: Because you are coming here soon. And why are you laughing? Because you are highly esteemed in this world. He thereupon said to him: If I am esteemed, let them take up Levi; and they did take up Levi. He then said to him: Where is the money of the orphans? He replied: Go and you will find it in the case of the millstones. The money at the top and the bottom is mine, that in the middle is the orphans’ He said to him: Why did you do like that? He replied: So that if thieves came, they should take mine, and if the earth destroyed any, it should destroy mine. Does not this show that they know?—perhaps Shemu’el was exceptional: as he was esteemed, they proclaimed beforehand, Make way [for him]!

Rabbi Yonatan also retracted his opinion. For Rabbi Shemu’el son of Naḥmani said in the name of Rabbi Yonatan: Whence do we know that the dead converse with one another? Because it says: And YHWH said to him, ‘This is the land that I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, [To your seed I will give it’] (Deuteronomy 34:4). What is the meaning of לֵאמֹר (lemor), saying? The blessed Holy One said to Moses: Say to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: The oath which I swore to you I have already carried out for your descendants.

Now if you maintain that the dead do not know, what would be the use of his telling them?—you infer then that they do know. In that case, why should he need to tell them?—so that they might be grateful to Moses. Rabbi Yitsḥaq said: If one makes remarks about the dead, it is like making remarks about a stone. Some say [the reason is that] they do not know, others that they know but do not care. Can that be so? Has not Rav Papa said: A certain man made derogatory remarks about Mar Shemu’el and a log fell from the roof and broke his skull?—a disciple of wisdom is different, because the blessed Holy One avenges his honor” (BT Berakhot 18b–19a).

“Rabbi Ḥiyya prostrated himself on the ground, kissing the dust and weeping. He cried out, ‘Dust, dust, how stubborn you are, how impudent! All delights of the eye decay in you. All pillars of light in the world you consume and pulverize. How insolent you are! The Holy Lamp who has illumined the world, majestic ruler, prince, whose merit sustains the world, decays in you. O Rabbi Shim’on, radiance of the lamp, radiance of the worlds, you decompose in the dust, yet you subsist and guide the world!’

For a moment he was shocked, and then exclaimed, ‘Dust, dust, do not boast! The pillars of the world will not be surrendered to you. Rabbi Shim’on has not decayed in you! [since the bodies of the righteous do not decay, see BT Bava Metsi’a 84b]” (Zohar 1:4b).

“Rabbi Yehudah son of Shalom was walking on the way, and Rabbi Abba was with him. They entered a certain אַתְרָא (atra), place, and lodged there [alt., אִדְּרָא (iddera), threshing floor, from the Greek ἕδρᾱ (hedra), seat, implying a sacred site (see Meroz, ‘The Story in the Zohar about the Grieving Dead’)]. They ate. When they wished to lie down, they lay their heads on a mound of earth—where there was a grave. Before they fell asleep, a voice called out from the grave, saying, ‘A seed is earthbound. For twelve years I have not awakened, except now; I have just seen the countenance of my son!’

Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘Who are you?’ He replied, ‘I am a Jew and I sit reproached; I do not want to enter on account of my son’s sorrow, for a gentile kidnapped him when he was young, and he beats him every day. His sorrow prevents me from entering my site, and I have not awakened in this place until now.’ He said to him, ‘Are you aware of the sorrows of the living? He replied, ‘[By the life of] the denizens of the graves! Were it not for our supplications on behalf of the living, they would not survive for even half a day! Now I have awakened here, for today I was told that presently my son would be coming here, though I know not whether dead or alive [cf. BT Sanhedrin 104a].’

Rabbi Yehudah said to him, ‘What is your business in that world?’ The grave rumbled and said, ‘Arise, be gone! For now they are beating my son.’ They were stunned and fled from there about half a mile. They sat until the morning shone. They rose to walk on. They saw a person running and fleeing, his shoulders dripping blood. They grabbed him and he told them what had happened. They said to him, ‘What is your name?’

He replied, ‘Laḥma son of Levai.’ They said, ‘Was not that dead man Levai son of Laḥma?! We are afraid to speak with him anymore [cf. BT Ta’anit 16a]! They did not return. Rabbi Abba said, ‘Concerning what they said: that the prayers of the dead protect the living—how do we know? As is written: They went up through the Negeb, and he came as far as Hebron (Numbers 13:22) [cf. BT Sotah 34b]'” (Zohar 2:16a–b, Midrash ha-Ne’lam).

“Inhabitants of the world will one day cry out, and no one will care about them. They will turn their heads in every direction and turn back without a remedy. But one remedy I have found in the world and no more. In a place where there exist those who toil in Torah, if there exists among them a Torah scroll free of falsification—when they take this out, for its sake upper and lower beings arouse, especially if the Holy Name is written therein properly. We have already learned this matter.

Woe to the generation among whom the Torah scroll is exiled, yet beings above and below fail to arouse! Who will arouse for it when the world is in greater trouble and the Torah scroll must be exiled further because of the world’s distress? For when the world suffers and people pray for mercy at the graves, all the dead arouse for them. נֶפֶשׁ (Nefesh) hastens to inform רוּחַ (ruaḥ) that the Torah scroll is in exile—exiled because of the world’s distress—and the living are coming and pleading for mercy. Then ruaḥ informs נְשָׁמָה (neshamah), and neshamah informs the blessed Holy One. Then the blessed Holy One arouses and has compassion upon the upper world—all because the Torah scroll was exiled from its place and the living come to pray for mercy at the graves of the dead. Woe to the generation if the Torah scroll must be exiled from place to place—even from synagogue to synagogue—for they lack anything to stimulate caring for them! …

We have learned: For twelve months nefesh is bound to the body in the grave and they are judged as one, except for nefesh of the righteous, as we have established. She is present in the grave, aware of its suffering and of the suffering of the living, but she does not exert herself for them. After twelve months, she clothes herself in a certain garment and goes roaming through the world. She discovers from ruaḥ what she discovers and exerts herself for the suffering of the living.

Who arouses all this? A virtuous person—when there is one—who informs them fittingly; that virtuous one is recognized by them. Come and see: When a virtuous person endures, he is known among the living and among the dead, for every day he is proclaimed among them. When suffering intensifies in the world and he cannot protect the generation, he informs them of the world’s suffering. When there is no virtuous person to be proclaimed among them, when no one can be found to arouse them for the suffering of the world except for the Torah scroll, then upper and lower beings arouse over it. At that time, all must engage in teshuvah; if they do not, masters of judgment arouse against them—even ruḥot, spirits, in the Garden of Eden arouse against them.

I will lie down with my fathers (Genesis 47:30)—in body, nefeshruaḥneshamah, in a single chariot, on a supernal rung.

Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘How utterly stopped up are inhabitants of the world, neither knowing nor hearing nor contemplating matters of the world, and how the blessed Holy One hovers over them compassionately, constantly. No one is aware!

Three times a day, one spirit enters the cave of Machpelah and wafts upon the graves of the patriarchs; bones heal and stand vitally erect. That spirit draws down dew from above—from the head of the King, site of supernal patriarchs—and when that dew arrives from them, the patriarchs below awaken.

Come and see: That dew descends by certain levels, level after level, reaching the lower Garden of Eden, where it is infused by the spices of the Garden. One spirit arouses—composed of two others—rising, drifting among the spices, entering the opening of the cave. Then the patriarchs awaken, they and their spouses, and plead for mercy for their children.

When the world is in distress because they are asleep on account of the sins of the world, that dew does not flow or appear until a Torah scroll arouses fittingly in the world. Then nefesh informs ruaḥ, and ruaḥ neshamah, and neshamah the blessed Holy One. The King then sits on the throne of mercy, and there issues from the supernal Ancient One a flow of טַלָּא דִּבְדוֹלְחָא (talla di-vdulḥa), crystal dew, reaching the head of the King, and the patriarchs are blessed, and that dew flows to those sleepers, who then all conjoin, and the blessed Holy One has compassion upon the world.

Come and see: The blessed Holy One does not have compassion upon the world until He has informed the patriarchs, and for their sake the world is blessed” (Zohar 1:225a–b).

“Those [Egyptian] sorcerers would go to cemeteries and perform their sorcery and make an image of a human and slaughter before it one goat. Afterward they put that goat in a certain grave, break that image into four quarters, and place them in the four corners of the grave. Then they perform their sorcery, and an assemblage of those evil species gathers and brings that soul, which enters the grave and speaks to them.

Rabbi Yitsḥaq said, ‘Happy are the righteous in this world and in the world that is coming, for they are holy! Their body is holy, their nefesh is holy, their ruaḥ is holy, their neshamah is holy of holies—three rungs, corresponding to the pattern above. For it has been taught: Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘It is written Let the earth bring forth נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה (nefesh ḥayyah), a living soul (Genesis 1:24)—supernal soul of supernal Adam.

Come and see: There are three rungs, joining as one—nefesh, ruaḥ, neshamah—and highest of them is neshamah. For Rabbi Yose has said, ‘All people have nefesh, though one nefesh is superior to another. If a person proves worthy of this nefesh, a certain crown is infused in him, called ruaḥ, as is written: until רוּחַ (ruaḥ), is poured upon us from on high (Isaiah 32:15). Then the person is aroused by another sublime arousal to contemplate the ways of the Holy King. If the person proves worthy of that ruaḥ, he is adorned with a supernal holy crown encompassing all, called neshamah—called נִּשְׁמַת אֱלוֹהַּ (nishmat Eloah), soul of God (Job 4:9)….

One should not go there without teshuvah and without fasting, to plead before them. Rabbi Ḥiyya said, ‘Without three fasts.’ Rabbi Yose said, ‘Even one, on that day—but only if the world is plunged in great suffering. Then [the souls of the righteous] all join to plead for mercy over the world.’ …

Rabbi Yeisa said, ‘When the world is in need, why do we go to the dead? Is it not written or inquires of the dead (Deuteronomy 18:11)? So it is forbidden! He [Rabbi Ḥizkiyah] replied, ‘You have not seen the wings of the Bird of Eden [i.e., Shekhinah]. Or inquires of the dead—precisely, who are the wicked of the world, of the other nations, who are always dead. But as for Israel, who are truly righteous, Solomon declared over them, the dead, who have already died (Ecclesiastes 4:2)—another time, not now. Who have already died—and now they are alive.

Furthermore, when other nations visit their dead, they come with sorcery to arouse evil species [cf. Leqaḥ Tov on Deuteronomy 34:6]. But when the people of Israel does so, they come in great teshuvah before the blessed Holy One, with a broken heart, with fasting—and all so that those holy souls will plead before the blessed Holy One for mercy upon them.

Consequently we have learned: Even though a righteous person has departed from this world, he has not disappeared or vanished from all the worlds, since he exists in all those worlds more than in his lifetime [cf. BT Qetubbot 103a; Freud, Totem and Taboo]. During his life he exists only in this world; afterward he exists in three worlds and is welcome there, as is written: Therefore, maidens, love you (Song of Songs 1:3)—do not read עֲלָמוֹת (alamot), maidens, but rather עוֹלָמוֹת (olamot), worlds. Happy is their share!” (Zohar 3:70a–71b, cf. BT Bava Metsi’a 85b; Qohelet Rabbah on 10:10; Sefer Ḥasidim [ed. Margaliot] 450, 452).

Seven Crowns, Seven Firmaments, and Seven Planets: These Corresponding to those in Concealment of Words

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“Sevenths are always beloved. [With the firmaments] above, the seventh is beloved: שָׁמַיִם (shamayim), Heavens, שְׁמֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם (shemei ha-shamayim), Heavens beyond the Heavens, רָקִיעַ (raqi’a), Firmament, שְׁחָקִים (sheḥaqim), Skies, זְבוּל (zevul), Loft, מָעוֹן (ma’on), Dwelling, and עֲרָבוֹת (aravot), Clouds—and it is written, Pave the way for the Rider of Clouds, for Yah is His name (Psalms 68:5). With the earths [below] the seventh is beloved: אֶרֶץ (erets), Earth, אֲדָמָה (adamah), Ground, אַרְקָא (arqa), Earth [Aramaic], גַּיְא (gai), Valley, צִיָּה (tsiyyah), Dry Region, נְשִׁיָּה (neshiyyah), Oblivion, תֵּבֵל (tevel), Firm Land [or: World]—and it is written, And He judges תֵּבֵל (tevel), the world, in righteousness, lays down law to the peoples in truth (Psalms 9:9). With generations the seventh is beloved: Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch—and it is written, And Enoch walked with God (Genesis 5:24). With fathers the seventh is beloved: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Levi, Kohath, Amram, and Moses—and it is written, And Moses had gone up to God (Exodus 19:3). With sons the seventh is beloved, as is said, David the seventh (1 Chronicles 2:15). With kings the seventh is beloved: Saul, Ish-Bosheth, David, Solomon, Rehoboam, Abijah, and Asa—and it is written, And Asa called to YHWH [his God…] (2 Chronicles 14:10). With years the seventh is beloved, as is said, But in the seventh you shall let it go and let it lie fallow (Exodus 23:11). With שְׁמִטִּין (shemittin), years of release, the seventh is beloved, as is said, And you shall hallow the fiftieth year (Leviticus 25:10). With days the seventh is beloved, as is said, And God blessed the seventh day [and hallowed it…] (Genesis 2:3). With months the seventh is beloved, as is said, ‘In the seventh month on the first of the month [you shall have a sabbath’] (Leviticus 23:24)” (Vayiqra Rabbah 29:11).

He counts the number of stars, to all of them gives names (Psalms 147:4).

“Rabbi Yehudah said: There are two firmaments, as is said: Look, YHWH your God’s are the heavens and the heavens beyond the heavens (Deuteronomy 10:14). Resh Laqish said: [There are] seven, namely, וִילוֹן (vilon), Curtain; רָקִיעַ (raqi’a), Firmament; שְׁחָקִים (sheḥaqim), Skies; זְבֻל (zevul), Loft; מָעוֹן (ma’on), Dwelling; מָכוֹן (makhon), Site; and עֲרָבוֹת (aravot), Clouds. The one called Vilon, Curtain, serves no purpose except that it enters in the morning and goes forth in the evening and renews every day the work of creation, as is said: [He is enthroned on the rim of the earth, and its dwellers are like grasshoppers.] He spreads out the heavens like gauze and stretches them like a tent to dwell in (Isaiah 40:22).

The one called Raqi’a, Firmament, is that in which sun and moon, stars and constellations are set, ast is said: And Elohim set them in the firmament of the heavens to light up the earth (Genesis 1:17).

The one called Sheḥaqim, Skies, is that in which millstones stand and grind manna for the righteous, as is said: And He charged the skies above, and the doors of the heavens He opened, and rained on them manna to eat (Psalms 78:23–24).

The one called Zevul, Loft, is that in which [the heavenly] Jerusalem [see BT Ta’anit 5a] and the Temple and the Altar are built, and Michael, the great prince [over Israel, see Daniel 12:1; BT Yoma 77a], stands and offers up an offering there, as is said: I indeed have built You a lofty house, a firm place for Your dwelling forever (1 Kings 8:13). And whence do we derive that it is called שָׁמָיִם (shamayim), Heavens? For it is written: Look מִשָּׁמַיִם (mi-shamayim), from the heavens, and see, from Your holy and glorious זְבֻל (zevul), abode (Isaiah 63:15).

The one called Ma’on, Dwelling, is that in which there are groups of ministering angels, who utter song by night, and are silent by day for the sake of Israel’s honor, as is said: By day YHWH ordains His kindness and by night His song is with me (Psalms 42:9) [cf. BT Avodah Zarah 3b ad loc.]…. And whence do we derive that [Ma’on, Dwelling,] is called shamayim, Heavens? As is said: Look down from Your holy dwelling place, from the heavens, [and bless your people Israel…] (Deuteronomy 26:15).

The one called Makhon, Site, is that in which there are storehouses of snow and storehouses of hail [see Job 38:22], and the upper recess of harmful dew and the upper recess of rain-pellets [to strike down produce (Rashi)], the chamber of the storm and whirlwind, and the cave of vapor, and their doors are of fire, as is said: YHWH will open for you His goodly treasure (Deuteronomy 28:12). But are these to be found in the Raqi’a, Firmament? Surely, they are to be found on the earth, for it is written: Praise YHWH from the earth, sea monsters and all you deeps. Fire and hail, snow and smoke, stormwind that performs (Psalms 148:7–8). Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav: David entreated concerning them, and caused them to come down to the earth. He said before Him: Master of the Universe, Not a god desiring wickedness are You, no evil will sojourn by You (ibid. 5:5); righteous are You, O Lord, [let not] evil sojourn in Your abode. And how do we know that [Makhon, Site,] is called shamayim, Heavens? As is written: And You shall hearken in the heavens, מְכוֹן (mekhon), the firm place, of Your dwelling (1 Kings 8:39).

The one called Aravot, Clouds, in which there are righteousness, justice, charity, גִנְזֵי (ginzei), treasuries, of life, treasuries of peace, treasuries of blessings, the neshamot, souls, of the righteous, and the ruḥot, spirits, and neshamot, souls, that are to be created in the future, and the dew with which the blessed Holy One will revive the dead….

There are [also] the ofannim and the serafim, and the holy living beings, and the ministering angels, and the Throne of Glory; and the King, the Living God, lofty and holy (Isaiah 57:15), dwells over them in Aravot, Clouds, as is said: Sing to God, hymn His name. Pave the way for the Rider of Clouds, for Yah is His name (Psalms 68:5). And how do we know that [Aravot which is also means ‘plains, steppes, willows’] is called shamayim, Heavens? From ‘riding,’ which is iterated in two verses. Here it is written: Sing to… the Rider of Clouds. And elsewhere it is written: Riding through heavens as your help (Deuteronomy 33:26). And darkness and cloud and thick darkness surround Him, as is said: He set darkness His hiding-place round Him, His abode darkness of water, the clouds of the skies (Psalms 18:12). But is there any darkness before Heaven? For behold it is written: He lays bare the deep and the hidden things, knows what is in darkness, and light dwells with Him (Daniel 2:22)—this is not difficult: the one refers to inner houses [in which there is only light], the other to outer houses [hidden in darkness of cloud and dense fog, cf. Tanḥuma (Buber), Beha’alotkha 2:1; Bemidbar Rabbah 15:8].

And Rav Aḥa son of Ya’aqov said: There is still another firmament above the heads of the living beings, for it is written: And there was a likeness over the heads of the beasts—a platform like the appearance of the fearsome ice stretched over their heads above (Ezekiel 1:22). Until here, you have permission to speak; from here forward you do not have permission to speak, for so it is written in the Book of Ben Sira: What is too wondrous for you, do not expound; what is concealed from you, do not inquire. You have no business with hidden matters! [see Ben Sira 3:21–22]” (BT Ḥagigah 12b–13a).

“Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘The blessed Holy One is called שָׁמַיִם (shamayim), Heavens. And because He is called Heavens, all those firmaments included in this name number seven, and when they join as one they are called Heavens, and are called the Name of the blessed Holy One. Who are those firmaments? As we have learned: וִילוֹן (vilon), Curtain, רָקִיעַ (raqi’a), Firmament, שְׁחָקִים (sheḥaqim), Skies, זְבֻל (zevul), Loft, מָעוֹן (ma’on), Dwelling, מָכוֹן (makhon), Site, and עֲרָבוֹת (aravot), Clouds. So we have learned in the Aggadta of the House of Rav Sava.

Rabbi Yitsḥaq said, ‘These are barraitas of the House of Rav Sava, and there are many such treating all these aspects, as we have learned.’

Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘I have learned an outside barraita—that corresponding to all these seven crowns [sefirot] of the King are found seven firmaments and seven planets running back and forth. They are called by names for their names although all those thrones of firmaments and seven planets are equivalent. שַׁבְתַאִי (Shabbtai), Saturn; צֶדֶק (tsedeq), Jupiter; מַאְדִים (ma’adim), Mars; חַמָּה (ḥammah), Sun; נוֹגַה (nogah), Venus; כּוֹכָב (kokhav); Mercury, לְבָנָה (levanah), Moon. These are equivalent to those, in concealment of words, regarding those of whom is written Let them stand and save you—the astrologers, the stargazers (Isaiah 47:13). All those matters are concealed, although these are not ways of Torah.

As for us, we follow ways of Torah, as is written: He gave them names like the names his father had called them (Genesis 26:18). We follow what the blessed Holy One spoke; and we follow Him, as is written: Walk in His ways (Deuteronomy 28:9).

Rabbi Yose said, ‘Matters are simple for the Companions and well known, although concealed.’

He said to him, ‘We have learned as follows—as Rabbi Yehudah said in the name of Rabbi Ḥiyya in our presence, and as they taught from those barraitas—’In the days of King Solomon, the moon assumed fullness.’ In many places, the words of those barraitas are well known’ [cf. Zohar 1:243b; Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana 5:12; Shemot Rabbah 15:26; Berit Menuḥa, The Second Way: The Way of Love, Eight Vowel].

Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘I raise my hands in prayer to the supernal Holy One, that these matters may be revealed by me in that world as they were concealed in my heart. We do not follow the ways of those barraitas; the ways of Torah we grasp!’

It has been taught: Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘Who can you find as great in wisdom as King David and King Solomon, within this crown known in those barraitas? The moon King David called Righteousness, since it is his, as is written: Open for me the gates of righteousness (Psalms 118:19). So too, King Solomon. It is called Righteousness, and the sun—who is called My Covenant—is called Justice; and they are Thrones of Glory for the King, as is written: Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne (ibid. 89:15). Righteous One and Righteousness, similarly, are on a single rung.’

It has been taught: Seven crowns, as established, are called nine; and even in those barraitas those seven firmaments are nine.

Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘How long will the Companions read these words? Look, we follow the blessed Holy One, and we know matters; through us has been revealed what was not revealed to the ancient ones!

From here on, all these words and all these barraitas—put them aside for those who have not entered and emerged. Thereby, they will come to inquire; and when they inquire, the Companions will say, Woe to the generation from which Rabbi Shim’on has departed! But come and see: From here on, there will be no generation like this—nor Torah being revealed to the Companions’” (Zohar 3:287a–b).

“The Faithful Shepherd began by saying: It is written: ‘Though our lips were full of praise like the expansive firmament’ [Morning Service for Sabbath and Festivals]. And the firmaments are seven in number. Vilon, Curtain; Raqi’a, Firmament; Sheḥaqim, Skies, are so called because therein the millstones grind mannah for the Righteous One in the World that is Coming. And the basis for the name שְׁחָקִים (sheḥaqim), Skies, is: וְשָׁחַקְתָּ (ve-shaḥaqta), and you shall pound it, to fine powder (Exodus 30:36). And they are Netsaḥ and Hod, about which it is said: And שְׁחָקִים (sheḥaqim), skies, stream justice (Isaiah 45:8), which is the lower Shekhinah.

Curtain—for it pours in the evening, and brings out in the morning. FirmamentYesod, for in it the sun [Tif’eret] and the moon [Malkhut] give light, for they are the middle pillar and the lower Shekhinah, as is written: And אֱלֹהִים (Elohim), set them in the firmament of the heavens to light up the earth (Genesis 1:17). And the Righteous One [Yesod] is a sign (Exodus 13:16) when uniting Netsaḥ and Hod, and testimony (Psalms 60:1) when uniting Tif’eret and Malkhut.

Netsaḥ and Hod are the two halves of a body, like תְּאוֹמִים (te’omim), twins [alluding to the angels Sandalfon and Metatron, and the מַּזַּל תְּאוֹמִים (mazzal te’omim), constellation of Twins (Gemini). Cf. Exodus 31:18; Song of Songs 4:5, 5:2; BT Ḥagigah 12b], which is why they are called Sheḥaqim, Skies. The two of them together are ו ו (vav, vav) of וֶשֶׁט (veshet), esophagus, from the left side, and they are the two molar teeth from the right side [וֶשֶׁט (veshet) according to its expanded spelling contains two of the letter ו (vav)]” (Zohar 3:235b–236a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

“The King’s Daughter [Malkhut] is bound by ropes in the prison of Her exile. She is a nest to Samael among the stars and the blessed Holy One swears Though you exalt yourself as the eagle, and though you set your nest among the stars, from there will I bring you down, says YHWH (Obadiah 1:4). And Shekhinah is נוֹגַה (nogah), Venus: The fire had נוֹגַה (nogah), a radiance (Ezekiel 1:13). Hence the בֵּית כְּנֶסֶת (beit kenesset), House of Assembly, is called אֵשׁנוֹגַה (eshnogah), radiant fire [i.e., ‘synagogue,’ in a foreign tongue].

The fire of מַאְדִים (ma’adim), Mars, derives from אוֹדֶם (odem), redness: A row of אוֹדֶם (odem), ruby, topaz, and malachite, the first row (Exodus 28:17). נוֹגַה (Nogah), Venus, is a white fire, and both are the face of the sun [Tif’eret], and the face of the moon [Malkhut]. Netsaḥ and Hod receive the whiteness from Ḥesed and the אוֹדֶם (odem), redness, from Gevurah; Aaron and David came from there; one received Compassion and the other received Judgment. David came from the left side: and he was ruddy (1 Samuel 16:12). Aaron is a man of Ḥesed, and the two true prophets [Netsaḥ and Hod] are from them. The face of Moses shines with prophecy from Binah [see Zohar 3:247b], which is the supernal חַמָּה (ḥammah), Sun, whence his prophecy came.

In them are Esau the wicked, [who is the] the servant אֱדוֹם (edom), Edom, and his female מַאְדִים (ma’adim), Mars, which is שְׁפִיכוּת דָּמִים (shefikhut damim), bloodshed, in Israel. She caused it to be fulfilled in the MatronitaHe has made me desolate and faint all the day (Lamentations 1:13). הוֹד (Hod), turned דָּוָה (davah), faint [הוֹד (Hod), read backwards is דָּוָה (davah), faint], and they [שֹׁמֵמָה (shomemah), desolate, and דָּוָה (davah), faint] correspond to Netsaḥ and Hod. Jachin and Boaz on both of which the House is supported, since a house of assembly is named after them אֵשׁנוֹגַה (eshnogah), bright fire, as we said” (Zohar 3:282b, Raaya Meheimna Ki Tetse).