And the people became complainers of evil in the ears of YHWH, and YHWH heard and His wrath flared and YHWH’s fire burned against them and consumed along the edge of the camp…. And he called the name of that place Taberah, for YHWH’s fire had burned against them (Numbers 11:3).
“Why is the place called תַּבְעֵרָה (taverah), Burning? Because each and every light that reaches there is burned immediately by virtue of its great purity [or: merit]. However, they said in The Mystery of Souls, ‘One light is drawn out from the blessed Holy One, and when coupling is performed, and the souls sparkle and mate with this light, and this light extends until תַּבְעֵרָה (taverah), Burning, its name is צְבָאוֹת (tseva’ot), Hosts [or: Armies].’ Therefore, I say that the souls in Burning endure. But as long as we have this wondrous wisdom we can understand what is written: And at Taberah and at Massah and at Kibroth-Hatta’avah [you infuriated YHWH] (Deuteronomy 9:22)—Ḥokhmah (Wisdom) is found there along the entire way. The blessed Holy One said in His Torah: And at Burning and at Trial and at Graves of Lust is a place in which human beings desire and תַאֲוָה (ta’avah), crave, to attain good and to attain evil. And Israel, seeing the greatness of these three ascents, in which seals were set to make known Who causes them to exist and Who sates them, began to say, ‘From this place descends [both] the good and the evil. But this site of great ascents, there is no ruler in it, since the majesty of the blessed Holy One does not oversee all. Rather, He left three to act in His place as they please.’ Hence, they tried the blessed Holy One in every matter [cf. Zohar 2:64b].
The Sages say three princes whose ascents are without end receive from those three places. From Burning descends the brilliance of Ḥokhmah to the place, נַחַל אַרְנוֹן (naḥal arnon), Wadi Arnon [lit., Ringing River, see Numbers 21:13–26; Deuteronomy 3:8; Judges 11:18. Cf. Zohar 2:56a]. Its name is deep: אַדִירִירוֹן (Adiriron) the place of רִנָּה (rinnah), glad song, portent, and wisdom. It is the organ which sustains the entire body [adiriron: from a root meaning, ‘mighty,’ see Margaliot, Mal’akhe Elyon (Jerusalem, 1964)].
When the host on high see Ḥokhmah shining they begin to sing, as it says, When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy (Job 38:7) [cf. ZḤ 5b–6a (MhN)]. Ḥokhmah reaches them and they rise, certainly receiving from there Ḥokhmah and Gevurah and Gedullah. Ḥokhmah reaches from Wadi Arnon to Wadi Abarim, and from there returns to its place again [on Mount Abarim, see Numbers 27:12–14, 33:47–48; Deuteronomy 32:48–52; Zohar 2:157a].
The thirty-two paths grow stronger, rising and covering all the spheres and all the ascents and the worlds and all the abysses, but next to the brilliance of Ḥokhmah appear as naught. And above, at a distance, a bowshot away (Genesis 21:16) of 600,000 [spans], they appear as a bowl [cf. Bemidbar Rabbah 13:14: ‘One silver bowl (Numbers 7:13)—the world He made is like a (mere) ball thrown from hand to hand’]. The thirty-two paths grow mighty, rising and covering all the spheres and all of their places.
They say Ḥokhmah is supernal man, known as Ezion Geber as I said before [see Numbers 33:35–36; Deuteronomy 2:8. Cf. Targum Yonatan: כְּרַך תַּרְנְגוֹלָא (kerakh tarnegola), City of the Rooster, i.e., a rooster-shaped city]. The Wadi Abarim, which we already mentioned, is called מִשְׁבְּצוֹת (mishbetsot), Brocade, (known with the permutation of the four letter Name, as I will explain with the vocalization of this matter) [on Brocade (or: Filigree), see Exodus 28:13; Psalms 45:14; Bahir §54, §63]. We said of this expansive matter—the Wadi Abarim—that in it certain sages erred grievously, such as Elisha son of Avuyah [see BT Ḥagigah 14b; Zohar 1:26b (TZ); 3:222b (RM); Berit Menuḥa: Eight Vowel. עֲבָרִים (Avarim), Abarim, alludes to עָבְרִים (averim), crossings, and עֲבֵרָה (averah), transgression]. However, the relic of the great and mighty Sages of Israel, heads of the generations, standing in venerable places, took to restore what was lost and to save the sons of man.
Behold the chapter headings of this wondrous wisdom: Three times a day the wisdom ascends higher and higher: at the first hour, at the sixth hour, and at the last hour [see BT Berakhot 26b. Cf. Zohar 2:21b; 3:196a; ZḤ 5b–6a (MhN)]. In these hours everyone of the thirty-two paths is rooted in the first letter of יהוה (YHWH)—in the lower tip [of י (yod)] looking downwards. Since it looks down so too does Ḥokhmah (Wisdom), great in Gevurah (Strength) and Raḥamim (Compassion). But if it faces upwards even the angels and sons of man cannot attain Ḥokhmah and are as beasts of the field. Therefore, it faces downwards and Ḥokhmah is received by creatures and as it saw, for it is vastly higher above all degrees and none are higher than it, it turns its face to three places. First towards the north, the place of Gevurah, lowering its pride, it remains bowed down in great trembling. This place is a place of awe, it is Burning. [The angel] אַגּלֹאֹ (Aglo’o) [אַתָּה גִבּוֹר לְעוֹלָם אֲדֹנָי (attah gibbor le-olam Adonai), ‘You are eternally mighty Lord,’ see ZḤ 42a], included in Torah, performs actions for the enlightened without purification by the line of awe. The second place is a place of humility, and its name is called מְנוּחָה (menuḥah), Rest, it is יחדריאל (Yeḥidri’el), אֱלֹהִי יִשְׂרָאֵל (Elohi Yisra’el), God of Israel. The third place is a place of שִׂמְחָה (simḥah), joy, and its name is called מַפְרִישְמִיָהְ (Mafrishmiyah) [see Rabbi Ḥayyim Vital, Sha’arei Qedushah, 4:1].
Whoever desires to learn wisdom should cleave to these three rungs: יִראָה (yirah), awe, עֲנָוָה (anavah), humility, and שִׂמְחָה (simḥah), joy—he יִראָה (yirah), fears, sin, is עָנָו (anav), humble, and שַׂמֵחַ (sameaḥ), happy, with his lot [cf. Deuteronomy 28:47]. When he attains the discernment of these three rungs he attains Ḥokhmah [cf. M Avot 3:11; 4:1; 5:19]. These three places are bound to each other, and one is no different than the other; they are all one [cf. M Sotah 9:15; BT Avodah Zarah 20b; Zohar 3:145a; Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 5b]. And the angels who receive from these three places are הויאל (Hoi’el), גביאל (Gabbi’el), and גבריאל (Gavri’el), Gabriel [see Margaliot, Mal’akhe Elyon (Jerusalem, 1964), p. 42]. Names which bless and curse without need of purification and without need of permission from הָאֱלֹהִים (Ha-Elohim), the Judge, but act however they please. Yet they are names of goodness, for they are without inquiry and without limit. The first of these three places is daunting, it’s name is תַּבְעֵרָה שֶׂכֶל (taverah sekhel), Burning Intellect. The lights are fearful when they ascend lest it burn them with its great holiness. However, he who cleaves to the rung of awe escapes burning.
The second [rung] is humility [called:] מַסָּה (massah), Trial (Deuteronomy 9:22). Without limit to its holiness and strength this place is very great. For when all the lights and all the supernal army passes through this place it is known who conducts himself faithfully or not, thus it is called Trial.
The third [rung] is joy, the site of קִבְרוֹת הַתַּאֲוָה (kivrot-hatta’avah), the Graves of Lust (Numbers 11:34). Whoever does not reach this resting place, the Graves of Lust, does not see light and does not attain Ḥokhmah.
There is one place dwelling in the heavens [beyond the heavens…] (1 Kings 8:27), and there is אֵין סוֹף (ein sof), no end, to its discernment but its place is hidden because of the קַטנוּת (qatnut), puniness, of [our] intellect [cf. BT Eruvin 53a; Bahir §10]. And when the great lights grow mighty, ascending, and see the banner standing in the middle of the palace-chamber they declare ‘In this place is the power of מְנוּחָה (menuḥah), Rest.’ They endure hoping to glimpse its glorious brilliance. When this hidden light increases abundantly, expanding, and emanates its brilliance outside the palace-chamber then they incline to see more and they ascend and reach the place of חֶשְׁבּוֹן (ḥeshbon), Reckoning [see Numbers 21:27; Ecclesiastes 7:27; Song of Songs 7:5]. But when they reach its edge they are burned immediately by the purity of this great hidden light—they are all burned standing in it and none of them ever emerge, for this place is called, in the language of allegory, the Graves of Lust. Most of them that desired to know the essence were consumed in holiness and were not seen again [like moths to a flame, cf. Attar of Nishapur, Manṭeq al-ṭayr].
Numerous lights and princes, brave and powerful, were consumed in this place called the Graves of Lust, an expression of the essence of יהוה (YHWH). But let me tell you the angels and the lights which were consumed in this place since the time of the Formation [of the world] were numerous, great, strong, and perfect in their degrees. Big and mighty angels were consumed by this great light, those from the camp of שָׂרָפִים (serafim) and from the camp of תַּרְשִׁישִׁים (tarshishim) [two classes of angels], since it arose in their minds to strengthen themselves and ascend until this place but there they were consumed, as is written of them, For there the people buried the ones who had been craving (Numbers 11:34). Do not let evil arise in your mind, however, and think that words of Torah only accord with their plain meaning, you are forbidden from believing this. Happy is the man who delves to know, to attain Ḥokhmah in this place called the Graves of Lust” (Berit Menuḥa, First Way: The Way of Wisdom).
“The fifth נִקּוּד (niqqud), vowel, is the root of the נִקּוּדִים (niqqudim), punctiform lights. Growing mighty in strength and compassion, its din is heard from one end of the earth to the other (Deuteronomy 28:64). Growing mighty, climbing, spreading from its root—the root of the Tree of Life—rising over its rung, above the heads of the living beings, covering all [on the cosmic tree, see Daniel 4:7–9; Bahir §22, §95].
Rising to its place in tumult, utterly destroying various camps and breaking various dominions, the sound of its din is without compare, inconceivable. And in its growing mighty, ascending, it spreads its wings to the east, west, north, and south, above and below, to six קָצֶווֹת (qatse’ot), ends [cf. Sefer Yetsirah §15, §38, §47]. Next to it the upper and lower lights do not compare, as if they were not. [This bears on] the root and the branches too.
There is tumult to the root and to the branches, for it leads them only by its exceedingly great strength, without arms or legs [cf. Zohar 3:278b (RM)]. By beating its wings back and forth all the lights are bundled, tied, and stood up under it [cf. Ezekiel 1:24]. Leading them it is called King even though there are greater, more honored, lights than it. Yet it hastens to perform the matter for those who take refuge in its shadow, for those who know its source which is raised over its companions. And by its exalted radiance and majesty emanate a thousand myriad lights without end to their multitude. None endure its din and none are able to look and gaze at its beauty—there is no intellect, no wisdom to apprehend its greatness, for it is exceedingly magnified.
Emerging it is heeded by all the lights. When they smell its fragrance, a host of spheres ascend קָו הַמִישׁוֹר (qav ha-mishor), the median line, and are invigorated. For from the fragrance they take power, might, radiance, and wisdom according to its exceeding greatness.
Being most strengthened by its surge in pride this light divides into two parts. Upon being divided it is still known that it receives from one place. Next to its source it does not compare, for understanding it heeds words of wisdom; even though they are divided into two heads, both are found clinging to the power of their hidden source. Accordingly, you understand how powerful the source is, that even though they are divided in the supernal way they are both discovered bound, unable to escape from under the power of their source, to go and become mighty such and such, for dominion is not in their hands.
Even though they are conducted toward an honored and awesome power, power comes to them from elsewhere. Upon dividing, one faces upwards and grows mighty, ascending. From it emanate innumerable great lights, called הַצֹּבְאֹת (ha-tsove’ot), the women, who flock to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting (Exodus 38:8). And they are all bound with a sachet of myrrh, for this light facing upwards is called, in the language of allegory, a sachet of myrrh (Song of Songs 1:13).
When it grows mighty, ascending, it faces upwards, spreading its wings, and two lights receive from it. The first is called צְבָאוֹת (tseva’ot), Hosts [or: Armies], and the second is called שַׁדַּי (Shaddai). They [too] grow mighty, ascending, one on its right and one on its left. The song of these כְּנָפַיִם (kenafa’im), wings, can be heard from east to west, as is written, מִכְּנַף (mi-kenaf), from the edge of the earth, we have heard songs: splendor to the righteous (Isaiah 24:16). And this שִׁירָה (shirah), song, issuing from between the [throng of] wings reaches unto הַמְצִיאוּת הַנֶעֱלָם (ha-metsiut ha-ne’elam), the hidden reality, סִבָּת הַסִבּוֹת (Sibbat ha-sibbot), the Cause of Causes. And upon arriving, she turns round and undergoes fifteen more מַּעֲלוֹת הַשִׁיר (ma’alot ha-shir), ascents of the song [see Psalms 120–134; cf. TZ 75–76, 27b].
So it was in the Sanctuary: The Levi would ascend the first step and sing the song of the first sphere according to the vocalization I shall make known. And when the host of the first sphere heard their song they would tremble greatly. The priest would burn the Temple incense, the Levi would ascend the second step, sing the song of the second sphere, and so on until the tenth sphere.
When the Levi had ascended the ten steps, step by step, he would pronounce the Name according to its letters and its vocalization which I shall explain. The song was sung according to the movement of the inconceivable light without compare. Thus is the awesome light, and thus was the רִנָּה (rinnah), glad song, which the Levi sang when he stood at the top of the steps, pronouncing the name אֶהְיֶה (Ehyeh), I will be (Exodus 3:14) with awe inspiring expression [see M Sukkah 5:4; BT Sukkah 51a–b]. But if the offering was from a wicked man, resembling the righteous, but who performed his offence in secret—and the offering did not come to atone for such deeds—the smoke would coil up and the priest would tell the Levi to stop singing.
And who can name the strength and radiance and beauty of the light that faces upward? This light ascends to a known place, ascending from one place to another. First it ascends and faces קִבְרוֹת הַתַּאֲוָה (kivrot hatta’avah), the Graves of Lust. Then it faces תַּבְעֵרָה (taverah), Burning, where the channels are invigorated and filled abundantly, overflowing into the Sea Arabah [i.e., the Salt Sea; the Dead Sea, cf. Sefer ha-Temunah 25b] which is the name Tseva’ot, a light emanating from this great light. And from Taberah, Burning, it ascends to Mount Hor [death place of Aaron, see Numbers 20:23–29, cf. ibid. 33:37].
Two מְאוֹרוֹת מוּרכָּבִים (me’orot murkavim), compounded lights, ascend one over the other. When they reach this mountain they are burned entirely—when the wise attains this place he dies with a kiss on account of the great lust [see BT Bava Batra 17a; Mo’ed Qatan 28a; Zohar 2:124b]. From this place the light ascends to Mount Abarim [death place of Moses, see Numbers 27:12–14, 33:47–48; Deuteronomy 32:48–52; 34:1–8; Zohar 2:157a; 3:173b, 183a, 280b. Mount Abarim is probably the mountain range east of the Dead Sea, one of whose prominent peaks is Mount Nebo]. It is the way from which all lights pass when they emanate from the [hidden] reality. There in that place they grow most mighty, and from this place, they ascend to the Sea of Wisdom, lingering there. From there to the outer court (Ezekiel 40:17) and from the outer court to the inner court (1 Kings 6:36) [cf. Ezekiel 46:1; Zohar 1:75b ad loc.; 3:109a (RM); Esther 5:1–2; TZ 21, 57b ad loc.]. From the inner court to the place of the awesome reality, where being embraced she is raised back again to His place where her tent had been before (Genesis 13:3) [cf. BT Arakhin 16b ad loc.; ZḤ 24b (MhN) ad loc.].
From this awesome [hidden] light all lights emanate, endure, and are provided for. Its name: יְיָיִוְאֶשְעַבְיִוַאָיְהוּ. It is the י״ד (fourteen) letter name found in: כִּי יָ״ד עַל כֵּס יָהּ (ki yad al kes Yah), for hand upon Yah’s throne (Exodus 17:16). Happy is the man who knows this name for it acts in purity beyond compare and it issues from the Priestly Blessing, from the initial letters: יְבָרֶכְךָ יָאֵר יִשָּׂא וְשָׂמוּ אֶת שְׁמִי עַל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וַאֲנִי אֲבָרְכֵם (yevarekhekha ya’er yissa ve-samu et shemi al beni yisra’el), may He bless you… may He light up [His face to you…] and they shall set My name over the Israelites, and I Myself shall bless them (Numbers 6:24–27), and the name יהו (YHW) is affixed at the end. It is apparent from this task, for the light ascends fourteen rungs—the ten sefirot, and four chambers found above the ten sefirot: the chamber אַהֲבָה (ahavah), Love—יהה (YHH); the chamber שָׁלוֹם (shalom), Peace—יוה (YWH); the chamber עֹז (oz), Valor—יהו (YHW); [within] the chamber חֶמְדָּה (ḥemddah), Desire, הֲמְנוּחוֹת (ha-menuḥot), tranquility, abides—ייה (YYH) [cf. Zohar 2:252b (Heik)]. And above the י״ה (fifteenth) step is our God [יָהּ (Yah)]. We are His servants, He is our King, He provides for us and rescues us from the palm of our enemies [as is written, War for YHWH against Amalek from all time (Exodus 17:16)]” (Berit Menuḥa, Second Way: The Way of Love, Fifth Vowel).