“The sectarians asked Rabbi Simlai: How many gods created the world? He said to them: Why ask me? Go and ask the first man himself, as is said, For, pray, ask of the first days that were before you, [from the day God created a human on the earth…] (Deuteronomy 4:32). It is not written gods created a human on the earth, but rather, God created a human on the earth. They said to him: Isn’t it written, In the beginning Elohim created (Genesis 1:1)? He said to them: It is not written, בָּרְאוּ (baru), they created, but rather, בָּרָא (bara), He created [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 8:9].
Rabbi Simlai said: Every place the sectarians [try to] unpack [a verse] the answer is right beside it [cf. BT Sanhedrin 38b]. [The sectarians] returned and asked him: What is this which is written, ‘Let us make a human’ (Genesis 1:26)? He said to them: It is not written, And gods created the human in their image. But rather it is written, And God created the human in His image (ibid., 27). His disciples said to him: Rabbi you dismissed him with a [mere] reed. How will you answer us? He said to them: At first Adam was created from dust and Eve was created from Adam’s rib. From that time on, in our image, by our likeness (ibid., 26)—it is impossible to have a man without a woman. Nor is it possible to have a woman without a man. Nor is it possible to have either without שְׁכִינָה (Shekhinah), [the Divine] Presence [between them].
[The sectarians] returned and asked him: What is this which is written, אֵל אֱלֹהִים יְהֹוָה אֵל אֱלֹהִים יְהֹוָה (El Elohim Adonai El Elohim Adonai), God of gods is YHWH. God of gods is YHWH! He knows (Joshua 22:22)? He said to them: It is not written, They know. But rather He knows is written. His disciples said to him: Rabbi you dismissed him with a [mere] reed. How will you answer us? He said to them: These are three names [of] one [and the same person], just as a man says, ‘Basilius Caesar Augustus.’
[The sectarians] returned and asked him: What is this which is written, El, the God YHWH, He spoke and called to the earth (Psalms 50:1)? He said to them, It is not written, דִּבְּרוּ וְיִקְרְאוּ (dibru ve-yiqru), they spoke and called to, but rather it is written, דִּבֶּר וַיִּקְרָא (dibber va-yiqra), He spoke and called to. His disciples said to him: Rabbi you dismissed him with a [mere] reed. How will you answer us? He said to them: These are three names [of] one [and the same person], just as a man says, ‘Artisan, builder, architect.’
[The sectarians] returned and asked him: What is this which is written, [And Joshua said to the people, ‘You will not be able to serve YHWH,] for אֱלֹהִים קְדֹשִׁים הוּא (Elohim qedoshim hu), He is a holy God. [He is a jealous God, He will not put up with your crimes and your offenses’] (Joshua 24:19)? He said to them: It is not written, הֵמָּה (hemma), They, are holy. But rather it is written הוּא (hu), He, is a jealous God. His disciples said to him: Rabbi you dismissed him with a [mere] reed. How will you answer us? He said to them: Rabbi Yitsḥaq said, ‘He is holy in every kind of holiness.’ For as Rav Yudan said in the name of Rabbi Aḥa: The blessed Holy One, His ways are holy, His speech is holy, His throne is holy, the barring of His arms is holy [see Isaiah 52:10]—fearsome and mighty in holiness….
[The sectarians] returned and asked him: What is this which is written, For what great nation is there that has gods close to it [like YHWH our God whenever we call to Him?] (Deuteronomy 4:7)? He said to them: It is not written, Whenever we call to them. But rather it is written, Whenever we call to Him. His disciples said to him: Rabbi you dismissed him with a [mere] reed. How will you answer us? He said to them: He is close to us in every kind of closeness” (JT Berakhot 9, 13a).
“‘You shall be holy, [for I YHVH your God am holy] (Leviticus 19:2)—see what is written, For אֱלֹהִים קְדֹשִׁים הוּא (Elohim qedoshim Hu), He is a holy God (Joshua 24:19). What is here? This verse is an opening to sectarians since it appears to them like two Authorities [or: two Powers]. The sectarians asked Rabbi Simlai: What is: For Elohim qedoshim Hu, He is a holy God? Do you not say that He is one Authority? [They said to him:] Look, they are two Authorities in this verse. He said to them: [Are there greater] fools in the world?! If it said, קְדֹשִׁים הֵם (qedoshim hem), they are holy, you’d have spoken [well]. But it is written, הוּא (Hu), He. And of that which is said, Elohim qedoshim, Rabbi Berekhiah said: What is Elohim qedoshim [written in the plural]? That He is holy in every kind of holiness. That all of His deeds are [done] in holiness. His words—in holiness, as is said, Elohim once spoke in His holiness (Psalms 60:8); His way—in holiness, as is said, Elohim, Your way is in holiness (ibid. 77:14); His procession—in holiness, as is said, [They saw Your processions, O Elohim,] my God’s processions, my King in holiness (ibid. 68:25). His baring—in holiness, as is said, YHVH had bared His holy arm (Isaiah 52:10); His appearance—in holiness, as is said, So, in the sanctum I beheld You, [seeing Your strength and Your glory] (Psalms 63:3); His praise—in holiness, as is said, Who is like You, mighty in holiness? (Exodus 15:11). Look, For He is a holy God—holy in every kind of holiness” (Tanḥuma, Qedoshim 4).
“[Fear YHVH, my son, and the king,] and don’t mix in with שׁוֹנִים (shonim), dissidents (Proverbs 24:21)—with שֶׁאוֹמְרִים (she’omrim), those who say, there is a second god don’t mix in. Rabbi Yehudah son of Simon said, And it shall happen throughout the land, said YHVH, פִּי שְׁנַיִם (pi shenaim), two-thirds, within it shall be cut off, perish (Zechariah 13:8)—הַפִּיּוֹת שֶׁאוֹמְרִים (ha-piyyot she-omrim), those who say, [there are] two Authorities shall be cut off, perish. And who will be left standing? And a third shall be left within it (ibid.)—Israel, who are called three, for they are in three: Priests, Levites, and Israelites who are from the three Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Another interpretation: For they praise the blessed Holy One with three sanctifications, Holy, holy, holy (Isaiah 6:3). Rav Aḥa said: the blessed Holy One was angry over Solomon saying this verse. He said to him: Anything about the sanctification of the Name you should have said in the language of acrostic and don’t mix in with dissidents. Immediately he turned back and expounded the matter: There is one without a second, neither son nor brother he has (Ecclesiastes 4:8)—He has no brother, He has no son, but rather, Hear, Israel, YHVH our God, YHVH is one (Deuteronomy 6:4)” (Devarim Rabbah 2:33).
“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 (Elohim) said, ‘Let us make a human’ (Genesis 1:26). The secret of יְהוָה (YHVH) is 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 §5; Guide 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–b; Zohar 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 (beri’ah), 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] Beri’ah?! 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 image—light. By our likeness—darkness 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 life—I 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 (KWZW, BMWKSZ, KWZW) [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 likeness—the 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).