Going forward, it’s critical to keep in mind that the ultimate ‘goal’ the Scriptures point to is the “Unification of the Name,” as alluded to by the prophet Zechariah:
“And the Lord shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be – “The Lord is one,” And His name one.”
This period of time is symbolized and referred to in many ways, including;
- coming of Elijah and Messiah
- establishment of the third Temple
- the union of the heavens and earth
- marriage of the bride and groom
If we have a grasp of what the Unification of the Name involves, we can better understand the story of Revelation (as well as the entirety of Scripture). There is an immediate concern however. As the Torah says ‘G-d is One’ (the Shema, Deuteronomy 6:4), how can Zechariah say the Name of G-d is not One at this time? And what does this mean with regard to the pure monotheism of Torah as compared to other views?
The idea of the “Name” of G-d in Torah literature carries with it concepts of authority, power and functionality as they relate to creation. (This concept applies in similar fashion to a tzaddik or rabbi as well at the messiah. For example we pray ‘in the Name’ of a tzaddik,’ or cite a teaching ‘in the Name’ of a previous rabbi.)
Succinctly, from the ‘eternal side’ of things, everything remains in unity, but within creation – from our perspective – there is division. ‘Down here,’ the ‘Name’ is not ‘One’ at this time. This origin of this fracture is the sin of Adam in Gan Edan. Subsequent to this, our negative actions perpetuate this while positive ones help mend it.
A common way this disunity is expressed is that of the Shekinah (the ‘divine presence in the world’) being in exile – ‘separated’ from the rest of the Name.
The template for this is found in the 4-letter name. Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey and the associated partzufim (spiritual personae):
- Yud = Father
- Hey = Mother
- Vav = Son/Groom
- Hey = Daughter/Bride/Shekinah
This array is understood as existing throughout the spiritual and physical dimensions of existence. On a corporate level, when the people are in exile, the Shekinah is seen as being in exile with them.
“A mystery of mysteries has been revealed to them that are wise of hear. The “He” (the second letter ‘He’ in YHVH) of the second Temple is in exile with her twelve tribes and their hosts.
Zohar, Shemot 9b
“Therefore it also says, “The glory has departed” (I Sam. IV, 22), because they caused the Shekinah to go into exile with them.”
Zohar, Shemoth 191a
The term ‘Ruach haKodesh’ (Holy Spirit or Set-apart Spirit) became synonymous with Shekinah around the time of the second temple. References to the ‘Ruach haKodesh with us,’ as found in the New Testament texts may be understood in a similar way as the Shekinah abiding with people in other Torah literature.
The Groom is associated with the letter ‘vav.’ The vav carries with it the idea of a connecting ‘hook.’ Here we see the groom/vav as the piece the unifies the bride below to the ‘father-mother’ (Yud-Hey) aspect of G-d above. The vav may be seen in the same functionality as the ladder in Jacob’s dream. Both represent a connection across the angelic world of Yetzirah, the intermediary realm between Beriah (the Heavens) and Asiyah (the Earth).
It has to be stressed that there is no ‘separation’ of any kind in the true essence of G-d. We see ‘differences’ in how we relate to G-d, using our minds. As such, we identify with concepts such as Partzufim (personae), the Sefirot (emanations), the various ‘names’ (functionalities) of G-d (YHVH, Elohim, Shaddai, etc.), expressions such as “Hakadosh Baruch Hu” (The Holy One Blessed be He”) and other ideas and terms.
Related to all of this is the idea of ‘blasphemy.’ (See the selection from Midrash Rabbah just below.) The root of the Hebrew term to ‘blaspheme’ (גָּדַף = ‘gadaph’) relates to ‘cutting’ or ‘hacking.’ This is the same expression used in kabbalah for causing a division in the Name of G-d, which is referred to as, ‘cutting between the shoots/plants’ (the Sefirot). The sins of Adam and the golden calf are both seen as two major examples of this.
Another aspect of separation within creation is the idea of an ‘evil realm’ called the Sitra Achra (‘other side’) with its various ‘principalities and powers.’ (i.e., Ephesians 6:12) One of these expressions is that of ‘the adversary,’ commonly called haSatan (the Satan) often referred to simply as Satan. Other imagery and terminology is used in conjunction with the evil realm, such as: the dragon; the serpent; ‘Lucifer;’ angels such as Samael, Azael and Uzza; sheddim (demons) such as Lilith and Naamah, etc.
The effect of sin is to cause greater separation in the Name within our world. The result is greater power to the counter forces of the Sitra Achra. It is imperative to keep in mind however, that everything any part of the ‘evil realm’ does, also serves G-d’s ultimate purpose.
This is expressed as follows in Midrash, which discusses the final seven years of this age in terms of evil and calamities, all of which bring us to a positive result – the coming of the Messiah:
“R. Johanan said: In the first year of the septennate in which the scion of David will come, will be fulfilled the statement of the Scripture, And I will cause it to rain upon one city, etc. (Amos 4:7). In the second year famine will assail it. In the third year there will be a great famine, from which men, women, and children will perish, and pious men and men of good deeds will become few, and the Torah will begin to be forgotten in Israel. In the fourth year there will be scarcity of a kind and plenty of a kind. In the fifth year there will be great plenty and the people will eat, drink, and be merry, and the Torah will be renewed and restored to Israel. In the sixth year there will be thunderings, in the seventh year wars. At the expiration of the seventh year the scion of David will come. Said Abaye: How many septennates have passed like this, and yet he has not come I He will only come in the circumstances described by Resh Lakish:, In the generation in which the scion of David will come, the meeting [Torah study] house shall be a bawdy house and Galilee shall be laid waste and Gabalina shall be desolate and the men of Galilee shall go about from town to town and find no pity and the wisdom of the scribes shall become putrid and the God-fearing and pious shall cease and truth shall be abandoned and the generation will be brazen-faced like a dog, How do we know that Truth will be abandoned? Because it says, And truth is lacking (ne-’edereth), and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey (Isaiah 59:15). Whither does Truth go? The School of R. Jannai said: It will go and settle in separate groups (‘adarim) in the wilderness.’ The Rabbis say: In the generation in which the scion of David will come, the wise men of the generation will die and the rest will waste away with grief and sorrow and much trouble will come upon the community and cruel decrees will be promulgated, one coming on top of another. R. Nehorai said: In the generation in which the scion of David will come, the young will insult their elders and the old will rise before the young, as it says, The daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man’s enemies are the men of his own house (Micah 7:6), and a son will feel no shame before his father. R. Nehemiah said: Before the days of the Messiah there will be great poverty and scarcity, and the vine will cast its fruit and the wine will turn bad and the whole of the government will be converted to minuth and there will be no reproof. R. Abba b. Kahana said: The scion of David will come only in a generation which is brazen-faced like a dog. R. Levi said: The scion of David will come only in a generation which is full of impudence and deserves to be exterminated. R. Jannai said: If you see one generation after another cursing and blaspheming, look out for the coming of the Messiah, as it says, Wherewith Thine enemies have taunted, O Lord, wherewith Thine enemies he taunted the footsteps of Thine anointed (Psalm 89:52), and immediately afterwards it is written, Blessed be the Lord for evermore, Amen and Amen.”
Midrash Rabbah, Song of Songs 2:33
The following text associates this idea with the teaching of the metzora (afflicted person) who is struck with the skin disease oftzarat (as found in Levitixus chapter 13 and incorrectly called “leprosy”). Here it is taught that just as when the metzora’s tzarat covers him fully and he is actually declared “clean” by the priest, so shall Messiah come when Israel is in a similar state (thus making this a hidden ‘messianic prophecy’):
“When people sin, the attribute of judgment is extended against them, and then G-d, who is YHVH, sees that if the judgment is fulfilled, then worlds will be utterly destroyed, so what can He do? He removes judgment from there and he brings it up to the attribute of mercy … Thus it is written: “The son of David will only come when a generation is collectively guilty of sin.” … “When the whole turns white it is pure” (Leviticus 13:14).”
Sha’are Orah (Gates of Light) Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla, English translation by Avi Weinstein, Altamira Press, London, 1994, p. 205.
Finally, in this chapter, John’s vision moves from the Beriatic “dragon” and becomes more “down to earth” in the form of two “beasts.” The first of these is said to emerge from the “sea” (an allusion to the world of Yetzirah) and the second from the “land” (the world of Asiyah.) All three of these entities work in “conjunction” with each other.
With relation to Paul’s comments in Ephesians 6:12 we have: “We struggle not against flesh and blood (the second beast of Asiyah) but against principalities (the first beast of Yetzirah) and powers (the Beriatic dragon). The theme of two earthly manifestations of spiritual power, one an earthly force and the other a spiritual ‘connection,’ is seen throughout history in the form of king and priest, pharaoh and magician, chief and medicine man, etc.
1 And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and I saw out of the sea a beast coming up, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon its horns ten diadems, and upon its heads a name of evil speaking,
John’s ‘spiritual location’ has change. As mentioned, he describes it as being on the sand of the sea, an allusion to the angelic world of Yetzirah. Here the Beriatic concepts introduced in the previous chapter begin to take “form” (Yetzirah = world of Formation).
As alluded to in earlier sections of this study, that which exists below is a reflection of what exists in higher realms:
“There go the ships; there is that Leviathan whom thou hast made to play therein”. And all the fishes of the sea gather to their places, and all the creatures rejoice over it and the Hayoth of the supernal fields, as it is written: “And all the beasts of the field play there” (Job 40:20). Come and see! The likeness of that which is above is that which is below, and what is below is also in the sea, and the likeness of that which is above is that which is in the supernal sea, and what is below is also in the lower sea.”
Zohar, Shemoth 48b
“LET THE WATERS SWARM WITH SWARMS OF LIVING CREATURES. R. Eleazar said: ‘These are the lower waters, which brought forth species corresponding to those above, so that there was a lower order and a higher order.’ R. Hiya said: ‘It was the upper waters which brought forth a “living soul”, to wit, the soul of the first man, as it is written, “and the man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7).’ AND FOWL TO FLY ABOVE THE EARTH. These are the emissaries from the upper world which appear to men in visible shape. For there are others of whose existence man knows only by conjecture. These latter are referred to in the next verse in the words, “every winged fowl after its kind”. The words “after its kind” are used in connection with the latter and not with the former, because the latter never take the forms of another species, whereas the former do. Nevertheless, they do differ one from another.”
Zohar, Bereshith 34a
This beast may be seen as representing both a “governing entity” and/or an individual, as historically the head of a government is often identified with that which he rules. This beast emerges from Yetzirah, also suggesting that it may be an angel (from the “angelic world” of Yetzirah) taking on the appearance of a human. Aside from the mention of “emissaries that take visible shape,” as mentioned in the above Zohar reference, the following texts also support this possibility:
“When Abraham was still suffering from the effects of the circumcision, the Holy One sent him three angels, in visible shape, to enquire of his well-being. You may, perhaps, wonder how angels can ever be visible, since it is written, “Who makes his angels spirits” (Psalm 104:4). Abraham, however, assuredly did see them, as they descended to earth in the form of men. And, indeed, whenever the celestial spirits descend to earth, they clothe themselves in corporeal elements and appear to men in human shape.”
Zohar, Bereshith 101a
“These were none but human messengers. The Rabbis said: It means literally angels. If an angel escorted Eliezer, who was but a servant of the house, how much the more this one [Jacob], who was the beloved of the house! R. Hama b. Hanina observed: Hagar was but Sarah’s handmaid, yet five angels appeared to her; how much the more then to this man [Jacob], who was the beloved of the house! R. Jannai said: Joseph was the youngest of the tribal ancestors, yet three angels met him, as it is written, And a certain man found him… and the man asked him… and the man said: (Genesis 37:15 ff.). Then how much the more this one Jacob], who was the father of them all!”
Midrash Rabbah – Genesis 75:4
Another text from the New Testament chimes in with this:
“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.”
Another idea regarding the nature of this beast is that a pre-existing soul has been placed into a human body. This would be in a similar fashion to the idea of the soul of Elijah having the possibility of coming into John the Baptist, as alluded to by Yeshua, as well as the disciples’ statement regarding who the people thought Yeshua was:
“For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.”
“When Yeshua came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
(Also see notes to verse 4 below for more on this idea.)
2 and the beast that I saw was like to a leopard, and its feet as of a bear, and its mouth as the mouth of a lion, and the dragon did give to it his power, and his throne, and great authority.
The relationship between the world of forces (Beriah) and formation (Yetzirah) is illustrated in this verse in terms of the “dragon” of Beriah giving power to the “beast” of Yetzirah. The idea of the dragon having a throne is consistent with the kabbalistic teaching of their being an ‘opposite’ of that which we view as being associated with G-d (i.e., G-d’s throne in Beriah, ‘the heavens.’ Also see Isaiah 14:13)
The following text speaks of the awesome power of this heavenly dragon:
“R. Simeon continued: ‘It is now fitting to reveal mysteries connected with that which is above and that which is below. Why is it written here, “Come (bo) unto Pharaoh”? Ought it not rather to have said “go” (lekh)? It is to indicate that the Holy One, blessed be He, guided Moses through a labyrinth right into the abode of a certain supernal mighty dragon-that is to say, Egypt’s celestial representative- from whom many lesser dragons emanate. Moses was afraid to approach him, because his roots are in supernal regions, and he only approached his subsidiary streams. When the Holy One saw that Moses feared the dragon, and that none of the supernal messengers was able to overcome him, He proclaimed: “Behold, I am against thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon (tanim) that lieth in the midst of his rivers, which hath said: My river is my own, and I have made it for myself” (Ezekiel 29:3). Yea, truly, the Lord Himself had to war against this dragon, and no lesser being. This is the mystery of the “great dragon” for those who are familiar with the esoteric lore.’ Said R. Simeon further: ‘It is written: “And God created the great dragons (taninim) and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind” (Gen. 1;21). This verse’, he said, ‘we have already discussed, but the words “He created the great dragons” contain a yet more special and particular mystery: they refer to the Leviathan and his mate, which last was slain and is preserved by the Holy One for the regaling of the righteous (in the days of the Messiah).”
Zohar, Shemoth 34a,b
As mentioned in most commentaries, the leopard, bear and lion mirror the beasts mentioned in the book of Daniel. These are symbolic of the nations that turn on Israel when they turn from G-d and His Torah.
“As a roaring lion and a ravenous bear, so is a wicked ruler over a poor people. ‘A roaring lion’: this is the wicked Nebuchadnezzar, of whom it is written, A lion is gone up from his thicket. ‘A ravenous bear’: this is Ahasuerus, of whom it is written, And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear’, and R. Joseph learnt: These are the Persians, who eat and drink like bears, and are coated with flesh like bears, and are hairy like bears, and can never keep still like bears. ‘A wicked ruler’: this is Haman. ‘Over a poor people’: this is Israel, who are poor in [the observance of] precepts.”
Talmud, Megilah 11a
G-d describes Himself in terms of these three beasts in passing His judgment on unfaithful Israel:
“And I am the Lord your G-d from the land of Egypt, and you know no god but me; for there is no savior beside me. I knew you in the wilderness, in the land of great drought. According to their pasture, they became full; they were filled, and their heart was exalted; therefore they have forgotten me. Therefore I will be to them as a lion; as a leopard by the way will I observe them; I will meet them like a bear that is bereaved of her cubs, and will tear their closed up heart, and there I will devour them like a lion; the wild beast shall tear them. O Israel, you have destroyed yourself; for you are against me, against your help.”
The above passage would remind us that every action of the ‘evil side,’ especially those taken “against” Israel, is controlled by G-d for the purpose of achieving His perfect will.
3 And I saw one of its heads as slain to death, and its deadly stroke was healed, and all the earth did wonder after the beast,
The significance of what appears to be a resurrection will be addressed in the comments to verse 12.
4 and they did bow before the dragon who did give authority to the beast, and they did bow before the beast, saying, `Who [is] like to the beast? who is able to war with it?’
The idea of a powerful evil ruler oppressing Israel in the end times, is spoken of in Daniel:
“And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their full measure, a king of fierce countenance, and one who understand riddles, shall arise. And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power; and he shall cause awesome destruction, and he shall prosper, and act, and he shall destroy the mighty and the holy people. And through his cunning he shall make deceit prosper under his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and without difficulty shall destroy many; he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken by no human hand.”
As mentioned in our introduction to this chapter, examining some of Israel’s historical enemies offers insight into this future evil king.
As one modern rabbi writes:
“In the end, the Talmud reaches a “compromise:” If the Jewish people are NOT deserving of being redeemed at the End-of-Days, G-d will cause a ruler to arise who will decree against the Jewish people as did Haman in the days of Mordechai and Esther, making their lives so difficult that Jews far and wide will be “forced” to turn back to G-d, and BECOME deserving of redemption.”
Perceptions On The Parsha, Parshas Vayeilech – Shabbos Shuva, “Going” In The Direction of TeSHUVAH,Rabbi Pinchas Winston – http://www.torah.org/learning/perceptions/5761/vayeilech.html
The verse in question reads:
“R. Eliezer said: if Israel repent, they will be redeemed; if not, they will not be redeemed. R. Joshua said to him, if they do not repent, will they not be redeemed! But the Holy One, blessed be He, will set up a king over them, whose decrees shall be as cruel as Haman’s, whereby Israel shall engage in repentance, and he will thus bring them back to the right path.”
Talmud, Sanhedrin 97b
Torah literature does contain ideas concerning a future “anti-Messiah” who comes against Israel, G-d and the true Messiah. Raphael Patai, in his classic work, “The Messiah Texts,” devotes an entire chapter to a figure named “Armilus” who epitomizes this evil ruler. (See The Messiah Texts, Raphael Patai, Wayne State University Press, Detroit, 1979, pp. 156-164.)
Traditional commentaries on Revelation view this as depicting a “resurrected anti-Christ.” How this plays out in the physical realm is not made clear by John. It is interesting to note that the Zohar states that G-d will bring back the souls of some of Israel’s worst enemies in the end of days in order to judge his people and return them to Him:
“IN THE GREATNESS OF THINE EXCELLENCY (lit. uplifting) THOU OVERTHROWEST THEM THAT RISE UP AGAINST THEE. R. Hezekiah found here the same idea as in the verse: “Why standest thou afar off, O Lord? Why hidest thou thyself in time of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1). ‘The sins of mankind,’ he said, ‘cause the Holy One to ascend higher and higher, and then men cry bitterly but without avail, because the Holy One has departed from the world, and they are unable to return to Him.’ R. Isaac, however, applied these words to the time when the Holy One will adorn Himself with majesty in face of the nations who will gather against Him, of whom it says: “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against his anointed” (Psalm 2:2). We are told that the seventy guardians of the nations will at that time gather from all sides with the armies of the whole world and start war against Jerusalem the holy city, and take counsel together against the Holy One. They will say: “Let us rise first against the Patron, and then against His people and against His sanctuary!” Then “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision” (v. 4). He will put on His majesty and shall dash them in pieces.’ R. Abba said, in the name of R. Jesse the Elder-and R. Simeon made the same remark- that the Holy One will bring to life again all those kings who afflicted Israel and Jerusalem: Hadrian, Lupinus, Nebuchadnezzar, Sennacherib, and all the other kings of the nations who have destroyed His house, and set them up again as rulers, and they shall gather many nations, and then He will do vengeance and justice upon them near Jerusalem, as it is written: “And this shall be the plague wherewith the Lord will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem” (Zechariah 14:12). On the other hand, here it says: “In the greatness of thy excellency Thou wilt overthrow thine opponents”, which refers to the Messianic times; and so this song has an eternal significance.”
Zohar, Shemoth 58b
5 And there was given to it a mouth speaking great things, and blasphemies, and there was given to it authority to make war forty-two months,
The number 42 is representative of the bride (7) and groom (6) coming together (6×7=42, the chibur/joining of the two), which relate to ‘stages’ that result in a ‘spiritual window’ opening. Applying the concept of things being created with their ‘opposite,’ we see that there is a ’42’ related to the Sitra Achra as well. This 42′ may possibly be leading to the establishment of a godless global system and ruler.
Compare this to the sacrifices offered by Balaam and Balak against Israel — 42 in all — as explained in the Zohar:
“The side of holiness, the other that of defilement; the one destined for the righteous, the other for the wicked. Happy are those righteous who have no portion in this world but only in the world to come. Observe that all is predisposed and revealed before the Holy One, blessed be He. Even so was it with Balak and Balaam: although the motive of their action [Tr. note: Viz. the building of the altars and the offering of sacrifices.] was not the glory of Heaven, yet was all they did duly recorded before the Lord, who did not diminish aught of their reward in this world. Thus, through the power of the forty-two offerings which they brought on the seven altars, Balak and Balaam obtained for the time being dominion over Israel, so that twenty and four thousand Israelites died by the plague besides those who were slain, as we read: “Take all the chiefs of the people and hang them up unto the Lord in face of the sun…. Slay ye every one his men that have joined themselves unto the Baal of Peor” (Numbers 25:4-5).’ R. Simeon said: ‘Observe that the forty-two offerings brought by Balaam and Balak were offerings diverted from the “other side” towards the Holy One, blessed be He, and so the “other side”, which is called “curse”, had to be repaid these offerings from Israel.”
Zohar, Shemoth 224a
The idea of ‘blasphemous speech,’ especially in the end of days, is found in Ezekiel’s passage concerning Edom:
“And the word of the Lord came to me, saying: Son of man, set your face against Mount Seir, and prophesy against it, And say to it, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, O Mount Seir, I am against you, and I will stretch out my hand against you, and I will make you a total desolation. I will lay your cities waste, and you shall be desolate, and you shall know that I am the Lord. Because you have had an everlasting hatred, and have shed the blood of the people of Israel by the force of the sword in the time of their calamity, in the time of their final punishment; Therefore, as I live, says the Lord God, I will prepare you for blood, and blood shall pursue you; surely you have hated your own blood; therefore blood shall pursue you. Thus will I make Mount Seir a total desolation, and cut off from it all who come and go. And I will fill its mountains with its slain men; in your hills, and in your valleys, and in all your rivers, shall fall those who are slain with the sword. I will make you everlasting desolations, and your cities shall not be restored; and you shall know that I am the Lord. Because you have said, These two nations and these two countries shall be mine, and we will possess it; though the Lord was there; Therefore, as I live, says the Lord God, I will do according to your anger, and according to your envy which you showed because of your hatred against them; and I will make myself known among them, when I shall judge you. And you shall know that I am the Lord, and that I have heard all your blasphemies which you have spoken against the mountains of Israel, saying: They are laid desolate, they are given us to devour. Thus with your mouth you have boasted against me, and have multiplied your words against me; I have heard them. Thus says the Lord God: When the whole earth rejoices, I will make you desolate. As you rejoiced at the inheritance of the house of Israel, because it was desolate, so will I do to you; you shall be desolate, O Mount Seir, and all Edom, all of it; and they shall know that I am the Lord.”
Paul refers to someone in the future who would do no less than seek to put himself in the place of God:
“Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called G-d or that is worshiped, so that he sits as G-d in the temple of G-d, showing himself that he is G-d.”
2 Thessalonians 2:3-4
The arrogance of this being is also linked to a strategical maneuver. In its effort to destroy Israel, the enemy will seek to take on the G-d Israel directly, as outlined in this Midrash:
“R. Levi said: Accursed are the wicked, who all devise evil against Israel, each one devising according to his own idea and saying, ‘My device is better than yours.’ Esau said: Cain was a fool for killing his brother in the lifetime of his father, not knowing that his father would still have children. I will not do so, But let the days of mourning for my father be at hand then will I slay my brother Jacob (Gen. 27:41). Pharaoh said: Esau was a fool. Did he not know that his brother would have children in the lifetime of his father? I will not make such a mistake, but while they are tiny and scarce out of their mothers’ womb I will strangle them; and so it says, ’Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river’ (Exodus 1:22). Haman said: Pharaoh was a fool for saying, ’Every son that ts born ye shall cast into the river’; did he not know that the daughters would marry and have children? I will not make such a mistake, but will decree ’To destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish’, etc. And so Gog and Magog in the time to come will say: Our predecessors were fools for laying their plans, they and their kings together against Israel, not knowing that they have a protector in heaven. I will not do so, but I will first attack their protector and then I will attack them; and so it says, The kings of the earth stand up, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against His anointed (Psalm 2:2). Says the Holy One, blessed be He, to him: ‘Wretch, do you come to try conclusions with Me? How many hosts are at My service, how many lightnings, how many thunders,’ as it says, The Lord thundered with a great thunder (2Samuel 7;10); ‘ how many Seraphim and how many angels! But My might shall go forth and fight with thee.”
Midrash Rabbah – Esther 7:18
6 and it did open its mouth for blasphemies toward G-d, to blaspheme His name, and of His tabernacle, and of those who are in the heavenly tabernacle,
As mentioned, ‘blasphemy’ carries the sense of creating division, here against the ultimate plan of ‘Unification of the Name.’ (See notes concerning Amalek in verse 15 of the next section for more on this idea.) The number forty-two with relation to the temple is significant as it represents this union of above and below as represented by the third temple, specifically the coming together of the gate to the heavenly Holy of Holies — which measures six by seven cubits [6×7=42] — through which God’s greatest blessings will one day flow.
“As the great and powerful letter Vav asserted itself (for it was from the Vav that the light emerged), its force was so great that it broke through the wall and made there a gate as high as the measure of the Vav [=6]: six cubits. And since the Vav was joined with its mate [6 + 1 = 7], the width of the gate was seven cubits.”
Secrets of the Future Temple. Azamra Institute. http://www.azamra.org/TempleSecrets/Building.htm
The following text links a number of these themes (i.e., how the 42-letter name is associated with the idea of the heavenly and earthly realms coming together):
R. Judah followed with a discourse on the verse: “The counsel (sod) of the Lord is with them that fear him; and his covenant to make them know it” (Psalm 2514). ‘ “The counsel” (sod),’[Tr. note: Sod in the Bible =counsel; in post-Biblical Hebrew = secret.] he said, ‘alludes to the sublime mystical knowledge which remains hidden and undisclosed save for those that fear the Lord continuously and thus prove themselves worthy of these secrets and able to keep them. Observe that the world has been made and established by an engraving of forty-two letters, all of which are the adornment of the Divine Name. These letters combined and soared aloft and dived downwards, forming themselves into crowns in the four directions of the world, so that it might endure. They then went forth and created the upper world and the lower, the world of unification and the world of division. In the latter they are called “mountains of separation” (bather) (Song of Songs 2:17), which are watered when the south side begins to come near them. The water flows with supernal energy and with ecstatic joy. Whilst the Thought mounts up with exulting joy out of the most Undisclosed One, there flows out of it a spark: the two then come into contact with each other, as explained elsewhere. [Tr. note: Zohar, Exodus, 220b.] These forty-two letters thus constitute the supernal mystical principle; by them were created the upper and the lower worlds, and they indeed constitute the basis and recondite significance of all the worlds. Thus is explained the verse, “The secret of the Lord is to them that fear him; and his covenant to make them know it”, the first part alluding to the undisclosed engraven letters, whereas the latter speaks of the revealed. Now, it is written: “And thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgement the Urim and the Thummim” (Exodus 28: 30). The term “Urim” (lit. Iight, illumination) signifies the luminous speculum, which consisted of the engravure of the Divine Name composed of forty-two letters by which the world was created; whereas the Thummim consisted of the non-luminous speculum made of the Divine Name as manifested in the twenty-two letters. The combination of the two is thus called Urim and Thummim Observe that by the power of these sunken letters were the other letters, namely, the raised letters forming the names of the tribes, now illumined, now darkened. The letters of the Divine Name embrace the mystery of the Torah, and all the worlds are a projection of the mystery of those letters. The Torah begins with a Beth followed by an Aleph,[Tr. note: Allusion to Bereshith Bara Elohim (in the beginning God created).] indicating thereby that the world was created by the power of these letters, the Beth symbolizing the female principle and the Aleph the male principle, and both engendering, as it were, the group of the twenty-two letters. Thus we read, “In the beginning God created the (eth) heaven and the (eth) earth” (Genesis 1:1), where the particle eth (consisting of Aleph and Tau) is a summary of the twenty-two letters by which the earth is nourished. [Tr. note: v. Zohar, Gen. 16b.] Now, the same letters were the instruments used in the building of the Tabernacle. This work was carried out by Bezalel for the reason that, as his very name (Bezel-EI=in the shadow of God) implies, he had a knowledge of the various permutations of the letters, by the power of which heaven and earth were created. Without such knowledge Bezalel could not have accomplished the work of the Tabernacle; for, inasmuch as the celestial Tabernacle was made in all its parts by the mystical power of those letters, the lower Tabernacle could only be prepared by the power of the same letters. Bezalel was skilled in the various permutations of the Divine Name, and for each several part he employed the appropriate permutation of the letters. But when it came to the rearing up of the Tabernacle it was beyond his power, for the reason that the disposition of those letter-groups was entrusted to Moses alone, and hence it was by Moses that the Tabernacle was erected. So Scripture says: “And Moses reared up… and [he] laid… and put in…” (Exodus 40:18) Moses, but not Bezalel.’
Zohar, Shemoth 234a-235a
7 and there was given to it to make war with the saints, and to overcome them, and there was given to it authority over every tribe, and tongue, and nation.
G-d allows the evil side to ‘gain the upper hand’ for a period of time, in order to serve His purpose. (See notes on the congregation at Smyrna in chapter 2 for more on this theme.) The account of Balaam and Balak shown above in verse 5 (Zohar, Shemoth 224a) also depicts ‘limited success’ against Israel.
8 And bow before it shall all who are dwelling upon the land, whose names have not been written in the scroll of the life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world;
The idea of heavenly “books” in which names are inscribed is found in numerous Hebraic texts such as the Book of Enoch and the Talmud:
“R. Kruspedai said in the name of R. Johanan: Three books are opened [in heaven] on New Year, one for the thoroughly wicked, one for the thoroughly righteous, and one for the intermediate. The thoroughly righteous are forthwith inscribed definitively in the book of life; the thoroughly wicked are forthwith inscribed definitively in the book of death; the doom of the intermediate is suspended from New Year till the Day of Atonement; if they deserve well, they are inscribed in the book of life; if they do not deserve well, they are inscribed in the book of death.”
Talmud, Rosh HaShana 16b
9 if any one hath an ear — let him hear:
10 if any one a captivity doth gather, into captivity he doth go away; if any one by sword doth kill, it behoveth him by sword to be killed; here is the endurance and the faith of the saints.
The p’shat (plain meaning) conveys the idea of midah knegged midah – “measure for measure” punishment (or reward). See Isaiah 14:2 regarding those who made Israel captive becoming captive themselves.
The following texts provide some “food for thought” regarding death by the sword (compare with verse 14 in the next section), measure for measure punishment, etc:
“When Balaam came down in front of Phineas, he said to him: Wretch, how many evil haps hast thou brought upon the holy people! He then said to Zilya: Kill him, but not with the Name, for it is not meet that the divine sanctity should be mentioned over him, so that his soul in leaving him should not be united with matters of holy grades, and his prayer be fulfilled: “May my soul die the death of the righteous” (Numbers 23:10). He then tried to kill him in many ways, but did not succeed, until he took a sword on which was engraved a snake on each side. Said Phineas: Kill him with his own weapon. And then he did kill him; for such is the way of that side, he who follows it is killed by it and it is with his soul when it departs from him, and he is punished in the other world and never finds burial, and his bones rot and become noxious serpents, and even the worms that eat his body become serpents.”
Zohar, Bemidbar 194b
“Raba asked Rabbah b. Mari: Whence is derived the maxim of the Rabbis that the redemption of captives is a religious duty of great importance? — He replied: From the verse, And it shall come to pass when they say unto thee, Whither shall we go forth, then thou shalt tell them, Thus saith the Lord, Such as are for death, to death, and such as are for the sword, to the sword, and such as are for famine, to the famine, and such as are for captivity, to captivity: and [commenting on this] R.Johanan said: Each punishment mentioned in this verse is more severe than the one before. The sword is worse than death; this I can demonstrate either from Scripture, or, if you prefer, from observation. The proof from observation is that the sword deforms but death does not deform; the proof from Scripture is in the verse, Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his saints. Famine again is harder than the sword; this again can be demonstrated either by observation, the proof being that the one causes [prolonged] suffering but the other not, or, if you prefer, from the Scripture, from the verse, They that be slain with the sword are better than they that be slain with hunger. Captivity is harder than all, because it includes the sufferings of all.”
Talmud, Baba Bathra 8b
“In his charge to Solomon concerning this Shimei, David said: “And behold thou hast with thee Shimei….which cursed me with a strong curse… and I sware to him by the Lord saying, I will not put thee to death with the sword.” Was Shimei, then, a fool to accept an oath like this, which forbade David only to kill him with a sword, but not with a spear or arrow? But this sentence can be taken in two ways. One is … that when David swore he swore by his sword upon which was engraved the Ineffable Name (YHVH); and thus he swore to Shimei, as it is written: “I sware to him by the Lord (YHVH)… I will not put thee to death (swearing) by the sword.” But Solomon interpreted it differently. He said: “This man cursed my father with words; he shall die by means of a Word (YHVH).” And, in fact, he did not kill him with the actual sword, but with the Name.”
Zohar, Shemoth 107b,108a
“In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen” (Amos 9:11). ‘It speaks of the day’, he said, ‘when the Almighty will execute divine justice upon the world and will visit their deeds upon the wicked of the world. For the Community of Israel cannot rise from the dust so long as the sinners from among Israel exist in the world. Thus the previous verse says: “AII the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, that say: The evil shall not overtake nor confront us” (Ibid. 10); and this is immediately followed by the verse, saying: “In that day will I raise up the tabernacle… and close up their breaches, and I will raise up its ruins”, where the plural “their” breaches can only point to “the sinners of My people” who form breaches in Israel, and so when “the sinners of My people shall die by the sword” those “breaches” will be closed up; “and I will raise up its ruins”, to wit, the ruins of the tabernacle of David which was laid into ruins what time the wicked kingdom obtained dominion in the world. For, as we have learnt, of the two powers, as the one gathers strength the other languishes; as the one is filled the other is laid waste. So, until that day the wicked kingdom will be in power, but on that day the Holy One, blessed be He, will raise up the Holy Kingdom and “will raise up its ruins, and will build it as in the days of old” (Ibid.). This last is in allusion to: “Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, etc.” (Isaiah 30:26).
Zohar, Shemoth 240
11 And I saw another beast coming up out of the land, and it had two horns, like a lamb, and it was speaking as a dragon,
The origin of this second beast is said to be from “the land,” giving it a more direct connection to the physical world of Asiyah. The contrast of attributes, between a lamb and a dragon, may indicate deception.
Throughout this chapter, John presents the idea of an unholy unity of beings. The following passage from the Zohar adds some insight. Compare the context of the words of Ephraim in the text below, “I have become rich …” [from Hosea 12:8], with that of the Laodicean congregation in chapter 3 of this study:
‘Observe this. In the mystic doctrine of the Holy Name we speak of King and Priest, both above and below. The King above is the mystic Holy of Holies,. [Tr. note: Binah.] and under him there is a Priest, the mystic Primeval Light, who ministers before him; he is the priest who is called “great” and is stationed at the right hand. There is a King below, in the likeness of the King above, who is king over all that is below; and under him there is a Priest who ministers to him: this is he whom we call Michael, the High Priest, who is at the right hand. All this constitutes the true object of faith, that of the side of holiness. On the “other side”, the side which is not holy, there is also a king, the one who is called “an old king and a fool” (Eccl. 4:13), and the priest, who is under him and ministers to him, is On (=aven, nothingness, idolatry); he is alluded to in the verse: “And Ephraim said, Yet I am become rich, I have found me out power”, namely, the celestial unholy power which presided over the act of idolatry committed by Jeroboam (I Kings 12:28), without which he would not have been able to succeed. Now, when this king and this priest of the “other side” are subdued, and their power broken, all the “other sides” follow suit, and are also subdued and broken, and acknowledge the sovereignty of the Holy One, and in this way He alone rules above and below, as it is written: “And the Lord alone will be exalted in that day” (Isaiah 2:11). In just the same way God broke here on earth the power of an “old and foolish king”, namely Pharaoh, who, when Moses said to him, “The God of the Hebrews hath met with us”, replied, “I know not the Lord,” but when the Holy One, desiring that His Name should be glorified on earth as it is in heaven, punished him and his people, he came and acknowledged the Holy One. Subsequently his priest also, namely Jethro, the priest of On, i.e. idolatry, was also humbled, so that he came and acknowledged the Holy One, saying: “Blessed be the Lord, who hath delivered you…. Now I know that the Lord is greater than all the gods…” (Exodus 18:10,11). So when that king and that priest acknowledged the Holy One, blessed be He, and were humbled before Him, He was exalted above and below, and then, and then only did He give forth the Torah, as undisputed sovereign over all.’
Zohar, Shemoth 67b
12 and all the authority of the first beast doth it do before it, and it maketh the land and those dwelling in it that they shall bow before the first beast, whose deadly stroke was healed,
13 and it doth great signs, that fire also it may make to come down from the heaven to the earth before men,
This deception mimics Elijah’s bringing fire down from heaven, thus showing himself to be a “prophet of G-d.” Jewish tradition is clear that Elijah will come with Messiah at the end of the age, thus the two beasts counterfeit the messianic King and the great prophet:
“As any one of the stars can burn up the whole world, so the righteous; Elijah, for example, at whose word fire came down from heaven; as it is said, If I be a man of God, let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And there came down fire from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty (2Kings 1:10).”
Midrash Rabbah, Numbers 2:13
Another interesting possibility is that the second beast is associated with a “resurrection” of the first beast. This too would parallel (counterfeit) Jewish ideas regarding the role of Elijah in the end times.
As seen in the following quotations (cited in Raphael Patai’s book, “The Messiah Texts”) Elijah is either responsible for the coming resurrection of the dead, or the latter is a sign that Elijah is about to appear. Either scenario might relate to the actions of the beasts or Revelation:
“The resurrection of the dead will come through Elijah of blessed memory, Amen.”
Talmud, Sota 9:15
“The resurrection of the dead will bring about (the coming of) Elijah of blessed memory.”
Y. Sheqalim 47c
14 and it leadeth astray those dwelling on the land, because of the signs that were given it to do before the beast, saying to those dwelling upon the land to make an image to the beast that hath the stroke of the sword and did live,
15 and there was given to it to give a spirit to the image of the beast, that also the image of the beast may speak, and [that] it may cause as many as shall not bow before the image of the beast, that they may be killed.
The second beast (emanating from Asiyah) commands people to make an image to the first beast (emanating from Yetzirah). This image parallels that of Nebuchadnezzar – to a greater extent than John informs us. The following text gives us a critical piece of information regarding Nebuchadnezzar’s idol, not found in the Tenakh — it actually spoke:
“The Rabbis say: Nebuchadnezzar tried to entice Daniel, saying to him, ‘Will you not bow down to the image, for it is strong and real? Come and see what it can do.’ He said to him, ‘and you will bow down to it of yourself.’ What did that wicked king do? He took the plate of the High Priest and put it in the mouth of the image, and then he brought together all manner of musicians who played hymns to it, and it responded, ‘I am the Lord thy God.’ When Daniel saw this, he said: ‘Will you permit me to go up to it and kiss your image on the mouth?’ ‘Why on the mouth?’, he said to him. ‘ Because,’ he replied, ‘it speaks so excellently.’ He thereupon gave him permission. Going up to it, he adjured the plate saying, ‘ I am flesh and blood, and I am the messenger of the Holy One, blessed be He; I bid thee take good heed that the name of heaven should not be profaned through thee, and command thee to follow me.’ He then approached to kiss it and took that which it had swallowed out of its mouth. When he came down the various musicians assembled and played hymns before it, but it made no response; and straightway the wind blew down the image. When the heathen saw the wonders and mighty deeds that God had wrought with Hananiah and his companions, they took their idols and broke them, and made them into bells which they hung on their dogs and their asses, and when they tinkled they said, ‘You see now to what we used to bow down,’ to fulfil what is said, ‘Bel boweth down, Nebo stoopeth’; their idols are upon the beasts, and upon the cattle (Isaiah 46:1).”
Midrash Rabbah, The Song of Songs 7:15
Sha’are Orah links Nebuchadnezzar’s actions directly to the tower of Babel and that “Generation of Division”:
“It (the Tower of Babel) will make a name for us …” (Genesis 11:4) Then (later) Nebuchadnezzar came after he had destroyed lands, uprooted kingdoms and cast his hand upon the Temple. He saw that he was able to do this and then returned to activate this evil thought that the Generation of Division had connived to assert. This is the essence of the statement: “King Nebuchadnezzar made a statue of gold sixty cubits high and six cubits broad. He set it up in the BIKAH of Dura in the province of Babylon. (Daniel 3:1) This is the same BIKAH: “They came upon a BIKAH (a valley, also a breach) in the land of Shinar and thus they gave it the name Babylon. (Genesis 11:9) This same wicked man wanted to complete the thought of the Generation of Division which could not do it. … The one who understands this will understand the essence of all that is said in the chapters that deal with the Generation of Division, and the idol of Nebuchadnezzar, and will realize how identical these situations are and he will realize how far the wicked one’s designs reached with that idol.”
Sha’are Orah (Gates of Light) Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla, English translation by Avi Weinstein, Altamira Press, London, 1994, p. 363.
“Speech” is highly significant throughout Scripture, from the words of Creation, to the voice of God at the giving of the Torah, to the “Word of God” in heaven, etc. The Millennial Kingdom is called Malkut Pei (kingdom of the mouth) for this reason.
Speech, at a deep spiritual level, can be used for good or evil:
“Just as the generation of the Tower of Bavel used their power of speech and potential godliness to rebel against G-d, so too was Bilaam about to use that very same power to curse the holiest nation on earth. At least, that is what he thought. What he found out instead was that his diabolical scheme ran in the face of the primal purpose of creation, something he had to find out from a donkey’s mouth. In fact, Shabbos is called “Malchus Peh,” the “Kingdom of the Mouth,” (which is why some people will only speak in Hebrew on Shabbos).”
Perceptions On The Parsha, Parshas Balak, “Balak Magic,” Rabbi Pinchas Winston – http://www.torah.org/learning/perceptions/5759/balak.html
This parsha study is also interesting as it relates the teaching concerning Balak’s practice of inserting the tongue of a real bird into the statue of a bird in order to cause it to reveal prophecy.
Interestingly, Nebuchadnezzar’s own guardian angel has a name closely associated with this idea:
“G-d does not cast down a nation before He destroys their guardian angel first. You will find that in the case of Nebuchadnezzar also G-d first overthrew his guardian angel, for it says, While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell Kal [E.V. ‘a voice’] from heaven (Daniel 4:28). R. Joshua b. Abin said: The guardian angel of Nebuchadnezzar was named ‘ Kal ‘, and him G-d cast down.”
Midrash Rabbah – Exodus 21:5
The following text relates the idea of speech to the concepts of “first born Son,” “holy sun,” “tabernacle” (for all the sefirot) and “bridegroom”. Note the significance of the letter combinations coming together to create something spiritually significant. This will be discussed later in this study:
“When the Sabbath day itself lightens, a spirit of tranquil joy ascends through all worlds. This is the significance of the Psalm (recited on Sabbath morning): “The heavens tell the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.” ‘What is meant by “Heaven”? That heaven in which the Supernal Name is made visible (shama-yim- heaven; shem-Name). What is the meaning of the word “tell” (mesaprim)? Assuredly not the mere telling of a tale. Far otherwise! It signifies that they are illumined from the flashing of the supernal Point and ascend in the Name which is contained in the light-stream of the supernal perfectness. They flash and lighten of themselves through the lightening and flashing of the Supernal Book; [Tr. note: Malkuth.] they lighten and flash towards all the sides which are attached to them, and each sphere retains unto itself a little of this light, for from that sapphire-like radiance every ring in the chain derives its light and radiance. For upon this day (Sabbath) the heavens are crowned and ascend in the power of the Holy Name more than on any other day. “His handiwork” is the supernal Dew which streams forth from all the hidden regions; it is “the work of His hands”, and His self-fulfilment wherein He completes and perfects Himself on this day more than upon any other. This dew “streams down” (maggid in the Aramaic sense) from the Head of the King, with an abundance of blessing, the “firmament” here signifying the stream issuing from the Cistern, the “River which went out of Eden”, which flows earthwards, as the stream of the Supernal Dew which gleams and flashes from all sides. This “firmament” draws it downward upon a current of love and desire, in order that it may water the field of bliss and joy at the entrance of the Sabbath. When that fair pearled Dew streameth down, the whole becomes full and complete in its holy letters acting through all their holy channels; since all is united to it, a path is opened to it to water and bless all below. “Day unto day”-one day to another, one ring or sphere unto its fellow. Here Scripture speaks in detail concerning the manner in which the heavens radiate sapphire brightness to that Glory, and how that “Firmament” of the supernal Dew causes the downward flow of the current. “Day unto day utters speech.” Day unto day, grade unto grade, in order that the one should complete itself in the other, and one be illumined by the other from the luminous and sparkling radiance of the Sapphire which is reflected by the heavens back to the central glory. The word yabia’ (uttereth) can be translated “hasteneth”: they hasten to catch the light and the flashing one from another. The word OMeR (speech) indicates the letters and paths which proceed from the Father[Tr. note: Hokmah.] the Mother, [Tr. note: Binah.] and the head which issues from them, who is the firstborn Son. [Tr. note: ‘ Tifereth.] Aleph symbolizes the Father, and when it ascends and descends, the Mem unites itself with it, producing em, which signifies Mother; the resh is the Head (rosh =head), signifying Son. When these three unite the result is that they form “Word”, “Speech”. Thus the Father, the Mother, and the first born Son radiate one within the other in one union, which has its reign and duration upon the Sabbath. Thus all are united so as to become one, and therefore they hasten one to another that Omer, as a supernal reign, in order that all should be one. But when all has been conveyed down to that “firmament”, then it diffuses light upon the “Glory of God” below that it may produce beings in the likeness of the heavens which give light to that Glory. “And night unto night declareth knowledge.” These are those “chariots” which form the body of the Throne; they are called “nights”, as it is written: “My reins also instruct me in the nights” (Psalm 16:7). The upper chariot is called “Days” or “day unto day’,, the lower “Nights”, or “night unto night”. Ye-hawe (declares) may also mean “makes alive”, to wit, produces the progeny of the heavens, “brings unto life” generations. “Knowledge” designates the mystery of the heavens: as the heavens have six sides, so also the generations which they bring into life in their likeness. Thus “day unto day” is included in a supernal sphere called “Word” (omer), and “night unto night” in the mystery of the Male, who gives light to her and whose name is “Knowledge”. And because this “Word” is not like other words, but is a supernal mystery, Scripture comes back to it and says: “There is no word (omer) nor speeches, their voices are not heard” (v. 3). This “word” is a supreme mystery of supernal grades, where there are no voices nor speech, and which cannot be understood like the other grades which constitute the mystery of the Faith, and which are voices that can be heard. And yet “Their line is gone out through all the earth” (v. 4), although they are supernal mysteries which can never be perfectly comprehended, yet the current of their flow is downward. Because of this current, we have a true Faith in this world, and all mankind can discourse of the mystery of the Faith of the Holy One in connection with these grades, as if they were revealed to and not hidden from them. Therefore it says: “And their words to the end of the world” (Ibid.), which means that from the beginning to the end of the world the “wise of heart” discourse of those hidden grades although they cannot be comprehended. And how far are they comprehended? “In them hath he set a tent for the sun” (Ibid.), because the holy sun [Tr. note: ‘ Tifereth.] is as a tabernacle of all those supreme grades, and is as a light which has taken into itself all the hidden lights and the whole current of their extension, whereby Faith is manifested in the whole world. To grasp the Sun is equivalent to grasping all grades, because the sun is a “tent” including all and absorbing all; and he in turn lights up all the shining colours below. Hence “He is a bridegroom coming forth from his canopy (covering)” (v. 6), in the gleam and flash of those hidden lights which in strong yearning and desire give him tokens of their love, as to a bridegroom to whom all his friends give presents and gifts.
Zohar, Shemoth 136b, 137a
It has been typical of Israel’s enemies in the past to try to induce them into the sin of idolatry. The following passage informs us that Haman (from the book of Esther) was also involved in having G-d’s people bow to an idol. Note that this Midrash makes a point to associate the refusal to bow to an idol with the idea of “unification of the Name of G-d,” which as mentioned is the “battleground” of Revelation:
THERE WAS A MAN, A JEW IN SHUSHAN THE CASTLE. The word MAN here tells us that Mordecai in his generation was equal to Moses in his; for of Moses too it is written, Now the man Moses was very meek (Numbers 12:3). Just as Moses stood in the breach, as it is written, Therefore He said that He would destroy them, had not Moses His chosen stood before Him in the breach (Psalm 106:23), so did Mordecai, as it is written, Seeking the good of his people and speaking peace to all his seed (Esther 10:3). Just as Moses taught Israel Torah, as it is written, Behold, I have taught you statutes and ordinances (Deut. 4:5), so did Mordecai, as it is written, And he sent letters… with words of peace and truth (Esther 9:30), [and truth means Torah], as it is written, Buy the truth, and sell it not (Prov. 23:23). WHOSE NAME WAS MORDECAI. The wicked in Scripture come before their name, as it says, Nabal was his name, Sheba son of Bikri was his name. But the righteous are preceded by the word ‘ name ‘, as it says, And his name was Manoah, And his name was Kish, And his name was Elkanah, And his name was Boaz, AND HIS NAME WAS MORDECAI. The reason is that they resemble their Creator, of whom it is written, But by My name The Lord made Me not known to them (Exodus 6:2). A JEW [lit. A JUDEAN]. Why is he called A JUDEAN; surely he was a Benjamite? Because he declared the unity of G-d’s name in the face of all mankind, as it is written, But Mordecai bowed not down nor prostrated himself before him (Esther 3:2). Was Mordecai then looking for quarrels or disobedient to the king’s command? The fact is that when Ahasuerus ordered that all should bow down to Haman, the latter fixed an idolatrous image on his breast for the purpose of making all bow down to an idol. When Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow down to it, he was filled with wrath. Said Mordecai to him: ‘ There is a lord who is exalted above all the exalted; how can I abandon Him and bow down to an idol?’ And so because he proclaimed the unity of G-d’s name he was called YEHUDI (JUDEAN), as much as to say yehidi (unique). Some say he was equal to Abraham in his generation. Just as our father Abraham allowed himself to be cast into the fiery furnace and converted his fellowmen and made them acknowledge the greatness of the Holy One, blessed be He, as it says, And the souls which they had gotten in Haran (Gen. 12:5), so in the days of Mordecai men acknowledged the greatness of the Holy One, blessed be He, as it says, And many from among the peoples of the land became Jews (Esther 8:17), and he proclaimed the unity of God’s name and sanctified it. Therefore he was called YEHUDI, as it says, A JUDEAN MAN; read not YEHUDI but yehidi.
Midrash Rabbah – Esther 6:2
AMALEK & THE “MIXED MULTITUDE”
What is happening to cause these terrible events to happen to Israel and to the world? As mentioned at the beginning of this chapter’s notes, in order to gain understanding of what may happen in the future, we can often go to the historical record.
The figure of Amalek (first mentioned in Genesis 14:17) gives us a specific insight as his persecution of Israel. Amalek is directly tied to “doubt” (versus faith) on the part of God’s people. When the Hebrew people doubt God, Amalek strikes. In gammatria, the numerical value of “Amalek” (240) and the word for “doubt” (safek) are the same.
We begin with a short citation from the Midrash on Numbers:
“The Amalekites were ever a strap of chastisement for Israel. You find that as soon as they said, Is the Lord among us? (Deuteronomy 17:7), Came Amalek (ib. 8). When They said one to another: Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt (Numbers 14:4), Then the Amalakite and the Canaanite… came down (ib. 45).
Midrash Rabbah – Numbers 19:20
The Zohar offers a similar view:
“When a young man who lives at ease in his father’s house begins to make all sorts of complaints and demands, saying, “I want this, and I do not want that”, he attaches himself to that “sore evil”, and he will be punished both in this world and in the world to come. Concerning such a case, King Solomon said: “There is a sore evil… riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt.” Such was the case of the Israelites: the Holy One, blessed be He, carried them on eagles’ wings, encircled them with the clouds of glory, made the Shekinah go before them, gave them manna to eat, and sweet water to drink, and yet they complained! Hence, “and Amalek came.”
Zohar Shemoth 65b-66a
The idea of “doubt” being a critical sin was actually brought up earlier in John’s vision:
“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.”
These ideas of doubt and lukewarmness, as connected to Amalek, are said to infect the Jewish people at certain times in history, one being at the time of the sin of the golden calf:
“The mixed multitude are the impurity which the serpent injected into Eve. From this impurity came forth Cain, who killed Abel…. From Cain was descended Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, as it is written, “And the sons of the Kenite the father-in-law of Moses” (Judges 1:16), and according to tradition he was called Kenite because he originated from Cain. Moses, in order to screen the reproach of his father-in-law, sought to convert the “mixed multitude” (the descendants of Cain), although G-d warned him, saying, “They are of an evil stock; beware of them.” Through them Moses was banished from his proper place and was not privileged to enter the land of Israel, for through them he sinned in striking the rock when he was told to speak to it (Numbers 20:8); it was they who brought him to this. And withal G-d takes account of a good motive, and since Moses’ motive in converting them was good, as has been said, therefore G-d said to him, “I shall make thee a nation greater and mightier than he” (Ibid. 14:12). In regard to them it is written, “Whoso hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book” (Exodus 32:33), for they are of the seed of Amalek, of whom it is said, “thou shalt blot out the memory of Amalek” (Deut. 25:19): it was they who caused the two tablets of the Law to be broken.”
Zohar, Bereshith 28b
Amalek’s power is traced directly to the serpent, the master of planting doubt in the minds of humans (i.e, such as in the Garden of Eden story).
“What does DOR DOR (from generation to generation) mean? Amalek the wicked comes from the power of the primordial snake, and it is there that he connects and draws his strength.”
Sha’are Orah (Gates of Light) Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla, English translation by Avi Weinstein, Altamira Press, London, 1994, p. 320.
Amalek is directly associated with Samael, the archangel of evil. He is the cause of the “three great sins” — idolatry, murder and unchastity (sexual sin):
“Various impurities are mingled in the composition of Israel, like animals among men. One kind is from the side of the serpent; another from the side of the Gentiles, who are compared to the beasts of the field; another from the side of mazikin (goblins), for the souls of the wicked are literally the mazikin (goblins) of the world; and there is an impurity from the side of the demons and evil spirits; and there is none so cursed among them as Amalek, who is the evil serpent, the “strange god”. He is the cause of all unchastity and murder, and his twin-soul is the poison of idolatry,the two together being called Samael (lit. poison-god). There is more than one Samael, and they are not all equal, but this side of the serpent is accursed above all of them.”
Zohar, Bereshith 28b,29a
The three sins of idolatry, murder and unchastity are those for which a Jew is expected to give up his life. In other cases, it is permitted to sin if one’s life is at stake:
“R. Johanan said in the name of R. Simeon b. Jehozadak: By a majority vote, it was resolved in the upper chambers of the house of Nithza in Lydda18 that in every [other] law of the Torah, if a man is commanded: ‘Transgress and suffer not death’ he may transgress and not suffer death, excepting idolatry, incest, [which includes adultery/unchastity] and murder.”
Talmud, Sanhedrin 74a
These three sins are said to be what caused the destruction of the first temple:
“Why was the first Sanctuary destroyed? Because of three [evil] things which prevailed there: idolatry, immorality, bloodshed.”
Talmud, Yoma 9b
(See Revelation 9:21 which adds “theft” to these others.)
The greatness of Amalek’s power is seen in this commentary on Israel’s war with with him:
“R. Simeon said: ‘There is a deep allusion in the name “Rephidim”. This war emanated from the attribute of Severe Judgement and it was a war above and a war below. The Holy One, as it were, said: “when Israel is worthy below My power prevails in the universe; but when Israel is found to be unworthy she weakens My power above, and the power of severe judgement predominates in the world.’ So here, “Amalek came and fought with Israel in Rephidim”, because the Israelites were “weak” (raphe) in the study of the Torah, as we have explained on another occasion.’ AND MOSES SAID UNTO JOSHUA, CHOOSE US OUT MEN, AND GO OUT, FIGHT WITH AMALEK. Why did Moses abstain from fighting the first battle which God Himself commanded? Because he was able to divine the true meaning of his Master’s command. Hence he said: “I will prepare myself for the war above, and thou, Joshua, prepare thyself for the war below.” This is the meaning of the words :”When Moses lifted up his hand, Israel prevailed” (Ibid. v, 11), namely Israel above. Therefore Moses did not participate in the war on earth, so that he might throw himself with greater zeal into the war in Heaven, and thus promote victory on earth. Said R. Simeon: ‘Let us not think lightly of this war with Amalek. Verily, from the creation of the world until then, and since then till the coming of the Messiah, there has been and will be no war like that, nor can even the war of Gog and Magog be compared with it; and this not because of the mighty armies taking part in it, but because it was launched against all the attributes of the Holy One, blessed be He.’ AND MOSES SAID TO JOSHUA. Why to him, who was then but a “youth” (Ex. XXXIII, 11)? Were there in Israel no greater warriors than Joshua? The reason was that Moses in his wisdom was aware that it was not going to be merely a battle against flesh and blood, but against Samael, who was coming down to assist Amalek. Now Joshua, “the youth”, had reached at that time a high degree of spiritual perception, not, indeed, as high as Moses, who was united with the Shekinah, but his soul was, in fact, attached to the supernal region called “Youth” (=Metatron). Now when Moses perceived that Samael was going to fight for Amalek, he thought: “this young man, Joshua, will surely stand against him and prevail”, and therefore he said unto him: “go and fight against Amalek! It is thy battle, the battle here below, and I will prepare myself for the battle above. Choose worthy men, righteous and the sons of the righteous, to accompany thee”.’ Said R. Simeon: ‘At the moment when Joshua, the “young man”, started out to fight Amalek, the “Young Man” above was stirred, and was equipped with weapons prepared by his “Mother” (the Shekinah) for the battle in order to “avenge the covenant” (cf. Lev. XXVI, 25) with the “sword” (Ex. XVII, 13). Moses equipped himself for the war above. “His hands were heavy” (Ibid. v, 12), that is to say, “weighty, honourable, holy hands”, that had never been defiled, hands worthy to wage the war above. AND THEY TOOK A STONE AND PUT IT UNDER HIM AND HE SAT THEREON: to participate in the distress of Israel.”
Zohar, Shemoth 66a
The Talmud equates the elevation of Moses’ hands in the battle against Amalek with faith on the part of Israel (and conversely, the lowering of his hands with their doubt):
“Now did the hands of Moses wage war or crush the enemy? Not so; only the text signifies that so long as Israel turned their thoughts above and subjected their hearts to their father in heaven they prevailed, but otherwise they fell.”
Talmud, Rosh Hashana 29a
Although Amalek was killed long ago, the Torah and other writings testify to the idea that the spirit of Amalek will not be done away with until the coming of Messiah:
But withal redemption will not be complete until Amalek will be exterminated, for against Amalek the oath was taken that “the Lord will have war against Amalek from generation to generation” (Exodus 17:16).
Zohar, Bereshith 25b
The following passage associates the coming of Amalek with the union of two evil spiritual forces coming together. This text also portrays the brazenness of Amalek as having no regard for God whatsoever:
“And this is the meaning of the words, “blessed are ye that sow beside all waters, that send forth thither the feet of the ox and the ass”, namely, the two “Crowns of the Left”, to which are attached the pagan nations who are called “ox and ass”. When the Israelites are worthy, then they dismiss these evil powers, and they have no dominion over them.’ Said R. Abba: ‘When the two (i.e. the ox and the ass) are united, the inhabitants of the world cannot stand up against them. For this reason it is prohibited to “plough with an ox and an ass together” (Deut. 22:10). From them, when united, emanates the power, called “dog”, which is more insolent than all of them. Said the Holy One, blessed be He: “Ye said, ‘is the Lord in our midst or not?’ Behold, I will deliver you to the dog!”, and straightway came Amalek.’ R. Judah said: ‘It is written, “Amalek is the first of the nations; but his latter end shall be that he perish for ever” (Numbers 24:20). Was, then, Amalek the first of the nations? Were there not many tribes, nations, and peoples in the world before Amalek came? But the meaning is that Amalek was the first nation who feared not to proclaim war against Israel, as it says, “and he feared not G-d” (Deut. 24:18); whilst the other nations were filled with fear and trembling before Israel at the time of the Exodus, as it says: “The peoples heard and were afraid; trembling took hold of the inhabitants of Pelesheth” (Exodus 15:14); in fact, apart from Amalek there was no nation that was not awestruck before the mighty works of the Holy One, blessed be He. Therefore “his latter end shall be that he perish for ever”.
Zohar, Shemoth 65a
As mentioned throughout this study, the cure for Israel’s woes is the Torah. (This also relates to the idea of ‘famine’ with regard to lacking Torah knowledge):
“The Torah says: “Amalek battled Israel in (a place called) Refidim” (Exodus 17:8). The Midrash explains that the name “Refidim” is a contraction of Hebrew words meaning “they loosened their grip on Torah.” As long as the Jews were diligent in Torah study, Amalek had no dominion over them. But as soon as Jewish study became lax, they were in danger.”
Thus “doubt,” caused by lack of Torah study, is a tactic used by the enemy to prevent the “completion” of the Temple/Throne of God and the unification of His Name. Anything that disuades people from being “hearers and doers” of the Torah is ‘of Amalek.’
A modern teacher/author ties this all together as follows:
“When the Beit HaMikdash was eventually constructed on the holy mountain, symbolizing the possibility of human connection with G-d and holiness, its spiritual foundations are traced back to the prayers Moshe uttered on that hill in the desert. In the aftermath of that first battle we are told that until Amalek is ultimately and completely defeated, something will remain missing in this world and the celestial spheres (Exodus 17:14-16) … for as long as Amalek is around, spewing his venom, the throne of G-d and G-d’s Name are, as it were, incomplete. Evil has a foothold in this world as long as G-d’s holiness is not completely manifest. The symbol of the destruction of evil is the final victory in the epic battle with Amalek. Yerusshlayim (Jerusalem) represents G-d’s throne on earth; Amalek represents the attack on the throne.”
Emanations: In-depth analysis of the Jewish holidays through the prism of rabbinic perspective, Ari D. Kahn, Targum/Feldheim, 2002, p. 114.
16 He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads,
17 and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
18 Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.
Revelation 13:16-18 is perhaps the section of Scripture that has inspired the most conjecture for centuries. Although John’s description certainly does leave a great deal of interpretive leeway, the proper context in which to approach these verses is from the one John wrote from — within the framework of Jewish Torah spirituality.
THE “MARK” OF THE BEAST
Although the “mark of the beast” carries a negative connotation, there are a several references in Scripture to a “mark” being placed by G-d on people (or property), in order to protect them.
The earliest reference is that placed on Cain:
“And the Lord said to him, Therefore whoever slays Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.”
Another type of protective “mark” was that placed on the doors of the Hebrews in Goshen. Note that when “unmitigated judgment” is released (i.e., descending from Gevurah on the “left side” directly to Malkut, without being “mitigated” through Tiferet), then even G-d’s people may face physical harm unless they take the proper steps.
“And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, in which they shall eat it.”
“And the blood shall be to you for a sign upon the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.”
Ezekiel chapter 9 speaks of a “mark” of G-d on the foreheads of the righteous. This parallels the mark (also called “seal”) of G-d seen elsewhere in the book of Revelation:
“And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house.”
“Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our G-d.”
“They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of G-d on their foreheads.”
The Zohar associates the letter Tav (Tau), the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, with the mark mentioned by Ezekiel (above), associating it with the “seal” of G-d and connecting it with those who have kept the mitzvot:
“IN THE BEGINNING. Rab Hamnuna the Venerable said: ‘We find here a reversal of the order of the letters of the Alphabet, the first two words Bereshith bara-”in-the-beginning He-created”-commencing with beth, whereas the two words following, Elohim eth-”God the”-commence with aleph. The reason is as follows. When the Holy One, blessed be He, was about to make the world, all the letters of the Alphabet were still embryonic, and for two thousand years the Holy One, blessed be He, had contemplated them and toyed with them. When He came to create the world, all the letters presented themselves before Him in reversed order. The letter Tau advanced in front and pleaded: May it please Thee, O Lord of the world, to place me first in the creation of the world, seeing that I am the concluding letter of EMeTh (Truth) which is engraved upon Thy seal, and seeing that Thou art called by this very name of EMeTh, it is most appropriate for the King to begin with the final letter of EMeTh and to create with me the world. The Holy One, blessed be He, said to her: Thou art worthy and deserving, but it is not proper that I begin with thee the creation of the world, since thou art destined to serve as a mark on the foreheads of the faithful ones (vide Ezekiel 9:4) who have kept the Law from Aleph to Tau, and through the absence of this mark the rest will be killed; and, further, thou formest the conclusion of MaWeTh (death). Hence thou art not meet to initiate the creation of the world.”
Zohar, Bereshith 2b
The following, from Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh’s book on the Hebrew letters, adds deeper insight into the meaning of the letter tav and this “seal” of God:
“G-d’s seal (in Creation) is truth (in Hebrew, emet, spelled out by the final letters of the three last words in the account of Creation: bara elokim la’asot,” ” …G-d created ‘to do’”). The last letter or seal of the word emet, “truth,” itself – the seal of G-d’s seal – is the letter tav, simple faith, the conclusion and culmination of all twenty-two forces – letters – active in Creation. The three letters which spell emet are the beginning, middle and ending letters of the alef-beit.” The alef corresponds to one’s initial awareness of Divine paradox in the infinite source (where the higher and lower waters, joy and bitterness, are absolutely one). From this awareness issues mem, the fountain of Divine wisdom, ever- increasing power of insight into the mysteries of Torah. “The final end of knowledge is not to know.” The culmination of the flow of Divine wisdom in the soul (after all is said and done) is the “majestic” revelation of the infinite “treasure-house” of simple faith in G-d’s absolute omnipresence below innate in the soul of Israel. The culmination of truth simple faith is the secret of the “tav.” … So we are taught: “Torah is the impression [the tav] of Divinity; Israel is the impression [the tav] of Torah.”
The Hebrew Letters: Channels of Divine Consciousness, Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, Linda Pinsky Publications, Jerusalem, 1990, pp. 323-337
Another text speaks of a good mark that comes from the (right) side of grace:
“Said R. Eleazar: ‘Observe how merciful the Holy One, blessed be He, shows Himself towards all beings, and especially towards those who walk in His paths. For when He is about to execute judgement on the world, before doing so He puts in the way of His beloved the occasion of performing a good act. We have thus been taught that when the Holy One loves a man, He sends him a present in the shape of a poor man, so that he should perform some good deed to him, through the merit of which he shall draw to himself a cord of grace from the right side which shall wind round his head and imprint a mark on him, so that, when punishment falls on the world, the destroyer, raising his eyes and noticing the mark, will be careful to avoid him and leave him alone.”
Zohar, Bereshith 104a
This next midrash expounds on Ekekiel’s “mark,” bringing “the prosecution” (adversary=haSatan) into the equation:
” The Holy One, blessed be He, never associates His name with what is bad, but only with what is good. Hence it is not written here, ‘And concerning these God said in my hearing,’ but, ’And concerning these He said in my hearing: Go ye through the city after him, and smite; let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity; slay utterly the old man, the young man and the maiden, and little children and women; but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at My sanctuary (ib. 5 f.). How can this be? At that time the prosecution sprang before the Throne of Glory and spake before Him: ‘Lord of the universe, which of them was slain for Thy name? Which of them had his head split open for Thy name? Which of them gave his life for Thy name?’
Midrash Rabbah – Lamentations 2:3
The following text shows God’s “mark” of protection being directly tied to the Torah:
“God said to Israel: ‘When are you called My children? When you receive My words.’ This can be compared to a king to whom his son said: ‘ Set some mark upon me in the land [that people should know] that I am your son.’ Whereupon the king replied: ‘ If you wish that all should know that you are my son, then put on my purple cloak and place my crown on your head, and all will know that you are my son.’ So God said to Israel: ‘If you wish to be distinguished as My children, then occupy yourselves with the [study of the] Torah and with the precepts, and all will see that you are My Children. So, when are you My children? When you receive My words.’ Rabbi said: When Israel were in the wilderness, a pillar of cloud journeyed in front of them, and the smoke of the altar and the smoke of the incense went up [towards heaven], and two sparks of fire issued from between the two staves of the Ark and devoured in front of them the serpents and scorpions; and when the nations of the world saw them they exclaimed: ‘These are divine beings, for whatever they do is with fire.’ Thereupon Moses said to Israel: ‘ All the distinction which [God caused to be] lavished upon you is only because you have accepted His Torah on Sinai.”
Midrash Rabbah – Deuteronomy 7:9
The Talmud shows the mark of the Tav associated with the righteous in ink, and evil ones in blood:
Rab Judah was sitting before Samuel. [when] a woman came and cried before him, but he ignored her. Said he to him, Does not the Master agree [that] whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry, but shall not be heard? O keen scholar! he replied. Your superior [will be punished] with cold [water]. but your superior’s superior [will be punished] with hot. Surely Mar Ukba, the Ab-Beth din is sitting! For it is written, O house of David, thus saith the Lord. Execute judgement in the morning, and deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor, lest my fury go forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doing, etc. R. Zera said to R. Simeon, Let the Master rebuke the members of the Resh Galutha’s suite. They will not accept it from me, was his reply. Though they will not accept its returned he, yet you should rebuke them. For R. Aha b. R. Hanina said: Never did a favourable word go forth from the mouth of the Holy One, blessed be He, of which He retracted for evil, save the following, where it is written, And the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark [taw] upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof, etc. The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Gabriel, Go and set a taw of ink upon the foreheads of the righteous, that the destroying angels may have no power over them; and a taw of blood upon the foreheads of the wicked, that the destroying angels may have power over them. Said the Attribute of Justice before the Holy One, blessed be He, Sovereign of the Universe! Wherein are these different from those? Those are completely righteous men, while these are completely wicked, replied He. Sovereign of the Universe! it continued, they had the power to protest but did not. It was fully known to them that had they protested they would not have heeded them. Sovereign of the Universe! said he, If it was revealed to Thee, was it revealed to them? Hence it is written, [Slay utterly] the old man, the young and the maiden, and little children and women; but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my Sanctuary [mikdashi]. Then they began at the elders which were before the house. R. Joseph recited: Read not mikdashi but mekuddashay [my sanctified ones]: this refers to the people who fulfilled the Torah from alef to taw. And straightway, And behold, six men came from the way of the upper gate, which lieth toward the north, every man with his slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man in the midst of them clothed in linen, with a writer’s inkhorn by his side. And they went in, and stood beside the brazen altar. Was then the brazen altar [still] in existence? The Holy One, blessed be He, spake thus to them; Commence [destruction] from the place where song is uttered before Me. And who were the six men? Said R. Hisda: Indignation [Kezef], Anger [Af], Wrath [Hemah], Destroyer [Mashhith] Breaker [Meshabber] and Annihilator [Mekaleh]. And why taw? Said Rab: Taw [stands for] tihyeh [thou shalt live], taw [stands for] tamuth [thou shalt die]. Samuel said: The taw denotes, the merit of the Patriarchs is exhausted [tamah].19 R. Johanan said: The merit of the Patriarchs will confer grace [tahon].20 While Resh Lakish said: Taw is the end of the seal of the Holy One, blessed be He. For R. Hanina said: The seal of the Holy One, blessed be He, is emeth [truth]. R. Samuel b. Nahmani said: It denotes the people who fulfilled the Torah from alef to taw.
Talmud, Shabbat 55a
The protecive “mark” of God going hand in hand with the Torah is also found several places in John’s revelation:
“And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Yeshua the Messiah.”
“Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of G-d and the faith of Yeshua.”
“Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.”
WISDOM (CHOKMAH) AND UNDERSTANDING (BINAH)
Without a doubt, verse 18 is one of the most intriguing in the entirety of Torah literature. John expresses the importance of the reader attaining “understanding” (Binah) to go along with the “wisdom” (Chokmah) that he is imparting. What exactly is this Understanding, how does it relate to Wisdom, how does one attain it, and what is the final result?
In a simple sense, the attribute of Wisdom (Chokmah) is considered to “come out of nowhere” (i.e., Keter – the “unknowable” Sefirah), directly from G-d. Thus we see Solomon receiving Chokmah as a gift from G-d. It may also be said that Chokmah is associated with the potential given to a person. Chokmah is ‘singular’ and is associated with the past.
Understanding (Binah) however, carries with it the idea of effort on our part. Binah is required to materialize wisdom’s potential. Binah expands on the singularity of Chokmah and is the foundation of concepts of ‘measurement’ and ‘restriction.’ We might speculate that although Solomon had Wisdom, he fell into sin due to his lack of Binah (His lack of restriction regarding certain things in his life.)
The following explanation of Understanding/Binah is by way of author/teacher Aryeh Kaplan:
“The root of Binah is Bin, which is also the root of the word Hitbonenut meaning, “making oneself understand,” that being contemplating something so deeply and completely that one makes himself understand it in all of its aspects. The word is also used with respect to G-d, and in this sense, it is often a preparation for the mystical state as seen in verses such as these:
“Contemplate (hitbonen) the wonders of God.”
“Contemplate the love of God.”
“The wicked waited to destroy me. I contemplate your testimonies. I have seen a purpose to every end. Your commandment is very broad.”
“In Psalm 119 above, the Psalmist is saying that from contemplating on the commandments, he is able to perceive their breadth and true significance. In general, the word Binah is very closely related to the word Beyn, meaning “between.” Understanding is then the act of separating something in one’s mind, examining it by itself. The reflexive Hitbonen, thus means to cause oneself to separate something in his mind.”
(Meditation and the Bible, Aryeh Kaplan, Samuel Weiser Inc., York Beach Maine, 1978, p. 131.)
Binah is associated with the number “eight,” being the eighth Sefirah from Malkut/Kingdom. The idea of the “eighth” has to do with the “next step” beyond the perfection of the physical realm, which is itself associated with the number seven. When the number eight is found in Scripture, it often has to do with bringing someone or something into the spiritual realm (i.e., circumcision takes place on the eighth day, the Tabernacle and first Temple were dedicated on the eighth days, Psalm 119 follows a pattern of eight verses for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet, etc.).
Binah and the number eight are also associated with the festival of Shavuot, which is observed on the first day of the eighth week (day 50) following the “first Sabbath” of Passover week. An important concept to grasp with regard to this is the idea of our own involvement with “G-d’s will”. Whereas Passover was entirely God’s doing, Shavuot involved work, thought and decisions, on the part of His people. The days leading up to Shavuot are called the ‘Fifty Gates of Understanding,’ and are a time of deep contemplation of G-d and Torah.
(For a deeper look at this subject, see the kabbalisic text, The Palm Tree of Deborah; Chapter 4, Attaining the Qualities of Binah, at http://digital-brilliance.com/kab/deborah/deborah.htm)
KNOWLEDGE/DA’AT AND THE SIN OF ADAM
Taking this further, the confluence of Wisdom (considered Abba/Father) and Understanding (Imma/Mother) is seen as Da’at/Knowledge. Thus, John’s instruction makes a connection between attaining da’at and calculating the number of the beast.
This is indeed a quality of da’at at this level:
“Daat is not just the accumulation of the results of chokhmah and binah; it also has an active function: to summarize and deduce. It fixes in the soul the picture that is absorbed by chokhmah and developed by binah, rendering their constantly changing processes into a focused awareness. Daat is thus the faculty to reach conclusions.”
Opening the Tanya, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, Jossey-Bass, 2003, p. 116.
One person who was said to have Wisdom, Understanding and Knowledge, was Bezalel, the architect of the Tabernacle. Not only was the Tabernacle the precursor to the Temple and place that God would “appear,” it also stands as a similar model for our bodies being a Temple:
“Moses was commanded to build the sanctuary in which God’s Divine Presence would be revealed on earth. “Behold!” God told him, “I have called upon Bezalel … I have filled him with a Godly Spirit, with Wisdom, Understanding and Knowledge.” Rashi defines Da’at as ruach hakodesh, divine inspiration. When the powers of Chokmah and Binah are combined, Da’at (Knowledge) is attained and a sanctuary is built. This can be achieved on an individual level, too. Every person is capable of making himself a Holy Temple in which ruach hakodesh can be manifest! Rabbi Nachman thus taught, “Acquiring Da’at is comparable to the building of the Holy Temple, while an absence of Da’at corresponds to its destruction. Man’s goal must therefore be the pursuit of Da’at to build his own personal sanctuary of spirituality, wherein Godliness can be revealed.”
Anatomy of the Soul, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, Breslov Research Institute, Jerusalem, 1998, p. 180.
One can therefore make a connection between John’s admonition regarding attainment of Da’at and the coming of the Millennial Temple. As mentioned earlier in the notes to this chapter, the creation of the Temple is symbolic of the unification of the Name of God. Thus by unifying Wisdom and Understanding in our selves, we serve to hasten the coming of Messiah. (This is why it is taught the when the ‘footsteps of Mashiach’ begin, Torah study should take a preeminent role.)
Understanding verse 18 as ‘kabbalistic instruction’ to unify Wisdom and Understanding for the purpose of achieving a corrected state of Knowledge, we see a deeper aspect of what is going on with regard to this “beast” and his actions.
As mentioned, the ‘deception’ at the end of days may include the ‘beast’ placing himself in the role of a great tzaddik (righteous one) thereby coming between the true Bride below (Malkut/Shekinah) and Groom above (Tiferet). The connective role/action between the two is associated with the Sefirah of Yesod, which is between the Bride and the Groom on the kabbalistic Tree of Life.
Throughout kabbalistic literature, this idea of separating the bride from the groom is directly associated with the sin of Adam. When Adam and Chavah (Eve) ate of the Tree of Knowledge (Etz ha-Da’at) they caused this “break” to occur among the Sefirot. Thus, Da’at became “corrupted” and in need of tikkun (rectification). This tikun occured to a degree at Mount Sinai (with acceptance of the Written Torah by the Jews) and continued at the time of Esther and Mordecai (with their acceptance of the Oral Torah).
(For more on the rectification of Da’at, see The Aryeh Kaplan Reader, Mesorah Publications Ltd, Brooklyn NY, 1985, pp. 106-111.)
We can therefore draw a direct connection between the events of Gan Edan (with the serpent and sin of separating Malkut from the rest of the Sefirot) with those in the end of days as depicted by John’s account of the beast/false messiah. In a sense, HaSatan (the Adversary) comes to finish what he started with Adam. The people who “accept his number” place themselves in the camp of those taking part in this separation of the Bride from the Groom, which is the key aspect in the unification of the Name of G-d.
As the “Bride,” Malkhut, Shekinah and Ruach haKodesh are synonymous, sin “against the bride” is effectively the same as the “sin against the Ruach haKodesh.” Just as the sin against the Ruach was deemed the “unpardonable sin” by Yeshua, so is there also no forgiveness for those who receive the mark of the beast (as John mentions further in his revelation).
Refer to our previous notes to chapter 2:1-7 on Midag K’neged Midah (“measure for measure” punishment) for more on this concept.
TEFILLIN – AN ACT OF UNIFICATION
Just as the “beast” causes people to place something on their head and/or limb to show some form of ‘allegiance,’ there is a “similar” action associated with the people of G-d. This is found in “tefillin” — the implements a Jew binds to his head and arm as a means of literally fulfilling a directive of the Torah:
“You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.”
Tefillin serves as a symbol of man’s partnership of unifying above with below (i.e., the “Groom” and “Bride”), the converse of what the “mark of the beast” stands for. What is fascinating is the idea (mentioned in the text below) that the tefillin act as a “receiver” for spiritual signals. In this sense, the “mark of the beast” may also be a means of transmitting spiritual powers of the Sitra Achra into our world.
The following text from Aryeh Kaplan sheds some light on the essence of tefillin:
“Have you ever felt so close to another human being that every moment together was precious? Where every letter and memento from this person was something to be treasured? What if this person gave you a meaningful gift? Every time you looked at it or used it, would it not remind you of this special relationship? …Tefillin are a sign of this bond between G-d and man. Faith and love are very tenuous things. We can speak of them and think about them. But unless we do something about them we tend to forget; Tefillin serve to help us remember. The essence of the Torah is its commandments, Mitzvos in Hebrew. The word Mitzvah comes from the root meaning “to bind.” Every commandment or mitzvah serves to draw us close to G-d and strengthen this connection. With every Mitzvah we forge a spiritual bond with G-d. In the case of Tefillin, this bond is physical as well as spiritual. We literally bind G-d’s love symbol to our bodies. Thus, our sages teach us that the commandment of Tefillin encompasses all others. Here, we can actually see and feel the bond. G-d has given us the commandment of Tefillin and clearly spelled out how to do it. Tefillin may seem like simple boxes and straps. But they are much, much more. When a man wears Tefillin, he binds himself to the very highest spiritual level. He achieves a closeness to G-d that even the deepest meditation could not accomplish. Of course, when a man wears Tefillin and also contemplates their significance, his very thoughts are elevated close to G-d. But even the physical act in itself can bring a man to the loftiest heights. We can also understand this in a much simpler sense. In order to create this bond, our Tefillin must conform exactly to G-d’s design. The slightest deviation breaks this link. A good analogy is that of a radio. A radio is specifically designed to receive a particular type of signal. Every element in it is needed for this. Cut a single wire, remove a single capacitor, no matter how small, and you no longer receive the signal. There are precise rules by which a radio must be built. These include all the laws of electromagnetism and circuits. If these are not exactly followed, the radio will not function. Tefillin are our receiver for a specific spiritual signal. As such, they must be designed to receive this particular kind of signal. Violate a single rule, and they become like a radio with a transistor removed. The bond just no longer exists. We can carry the analogy still further. You would have to have an extensive scientific education to even begin to understand how a radio works. You would have to know calculus and differential equations and all the complexities of electromagnetic theory. But still, even the youngest child can turn on a radio. The same is true of the Mitzvos. A lifetime of study might lead you to begin to understand their significance But anyone can put them on and receive the signal.”
From The Mysterious Tefillin, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan
THE NUMBER “666”
The number “666” is of course the centerpiece to this section. This number has been the source of much speculation for centuries. As mentioned above, “Binah” – understanding, which comes from study of Torah at its deepest levels, is key to correct understanding.
We will analyze this mysterious number in the following fashion:
- the number six
- the three numbers of; 600 and 60 and 6
- the total number of “six-hundred sixty six”
THE NUMBER “6”
The concepts associated with the number 6 are foundational to understanding this passage. Unfortunately, commentaries miss the point when addressing this. A common teaching (in some Christian circles) is the number six is “bad” as it is “the number of man,” whereas seven is “good” as it is “the number of G-d.” As interesting as that may sound it has no basis in Torah or Jewish tradition.
“Six” is no more or less “G-dly” than seven or any other number. In Hebrew gematria, the number six is closely associated with the concepts of the tzaddik and the Messiah. For this reason it makes sense that it would be connected to the idea of a false (‘counterfeit’) tzaddik/messiah.
An explanation of this is found in a prominent kabbalistic text, regarding the (sixth) Sefiirah of Tiferet and the third letter of the name YHVH (the “vav” – with a numerical value of six). As seen in the following citations, the “vav” is said to “stand in place of the complete Name” of YHVH:
“The essence of the third letter is the essence of the letter vav, and it includes the six Spheres which are the numerical equivalent of the letter vav [six], three above, which is half of vav and three of its other half below. The three of the upper half are Gedulah (also called Hesed), Gevurah and Tiferet and the three Spheres on the lower half are Netzach, Hod and Yesod. All these Spheres are included in the letter vav. Behold, the letter vav of the special Name (YHVH) stands in place of the complete Name. … This letter contains the secret of tying all the upper and lower Spheres. It ascends to Keter and descends to Malchut and it suits all the Spheres., for all are united in it whether they be above or below, to the right or to the left, and it is called the center line. … Know that this great Name YHVH is the attribute the Kabbalsits call the Middle Line. … The meaning of the term “the Middle Line” is the essence of the letter vav that is found in the Name YHVH, for it stands in the place where the Name is. It is like an intermediary line, thus this name ascends ever upward until AYN SOF (the infinte), which is the essence of Keter and unites with the name EHYE, which is the essence of the Heavenly Line and then returns to unite below with the Name Adonay. After this He returns and extends to the sides, and all sides from every direction hold fast toHim. One finds that the letter vav of the Name YHVH, may He be blessed, stands in the place of the whole Name, and to it all the other Names hold fast.”
Gates of Light (Sha’are Orah), Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla, translated by Avi Weinstein, Altimira Press, London, 1994. Excerpts from pp. 147-246.
As shown above, one of the chief ideas associated with the vav is the idea of connection – specifically connecting the heavenly and earthly realms. (Note that at the physical level, the letter vav is in the shape of a hook.) The six Sefirot of; Hesed, Gevurah, Tiferet, Netzah, Hod and Yesod (known collectively by the term Ze’er Anpin (lesser countenance) and singly represented by Tiferet and associated with the partzuf/persona of “the Son”), serve as the connection between the Throne room of God (represented by Binah) at one “end,” and the physical realm below (represented by Malkhut) at the other “end.” This acts in the same capacity as the Sulam Yaacov, the ladder of angels in Jacob’s dream. (See also John 1:51)
This idea of unifying the heavens and earth is also associated with the tzaddik (righteous person) specifically the mysterious figure of Messiah ben Yosef. The following text illustrates the vav as a pillar, specifically the middle pillar of truth as represented by the tzaddik:
AND THE PILLAR OF THE CLOUD REMOVED FROM BEFORE THEM AND STOOD BEHIND THEM. What was this pillar of cloud? R. Jose said that it was the cloud which is always seen with the Shekinah, the cloud into which Moses entered (Exodus 24:18). R. Abba said that it was that which supports the Zaddik.
Zohar, Shemoth 51b
The concept of the tzaddik is associated with the Sefirah of Yesod, which is the sixth of the seven “lower” Sefirot. Yesod is seen as the connecting point” between Malkut and the upper remaining Sefirot. In this sense Yesod determines how much or little of G-d’s blessings make it “down to us below.” With a righteous Messiah in the role of Yesod, these blessings come full force — with a false messiah allowed to stand in, it is only a matter of time before judgment befalls the world.
(For additional insight into the meaning of the letter vav, seehttp://www.inner.org/HEBLETER/vav.htm and also, The Hebrew Letters: Channels of Divine Consciousness,Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, Linda Pinsky Publications, Jerusalem, 1990, pp. 93-105.)
Note the relationship between the Sefirah of Tiferet, which is the sixth of the totality of the ten Sefirot and which is associated with Jacob, and the Sefirah of Yesod, which is the sixth of the lower seven Sefirot and associated with Joseph.
The following texts speak to the mirror image relationship between these two patriarchs and their related Sefirot:
“THESE ARE THE GENERATIONS OF JACOB: JOSEPH, ETC. When Jacob was brought to rest in Joseph, and so the sun was united with the moon, then there commenced a production of offspring, the progenitor being Joseph. For it is that perennially flowing stream which fructifies the earth and from which generations are propagated in the world. For the sun, even when he approaches the moon, cannot cause vegetation without the help of that grade which goes under the name of Righteous (Zaddik). It was, then, Joseph who was the grade of Jacob to bear fruit and bring forth offspring in the world. Hence: “These are the generations (tol’doth, lit. offspring) of Jacob: Joseph.” Or, again, we may take the words to signify that whoever looked at Joseph thought he was looking at Jacob. Hence this form of expression is used only in connection with Joseph and not with any other of Jacob’s sons-it is not written, for instance, “These are the offspring of Jacob: Reuben”, the reason being that Joseph was the exact image of his father.”
Zohar, Bereshith 180a
The Shekinah was thus leagued with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob together with Joseph, inasmuch as the two latter are one in essence, each one being the image of the other, as indicated in the words: “These are the offspring of Jacob: Joseph” (Gen. 37:2).
Zohar, Bereshith 176b
But now that Esau is biting him and his children, who will stand up against him? Jacob and Joseph, one on one side and the other on the other side. So Scripture says: “And the house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau for stubble, etc.” (Obadiah 1:18).
Zohar, Bereshith 173a
THE THREE NUMBERS OF 600 AND 60 AND 6
The mathematical relationship between these numbers is simple; 60 is the product of 6 and 10, and 600 is the product of 60 and 10.
This prompts two questions:
- What is the significance of ten times a number?
- Why a set of three numbers?
One of the other key meanings associated with the vav is the power which links together the souls of Israel. The soul is typically associated with the six “emotive” Sefirot of; Hesed, Gevurah, Tiferet, Netzah, Hod and Yesod.
Within the worlds of creation, our souls exist ‘simultaneously’ across the worlds of Asiyyah, Yetzirah and Beriah. The soul has a relationship with the Sefirot at each level of this ‘existence, and is said to have the potential of bringing peace to all worlds — even that of the higher Divine world of Atzilut. It is interesting to note that just as our souls are rectified in the three worlds of creation, God’s rectification of creation itself is effected through three sets of judgments as explained in chapter 6 of this study.
Looking deeper, the numbers 60 and 600 have an interesting relationship in kabbalah that relates to the theme of ‘bride and groom.’ The numerical value of the letter Samech is 60 while 600 is the value of the ‘final Mem,’ a Mem that comes at the end of a word.
Rabbi Ginsburgh’s book on the Hebrew letters states:
“The only completely “closed” letters in the Hebrew alphabet are the samech and the final mem, the circle and the square. As the engraved letters of the “tablets of covenant” given to Moses at Sinai penetrated through the tablets from “side to side,” the “insides” of these two letters, being entirely closed, were suspended in mid-air, within the stone of the tablets. “Rabbi Chisda said: the mem and samech of the tablets stood miraculously.'” In kabbalah it is explained that these two letters are the secret of the two levels of the future revelation of Divinity of Souls. The closed mem is called “the Coming World,” and the samech is called “the Future to Come.” The Future to Come is an even higher revelation than that of the Coming World. … The Future to Come, the secret of the samech, is the absolute revelation of the future, incomprehensible at present.: “No eye has seen it, G-d, except yours.” According to one tradition based upon this teaching of kabbalah, the wedding ring placed by the groom on the “pointing” (index) finger of the bride, is in the form of a circle (samech) inside a square (final mem). The “pointing” finger of the bride points at the revelation of the future, the Future to Come within the Coming World.”
The Hebrew Letters: Channels of Divine Consciousness, Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, Linda Pinsky Publications, Jerusalem, 1990, p. 227.
(It is interesting to note that when one includes the “pointing finger” itself, the “numerical value” of the bride’s finger with the samech and final mem of the ring, comes to 661. This is also the numerical value of “shoshana” (shin-vav-shin-nun-hey, meaning either “rose” or “lily”) The shoshana represents the community of Israel (the “bride”) as depicted in the opening verse of the Zohar.
The relational aspects of the numbers 6, 60 and 600, with regard to our souls, may be seen as follows:
- In Asiyyah: the six emotive Sefirot of the soul (which in turn are associated with the six “constant commandments” that are not bound by time or space) *
- In Yetzirah: the six emotive Sefirot revealed within each of these ten Sefirot = 60
- In Beriah: the sixty relationships of Yetzirah (above) within each of these ten Sefirot = 600
* Living in Divine Space: Meditation and Kabbalah, Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, Linda Pinsky Publications, Jerusalem, 2003.
Now we see how the multipying factor of 10 comes into play. This is similar to the ten menorot Solomon placed in the Temple, representing how all ten Sefirot are present within each individual Sefirah.
As stated by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh:
“Ten times a number alludes, in Kabbalah, to its full revelation in all the ten powers of the soul, which correspond to the ten supernal sefirot, the channels by which G-d created the world.”
Living in Divine Space: Meditation and Kabbalah, Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, Linda Pinsky Publications, Jerusalem, 2003. p. 102.
The six constant commandments consist of; belief in the existence of G-d, negation of belief in other gods, belief that G-d is One, love of G-d, fear of G-d, shielding the mind from negative thoughts.
Recall in the previous section of notes that Nebuchadnezzar’s idol is linked to the generation of the Tower of Babel in that each wished to connect “below” to “above.” This explains why Nebuchadnezzar’s statue had the peculiar dimensions of 6 by 60. The addition of 600 to the number of the beast may indicate his continuation of Nebuchadnezzar’s plan and/or greater success in challenging the very throne of G-d (in Beriah).
Another interesting fact that connects these three numbers involves the ancient Babylonian numbering system (used at the time of Nebuchadnezzar). As explained in a popular mathematics textbook:
The Babylonians wrote their numbers in a system based on sixty, in the same way we write ours based on ten.
Algebra & Trigonometry, Fifth Edition, Michael Sullivan, Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ, 1999, p. 17.
THE TOTAL NUMBER OF “SIX HUNDRED, SIXTY-SIX”
As seen in an earlier study, gematria is useful in revealing hidden dimensions in numbers. In that previous example we showed how the number 153 was linked to both Betzalel and Yeshua, and how 153 is the “triangle” of 17 (the sum of all the numbers from 1 to 17). The number 17 in turn is associated with the idea of joining the spiritual (represented by the number 10) to the physical (represented by the number 7).
In this chapter we have the number 666, which is the triangle of the number 36 (the sum of the numbers 1 through 36). The number 36 is significant in kabbalah as it is associated with the idea of 36 tzaddikim (righteous ones) that sustain the world at any given time.
“There are not less than thirty-six tzaddikim/righteous persons in the world who receive the Shekhinah/the Divine Presence.”
Talmud, Sanhedrin 97b & Sukkot 45b
It is further taught that these thirty-six tzaddikim possess insight into the Divine order of the universe unknown to the rest of us, hold mystical powers, and that one of them may emerge as the Messiah. This theme is reflected at Chanukah, where a total of 36 candles are lit over the course of eight days.