Chapter 14 is the most extensive commentary of any chapter in this study (approximately 27,000 words). We will review some concepts, as well as introduce new ones, and explain how they relate to what is occurring at this stage of John’s vision, beginning with the image of “the Lamb” and spiritual ideas connected to “Mount Zion.”
Of particular significance is the relationship between various partzufim. (Singular: partzuf, having to do with “expressions,” “configurations” or “personifications”.) Central is the Sefirah of Yesod and related concepts including; the tzaddik, the Messiah, “foundation,” Mount Zion and Joseph. We will also examine how these relate to the Sefirah of Malkut (Kingdom), with its themes of; redemption, judgment, Israel, bride, Esau and the world.
1a Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb …
Judaism associates the sacrifice of the lamb specifically with the aspect of God’s mercy. Further, the lamb is one of three “pure animals” that were sacrificed, each linked to on of the patriarchs. The lamb is associated with Jacob, a key messianic figure in Torah literature:
“When the life force in the animal, which is called the holy sparks, is properly sacrificed to G-d, it creates an elevation of all the life force in all the animal kingdom. It is all elevated to its spiritual source in heaven in order to draw down great influx and blessing to all Creation. The three pure animals are the cow, goat and lamb. Our sages teach that these animals correspond to our three Patriarchs, or to the three properties which the Patriarchs symbolize. The power of the cow corresponds to Abraham, who represents lovingkindness. The power of the goat corresponds to Isaac, who represents awe. The power of the lamb corresponds to Jacob, who represents mercy. The very voice of the lamb arouses mercy. When the lamb is sacrificed it arouses the mercy of G-d to redeem his people from bondage and slavery. This is why the lamb was chosen especially to be the Passover offering.”
Lamb Symbolism and the Temple Service, Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, http://www.inner.org/responsa/leter1/resp3.htm
The book of Revelation uses “the Lamb” as an idiom for the Messiah. This is also found in John’s gospel. There we find a reference associating the “Lamb” with one “taking away the sin of the world.”
“The next day John saw Yeshua coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
There are various misconceptions associated with the death of Yeshua. One is that the New Testament portrays him as a ‘human sacrifice’ – a ‘pagan’ practice blatantly against Torah. This assertion has no basis however. Throughout the New Testament, Yeshua is portrayed as a tzaddik, who is ‘faithful unto death’ – a very well established concept in Torah and Jewish history. A well-known example of such was Rabbi Akiva. (See http://www.aish.com/sp/pg/Why-Rabbi-Akiva-is-My-Hero.html). Also see references regarding the death of a tzaddik in our Mashiach Connections project at: http://www.13petals.org/topical-studies/mashiach/mashiach-connections/mashiach-connectionsmashiach-death/.)
The other inaccuracy is that a person having impact on another person’s atonement is not a “Torah concept.” Although each person is indeed “responsible for his own sin,” it is also true that our merciful G-d has provide other means (requiring faith’) for us to improve our situation:
This is well established by the Ramchal in Derech Hashem:
“Suffering and pain may be imposed on a tzaddik (righteous person) as an atonement for his entire generation. This tzaddik must then accept this suffering with love for the benefit of his generation, just as he accepts the suffering imposed upon him for his own sake. In doing so, he benefits his generation by atoning for it, and at the same time is himself elevated to a very great degree. Such suffering also includes cases where a tzaddik suffers because his entire generation deserves great punishments, bordering on annihilation, but is spared via the tzaddik’s suffering. In atoning for his generation through his suffering, this tzaddik saves these people in this world and also greatly benefits them in the World-to-Come. In addition, there is a special higher type of suffering that comes to a tzaddik who is even greater and more highly perfected than the ones discussed above. This suffering comes to provide the help necessary to bring about the chain of events leading to the ultimate perfection of mankind as a whole. … Beyond that, the merit and power of these tzaddikim is also increased because of such suffering, and this gives them even greater ability to rectify the damage of others. They can therefore not only rectify their own generation, but can also correct all the spiritual damage done from the beginning, from the time of the very first sinners.”
Derech Hashem, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, translation by Aryeh Kaplan Feldheim Publishers, Jerusalem, 1977, pp 123-125.
For more examples from Torah literature of how a tzaddik can impact the atonement of others see; http://www.13petals.org/topical-studies/mashiach/mashiach-connections/mashiach-atonement/
1b standing on Mount Zion …
MOUNT ZION, REDEMPTION AND SHALOM
As mentioned earlier in this study, the three sets of (seven) judgments reflect a rectification of the three worlds of “Creation.”
- The first ‘seal’ judgments relate to the world of Beriah (“Creation”), the world of the “Throne” of G-d and “forces” or “powers” or “archangels”
- The second ‘trumpet’ judgments deal with the world of Yetzirah (“Formation”), the world of angels and “principalities,” corresponding to the ladder in Jacob’s dream
- The final ‘bowl’ judgments are associated with the world of Asiyah (“Making”), the “physical world” we live in – which also includes a spiritual dimension
At this point in John’s vision we are concluding the second set of judgments, placing us at the “end” of Yetzirah. What remains in the grand scheme of the “unification of the Name” (i.e., Zechariah 14:9) is rectification of the world of Asiyah, the physical world, which is directly associated with the Shekinah, the ‘bride.’
The “location” of this part of John’s vision is ‘on Mount Zion,’ which in Kabbalah is associated with both the world of Yetzirah and the Sefirah of Yesod. These relate to the ‘chibur’ (joining) of the ‘groom’ to the bride (associated with the world of Asiyah and the Sefirah of Malchut).
“Know that the word HaR (mountain) means many things in the Torah, and you must know which is the proper nuance when you come across the words HaR or HaRim (mountains) in the Torah. … Know that HaR TZiYoN (Mount Zion) is always the attribute YeSOD, which is the essence of El Chay (Living God), because HaR TZiYoN is the place from where the first attribute for the world’s creation came, as it was said: “From TZiYoN, perfect in beauty, ELoHIM appeared.” (Psalm 50:2)
Sha’are Orah (“Gates of Light”), Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla, p. 95.
In the same text we also find Mount Zion closely associated with the concept of redeemer, with regard to the joining of bride and groom:
“Know that at times this attribute (Yesod) is known as GoAL (redeemer). The essence is to know that when EL CHaY (Living God/Yesod) connects with ADoNaY (Shekinah/Malkut) which is the essence of redemption and the eighteen benedictions, then ADoNaY is filled with the everflow of redemption, for then also the attribute ADoNaY is activated as an emissary of EL CHaY and saves the righteous and redeems them from all harm and sickness and from all kinds of destruction and punishment.”
Sha’are Orah (“Gates of Light”), Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla, p. 74
Before the coming of Messiah, the nations of the world who have rejected G-d face harsh judgment. The first stages of such judgments are against the “principalities and powers” of these kingdoms (i.e., Ephesians 6:12). This was accomplished in the first two sets of judgments (in Beriah and Yetzirah). The final set of judgments, seen in the chapters ahead, will relate directly to the physical realm – similar to what fell upon Egypt in the book of Exodus.
As shown in Sha’are Oreh, G-d deals with the spiritual elements of the nations first:
“Know and understand that the nations and the ministers who are called ELoHIM come before YHVH, may He be Blessed, on Rosh Hashana to be judged. If the nations have not behaved appropriately, then their ministers punish them, and the bounty that YHVH has given them will be diminished. When the minister of the nation is smitten, then the nation falls. Thus the Prophet warned: YHVH will visit the heavenly hosts in heaven and the kings of the earth on earth.” (Isaiah 24:21)
Sha’are Orah (“Gates of Light”), Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla, p. 96,97.
When studying a time of G-d’s “judgment,” we should keep in mind that what we see as God showing ‘anger’ is actually an act of mercy. A withholding of His anger will lead to complete destruction. Every event that transpires in the world, including the harsh judgments of Revelation, are bringing us closer to a “positive event” – the completion of His plan – “the unification of His Name.”
The completion of G-d’s plan is expressed in the Hebrew word for peace – shalom – which is derived from the root shalem, meaning “whole” or “complete.” True shalom is an active force. Anything that disturbs the process of true shalom must be removed in order for true shalom to exist.
For example, looking in the Torah, we see how Pinchas, through his zealous act (killing two people who were publicly violating Torah), created peace.
“Pinchas, the son of Elazar, the son of Aharon the Priest, has turned away My anger from the children of Israel, by being zealous for My vengeance amongst them; and [thus] I did not destroy the children of Israel in My vengeance. Therefore, I say, behold I give to him My Covenant of Shalom.”
In the same way Pinchas stopped the plague against the Jewish people and through a violent act brought peace, so do the terrible events of the last days bring true Shalom.
The term ‘Shalom’ is directly associated with the Tzaddik (righteous person) and the Sefirah of Yesod. When the tzaddik brings shalom, he unifies the Name of G-d above (i.e., YHVH-Tiferet-Groom) and below (i.e., Adonay-Malchut-Bride). Thus, he brings “completeness.”
As explained in Sha’are Oreh, even the ‘upper worlds’ need shalom to be put in place:
“When the TZaDIK awakens penance in the world or he repairs that which is ruined, then this attribute called SHaLoM mediates effectively between YHVH and ADoNaY and it is the one which makes peace between them and brings them to dwell together without separation and mutilation in the world and when this happens YHVH will be one. You should know and believe that it is impossible to bring blessing to the world except through this attribute called SHaLoM. … The attribute SHaLoM empties life into the attribute ADoNay when they are infused as one. For great is the power of peace, since even the upper worlds need it, as it is written: “He who makes SHaLoM in the heavens …” (Job 25:2). When one latches on to Torah and other commandments, it is as if he brings SHaLoM to the heavenly household which is the essential meaning of the verse; “When he holds fast to my refuge, He makes SHaLoM for me, SHaLoM he makes for me.” (Isaiah 27:5).
Sha’are Orah (“Gates of Light”), Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla, p. 67.
MOUNT ZION, MOUNT MORIAH AND THE MOUNTAIN OF ESAU
Perhaps the most dynamic relationship between any two of the Sefirot is that found between Malchut and Yesod. The reason is that this is the “connecting point” between the physical world of man and “all” the spiritual worlds above. Everything in these spiritual worlds must “filter through” Yesod to get to Malkut. This is seen in certain diagrams of the ‘Tree of Life,’ where Yesod is the only Sefirah directly connected to Malkut. The ‘line’ between the two known as the “path of the Tzadik.”
The term ‘all’ (Hebrew: ‘kol’) is a common designation for the Sefirah of Yesod. (As spoken by Yeshua, “Seek first the Kingdom (Malkut) and ‘all’ (i.e., Yesod, etc.) else will be added …”) As such, the ‘Lamb,’ is associated with one who unites the physical and spiritual worlds. This is the ‘great Tzaddik,’ mentioned in the citation from Derech Hashem, and also spoken of in Sha’are Oreh:
“Now come and see what the power is of the TZaDIKim who hold fast to the Torah and its commandments. They have the power to connect all the emanations making peace between and within the upper and lower worlds. When the true pure man joins the attributes TZeDeK (i.e., Malkut) with TZaDIK (i.e., Yesod) it is then know as YHVH is One (i.e., Zechariah 14:9), thus creating peace between the upper heavenly court and the lower one. The heavens and the earth are united by this person. “How fortunate his portion, how fortunate is she who bore you,” and about him it is written: Your father and mother will rejoice, She who bore you will exult.” (Proverbs 23:25) And it is written: YHVH will be pleased with his doing.” (Psalm 104:31)
Sha’are Orah (“Gates of Light”), Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla, p. 63.
Two bold text phrases above, describing the tzaddik, bear interestingly similarity to these verses:
“And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!”
“And the Ruach haKodesh descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”
Traditionally, “one who unites above and below” is also a definition of a “prophet” and thus the idea of “prophecy” underlies what is going on regarding both the “Lamb” and “the righteous” in Revelation (i.e., Rev. 19:10 – “For the testimony of Yeshua is the spirit of prophecy.”) As mentioned before, the story of Revelation is all about “unifying the Name of God” in fulfillment of Zechariah 14:9.
The following text from the Zohar speaks of the Tzaddik through whom God’s blessings flow except in times of darkness. At that point, divine blessing is restricted and evil befalls the earth’s inhabitants save those who remain mindful of God’s Torah. What is especially interesting is the statement that God will not enter heavenly Jerusalem until Israel enters the earthly one:
“I have made a covenant with my chosen.,’ This covenant is the secret of faith. Or we may interpret the “chosen one” of the Zaddik from whom issue blessings to all the lower creation, all the holy Hayyoth being blessed from the stream which flows forth to the lower world. “I have sworn unto David my servant”, to wit, that he will always be established in this Zaddik, the foundation of the world, save in the time of galuth, when the flow of blessing is cut off, and faith is defective, and all joy is banished. During this period, at nightfall, joy no longer enters before the King. Yet, though rejoicings do not enter, angels stand outside and chant hymns, and at midnight when the impulse from below arrives on high, G-d arouses all the hosts of the heaven for lamentation and strikes the firmament, causing upper and lower worlds to quake; nor is there any respite save when those below commence to study the Torah. Then G-d and all those with Him listen with joy to that voice, and relief is felt. For on the day on which the Sanctuary below was destroyed, G-d swore that He would not enter the celestial Jerusalem until Israel should enter the earthly Jerusalem. Now all those singers stand outside and chant hymns in the three watches of the night and intone praises, and all the hosts of the heavens sing at night and Israel by day, nor is the sanctification recited above until it is recited by Israel below, and only then do all the hosts of heaven sanctify the holy name together. Hence, Israel are holy and are sanctified by upper and lower angels, since the sanctification of the holy name is complete only when uttered above and below together.’
The Talmud goes further than the Zohar stating that G-d will not enter Jerusalem above until He Himself enters Jerusalem below:
“The Holy One, blessed be He, said, ‘I will not enter the heavenly Jerusalem until I can enter the earthly Jerusalem.'”
Talmud, Ta’anith 5a
In the following excerpt from Sha’are Oreh, we find the Sefirah of Yesod associated with El Chay (Living G-d) and Mount Zion, as well as the Sefirah of Malkut linked to Adonay, Mount Moriah and Jerusalem. Note the critical role played by Yesod in the grand scheme:
“All of ADoNaY’s actions are drawn from the attribute EL CHaY; so it is with HaR TZiYon which is the essence of EL CHaI and HaR MoRiYaH which is the essence of ADoNaY and the essence of Jerusalem. The Holy One Blessed be He (i.e., Tiferet) does not radiate the everflow and dwell in Jerusalem except by the virtue of TZiYon, as it is written: “Blessed is G-d from TZiYoN who dwells in Jerusalem” (Psalm 135:21). The interpretation of this verse is that from TZiYoN and by virtue of TZiYon He dwells in Jerusalem. For no blessing comes to the world save by virtue of TZiYoN when it empties its blessings on Jerusalem. As it is written; “Like the due of Hermon that falls on HaRReI TZiYoN. There the Lord ordained blessing and everlasting life” Psalm 133:3 … HaR ESaV is the accuser from the outside (of the spheres – i.e., Sefirot) who resides on the left This is the essence of the verse; “The war of G-d against AMaLeK every generation” (Exodus 17:16). This is what will continue to hold back the building of HaR TZiYoN, and the building of the altar on HaR MoRiYaH until the time has come for EDoM to be punished and receive its revenge. When will this be? When the HaRReI TZiYon will wear the garments of vengeance which are the names YHVH TZVAOT and ELoHIM TZVAOT, and then dwell on HaR TZiYoN. Those are the names which are known as liberators, YHVH, ELoHIM and TZVAOT, the essence of which is proved in the verse: “And the liberators went up from HaR TZiYoN to judge HaR ESaV” (Obadiah 1:21).”
Sha’are Orah (“Gates of Light”), Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla, p. 96.
Combining the lessons of the Zohar and Sha’are Oreh above, we see that although G-d does not enter the heavenly (Jerusalem) until He enters the earthly (Jerusalem), none of this occurs if the heavenly (Yesod/Tziyon) is detached from the earthly (Malkut/Moriah). Thus, the time of the redemption is affected by people either following or not following His Torah. (i.e., the timing of the redemption in not “set,” as Yeshua taught in Matthew 24:36.)
An interesting point in the above text has to do with the Sefirot of Netzah and Hod, which Rabbi Gikatilla (author of Sha’are Orah) calls the “garments of vengeance” (YHVH TZVAOT and ELoHIM TZVAOT). These two Sefirot are called “the liberators” based on the text from Obadiah. As discussed in chapter 11, the “two witnesses” are directly associated with the Netzah and Hod regarding prophecy and judgment.
Another critical detail in the above text may be found in the phrase: “The Holy One Blessed be He (i.e., Tiferet) does not radiate the everflow and dwell in Jerusalem except by the virtue of TZiYon (i.e., Yesod) …”
Here we have the positive result going hand in hand with the judgment and victory over Esau as seen in the quote from Obadiah; “And the liberators went up from HaR TZiYoN to judge HaR ESaV.” Further, we see that Tiferet needs Yesod to accomplish this victory. Recall in our previous studies that the Sefirah of Tiferet (“the Holy One Blessed be He”) is associated with Jacob, the brother of Esau, and the Sefirah of Yesod (“Tziyon”) is associated with Joseph.
Thus, we see Jacob and Joseph together with regard to the defeat of Esau:
“And the house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau for stubble, and they shall kindle in them.”
A highly insightful teaching regarding this important relationship between Jacob, Joseph and Esau, may be found at: www.aish.com/torahportion/mayanot/Whats_In_A_Name.asp
This defeat of Esau, at the hands of Jacob and Joseph is linked to the coming of Messiah:
“R. Samuel b. Nahman said: When Esau and Jacob met, the former said, ‘Jacob, my brother, let us two walk together in this world as one.’ Jacob replied: ’ Let my lord, I pray thee, pass over before his servant’ (Gen. XXXIII, 14). What is the meaning of ‘ Let… pass over ‘? Do you enjoy your world first. What is the meaning of, And I will journey on gently, according to the pace of the cattle that are before me… and according to the pace of the children (ib.). Jacob said to Esau: ‘ I have yet to raise up Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,’ of whom Scripture says, Children in whom was no blemish (Dan.I, 4). Another explanation: He said to him: ‘I have yet to raise up the Messiah,’ of whom it is written, For a child is born to us (Isa. IX, 5). Until I come unto my Lord unto Seir (Gen. XXXIII, I4). R. Samuel b. Nahman said: We have searched all the Scriptures and we have nowhere found [it stated] that Jacob ever came together with Esau at Seir. What then is the meaning of, ‘ Unto Seir’ ? Jacob [meant] to say to him: ‘ I have yet to raise up judges and saviours to exact punishment from you.’ Whence this? For it is said, And saviours shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau (Obad. I, 21). Israel asked God: ‘Master of the Universe, how long shall we remain subjected to him? ‘ He replied: ‘ Until the day comes of which it is written, There shall step forth a star out of Jacob and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel (Num. XXIV, 17); when a star shall step forth from Jacob and devour the stubble of Esau.’ (Whence this? For it is said, And the house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau for stubble, and they shall kindle in them and devour them; and there shall not be any remaining of the house of Esau (Obad. I, 18).) God said: ‘At that time I will cause my kingdom to shine forth and I will reign over them,’ as it is said, And saviours shall come up on Mount Zion, to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s (ib. 21).”
Midrash Rabbah – Deuteronomy I:20
The following section of the Zohar sums up a number of the concepts discussed so far quite nicely. Jacob’s possession is the spiritual realm and Esau’s is the physical. This continues until the coming of Messiah, when Jacob inherits everything:
“Observe that as soon as Jacob and Esau commenced to avail themselves of their blessings, the former possessed himself of his portion on high, and the latter of his portion here below. R. Jose the son of R. Simeon, the son of Laqunia, once said to R. Eleazar: ‘Have you ever heard from your father how it comes about that the blessings given by Isaac to Jacob have not been fulfilled, while those given to Esau have all been fulfilled in their entirety?’ R. Eleazar replied: ‘All the blessings are to be fulfilled, including other blessings with which G-d blessed Jacob. For the time being, however, Jacob took his portion above and Esau here below. But in aftertime, when the Messiah will arise, Jacob will take both above and below and Esau will lose all, being left with no portion of inheritance or remembrance whatever. 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.” (Obad. I, 18), so that Esau will perish entirely, whilst Jacob will inherit both worlds, this world and the world to come. Of that time it is further written: “And saviours shall come up on Mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s” (Ibid. I, 21), that is to say, the kingdom which Esau has taken in this world shall revert to G-d. For although G-d rules both above and below, yet for the time being He has given to all the peoples each a portion and an inheritance in this world; but at that time He will take away dominion from all of them, so that all will be His, as it is written, “And the kingdom shall be the Lord’s”. It will be the Lord’s alone, as it is further written, “And the Lord shall be king over all the earth; in that day shall the Lord be One, and his name One” (Zech. XIV, 9).’
Another interesting portion of Sha’are Orah is concerned with Yesod as a “preventative measure” and how the separation of Yesod from Malkut (and ensuing evil that befalls the world) is expressed:
“This attribute (Yesod) is responsible for the prevention of tribulation in the world … It is known that at the moment TZaDIK (Yesod) separates from TZeDeK (“righteousness,” another term for the Sefirah of Malkut), the attribute of TZeDeK remains empty; then it rises to plunder and kill, to uproot and annihilate, bringing to the world several kinds of death: natural death, death from epidemic plagues, death from bizarre circumstances and other forms of death … If heaven forbid, humanity defiles itself, distancing itself from the Torah and the commandments(i.e., Revelation 14:12) choosing instead iniquity, wickedness and deceit, the attribute TZaDIK (Yesod) stands, observing their deeds. When it sees humanity defiling itself, disdaining the Torah and its commandments while performing iniquities and deceits, the attribute TZaDIK collects itself and soars far above, thereby ceasing the ebb and flow of the channels. Then the attribute Adonay (Malkut) is left like a barren land, desolate and empty of all that is go.”
Sha’are Orah (“Gates of Light”), Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla, pp. 58-62.
The above depiction is reminiscent of a couple of sections from the Bible. First, in the New Testament, there is a mysterious allusion to something that will be”taken away” (i.e, Yesod) in order for the final great evil to descend upon the earth:
“And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.”
2 Thessalonians 2:6-8
Secondly, the above text from Sha’are Orah speaks of the final Sefirah of Malkut (i.e., the Shekinah) bringing all kinds of death upon the earth. As we will see, a direct comparison with the plagues of Egypt may be made regarding this.
Looking at another Kabbalistic text, the Bahir describes the separation of Malkut from Zer Anpin (i.e., Yesod) in terms of strict judgment — versus the “mitigated” judgment found when they are in union, with the multi-faceted aspect of Zer Anpin (made up of six Sefirot) playing a key role.
Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan offers the following interesting comments on the Bahir’s viewpoint:
“There are two modes through which God judges the world, the Attribute of Judgment (Midat HaDin) and the Attribute of Mercy (Midat haRachamim). The Attribute of Judgment demands a single, fixed, unmitigated response for any wrong, while the Attribute of Mercy admits a number of mitigated responses. Therefore, Judgment comes from the Female, which is derived from a single Sefirah, Malkhut-Kingship, and therefore has just one single response. Zer Anpin, on the other hand, is constructed from six Sefirot, and therefore allows an infinite blend of responses. It is therefore the source of the Attribute of Mercy. Actually, however, all providence ultimately comes from the Sefirah of Malkhut-Kingship, this being the definition of the word. But in order for Malkhut-Kingship to act in a mode Mercy, it must be bound to Zer Anpin, this being the concept of the Supernal Union. This Union, however, takes place through Yesod-Foundation …”
The Bahir, translation by Aryeh Kaplan, Samuel Weiser Inc., York Beach Maine, 1979, p. 137.
In the Bahir as well, judgment is directly associated with man’s behavior:
“Another important teaching of the Kabbalistic philosophers is that all of man’s reward and punishment is the result of his deeds. Therefore, since man is the counterpart of Zer Anpin, each individual has a portion there, and each individual’s deeds have an effect on the “body” of Zer Anpin. Conversely, Zer Anpin is directly linked to man, overseeing and guiding the providence that effects him. Through Zer Anpin, man’s deeds have an important bearing on providence. It is for this reason that Zer Anpin is called “judgment.” The author therefore concludes by stating that when a person repents, he also elevates the seven. Everything that takes place in Zer Anpin is a result of man’s activities.”
The Bahir, translation by Aryeh Kaplan, Samuel Weiser Inc., York Beach Maine, 1979, p. 132.
1c … and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads.
Verse 14:1 gives the impression that the presense of the Lord becomes “closer” as events draw to their conclusion on earth. We see the “Lamb move” from the Throne (Beriah) to Mount Zion (Yetzirah) and eventually to Asiyyah – the physical realm.
“Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near.”
Judaism teaches that there are times when “G-d is near” and at the other end of the spectrum, when the “evil realm” (the “Sitra Ahra”) is allowed by G-d to have greater influence. These “cycles” of good and evil are found within each day, week, month, year and throughout history.
- In each 24-hour period, the nighttime hours are when evil is said to have greater dominion. An example of this is is Balaam, who is said to have acquired his knowledge of manipulating the spiritual realm, at night (Zohar, Bemidbar, 206b). Another is when Jacob wrestled with an angelic being (said to be Samael, the guardian angel of Esau) who had to get away from Jacob when dawn was approaching. Interestingly, although it is taught that the nighttime hours are treacherous for this reason, Torah study after midnight is especially blessed. (This may have to do with the idea of a tzaddik rectifying the evil realm – taking it “head on.”)
- In the cycle of each week, Shabbat (the twenty-four hours from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday) is the “high point.” Conversely, Tuesday evenings (the part of the week furthest away from Shabbat – at the midpoint of the six days) is a time when the evil realm is strengthened.
- In each month, the full moon is the time associated with the Shekinah being strong, and the new moon is when the dark side is mightier. This may be why the time of the new moon was when the Torah called for special observance – thus bringing an “extra measure” of protection to the people at that time.
- On the yearly cycle, the month of Tishrei (with Rosh haShana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot) is said to be “God’s favorite month,” while Nissan (the furthest from Tishrei) is known for heightened ‘demonic’ activity – thus we find Pesakh (Passover) in Nissan, again for the sake of “directly combating” the evil realm.
Another time to “be cautious of,” is when transitioning from the mundane into the holy – i.e., the hours of Erev Shabbat (the afternoon heading into sunset on Friday) are often very hectic and stressful. (The word “erev” having the connotation of “mixture” — as in the “Erev Rav,” the mixed multitude that caused a lot of problems during the Exodus.)
This can also be seen on a historical scheme where the six weekdays followed by Shabbat are compared to six thousand years of human history followed by a 1,000 year Messianic reign. In this case the time of transition is also quite turbulent – the “birthpangs of Messiah,” in the generation preceding his coming, bring great judgment upon the earth.
One especially important time when God is said to be “near” is during the Days of Awe, between Rosh haShana and Yom Kippur. (The above verse from Isaiah 55:6 is often cited as applying to Rosh haShana). As mentioned in an earlier portion of this study, there seems to be a relationship between this annual period (in terms of days) and the end-time events depicted in Revelation (in terms of years).
Earlier in John’s vision, the “Lamb” was seen “amidst the throne,” indicating the World of Beriah. At this juncture, the Lamb has “descended” to Yetzirah. Later, we see the Lamb in the physical realm of Asiyyah, as victor over the armies opposed to G-d and Light to those who follow G-d.
It is interesting to consider that as the presence of Lamb becomes “nearer,” things seem to get “darker” for humanity. This has to do with the fact that the “descent” of the Lamb (the Messiah) is parallel to that of haSatan who was/is driven from the heavenly realm of Beriah into the mixed realm of Yetzirah and finally “down to the earth” in Asiyah. Both Messiah and this evil counterpart must reach their “maximum potential” for the redemption to come.
The Torah commentary, Kli Yahar, depicts such a “mutual rise in power” as follows:
“Everything in nature that senses an opposing force rising against it tries to overcome it and strengthens itself against its counterforce, refusing to submit to it. It naturally labors with whatever strength it can muster, but in the end it is conquered, for the counterforce overtakes it.”
Kli Yahar – Shemot (Exodus), rendered into English by Elihu Levine, Targum/Feldheim Press, 2002, p.78
The messianic text, Kol Hator, frames this around the ingathering of the exiles:
As the number of ingathered increases, so the Sitra Achra (evil realm) will increase its strength.
Sha’are Orah, offers the following regarding the ‘movement’ of Samael from the spiritual worlds to the physical:
“When the time comes for redemption, what is written about Samael, the wicked? “Should you nest as high as an eagle, or place your nest among the stars, I will bring you down from there, says the Lord.” (Obadiah 1) How will He bring him down? The masters of salvation, YHVH, ELoHIM, TZVAOT upon HaR TZiToN, which is the essence of El Chay, are to judge HaR ESaV, which is HaR SAIR (literally: “mountain of the goat demons” – the domain of Esau.) “For God will visit the host of heaven in heaven, and the kings of the earth on earth.” (Isaiah 24:21). Then “For My sword shall be seen in the sky.” (Isaiah 34:5) Afterwards, it is written: “Behold you will descend upon Edom.” (Isaiah 34:5) And since it is thus, what is written? “Who is this coming from Edom, in crimsoned garments coming from Bozrah?” (Isaiah 63:1) I say with righteousness salvation is great, which is the essence of the verse “The liberators will march up to HaR TZiYoN.” (Obadiah 1:21)
Sha’are Orah (“Gates of Light”), Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla, translated by Avi Weinstein, Altamira Press, 1994, p. 99.
The antagonistic relationship between the forces of light and darkness (the Sitra Achra/”other side”) is centered around the Sefirah of Yesod. Here we entertain the idea of the Sitra Achra’s final bid to mislead mankind coming in the form of an anti-messiah, who places himself at the level of Yesod/the Tzaddik. This action cuts off the Shekinah (the bride) and thus the blessings of G-d via the upper Sefirot through Yesod to Malchut. (As seen above in 2Thess. 2:6-8.)
Regarding Esau, we find that he came against the Covenant (Brit) which is associated with the Sefirah of Yesod.
The “liberators”: YHVH, ELoHIM and TZVAOT; HaR TZiYoN is EL CHaY; ‘to judge HaR ESaV’: this is AMaLeK, the son of ESaV (Esau), with whom God has to wage war and he is the one who prosecutes against HaR TZiYon, and he is Samael, ESaV’s guardian angel who went against the BRIT of peace.
Sha’are Orah (“Gates of Light”), Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla, translated by Avi Weinstein, Altamira Press, 1994, p. 97.
Samael comes against this Brit of Shalom in many ways (i.e., “doubt” through the spirit of Amalek, “deception” through the figure of the false Messiah/Tzaddik) in his efforts to separate the Shekinah (Bride) from her spouse.
As the world of Yetzirah has now gone through the second set of judgments, we see the presence of the Lord ‘descending’ to this point. G-d, via his anointed one (Mashiach) has “come near to us” to offer mercy and declare judgment. The world of Asiyah (and physical earth) must still be dealt with however before Messiah arrives. (i.e., “Physical Jerusalem” before “Heavenly Jerusalem,” as mentioned in the previous section.)
John’s view of Mount Zion is in the Yetziratic realm and thus he views the souls of the 144,000 of Israel standing before the “Lamb.” Traditional commentaries have difficulty determining if these 144,000 are on earth or “in heaven.” However, as discussed earlier, man “exists” in all four worlds simultaneously, thus John speaks of them (at this juncture) from the point of view of their souls (i.e., at the level of Mount Zion/Yetzirah):
Man’s soul is thus attired in the raiments of both worlds, the lower and the upper, thereby achieving perfection. Of this Scripture says: “Surely the righteous shall give thanks unto thy name”; to wit, in this world – ”The upright shall dwell in thy presence” (Ibid. CXL, 14); namely, in the other world.’
THE NAME WRITTEN ON THE FOREHEAD
The “Name of God” being “written” on the forehead of these 144,000 righteous ones (tzadikim) gives indication of their affinity to God Himself. As shown in the previous lesson, in one of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov’s discources on Messiah and the Millennial Kingdom, he expounds on how the tzadikim (righteous ones) will be called Holy, like God:
“Regarding the Messianic age, it is written (Isaiah 4:3), “And it will be, that he who is left in Zion, and he who remains in Jerusalem, ‘holy’ shall be said to him.” The Talmud teaches us that the angels will chant, “holy, holy, holy,” before the Tzadikim, just like they do before God (i.e., Rev. 4:8). This is the plain meaning of the verse. For the Tzadikim who remain faithful before the Messiah’s coming, will deserve this, and much more.”
Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom, translated by Aryeh Kaplan, Breslov Research Institute, Jerusalem, 1973, p.255.
A relationship exists betwen the idea of the “forehead” and the “quasi” Sefirah of Da’at (“knowledge”). When superimposing the Tree of Life diagram on the image of Adam Kadmon (the image of man as made in the image of G-d), Da’at is seen on the forehead of man. (With Keter above the head, Binah to the left side and Chokmah to the right.) As mentioned in previous notes, Da’at is the confluence of wisdom and understanding. Da’at is the revelation of the “hidden” aspect of God known as Keter (crown).
As shown in the writings of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov:
“Keter and Da’at are respectively the internal and external manifestations of the same concept … In relation to Chokmah and Binah, Da’at represents an external manifestation. Keter thus contains Chokmah, Binah and Da’at within itself in a transcendent unity. This is expressed in a very powerful gemmatria (numerical equivalent): the total numerical value of Chokmah (73) plus Binah (67) plus Da’at (480) is 620, which is the exact value of Keter.”
Anatomy of the Soul (based on the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov) Chaim Kramer, Breslov Research Institute, Jerusalem, 1998, pp. 132-133.
“The forehead is associated with the Sefirah of Keter, alluding to the hidden powers of the mind, yet because it can be “revealling,” it is also associated with Da’at, for as we have seen Da’at is the external manifestation of Keter.”
ibid, p. 318.
As mentioned in chapter 13, John encourages his readers to seek both Chokmah (Wisdom) and Understanding (Binah), the confluence of which is Da’at. We therefore have a connection between those who follow John’s advice and those who have God’s mark on their foreheads.
The allusion to the forehead reflects deeper spiritual ideas as seen in this Midrash:
“THY FOREHEAD IS LIKE THE TOWER OF LEBANON. This is the Sanctuary. Just as the forehead is on the highest part of a man, so the Sanctuary is in the highest part of the world. Just as most ornaments are suspended from the forehead, so priesthood, Levites, and kingship are from Jacob.”
Midrash Rabbah, The Song of Songs 7:11
The above text links the forehead to the Sanctuary (Tabernacle/Temple). Hebraic teachings compare the attaining of Da’at to the building of the Temple:
“Whoever has Da’at, knowledge, it is as if the Holy Temple was built in his days.”
Talmud, Berakhot 33a
Rabbi Nachman takes this idea even further, comparing the animal sacrifices of the Temple to the “sacrificing” of our own “animalistic” selves in favor of “spiritual” Da’at:
“The reason why the Temple is the necessary location for the sacrifices which draw a person near to G-d is that the Holy Temple corresponds to Da’at, knowledge of G-d. This knowledge, which will be revealed to all in the Future, is the “fountain of wisdom” which will continuously flow from the Holy Temple, i.e., the expanded intellect. The Prophet Joel foresaw an era in which this knowledge will be available for all, for then people will have risen above their animalistic instincts, which bar the way to their understanding of the Divine. We see then that a person’s mind is the Holy Temple. Or, at least, it could be. By controlling one’s baser instincts and seeing to it that the intellect – not the emotions – is in charge, he is sacrificing “an animal” in his own Holy Temple. This person, even today, merits a revelation of G-dliness similar to the revelation of G-dliness that will be available in the Days of the Mashiach.”
Mashiach – Who? What? Why? How? Where? When?, Chaim Kramer, Breslov Research Institute, Jerusalem, 1998, p. 54.
This revelation of Godliness (and increase in Da’at) in the Millennium is reflected in Ezekiel’s Temple vision (Ezekiel, chapters 40-48) where we see the appearance and function of the priests raised to the level of the High Priest. (The latter traditionally wearing the diadem on his forehead).
This idea of a connection between Chokhah/Wisdom and Binah/Understanding and the Temple is also found in Chassidic kabbalah. In the following text it is expressed in terms of the word “Lebanon” which is associated with the Temple:
“The teachings of Chassidim are heard by the Neshamah (soul). As Scripture states, ‘And flowing streams from Levanon.” Levanon stands form Lamed-Bet and Nun, i.e., the Chokhmah (Wisdom) and Binah (Understanding) in the Neshamah.'”
Mystical Concepts in Chassidim, Jacob Immanuel Schochet, Kehot Publication Society, Brooklyn, 1988, p. 8.:
The word “Lebanon” is divided into two parts. The first two letters (Lamed-Bet) form the number 32, alluding to the “32 Paths of Wisdom.” The remaining three letters spell “Nun,” which has a numerical value of 50, and alluding to the “50 Gates of Understanding.” Thus, again, the Temple is associated with adding Understanding to Wisdom.
2a And I heard a voice from heaven…
THE “BAT KOL”
The concept of a “voice from heaven” exists in Judaism in the Bat Kol, meaning “daughter of a voice” (i.e., Luke 3:22). Its feminine attribution is similar to that of the Shekinah (“Divine Presence”) and Ruach haKodesh (“Holy Spirit”).
The Bat Kol is referred to as a “manifestation” of the Holy Spirit in the following tractate:
“R. Eleazar said: The Holy Spirit manifested itself in three places; at the Tribunal of Shem, at the Tribunal of Samuel of Ramah, and at the Tribunal of Solomon. At the Tribunal of Shem, as it is written, And Judah acknowledged them, and he said, She is right, it is from me. How did he know [for certain]? Maybe, just as he had come to [consort with] her, some other man had come to [consort with] her? [But] it was a Bath Kol that came forth and said, ‘She is right, constrained by Me these things came about.’ ‘At the Tribunal of Samuel,’ — as it is written, Here I am; witness against me before the Lord and before His anointed, whose ox have I taken? or whose ass . . . and they said, Thou hast not defrauded us nor oppressed us, neither hast thou taken aught of any man’s hand. And he said unto them, The Lord is witness against you and His anointed is witness this day that ye have not found aught in my hand,’ and He said, [He is] witness. ‘And He said’; should it not be ‘And they said’? [But] it was a Bat Kol that came forth and said, ‘I am witness in this matter.’ ‘At the Tribunal of Solomon,’ — as it is said, And the king answered and said, Give her the living child, and in no wise slay it; she is his mother: ‘She is his mother’; whence knew he [for certain]? Maybe, she had been acting craftily? [But] it was a Bat Kol that came forth and said, ‘She is his mother’.”
Talmud, Makkoth 23b
The guidance of the Bat Kol is said to be what “remained” of prophecy following the age of the prophets:
“R. Aibu said: Said the Holy One, blessed be He: ‘It is My intention to assign to Israel an advocate among the nations.’ What is this? The Bat Kol, as it says, Except the Lord of Hosts had left unto us a very small remnant (Isaiah 1:9). It has been taught: With the death of the last prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, the holy spirit departed from Israel, but still the Bat Kol was available to them.”
Midrash Rabbah, The Song of Songs 8:13
As the voice John hears is from “heaven” (Beriah) which is associated with the “heavenly Temple,” the voice of the Bat Kol was often heard from the earthly Temple:
“Once Johanan the High Priest heard a Bat Kol issue from the Holy of Holies and say: ‘The young men who went out to war have gained a victory at Antioch.’ They made a note of the day and the hour, and it proved to be so; they did in fact gain a victory on that day. Once Simon the Just heard a Bat Kol issue from the Holy of Holies and say, ‘The intention of the enemy to destroy the Temple is frustrated, and Caius Caligula is slain, and his decrees are annulled.'”
Midrash Rabbah, The Song of Songs 8:13
The Bat Kol is also seen as directly speaking to an enemy of Israel. Note references to the Temple and singing (as compared to this chapter of Revelation):
“And one shall start up at the voice of a bird’: this refers to the wicked Nebuchadnezzar. Rabbi said: For eighteen years a Bath Kol used to go forth in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar and proclaim, ‘ Wicked servant, go and destroy thy Master’s house, because His children disobey Him.’ ’And all the daughters of music shall be brought low’: thus Nebuchadnezzar went up and stopped all singing in the house of feasting, and so it is written, They drink not wine with a song (Isaiah 24:9).”
Midrash Rabbah, Lamentations Prologue 23
2b Like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder.
The following passage from the Zohar offers a description of how “G-d’s voice” emanates from His pure “thought” and manifests from the place of “Binah” which is considered “feminine” in nature. The “unity” of G-d’s name is central to this:
“Observe that Thought is the beginning of all. This Thought is recondite and inscrutable, but when it expands it reaches the place where spirit abides and is then called Understanding (Binah), which is not so recondite as the preceding. This spirit expands and produces a Voice composed of fire, water, and air, which corresponds to north, south, and east. This Voice embraces in itself all forces, and speaks to Utterance, and this shapes the word properly. When you examine the grades closely, you find that Thought, Understanding, Voice, Utterance are all one and the same, and there is no separation between them, and this is what is meant by the words: ‘The Lord is one and His Name is One.’”
Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, 246b
In the following citation, we see that regarding the “unification of the Name,” the “countepart to the heavenly voice” is that caused by the recitation of the Shema on our part:
“The Shema, contains the mystery of the right side, called “The Supernal Grace”, for it effects the union of all things extending unto the four quarters of the universe; and the Holy One, blessed be He, through the medium of this attribute, brings forth order and harmony in the whole universe, a harmony which extends even to the lowest depths. By this attribute of Grace the Holy One created the world, when He wrapped Himself in the garment of light. This Supernal Grace is the Unifier. For this reason the section of the Shema is joined to that of “And it shall be”; for the act which makes each day a unity and likewise forms the whole sum of separate days into the perfect whole, is the fact of following the Divine Will in knowledge and action; and through this act alone (of concentration on the union during prayer and the recitation of the Shema) can that union of which we have frequently spoken be attained: that is, the union of each day, the union which is expressed in the sentence: “Hear, O Israel, YHVH Elohenu YHVH is one”. These three are one. How can the three Names be one? Only through the perception of Faith: in the vision of the Holy Spirit, in the beholding of the hidden eyes alone. The mystery of the audible voice is similar to this, for though it is one yet it consists of three elements-fire, air, and water, which have, however, become one in the mystery of the voice. Even so it is with the mystery of the threefold Divine manifestations designated by YHVH Elohenu YHVH – three modes which yet form one unity. This is the significance of the voice which man produces in the act of unification, when his intent is to unify all from the En-sof to the end of creation. This is the daily unification, the secret of which has been revealed in the holy spirit. There are many kinds of unification, and all are appropriate, one involving the other, but the one which is effected on earth by the symbolism of the voice is the most appropriate.”
Zohar, Shemoth, Raya Mehemna, 43b
The verse in Revelation mentions both a voice of many waters and of thunder, indicating a “mingling of mercy and judgment. (See notes to verse 7b)
The Zohar comments as follows:
“R. Judah discoursed here on the text: The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High gave forth his voice; hailstones and coals of fire (Psalm 18:14). ‘When God’, he said, ‘created the world, He constructed for it seven pillars by which it was to be upheld. So Scripture says: “Wisdom hath builded her house (Binah/Understanding), she hath hewn out her seven pillars” (The seven lower Sefirot) – (Proverbs 9:1). These in turn are upheld by one grade from among them called “the Righteous One, the everlasting foundation” (Yesod) – (Ibid. x, 25). Further, when the world was created, it was started from that spot which is the culmination and perfection of the world, the central point of the universe, which is identical with Zion, as it is written: “A psalm of Asaph. God, God the Lord hath spoken and called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined forth” (Psalm 50:2). That is to say, God started the earth from Zion, from the spot where faith culminates in its full perfection. Zion is thus the citadel and central point of the universe, from which it began to be fashioned and from which the whole world is nourished. This lesson is esoterically indicated in our text. For Zion and Jerusalem, while one, represent two degrees, the one being the channel of judgement, the other of mercy; first there issues from one the sound of mercy, and afterwards there comes forth from the other the voice of judgement, the two forming the source from which the paths of judgement and mercy issue and diverge. Hence the expression “And the Lord also thundered in the heavens” indicates judgement, while “the Most High gave forth his voice” refers to mercy, and “hailstones and coals of fire” signify water and fire, that is, mercy and judgement commingled.’”
Significant is this next passage from the Zohar, that shows the emergence of “Jacob” (i.e., the Messiah) in conjuncture with this voice of “fire, air and water.”
“When the Holy One, blessed be He, wills that His glory should be glorified, there issues from His thought a determination that it should spread forth; whereupon it spreads from the undiscoverable region of thought until it rests in garon (throat), a spot through which perennially flows the mystic force of the “spirit of life”. When the thought, after its expansion, comes to rest in that place, it is called Elohim hayyim (living God). It then seeks to spread and disclose itself still further, and there issue from that spot fire, air, and water, all compounded together. There also emerges “Jacob, the perfect man”, symbolic of a certain voice that issues and becomes audible.”
The following text links the voice of G-d with the “living creatures” of verse 3 (below):
“And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone (Ezekiel 1:26). ‘Before this verse,’ he said, ‘we find the words, “And when they went I heard the noise of their wings like the noise of great waters, like the voice of the Almighty” (Ibid. 24). These are the four sacred and mighty beings called Hayyoth (animals), by whom the firmament is upheld, and whose wings are usually joined together to cover their bodies. When, however, they spread out their wings, a volume of sound swells forth, and they break out into songs of praise, “as the voice of the Almighty”, which never becomes silent, as it is written, “so that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent” (Psalm 30:13). The tenour of their praises is, “The Lord hath made known his salvation, his righteousness hath he revealed in the sight of the nations” (Psalm 98:2). It says further: “A noise of tumult like the noise of a host” (Ezekiel 1:24), i.e. like the sound of the holy camps when all the supernal armies assemble on high. What is it they declaim? “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:3). They turn to the south and say “holy”, they turn to the north and say “holy”, they turn to the east and say “holy”, they turn to the west and say ‘blessed.'”
(With regard to the end of the above passage, as shown in earlier studies, the “earth” is said to be in the direction of Malchut on the Tree of Life diagram, that being considered “west.”)
2c And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps.
MUSIC AND PROPHECY
Music of praise to G-d, emanating from the heavenlies, is an important theme in Hebraic writings:
“The three watches of the night correspond to the hosts of angels when they divide themselves into three groups in order to sing praises to the Holy One. Therefore the conductor of them all is the “harp of David,” for this never ceases to play, but constantly emits hymns of thanksgiving and praise before the Supernal King, and concerning this it is written: “Who giveth songs in the night.”
Besides the plain view of these harpists “playing music of praise to God,” it is also known that music has a strong connection to prophecy.
“Moreover, the fact that it does not say shegioth (errors), but shigionoth, shows that the reference is to the musical instruments, like “shigayon of David” (Psalm 7:1), which were used by all the prophets (except Moses, who was independent of external aids to prophecy), in order to enter into an ecstatic mood before receiving the spirit of prophecy (cf. I Samuel 10:5; 2Kings 3:15), and Habakkuk needed the calming influence of music more than anybody.’”
The Rambam (Moses Maimonides), wrote the following on this subject:
“When they were seeking prophecy, the prophets would therefore have people play music for them. We thus find, “(A band of prophets, coming from a high place, led by harp, drum, flute and lyre,) and they were prophesying themselves” (1 Samuel 10:5). The term “prophesying themselves” (mitnavim) means that they were making use of the prophetic methods in order to receive a prophetic vision.”
From Yad Yesodey HaTorah 7:4, as cited in Meditation and the Bible, Aryeh Kaplan, Samuel Weiser, Inc., York Beach Maine, 1978, p. 65.
Rabbi Kaplan goes on to comment as follows:
“One important practice mentioned explicitly in the Bible was the use of music in order to help attain the prophetic state A very clear example of this is found in the case of the prophet Elisha. The Bible relates that when he sought a prophetic message, he said, “‘Now bring me a musician.’ And it was when the musician played, and the hand of God came upon him” (2Kings 3:15). Another good example can be found in the account of how Samuel inducted King Saul into the prophetic society. Samuel told Saul, “You shall meet a band of prophets, coming from a high place, with harp, drum, flute and lyre, and they will prophesying themselves” (1Samuel 10:5). Through the power of the music, they were concentrating the prophetic energy into themselves in order to focus it. When they did so they were able to make Saul prophesy as well. Finally, we find another explicit statement regarding Asaph, Hemen and Judathun, “Who would prophesy with the harp, lute and cymbal” (1Chronicles 25:1). … Kabbalists note that another important role of music and song is to cut through the forces of evil, and help the prophet penetrate the klipot (“husks” or “shells” associated with the Sitra Atra). It is pointed out that the word “Zamar” (Zayin-Mem-Resh) meaning “to sing,” as well as its derivative “Mizmor” (Mem-Zayin-Mem-Vav-Resh), meaning a song or a chant, come from a root that also means “to cut.” Music thus cuts through the Husks of Evil, opening the way for the mind to ascend on high. It is significant to note that another word for song, Shir (Shin-Yod-Resh), is very closely related to the word Shur (Shin-Vav-Resh), meaning “to see.” This is another indication that song and vision are related, and this is especially true of mystical vision.
ibid, pp. 63-64.
The roles of music and prophecy are associated with the Sefirot of Netzah and Hod, which as are associated with the “two witnesses,” as mentioned in chapter 11.
Again referring to Aryeh Kaplan’s work, who in turn cites Rabbi Nachman of Breslov:
A prominent Hasidic master, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810), notes that the mystical source of music is associated with the Cherubs, and hence, it shares the same root as the source of prophecy. These two Cherubs are said to represent the Sefirot Victory (Netzach) and Splendor (Hod), the Sefirot which are the source of all prophecy, and which are also related to song and melody.
Meditation and the Bible, Aryeh Kaplan, Samuel Weiser, Inc., York Beach Maine, 1978, p. 65.
As mentioned in an earlier study, the idea of “prophet” has to do with one who “connects heaven and earth.” This entails more than “foreseeing the future,” as explained by Aryeh Kaplan:
“The eminent philologist, Rabbi Solomon Pappenheim (1750-1814), states that it (“navie” i.e., “prophet”) is related to the root Boa (Bet-Vav-Aleph), meaning to “come” or “bring.” According to this, the main ability of a prophet is to bring spiritual power, channeling it where it is needed. … The clearest example of this occurs with regard to Ezekiel in his vision of the Valley of Dry Bones. Before these bones were resurrected, God told the prophet, “Prophesy to the spirit, prophesy, son of man, and say to the spirit: Thus says the Lord God, ‘From the four winds, come O spirit, and blow into these corpses that they should live'”(Ezekiel 37:9). What God is telling Ezekiel to do is not to be a spokesman or to predict the future, but to channel spiritual force into these dead bodies. So potent was this spiritual force that it literally had the power to bring the dead back to life… In this account, Ezekiel is told to prophesy three times, and in each of these cases, it is evident that his prophecy is a channeling and “bringing” of spiritual force. It is significant to note that in all three of these places, the word Nava, meaning to prophesy, is paralleled in the same verse by the root Boa, meaning to come, or bring. The appearance in all three cases of these two words in the same verse is not coincidence, but a deliberate play on words, indicating that the prophet is one who brings spiritual forces to bear.”
ibid, pp. 28-29.
3a They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders;
The idea of “song” is also tied to the concept of prophecy. An example of this is the “song” sung by the Israelites after escaping their Egyptian pursuers in Exodus:
“The Israelites saw a vision of the angels and the entire Divine Assembly. They also saw Jerusalem and the Temple on high. They attained a higher degree of prophecy even than Ezekiel. Evidence for this is in the Song itself. All the Israelites sang exactly the same song in unison. Although it was totally unrehearsed, they all sang exactly the same words. The song came out as if a single person were singing it. All knew the words through prophetic inspiration.”
The above mentioned “song” sung by Israel at the sea, is elaborated on in the following passage from the Zohar. Here, this song is associated with “uniting the attributes” (i.e., Sefirot) of G-d, which is linked to the rebuilding of the Temple of G-d. The text further speaks of G-d “withdrawing Zion” (the Sefirah of Yesod) to Himself, until the time that the Community of Israel (the Sefirah of Malkut, the Shekinah, etc.) is restored:
“All the Israelites beheld at the sea what even the prophet Ezekiel was not privileged to see, and even the embryos in their mothers’ wombs beheld the wonderful works of the Holy One, and sang praises to Him, saying: “This is my God and I extol Him; the God of my father and I exalt Him”, namely the God of father Abraham. Said R. Jose: ‘Does the God of Abraham need our exaltation? Is He not already exalted high above our comprehension?’ R. Jesse replied: ‘Yet man can and must exalt Him in the sense of uniting in his mind all the attributes in the Holy Name, for this is the supremest expression of worship.’ R. Judah sat one day at the feet of R. Simeon, and he began to expound the following verse: The voice of thy watchmen, they lifted up their voices, they shall sing altogether… when the Lord shall return to Zion (Isa. LII, 8). ‘These “watchmen” ‘, he said, ‘are those who “watch” for the time when the Holy One will build His House once again. The use of the past tense “lifted”, where we should rather have expected the future “shall lift”, conveys the lesson that he who has lifted up his voice in weeping and lamentation over the destruction of the Temple shall be worthy to be numbered among those of whom it says “they shall sing altogether”, and to enjoy the privilege of beholding the Holy One when He shall inhabit His House once more. The words “when the Lord returns (to) Zion” are to be understood as meaning “when the Lord brings back Zion”. For when the earthly Jerusalem was destroyed, and the Community of Israel was scattered over the face of the earth, the Holy King drew Zion [Zion=Yesod.] up to Himself and stretched it out before Him, because the Community of Israel was banished. When, however, the Community of Israel shall be restored, the Holy King will restore Zion to its place, to unite itself with her in perfect bliss; and the children of Israel will sing: “He is my God, and I have prepared for Him an habitation.” Concerning this it is written: “This is the Lord, we have waited for him, let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation” (Isaiah 25:9)- meaning, literally, “in His own salvation.”
Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, 55b
The concept of a “new song” being one of “greater revelation” of God is also expressed in terms of a “harp” (see above references to “David’s harp” as well as Psalm 144), specifically, the number of strings on that instrument:
“R. Judah said, The harp of the Sanctuary had seven cords, as it is written: In Thy presence is fitness [soba’] of joy; read not, fulness [soba’], but seven [sheba’]! The harp of the messianic days has eight cords, as it is said: For the leader on the Sheminith, [i.e., the eighth string]. The harp of the world to come has ten cords, as it is said: With an instrument of ten strings, and with the psaltery; with a solemn sound upon the harp. Furthermore, it is said: Give thanks unto the Lord with harp, sing praises unto Him with the psaltery of ten strings. Sing unto Him a new song; play skilfully midst shouts of joy. You could say also that [our Mishnah will be] in accord with R. Judah: Since, in the world to come, it will have more cords and its sound will be stronger, like that of a harp, he calls it ‘harp.’”
Talmud, Arachin 13b
The Zohar makes an interesting comparison between between Moses and Solomon, with the “song” of the latter said to be “superior” to that of the former:
“This canticle is superior to all that preceded it; for those which were sung by Solomon’s predecessors ascended only to join with the company of the songs chanted by the angels, as, for instance, the “Song of degrees to David”, which means “the song which the celestial grades sing to David”, to solicit nourishment from him; or again, as we might translate, “a song of degrees for the sake of David”, the great king who always praises the Great King. But when Solomon came, he sang a song which is high above even that of David, a song which is the very same as that sung by the great ones of the realms above, the pillars of the universe, in honour of the Supernal King who is the lord of all peace and harmony. Other men send up praises by means of lower Chariots, but King Solomon by means of higher Chariots. It may be asked, What of Moses, who ascended further than all other men in the grade of prophecy and love of the Holy One, blessed be He? Did his song also reach no further than the lower Chariots? The song which Moses uttered did indeed ascend on high, but the truth is, that although it was not on a level with the Canticle of King Solomon, whom no man equalled in poetry, Moses’ song was praise and thanksgiving to the Supernal King who redeemed Israel and wrought many signs and wonders for them, both in Egypt and at the Red Sea; but King David and Solomon his son sang with quite different purposes. David endeavoured to prepare the virgins (the celestial grades) and to adorn them for the Matrona’s presence so that She and her maidens might be manifested in beauty and grace. When Solomon came he found that Matrona and the virgins thus adorned, so he in his turn aspired to lead the Bride to the Bridegroom. He brought the Bridegroom to the place where beneath the marriage canopy the Bride awaited Him, and drew them together with words of love, that they might be united as One, in one perfection, in perfect love. Therefore Solomon produced a more sublime song than all other men. Moses, by building the Tabernacle, brought about the union of the Matrona with the world here below, Solomon brought about the perfect union of the Matrona with the Bridegroom above: he first led Him to the Canopy, and then brought them both down to this world and prepared a habitation for them in the Sanctuary which he built. It might be asked, How could Moses bring down the Shekinah alone? Would not this cause separation above? The answer is that the Holy One first caused the Shekinah to be united with Moses, and She became, as it were, Moses’ bride, as has already been pointed out. As soon as She was united with Moses, She descended to this world and united Herself with it, and She became firmly established in this world, as never before. But no man since Adam was first created has ever brought about love and union above except King Solomon, who, as we have said, first prepared that union and then invited the Bridegroom and the Bride to the House which he prepared for them. Blessed are David and Solomon his son who have furthered the Supernal Union. Since the day when the Holy One said to the Moon, Go and make Thyself small, She was never again joined in perfect union with the Sun until Solomon came.”
As might be expected, the “singing” in heaven has an “earthly counterpart” that is associated to the coming of Messiah:
The exiles are destined to break out into song when they reach the Taurus Munus, (likely Mt. Hor) and the nations of the world are destined to bring them like princes to the Messiah.
Midrash Rabbah, Song of Songs 4:19
The following text also comment on the musical aspect of the heavenlies:
R. Berekiah and R. Helbo and ‘Ulla Bira’ah and R. Eleazar said in the name of R. Hanina: In the Time to Come, the Holy One, blessed be He, will lead the chorus (holah) of the righteous-as it is written, Mark ye well her ramparts-helah (Psalm 48:14). It is written holah [i.e. a round dance] – and they will dance around Him like young maidens, and point to Him, as it were, with a finger, saying: This is God, our God, for ever and ever; He will lead us ‘almuth (ib. 15), i.e. with youthfulness, with liveliness. Or ’’almuth’ means ‘like maidens’ (‘alamoth), as it is written, In the midst of damsels (‘alamoth) playing upon timbrels (ib. 68:26). Aquila translated [the word ’almuth, Psalm 48:15] athanasia [i.e. deathlessness, immortality; i.e. He will lead us to] a world in which there is no death. Or “almuth’ means two, ’olamoth, i.e. worlds, [the passage meaning], He will lead us in this world, and He will lead us in the World to Come.
Midrash Rabba, Leviticus 11:9
John mentions the song being played “before the elders” indicating some type of reverence to them. This is reflected in the following midrashim which speak of a special group of elders appointed by God Himself:
“And in the Time to Come, too, will the Holy One, blessed be He, accord honour to the Elders, as it is written, The moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed; for the Lord of hosts will reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before His elders shall be Glory (Isaiah 24:23). R. Ishmael b. R. Bibi and R. Simeon and R. Reuben said in the name of Hanina: R. Abin said, in the name of R. Ishmael b. R. Joshua: The Holy One, blessed be He, will in the Time to Come sit as in a goren (court-room), with the righteous sitting before Him, like that [goren mentioned in the verse], Now the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah sat each on his throne, arrayed in their robes, in a threshing floor–goren (I Kings 22:10). Were they then sitting in a threshing-floor? Surely, what is intended is the same as what we have learnt in a Mishnah: The Sanhedrin were seated in the formation of a semicircular goren, so that they [i.e. the members of the court] could see one another. [King] Solomon said: I saw Him [as it were] confined in the midst of them; this is [indicated in] what is written, Her master is known in the gates, as He sitteth with the elders of the land (Proverbs 31:23).
Midrash Rabbah, Leviticus 11:8
“AND MOSES AND AARON WENT AND GATHERED TOGETHER ALL THE ELDERS (IV, 29). R. Akiba said: Why is Israel compared to a bird? Just as a bird can only fly with its wings, so Israel can only survive with the help of its elders. Great is eldership, for if they [the elders] are old they are beloved before God, and if they are young, their youth is but of secondary consequence. R. Simeon b. Yohai taught: We learn in many places that God showed respect to the elders. At the thorn-bush, as it is written: Go, and gather the elders of Israel together (Exodus 3:16) At Sinai, as it says: And unto Moses He said: Come up unto the Lord, thou, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel (ib. 24:1). At the tent of meeting, for it is written: Moses called Aaron and his sons, and the elders of Israel (Leviticus 9:1), and in Messianic times it will also be so, as it is said: For the Lord of Hosts will reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before His elders shall be glory (Isaiah 24:23). R. Abin said: God will, in the future, seat the elders of Israel in a circle, and He will sit at the head of them all as President of the Court, and they will judge the heathen, as it says: The Lord will enter into judgment with the elders of His people, and the princes thereof (ib. III, 14) It does not say ‘Against the elders of his people’, but ‘ With the elders of his people’, that is, He will sit with them and judge the heathen. What will He say unto them? It is ye that have eaten up the vineyard (ib.), namely, Israel, as it is written: For the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts is the house of Israel (ib. V, 7). The spoil of the poor is in your houses (ib. III, 14), for it is written: That the Lord hath founded Zion, and in her shall the poor [E.V. ’afflicted’] of His people take refuge (ib. XIV, 32). It was the custom of kings, too, to sit in a circular court-room, as it says: Now the King of Israel and Jehoshaphat the King of Judah sat each on his throne, arrayed in their robes, and they sat in a threshing-floor (II Chronicles 18:9). Did they then actually sit in a threshing-floor? No, but as we have learnt: The Sanhedrin sat in a semicircle, so that they should be able to see each other, and the two Scribes of the Court sat in front of them, etc. Solomon said: ’ I beheld Him sitting with them and judging in their midst, for it is said: Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land’ (Proverbs 31:23).”
Midrash Rabbah, Exodus 5:12
3b …and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth.
4 These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.
These 144,000 righteous ones (tzaddikim) “pave the way” as “first fruits” for those to follow. Associating oneself with such tzaddikim, by way of following in their footsteps of Torah observance (i.e., 1st John 2:3-6), enables a person to “bind themselves” to them, thus receiving additional “spiritual benefit.”
This concept was found in Torah with regard to reaching higher levels of prophecy:
“Toward the end of this parasha, we are told how G-d bestowed the gift of prophecy on the seventy elders. At that time, Miriam was standing next to Moses’ wife, Zipporah, when Gershom ran to Moses, saying, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” When Zipporah heard this, she said, “Woe to their wives if they have become prophets, for they will now separate from them, just as Moses has separated from me.” Miriam overheard this and assumed that Moses had done this because he felt it was inappropriate for a prophet to become defiled by marital relations (See Leviticus 15:18), just as G-d had bidden the whole people to refrain from marital relations in preparation for the revelation at the Giving of the Torah. (Exodus 19:15)”
Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, comments as follows – again with the concept of “building the Temple” seen as an objective of every person:
“It is for this reason that one’s prayers should be offered to God by binding oneself to the tzaddikim of the generation. Since the tzaddikim represent Moshe-Maschiach, they are the ones who know how to direct our prayers toward their proper objective. This is alluded to in our Sage’s statement (Berakhot 28b), “Everyone should pray towards the Holy Temple.” That is, everyone should pray with the intent of building the Holy Temple with his prayers. Since neither the sanctuary nor the Holy Temple can be built by common men — it must be built by the great tzaddikim — one’s prayers should be directed through the tzaddikim (Likutey Moharan 1, 2:6) (This does not mean to pray to the tzaddikim, God forbid, for that is idolatry. It does mean to pray in accordance with the guidance of the tzaddikim.) Then one’s prayers, one manifestation of Maschiach, have a chance of reaching their mark.”
Mashiach – Who? What? Why? How? Where? When?, Chaim Kramer, Breslov Research Institute, Jerusalem, p. 51.
Kabbalistically, the “spiritual benefit” one can attain by association with someone more righteous than they are, is expressed in terms of “sharing in” or “receiving” the soul of the greater tzaddik. This may also come by way of a person experiencing tribulation or suffering in their life.
Rabbi Pinchas Winston, explains this in a recent Parsha commentary:
Without the potential for spiritual growth, a soul would not accomplish much in his lifetime. What’s that you say? You love mitzvos (good deeds)? You want to do more, do better, but you feel as if your back is against a wall, unable to achieve the levels of spiritual greatness you long for? No problem. We’ll (i.e., God will) just increase your spiritual capacity by sending you the soul of another who has the capacity, and together you will accomplish great things, and also get the reward for doing so. That is what crises are for, whether we are tzaddikim or not. Yesurim shel ahava (afflictions from love) may only be for those who have already used their full potential in this world. But yesurim, in general, always work the same way and for the same reason: to create the need within us to rise to higher spiritual levels, to draw more on the spiritual capacity of our own soul or that of the ibur (guest soul) within us. It’s all a question of how you see life. If you believe that this world is already the World-to-Come, meaning that you assume challenges and crises are burdensome things to be avoided like the plague, then they will annoy you. But if you understand that we are still only in the waiting room, here to actualize our spiritual potential, then the door to spiritual growth is open, and greatness lies on the other side of the spiritual threshold.
From www.thirtysix.org, Weekly Parsha Sheet, VAYAISHEV: Settle Down? In This World?
Revelation 14:4 and 14:5 are closely related. The emphasis on sexual purity is critical to the ability of the 144,000 to “learn the song” (i.e., to attain a higher revelation of God, enabling them to better function in unifying the Name of God.).
This association is expressed well as follows:
“To be capable and worthy of accomplishing this mystical ascension, the Hasid must “purify” his body by strict asceticism, that is, he must not give way to temptations but hallow “what is permitted him” in his physical and material existence, which means he must sanctify all the functions of his physical life, without exception, and if he transgresses a commandment of Torah, he must submit to a harsh penance in order to “return” purified to his God. … Mystical ascension leads the Hasid to the Divinity, to the Shekinah itself, to the “Presence of God” which “dwells” in us, with us, and around us. It is of course impossible for man to attain God in His Essence, in His Transcendence, to have an intellectual conception of Him through thinking. But it is given to man to be able to experience Him in His Immanence, to feel Him in his soul, to perceive Him in the world, by conforming to His Will, that is, by studying His Torah and observing His mitzvot. Only then is man worthy of singing His Kavod, His “Glory”; he can “contribute his own kavod to God’s Kavod,” to the Shekinah , in which He clothes Himself so that man may approach Him and prostrate himself before the Kisse ha-Kavod, before His Throne of Glory.”
Wisdom of Kabbalah, Alexandre Safran, Feldheim Publishers, Jerusalem, 1991, p. 21.
Sexual purity is linked to the sexual organ and specifically the Covenant of Circumcision. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov comments on the topic of purity:
“One other aspect of “the nose” that is used to define Mashiach is purity. More specifically, this refers to sexual purity. And one who is pure can detect purity in others. Mashiach’s sense of smell is so acute that he will immediately be able to identify who has guarded the covenant — the covenant of Abraham — and who hasn’t. … Joseph was the paradigm of the tzaddik. He was a servant in Potifar’s house, and for a full year Potifar’s wife tried to seduce him. Joseph withstood the test and was crowned with the title tzaddik, which denotes sexual purity. Mashiach is therefore associated with the name of “Mashiach ben Yosef,” because of his high level of morality … before he attained the great levels of knowledge which enabled him to rule over Egypt, Joseph was tested for his sexual purity. When he passed his test the Torah gave witness (Genesis 41:39), “There is none as perceptive and wise” (Likutey Moharan 1, 36:2). Joseph’s purity brought him Daat … We see that the higher a person’s level of purity, the greater the perception of Torah and Godliness he can attain … one who tries to maintain purity can depart from exile and merit revelations of Godliness. … One reason for the necessity of sexual purity is that Mashiach’s main weapon is prayer. Our Sages compare prayer to arrows which must be directed to their target. These “arrows” require a bow from which they must be aimed, and this “bow” is the Brit, the sexual organ. One who keeps himself sexually pure merits dynamic power and is in control of his prayers, making them more potent.”
Mashiach – Who? What? Why? How? Where? When?, Chaim Kramer, Breslov Research Institute, Jerusalem, pp. 68-70.
To put it succinctly:
“.. the title “tzaddik” applies specifically to one who maintains a strict moral code regarding sexual behavior.”
ibid, p. 26.
Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan offers the following on this topic:
It has already been discussed how man’s soul has countless (spiritual) Roots. The higher the source of these Roots, the greater will be their power to transmit the influx of prophecy. But even if the source of the Root of one’s soul is on a very high level, unless he rectifies it and purifies it so that it transmits to all the Roots that are below it, he cannot transmit the prophetic influx. The only levels from which he can transmit it are those which he is worthy of because he has rectified them, and from there alone will his prophetic influx be transmitted. This explains why there are countless levels among the prophets.
Meditation and the Bible, Aryeh Kaplan, Samuel Weiser, Inc., York Beach Maine, 1978, p. 51.
The battle over sexual purity involves a war agains the forces of the evil realm:
“The entire Redemption depends on this. We’ve already said that Geula (redemption) and Moshiach shall be the result of Divine lovingkindness. The Sitra Achra, or dark side, wants to prevent the Geula at all costs. Therefore, the Sitra Achra uses all its power to promote promiscuity in the world, especially among Jews. So, every gain in holiness hastens the Geula, while promiscuity and lewdness – which according to Kabbala can be classified as Chessed d’Sitra Achra (unholy lovingkindness), perpetuate exile and diaspora.”
5a And in their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God.
There is a further mystical connection between the “purity of the brit” (covenant) of verse 4, and the “purity of the mouth” of verse 5. As mentioned, sexual purity is linked to the sexual organ, the Covenant of Circumcision, and kabbalistically to the Sefirah of Yesod. The “mouth” (i.e., “tongue” or “speech”) is linked to the Sefirah of Malkut, which is also known as Malkut Pei – “Kingdom of the mouth.”
The concepts of “brit” and “word” are also connected in that the Hebrew word for circumcision – “milah” – also means “word,” i.e.:
“God’s spirit speaks in me, and His word (milah) is on my tongue.”
Here again we see the concept of the unifying of the Sefirot of Yesod and Malkut in the personage of the 144,000 tzaddikim. Having “unified” the Name of God in this manner (sexual purity and purity of speech) on a personal level, they attain a greater revelation and reward.
The following text elaborates on the Covenants of the Brit (Circumcision, which impacts in a “vertical manner” – between God and His people) and the Covenant of the Tongue (which impacts in a “horizontal manner” – among people):
“God made two covenants with the Jews, the Berit ha’Ma’or, the “Covenant of the Flesh,” and the Berit ha-Lashon, the “Covenant of the Tongue.” These two are closely connected an reveal God’s creation, which is at the same time dual and unique: a merger of nature and spirit. These covenants are reflected in the dual and unique structure of man — a single being, made of a body and soul permeating each other. … In varying degrees, the spirit resides in every thing, and all matter supports the spirit in varying degrees. It is the “word” that links the material world and the spiritual world. In God, the word is already, in itself, a concrete act. “By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made …” (Psalm 33:6), “for He commanded and they were created…” (Psalm 148:5). Among men too, the word has both a spiritual and concrete connotation. The “word” seeks to be fulfilled in a physical act: “That which comes out of thy lips thou shall observe and do..” (Deut. 23:24). The davar, the abstract “word,” must be transformed into a davar, a “physical act.” … In man, this holiness involves both the spiritual enlightenment of the body and the physical consummation of the spirit. Hence, the holiness of the body is upheld by that of the spirit, and the holiness of the spirit is heightened and strengthened by that of the body. This is the basis for the close link binding the two covenants that God has made with the Jew: the “Covenant of the Flesh” and the “Covenant of the Tongue.” This is written into that part of the human body from which physical life is transmitted; the second relates to that part of the body by which spiritual life is communicated. The common aim of the two covenants is to bring human beings together. … The Jew, God’s partner in this dual covenant, is called upon to answer a dual demand, trenchantly expressed in the word shemirah, “vigilance.” He must “keep the covenant” — the first demand, expressed in the words shemirat ha-berit — by penetrating into the deepest meaning of circumcision; and he must “watch his tongue” — the second demand, referred to as shemirat ha-lashon — by delving into the essential spirit of this expression. … Through a “considered” and prudent use of his tongue and his body, a man can be lead to great heights of virtue.”
Wisdom of Kabbalah, Alexandre Safran, Feldheim Publishers, Jerusalem, 1991, pp. 158-160.
6 Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth–to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people,
7a saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him …
The following citations taken from a book on the subject of Messiah, by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, offers interesting ideas regarding the relationship between Messiah, “fear of God,” the Torah and the “River of Eden” (which appears at the end of the book of Revelation):
“Mashiach’s duty is to reveal God’s greatness which will manifest itself in kindness, good health and blessings. This denotes a total negation of sin and wrongdoing. “When evil is done away with, there will also be no more anger.” (Sifri 13:18) It is for this reason that Maschiach will “breathe the fear of God.” For he will elevate the idea of fear from the fear of punishment to an exalted level of awe … the fear of God that will be prevalent in the days of Maschiach … will be the awe and respect that is befitting true royalty and leadership. The awe of God that will be widespread then will automatically lead people away from evil and towards God. This will eliminate sin and lead to ever greater revelatins of kindness. Maschiach will be a judge — the ultimate judge — and will rid the world of suffering. Fear will then be elevated to the awe of God, i.e., respect for God and What He is … Maschiach will “breathe the awe of God.” Using prayer as his main weapon … his “breathing” will have a very positive effect upon mankind. The verse, “And he will breathe the fear of God,” in Hebrew is, “Vaharicho b’Yirat HaShem.” Our sages teach that B’YiRAT (fear) is the gemmatria of 613. Thus the breath that Maschiach will breathe will emanate from the Torah and its 613 mitzvot. This is (Genesis 1:2) “The Spirit of God (that) hovered over the waters.” The spirit is Maschiach and the waters are the Torah. Maschiach’s spirit is embedded in the Torah and he will draw his breath, the awe of God, from it … Maschiach’s job is to bring everyone back to God, even the worst sinner. … “Proper rebuke thus strengthens the soul by The rectification for one who has sinned and weakened his soul is the ‘Voice of Rebuke’.” … “There is a garden where fragrant smells and fear of God bloom. For (Genesis 2:10), ‘The river flows from Eden and waters the Garden…’ ‘River’ represents the Voice of Rebuke as in (Psalms 93:3), ‘The rivers have lifted their voice.’ This ‘voice’ which waters the garden (the sweet smells) stems from Eden, the source of the ‘Song of the Future’.” … We see then that the Voice of Rebuke is rooted in Eden, which corresponds to Keter, the source of Maschiach’s vitality. … Maschiach will posess this “Voice of Rebuke” because MaShIaCh is like MaSIaCh, “one who speaks.” Since Mashiach is bound together with all souls through his sense of smell (i.e., “the nose”), he will be able to rebuke everyone properly, to arose awe within them and draw them closer to God. His voice will be the flowing “River” from Eden, from which emanate aromatic fragrances, so that everyone will be drawn to the “savory smell” of Mashiach.”
Mashiach – Who? What? Why? How? Where? When?, Chaim Kramer, Breslov Research Institute, Jerusalem, pp. 60-67.
The Zohar offers the following regarding the “fear of God” being the “gate to heaven”:
“IN THE BEGINNING. R. Hiya opened his discourse thus: The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord; A good understanding have all they that do hereafter. His praise endureth for ever (Ps. CXI, 10). He said: ‘Instead of “the beginning of wisdom” it would be more appropriate to say “the end of wisdom is the fear of the Lord”, since the fear of the Lord is the final object of wisdom. The Psalmist, however, speaks of the highest order of wisdom, which can only be reached through the gate of the fear of God. This is implied in he verse “Open to me the gates of righteousness…. This is the gate of the Lord…” (Psalm 118:19-20). Assuredly, without entering through that gate one will never gain access to the most high King. Imagine a king greatly exalted who screens himself from the common view behind gate upon gate, and at the end, one special gate, locked and barred. Saith the king: He who wishes to enter into my presence must first of all pass through that gate. So here the first gate to super-Wisdom is the fear of God; and this is what is meant by reshith (beginning). The letter Beth (=2) indicates two things joined together, namely two points, one shrouded in mystery and one capable of being revealed; and as they are inseparable they therefore are both joined in the single term reshith (beginning), i.e. they are one and not two, and he who takes away the one takes away the other as well. For He and His name are one, as it is written “That they may know that thou and thy name of Lord art alone” (Psalm 83:19). Why is this first gate called “the fear of the Lord”? Because it is the tree of good and evil. If a man deserves well it is good, and if he deserves ill it is evil.”
7b s7b saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come …
The “positive aspect” of the Lamb on Mount Zion is balanced by the coming judgment upon the nations. The term “Esau” is used throughout Hebraic writings to describe the nations in the days leading up to the coming of Messiah.
The following text indicates that Jacob’s words to Esau, about meeting him at “Mount Seir” were actually prophetic:
“UNTIL I COME UNTO MY LORD UNTO SEIR (XXXIII, I4). R. Abbahu said: We have searched the whole Scriptures and do not find that Jacob ever went to Esau to the mountain of Seir. Is it then possible that Jacob, the truthful, should deceive him? But when would he come to him? In the Messianic era: And saviours shall come up on Mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau, etc. (Obadiah 1:21).”
Midrash Rabbah, Genesis 78:14
“When Esau and Jacob met, the former said, ‘Jacob, my brother, let us two walk together in this world as one.’ Jacob replied: ’ Let my lord, I pray thee, pass over before his servant’ (Genesis 33:14). What is the meaning of ‘ Let… pass over ‘? Do you enjoy your world first. What is the meaning of, And I will journey on gently, according to the pace of the cattle that are before me… and according to the pace of the children (ib.). Jacob said to Esau: ‘ I have yet to raise up Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,’ of whom Scripture says, Children in whom was no blemish (Daniel 1:4). Another explanation: He said to him: ‘I have yet to raise up the Messiah,’ of whom it is written, For a child is born to us (Isaiah 9:5). Until I come unto my Lord unto Seir (Genesis 33:14). R. Samuel b. Nahman said: We have searched all the Scriptures and we have nowhere found [it stated] that Jacob ever came together with Esau at Seir. What then is the meaning of, ‘ Unto Seir’ ? Jacob [meant] to say to him: ‘ I have yet to raise up judges and saviours to exact punishment from you.’ Whence this? For it is said, And saviours shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau (Obadiah 1:21). Israel asked God: ‘Master of the Universe, how long shall we remain subjected to him? ‘ He replied: ‘ Until the day comes of which it is written, There shall step forth a star out of Jacob and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel (Numbers 24:17); when a star shall step forth from Jacob and devour the stubble of Esau.’ (Whence this? For it is said, And the house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau for stubble, and they shall kindle in them and devour them; and there shall not be any remaining of the house of Esau [Obadiah 1:18].) God said: ‘At that time I will cause my kingdom to shine forth and I will reign over them,’ as it is said, And saviours shall come up on Mount Zion, to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s (ib. 21).”
Midrash Rabbah – Deuteronomy 1:20
The relationship between Israel (i.e., Jacob) and the nations (i.e., Esau) is presented in an enlightening way in the following text. Commenting on Genesis 25:28 (“For Isaac loved Esau because he had a taste for game.”), Sha’are Oreh (“Gates of Light”), depicts Isaac as being “pleased” with Esau, but only because Esau is seen prophetically as being an antagonist that will drive many from Israel back to God and keep them from going to hell:
“Could it possibly be that Isaac, our father, for whom the SHeCHINaH never parted for a moment, could love someone as completely wicked as Esau? How is that possible? Rather, this verse speaks of a great essential meaning of the Torah. Know that Isaac, our father, peace be with him, could envision the future and he saw that the children of Jacob would sin and enrage YHVH, may He be blessed, and the judgment of Hell would be their inheritance. When Isaac saw that Israel was in the exile of Esau, he was glad, and he said: “Exile atones for sin.” And he said, “Yes, I love the tribulations of Esau, so that they should bring liability to Israel and their harsh judgment shall be finished in the harsh exile of this world,” hence the verse, “For Isaac loved Esau because he had the game trapped in his mouth. What does it mean, “the game was trapped in his mouth?” He saw that the children of Jacob would be trapped by the judgments of Hell. He saw this and was saddened. When he saw the exile of Edom (Rome/Esau), however, and he saw the game of Hell trapped in the mouth of Esau, He was happy, and said, “Exile atones for sin.” … Isaac therefore, loved Esau, because he was the agent for arranging that Jacob’s sons would not fall into hell.”
Gates of Light (Sha’are Oreh), Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla, translation by Avi Weinstein, Altimira Press, London, 1994, pp. 201-203.
7c and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”
This is another kabbalistic reference to the worlds of Creation; Beriah (heaven), Assiyah (earth), Yetzirah (sea) and avenues of Torah enlightenment (“springs of water”) that sustain them all.
8a …and another angel followed, saying, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city …
The repetition of, “… is fallen, is fallen,” may indicate the defeat of Babylon (first) in the spiritual realm, then in the physical.
When God executes judgement on a people, He does so both below and above.
The following Midrash gives some examples of this:
“The Holy One, blessed be He, does not punish a nation on earth till He has cast down its guardian angel from heaven. This is borne out by five Scriptural verses. One, the verse, And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord will punish the host of the high heaven on high-that first, and then-and the kings of the earth upon the earth (Isaiah 24:21). The second is: How art thou fallen from heaven, O day-star, son of the morning! after which we read, How art thou cut down to the ground (ib. 14:12). The third is: For My sword hath drunk its fill in heaven; and then, Behold, it shall come down upon Edom (ib. 34:5). The fourth: To bind their kings with chains, and then, and their nobles with fetters of iron (Psalm. 149:8), explaining which R. Tanhuma said: ‘ To bind their kings with chains’: this refers to the heavenly princes. ‘And thegr nobles with fetters of iron’: this refers to the earthly rulers. The fifth is: To execute upon them the judgment written, and then, He is the glory of all His saints, hallelujah (ib. 149:9)”
Midrash Rabbah, Song of Songs 8:19
Interestingly, the principle of first defeating the spiritual power behind the physical goes both ways. In this passage from the Zohar, the guardian angels of the nations conspire to first attack the God of Israel, before going after His people:
“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?” (Ps. x, 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; ehe 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.”
It is taught that both Babylon and Israel fall, “never to pick themselves up again.” However in the case of Israel, God Himself will lift her up:
“R. Aha was once walking in company with R. Judah. As they were going along, R. Judah said: ‘We have learnt that the “Virgin of Israel” is blessed from seven sources; yet the Scripture says, in reference to her, “And do thou, O son of man, raise a lament over the virgin of Israel”, [Tr. note: This verse is not found in our text. Apparently the Zohar meant it for a paraphrase of Ezekiel 19:1, “And do thou raise a lamentation over the princes of Israel”.] and what is even worse, “The virgin of Israel is fallen, she shall no more rise” (Amos v, 2). It is true that this last verse has been explained by all the Companions as a message of comfort. [Tr. note: In T. B. Berachoth, the verse is explained thus: “She has fallen, but shall no more; rise, O virgin of Israel.’,] This, however, can hardly be accepted, as the prophet himself calls it a lamentation (v. I).’ Said R. Aha: ‘I, too, have been perplexed with the same difficulty. I once came before R. Simeon looking very troubled. He said to me: “Your face shows that there is something on your mind.” I said: “Truly my mind is as sad as my face.” He said to me: “Tell me what it is.” I said: “It is written, ‘The virgin of Israel is fallen, she shall no more rise’. If a man is angry with his wife and she leaves him, shall she never return? If so, alas for the children who have been sent away with her!” He said to me: “Are you not content with what the Companions have said?” I replied: “I have heard their explanation, that it is really a message of comfort, but it does not satisfy me.” He said: “What the Companions have said is quite right as far as it goes, but there is more to be said. Alas for the generation when the shepherds are gone and the sheep stray without knowing whither they are going! Truly this verse requires understanding, but it is all plain to those who can interpret the Torah fittingly. See now. In all the other exiles of Israel a term was set, at the end of which Israel returned to God and the Virgin of Israel came back to her place. But this last exile is not so, for she shall not return as on previous occasions, as is proved by this verse which says, ‘The virgin of Israel is fallen, she shall rise no more.’ Note that it is not written, ‘I shall not raise her any more’. Imagine a king who was wroth with his queen and banished her from his palace for a certain time. When that time arrived she at once returned to the king. So it happened several times. Finally, however, she was banished from the king’s palace for a very long time. Said the king: ‘This time is not like the other times when she came back to me. This time I shall go with all my followers to find her.’ When he came to her he found her in the dust. Seeing her thus humiliated and yearning once more for her, the king took her by the hand, raised her up, and brought her to his palace, and swore to her that he would never part from her again. So the Community of Israel, on all previous occasions in which she was in exile, when the appointed time came, used to return of herself to the King; but in this exile the Holy One, blessed be He, will himself take her by the hand and raise her and comfort her and restore her to his palace. So it is written: ‘In that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen’ (Amos IX, 11), the ‘tabernacle of David’ being identical with the ‘Virgin of Israel’.” Said R. Judah: ‘Truly thou hast comforted and satisfied me, and this is the truth of the matter. And it reminds me of something similar which I had forgotten, of a saying of R. Jose, that the Holy One, blessed be He, will one day make proclamation concerning the Community of Israel, saying “Shake thyself from the dust, arise, sit thee down, Jerusalem” (Isaiah 52:2), like a man taking his neighbour by the hand and saying, Pull yourself together, rise.’ Said R. Aha to him: ‘All the prophets use similar language. Thus it is written, “Arise, shine forth, for thy light is come”, meaning that the King is here to be reconciled with her. And again, “Behold thy king cometh unto thee” (Zechariah 9:9): He shall come to thee to comfort thee, to raise thee, to repay thee all, to take thee into His palace and to espouse thee for evermore, as it is written: “And I shall betroth thee for ever” (Hosea 2:19).’”
The coming of Messiah and the destruction of Babylon results in the total and final transference of “Esau’s blessing” to Jacob, as explained in the following text:
“Observe that as soon as Jacob and Esau commenced to avail themselves of their blessings, the former possessed himself of his portion on high, and the latter of his portion here below. R. Jose the son of R. Simeon, the son of Laqunia, once said to R. Eleazar: ‘Have you ever heard from your father how it comes about that the blessings given by Isaac to Jacob have not been fulfilled, while those given to Esau have all been fulfilled in their entirety?’ R. Eleazar replied: ‘All the blessings are to be fulfilled, including other blessings with which God blessed Jacob. For the time being, however, Jacob took his portion above and Esau here below. But in aftertime, when the Messiah will arise, Jacob will take both above and below and Esau will lose all, being left with no portion of inheritance or remembrance whatever. 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), so that Esau will perish entirely, whilst Jacob will inherit both worlds, this world and the world to come. Of that time it is further written: “And saviours shall come up on Mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s” (Ibid. 1:21), that is to say, the kingdom which Esau has taken in this world shall revert to God. For although God rules both above and below, yet for the time being He has given to all the peoples each a portion and an inheritance in this world; but at that time He will take away dominion from all of them, so that all will be His, as it is written, “And the kingdom shall be the Lord’s”. It will be the Lord’s alone, as it is further written, “And the Lord shall be king over all the earth; in that day shall the Lord be One, and his name One” (Zechariah 14:9).’”
The following Midrash connects Esau and his descendants to the “ten kings” spoken of by Daniel and mentioned later in Revelation. The “love of money” (Matthew 6:24) is shown to be a key attribute of Esau/Babylon/Rome here and later in the book of Revelation:
“DELIVER ME, I PRAY THEE, FROM THE HAND OF MY BROTHER, FROM THE HAND OF ESAU (32:12): from the hand of my brother, who advances against me with the power of Esau. Thus it is written, I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one (Daniel 7:8) – this alludes to the son of Nazar; Before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots (ib.)-that alludes to Macrinus, Carinus, and Kyriades. And, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things (ib.): this alludes to the wicked State [Rome] which imposes levies on all the nations of the world. R. Johanan said: It is written, And as for the ten horns, out of this kingdom shall ten kings arise (ib. 24): in these Scripture refers to Esau’s descendants. ‘I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one’- this alludes to the wicked State [Rome]; ’ Before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots’-that alludes to the first three Empires. ’And, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man’-this alludes to the wicked State, which casts an envious eye upon a man’s wealth, [saying], ‘So-and-so is wealthy: we will make him a city magistrate; So-and-so is wealthy: let us make him a councilor.” (Compare to James 2:1-4.)
Midrash Rabbah – Genesis 76:6
There is a relationship between the King (Tiferet/Son) and the “two females” — the “Matrona” (Malkut/Shekinah) and the “Supernal Mother” (Binah). The “linking of the two females” (through the “Son”) represents the unification of the Name of God.
Binah represents the complete “upper triad” (Keter-Chokmah-Binah) in the kabbalistic scheme, as these three are never separated (at the higher levels).
As stated in Sha’are Oreh:
“Binah connects the six lower Spheres (Sefirot) with the three upper Spheres.”
Gates of Light (Sha’are Oreh), Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla, translation by Avi Weinstein, Altimira Press, London, 1994, p. 286.
The following verse from the Zohar shows this relationship
“We have learnt that the upper He (i.e., Yod-He-Vau-He*) was conceived from the love of its inseparable companion Yod, and brought forth Vau. When this Vau came forth, its mate came forth with it. Lovingkindness came and parted them, and there came forth roots from beneath the Highest, and branches spread and grew and the lower He, was produced. It spread its branches higher and higher until it joined the upper tree and Vau was linked with He. Who caused this? Hesed. But the union of Yod with the upper He is not caused by Hesed but by mazzal (lit. Iuck). In this way Yod is linked with He, He with Vau, Vau with He, and He, with all, and all forms one entity, of which the elements are never to be separated. He who causes separation between them, as it were, lays waste the world and is called “the nakedness of all”. In time to come God will restore the Shekinah to its place, and there will be a complete union, as it is written: “On that day the Lord shall be one and his name one,’ (Zech. XIV, 9). It may be said: Is He not now one? No; for now through sinners He is not really one; for the Matrona (i.e., Malkut) is removed from the King (i.e., Tiferet) and they are not united, and the supernal Mother (i.e., Binah) is removed from the King and does not give suck to Him, because the King without the Matrona is not invested with His crowns as before. But when He joins the Matrona, who crowns Him with many resplendent crowns, then the supernal Mother will also crown Him in fitting manner. But now that the King is not with the Matrona, the Supernal Mother keeps her crowns and withholds from Him the waters of the Stream and He is not joined with Her. Therefore, as it were, He is not one. But when the Matrona shall return to the place of the temple and the King shall be wedded with her, then all will be joined together without separation, and regarding this it is written, “On that day the Lord shall be one and his name one”. Then “saviours shall come up on Mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau” (Obad. I, 21), as it has been taught: R. Simeon said, The Matrona will not enter her temple in joy until the kingdom of Esau has been brought to judgement and she has taken vengeance on it for causing all this. Therefore “they shall judge the mount of Esau” first, and then “the kingdom shall be the Lord’s” (Ibid.), the kingdom being the Matrona.’”
Again citing Sha’are Oreh, the concept of the “two females” being united is expressed as follows:
“Binah and Malkut face one another. And from the attribute Binah will come all blessings to the attribute Malkut, the essence of which is, “And a river went out from Eden …” (Genesis 2:10). This is the essence of Binah, which goes out from the place of Keter, through the hands of Chokmah … For Binah is referred to as the channels of the river. “… to water the garden …” (Genesis 2:10). This is the sphere Malkut, who receives much everflow and blessing which emanates through the sphere Binah.”
Gates of Light (Sha’are Oreh), Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla, translation by Avi Weinstein, Altimira Press, London, 1994, p. 292.
8b because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.”
The following Midrash links the nations “drinking from a cup of reeling” to the River of Eden:
“R. Samuel b. Nahman said: All the prophets foresaw the empires engaged in their [subsequent] activities. This is alluded to in what is written, And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it parted and became four heads (Genesis 2:10). R. Tanhuma, and some say R. Menahema, in the name of R. Joshua b. Levi, said: The Holy One, blessed be He, will, in the Time to Come, cause the heathen nations to drink the cup of reeling. This is indicated by what is written, ’ And a river went out of Eden (‘eden),’ i.e. from the place whence judgment (din) is to go forth.”
Midrash Rabbah, Leviticus 13:5
(See comments to verse 12 below, regarding the relationship between; the River of Eden, G-d’s judgment and the righteous (tzaddikim).
G-d, through the prophet Jeremiah (25:15-31) tells the nations who do not wish to accept what is coming to them, that if He is bringing judgment on Jerusalem (the city called by his name) He will certainly bring it upon them. This could be an allusion to the dual judgment of verses 14-20 below which may be decribing judgment against Israel and then the nations (note the reference to the “roaring voice” from above and the “grapes” being trampled).
9 Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand,
10 he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of G-d, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.
Verses 8 through 10 present a middah knegged middah (“measure for measure”) punishment. Verse 8 associates the evil of Babylon/Esau with the “wine of fornication.” Those who align themselves with this wine, in verse 9, drink the “wine of the wrath of G-d” in verse 10.
The following Midrash, especially rich in references to the Tenakh, also makes the case against the arrogance of those ( i.e., Laodicea of Revelation chapter 3 ) who come against God and Israel and draws contrast to those who follow His Torah:
“Moreover, it says, Then shall ye again discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth Him not (Malachi 3:8). The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked (Proverbs 3:33) applies to the wicked Esau; as you read, Whereas Edom saith: We are beaten down, but we will return and build the waste places; thus saith the Lord of hosts: They shall build, but I will throw down, etc. (Malachi 1:4). But He blesseth the habitation of the righteous (Proverbs. 3:33), that is of Israel, about whom it is written, Thy people also shall be all righteous, they shall inherit the land for ever (Isaiah 60:21). [And your eyes shall see, and ye shall say: The Lord is great beyond the border of Israel (Malachi. 1:5)]1 If it concerneth the scorners, He scorneth them (Proverbss 3:34). ‘Scorners’ applies to the Edomites who are termed scorners; as it says, A proud and haughty man, scorner is his name (ib. 21:24). They are also called proud; as you may read, ‘And now we call the proud happy.’ But how do you know that Scripture is speaking of the Edomites? Because it is written, ‘ Yea, they that work wickedness are built up’ and that applies to the Edomites; as you may infer from the text, And they shall be called The border of wickedness (Malachi 1:4). They daily scoff at Israel because of the sufferings that come upon them; as you read, And ye have magnified yourselves against Me with your mouth, and have multiplied your words against Me; I have heard it (Ezekiel 35:13). ‘He scorneth them’ implies that the Holy One, blessed be He, will in the future mete out to them according to their own measure; as you read, As thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee; thy dealing shall return upon thine own head (Obadiah 1:15). But unto the humble (‘anawim) He giveth grace (Proverbs 3:34). ‘Anawim applies to Israel who are poor (‘aniyim) among the nations and go about in humility (‘anawah) in their midst and suffer the burden imposed upon them, in order to sanctify the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, and to whom the Holy One, blessed be He, will in the future showgrace, executing justice upon their traducers; as you read, And therefore will the Lord wait, that He may be gracious unto you (Isaiah 30:18), and as it says, The humble also shall increase their joy in the Lord (ib. 29:19), and it also says, For, O people that dwellest in Zion at Jerusalem, thoushalt weep no more (ib. 30:19). The wise shall inherit honour (Proverbs 3:35) applies to Israel who are called wise when they fulfil the Torah and the commandments; as it says, Observe therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding, etc. (Deuteronomy 4:6). Because Israel observe the Torah while among the nations the Holy One, blessed be He, will in the future cause them to inherit a throne ofglory; as you read, To make them… inherit the throne of glory (I Samuel 2:8) which indicates that the Holy One, blessed be He, will at some future time restore to Israel its sovereignty; as you read, And the kingdom and the dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints, etc. (Daniel 7:27). But as for the fools, they carry away shame (Proverbs 3:35). This applies to the Edomites; as you read, And I will destroy the wise men out of Edom, and discernment out of the mount of Esau (Obadiah 1:8), and as it says, Is wisdom no more in Teman? Is counsel perished from the prudent? Is their wisdom vanished? (Jerermiah 49:7). What is the meaning of ‘They carry away (merim) shame (kalon)’? That they will raise (yarimu) in their territory conflagration (kalon), namely, that they will ultimately go into the fire. ‘ Kalon’ can signify nought but burning; as you read, Whom the king of Babylon roasted (kalam) in the fire (ib. 29:22), and as it says, Corn in the ear parched (kalui) with fire (Leviticus 2:14), and as it likewise says, And the house of Joseph shall be aflame, and the house of Esau for stubble, etc. (Obadiah 1:18), and as it says, I beheld even till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed, and it was given to be burned with fire (Daniel 7:11).
Midrash Rabbah, Numbers 11:1
11 And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”
There almost seems a contradiction in verses 11 and 12 with regard to the terms“forever and ever” and “day or night.” The former resembles the Hebrew term,LeOlam VaEd, which has to do with “timelessness.” In this case, the idea of there being “day” and “night” would not make sense. A resolution to this however, can be found in Aryeh Kaplan’s commentary to the ancient kabbalistic text, Sefer Yetzirah, which he explains the idea of “time within the timeless”:
“There are two synonymns which denote eternity. The first is LeOlam, usually translated as “forever,” which indicates the end point of the time continuum. Often used is the expression, LeOlam Vaed, which means “forever and eternity.” The expression “eternity,” here denotes the realm outside the time continuum, where the concept of time does not exist at all. Even in such a timeless domain, however, there is still a kind of hypertime, where events can occur in a logical sequence. The Midrash calls such hypertime, “the order of time.”
Sefer Yetzirah, The Book of Creation, Aryeh Kaplan, Samuel Weiser, Inc., York Beach, Maine, p. 51.
Finally, the sin of “taking the mark” carries with it the aspect of it being “unforgiveable” (in this world or the next). This would thus equate it with “blaspheming of the Ruach HaKodesh” as mentioned in our notes to Revelation 13:16-18.
12 Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Yeshua.
Verse 12 is grounded in the Hebraic concept of both keeping Torah and “binding oneself” to a tzaddik, upon whose righteousness one is given “additional mercy” from God, (as discussed in verse 4 above).
The commandments of God’s Torah act as the means to both understanding oneself and linking to God:
“Every mitzvah is a bond between man and God. As such, the attitude towards the mitzvah must relate to both these points. Man must find himself in the mitzvah, and he must find God in the mitzvah. Love is the mode of the person finding himself in the mitzvah. Awe is the mode of finding God in the mitzvah.”
Even the word for God’s commandment, “mitzvah,” carries with it the meaning of “unification”:
“Mitzvah” – commandment – also means companionship or union (from the Aramaic “tzavta” – companionship). One who fulfills a commandment becomes united with the essence of G-d, who ordained that precept.”
From Iggrot Kodesh, Vol 10, 368, Rabbi Yosef Y. Schneersohn, as cited in; The Divine Commandments – The Significance and Function of the Mitzvot in Chabad Philosophy, Nissan Mindel, Kehot Publicatoin Society, Brooklyn NY, 1992, p.17.
Rabbi Nachman of Breslov stresses the importance of “binding oneself to the Messiah” as it is through such a righteous one that God is fully revealed. (This idea is fundamental to understanding the role Yeshua played – as a sinless tzaddik who further “opened the path.”) This increase in Torah knowledge (the Torah of Messiah) is equated to the River of the Garden of Eden (which we see “reappearing at the end of the book of Revelation for the first time since the book of Genesis).
“Furthermore, “the River” refers to the Voice of Rebuke. The Voice of Rebuke is present in the Mashiach, represented by the tzaddikim who reveal the pathways of spirituality. … the Torah is that sweet-smelling spice which emanates from the Voice of Rebuke, bringing all back to God. … The Mashiach of each generation (i.e., the tzadikkim) are those who draw the power of Eden (prayer) into the Garden (Torah), giving form and shape to that which is beyond conception. This is their awesome power, and this is why they can reveal Godliness – for they are able to reveal the mitzvot (commandments) and advice with which we can relate to God. This is why the tzadikkim are called “the Voice of Rebuke,” “the River.” … cleaving to the tzadikkim – to Mashiach – is crucial. Without it, one cannot hope to combine the aspects of Torah and prayer, and thereby come to recognize God. … The Voice of Rebuke is the Song of the Future, which itself corresponds to the revelation of God’s Name.
Mashiach – Who? What? Why? How? Where? When?, Chaim Kramer, Breslov Research Institute, Jerusalem, pp. 114-115.
We can thus conclude that the term “patience of the saints” in verse 12 relates to the “perfect path” one can take in life – i.e., following God’s Torah to the best of one’s ability, and “attaching oneself” to a great tzaddik who “paves the way ahead” for you through his greater righteousness.
13a Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Write: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”‘ “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors,
Here we appear to have a “conversation” between the “bat kol” (voice of heaven) and the “Spirit” (Ruach). We see a similar dialogue in this Midrash:
“A Bat Kol issued forth and proclaimed, ’A joyful mother of children’ (Psalm 113:9); and the Holy Spirit cried out, FOR THESE THINGS I WEEP.”
Midrash Rabbah, Lamentations 1:50
13b … and their works follow them.”
As is taught in Judaism, when we stand before G-d, all that accompanies us is our good works — those actions that contributed to tikkun (rectification) of our own souls and of the world.
14 Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle.
From this verse to the end of the chapter, John depicts what seem to be two related but separate “judgments.” He is not specific as to who makes up these two groups. The first (verses 14-16) is carried out by what seems to be the Messiah, the second (verses 17-20) is carried out by an angel who emerges from the heavenly Temple. As opposed to the first judgment, where no punishment is mentioned, in the second case those “reaped” are thrown into the “winepress” of God.
It is clear from Scripture that both Israel and the nations are judged at the time of Mashiach’s coming.
“Another interpretation of, ‘As the sand of the sea.’ What is the nature of sand? If it is put into the fire it comes out as glass from which utensils can be made. So it is with Israel. They go into fire and come out alive; as it is said: Ye servants of God Most High, come forth, etc. (Daniel 3:26). In the hereafter they will enter Gehinnom and the nations of the world will also enter. The latter having entered will perish, but Israel will come out therefrom unscathed; as it is said: When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burnt. Why? For I the Lord thy God hold thy right hand (Isaiah 41:13). Therefore he compares them to sand. When referring to the hereafter, however, he compares them to stars. As the stars sparkle throughout the firmament so will they sparkle in the hereafter; as it is said: And they that are wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn the many to righteousness.”
Midrash Rabbah, Numbers 2:13
Midrash differentiates the reasons that God will punish the nations and Israel. The former are judged for their treatment of Israel (i.e., Matthew 25:31-46):
“The vengeance taken of the idolatrous nations will be on account of Israel, while the vengeance taken of Israel will be on account of their poor. The vengeance taken of the idolatrous nations will be on account of Israel, as it is said, And I will lay My vengeance upon Edom by the hand of My people Israel (Ezekiel 25:14); the vengeance taken of Israel will be on account of their poor, as it is said, And he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it be sin in thee (Deuteronomy 15:9). R. Abun said: The poor man stands at your door, and the Holy One, blessed be He, stands at his right hand. If you give unto him, He who stands at his right hand will bless you, but if not, He will exact punishment from you, as it is said, Because He standeth at the right hand of the needy (Psalm 119:31).”
Midrash Rabbah, Ruth 5:9
“THE LORD HATH SET AT NOUGHT (SILLAH) ALL MY MIGHTY MEN. He hath made me like refuse before them. R. Abba b. Kahana said: In Bar Gamza they call refuse ’sallutha’. R. Levi sai d: In Arabia they call a comb ’mesalselah’. HE HATH CALLED A SOLEMN ASSEMBLY AGAINST ME TO CRUSH MY YOUNG MEN. We find that the death of youths is considered as grievous as the destruction of the Temple; for it is written, THE LORD HATH TRODDEN AS IN A WINEPRESS THE VIRGIN DAUGHTER OF JUDAH, and in the same way, HE HATH CALLED A SOLEMN ASSEMBLY AGAINST ME TO CRUSH MY YOUNG MEN.”
Midrash Rabbah, Lamentations 1:44
15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.”
16 So He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.
It is possible that “the earth” in verses 15 and 16 could have been “the land” in the original Hebrew/Aramaic, in which case this judgment is directed directly against Israel. Another reason to consider that the first judgment (by way of the messianic figure in verse 15) involves Israel, and the second (by way of an angel) is that of the nations, is the following concept:
“In regards to death, outside Eretz Yisrael it is accomplished by the Angel of Death, whereas in Israel it comes about via a holy force.” http://www.kabbalaonline.org/majorconcepts/landofisrael/agents_of_a_foreign_death_124.asp
17 Then another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.
18a And another angel came out from the altar, who had power over fire,
God’s vengeance upon the nations is specifically linked to the coming of Messiah. All the nations will bow down to the Messiah, as demonstrated in the following selection from the Zohar. Note the similar association between the “golden crown” and “Son of Man” in verse 14 above to that of “gold” and Messiah in the text below.
“That day will be a day of note both above and below, as it is written, “and there shall be one day, which shall be known as the Lord’s” (Zechariah 14:7); that day will be the day of vengeance, the day which the Holy One, blessed be He, has appointed for taking vengeance on the idolatrous nations. For whilst the Holy One is taking vengeance on the idolatrous nations, He “will make a man more precious than gold”, to wit, the Messiah, who will be raised and glorified above all mankind, and to whom all mankind will pay homage and bow down, as it is written, “Before him those that dwell in the wilderness will bow down … the Kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall render tribute” (Psalm 72:9-10). Observe that although this prophecy (in the book of Isaiah) was primarily intended for Babylonia, yet it has a general application, since this section commences with the words, “When the Lord shall have mercy on Jacob”, and it is also written, “And peoples shall take them and bring them to their place.”
The angel (and judgment) depicted by John emerge “from the (heavenly) Temple. The following Midrash connects the idea of the “bride and groom,” with God seen as “leaping forth” from the Temple in order to judge the nations:
“The Holy One, blessed be He, said to them: ‘When ye were exiled to Babylon, I was with you, as it says, For your sake I have been sent to Babylon (Isaiah 43:14). When you shall return to the chosen House in the near future, I shall be with you; for so it is written, WITH ME FROM LEBANON, MY BRIDE. R. Levi said: The text in this case should have said, ‘ Come with Me to Lebanon, O my bride and you say, ’ From Lebanon ‘? What it means, however, is that at first He leaps forth from the Sanctuary, and then He punishes the nations of the world. R. Berekiah said: Within a space of three hours the Holy One, blessed be He, will punish the wicked Esau and his captains. How do we know? Because it says, Now will I arise, saith the Lord, etc. (Isaiah 33:10). R. Simeon b. Jannai said: ’ Now will I arise‘: this indicates that so long as Israel is wallonving in the dust, so is God also, if one may say so. The same idea is expressed by Isaiah in the verse, Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem (52:2). At that moment Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord (Zechariah 2:17). Why? Because He is aroused out of His holy habitation (ib.). R. Aha said: Like a fowl shaking its wings free from the ashes.”
Midrash Rabbah, Song of Songs 4:18
(See verse 19 below where the Temple is linked to the winepress of God.)
This pair of angels, in verses 17 and 18, working together to bring judgment to the nations, would appear to be Michael and Gabriel. The specific reference to an angel “having power of fire” clearly indicates Gabriel:
“For the very ministering angels, who are mighty in strength, that fulfil His word (Psalm 103:20) were made by God the custodians of Israel. Who are they? Michael and Gabriel; as it says: I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem (Isaiah 62:6). When Sennacherib came, Michael came out and smote them, and Gabriel, at God’s behest, delivered Hananiah and his companions. Why was this? Because God had made a condition with them thus. When? When He desired to descend in order to deliver Abraham from the fiery furnace, Michael and Gabriel said: ‘Let us go down and deliver him.’ But He said to them: ‘Had he descended into the fiery furnace for the sakes of one of you, then you would have delivered him. But since he went down for My sake, I Myself will descend and save him,’ as it says: I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees (Genesis 15:7). ‘ But I will appoint for you another time when to descend, because ye were anxious to save him for the glory of My name. Thou, Michael, shalt descend upon the camp of the Assyrians, and thou, Gabriel, on the camp of the Chaldeans.’ When Gabriel came down to deliver Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, he ordered the fire to scorch all those who had thrown them in, as it says: The flame of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego (Daniel 3:22). Some say that four classes of governors died there; for at first it says: Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces (ib. 3), while at this point four are lacking, as it says: And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s ministers (ib. 27). Hananiah then said: ’O praise the Lord, all ye nations’ (Psalm 117:1); Mishael said: ’Laud Him, all ye peoples’ (ib.), while Azariah said: ’ For His mercy is great toward us ‘ (ib. 2), and the angel replied: ’And the truth of the Lord endureth for ever (ib.), for it is true what He told me when I went down to save Abraham.’ Michael also did what he had been promised, for it says: ’And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the Lord went forth,’ etc. (II Kings 19:35). We have learnt: All the generals and officers were drinking wine and left their vessels scattered about. God then said to Sennacherib: ‘ Thou hast done thy part,’ as it says: By thy messengers thou hast taunted the Lord (ib. 23); ‘so will I too send My messenger.’ What did He do to him?-And under his glory there shall be kindled a burning like the burning of fire (Isaiah 10:16). What is the meaning of ’ and under his glory’? He burned their bodies within, leaving their clothes without untouched,-the glory of man being his garments. Why did He leave their garments? Because they were the descendants of Shem, as it says: The sons of Shem: Elam, and Asshur (Genesis 10:22), and God said: ‘I owe it to them for their father’s sake, because he and Japheth took their garments and covered the nakedness of their father,’ as it says: And Shem and Japheth took a garment (IX, 23). For this reason did God say to Michael: ‘ Leave their garments untouched, but burn their souls.’ What is written there? And when men arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses (II Kings 19:35), hence does it say: Morning by morning will I destroy all the wicked of the land (Psalm 101:8). Israel and Hezekiah sat that night and recited the Hallel, for it was Passover, yet were in terror lest at any moment Jerusalem might fall at his [Sennacherib’s] hand. When they arose early in the morning to recite the shema’ and pray, they found their enemies dead corpses; for this reason did God say to Isaiah: Call his name Maher-shalalhash-baz (Isaiah 8:3), and he did indeed hasten to plunder their spoil. Another called him ’ Immanuel ‘, that is, ‘ I will be with him,’ as it says: With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God (II Chronicles 32:8). Just as God did in this world through the hand of Michael and Gabriel, so will He perform in the future also through them, for it says: And saviours shall come up on Mount Zion to judge the Mount of Esau (Obadiah 1:21) – this refers to Michael and Gabriel.”
Midrash Rabbah, Exodus 18:5
There is an interesting gammatria regarding the angel Michael and God’s judgment coming from the Temple:
“Isaiah said, “For lo! The Lord shall come forth from His place,” hinneh yhwh yose’ mi-meqomo (Isaiah 26:21). The word yose’ (comes forth) has the numerical value of Michael (i.e., both expressions equal 101).
Along the Path, Studies in Kabbalistic Myth, Symbolism, and Hermeneutics, Elliot R. Wolfson, State University of New York Press, 1995, p. 167.
18b and he cried with a loud cry to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe.”
It is not clear as to the exact identification of this “vine of the earth.” The reference to the grapes being “fully ripe” would be an allusion to reaching the “full measure” of sinfulness.
Consider the following citations from Talmud and Midrash:
“R. Jeremiah b. Abba said: The ‘vine’ is Israel, for so it is written: Thou didst pluck up a vine out of Egypt. The ‘three branches’ are the three Festivals on which Israel go up [to the Temple] every year. ‘And as it was budding’: the time Is come for Israel to be fruitful and to multiply, for so it is written: And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly. ‘Its blossoms shot forth’: the time is come for Israel to be redeemed. for so it is written: And their lifeblood is dashed against My garments, and I have stained all My raiment. ‘And the clusters thereof brought forth ripe grapes’: the time is come for Egypt to drink the cup of staggering. And this is in accordance with what Raba had said: Why are three cups mentioned in connection with Egypt? One [refers to the cup] which she drank in the days of Moses; the other to that which she drank in the days of Pharaoh-Necho; and the third to that which she is destined to drink together with all the nations. R. Abba said to R. Jeremiah b. Abba: When Rab expounded [this verse] in an Aggadic lecture he expounded it as you have done. R. Simeon b. Lakish said: This people [Israel] is like unto a vine: its branches are the aristocracy, its clusters the scholars, its leaves the common people, its twigs those in Israel that are void of learning. This is what was meant when word was sent from there [Palestine]. ‘Let the clusters pray for the leaves, for were it not for the leaves the clusters could not exist’.”
Talmud – Chullin 92a
“NOW THESE ARE THE ORDINANCES (XXI, 1). Thus it is written, The strength also of the king who loveth justice (PS. XCIX, 4). When is strength assigned to God? When He executes judgment on the heathen. Thus you will find that because the wicked Nebuchadnezzar was haughty and said, Is not this great Babylon (Dan. IV, 27), God said to him: ‘ O wicked mortal that thou art! Thou hast become haughty and sayest: By the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty (ib.). Knowest thou not that all greatness and power are Mine? Glory is Mine and majesty is Mine.’ Thus too says David: Thine… is the greatness, and the power, and the glory (I Chron. XXIX, 11), and also, O Lord my God, Thou art very great (Ps. CIV, 1). The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Nebuchadnezzar: ‘The little royalty that has been given thee all comes from Me.’ And thus said Daniel to him: Thou… unto whom the God of heaven hath given the kingdom, the power, and the strength, and the glory (Dan. II, 37); and yet thou sayest: ‘By the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty’? This is the meaning of’ The strength also is of the king who loveth justice.’1 Strength belongs to the supreme King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, and He loveth justice and gave it to Israel His beloved. When it says, Thou hast established equity (Ps. XCIX, 4), it means: Thou hast established equity for those who love Thee; for through the ordinances Thou hast given them, when they become involved in strife with one another, they submit their quarrel to judgment and make peace. Israel said to God: ‘ Lord of the Universe! How long wilt Thou delay in judging the heathen?’- The reply was: ‘Until the time of vintage comes’; as it says, In that day sing ye of her: A vineyard of foaming wine (Isa. XXVII, 2). Does then one glean his vineyard before the grapes ripen? No, only after they are ripe does he pluck them, place them in the vat, and tread them, while his fellow-labourers sing with him. Thus said God to Israel: ‘ Wait until the time of Edom comes and then will I tread upon her,’ as it says, Upon Edom do I cast my shoe (Ps. LX, 10); ‘I will begin [the song of redemption] for you, and you will respond after Me;’ therefore does it say, ’In that day sing ye of her: A vineyard of foaming wine.’ I the Lord do guard it, I water it every moment (Isa. XXVII, 3).-I am biding My time with her to make her drink many cups, as it says, ‘I water it every moment.’ I have only to glance at them to destroy them completely from this world, but Fury is not in Me, as it is in them against My children. What will I do to them? I would with one step burn it altogether (ib.).1 R. Levi said: God said to the heathen: ‘ Israel is Mine, as it says, For unto Me the children of Israel are servants (Lev. XXV, 55), and fury is Mine, as it says, The Lord avengeth and is full of wrath (Nahum I, 2), yet you are filled with what is Mine [wrath] against Mine [Israel]?’ Hence it says, Would that I were as the briars and thorns in flame (Isa. loc. cit.). Our Sages said that God replied to Israel: ‘ If I were to alter My course of judgment, I would destroy them in a single flash, as it says, If I alter [My judgment], then with the flash of My sword [would I act] (Deut. XXXII, 41). But what do I do? My hand takes hold in judgment ‘ (ib.). Isaiah also says, Or else let him take hold of My strength (XXVII, 5), and ’My strength’ means judgment, as it says, ’ The strength also of the king who loveth justice.’ God said to Israel: ‘Just as I could overstep the bounds of judgment on the heathen, yet do not overstep them but adhere to judgment, so must you not pass without the bounds of judgment,’1 as it says, NOW THESE ARE THE ORDINANCES.”
Midrash Rabbah, Exodus 30:1
“It has been taught: R. Nehorai said: in the generation when Messiah comes, young men will insult the old, and old men will stand before the young [to give them honour]; daughters will rise up against their mothers, and daughters-in-law against their mothers-in-law. The people shall be dog-faced, and a son will not be abashed in his father’s presence. It has been taught, R. Nehemiah said: in the generation of Messiah’s coming impudence will increase, esteem be perverted, the vine yield its fruit, yet shall wine be dear, and the Kingdom will be converted to heresy with none to rebuke them. This supports R. Isaac, who said: The son of David will not come until the whole world is converted to the belief of the heretics. Raba said: What verse [proves this]? it is all turned white: he is clean. Our Rabbis taught: For the Lord shall judge his people, and repent himself of his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up, or left: the son of David will not come until denunciators are in abundance. Another interpretation [of their power is gone]: until scholars are few. Another interpretation: until the [last] perutah has gone from the purse. Yet another interpretation: until the redemption is despaired of, for it is written, there is none shut up or left, as — were it possible [to say so] — Israel had neither Supporter nor Helper.”
Talmud, Sanhedrin 97a
The idea of “the vine” being presented in a negative context is seen in this Zohar passage which shows Israel attaching itself to “the vine of Sodom” (i.e., Revelation 11:8) when they sin:
Here the idea of “the strange vine” takes on a broader context:
“The clusters thereof brought forth ripe grapes, in which to keep the precious wine. All this was seen by that sinner. Further, he saw the cup of Pharaoh in his hands; this is the cup of confusion which sucks in from the court of judgement and which issued from the grapes that were given to Pharaoh; and he drank it as it was, on account of Israel. When Joseph heard this he rejoiced, remarking the truth which the dream contained, and therefore he gave it a good interpretation. Thus the words “binding his foal unto the vine” indicate that all the forces of the Gentiles are to be subdued beneath that vine, as we have said, their power being bound up and subdued.’ R. Simeon said: ‘There are two kinds of vine. There is the holy celestial vine, and there is the vine which is called “the vine of Sodom, the strange vine”; and therefore Israel is called “this vine”. And when Israel sinned and abandoned “this vine”, then it was said of them: “For from the vine of Sodom is their vine” (Deut. XXXIII, 32).”
19 So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.
The following Midrash associates the wine press and judgment with God’s “house,” i.e., Temple. Again the process of unification (i.e., coming of Messiah) is both “good news” and “bad news” as judgment comes (via the Temple, i.e., Binah):
“R. Hanina opened his discourse with the text, Though I would take comfort (mabligithi) against sorrow, my heart is faint within me (Jeremiah 8:18). What means ’mabligithi’? Because there are none (mibli) who meditate (hogim) in the Torah to perform Divine precepts and meritorious acts, I have made My house into My wine-press (gitti).”
Midrash Rabbah, Lamentations Prologue 32
The reference to the “great winepress” is indicative of judgment against the nations, specifically Edom/Esau, (i.e., the nations who have historically persecuted Israel) as found in Isaiah 63:1-6.
“AND THE FOURTH RIVER IS PERATH (EUPHRATES): that is Edom, PERATH denoting that it upset (hefirah) and harassed His world; PERATH denoting that it was fruitful (parath) and increased through the blessing of that old man [sc. Isaac]; PERATH also denoting that I [God] will ultimately consign it to oblivion (hafer); [finally, it is called] PERATH on account of its ultimate destiny, as it is written, I have trodden the winepress (purah) alone… (Isaiah 43:3).”
Midrash Rabbah, Genesis 16:4
These Zohar passages connect Messiah to this judgment:
“HE HATH WASHED HIS GARMENT IN WINE . With this may be compared the verse: “Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah?” (Isaiah 63:1); and also: “I have trodden the winepress alone, etc.” (Ibid. 3). “Wine” here alludes to the side of Geburah, of stern justice which will be visited on the idolatrous nations. AND HIS VESTURE IN THE BLOOD OF GRAPE . This is the lower-world tree, the judgement court which is called “grapes”, in which the “wine” is kept. Thus the Messiah will be clothed in both to crush beneath him all the idolatrous peoples and kings.”
“He hath washed his garments in wine”, even from the time of the Creation the reference being to the coming of the Messiah on earth. “Wine” indicates the left side, and “the blood of grapes” the left side below. The Messiah is destined to rule above over all the forces of the idolatrous nations and to break their power above and below. We may also explain that as wine brings joyfulness and yet typifies judgement, so the Messiah will bring gladness to Israel, but judgement to the Gentiles.”
20 And the winepress was trampled outside the city and blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses’ bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs.
Although the texts generally depict the nations falling into “the winepress,” Israel is not immune to this type of judgment. The following midrashim speak of huge amounts of Jewish blood being spilled, in both cases due to the failure of Israel’s leaders:
“R. Judan asked R. Aha, ‘Where did Israel slay Zechariah, in the Court of Women or in the Court of Israel? ‘ He replied, ‘In neither of these, but it was in the Court of the Priests. Nor did they treat his blood as was done with the blood of the hind or ram of which it is written, “He shall pour out the blood thereof, and cover it with dust.” But in this instance, they set it upon the bare rock (ib. 7). And for what purpose was all this? “That it might cause fury to come up, that vengeance might be taken, I have set her blood upon the bare rock, that it should not be covered.’’ ’Seven transgressions were committed by Israel on that day: they killed a priest, a prophet, and a judge, they shed innocent blood, they profaned the Divine Name, they defiled the Temple Court, and all this was done on the Sabbath which was also the Day of Atonement. When Nebuzaradan came up against Israel, the blood began to seethe; so he asked them, ‘What kind of blood is this?’ They replied, ‘The blood of bulls, rams, and lambs which we slay.’ He immediately sent and had some blood of sacrificial animals brought to him, but it did not behave similarly. He said to them, ‘ If you tell me, well and good; otherwise I will comb your flesh with iron combs.’ They replied, ‘What shall we say to you? He was a prophet who reproved us, so we rose against him and killed him, and for several years now his blood has not stopped seething.’ He answered, ‘I will appease it.’ They brought before him the men of the Great Sanhedrin and Minor Sanhedrin and slew them until their blood mingled with the blood of Zechariah, to fulfil that which was said, They break all bounds, and blood toucheth blood (Hosea 4:2). The blood, however, continued to seethe; so they brought youths and maidens and he slew them by it, and still it did not stop. They brought school-children and slew them by it, and still it did not stop. Then they brought eighty thousand priestly novitiates and he slew them until their blood mingled with that of Zechariah, and still it continued to seethe. He exclaimed, ‘Zechariah, Zechariah! All the choicest of them have I destroyed. Is it your pleasure that I exterminate them all?’ As soon as he spoke thus, it stopped. Thereupon he debated with himself whether to repent, saying, ‘ If such vengeance is exacted for one life, how much more will happen to me for having taken so many lives’! He fled, sent a parting gift to his household, and became a convert to Judaism.”
Midrash Rabbah – Lamentations Prologue 23
Finally, this Midrash speaks of the supernatural power of the second-century false messiah, Bar Koziba (aka “Bar Kochba”) and how his downfall came when he killed the religious leader of the city he was defending. We include this passage specifically for the reference to the blood (of the city’s Jews) going up to the nostrils of the horses for a distance of four miles in the ensuing massacre.
“R. Johanan said: Rabbi used to expound There shall step forth a star (kokab) out of Jacob (Numbers 24:17), thus: read not ’kokab but kozab (lie). When R. Akiba beheld Bar Koziba he exclaimed, ‘This is the king Messiah!’ R. Johanan b. Tortha retorted: ‘Akiba, grass will grow in your cheeks and he will still not have come!’ R. Johanan said: The voice is the voice of Jacob (Gen. 27:22)–the voice [of distress caused by] the Emperor Hadrian, who slew eighty thousand myriads of human beings at Bethar. Eighty thousand trumpeters besieged Bethar where Bar Koziba was located who had with him two hundred thousand men with an amputated finger. The Sages sent him the message, ‘ How long will you continue to make the men of Israel blemished? ‘ He asked them, ‘ How else shall they be tested?’ They answered, ‘Let anyone who cannot uproot a cedar from Lebanon be refused enrolment in your army.’ He thereupon had two hundred thousand men of each class; and when they went forth to battle they cried, ‘ [O God,] neither help us nor discourage us!’ That is what is written, Hast not Thou, O God, cast us off? And go not forth, O God, with our hosts (Psalm 60:12). And what used Bar Koziba to do? He would catch the missiles from the enemy’s catapaults on one of his knees and hurl them back, killing many of the foe. On that account R. Akiba made his remark. For three and a half years the Emperor Hadrian surrounded Bethar. In the city was R. Eleazar of Modim who continually wore sackcloth and fasted, and he used to pray daily, ‘Lord of the Universe, sit not in judgment to-day!’ so that [Hadrian] thought of returning home. A Cuthean went and found him and said, ‘My lord, so long as that old cock wallows in ashes you will not conquer the city. But wait for me, because I will do something which will enable you to subdue it to-day.’ He immediately entered the gate of the city, where he found R. Eleazar standing and praying. He pretended to whisper in the ear of R. Eleazar of Modim. People went and informed Bar Koziba, ‘ Your friend, R. Eleazar, wishes to surrender the city to Hadrian.’ He sent and had the Cuthean brought to him and asked, ‘What did you say to him?’ He replied, ‘ If I tell you, the king will kill me; and if I do not tell you, you will kill me. It is better that I should kill myself and the secrets of the government be not divulged.’ Bar Koziba was convinced that R. Eleazar wanted to surrender the city, so when the latter finished his praying he had him brought into his presence and asked him, ‘What did the Cuthean tell you? ‘ He answered, ‘ I do not know what he whispered in my ear, nor did I hear anything, because I was standing in prayer and am unaware what he said.’ Bar Koziba flew into a rage, kicked him with his foot and killed him. A Bat Kol issued forth and proclaimed, ’Woe to the worthless shepherd that leaveth the flock! The sword shall be upon his arm, and upon his right eye’ (Zechariah 11:17). It intimated to him, ‘Thou hast paralysed the arm of Israel and blinded their right eye; therefore shall thy arm wither and thy right eye grow dim! ‘ Forthwith the sins [of the people] caused Bethar to be captured. Bar Koziba was slain and his head taken to Hadrian. ‘ Who killed him? ‘ asked Hadrian. A Goth said to him, ‘I killed him.’ ‘Bring his body to me,’ he ordered. He went and found a snake encircling its neck; so [Hadrian when told of this] exclaimed, ‘If his God had not slain him who could have overcome him?’ And there was applied to him the verse, Except their Rock had given them over (Deuteronomy 32:30). They slew the inhabitants until the horses waded in blood up to the nostrils, and the blood rolled along stones of the size of forty se’ah and flowed into the sea [staining it for] a distance of four miles.”
Midrash Rabbah – Lamentations 2:4