“Rabbi Ḥiyya said, ‘Why is the Passover offering a lamb?’ Well, because it is written If we sacrifice the abomination of Egypt (Exodus 8:22). What is meant by the abomination of Egypt? Now, could it be that because they despise it the verse reads the abomination of Egypt? Rather, the Egyptians’ deity and god is called the abomination of Egypt. Thus it is written like the abominations of those nations (Deuteronomy 18:9)—the gods of the other nations.’
Come and see the wisdom of Joseph, as is written: From among all his brothers he took five men (Genesis 47:2), and he taught them to say Your servants are shepherds, we and our fathers as well (ibid., 3). Now, would a king ruling over the whole land and a father to the king do such a thing, making his brothers despicable and disreputable to them [for every shepherd is abhorrent to Egypt (Genesis 46:34)]? But surely, the abomination of Egypt is what their deity and god was called. Thus it is written If we sacrifice the abomination of Egypt….
Joseph said, ‘The best of the land is the land of Rameses, and that land they have set aside for their gods, to graze and wander to their hearts’ delight; and all the Egyptians esteem those who shepherd their gods as their very gods. I will enable my brothers to inherit that land, so the Egyptians will bow down to them and esteem them fittingly.’ This accords with what is written: For every shepherd is an abomination to Egypt (Genesis 46:34)—they esteem them as their gods.’
Rabbi Yose said, ‘But we have learned: Just as the blessed Holy One will punish idolators, so will He punish the idols themselves [cf. JT Ḥagigah 2:1, 77a; Bereshit Rabbah 96:5; Vayiqra Rabbah 26:7; Midrash Shemu’el 24:5; Tanḥuma, Vayḥi 3, Emor 2; Tanḥuma (Buber), Vayḥi 5; Emor; 4 BT Avodah Zarah 54b]. Now, did Joseph make his brothers into idols?’
He replied, ‘Joseph didn’t make his brothers into idols, but rather into rulers over the Egyptians’ idols, subduing their gods, chastising them with a rod. Joseph said, ‘If my brothers rule over their gods, they will certainly rule over the Egyptians themselves!’ That is why he settled them in the best of the land, giving them control over all the land.
So, why is the Passover offering a lamb? Well, because the lamb was the deity and god of Egypt. The blessed Holy One said, ‘From the tenth of the month, take the Egyptians’ deity and seize it, and let it be bound and held in your custody for one, two, three days. And on the fourth day, bring it out to be judged and assemble against it.’
When the Egyptians heard the voice of their deity, held in Israel’s custody, and they could not rescue it, they wept, and it was as hard on them as if they themselves had been bound for slaughter [cf. John 1:29–36]. The blessed Holy One said, ‘Let it be held in your possession day after day for four days, so that they will see it captured; and on the forth day bring it out to the field forum to be killed, and let the Egyptians see how you execute judgment on it.’ This was harder on them than all the plagues that the blessed Holy One had inflicted upon them—those judgements that they executed on their deities.
Afterward, they punished it with fire, for it is written: The images of their gods you shall burn in fire (Deuteronomy 7:25). The blessed Holy One said, Do not eat of it raw (Exodus 12:9)—so that [the Egyptians] will not say, ‘Out of craving for our deity, they are eating it like this.’ Nor cooked (ibid.)—for if it is cooked, it will be concealed, and [the Egyptians] will not see it. Rather, it should be prepared so that they see it being burned in fire, so that its odor will spread.
Furthermore, its head bent over its shank—so that [the Egyptians] will not say that it is a different animal or something else; rather, they will recognize it as their deity. Further, they should not eat it ravenously, but rather on a full stomach, showing disgrace and contempt.
Further, No bone shall you break in it (Exodus 12:46)—rather, [the Egyptians] should see its bone cast into the street and be unable to save it. Thus it is written [Upon all the gods of Egypt I will execute] judgments (Exodus 12:12)—many judgements.
Further, your staff in your hand (Exodus 12:11)—and not a sword or spear or any other weapon of war.
Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘It has already has been established that the Egyptians worshiped the constellation Aries, and that is why they worshipped a sheep.’
Rabbi Yose said, ‘If so, they should have worshipped a lamb and not a sheep’ [טָלֶה (taleh), lamb, is numerically equivalent to דָם (dam), blood, which alludes to מַאְדִים (Ma’adim), Mars]. He replied, ‘They worship them all. Actually, the constellation Aries descends and ascends, as a lamb and a sheep; so they worship them all.’ He said to him, ‘I have heard as follows: that all cattle were their deity, and so the blessed Holy One killed all the firstborn of the cattle (Exodus 12:29). As has been said, these are rungs on high, who are called so’” (Zohar 3:250b–251a).
“Sevenths are always beloved. [With the firmaments] above the seventh is beloved: שָׁמַיִם (shamayim), Heavens, שְׁמֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם (shemei ha-shamayim), Heavens beyond the Heavens, רָקִיעַ (raqi’a), Firmament, שְׁחָקִים (sheḥaqim), Skies, זְבוּל (zevul), Loft, מָעוֹן (ma’on), Dwelling, and עֲרָבוֹת (aravot), Clouds—and it is written, Pave the way for the Rider of Clouds, for Yah is His name (Psalms 68:5). With the earths [below] the seventh is beloved: אֶרֶץ (erets), Earth, אֲדָמָה (adamah), Ground, אַרְקָא (arqa), Earth [Aramaic], גַּיְא (gai), Valley, צִיָּה (tsiyyah), Dry Region, נְשִׁיָּה (neshiyyah), Oblivion, תֵּבֵל (tevel), Firm Land [or: World]—and it is written, And He judges תֵּבֵל (tevel), the world, in righteousness, lays down law to the peoples in truth (Psalms 9:9). With generations the seventh is beloved: Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch—and it is written, And Enoch walked with God (Genesis 5:24). With fathers the seventh is beloved: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Levi, Kohath, Amram, and Moses—and it is written, And Moses had gone up to God (Exodus 19:3). With sons the seventh is beloved, as is said, David the seventh (1 Chronicles 2:15). With kings the seventh is beloved: Saul, Ish-Bosheth, David, Solomon, Rehoboam, Abijah, and Asa—and it is written, And Asa called to YHWH [his God…] (2 Chronicles 14:10). With years the seventh is beloved, as is said, But in the seventh you shall let it go and let it lie fallow (Exodus 23:11). Withשְׁמִטִּין (shemittin), years of release, the seventh is beloved, as is said, And you shall hallow the fiftieth year (Leviticus 25:10). With days the seventh is beloved, as is said, And God blessed the seventh day [and hallowed it…] (Genesis 2:3). With months the seventh is beloved, as is said, ‘In the seventh month on the first of the month [you shall have a sabbath’] (Leviticus 23:24)” (Vayiqra Rabbah 29:11).
He counts the number of stars, to all of them gives names (Psalms 147:4).
“Rabbi Yehudah said: There are two firmaments, as is said: Look, YHWH your God’s are the heavens and the heavens beyond the heavens (Deuteronomy 10:14). Resh Laqish said: [There are] seven, namely, וִילוֹן (vilon), Curtain; רָקִיעַ (raqi’a), Firmament; שְׁחָקִים (sheḥaqim), Skies; זְבֻל (zevul), Loft; מָעוֹן (ma’on), Dwelling; מָכוֹן (makhon), Site; and עֲרָבוֹת (aravot), Clouds. The one called Vilon, Curtain, serves no purpose except that it enters in the morning and goes forth in the evening and renews every day the work of creation, as is said: [He is enthroned on the rim of the earth, and its dwellers are like grasshoppers.] He spreads out the heavens like gauze and stretches them like a tent to dwell in (Isaiah 40:22).
The one called Raqi’a, Firmament, is that in which sun and moon, stars and constellations are set, ast is said: AndElohimset them in the firmament of the heavens to light up the earth (Genesis 1:17).
The one called Sheḥaqim, Skies, is that in which millstones stand and grind manna for the righteous, as is said: And He charged the skies above, and the doors of the heavens He opened, and rained on them manna to eat (Psalms 78:23–24).
The one called Zevul, Loft, is that in which [the heavenly] Jerusalem [see BT Ta’anit 5a] and the Temple and the Altar are built, and Michael, the great prince [over Israel, see Daniel 12:1; BT Yoma 77a], stands and offers up an offering there, as is said: I indeed have built You a lofty house, a firm place for Your dwelling forever (1 Kings 8:13). And whence do we derive that it is called שָׁמָיִם (shamayim), Heavens? For it is written: Look מִשָּׁמַיִם (mi-shamayim), from the heavens, and see, from Your holy and glorious זְבֻל (zevul), abode (Isaiah 63:15).
The one called Ma’on, Dwelling, is that in which there are groups of ministering angels, who utter song by night, and are silent by day for the sake of Israel’s honor, as is said: By day YHWH ordains His kindness and by night His song is with me (Psalms 42:9) [cf. BT Avodah Zarah 3b ad loc.]…. And whence do we derive that [Ma’on, Dwelling,] is called shamayim, Heavens? As is said: Look down from Your holy dwelling place, from the heavens, [and bless your people Israel…] (Deuteronomy 26:15).
The one called Makhon, Site, is that in which there are storehouses of snow and storehouses of hail [see Job 38:22], and the upper recess of harmful dew and the upper recess of rain-pellets [to strike down produce (Rashi)], the chamber of the storm and whirlwind, and the cave of vapor, and their doors are of fire, as is said: YHWH will open for you His goodly treasure (Deuteronomy 28:12). But are these to be found in the Raqi’a, Firmament? Surely, they are to be found on the earth, for it is written: Praise YHWH from the earth, sea monsters and all you deeps. Fire and hail, snow and smoke, stormwind that performs (Psalms 148:7–8). Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav: David entreated concerning them, and caused them to come down to the earth. He said before Him: Master of the Universe, Not a god desiring wickedness are You, no evil will sojourn by You (ibid. 5:5); righteous are You, O Lord, [let not] evil sojourn in Your abode. And how do we know that [Makhon, Site,] is called shamayim, Heavens? As is written: And You shall hearken in the heavens, מְכוֹן (mekhon), the firm place, of Your dwelling (1 Kings 8:39).
The one called Aravot, Clouds, in which there are righteousness, justice, charity, גִנְזֵי (ginzei), treasuries, of life, treasuries of peace, treasuries of blessings, the neshamot, souls, of the righteous, and the ruḥot, spirits, and neshamot, souls, that are to be created in the future, and the dew with which the blessed Holy One will revive the dead….
There are [also] the ofannim and the serafim, and the holy living beings, and the ministering angels, and the Throne of Glory; and the King, the Living God, lofty and holy (Isaiah 57:15), dwells over them in Aravot, Clouds, as is said: Sing to God, hymn His name. Pave the way for the Rider of Clouds, for Yah is His name (Psalms 68:5). And how do we know that [Aravot which is also means ‘plains, steppes, willows’] is called shamayim, Heavens? From ‘riding,’ which is iterated in two verses. Here it is written: Sing to… the Rider of Clouds. And elsewhere it is written: Riding through heavens as your help (Deuteronomy 33:26). And darkness and cloud and thick darkness surround Him, as is said: He set darkness His hiding-place round Him, His abode darkness of water, the clouds of the skies (Psalms 18:12). But is there any darkness before Heaven? For behold it is written: He lays bare the deep and the hidden things, knows what is in darkness, and light dwells with Him (Daniel 2:22)—this is not difficult: the one refers to inner houses [in which there is only light], the other to outer houses [hidden in darkness of cloud and dense fog, cf. Tanḥuma (Buber), Beha’alotkha 2:1; Bemidbar Rabbah 15:8].
And Rav Aḥa son of Ya’aqov said: There is still another firmament above the heads of the living beings, for it is written: And there was a likeness over the heads of the beasts—a platform like the appearance of the fearsome ice stretched over their heads above (Ezekiel 1:22). Until here, you have permission to speak; from here forward you do not have permission to speak, for so it is written in the Book of Ben Sira: What is too wondrous for you, do not expound; what is concealed from you, do not inquire. You have no business with hidden matters! [see Ben Sira 3:21–22]” (BT Ḥagigah 12b–13a).
“Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘The blessed Holy One is called שָׁמַיִם (shamayim), Heavens. And because He is called Heavens, all those firmaments included in this name number seven, and when they join as one they are called Heavens, and are called the Name of the blessed Holy One. Who are those firmaments? As we have learned: וִילוֹן (vilon), Curtain, רָקִיעַ (raqi’a), Firmament, שְׁחָקִים (sheḥaqim), Skies, זְבֻל (zevul), Loft, מָעוֹן (ma’on), Dwelling, מָכוֹן (makhon), Site, and עֲרָבוֹת (aravot), Clouds. So we have learned in the Aggadta of the House of Rav Sava.
Rabbi Yitsḥaq said, ‘These are barraitas of the House of Rav Sava, and there are many such treating all these aspects, as we have learned.’
Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘I have learned an outside barraita—that corresponding to all these seven crowns [sefirot] of the King are found seven firmaments and seven planets running back and forth. They are called by names for their names although all those thrones of firmaments and seven planets are equivalent. שַׁבְתַאִי (Shabbtai), Saturn; צֶדֶק (tsedeq), Jupiter; מַאְדִים (ma’adim), Mars; חַמָּה (ḥammah), Sun; נוֹגַה (nogah), Venus; כּוֹכָב (kokhav); Mercury, לְבָנָה (levanah), Moon. These are equivalent to those, in concealment of words, regarding those of whom is written Let them stand and save you—the astrologers, the stargazers (Isaiah 47:13). All those matters are concealed, although these are not ways of Torah.
As for us, we follow ways of Torah, as is written: He gave them names like the names his father had called them (Genesis 26:18). We follow what the blessed Holy One spoke; and we follow Him, as is written: Walk in His ways (Deuteronomy 28:9).
Rabbi Yose said, ‘Matters are simple for the Companions and well known, although concealed.’
He said to him, ‘We have learned as follows—as Rabbi Yehudah said in the name of Rabbi Ḥiyya in our presence, and as they taught from those barraitas—’In the days of King Solomon, the moon assumed fullness.’ In many places, the words of those barraitas are well known’ [cf. Zohar 1:243b; Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana 5:12; Shemot Rabbah 15:26;Berit Menuḥa, The Second Way: The Way of Love, Eight Vowel].
Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘I raise my hands in prayer to the supernal Holy One, that these matters may be revealed by me in that world as they were concealed in my heart. We do not follow the ways of those barraitas; the ways of Torah we grasp!’
It has been taught: Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘Who can you find as great in wisdom as King David and King Solomon, within this crown known in those barraitas? The moon King David called Righteousness, since it is his, as is written: Open for me the gates of righteousness (Psalms 118:19). So too, King Solomon. It is called Righteousness, and the sun—who is called My Covenant—is called Justice; and they are Thrones of Glory for the King, as is written: Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne (ibid. 89:15). Righteous One and Righteousness, similarly, are on a single rung.’
It has been taught: Seven crowns, as established, are called nine; and even in those barraitas those seven firmaments are nine.
Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘How long will the Companions read these words? Look, we follow the blessed Holy One, and we know matters; through us has been revealed what was not revealed to the ancient ones!
From here on, all these words and all these barraitas—put them aside for those who have not entered and emerged. Thereby, they will come to inquire; and when they inquire, the Companions will say, Woe to the generation from which Rabbi Shim’on has departed! But come and see: From here on, there will be no generation like this—nor Torah being revealed to the Companions’” (Zohar 3:287a–b).
“The Faithful Shepherd began by saying: It is written: ‘Though our lips were full of praise like the expansive firmament’ [Morning Service for Sabbath and Festivals]. And the firmaments are seven in number. Vilon, Curtain; Raqi’a, Firmament; Sheḥaqim, Skies, are so called because therein the millstones grind mannah for the Righteous One in the World that is Coming. And the basis for the name שְׁחָקִים (sheḥaqim), Skies, is: וְשָׁחַקְתָּ (ve-shaḥaqta), and you shall pound it, to fine powder (Exodus 30:36). And they are Netsaḥ and Hod, about which it is said: And שְׁחָקִים (sheḥaqim), skies, stream justice (Isaiah 45:8), which is the lower Shekhinah.
Curtain—for it pours in the evening, and brings out in the morning. Firmament—Yesod, for in it the sun [Tif’eret] and the moon [Malkhut] give light, for they are the middle pillar and the lower Shekhinah, as is written: And אֱלֹהִים (Elohim),set them in the firmament of the heavens to light up the earth (Genesis 1:17). And the Righteous One [Yesod] is a sign (Exodus 13:16) when uniting Netsaḥ and Hod, and testimony (Psalms 60:1) when uniting Tif’eret and Malkhut.
Netsaḥ and Hod are the two halves of a body, like תְּאוֹמִים (te’omim), twins [alluding to the angels Sandalfon and Metatron, and the מַּזַּל תְּאוֹמִים (mazzal te’omim), constellation of Twins (Gemini). Cf. Exodus 31:18; Song of Songs 4:5, 5:2; BT Ḥagigah 12b], which is why they are called Sheḥaqim, Skies. The two of them together are ו ו (vav, vav) of וֶשֶׁט (veshet), esophagus, from the left side, and they are the two molar teeth from the right side [וֶשֶׁט (veshet) according to its expanded spelling contains two of the letter ו (vav)]” (Zohar 3:235b–236a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).
“The King’s Daughter [Malkhut] is bound by ropes in the prison of Her exile. She is a nest to Samael among the stars and the blessed Holy One swears Though you exalt yourself as the eagle, and though you set your nest among the stars, from there will I bring you down, says YHWH (Obadiah 1:4). And Shekhinah is נוֹגַה (nogah), Venus: The fire had נוֹגַה (nogah), a radiance (Ezekiel 1:13). Hence the בֵּית כְּנֶסֶת (beit kenesset), House of Assembly, is called אֵשׁנוֹגַה (eshnogah), radiant fire [i.e., ‘synagogue,’ in a foreign tongue].
The fire of מַאְדִים (ma’adim), Mars, derives from אוֹדֶם (odem), redness: A row of אוֹדֶם (odem),ruby, topaz, and malachite, the first row (Exodus 28:17). נוֹגַה (Nogah), Venus, is a white fire, and both are the face of the sun [Tif’eret], and the face of the moon [Malkhut]. Netsaḥ and Hod receive the whiteness from Ḥesed and the אוֹדֶם (odem), redness, from Gevurah; Aaron and David came from there; one received Compassion and the other received Judgment. David came from the left side: and he was ruddy (1 Samuel 16:12). Aaron is a man of Ḥesed, and the two true prophets [Netsaḥ and Hod] are from them. The face of Moses shines with prophecy from Binah [see Zohar 3:247b], which is the supernal חַמָּה (ḥammah), Sun, whence his prophecy came.
In them are Esau the wicked, [who is the] the servant אֱדוֹם (edom), Edom, and his female מַאְדִים (ma’adim), Mars, which is שְׁפִיכוּת דָּמִים (shefikhut damim), bloodshed, in Israel. She caused it to be fulfilled in the Matronita: He has made me desolate andfaint all the day (Lamentations 1:13). הוֹד (Hod), turned דָּוָה (davah), faint [הוֹד (Hod),read backwards is דָּוָה (davah), faint], and they [שֹׁמֵמָה (shomemah), desolate, and דָּוָה (davah), faint] correspond to Netsaḥ and Hod. Jachin and Boaz on both of which the House is supported, since a house of assembly is named after them אֵשׁנוֹגַה (eshnogah), bright fire, as we said” (Zohar 3:282b, Ra’aya MeheimnaKi Tetse).
“And those who do not know the mystery [of cycling souls] say: ‘Sons, life and sustenance do not depend on merit but מַזָּלא (mazzala), the flux of destiny’ (BT Mo’ed Qatan 28a). Take the case of Abram, who saw that he was not destined to have a son, and the blessed Holy One took him outside, as is written: And He took him outside and He said, ‘Look…’ (Genesis 15:5). And it has been taught that He said to him: ‘Leave your astrology!’ (Bereshit Rabbah 44:12) [cf. BT Shabbat 156b]. And He took him above the stars and said to him: Lookup to the heavens and count the stars, if you can count them (Genesis 15:5). So much for the words of the Rabbis, for they must be interpreted in the way of the hidden!
Come and see: All creatures in the world, before the Torah was given to Israel, were dependent on מַזָּלא (mazzala), destiny, even ‘sons, life and sustenance.’ But after the Torah was given to Israel, He removed Israel from the influence of the stars and constellations [Thus says YHWH, ‘Learn not the way of the nations, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the nations are dismayed at them’ (Jeremiah 10:2)]. This we have learned from Abraham, since his children were destined to receive from אַבְרָהָם (Avraham), Abraham: ה (he)—ה״ (five) books of Torah, as is said: ‘These are the generations of heaven and earth בְּהִבָּרְאָם (be-hibbare’am), when they were created (Genesis 2:4). Do not read בְּהִבָּרְאָם (be-hibbare’am), when they were created, but rather בְּה״ בְּרָאָם (be-he bera’am), with ה (he) He created them’ (BT Menaḥot 29b) [cf. ZḤ 2d. On the especially small ה (he) of Genesis 2:4, see Bereshit Rabbah 12:9; Zohar 1:91b, 93a, 105b, 128b, 154b, 230b; 3:117a]. He said to Abraham ‘Because of that ה (he) which was added to your name, the heavens below you and all the stars and constellations that shine in ה (he) [Shekhinah] will be subservient to your will.’
Moreover, it is written: הֵא (he), look… here is seed for you, and sow the land (Genesis 47:23)—with ה (he). That is, For through Isaac shall your seed be acclaimed (Genesis 21:12). For this reason, everyone who engages in Torah is released from the influence of the stars and constellations. By learning Torah with the intention of keeping her commandments. If not, then he is as one who does not engage in Torah, and the stars and constellations do hold sway over him. Even more so the common people, who are likened to animals, about which it has been taught, Cursed be he who lies with any beast (Deuteronomy 27:21). The jurisdiction of the stars and constellations over them is certainly not annulled [cf. Maimonides’ teaching that divine providence delivers one from ‘the sea of chance’ Guide of the Perplexed 3:51]” (Zohar 3:215b–17a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).
“Surely Jacob cleaved to truth. If so, then why did he act this way with Laban [using stratagems to increase the number of dark-colored sheep and white-spotted goats, see Genesis 30:32–43]? Because Jacob was examining the hour of his מַזָּלא (mazzala), zodiacal constellation, for one is permitted to examine his hour before returning to his country. If his constellation rises in accord with his undertaking, fine; if not, he should not take a step until it ascends favorably” (Zohar 1:161a).
“Why are the nations lustful? Because they did not stand at Mount Sinai. For when the serpent came upon Eve he injected filth into her: [as for] the Israelites who stood at Mount Sinai, their lustfulness departed; the nations, who did not stand at Mount Sinai, their lustfulness did not depart. Rabbi Aha son of Rabbah asked Rabbi Ashi. What about converts? Though they were not present, their guiding stars were present, as is written, [Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath] but with him that stands here with us this day before YHWH our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day (Deuteronomy 29:15). Now he differs from Rabbi Abba son of Qahana, for Rabbi Abba son of Qahana said: Until three generations the filth did not disappear from our patriarchs: Abraham begat Ishmael, Isaac begat Esau, [but] Jacob begat the twelve tribes in whom there was no taint whatsoever” (BT Shabbat 145b–146a, cf. Yevamot 103b; Avodah Zarah 22b).
“[Abraham] already knew and tested all those rulers conducting the entire inhabited world; he already balanced and tested those who ruled throughout the world, conducting stars and constellations—who overpowered whom. He had succeeded in balancing the entire inhabited world, but when he reached this site [the land of Canaan] he saw an unbearable, impenetrable potency of depths.
Once the blessed Holy One saw his arousal and desire, He immediately revealed Himself to him, saying Go to yourself (Genesis 12:1), to know yourself to refine yourself. From your land—from that habitation to which you clung. From your birthplace—from that wisdom through which you envision and gauge your birth, the precise moment you were born, under which star and constellation. From your father’s house—do not consider your father’s house, whether you are rooted in your father’s house to succeed in the world. So, Go you forth!—from this wisdom, this speculation” (Zohar 1:78a).
“The emperor said to Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Ḥananiah, ‘I wish to behold your God.’ … He went and placed the emperor facing the sun during the summer solstice. He said to him, ‘Look at it.’ He replied, ‘I cannot.’ Rabbi Yehoshu’a said, ‘If at the sun—which is but one of the ministering servants of the blessed Holy One—you admit you cannot look, how much more so the Shekhinah” (BT Ḥullin 59b–60a).
“Rabbi Ya’aqov of the village of Naburaya in Tyre expounded: To You silence is praise, God, in Zion (Psalms 65:1)—silence sums it all up, as regarding a priceless pearl, all who attempt to praise it [merely] diminish its value’” (JT Berakhot 9:1, 4f).
“Rabbi Yose and Rabbi Ḥiyya were traveling on the road. As they were going along, night dusked; they sat down. While they were sitting, the day lightened. They said, ‘Let us rise and go on.’ They rose and went on; morning began to glow.
Rabbi Ḥiyya said, ‘Look at the face of the east, how it shines! Now all those children of the East, of mountains of light, are bowing to this light and worshiping it before the sun comes out. For once the sun comes out, how many there are who worship the sun! But these are those who worship this light, calling this light—which shines in the zone of the sun before it emerges—‘God of the shining pearl,’ and their oath is by ‘God of the shining pearl.’
‘Now, you might say, ‘This worship is in vain.’ But since ancient, primeval days they have thereby known wisdom. When the sun lightens, before emerging, the prince appointed over the sun emerges, with holy letters of the supernal holy Name inscribed above the head of the sun. By the powers of those letters, he opens all the windows of heaven, striking them and passing. That prince enters the radiance shining around the sun, and there he remains until the sun comes forth, spreading through the world. That prince is in charge of gold and all rubies, and they worship that image there. With points and signs inherited from the ancients, from primeval days, they come to know the points of the sun, enabling them to find the location of gold and gems.’
Rabbi Yose said, ‘How long will all these rites persist in the world! Surely falsehood has no pillars on which to stand [cf. BT Shabbat, 104a]!’
The other one opened, saying, ‘The lip of truth will be established forever, but the tongue of falsehood lasts only a moment (Proverbs 12:19). Come and see: If all inhabitants of the world worshiped falsehood, it would be so. But the light and shining radiance are surely true; stars aloft in the sky are true. If out of stupidity and deficiency, they call them ‘God,’ the blessed Holy One does not wish to destroy His own creation. Even in the time to come, the stars and luminaries of the world will not be destroyed. But who will be destroyed? Those who worship them [cf. BT Avodah Zarah 54b]” (Zohar 2:188a).