The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: Quiver

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

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

“I am the one who planted this tree for all the world to delight in. With him I spanned the All, calling him All, for all תָּלוּי (talui), hang, on him, all issues from him, all need him, all lookout for him and await him. From there souls blossom in joy. Alone I was when I made him. When I spread out My earth, in which I planted and rooted this tree—giving them joy in one another, rejoicing along with them—who was with Me (Isaiah 44:24)? To whom could I reveal this secret of Mine?” (Bahir §22, cf. Ibn Ezra on Genesis 1:26).

“This Tree has its roots in the Lebanon, which is the Throne of Glory, blessed be He, and the Lebanon corresponds to the supernal Lebanon, and its roots are seventy-two roots” (Seder Gan Eden).

“What is [that which we recite in the Qedushah:] Holy, holy, holy, and then, YHWH of Armies. The fullness of all the earth is His glory (Isaiah 6:3)? Holy—supernal Crown [Keter]; holy—root of the Tree [Ḥokhmah]; holyclinging, yet separate from them all [Binah or Malkhut]. YHWH of Armies. The fullness of all the earth is His glory.

What is: ‘holy—clinging, yet separate’? A parable: A king had sons whose sons had sons. When the sons do his will, he enters their midst, making all endure, satisfying all, causing goodness to flow upon them, so that both fathers and sons are sated. When the children do not do his will, he only gives the fathers as much as they need [and no more. Cf. Bahir §113. On Binah, or Malkhut, as separate from the sefirot, see Bahir §§104–105, 124, 175. Cf. Zohar 3:288a (IZ). On the ‘world of separation,’ see Zohar 3:159b. On son clinging to father, see Zohar 2:147a]” (Bahir §§128–129).

“They asked [Rabbi Berekhiah], ‘What is the letter צ (tsadi)?’ He said: יוֹ״ד (yod) נוּן (nun); tsadi—coupling of yod nun [alluding to יִנּוֹן (yinnon), bear seed (Psalms 72:17), see Bahir §86]. As is written, צַדִּיק (Tsaddiq), the Righteous One, is a יְסוֹד עוֹלָם (yesod olam), lasting foundation (Proverbs 10:25)” (Bahir §61).

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

What is ש (shin)? It is root of the Tree—[say, rather] ש (shin) looks like the root of the Tree.

And what is [this] Tree you speak of? He said to him: The powers of the blessed Holy One—this one on the back of that one [cf. Sefer Yetsirah §48b: ‘One atop three, and three atop seven, and seven atop twelve. And they all hold fast to each other’]. Just as a tree produces fruit by means of water, so too the blessed Holy One multiplies the powers of the Tree by means of water. And what is water of the blessed Holy One? חָכמָה (Ḥokhmah), Wisdomנִשְׁמַת הַצַּדִּיקִים (nishmat ha-tsaddiqim), soul of the righteous, פּוֹרְחִין (porḥin), gushing, from the spring to the great channel, ascending and cleaving with the Tree. What causes them to פּוֹרֵחַ (poreaḥ), bloom? When Israel are righteous and good Shekhinah abides among them [cf. M Avot 3:6], saturating their deeds, in the blessed Holy One’s lap, and [He] makes them fruitful and multiplies [them]” (Bahir §§118–119).

The blessed Holy One possesses a single Tree and in him are ‘twelve diagonal borders: a north-eastern border, a south-eastern border—an upper eastern border, a lower eastern border; a north-western border, a south-western border—an upper western border, a lower western border; an upper northern border, a lower northern border; an upper southern border, a lower southern border; deepening and expanding until evermore, זְרֹעֹת (zero’ot), arms, of the world (Deuteronomy 33:27)’ (Sefer Yetsirah §47)—within them is the Tree. 

To all of these diagonals there are corresponding overseers (Genesis 41:34), twelve of them, and within the Wheel [are] twelve overseers too—[reckoning] thirty-six overseers with the diagonals, [since] for each one there is [another] one, as is written, For he who is high has a higher one watching him (Ecclesiastes 5:7). It is found that to the east wind are nine, to the west wind are nine, to the south wind are nine, and to the north wind are nine. And these are twelve, twelve, and twelve—thirty-six ‘overseers in Teli, Wheel, and Heart’ (Sefer Yetsirah §59a). Now all of them [reckon] thirty-six of thirty-six since the power of one is [also] in its companion. Even though there are twelve in each of the three, ‘they all hold fast to each other’ (Sefer Yetsirah §§48b, 55). All thirty-six powers are in the first one, which is the Teli. And if you seek them in the Wheel, you find the very same ones. And if you seek them in the Heart, you find the very same ones. That is why to each one are twelve, [yet] they are found to be thirty-six since there are three, and ‘חוֹזְרוֹת חֲלִילָה (ḥozrot ḥalilah), they rotate’ (Sefer Yetsirah §19b) [cf. BT Bava Batra 25a]. And the power of each one is found in its companion, so that every one [is] thirty-six, yet all of them together are not more than thirty-six צוּרוֹת (tsurot), forms, and they are all completed by [the] לֵ״ב (lev), Heart. Thirty-two are added to thirty-two, and there are four left [of the aforementioned thirty-six], and they [reckon] sixty-four forms [cf. Targum Yonatan to Ezekiel 1:6]. 

And how is it known to us that ‘thirty-two are added to thirty-two’? As is written, For he who is high has a higher one watching him. If so there are [only] sixty-four. Yet eight are lacking from the seventy-two names of the blessed Holy One, and this is [alluded to by], And still higher ones over them (Ecclesiastes ibid.)—the seven days of the week. But one is [still] lacking, and that is [alluded to by] And the gain of the earth is בַּכֹּל (ba-kol), in all—a king [opposite a field] (ibid., 8). 

What is יִתְרוֹן (yitron), the gain? The Place from which the earth was hewn [cf. Tanḥuma, Pequdei 3; Shemot Rabbah 15:22], and He yitron, surpasses, what was [cf. Ecclesiastes 2:13: And I saw that wisdom yitron, surpasses, folly as light surpasses darkness]. And what are they yitron, profited? Every thing in the world: when inhabitants of the world are able to take from its splendor then it is a yitron, gain [cf. Qohelet Rabbah on 5:8]” (Bahir §95).

“There are three princes: Teli, Wheel, and Heart. Each one is twelve, and the three therefore [reckon] thirty-six, by which the world is sustained [see BT Sanhedrin 97bSukkah 45b], as is written: The Righteous One is the foundation of the world (Proverbs 10:25)” (Bahir §101).

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

“Rav Raḥmai said: The righteous and devout in Israel who lift Me up over the whole world through their merits, from them the Heart is sustained, and the Heart sustains them [cf. JT Terumot 8:4, 46b]” (Bahir §97, cf. ibid., §185).

“Why is it called קָרְבָּן (qarbban), sacrifice? Because it מְקָרֵב (meqarev), draws near, the holy powers, as is written, וְקָרַב (ve-qarav), and join, them one to another, into one Tree; and they shall become one in your hand (Ezekiel 37:17)” (Bahir §109).

This is the Explicit Name that was written on Aaron’s forehead. The Explicit Name containing seventy-two letters and the Explicit Name containing twelve letters were handed over by the blessed Holy One to the [angel] מסמריה (MSMRYH) who stands before the Curtain. He gave them to Elijah on Mount Carmel, and with them he ascended and did not taste the taste of death. These are the explicit, the precious, and the magnificent names [cf. BT Qiddushin 72b]. There are twelve names, one for each of the Twelve Tribes of Israel:

אַהְצִי צְיַהְרוֹן אַבְרוֹחְיַהְרוֹן וּשבוּבַ נְומַקְרוֹן דַמוֹרַטְרוֹן צְפצַפְשִיתְרוֹן יֶהוֹֹדְמֵירוֹן וּחַייַהְרוֹן בְרַקיַהְאוֹן עַרשְיַהְ גְאוֹן כֵסֵאיַהְ מְנַגמהְוֹן הוּהוּ יַהְ הֶיוֹ יַה אַהְ אַהְוהְ דְמַהְדִירוֹן

All of them are encompassed by the Heart of the heavens, and are divided into four names, male and female, overseen by Teli, Wheel, and Heart—they are מַעְיָנוֹת הַחָכְמָה (ma’ayanot ha-ḥokhmah), the Wellsprings of Wisdom” (Bahir §112).

Threads of the Mind: Any Time that You Make Your Way Through them Peace will be Upon You

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Yah YHWH of Armies, God of Israel, Living God, El Shaddai. Lofty and high One, who dwells forever and holy His Name (Isaiah 57:15) engraved thirty-two wondrous paths with wisdom. He created His world with three סֶפָרִים (sefarim), ciphers: בְסֶפֶר וּסְפָר וְסִפֻּר (ve-sefer u-sefar we-sipur), with a scroll, and a count, and a recounting” (Sefer Yetsirah §1).

“What are these thirty-two [wondrous paths of wisdom]?… A parable: To what can the matter be compared? A king ‘[residing] within the innermost chambers’ (BT Berakhot 10a), thirty-two in all. Now, each of the chambers has a path. Is it fitting for this king that everyone enter his chambers by way of his paths? You would say: No. Is it fitting for him not to display his pearls, his hidden treasures, his precious objects, and his filigree? You would say: No. What then does he do? He must touch the daughter, and include all the paths in her and in her garments. Whoever wishes to enter, let him look here” (Bahir §63).

“What is the reason that we [tie] blue wool in the tsitsit? And what is the reason there are thirty-two threads? A parable: To what can the matter be compared? A king had a lovely garden with thirty-two paths. He placed a guard over them and made those paths known to him alone, saying to him, ‘Guard them and go on them each day, and any time that you make your way through them peace [will be upon] you.What did the guard do? He said, ‘If I am alone on these paths is it possible for one guard to maintain [all of] these paths? And what’s more, the world will say, “כִּי לוֹ (Ki lo), since [these paths are] his, he [must be] king of this [garden], and he guards this [garden] [alt., And what’s more, the world will say this king is כִּילַי (kilai), a churl, and he guards this (garden)].”’ Therefore, this guard put other guards over the paths—thirty-two paths.

And what is the reason for the blue? The guard said, ‘Perhaps these [other] guards will say the garden belongs to me.’ He gave them a sign and said to them, ‘See, this is the king’s sign, that this garden belongs to him. And these are the paths he maintains, they are not mine [see Heikhalot Rabbati §§244–45]. And, look: His seal.’ A parable: To what can the matter be compared? A king and his daughter had servants. They sought to go to a faraway land [but] they were terrified by the king’s dread (Proverbs 20:2). The king gave them his sign [of goodwill]. They were terrified of the daughter and she gave them a sign. She said, ‘From now on, with these two signs YHWH guards you from all harm, He guards your life (Psalms 121:7)’” (Bahir §§92–93).

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

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

“חוּטֵי הַשֵּׂכֶל (Ḥutei ha-sekhel), threads of the mind [i.e., tsitsit], spread from the blessed Holy One, each one emanating to watch over Israel” (Berit Menuḥa: Sixth Way, Way of the Intellect, cf. BT Menaḥot 43b).

“And what [purpose does] ן (nun) [in אֹזֶן (ozen), ear, serve]? To teach you that the brain is the root of the חוּט הַשִׁדרָה (ḥut ha-shidrah), spinal cord, and from there it drinks תָּמִיד (tamid), perpetually (Exodus 27:20; Leviticus 24:2). If not for the spinal cord, the brain would not exist, for the entire trunk is for the sake of the brain, and if the entire trunk were not to exist, the brain would not exist. The spinal cord is the channel from the brain to the entire body, and this is the bent נ (nun). But this ן (nun) [in אֹזֶן (ozen), ear] is long. The long nun always comes at the end of a word to teach you that the long nun comprises the bent and the long, but the bent is the foundation. This teaches you that the long nun comprises male and female” (Bahir §83).

“[Of the ten sefirot] seventh is east of the world, whence comes the seed of Israel. For the spinal cord draws from the brain of man and reaches to the ‘middle finger’ whence comes seed [i.e., the phallus], as is written, From מִזְרָח (mizraḥ), the east, I will bring זַרְעֶךָ (zarekha)your seed (Isaiah 43:5) [cf. Bahir §73, §155, §159; BT Bava Batra 25a: ‘Rabbi Abbahu said, Shekhinah (receives) in the west’]. When Israel is good before the Omnipresent: I will bring your seed and you will have new seed. But when Israel is bad, the seed is from that which has already come into the world, as is written: A generation goes and a generation comes (Ecclesiastes 1:4)—teaching it has already come” (Bahir §155).

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

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

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

ספר יצירה (Sefer Yetsirah), The Scroll of Formation, with Introduction

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These are the five scrolls and five chapters and five orders that Son of Sira revealed to Uziel his son and Yosef his grandson: Sefer Yetsirah, Sefer Tagi[n], Sefer Dikdukin, Sefer Pesiqta Batrei Apei Mishkan, Sefer Zerubbavel. Five chapters: Pereq Rabbi Shim’on bar Yoḥai, Pereq Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Pereq Otiyyot de-Rabbi Akiva, Pereq Ma’aseh Mishkan, Pereq Derekh Erets. Five orders: Seder Olam, Seder Tequfot, Seder Shaot, Seder Ibbur, Seder Halakhot [alt., Seder Heikhalot]. And when he had revealed all the mysteries the entire army on high shuddered. Now, the Holy Spirit issued, saying: Who revealed My secrets to the sons of man? Son of עצש״ט (‘ATsShT) stood up and said: I, Buzi son of Buzi [cf. Ezekiel 1:3]. The blessed Holy One said to him: [If you find honey, eat] just what you need, [lest you have your fill of it and throw it up] (Proverbs 25:16). Immediately Yosef sat down and wrote from ‘ATsShT those fifteen matters. He wrote five scrolls with a stylus—Sefer Yetsirah with which the blessed Holy One fashioned His world.

Who will utter YHWH’s mighty acts, will make heard all His praise? (Psalms 106:2)—none can utter His mighty acts or make heard all His praise. Even the ministering angels cannot recount מִקְצָת (miqtsat), some of [or: the best of those], mighty acts or expound on what צִפָּה (tsipah), He envisioned, created and actualized. For at the beginning when the blessed Holy One created the world, He was alone [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 1:4 on Isaiah 44:24]. It arose in His thought to create the world and He etched its foundations on the earth [cf. Isaiah 44:13; Proverbs 8:27], but they did not endure until He created with Torah Sefer Yetsirah—He gazed into it and understood in His wisdom. Thus He fashioned the world: His eyes gazing into Sefer Yetsirah, and His hands roaming and building the world [cf. 2 Chronicles 16:9].

To divide [between the holy and the profane]: Like a man who builds buildings and possesses a scroll and he looks at it, thus the blessed Holy One did. As soon as He fashioned His world and finished it, He placed it in Torah—treasured away at the start, preceding 974 generations before the creation of the world [cf. Proverbs 8:23; BT Ḥagigah 13b]. Now, when Abraham our father was born the ministering angels said before the blessed Holy One: Master of the World: There is one friend to You in this world yet from him something is concealed? Immediately the blessed Holy One said: Shall I conceal from Abraham [what I am about to do?] (Genesis 18:17). He sought the permission of Torah, saying: Come וּנַשִּׂיאךְ (u-nassik), and we shall marry you off, to Abraham My friend (Isaiah 41:8). She said before Him: Not until a humble man [Moses] will come and יִשָּׂא (yissa), lift up, [this] humble one. Immediately the blessed Holy One sought the permission of Sefer Yetsirah, and she said: Yes. He handed her on to Abraham.

Now, he sat alone and studied Sefer Yetsirah but he was unable to understand a thing until a heavenly echo issued saying to him: You seek to make yourself equal to Me? I am One and I created Sefer Yetsirah. I delved into it and I performed all that is written in it and you will not be able to understand a single [thing]. Draw a companion near to yourself and you will look into it and understand [cf. Ḥagigah 2:1]. Immediately Abraham went to Shem, his master, and sat with him three years and they looked into it and they knew how to fashion the world. And to this day, there is none who will understand it alone—only two sages [can], even they will not understand it in less than three years. Yet when they [do] understand it, they are able to perform anything their hearts desire. And when Abraham understood it, he added more wisdom to it and learned the entire Torah.

Rava, too, wanted to understand it alone. Rabbi Zera said: But it is written: A sword against הַבַּדִּים (ha-baddim), the soothsayers, exposed as fools (Jeremiah 50:36)—a sword against Israel’s enemies who sit בַּד בְּבַד (bad be-vad), apart, occupied with Torah [see BT Berakhot 63b ad loc.: ‘The Torah is only acquired in company’; cf. Ta’anit 7a; Makkot 10a]. If so, let us go and occupy ourselves with Sefer Yetsirah. And so they sat together and occupied themselves with it for three years and understood it. Once a calf was created for them and they slaughtered it and enjoyed it for the completion of the tractate [see BT Sanhedrin 65b]. But when they slaughtered it, they forgot it. They sat another three years and produced it again.

Son of Sira, too, wanted to understand it alone. A heavenly echo issued saying: Two are better than one, [for they get good reward for their toil] (Ecclesiastes 4:9). He went [and sat] next to Jeremiah and they occupied themselves with it for three years and understood it and an individual was created before them [בֶּן סִירַא (Ben Sira), Son of Sira, is numerically equivalent to יִרְמְיָהוּ (Yirmeyahu), Jeremiah, and אַבּוּ אַהֲרוֹן (Abu Aharon), i.e., Aharon ben Shemu’el ha-Nasi]. Written on his forehead was: וַיהוָה אֱלֹהִים אֱמֵת (va-Adonai Elohim Emet), but YHWH is the God of truth (Jeremiah 10:10). Now, in his hand was a knife and he was erasing א (alef) from אֱמֵת (emet), truth [leaving, מֵת (met), dead]. [Jeremiah rent his clothes (JTS MS 1887, fol. 129b)] he said: Why are you doing that? For it can’t possibly be true! He said to them: I will fashion a parable for you: What is this like? A man who is a builder and a sage. And when the sons of man saw him they made him king over them. Days later, others came and they learned the craft. They abandoned the first [king] and went after the others. Likewise, the blessed Holy One, exalted will be His name, gazes into Sefer Yetsirah and fashions the world, reigning over all His creations. And when you have come and done like Him, what will be the end of the matter? All will leave Him and go after you. What will become of He who fashioned you? They said to him: If so what will we do [now]? He said to them: Turn him back. And they made that man dust and ashes.

[§1] Yah YHWH of Armies, God of Israel, Living God, El Shaddai. Lofty and high One, who dwells forever and holy His Name (Isaiah 57:15) engraved thirty-two wondrous paths with wisdom [cf. Targum Yerushalmi on Genesis 1:1; TanḥumaBereshit 1; Zohar 1:15a; 3:82b, 257a (last two RM). Alt., “In thirty-two paths, wonders of wisdom, He engraved Yah YHWH of Armies…,” see Rabbi Asher ben David, Sefer ha-Yiḥud]. He created His world with three סֶפָרִים (sefarim), ciphers: ספר ספר ספר.

[§2] Ten סְפִירוֹת בְּלִימָה (sefiroth belimah), ciphers of emptiness [cf. Job 26:7: He hangs earth over בְּלִי מָה (beli-mah), emptiness; Avot 5:1], and twenty-two elemental letters—three mothers, seven doubles, and twelve simple ones.

[§3] Ten sefiroth belimah—like the number of the ten fingers, five opposite five and בְּרִית (berith), the covenant, of the singular One precisely in the middle in מִלַּת (millath), the word, of the tongue and millath, the circumcision, of the skin.

[§4] Ten sefiroth belimah—ten and not nine, ten and not eleven. Understand in wisdom, be wise in understanding. Probe them, from them explore. Establish a matter on its sound basis, and restore [יוֹצֵר [בְּרֵאשִׁית (yotser [bereshith]), the Fashioner [of the Beginning], to מְכוֹנוֹ (mekhon), His abode [cf. 1 Kings 8:43: You will hearken in the heavens, מְכוֹן שִׁבְתֶּךָ (mekhon shivtekha), the firm place of Your dwelling; Psalms 89:15: Justice and law are mekhon, the base, of Your throne].

[§5] Ten sefiroth בְּלִימָה (belimah)—בְּלֹם (belom), bridle, your mouth from speaking, bridle your heart from לְהַרְהֵר (le-harher), conceiving [cf. Psalms 32:9: Be not like a horse, like a mule, without sense, the bit and the reins his adornment—לִבְלוֹם (livlom), to keep, him from drawing near you; Daniel 4:2: I saw a dream and it frightened me, and הַרְהֹרִין (harhorin), thoughts, upon my couch and visions in my head panicked me]. And if your heart races return to the Place, as is written, Racing back and forth (Ezekiel 1:14)—concerning this a pact was sealed [cf. Rabbi Moshe de León, Sheqel ha-Qodesh 113].

[§6] Ten sefiroth belimah—their end is embedded in their beginning like a flame bound to a burning coal [cf. Isaiah 46:10; Ezekiel 1:13]. For the Lord is singular, He has none second to Him [cf. Ecclesiastes 4:8: There is one without a second, neither son nor brother he has]. Before one, what do you count?

[§7] Ten sefiroth belimah—their measure is ten yet they have no limit: depth of first and depth of last; depth of good and depth of evil; depth of over and depth of under; depth of east and depth of west; depth of north and depth of south. And a singular Lord—”אֵל מֶלֶךְ נֶאֱמָן (el melek ne’eman), God, steadfast King” (BT Shabbat 119b)—reigning over them all from His holy dwelling for ever and ever.

[§8] Ten sefiroth belimah—a vision of them is like the sight of lightening [or: sparks] (Ezekiel 1:14). וְתַכְלִיתָם אֵין לָהֶן קֵץ (We-thakhlitham ein la-hen qets), and their limit? They have no end [cf. Psalms 119:96: For each תִּכְלָה (tikhlah), finite thing, I saw קֵץ (qets), an end—but מִצְוָתְךָ (mitswathekha), Your command, is exceedingly broad]. And דְּבָרוֹ (devaro), His word, is in them racing back and forth (ibid.), and they pursue מַאֲמָרוֹ (ma’amaro), His command, like the storm [cf. BT Ḥagigah 12b], and before His Throne they bow down [cf. BT Bava Batra 25a; Avot de-Rabbi Natan A, 37].

[§9] Twenty-two elemental letters—three mothers, seven doubles, and twelve simple ones.

[§10] Ten sefiroth, that is to say: One—רוּחַ אֱלֹהִים חַיִּים (rhuaḥ Elohim ḥayyim), Breath of the Living God [cf. Genesis 1:2: … God’s breath hovering over the waters]. בָּרוּךְ וּמְבֹרָךְ (Barukh u-mevorakh), blessed and blessed, is the name of חֵי הַעוֹלָמִים (ḥei ha-olamim), the Vitality of Worlds. Voice, breath, word—רוּחַ הַקֹּדֶשׁ (rhuaḥ ha-qodesh), the Holy Breath [or: Spirit; cf. Zohar 1:246a].

[§12] Two—רוּחַ מֵרוּחַ (rhuaḥ me-rhuaḥ), wind from Breath: He engraved and hewed with it twenty-two elemental letters—three mothers, and seven doubles, and twelve simple ones, and breath is one of them [cf. Rabbi Shabbetai Donnolo, Sefer Hakhmoni].

[§13] Three—water from wind: He engraved and hewed with them תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ (thohu wa-vohu), welter and waste (Genesis 1:1), mud and clay (Isaiah 57:20). He engraved them like a sort of garden-bed. He stood them up like a sort of wall, and He thatched them like a sort of roof.

[§14] Four—fire from water: He engraved them and hewed with [fire] the Throne of Glory, וְאוֹפַנִּים וּשְׂרָפִים (ve-ofannim u-serafim), and whirlers and burners, holy living beings and ministering angels. And from the three of them He founded His dwelling, as is said: He makes His messengers the winds, His ministers, glowing fire (Psalms 104:4) [see Shemot Rabbah 15:22 ad loc.].

[§15] Five—He sealed above. He chose three simple [letters] and embedded them in His great Name. And He sealed with them six קְצָווֹת (qetsawoth), ends, and He turned upwards and sealed it [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 10:3 in the name of Rabbi Ḥama]. Six—He sealed below, and He turned downwards [in front] and sealed it. Seven—He sealed the east, and He turned downwards [in front] and sealed it. Eight—He sealed the west, and He turned behind and sealed it. Nine—He sealed the south, and He turned to His right and sealed it. Ten—He sealed the north, and He turned to His left and sealed it.

[§16] Ten sefiroth belimahרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים חַיִּים (rhuaḥ Elohim ḥayyim), Breath of the Living God; and rhuaḥwind, water, fire; up, down, east, west, north and south.

[§17a] Twenty-two letters—they are engraved by voice, hewn by breath, embedded in the mouth in five places: אח הע בו מף גי כק דט לנת זס שרץ (alef ḥeth he ‘ayin, beth waw mem peh, gimel yod khaf qof, daleth teth lamed nun taw, zayin samekh shin resh tsadhi) [קְדוּשָׁה (qedhushah), Holiness].

[§18] Twenty-two letters—their foundation is embedded <in the תְּלִי (Teli)> in the wheel with 231 gates [cf. Zohar 1:33b]. He rotates the wheel, turning it forward and backward [cf. BT Shabbat 151b; Zohar 1:110a on Job 37:12]. And this is the sign: if for good, upward—from עֹנֶג (‘oneg), pleasure; if for evil, downward—from נֶגַע (nega’), plague.

[§19a] Twenty-two letters—He engraved them, hewed them, weighed them, permuted them, and transposed them, fashioning with them the נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh), life-breath, of all that is fashioned, and the nefesh of all that is destined to be fashioned [cf. M Sanhedrin 4:5; Tanḥuma–Yelammedenu].

[§19b] How did He weigh and permute them? א (Alef) with them all, and all of them with alef; ב (beth) with them all, and all of them with beth. And they rotate in turn. Found through 231 gates, from which all was created—all speech and everything fashioned is found emerging from one name.

[§20 (MS S)] Out of תֹהוּ (thohu), nothing, He fashioned מַמָּשׁ (mammash), something, making what is not [into] what is. He hewed great big pillars out of אֲוִיר (awir), air, that cannot be grasped [cf. BT Ḥagigah 12b; Bereshit Rabbah 1:5]. And this is their mnemonic: קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ (qadosh, qadosh, qadosh), holy, holy, holy (Isaiah 6:3) [—numerically equivalent to 1230 and in its reduced value to six, which in turn is the reduced numerical value of the 231 gates].

[§21 (according to Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, Pardes Rimonim, 30:5)] 

אל בת גש דר הק וץ זף חע טס ין כם 

אב גת דש הר וק זץ חף חע יס כן לם 

אג דת הש ור זק חץ טף יע כס לן בם 

אד בג הת וש זר חק טץ יף כע לס מן 

אה בר ות זש חר טק ין כף לע מס גן 

או בה גד זת חש טג יק כץ לף מע נס 

אז בו גה חת טש יד כק לץ חף נע דס 

אח בז גו דה טת יש כר לק מץ נף סע 

אט בח גז דו ית כש לר מק נץ סף הע 

אי בט גח דז הו כת לש מר נק סץ עף 

אב בי גט דח הז לת מש נר סק עץ יף 

אל בך גי דט הח וז מת נש סר עק פץ 

אמ בל גס די הט זה צת סש ער פק זן 

אג בם גך דק הי וט זח סת עש פר צק 

אס בג גמ דל הס וי זט עת פש צר חק 

אע בס גנ דמ הל וכ זי חט פת צש קר 

אף בע גס דנ המ ול זכ חי צת קש טר 

אץ בף גע דס הג ומ זל חס טי קת רש 

אק בץ גף דע הס וג זם חל טב רת יש 

אר בק גץ דף הע וס זג חמ טל יב שת 

אש בר גק דן הף וע זס חג טמ יל כת 

את בש גר דק הץ וף זע חס טן ימ כל

[§22] He gazes and exchanges—making all that is fashioned and all speech one name. And a mnemonic for the matter: twenty-two חֲפָצִים (ḥafatsim), precious things, and one body [cf. Proverbs 8:11: For wisdom is better than rubies, all ḥafatsim, precious things, can’t match her worth].

[§23] Three mothers: א מ ש (alef, mem, shin)—their foundation is כַּף זְכוּת (kaf zekhuth), a scale [lit., palm] of merit, and כַּף חוֹבָה (kaf ḥovah), a scale of debt, and לְשׁוֹן חֹק (leshon ḥoq), a language [lit., tongue] of fixed law, holds the balance between them [cf. BT Qiddushin 40b; Midrash Tehillim 30:4].

[§24] Three mothers: alef, mem, shin—a great mystery, hidden and wondrous, sealed with six signets. And from it issues fire, water, and wind, and they divide into male and female [cf. Shemot Rabbah 15:22].

[§25] Three [fathers]—fire, water, and wind; fire above, water below, and wind between them. And this is a sign for the matter: fire lifts water [causing it to evaporate, cf. Isaiah 64:1: as fire makes water seethe].

[§26] Three mothers: alef, mem, shin—מֵם דּוֹמֶמֶת (mem domemeth), mem is mute; שִׁין שׁוֹרֶקֶת (shin shoreqeth), shin hisses [or: whistles; hushes, with שִׁנַּיִם (shinnaim), teeth]; and אָלֶף (alef), a fixed law, holds the balance between them.

[§27] Three mothers: alef, mem, shin—from them were born three fathers. From them all was created [cf. Zohar 2:23b–24a].

[§28] Three mothers: alef, mem, shin—in the world; [three fathers]—wind, water, fire. Heavens were created first from fire, and earth was created from water [cf. Tanḥuma (Buber), Bereshit 19], and אֲוִיר (awir), air [alt.,אוֹר (or), light,] was created from wind, holding the balance between them.

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

[§30] Three mothers: alef, mem, shin—in a nefesh, person. The head was created from fire, the belly from water, and the chest from rhuaḥ, breath [or: wind], holding the balance between them.

[§31] Three mothers: alef, mem, shin—He engraved them, hewed them, transposed them, fashioning with them the three mothers in the world, and the three mothers in the year, and the three mothers in a person—male and female.

[§32] He made alef king over wind, and bound to it a crown [cf. BT Menaḥot 29b], and transposed them, this with that, sealing with them אֲוִיר (awir), atmosphere, in the world, humidity in the year, and the chest in a person—male with alef, mem, shin, and female with shin, memalef.

[§33] He made מ (mem) king over מַיִם (mayim), water, and bound to it a crown, and sealed with it earth in the world, cold in the year, and the fruit of the belly in a person; male with mem, shinalef, and female with memalef, shin.

[§34] He made ש (shin) king over אֵשׁ (esh), fire, and bound to it a crown, and transposed them, this with that, sealing with it heavens in the world, heat in the year, and the head in a person, male with shin, memalef, and female with shinalef, mem.

[§35 (MS A)] How did He transpose them? אמש אשם מאש משא שמא שאם (Alef mem shin, alef shin mem, mem alef shin, mem shin alef, shin mem alef, shin alef mem)—heavens, fire; air, breath [or: wind]; earth, water. Man’s head: fire; his belly: water; his heart: breath.

[§36 (MS A)] Three mothers: alef, mem, shin. There was fashioned with alef: breath, air, humidity, chest, a fixed law, and a tongue. There was fashioned with mem: earth, cold, belly, and the scale of merit. There was fashioned with shin: heavens, heat, head, and the scale of debt. This is alef, mem, shin. The end.

[§37] Seven doubles: בגד כפרת (beth, gimel, daleth, kaf, peh, resh, taw)—they are pronounced with the tongue in two places. Their foundation is life and peace, wisdom and wealth, seed, favor, and mastery. They are pronounced with the tongue in two places: ב (beth, veth), ג (gimel, ghimel), ד (daleth, dhaleth), כ (kaf, khaf), פ (peh, feh), ר (resh, rhesh), ת (taw, thaw)—דָּגֵּשׁ (dagesh) and רְפֵי (rhefei), soft and hard, a paradigm of strong and weak. They are doubles because they are opposites. The opposite of life is death; the opposite of peace is war [lit., evil]; the opposite of wisdom is folly; the opposite of wealth is poverty; the opposite of seed is ruin; the opposite of favor is spurn; and the opposite of mastery is slavery.

[§38] Seven doubles: beth, gimel, daleth, kaf, peh, resh, taw—corresponding to seven קְצָווֹת (qetsawoth), ends [or: reaches, extremities, see Bahir §82]: a place of ends and a holy place; one—a place set within a place; two—the upper reaches; three—the lower reaches; four—the eastern reaches; five—the western reaches; six—the northern reaches; seven—the everlasting reaches, and the holy הֵיכָל (heikhal), Palace [or: Chamber, Hall, Temple], stands firm in the middle and it bears them all [cf. Bahir §154].

[§39] Seven doubles: beth, gimel, daleth, kaf, peh, resh, taw—He engraved and hewed them. He transposed them, fashioning with them the planets in the world, the days in the year, and the gates in a person by sevens.

[§40] How did He transpose them? Two stones build two houses; three build six houses; four build twenty-four houses; five build one hundred and twenty houses; six build seven hundred and twenty houses; seven build five thousand and forty [i.e., factorials]. From here on go out and tally what the mouth is unable to speak, and what the ear is unable to hear [cf. Isaiah 64:3: They never had seen, they never gave ear, no eye has seen God besides You; Sa’adia Gaon, Perush Sefer Yetsirah].

[§42] And with them were engraved seven firmaments, seven earths, seven hours and seven times. Therefore He loved the seventh under the heavens [cf. Ecclesiastes 3:1–8; Vayiqra Rabbah 29:11].

[§43a] These are the seven planets in the world: חַמָה (ḥamah), Sun, נוֹגַה (noghah), Venus, כּוֹכָב (kokhav), Mercury, לְבָנָה (levanah), Moon, שַׁבְּתַי (shabbethai), Saturn, צֶדֶק (tsedheq), Jupiter, מַאְדִים (ma’adhim), Mars. And days in the year: the seven days of Creation. And seven gates in a person: two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, and the mouth.

[§45] Twelve simple ones: הו זח טי לנ סע צק (he waw zayin ḥeth teth yod, lamed nun samekh ’ayin tsadhi qof)—their foundation is seeing, hearing, smelling, conversing, tasting, mating, doing, walking, impatience, laughing, fantasizing [lit., conceiving], sleeping.

[§47] Their measure is twelve גְבוּלֵי אֲלַכְסוֹן (gevulei alakhson), diagonal borders: a north-eastern border, a south-eastern border—an upper eastern border, a lower eastern border; a north-western border, a south-western border—an upper western border, a lower western border; an upper northern border, a lower northern border; an upper southern border, a lower southern border; deepening and expanding until evermore, זְרֹעֹת עוֹלָם (zero’oth olam), arms of the world (Deuteronomy 33:27) [cf. BT Ḥagigah 12b ad loc.; Bahir §95. On the various compound directions, see M Yoma 5:5; Zevaḥim 5:3; Zohar 1:120b; 3:118b, 120a].

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

[§48b] Three—each one stands alone; seven are at loggerheads—three against three, and one which holds the balance between them. Twelve stand in battle [array]: three love but three hate; three give life but three kill. God, a steadfast King, reigning over them all—one atop three, and three atop seven, and seven atop twelve. And they all hold fast to each other [cf. Bahir §118].

[§49a] Twelve simple letters: הו זח טי לנ סע צק (he waw zayin ḥeth teth yod, lamed nun samekh ’ayin tsadhi qof)—He engraved them and hewed them, He weighed them and permuted them, fashioning with them the twelve constellations in the world, twelve months in the year, and the twelve מַנְהִיגִים (manhigim), conductors, in a person [see Bahir §94].

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

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

[§56] These are twenty-two letters [engraved and hewed by] YahYHWH of Armies, God of Israel, Living God, lofty and high One, who dwells forever and holy His Name (Isaiah 57:15).

[§58] Three fathers and their generations, and seven כּוֹבְשִׁים (kovshim), conquerers, and their armies [cf. Numbers 32:22: The land נִכְבְּשָׁה (nikhbeshah), is conquered, before YHWH], and the twelve diagonal borders. And a proof for the matter, trusty witnesses (Isaiah 8:2): the world, the year, and a person.

[§59a] There is a fixed law of ten, three, seven, and twelve. They are overseers in Teli, Wheel, and Heart [cf. Bahir §95].

[§59b] The Teli in the world is like a king on his throne; the Wheel in the year is like a king in a province; the Heart in a person is like a king at war.

[§60b] One opposite the other God made them (Ecclesiastes 7:14)—good opposite evil; good from good and evil from evil. Good discerning evil and evil discerning good. Good is treasured away for the good and evil is kept for the evil.

[§61] When Abraham our father gazed—looking, seeing, probing, understanding, engraving, hewing, transposing, and fashioning—he succeeded. Immediately the Lord of All was revealed to him, making him sit in His lap, kissing him upon the head, and calling him His friend [see Isaiah 41:8], naming him His son, and sealing a pact with him and his seed forever. And he trusted in YHWH, and He reckoned it to his merit (Genesis 15:6). [And He invoked upon him the glory of YHWH, as is written, Before I fashioned you in the belly I knew you (Jeremiah 1:5) (MS A)]. Sealing a pact with him: between the ten toes of his feet—circumcision of the skin. Sealing a pact with him: between the ten fingers of his hands—covenant of the tongue. Binding twenty [-two] letters with his tongue [or: in his tongue], the Omnipresent revealing to him His secret. He drew them out with fire like water—burning them with fire, rattling them with wind [or: shaking them into wind]. He branded them in seven, leading them with twelve constellations.

[§62] (1) אֲוִיר וּרְוָיָה וּגְוִיָּה (Awir, u-rewayah u-gewiyyah), air, satiety, and chest [cf. Psalms 66:12: We came into fire and water—and You brought us out לָרְוָיָה (le-rewayah), to satiety; Ezekiel 1:11: two covered גְּוִיֹּתֵיהֶנָה (gewiyyotheihenah), their chests]; earth, cold and belly; heavens and heat and the head. This is א מ ש (alef, mem, shin).

(2) Saturn, Sabbath and the mouth; Jupiter, the first day of the week and the right eye; Mars, the second day of the week and the left eye; the Sun, the third day of the week and the right nostril; Venus, the fourth day of the week and the left nostril; Mercury, the fifth day of the week and the right ear; the Moon, the sixth day of the week and the left ear. This is בגד כפרת (beth, gimel, daleth, kaf, peh, resh, taw).

(3) Aries, Nisan, the liver; Taurus, Iyyar, the gallbladder; Gemini, Siwan, the spleen; Cancer, Thammuz, the gullet; Leo, Av, the right kidney; Virgo, Elul, the left kidney; Libra, Tishrhei, the intestines; Scorpio, Marḥeshwan, the stomach; Sagittarius, Kislew, the right hand; Capricorn, Teveth, the left hand; Aquarius, Shevat, the right foot; Pisces, Adhar, the left foot. This is הו זח טי לנ סע צק (hewawzayinḥeth, teth, yod, lamed, nun, samekh, ‘ayin, tsadhi, qof).

[§63] 1 Three hate and these are they: the tongue, the liver, and the gallbladder.

2 Three love: the heart, the ears, and the eyes.

3 Three give life: the two nostrils and the liver of the left side.

4 Three kill: the two lower orifices and the mouth.

5 Three are in man’s control: the feet, the hands, and the mouth.

6 Three are not in man’s control: his two eyes, his ears, and his nostrils [on the voluntary and involuntary organs, see Bereshit Rabbah 67:3].

7 Three are bad tidings for the ear: cursing, blasphemy, and an evil rumor [or: bad news, see Jeremiah 49:23; Psalms 112:7].

8 Three are good tidings for the ear: blessing, a good report [or: good news, see Proverbs 25:25], and praise.

9 Three sights are bad for the eye: adultery, an evil eye, and a deceptive look.

10 Three sights are good for the eye: modesty, a good eye, and a trustworthy look.

11 Three are bad for the tongue: He who speaks in the presence of the slanderer, he who speaks one thing with the mouth but another with the heart, and he who speaks more than enough.

12 Three are good for the tongue: silence, holding the tongue, and speaking truth [cf. Sefer Yetsirah §5; M Avot 1:17].

[§64] Whoever understands this scroll and keeps it has the assurance that he is a son of the world to come. This is the scroll of Abraham our father, peace be upon him, which is called The Scroll of Formation [or: The Scroll of Fashioning; Hilkhot Yetsirah (The Laws of Formation), see BT Sanhedrin 65b].

There is no measure to the wisdom of anyone who looks into it. And the mysteries of the upper and lower world will be revealed to anyone who occupies himself with it and studies it and knows its mysteries—he has the assurance that he is a son of the world to come. This scroll, which is called סוֹד הָעִבּוּר (sod ha-ibbur), The Secret of Intercalation [lit., ‘The Secret of Impregnation,’ a system of insertion of leap days, weeks, or years to keep the Jewish calendar synchronized with the moon’s phases, cf. BT Rosh ha-Shanah 20b. On the laws of intercalation, see for example M Sanhedrin 1:2; Arakhin 2:2. Cf. Pirqe de-Rabbi Eli’ezer, 8], on which the whole world depends, should not be handed on to anyone except he who turns away from evil and is in awe of אֱלֹהִים (Elohim), God, and waits and hopes for his Maker, as is said, Steadfast love surrounds him who trusts in YHWH (Psalms 32:10), and it says, Israel is victorious through YHWH, an everlasting victory. You shall not be shamed and shall not be disgraced forever more (Isaiah 45:17).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tail in the Head: The Elusive Serpent

2235_127246100159_9430_nWho tells from the first the last, and from old what is not yet done (Isaiah 46:10).

“Ten sefiroth belimah—their end is embedded in their beginning like a flame bound to a burning coal. For the Lord is singular, He has none second to Him. Before one, what do you count?

Ten sefiroth belimah—their measure is ten yet they have no limit: depth of first and depth of last; depth of good and depth of evil; depth of above and depth of below; depth of east and depth of west; depth of north and depth of south. And a singular Lord—God, steadfast King—reigning over them all from His holy dwelling for ever and ever” (Sefer Yetsirah §§6–7).

There is a thing of which one would say, “See this, it is new.” It already has been in the eons that were before us (Ecclesiastes 1:10).

That which was already has been, and what is to be already has been, and ha-Elohim seeks out the pursued (Ecclesiastes 3:15).

“Rabbi Ḥiyya opened, saying, ‘That which is has already been called by name, and what is to be [… already has been] (Ecclesiastes 3:15, 6:10). That which is has already [been]—corresponding to what we have learned: Before the blessed Holy One created this world, He created worlds and destroyed them, until the blessed Holy One entertained the desire to create this world, and He consulted the Torah. Then He was arrayed in His adornments and adorned with His crowns, and He created the world. All that exists in this world was already in His presence, rising before Him, arranged before Him (Zohar 3:61a–b).

“Gravings of engravings, like the appearance of a long serpent, extending here and theretail in the head, head behind the shoulders, pregnant and furious, guarded and hidden” (Zohar 2:176b, Sifra di Tsni’uta).

“תְּלִי (Teli)—a spark rendered as an illusory serpent. Its tail clinging to orbs, surrounding them. In its might it darkens the seven planets” (Berit Menuḥa: The Second Way, The Way of Love, Eighth Vowel).

The elusive Serpent (Job 26:13).

The World He Made is like a Ball Thrown from Hand to Hand

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He stretches Zaphon over the void, hangs earth over emptiness (Job 26:7).

“It is taught: Rabbi Yose says: Woe to creatures who see but know not what they see, who stand but know not on what they stand. What does the earth stand on? On the pillars, for it is said: He makes the earth shake in its setting, and its pillars shutter (Job 9:6). The pillars upon the waters, for it is said: Who stamps firm the earth on the waters (Psalms 136:6). The waters upon the mountains, for it is said: over mountains the waters stood (ibid. 104:6). The mountains on the wind, for it is said: He that forms the mountains, and creates the wind (Amos 4:13). The wind upon the storm, for it is said: Stormwind that performs His command (Psalms 148:8). Storm is תְּלוּיָה (teluyah), suspended, on the arm of the blessed Holy One for it is said: [A refuge, the God of old,] from beneath the arms of the world (Deuteronomy 33:27). But the Sages say: [The world] stands on twelve pillars, for it is said: He set out the boundaries of peoples, by the number of the sons of Israel (ibid. 32:8). And some say seven pillars, for it is said: Wisdom has built her house, she has her pillars, seven (Proverbs 9:1). Rabbi El’azar son of Shammua’ says: [It stands] on one pillar, and its name is ‘Righteous,’ for it is said: The Righteous One is the foundation of the world (Proverbs 10:25)” (BT Ḥagigah 12b).

“Rabbi Yehudah opened, God said, ‘Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters…’ (Genesis 1:6). Come and see: When the blessed Holy One created the world, He created seven רְקִיעִים (reqi’im), heavens, above; He created seven earths; He created seven seas; He created seven rivers; He created seven days; He created seven weeks; He created seven years seven times, seven thousand years that the world exists. The blessed Holy One is in the seventh of all [cf. Sefer Yetsirah §39, §42].

Seven שְׁחָקִים (sheaqim), heavens, above, and in each and every one: ministers, stars, and constellations, serving in each and every firmament—all dwelling one above the other, to receive the yoke of their Master’s kingdom. In all of those firmaments are various chariots and ministers, one upon another—some with six wings, some with four wings; some with four faces; some with two faces, some with one; some flaming fire, some water, some wind, as is written: He makes His angels winds, His ministers flaming fire (Psalms 104:4).

All those רְקִיעִין (reqi’in), firmaments, one upon the other, are like skins of an onion, some below and some above. Every firmament moves and trembles from fear of their Master; at His command they move, and at His command they stand still. And above them all, the blessed Holy One, conveying all by His power and might.

Correspondingly, seven earths below, all in the inhabited realm, although some are higher and some are lower, and the land of Israel is highest of all, and Jerusalem is highest of habitation [cf. Ibn Ezra on Genesis 1:2: ‘As to the Midrash that there are seven earths it means that the realm inhabited by human beings is divided into seven zones (or climates);’ Zohar 1:177a; 2:30b].

[Yet] our Companions who dwell in the south have seen in the books of the ancients and in the Book of Adam that those earths are divided as follows: they exist below corresponding to those firmaments above, one upon another, one upon another, and between each earth and the next is a firmament separating one from another. So all those earths are distinguished by names, and in each of them is a Garden of Eden and a Hell. In them are creatures, differing from one another, corresponding to the pattern above: some with two faces, some with four, some with one, and the appearance of these is unlike those.

Now you might say, ‘But all inhabitants of the world issued from Adam! How did Adam descend to all those earths and engender children? And how many wives did he have? Well, Adam existed only in the highest world of all called תֵּבֵל (Tevel), Firm Land, as is said: He commanded לְתֵבֵל אַרְצוֹ (le-Tevel Artso), His earth Firm Land [cf. Proverbs 8:31: Playing בְּתֵבֵל אַרְצוֹ (be-Tevel Artso), with His inhabited world]. This תֵּבֵל (Tevel), Firm Land, is linked with the firmament above and joined with the supernal Name, as is written: He judges תֵּבֵל (Tevel), the Firm Land, with righteousness (Psalms 9:9)—with righteousness [i.e., Shekhinah], surely! So the children of Adam exist in this highest one called תֵּבֵל (Tevel), Firm Land, and they are superior to all, corresponding to the pattern above.

How so? Just as above there are firmaments, with one firmament highest of all, above which is the throne of the blessed Holy One, as is said: like the appearance of sapphire, image of a throne. And upon the image of a throne, an image like the appearance of a human being upon it above (Ezekiel 1:26)—so here too in this תֵּבֵל (Tevel), Firm Land, is a king of all. And who is that? The human being, who is not to be found among all those lower ones.

And those lower ones, where did they come from? Well, from residual vapors of the earth, assisted by the firmament above, issue creatures differing from one another, some clothed in shells, like those worms found in the earth—some of them red, black, or white shells, some any color. All the creatures are like that, and they endure for only ten years or so.

[Yet] in the book of Hamnuna Sava it is explained further that all the inhabited world מִתְגַּלְגְּלָא בְּעִגּוּלָא כַּכַּדּוּר (mitgalgela be-iggula ka-kadur), revolves in a circle like a ball, some below and some above. All those creatures differ in their appearance, due to the difference of the atmosphere in every place, and they remain in existence like human beings. Consequently, there is a place in the inhabited world where day shines for some, while for others it is dark—for these it is day, while for those it is night. And there is a place where it is entirely day, and night exists for only a brief time [cf. Plato, Timaeus 62d–63a].

And that which is said in the books of the ancients and in the Book of Adam is correct, for it is written: I praise You, for awesomely and wondrously am I made, wondrous are Your works, and my soul deeply knows it (Psalms 139:14), and it is written: How many are Your works, O YHWH! All of them You made in wisdom; the earth is filled with Your creatures (ibid. 104:24). So all is fine [since these and those are the words of the Living God]. This mystery has been transmitted to the masters of wisdom and not to markers of boundaries, for it is a deep mystery of Torah.

Similarly, in the sea, which has numerous creatures differing from one another, as is written: This sea, vast and broad of reach, [gliding creatures there beyond number, living beings small and great]. There ships go, [Leviathan whom You fashioned to play with] (Psalms 104:25–26). All interdependent, all interlinked, and all corresponding to the pattern above. And in all those worlds, none rules but the human being, with the blessed Holy One over him.

Rabbi Nehorai Sava sailed on the Great Sea, and the sea grew stormy and all those aboard the ship perished. A miracle happened to him and he descended through certain pathways in the heart of the sea and emerged beneath the sea into an inhabited land. He saw some of those creatures—all of them small—and they were praying, but he did not know what they were saying. A miracle happened to him and he ascended. He said, ‘Happy are the righteous, who engage in Torah and know concealed mysteries above and below! Woe to those who dispute their words and do not believe!

From that day on, when he came to the house of study and they were uttering a word of Torah, he would weep. They asked him, ‘Why are you weeping?’ He replied, ‘Because I transgressed believing in the Rabbis, and I fear the judgment of that world” (Zohar 3:10a, cf. ZḤ 15a [MhN]; Scholem, “Parashah Ḥadashah,” 441–42).

One silver bowl (Numbers 7:13)—the world He made is כַּכַּדּוּר (ka-kadur), like a ball, thrown from hand to hand” (Bemidbar Rabbah 13:14).

“It has been taught: There are ten גַלגַלִים (galgalim), [nested] spheres, and ten מַאֲמָרוֹת (ma’amarot), commands. Each and every sphere has its command—not that it is surrounded by it, but rather it turns it. This world is [like] a mustard seed in a ring. Why? Because of the breath that blows upon it and sustains it. If this breath were to be interrupted, the world would wither in an instant” (Bahir §179, cf. Maimonides, Mishneh TorahHilkhot Yesodei ha-Torah 1:5).

“Sound of a גַּלְגַּלָּא מִתְגַּלְגְּלָא (galgalla mitgalgela), sphere revolving, from below to above; her braided chariots whirling, a sweet sound ascending and descending, drifting through the world. Sound of a shofar drawn out in depths of rungs, turning the sphere. Around her lie two מַגְרוֹפִין (magrofyan), spades [or: shovels, ladles, hydraulica, see BT Arakhin 10b–11a], on the right and on the left, in two colors intermingling—this one white, that one red—both turning the sphere above. When turning to the right, white ascends; when turning to the left, red descends. The sphere turns constantly, never subsiding. Two birds ascend chirping, one to the south, one to the north, soaring through the air. The chirping and the sweet sound of the sphere join as one, the A psalm, a song for the Sabbath day (Psalms 92:1), and all blessings flow whisperingly in this sweetness through the passionate sound of the shofar” (Zohar 1:233b, cf. BT Yoma 20b; Guide of the Perplexed 2:8; Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 75–76, 27b).