AN OVERVIEW OF THE SEPHIROT
The following is an overview of the Sephirot, the emanations/characteristics of God in creation. This is not meant to be an all-encompassing analysis. That is beyond the scope of this study, though as we go forward, we will bring forward examples of their occurence in Scripture. An understanding of the Sephirot (and their relationship to Torah), is important in achieving the deepest level of interpretation of Scripture, especially the more mystical texts, such as the book of Revelation.
KETER - CROWN
This is the first Sephirah and nearest in "proximity" to the Eyn Sof. As such, it is said to "crown" all the others. Keter is said to rest on the edge, between infinity and the finite world. Keter acts as a "barrier" between the other nine Sephirot and the infinite Eyn Sof. It is also the divine principle that sits atop the middle pillar of the Tree of Life (see previous section) known as the Will of God.
Keter is associated with the name God revealed Himself to Moses, Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh ("I Am That I Am"). Other than this, there is little that can be said about it, other than the powers of the rest of the Sephirot may be said to reside in it. Although, as a sephirah, Keter is one of the emanations/characteristics of God, it is in a slightly lesser sense as unknowable as the Eyn Sof.
As Keter cannot be known, it is also known as Ayin, meaning nothingness. From Keter/Ayin emanates the next Sephirah, Chokmah, (wisdom).
This is seen in the book of Job:
Chokhmah (wisdom) is the first of the Sephirot that we can begin to actually understand. In Scripture, Chokhmah is said to have been with God at the creation of the world.
Speaking of Wisdom, it says:
As mentioned, Keter is associated with the infinite Eyn Sof and divine Will of God, and is quite unknowable as this is outside the realm of creation. By comparison, Chokhmah is considered to be the totality of all things to later come into creation, and is the highest emanation of God that we can actually understand (to some degree). Chokhmah is associated with the Eternal Torah, that was the "blueprint" of all that would come into existence, therefore it is said that "by Chokhmah" all things exist. Hokhmah is "general" in nature, consisting of vast ideas and concepts of God.
As stated in a recent commentary on the Zohar:
Speaking of the Eternal Torah, Midrash Rabbah says the following:
It is interesting to note that the very first verse of Midrash Rabbah (above) calls Torah a "tutor." This is consistent with what Paul says about Torah in Galatians, chapter 3. With regard to Torah and creation, Chokhmah has a relationship with Yeshua, as it is written that He (like Wisdom); was there in the beginning with God, is God, and it is by Him that all things exist:
Because Chokhmah is an active force within God, that causes ideas to come into reality, it is associated with the concept of Abba ("Father") with regard to the remaining eight Sephirot.
As there is a great deal of reference to Wisdom in Scripture, we will include a separate detailed section on Chokhmah/Wisdom later in this study.
Binah (understanding) is said to have a relationship with Chokhmah, in that it takes the general principles and concepts of the latter, and gives definition to them, differentiating them into specific entities. Binah is also said to give a "garment" to Chokhmah (the latter which is associated with the mystical name YHWH), through the name ELOHIM, which manifests through the remaining seven Sephirot. These seven ("lower") sephirot are also called "body" or "building" of Azilut (the realm of the Eyn Sof).
Binah is said to be the feminine counterpart to the masculine Chokhmah. Wisdom and Understanding are often mentioned together in Scripture, as one is very much "in need" of the other. Binah is said to be the divine source of souls, hence the "upper mother" aspect, which is also associated with New Jerusalem (i.e., Galatians 4:26).
Binah is the head of the "restrictive" column of the Tree of Life. Its various attributes are considered to be: judgment, understanding, reason and repentance. All of these be seen in the following Scripture, where God judges Israel for not understanding, and tells them to repent and reason with Him:
A SUMMATION THUS FAR:
Keter (crown), Chokhmah (wisdom) and Binah (understanding) are all directly related to the highest of the four heavens, that of Azilut. As such, they are distinct from the remaining seven Sephirot, which have a closer relationship to the lower heavens that are part of creation.
Keter is so "close" to Eyn Sof itself, that little can be known about it, except at rare times where God reveals Himself as Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh ("I Am That I Am"). Chokmah is the highest of the Sephirot that is understandable and attainable by man. Out of Chokhma (wisdom), comes Binah (understanding), from which flows the remaining seven Sephirot.
An example of using the above concepts to understand a mystical scripture, would be the interpretation of the following verse:
Here we see Wisdom "building" a house (which is Binah/Understanding), from which come seven pillars -- the seven lower Sephirot.
DA'AT - KNOWLEDGE
As mentioned in the previous section of this study, located beneath the "supernal Sephirotic triad" of Keter, Chokhmah and Binah (and within the triad of Chokhmah, Binah and Tipheret), is Da'at ("knowledge"). Da'at is considered a "quasi-Sephirah," or "non-Sephirah," appearing on the central column between Keter and Tipheret.
The reason for this status is explained in Rabbi Moshe Miller's commentary on the Zohar:
Corresponding to this location of Da'at, is the realm of the Ruach haKodesh (Holy Spirit).
The location of Da'at on the Tree of Life, with regard to the Ruach haKodesh, is significant. Looking at it from the "top down" (God's perspective), the Ruach haKodesh comes "out of" Binah (following the order of Keter, Chokhmah, Binah, etc.). Binah, however (representing the supernal "Mother"), is never separated from Chokhmah (the supernal Father). Therefore, the Ruach haKodesh "proceeds" from the Father (John 15:26) "through the Mother."
From the "bottom up" (our perspective), one ascends the middle pillar through Tipheret to attain the Ruach haKodesh. Therefore it can be said that Tipheret (the Son) also gives access to the Ruach haKodesh. This explains how Yeshua, in John's gospel, can say in different places, that both He and the Father send the Ruach haKodesh (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7).
This may also explain why Yeshua had to return to His heavenly abode, in order for the Ruach to come:
While on earth, Yeshua fulfilled the role of Messiah. (Tzaddik - "Righteous One - this will be covered in a later section on the Sephirah of Yesod, which is on the central column below Tipheret.) This action established the "connection" between the heavenly and earthly realms. (This is a function of the divine Tzaddik, with the earthly realm being associated with the Shekinah and community of believers.) Having done this, Yeshua had to "return" to the higher heavenly realm to the place of Tipheret, to renew the "channel of flow" of the Ruach haKodesh.
The Father is also said to send the Ruach haKodesh on the authority ("name") of Yeshua (John 14:26). Yeshua's authority was given to Him by the Father, for His earthly role as Tzaddik and crucified Messiah:
This concept of Yeshua's authority, with regard to the Ruach haKodesh, helps explain one of the more peculiar discussions in the book of Matthew:
Here we see the situation whereby the religious leaders had "quenched" the Ruach haKodesh in themselves (due to their own sin), and therby lacked the Da'at to understand who Yeshua was (i.e., Romans 10:2). Prior to this (Matthew 12:31), they had gone as far as blaspheming the Ruach haKodesh, which was working through Yeshua. (Our text analysis of Revelation chapter 2, will delve more into this subject.)
As these religious leaders were not using properly what they had been given, Yeshua would not bestow any more Da'at upon them (revealing the authority from the Father), even taking what they had from them (Matthew 21:43 as a fulfillment of the parable of 25:29).
The principle of being given spiritual blessings by God based on merit is also addressed later in this study. The prophet Daniel said that da'at would increase in the last days:
Daniel associates the idea that, "many shall run to and fro," directly to the increase of da'at. As discussed in the introduction to this study, the idea of "running" in the spiritual realm (where one gains da'at) is not physical travel, but a mystical process of drawing nearer to God. Daniel is saying that in the last days people's knowlege of the mysteries of God will increase, as they seek, are given, and make use of, the means of acquiring this wisdom and understanding from God.
Chesed symbolizes love and mercy in Scripture. It is the active, giving, aspect of God. It is said to radiate the essence of the infinite Eyn Sof. The term "grace" as seen in the "New Testament" is equivalent to Chesed, which is also called loving-kindness.
Gevurah is a counterpart to Chesed. Gevurah symbolizes justice and severity in Scripture. It is the passive, firm, aspect of God. Gevurah balances the Sephirot of Chesed, as it "restricts" the force of Chesed, giving it definition and limit. (Thus preventing the radiance of God's essence from overwhelming everything and leaving no room for anything else to exist!)
As the Zohar puts it:
Gevurah is also said to be the feminine counterpart to the masculine Chesed.
Tipheret and Malkut ("Kingdom," see below) are said to be the two principle Sephirot of the "lower seven" that deal with the world we live in. This is mainly because of the relationship Tipheret has to the bridegroom, Messiah and written Torah, and the association Malkut has with the bride, Shekinah and oral Torah. Logically, the connection between bride and bridegroom implies a very intimate relationship between Tipheret and Malkut, as depicted in the great wedding feast to come in the Millennial Sabbath.
Tipheret is also associated with the "love of God" and in this respect offset by Malkut, which is linked with the "fear of God." (See section on Malkut, below, for more on this relationship.)
Tipheret has a central relationship to all of the other Sephirot, and an involvement with the unification of the Sephirot and the name of God (this is discussed in the next section). Because of this function, Tipheret is also known by the name of "Harmony."
This name applies to Messiah as well, as He is the one that ultimately will bring harmony and usher in the Kingdom and Olam Haba (world to come). Because Tipheret brings harmony, it is also known by the most holy name Ha-Kadosh Barukh Hu (The Holy One, Blessed be He), as well as the combined name YHWH-ELOHIM.
As seen in the chart presented earlier in this study, Tipheret is seen as having a relationship with the physical direction of East. This was the side of the Tabernacle that Moses and Aaron and His sons made their camp. The star that announced the birth of Messiah was in the east. It is also taught that the Messiah will come to Jerusalem through the eastern gate.
Understanding of this relationship between Tipheret, which is associated with beauty, and the direction of east, enables us to see a little deeper into passages such as the following. The gate in question is the eastern one, where the sick were placed. Note the name it is given:
Tipheret has a strong relationship with both Chokhmah and Binah above it, as well as Chesed and Gevurah, alongside it. (See the Tree of Life chart.) With the "lower" Sephirot of Chesed and Gevurah, Tipheret forms the triad of "Divine Soul," and is often seen as the bridge between man and God. Along this line, Tipheret is also analogous with the "voice of God," and is linked to the voice heard on Mount Sinai.
NOTE: We will expound on the subject of Tipheret in several additional sections, later in this study.
A SUMMATION THUS FAR:
The four Sephirot of Chokmah (wisdom), Binah (understanding), Chesed (mercy) and Gevurah (judgment) are also considered to represent the inter-related and often conflicting qualities of man. (Remember through all this study that we [in fact all of creation], are made in the image of God - the Sephirot.) These Sephirot are all "harmonized" within the Sephirah of Tipheret, which is itself an "image" of the Eyn Sof.
The next three Sephirot, Netzach, Hod and Yesod, relate to the "second world," that of the realm of angels. (See previous study on Ezekiel's Chariot.) Yesod is also known as the lower end (or termination) of the heavens.
Yesod acts as a channel for the light and power of the preceding Sephirot to come to the last Sephirah of Malkut. In this way it is also linked to the ladder in Jacob's dream. Therefore, it is considered both "all things" as well as El Shaddai (the Lord our provider).
The concept of Tzaddik (Righteous One), comes from Proverbs 10:25; "The righteous one is the foundation (Yesod) of the world." Because of these characteristics, Yesod is often associated with Tipheret, and is even regarded as being the groom (linked to Tipheret) to the bride (Malkut) in some literature. More precisely, the function of Yesod is to bring Tipheret and Malkut together.
(NOTE: We will expound on the subject of Yesod in an indepent section later in this study.)
Yesod is closely linked to Netzach and Hod, the three of them relating to the most "physical" aspects of the image of God and God's governance and guidance of the world. As such, Netzach and Hod also have a relationship to the angels who do God's will in this world, the "Hosts of YHWH," (on the side of Chokmah and Chesed) and the "Hosts of ELOHIM" (on the side of Binah and Gevurah).
Netzach and Hod act as "filters" through which pass the higher emanations of Chesed and Gevurah. They are also considered to be the conductors through which the God's essence is conveyed from the three upper Sephirot (Keter, Chokmah, Binah) to the lower Sephirot. They are in this sense, the source of prophecy.
The following Zohar passage gives insight as to the role of Netzach and Hod in connecting this world to the one above. All parts of the Tabernacle/Temple are said to be a representation of the heavenly realms. Netzach and Hod are represented by the hooks:
Kabbalist Aryeh Kaplan writes about the triad of Netzach, Hod and Yesod as follows:
Malkut is the Sephirah directly associated with the Shekina, God's visible presence on earth. The realm of Malkut is the first spiritual world closest to the physical earth. Malkut, with its association to the image of "the bride," has a special relationship with the sephirah of Tipheret, the latter being linked to Messiah and the bridegroom. This insight can be applied to the gospel texts where Yeshua, the bridegroom, seeks to bring in the Kingdom (Malkut), the bride.
When Malkhut is said to draw more from the left (judgmental) side of the Tree of Life, it is associated with the "fear of God." This gives Malkut another aspect to its relationship with Tipheret, which is linked to the "love of God," drawing more from the right (merciful) side.
Malkut also has a relationship with Chokmah in that they are the first and last of the nine knowable Sephirot (those below Keter). An understanding of this relationship between Malkut and Chokmah, sheds light on certain scriptures. Malkhut, with its aspect of "fear of God," and being the closest Sephirah to man, is the first one that we should try "seek." Chokmah, as mentioned, is Wisdom, the Sephirot from which all things in creation emanate.
Keeping this in mind, note the following verses, which when interpreted apart from the Sod level, don't seem to have have a direct connection.
However, by interjecting the equivalent Sephirotic terms, the interpretation of the above two verses becomes quite similar:
We can now see that Solomon and Yeshua are teaching the same lesson. In both cases, we are told to seek the closest Sephirot of Malkut (the Kingdom) so that knowledge (Da'at) of the entire Image of God (which is imbedded Chokmah) will be opened up to us.
NOTE: We will expound on the subject of Malkut-Kingdom, in several additional sections, later in this study.
1. Zohar, Selections translated and annotated by Moshe Miller, Rabbi Moshe L. Miller, Fiftieth Gate Publications and Seminars, Morristown NJ, 2000, p.45.
2. ibid, p.42.
3. Kabbalah, Tradition of Hidden Knowledge, Z'ev ben Shimon Halevi, Thames and Hudson, 1979, p.6.
4. The Bahir: Translation, Introduction and Commentary, Aryeh Kaplan, Samuel Weiser, Inc., York Beach Maine, 1979, p.183.
5. Alternately, the term "all these things," could represent Yesod, the Sephirah immediately above Malkut, as all the other Sephirot (and the creation that springs from them), "channel" through Yesod in order to get to Malkut on the the kabbalistic "Tree of Life." This will be addressed in detail in our further teachings on Yesod.
6. The Bahir: Translation, Introduction and Commentary, Aryeh Kaplan, Samuel Weiser, Inc., York Beach Maine, 1979, p.130.
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