As mentioned, Revelation is broken down into several sections depending on the ‘level of prophecy.’ Within the longest section (chapters 4-19) there is a further breakdown regarding which of the Worlds of Creation John is dealing with. Beginning with this chapter, the primary focus of his vision shifts from the ‘heavenly’ world of Beriah to the ‘angelic’ world of Yetzirah.
To recap, making up what we refer to as ‘existence,’ are four ‘worlds’:
- Atzilut is the world of ‘nearness’ to G-d that precedes the three worlds that are ‘within creation.’ This is the ‘world of the Sefirot’ and not in need of rectification as Adam’s sin did not have impact outside of creation.
- Beriah is the ‘uppermost’ world within creation. It is also called ‘shamayim’ – the heavens. Beriah is seen as having seven heavens or ‘levels.’ This is where the ‘throne room’ of G-d is located. Beriah is the world of the ‘forces’ (Ramchal) that oversee creation. These are also referred to as ‘powers’ in the New Testament’ and ‘archangels’ in some traditions.
- Yetzirah is the ‘middle world’ between the heavens and earth – the realm of G-d’s messengers, known as angels. This is the ladder in Jacob’s dream (Sulam Yaacov) upon which angels were ascending and descending.
- Asiyah is the ‘physical’ world we live in – which of course is not void of its own spiritual component.
(See http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/361902/jewish/The-Four-Worlds.htm for an excellent synopsis of the four worlds of existence)
Each of the three lower worlds within Creation consists of its own ‘inhabitants.’ All three worlds and their entities are mentioned in this verse:
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood (inhabitants of Asiyah) but against principalities (of Yetzirah) against powers (of Beriah), against the rulers of the darkness of this world (Yetzirah), against spiritual wickedness in high places (Beriah).”
This verse supports the idea of all three worlds being in need of tikkun, corresponding to the three sets of judgment in Revelation. As mentioned, they are also known as the ‘three worlds of defilement’ (due to the sin of Adam).
Yetzirah is a very complex realm as it is a world of ‘mixture’ of ‘truth and lies.’ This is a reason for the Torah prohibitions about ‘dabbling’ with divination, witchcraft, etc., as these activities tap into this world. A person’s ‘connection’ to ‘G-d in heaven,’ should be in accordance with Torah, ‘bypassing’ this mixed realm.
This connection can be done by the individual via prayer, study and mitzvot (Deut. 6:5). In the past, it could also be aided by other individuals, those being prophets and priests who served in this function.
Today we have the idea of the ‘tzaddik’ – the righteous person who helps us make this ‘connection’ from below to above. This connection correlates to the Sulam Yaacov, “Jacob’s ladder” seen in his dream of Genesis 28:10-19, which Jacob sees as connecting the earth below to the heavens above.
The world of Yetzirah and Jacob’s ladder both correspond to the Partzuf of “Son” or “Groom”
The gospel of John attributes this ladder’ status to Yeshua, who links the angels that traverse between heaven and earth to the concept of the “Son.”
“He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see heaven open, and the angels of G-d ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”
When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
CONNECTIVITY BETWEEN THE WORLDS OF CREATION
The seventh of each of the three series of seven judgments (seals, trumpets, bowls), offers the idea of ‘completion’ to it (i..e., Revelation 8:1; 11:15; 16:17). In each of these, the “seventh” in the sequence is less of a specific judgment than it is the beginning of the next set of circumstances.
As discussed, the first series of seal judgments primarily affected the heavenly world of Beriah. Here we find that the next set (trumpets) mostly impacts the angelic world of Yetzirah. Later, we will see the final group (bowl judgments) is directly upon the physical world of Asiyah. You therefore have a “conclusion” at the end of each set, while maintaining a sequence from beginning to end. Note that as part of the rectification of the higher worlds of Beriah and Yetzirah, the “fallout” from these judgments effects the lower world of Asiyah (the earth and mankind).
An example of this can be seen with the judgment that came upon Egypt in the book of Exodus. Although the earthly effects are plainly seen in the physical realm, with the ten plagues and the destruction of Egypt’s army at the Red Sea, their spiritual powers above were dealt with (by G-d) first.
This is found in the following section of the Zohar which mentions how G-d slew the first born “on high” as well as below. It then shows how both sacrifices and the blowing of the trumpet (shofar) take away the power of the Sitra Atra, the evil realm:
‘‘Happy’, he said, ‘are Israel to whom the Holy One, blessed be He, gave the Holy Law and whom He taught His ways, how to cleave unto Him and observe the precepts of the Torah whereby to merit the world to come; and whom He brought near to Himself at the time when they went forth from Egypt. For then He took them away from a strange dominion and caused them to be united to His Name. Then they were called “the children of Israel”, to wit, free men entirely emancipated from any strange power, and united to His Name that is supreme over all, that rules over the upper beings and the lower; and out of His love for them He designated them “Israel my firstborn” (Exodus 4:22), on the celestial pattern. Then He slew every firstborn on high and below, set free the bondmen and prisoners, the upper and the lower ones, so as to free Israel completely. Hence the Holy One, blessed be He, did not send an angel or a seraph, but performed the deed Himself. Furthermore, He alone, being all-knowing, could distinguish and discern and set free the bondmen, things not within the power of any messenger but only within His own. Now on that night when the Holy One, blessed be He, was about to slay all those firstborn, the angels came forward to sing their song of praise before Him. He said to them: “This is not the time for it, as another song my children on earth are about to sing.” Then at the division of the night the north wind bestirred itself, and the Holy One, blessed be He, executed judgement and Israel broke forth in loud songs of praise. Then He made them free men, freed from every bondage; and the angels and all the celestial hosts hearkened unto the voice of Israel. After Israel had circumcised themselves they marked their houses with that blood and with the blood of the paschal lamb in three spots, to wit, “the lintel and the two side-posts” (Ibid. 12:22). For when the destroying angel went forth and saw the mark of the holy sign on that door he had compassion on Israel, as it is written: “the Lord will compassionately pass over the door” (Ibid. 23). There is a certain difficulty here. For since the Holy One Himself was to come and slay in the land of Egypt, what need was there for a sign on the door, seeing that all is revealed before Him? Further, what signifies “and [He] will not suffer the destroyer.” We should have expected “and [He] will not destroy”. But the truth is as follows. It is written, and “the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt” (Ibid. 29). Now “and the Lord” (V-YHVH) everywhere denotes “He together with His tribunal”, and on any such occasion it behooves man to exhibit some visible act in order to be saved. It is thus of importance to have sacrifices offered on the altar so as to keep at a distance the Destroyer during a service. The same applies to the New-Year Day, the Day of Judgement, when the lords of the evil tongue rise up against Israel; it is then that we need prayer and supplication, and, in addition, some outward and visible act. This act consists in blowing the trumpet, the sound of which wakes into action another trumpet. We thereby bring about the working of Mercy and Rigour at one and the same time, like the celestial trumpet that emits a combined sound. Our object is to awaken Mercy and to bring about the subjection of the Masters of Rigour so that they may be impotent on that day. And so when the powers of Mercy are awakened, all the celestial lamps are lit on both sides, and then “In the light of the King’s countenance is life” (Proverbs 16:15). So at the moment when the priest is about to kindle the lamps here below and offers up the perfumed incense, the celestial lights are kindled and all is linked together so that joy and gladness pervade all the worlds. So Scripture says: “Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart” (Proverbs 27:9). This, then, is the full import of ‘When thou lightest the lamps’.”
Zohar, Bemidbar 149a
Although we speak of the Worlds of Creation as ‘separate,’ they are not strict ‘divisions’ in the usual sense of the word. The Zohar offers this analysis of how the worlds are “connected.” In addition, the following text shows the forces of the Sitra Atra as emanating from the”left side” (the side of restriction/judgment). Also note the reference to the upper worlds as the ‘sea.’
“PHARAOH’ S CHARIOTS AND HIS MIGHT HE CAST INTO THE SEA AND THE CHOSEN ONES OF HIS KNIGHTS WERE DROWNED IN THE RED SEA. R. Judah said: When the Israelites were about to cross the sea, the Holy One said to the angel who is appointed over the sea: “Divide thy waters!” “Why?” said the angel. “So that My children may pass through.” “Do they really deserve this redemption?” said the angel. “Wherein lies the difference between them and the Egyptians?” Said the Holy One: “I made this condition with the sea when I created the world! ” Thereupon He exerted His power and the waters were piled up, wherefore it is written: “The waters saw thee, O G-d, the waters saw thee, they were afraid; the depths also were troubled” (Psalm 77:17). Then He said to the angel: “Exterminate all those hosts”, and it then covered them, as it says, “the chariots of Pharaoh and his host he cast into the sea”.’ Said R. Eleazar: ‘Behold, how many chariots, how many hosts, the Holy One has formed above! How many camps, how many divisions! And all of them are linked to one another, all are chariots one to another, manifold grades, diverse and yet united! From the left side the chariots of the unholy principalities rise up. They also are linked one with the other, grade to grade, the greatest of them being, as we have already pointed out, “the firstborn of Pharaoh”, whom the Holy One killed. All of these unholy powers are delivered unto the judgement of the Kingdom, the which is called “the great sea”, in order that they may be uprooted each in his own grade, and be utterly cast down, and when they are broken above, all their counterparts below are also broken and lost in the “lower sea”. As to the “captains” (shalishim) who were drowned in the Red Sea, it has already been made clear that all these grades consist of three (shalosh) attributes each (two and one, the triad, corresponding to the holy triad above). They were all delivered unto Her (the Shekinah’s) hand, that their power might be broken. All the ten punishments which the Holy One brought on Egypt were achieved by the power of one “hand”, for the “left hand” is included in the right, the ten fingers forming one entity in correspondence to the Ten expressions by which the Holy One is designated. Then came a punishment which was equal to all the rest, that of the sea: “The last one was the hardest” (Isaiah 8:23). And in the future the Holy One will deal similarly with all the hosts, princes and chieftains of Edom (Rome), as it is written: “Who is he who cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save” (Isauah 63:1).’ PHARAOH’S CHARIOTS AND MIGHT HE CAST INTO THE SEA. R. Isaac referred to the verse: “When he uttereth his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens” (Jeremiah 10:13), and said: ‘According to tradition, the Holy One created seven heavens, and in each heaven stars and planets are fixed. Arabot is above them all. The length of each heaven is such that it would take two hundred years to traverse, and the distance between each heaven and the next would take five hundred years to traverse. As for Arabot, one would need one thousand five hundred years to cover its whole length, and the selfsame number for traversing its breadth. All the heavens are lighted from the radiance of Arabot. Above Arabot is the heaven of the Hayoth, and above this latter sphere another heaven, brighter than all, as it is written: “And the likeness of the firmament upon the heads of the Hayoth” (Ezekiel 1:22). And below there are many chariots at the right hand and at the left, of many grades, each with its own name. And beneath them are others, smaller and yet more varied, which are the smallest ranks of this celestial but unholy order; as it is written: “The sea is great… small beasts and great are there” (Psalm 104:25), as we have affirmed, that on the left side below there is a ruler, the “other side”, attached to those above, but they are crushed by the great holy power, according to our interpretation of the words, ‘Pharaoh’s chariots and his might he cast into the sea’.”
Zohar, Shemoth 56a
SILENCE IN HEAVEN
The Zohar speaks of this as the time of the wedding of the Shekinah to her groom, as it occurs in the higher realms, coming at a time when their is still an evil presence about.
Then the Shekinah, the Bride, is conducted to the Palace of the King, Her Bridegroom, for now He stands complete in all His supernal goodness and can supply Her with all that She needs. Thus her attendants bring Her in unto Him in silence. Why in silence? In order that no “stranger” (evil potencies) should participate in her joy. As He united Himself above according to six aspects, so also She unites Herself below according to six other aspects, so that the oneness may be completed, both above and below, as it is written: “The Lord will be One, and his Name One” (Zechariah 14:9): Six words above-Shema Israel YHWH Elohenu YHWH ehad, corresponding to the six aspects, and six words below-baruk shem kebod malkuto le’olam waed (Blessed be the Name, etc.) – corresponding to the six other aspects. The Lord is one above; and His Name is One below.
“Because of Her vulnerability to the Other Side, Shekinah is not yet fully and openly ‘one,’ but in the Messianic age, when evil will be eliminated. She will be called ‘one’ explicitly, no longer in a whisper or cipher.”
Zohar, Pritzker Edition, Volume 5, p 241, Notes to parsha Terumah
I saw the seven angels who stand before G-d, and seven shofars were given to them.
The following sequence of seven trumpet judgments will bring rectification to the world of Yetzirah. As mentioned, the impact of these things will also affect the lower physical world. There are several ‘clues’ in the text that indicated the trumpet judgments evolve around the world of Yetzirah.
For one, ‘angels’ are specifically involved in these judgments. The realm of the angels is Yetzirah. This is different than the “higher forces” of the Beriatic judgments, or the ensuing bowl judments relegated to Asiyyah, the physical world. We also see that these judgments proceed from ‘below’ the heavenly Altar of Incense as opposed to the previous ones which were from the higher level of the Holy Creatures, in Beriah.
The concept of the ‘trumpet’ and ‘voice of the trumpet,’ is associated with Tiferet, the central Sefirah of Ze’ir Anpin, which is made up of the six Sefirot of the spacial world of Yetzirah. These trumpet judgments affect things that can be understood metaphorically to represent that which exists in the angelic world of Yetzirah, (i.e., trees, grass, mountains, seas, ships, stars, rivers, waters, sun, moon, locusts, scorpions, chariots).
The Zohar speaks of seven angels of destruction in the context of Prayer (i.e., Revelation 6:10) which is also associated with the world of Yetzirah. (Torah study being connected to the world of Beriah and Mitzvot to Asiyah.)
Prayer which is not whole-hearted is pursued by numbers of destructive angels, according to the Scriptural expression: “all her pursuers have overtaken her, etc.” (Lamentations 1:3).Therefore it is well to preface one’s prayer with the verse, “but he is merciful and forgiveth iniquity, etc.” (Psalm 78:38). The word “iniquity” signifies Samael, who is the serpent; “he will not destroy” signifies the destroyer; “he turneth his anger away” refers to the demon Af (anger); “and doth not stir up all his wrath” refers to the demon Hemah (wrath). To these powers are attached many destructive angels, which are under seven chiefs with seventy under-chiefs, dispersed in every firmament, and under them are myriads of others. When an Israelite wearing fringes and phylacteries prays with devotion, then the words of the Scripture are fulfilled: “All the peoples of the earth shall see that the name of the Lord is called upon thee and they shall fear thee” (Deuteronomy 28:10). We have agreed that “the name of the Lord” refers to the phylactery of the head; and when the destructive angels see the name of YHVH on the head of him who is praying, they at once take to flight, as it is written, “a thousand shall fall at thy side” (Psqlm 91:7).”
Zohar, Bereshith 23b
Another angel came and stood over the altar, having a golden censer. Much incense was given to him, that he should add it to the prayers of all the holy ones on the golden altar which was before the throne.
The altar, throne and incense are associated with the world of Beriah. The prayers ascend from the world of Yetzirah. This shows another aspect of the connectivity between the worlds. Tikkun came to the world of Beriah with the first series of judgments. This now extends down to Yetzirah.
The identity of this angel is not specifically given, but it may be Gabriel who is associated with prayer (i.e., Daniel 10:11), judgment, and is referred to as appearing as “the man clothed in linen” (Daniel 12:7) This could be an allusion to the High Priest, who serves at the altar of incense (Leviticus 16:12-13). There is a link between the angels Michael and Gabriel that is reflective of that found between the Sefirot of Tiferet and Yesod (i.e., Jacob and Joseph) as seen in this selection from the Zohar:
“It may here be asked: Seeing that Michael was the High Priest and belonged to the “right side”, why is Gabriel referred to as “the man clothed in linen” (Daniel 12:7), seeing that such robes could only be worn by the High Priest? But the truth is that the “left” is always embraced within the “right”, and hence Gabriel (although of the left) was clothed in these robes. Furthermore, Gabriel is the messenger for this world, hence he had to put on the garments of this world. The same has already been explained in regard to the soul which, whilst in the upper world, has to put on heavenly garments, but in descending below assumes lowly garments.”
Zohar, Shemoth 231a
Midrash Rabbah states the following about the various roles of Gabriel:
“It is written, And, behold, six men came forth from the way of the upper gate, which lieth toward the north, every man with his weapon of destruction in his hand; and one man in the midst of them clothed in linen, with a writer’s ink-horn on his side. And they went in, and stood beside the brazen altar (Ezekiel 9:2). The number ‘six’ is mentioned here; but there were five decrees, as it is written, And to the others He said in my hearing: Go ye through the city after him, and smite; let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity (ib. 5); and it is written, Slay utterly the old man, the young man and the maiden, and little children and women (ib. 6)! R. Johanan said: He spoke thus to the sternest of the angels, viz. Gabriel ; as it is stated, ’And one man in the midst of them clothed in linen, with a writer’s ink-horn on his side.’ That angel served in three capacities: as scribe, executioner, and High Priest. ‘Scribe,’ as it is written, ’With a writer’s ink-horn on his side’; ‘executioner,’ as it is said, He hath utterly destroyed them, He hath delivered them to the slaughter (Isaiah 34:2); and ‘High Priest’, as it is said, ’And one man in the midst of them clothed in linen,’ while of the High Priest it is written, He shall put on the holy linen tunic (Leviticus 6:4).
Midrash Rabbah – Lamentations 2:3
The smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the holy ones, went up before G-d out of the angel’s hand.
An interesting concept regarding the incense is that it is made up of “hard” things that have been ground to powder. On Yom Kippur the various components of the incense were ground even finer than for the daily service. The mystical understanding is that this grinding of hard substances has to do with the putting away of the Sitra Atra, the evil realm, which is associated with things that cause division or separation (between man and G-d as well as between the Sefirot). Thus, the idea of “mountains” and “rocks” in the spiritual realm often have a negative connotation as they are (“hard”) things that cause division. The ground incense is associated with their removal, which comes with (or is caused by) the unification of the Name of G-d.
Isaiah speaks of the coming of the Lord in terms of the leveling of mountains and valleys as well as crooked and rough places:
“Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.”
The following text from the Zohar elaborates on these themes. Prayer, sacrifice and incense play important, however clearly different roles, with the incense having enormous power in removing evil. Also note that first comes “atonement for the holy place” and then for “their transgressions,” reflecting the same order of tikkun of the worlds as found in the text of Revelation. (From the ‘top down.’)
“R. Simeon further discoursed on the verse: “And thou shalt make an altar (mizbeah) to burn incense upon” (Ex. XXX, 1). ‘This verse’, he said, ‘raises a problem, for we find that there were two altars, namely, the altar of burnt-offering and the altar of incense, the former the outer altar and the latter the inner one. Now, why was the altar of incense called mizbeah (lit. slaughtering-place), seeing that it had no connection with animal slaughter? The explanation is that this altar was efficacious in defeating and subduing the numerous powers of the “other side”, so as to make them powerless and unable to act as accusers. Hence the name mizbeah (place of slaughter). The “evil side”, when it beheld the smoke of the incense ascending in a pillar, was subdued, and fled, and was quite unable to approach the Tabernacle. Now, because that joy was shared by no one beside the Holy One, blessed be He, by reason of this offering being so precious in His sight, that altar was placed in the innermost part of the Tabernacle, for it was the repository of blessings, and was therefore hidden from the eye of man. In regard to this, it is written: “And he stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed” (Numbers 17:13).
… Prayer, indeed, is the highest service of all, yet is incense-burning dear and acceptable to the Almighty. Observe the difference between prayer and incense-offering. Prayer has been instituted to take the place of the sacrifices that Israel used to offer, but none of the sacrifices had the same value as the incense. There is, further, this difference between the two. Prayer repairs damage which has been done, but incense does more-it strengthens, it binds together, it is the greatest light-bringer. It was incense that removed the evil taint (zuh’ma) and purified the Tabernacle, so that the whole was illumined, renewed, and knitted together into a combined whole.
… Moses was bidden “Take unto thee”, that is, “take for thy benefit and use” the incense (q’toreth), which is potent to bind together (qatar), to illumine and to remove the evil taint. The Daleth is linked to the He’, the He to the Vau, the Vau ascends and is adorned with the He, the He, is illumined by the Yod, and the whole ascends, reaching out to the En-sof (Infinite, Illimitable), so that there results one organic whole, interrelated under one principle, the most exalted of all. From thence and upward the whole is adorned as with a crown by the ineffableness of the En-sof; and the Divine Name in its mysteriousness is illumined and is adorned on all sides, and the worlds are all wrapt in joy, the lamps radiate their lights, and sustenance and blessing pour down on all the worlds. All this follows the hidden virtue of the incense, without which the evil taint would not be removed. All thus depends on it.
… Observe that the offering of the incense used to precede all other services, and hence its recital should be a prelude to our service of hymns and praises, as these latter do not ascend, nor is the required readjustment and unity achieved until the evil taint is removed. So Scripture says: “And he shall make atonement for the holy place… and because of their transgressions, even all their sins” (Leviticus 16:16), first “atonement for the holy place” and then for “their transgressions”. We, too, thus have first to remove the evil taint and purge the holy place, and then engage in song and hymn and prayer,’as already said. Happy are Israel in this world and in the world to come, inasmuch as they know how to effect adjustment on high and below; to achieve adjustment from the lower world upwards until the whole is bound together in the most sublime union. The process of adjustment performed in the lower world is by means of the impressed letters of the Ineffable Name (YHVH) by which the Holy One, blessed be He, is named.”
Zohar, Shemoth 219a,b
This next section of the Zohar is a discussion of the two altars, the incense altar (in the Sanctuary) and the altar of sacrifice (in the courtyard). As the Tabernacle/Temple below is designed on a heavenly model, this means that there are two altars above and two altars below. Here, the archangel Michael is associated with the outer (bronze) altar. The inner altar is associated with the world of Beriah and the outer one with Yetzirah.
“R. Abba said: ‘There are two altars below and two altars above. Of the latter one, the innermost of all, is that on which is offered the inner fine incense, which is the bond of faith, and the most high Priest of all offers this incense with the bond of faith. This is called the Altar of Gold, the place where all the threads of faith are bound together. There is another altar called the Altar of Brass, which is more external and on which Michael the great chief brings the pleasing offering of the Holy One, blessed be He. On earth there are correspondingly the altar of gold and the altar of brass, on the one of which was offered incense and on the other fat and limbs. It is written, “Oil and incense rejoice the heart” (Proverbs 27:9), but not fat and limbs, although these, too, allay wrath. The altar which is the innermost of all, the linking of faith, is called “a still silent voice”, and in relation to this the other altar is called the “outer” one. The inner one is called “the altar of the Lord” and the other one “the altar of brass”. Said R. Abba: ‘When Moses built an altar (Exodus 17:15), he meant it to correspond to that inner one, and therefore he called it “The Lord is my banner”, because it was stamped with the sign of the holy covenant. This is the inner Altar, the “still silent voice”, and on this “fire shall be burnt continually”, that is, the perpetual Fire, the Fire of Isaac. The proper name for this is Adonai, but when the priest puts wood on the altar we call it by the name of mercy, YHVH; sometimes it answers to one and sometimes to the other.’ R. Simeon said that there were two, the inner supported on the outer and fed from it, the two being thus linked together.”
Zohar, Vayikra 30b
The following text is another analysis of the function of the Incense Altar, here in association with the Menorah. Note the reference to study of the inner altar (associated with Binah and Beriah) bringing Wisdom (associated with the Divine world of Atzilut).
“R. Eleazar said: ‘This section, dealing with the ceremonies of the candlestick, is a repetition of another section dealing with the same. The reason for the repetition is as follows. Having recorded the offerings brought on the altar by the Princes, and all the ceremony of its dedication, Scripture records the service of the candlestick, which was a finishing touch ministered by Aaron, inasmuch as it was through Aaron that the supernal candlestick with all its lamps was lighted. Observe that the altar had to be dedicated and perfected by the twelve Princes, representing the twelve tribes, who were ranged on four sides carrying four standards. It was all on the supernal pattern, to wit, the candlestick with its seven lamps to be lighted by the hand of the priest. Candlestick and the inner altar together minister to the joy of the whole of existence, as Scripture says: “Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart” (Proverbs 27:9). For of the two altars, the inner one [on which the incense was offered] radiated its force to the outer one, the one assigned for other offerings; and it is by meditating on the inner altar that one obtains a knowledge of the Supernal Wisdom, which is concealed within the words ADoNaY YHVH. Hence the incense had to be offered up only when the oil had been poured in the lamps. The following is found in the Book of King Solomon. The incense has the virtue of diffusing joy and putting away death. For whereas Judgement prevails on the exterior, joy and illumination, on the other hand, proceed from the interior, the seat of all happiness. So when this bestirs itself all judgment is removed and is powerless. The incense thus has the virtue of annulling death and binds all together, and was therefore offered on the interior altar.”
Zohar, Bemidbar 151b
The incense altar itself is said to play the role of the Tzaddik. The actions of the tzaddik cause the Right Hand (merciful aspect) of G-d to intervene.
“For things done quietly are the province of the priests and not of the Levites, whose function it was to raise the voice in song. Hence, when judgments begin to assail the world from the side of the Left, the Right Hand must bring appeasement with the incense, which makes no sound. Observe that when that other altar commences to grow restive because there are no righteous, the inner altar intervenes with it and judgments are allayed. Hence AARON TOOK AS MOSES SPAKE, AND RAN INTO THE MIDST OF THE ASSEMBLY, AND HE PUT ON THE INCENSE, which belongs to the inner precinct symbolizing the Priest, and so HE MADE ATONEMENT FOR THE PEOPLE AND HE STOOD BETWEEN THE DEAD AND THE LIVING, between the Tree of Life and the Tree of Death. Then the Right Hand drew them near one to another and the plague was stayed. Happy the lot of the priest who has power above and below and brings peace above and below!”
Zohar, Bemidbar 177b
The angel took the censer, and he filled it with the fire of the altar, and threw it on the earth. There followed thunders, sounds, lightnings, and an earthquake.
The mention of voices, thunders, lightnings and earthquakes is similar to the events at Mount Sinai as found in the book of Exodus. There, the worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah came together for a brief moment in time. The events of Revelation are also leading to unification, only of a greater and permanent nature.
In this verse we see the messenger of verses 3 and 4 turn from causing prayers to “go up,” to having judgment “come down.” This is also reminiscent of Sinai where G-d “descended,” while Moses, the elders and the people, to various degrees, “ascended.” This is reflected in the actual word “Sinai,” which means both a high cliff and a deep ravine. Another understanding is how a person both “ascends” spiritually to come closer to G-d, as well as “descends” into the depths of their soul. Note that someone can also ascend the “mountains” of the evil realm as Balaam did in his efforts to curse the children of Israel.
Again, sources would point to the messenger being Gabriel (“judgment of El”) as he is associated with fire and bringing judgment upon the earth:
“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).”
Midrash Rabbah – Exodus 18:5
“THE LORD CAUSED TO RAIN UPON SODOM AND UPON GOMORRAH BRIMSTONE AND FIRE. Abba Hilfi, the son of Samkai, said in the name of R. Judah: THEN THE LORD CAUSED TO RAIN, etc. refers to Gabriel; FROM THE LORD (OUT OF HEAVEN, to the Holy One, blessed be He).”
Midrash Rabbah – Genesis 51:2
“Another one then discoursed on the text: And it came to pass on the way at the lodging place that the Lord met him and sought to kill him. He said: ‘By “him” is here meant Moses. Said G-d to him: “How can you think to bring Israel out of Egypt and to humble a great king, when you have forgotten my covenant, since your son is not circumcised?” Forthwith “he sought to slay him”: that is, as we have learnt, Gabriel came down in a flame of fire to destroy him, having the appearance of a burning serpent which sought to swallow him. The form of a serpent was chosen as emblematical of the king of Egypt, who is compared to a serpent (Ezekiel 29:3). Zipporah, however, saw in time and circumcised her son, so that Moses was released; so it is written, “And Zipporah took a flint and cut off the foreskin of her son”, being guided by a sudden inspiration.”
Zohar, Bereshith Page 93b
“Then follows the third standard to the north. It had for its ensign Ox and was accompanied by the angel Gabriel and his two chieftains, Kafziel and Hizkiel. The Ox, being of the left side, has horns between his two eyes, which flame as it were with burning fire; he gores and tramples with his feet ruthlessly. When he moos there emerge out of the hollow of the great abyss numerous spirits of wrath who proceed in front in a chorus of shrieking. Seven fiery rivers flow in front of him, and when thirsty he draws up a whole riverful at one gulp.”
Zohar, Bemidbar 154b
The seven angels who had the seven shofars prepared themselves to sound.
The Zohar, speaking of Rosh haShana, which is known as Yom Teruah, “the day of blowing” (trumpets), depicts judgment coming to celestial and terrestrial beings, after the moon no longer shines. Again, this seems to follow the sequence found in Revelation, as the moon is affected by the rise in power of the “other side” (Sitra Atra), and all worlds (Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah) face judgment. As with the text of Revelation, the number “seven” is significant:
“The old man then proceeded to discourse on the verse: “Blow the trumpet in the new moon, in the time appointed on our solemn feast-day” (Psalm 81:4). He said: ‘Now is the time when the mighty supernal judgement is awakened, and with it the “other side” also gathers force. And with this access of force it ascends and veils the Moon that She may no more shine, and She falls entirely under the influence of stern Justice. Then all the worlds and spheres come under the aegis of judgment, both celestial and terrestrial beings, and a herald makes proclamation throughout all the firmaments, saying: “Prepare the Throne of Judgment for the Lord of all, since He cometh to judge all worlds!” Here is a mystery which was revealed to us during our sojourn in the desert. Why is supernal justice roused to activity just on this day? Because all mysteries and all glorious sanctifications are centered in the mystery of seven. And the supernal Seventh, the upper world, called “the world to come”, is the realm whence all lights derive their brightness. And when the time arrives when those blessings and sanctifications are to be renewed with fresh light, all the conditions in the different worlds are passed in review. Then all these preparations ascend from earth if they are fitting, but if not, then it is decreed that the Moon is not to shine till the sinners have been separated from the righteous.”
Zohar, Shemoth 184a
The first sounded, and there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood, and they were thrown to the earth. One third of the earth was burnt up, and one third of the trees were burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.
Hail, fire and blood are are said to be “cast to the land” – symbolic of G-d’s judgment. As explained earlier, though the physical earth may feel the results of this judgment, it is primarily (in this case) coming against the principalities in the world of Yetzirah, the realm of angels.
The verse (and the preceding verses) are reminiscent of Psalm 18, which speaks of David’s cry reaching G-d in His Temple (i.e., in Beriah). G-d is said to “come down” to bring judgment:
“In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried to my G-d; from his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears. Then the earth shook and trembled; and the foundations of the mountains moved and were shaken, because he was angry. Smoke went out from his nostrils, and a devouring fire from his mouth; coals were kindled by it. And he bowed the heavens, and came down; and darkness was under his feet. And he rode on a kerub, and flew; he flew on the wings of the wind. He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion around him was dark with waters and thick clouds of the skies. Out of the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire. The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire. And he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and confounded them.”
In the above Psalm, although David slayed his opponents in the physical world, G-d enabled this by defeating the forces that empowered them. This is alluded to within the same Psalm, which speaks of “channels of waters,” being revealed, from which David is “drawn out of.” This is an allusion to the “mixed realm” of Yetzirah.
“Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were laid bare at your rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of your nostrils. He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters. He saved me from my strong enemy, and from those who hated me; for they were too strong for me. They surprised me in the day of my calamity; but the Lord was my stay.”
Midrash Rabbah associates David’s words with G-d defeating the spiritual realm that supported his enemies, just as He did for Moses at the time of the Exodus:
THAT THE WATERS MAY COME BACK UPON THE EGYPTIANS. Another explanation: R. Johanan said: When the last Israelite came out of the sea, the last of the Egyptians descended therein; but R. Simeon b. Lakish said: The sea locked in both the Israelites and the Egyptians from all four sides. Moses said to Gd: ‘ What should Israel do? ‘ The reply was: ‘ Thou art not responsible as to what they should do; for I am going to perform a miracle for them.’ Then it was that G-d stretched out His hand and brought them out of the sea, as it says, He sent from on high, He took me; He drew me out of many waters (Psalm 18:17). R. Abbahu said: It is like one who saw robbers coming towards him. His son was with him, so what did he do? He took his son in one hand and with the other fought the robbers. His son said to him: ‘ May I never lack [the protection of] those two hands, the one that is holding me and the other which is slaying the robbers! ‘ This is what the Israelites said to G-d: ‘May peace be upon both Thy hands! Both on the one with which Thou dost save us from the sea and on the other with which Thou dost overthrow the Egyptians,’ as it says, Thy right hand, O Lord, glorious in power, Thy right hand, O Lord, dasheth in pieces the enemy (Exodus 15:6). It does not say: ‘And the sea returned’ but’the waters returned’ (ib. 14:28), to show that all waters came back. Moreover, it does not say ‘upon the Egyptians ‘, but ’upon Mizraim‘, because G-d first drowned their guardian angel in the sea and then all of them went down after him. For this reason does it say: THAT THE WATERS MAY COME BACK UPON MIZRAIM, [first], and after that, UPON THEIR CHARIOTS, AND UPON THEIR HORSEMEN (ib. 26).
Midrash Rabbah, Exodus 22:2
Regarding the “odd mixture” of hail and fire, Midrash Rabbah says the following:
“Also between the plagues He brought on Pharaoh G-d made peace, as it says, So there was hail, and fire flashing up (mithlakahath) amidst the hail (Exodus 9:24). R. Judah and R. Nehemiah and the Rabbis gave different explanations of the word ’mithlakahath’. R. Judah said: The hail was as it were in little cups full of fire, yet the water did not quench the fire nor the fire affect the water. R. Hanin said: According to R. Judah’s description, it was like a fully-ripened pomegranate through [the skin of] which every pip is visible. R. Nehemiah said: Fire and hail were mingled with one another. R. Hanin said: According to R. Nehemiah’s description it was like a light in a glass, where water and oil are mixed, but it goes on burning. And neither interfered with the other. The Rabbis say: It kept on expiring and catching (mithkalha) again in order to perform the will of its Creator. R. Aha said: They were like two fierce legions serving the same king which were at enmity with one another, but when they saw that the king was engaged in a difficult war, they made peace with one another in order to fight in the king’s battle. So fire and water are [normally] at enmity with one another, but when they saw the war of the supreme King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, namely the war against the Egyptians, they made peace with one another and fought His battle against the Egyptians, as it is written, ’So there was hail, and fire flashing up amidst the hail’–a double miracle.”
Midrash Rabbah, Song of Songs 3:24
All of the above may help solve what seems to be a contradiction between Revelation 8:7, which states that all the grass was burned, and Revelation 9:4, which shows the grass was not yet harmed:
“They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of G-d on their foreheads.”
In Revelation 9:4 “grass” is shown to be a metaphor for men on the physical earth. Isaiah, in a section dealing with the end of days, also speaks of people in terms of “grass”:
“The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our G-d shall stand for ever.”
The “grass” in Yetzirah (Revelation 8:8), which the grass of the earth (Revelation 9:4) is “modeled after” and has a spiritual connection to. Thus we see a destruction of the “grass of Yetzirah” in this chapter, which is the spiritual counterpart to men on earth, described as the “grass” of Asiyah. The idea of “green grass” being destroyed carries a connotation of something “good” being done away with.
The Zohar explains the relationship between the literal understanding of “green” vegetation on the earth and its “green” counterpart in the spiritual realm as follows:
“We read next: “He maketh me to lie down in pastures of tender green; he leadeth me beside the waters of rest; he quickeneth my soul”. “Pastures of tender green” are those which lie round the supernal springs, from whence all nourishment emanates. These pastures are also called “the pastures of Jacob” (Lamentations 2:2), and are called “green pastures” in contrast to those pastures which lie outside–”the pastures of the desert” (Joel 2:22). It might be said: Is it not written, “Let the earth bring forth tender (green) grass” (Genesis 1:11), showing that “green” is applied also to what is below? The fact is that this “green” of earth emanates from those “pastures” above, germinating and flourishing through the life-giving energy supplied them from above. “He leadeth me beside the waters of rest.” These “waters of rest” are those which come forth from that region which proceeds from Eden.”
Zohar, Shemoth 171a
The second angel sounded, and something like a great burning mountain was thrown into the sea. One third of the sea became blood,
The sea becoming blood, is indicative of G-d’s judgment on the world of Yetzirah, the place from which evil people draw their powers. Again, though there may be “bloodied waters” in the physical realm as a result of this action, the real judgment is first and foremost against those powers in the “sea” of Yetzirah.
The Zohar offers some insight into this, using the Exodus from Egypt as an example:
TAKE THY ROD AND STRETCH OUT THY HAND UPON THE WATERS OF EGYPT, UPON THEIR STREAMS, UPON THEIR RIVERS… THAT THEY MAY BECOME BLOOD. Said R. Judah: ‘How was this possible? Could one rod so be stretched over all this extent? Moreover, it says later, “And seven days were fulfilled after the Lord had smitten the river” (v. 25), only mentioning the river, and leaving out the other waters of Egypt upon which Aaron had stretched out his hand. The explanation is that the reference is to the River Nile, for out of this all the other rivers, streams, ponds, and pools are filled, so that Aaron needed but to smite that river and all the other waters were smitten. The proof is that it says, “And the Egyptians could not drink of the water of the river” (v. 2I).’ R. Abba said: ‘Observe that the lower waters diverge and spread on every side, but the upper waters draw together and are concentrated in one place,’ [Tr.note: Yesod.] as it says: “Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place” (Genesis 1:9); and again, “And the gathering together of the waters called He seas”- as we have explained. The firmament in which the sun, the moon, the stars, and the plants are suspended is the great meeting place where the upper waters are gathered, and whence the earth, or lower world, is watered. She thereupon scatters and distributes these waters far and wide, in order that all things may be watered by them. When, however, chastisement impends over the world, then the lower world does not imbibe from that upper firmament of sun and moon, but from the “left side”, concerning which it says: “The sword of the Lord is full of blood” (Isaiah 34:6). Woe unto them who must drink from this cup! At such times the sea imbibes from both sides and divides itself into two parts, white and red (mercy and justice). Thus it was the lot of Egypt which was cast into the Nile, and the blow was inflicted both above and below. Therefore Israel drank water, but the Egyptians blood. … ‘Observe that when the Holy One, blessed be He, prepares to inflict chastisement upon the idolatrous nations, the “Left Side” awakens and changes the whiteness of the moon to blood; then the ponds and the pools below are also filled with blood. So the punishment of the unrighteous is indeed blood. Further, when the doom of blood impends upon a people, it is the blood of slaughter executed by another people whom G-d brings against them. But against Egypt the Holy One, blessed be He, did not choose to raise up another nation, lest Israel, who dwelt in her midst, might also suffer. Therefore He punished the Egyptians by causing their streams to be changed into blood so that they could not drink from them. And as Egypt’s supramundane power was centered in the Nile, the Holy One enforced His will first on that principality, so that-the Nile being one of their divinities-their highest power might first of all be humbled. From the lesser idols also blood gushed out, as it is written: “And there may be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone” (Ibid.).’
Zohar, Shemoth 28b-29a
and one third of the living creatures which were in the sea died. One third of the ships were destroyed.
Here again, the term “ships” has more to do with entities existing in the “sea” of Yetzirah than physical ships on earth.
The book of Psalms mentions a connection between “ships” and the being called Leviathan, that exist in the “sea” (of Yetzirah):
“So is this great and wide sea, where there are innumerable creeping things, living things, both small and great. There go the ships; and Leviathan which you have made to play in it.”
The Zohar expounds on the “sea” being that realm of spiritual entities extending from one end of Yetzirah to the other. These are all linked to the “living creature” (of Ezekiel 1 and Revelation chapters 4-7). This highly esoteric passage speaks of “fish,” “boats” and “chariots” in this realm, and cites Psalm 104:25-26, Job 40:20 and Jeremiah 46:25 as supporting passages:
All the supernal hosts with their cohorts and lightful chariots of celestial speed are joined one to another, grade to grade, the lower to the higher, each to its counterpart; and above them all a holy “Living being” (Hayah) (cf. Ezekiel 1) is set, and all those myriads of armies move and rest according to its will and direction. This is that Living Creature to which all Hayoth are linked, as each is also to each, all moving and swimming in the sea, concerning which it is written: “This is the great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts” (Psalm 104:5). Now, when the wheels of the sea arise all the boats which sail thereon do heave and toss, and air and waters are mightily stirred so that a great storm arises; and the fishes that dwell in the depths of the sea are whirled about by the violence of the tempest, and are buffeted towards the four corners of the earth, some to the east, and some to the west, some to the north, and some to the south; and there they are caught by the nets of fishermen, as they reach the ocean’s shallower depths, where the sands of the shore slope down to meet the breakers of that sea. At that time the boats steer no course, either certain or uncharted, but only toss and heave in one place. At last a swift but subtle current arises amid the tumult of the stormy waters, and gradually their strife is stilled and peace descends upon the waves; then the boats steer a straight course for their bourne, and swerve not nor falter; concerning which it is written: “There go the ships; there is that Leviathan whom thou hast made to play therein” (Ibid. v, 26). And all the fishes of the sea gather to their places, and all the creatures rejoice over it and the Hayoth of the supernal fields, as it is written: “And all the beasts of the field play there” (Job 40:20). Come and see! The likeness of that which is above is that which is below, and what is below is also in the sea, and the likeness of that which is above is that which is in the supernal sea, and what is below is also in the lower sea. As the higher sea has length and width and head and arms and hair and a body, so also the lower sea.’ Said R. Simeon: ‘How many chariots there are whose wheels run speedily, carrying the framework upon them without delay! Yet here “G-d made him drive heavily”. We interpret these words of the heavenly chariot, which was the guardian angel of Egypt, and which then was rendered imperfect. There were many others dependent on this one, and when it lost its power the lower chariots lost their power, as it is written: “Behold, I will punish the multitude of No, and Pharaoh, and Egypt, with their gods, and their kings; even Pharaoh and all them that trust in him” (Jeremiah 46:25).
Zohar, Shemoth 48b
Psalm 107 offers insight into “spiritual travel,” described as going down to the “sea” in “ships” in order to see the works and wonders of the Lord. The “waves” (of Yetzirah) are calmed by G-d, allowing those seeking Him to reach their “desired haven.” Note the reference, “they reel to and from,” reminiscent of Daniel 12:4 (See the Introduction to the Text Analysis of this study):
“Those who go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; Those saw the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep. For he commands, and raises the stormy wind, which lifts up its waves.. They mount up to the sky, they go down again to the depths; their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end. Then they cry to the Lord in their trouble, and he brings them out of their distresses. He calms the storm, so that its waves are still. Then they are glad because they have quiet; and he brings them to their desired haven. Let them praise the Lord for his loving kindness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! Let them exalt him also in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders. He turns rivers into a wilderness, and springs of water into dry ground; A fruitful land into barrenness, because of the wickedness of its inhabitants.”
Isaiah helps us to understand Psalms and Revelation. Compare Isaiah’s words in the text below, “they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant,” with Daniel 7:25, a verse associated by some with the anti-messiah. Here again we find the term “to and fro,” this time associated with the earth. The Lord is seen as punishing the spiritual forces of Yetzirah (the host of the high ones who are on high), as well as the kings of the earth:
“Behold, the Lord makes the earth empty, and makes it waste, and turns it upside down, and scatters abroad its inhabitants. And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the servant, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the creditor, so with the debtor. The land shall be completely emptied, and completely ruined; for the Lord has spoken this word. The earth mourns and fades away, the world languishes and fades away, the haughty people of the earth languish. The earth also is defiled under its inhabitants; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore has a curse devoured the earth, and those who dwell in it have been fount guilty; therefore the inhabitants of the earth are parched, and few men left. The new wine mourns, the vine languishes, all the merry hearted sigh. The mirth of tambourines ceases, the noise of those who rejoice ends, the joy of the lyre ceases. They shall not drink wine with a song; strong drink shall be bitter to those who drink it. The city of confusion is broken down; every house is shut up, and no man may come in. There is a crying for wine in the streets; all joy is darkened, the mirth of the land is gone. In the city is left desolation, and the gate is struck with destruction. When thus it shall be in the midst of the land among the people, there shall be as the shaking of an olive tree, and as the gleaning grapes when the vintage is done. They shall lift up their voice, they shall sing for the majesty of the Lord, they shall cry aloud from the sea. Therefore glorify the Lord in the fires, the name of the Lord G-d of Israel in the islands of the sea. From the uttermost part of the earth have we heard songs, glory to the righteous. But I said, My leanness, my leanness, woe to me! traitors have dealt treacherously; traitors have dealt very treacherously. Fear, and the pit, and the trap, are upon you, O inhabitant of the earth. And it shall come to pass, that he who flees from the noise of the fear shall fall into the pit; and he who comes up from the midst of the pit shall be taken in the trap; for the windows from on high are open, and the foundations of the earth shake. The earth is completely broken down, the earth crumbles away, the earth is violently shaken. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall sway like a hut; and its transgression shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall punish the host of the high ones who are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth. And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be punished. Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his elders gloriously.”
“He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, Shall persecute the saints of the Most High, And shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand. For a time and times and half a time.”
The third angel sounded, and a great star fell from the sky, burning like a torch, and it fell on one third of the rivers, and on the springs of the waters.
Recall that from the “sea” of Yetzirah extend “rivers and streams” that connect this realm to the physical world of Asiyah. These tributaries can function to energize either the good or evil realm (i.e., Babylon, Egypt, Rome).
The following Zohar text specifically refers to “ten species of sorcery” which are associated with the evil counterparts to the ten Sefirot. Note the interesting explanation of Isaiah 19:2 (“I will confuse Egypt with Egypt”), as showing how G-d dealt with the spiritual powers of Egypt (in Yetzirah) first, which resulted in the physical plagues as seen in Exodus. The number “seven” is seen as significant with their being seven “zones of earth” corresponding to seven zones above. Each of the seven zones of earth is said to have ten divisions. Egypt is associated with one zone and thus has ten spiritual chieftains. This may be compared to the ten “kings” of Daniel 7:24 and ten “horns” of Revelation 12:3 and 13:1. Especially interesting (in light of the punishments seen in this verse of Revelation), is the prophecy that “Rome” will one day meet the same fate as Egypt:
“Observe that ever so many streams and rivers rise out of the Supernal Sea, which in their courses ivide and subdivide again into many other rivers and streams: and the portion that fell to the side of Egypt were waters swarming with such creatures. For all waters issuing from that sea breed various kinds of fishes, to wit, messengers sent into the world to carry out the will of their Master through the spirit of Wisdom. In regard to this a traditional text tells us that there are waters that breed wise men and other waters that breed foolish men, according to the various rivers that branch off into all sides. Now the Egyptian rivers breed masters of sorcery of various kinds, and of ten degrees, as enumerated in the verse, “one that useth divination, a soothsayer, or a charmer, or one that consulteth a ghost or a familiar spirit, or a necromancer” (Deuteronomy 18:10-11). Here we have ten species of sorcery. And at that time the Holy One, blessed be He, stretched forth His finger and disturbed the brooks and rivers of Egypt so that their fishes of wisdom were confounded: some waters turned into blood, others threw up small fishes of no account upon whom the spirit of sorcery never rested. Then there came upon them the plague called ’arob (lit. mixture, i.e. mixture of various beasts) which allegorically indicates that the Almighty confounded their magical arts so that their practitioners were not able to piece them together. Moreover, that confusion produced a mingling of a perverse and hybrid kind similar to those referred to in the words of Scripture, “thou shalt not sow thy field with two kinds of seed; neither shall there come upon thee a garment of two kinds of stuff mingled together” (Leviticus 19:19). Many were then the legions that bestirred themselves above, but the Holy One, blessed be He, confounded them altogether; these mighty deeds which the Almighty performed in Egypt were accomplished by the raising of one of his hands against them, both on high and below. It was then that the wisdom of Egypt perished, as Scripture says: “and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid” (Isaiah 29:14). Note further the pronouncement: “And I will confuse Egypt with Egypt” (Isaiah 19:2), that is to say, celestial Egypt with terrestrial Egypt. For the celestial legions are in charge of the terrestrial ones, and they both were altogether thrown in disorder. They were confused on high so that the Egyptians could not derive inspiration from the celestial sources as formerly. It was with this object that the Almighty brought on them the ’arob, or mixture and confusion, manifested in a mixed horde of beasts that assailed them; as well as the plague of vermin, engendered from the dust of the earth. Observe that whatever is engendered on earth grows through the stimulus of a celestial Chieftain who has charge over it, and that all on earth is shaped after a celestial pattern. There are on high seven firmaments, and seven zones of earth. Correspondingly, in the lower world there are seven graded firmaments and seven zones of earth. These, as the Companions have expounded, are arranged like the rungs of a ladder, rising one above the other, and each zone has ten divisions, so that there are seventy in all. Each one of these is presided over by a Chieftain, and these seventy Chieftains have under their charge the seventy nations of the earth. These seventy earth-divisions, again, border on and surround the Holy Land, as Scripture says: “Behold, it is the couch of Solomon; threescore mighty men are about, of the mighty men of Israel” (Song of Song 3:7), there being, in addition to the threescore mentioned, ten concealed among their number. All these surround the Holy Land. This alludes to the upper world, and the same is reproduced in the lower world. Now at that time the Holy One, blessed be He, stretched forth His finger over the zone that was allotted to the Egyptians, and a fiery flame passed through the whole tract and dried up all the alluvial soil, with the result that the dust of the earth generated vermin. It was Aaron that smote the dust, in order to show that the right hand of the Holy One, blessed be He, breaks His enemies, as we read: “Thy right hand, O Lord, dasheth in pieces the enemy” (Exodus 15:6). The same punishment is destined to be meted out by the Holy One, blessed be He, to Rome the great Metropolis, as it is written: “And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone” (Isaiah 34:9). Thus “all the dust of the earth became vermin throughout all the land of Egypt.”
Zohar, Shemoth 30b
The name of the star is called Wormwood. One third of the waters became wormwood. Many people died from the waters, because they were made bitter.
Earlier we discussed the how G-d’s characteristics of mercy and judgment were not exclusive of each other (i.e., His left and right hands working together). Throughout the book of Revelation we see G-d’s “judgments” upon creation. He does not send these for the sole purpose of “punishment” however, as it is His desire that people repent by turning to His Torah and Messiah (i.e., Revelation 9:20-21).
This principle is especially well illustrated by the term “wormwood” seen in this last verse. Throughout Scripture and other Hebraic writings, wormwood has a negative connotation of being bitter. What we see however is G-d using that which is “bitter” to rectify that which is bitter.
“G-d sweetened the bitter through the agency of bitter.”
Midrash Rabbah Genesis 77:1
This can be seen in the Torah at the place of the “bitter waters” of Marah (Exodus 15:23-25). It is said that the “tree” G-d had Moses throw into these waters was itself bitter. This action however, caused the bitter waters to be sweetened:
“Note that it is the custom of the righteous to atone with the very same thing whereby they have offended; hence: ’Thy lips, O my bride, drop honey.’ From whom do they learn this? From G-d, who heals with the very thing with which He had wounded, as it says, For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds (Jeremiah 30:17). I will heal thee with the very wounds which I inflicted on thee. Whence do we know this? From G-d Himself; for see what happened at Marah, when G-d showed Moses a bitter thing, which he was told to cast into the waters, so that they became sweetened, as it says, And the Lord showed him a tree, and he cast it into the waters (Exodus 15:25). What kind of tree was it? R. Nathan said: It was a kind of creepers; R. Joshua said: It was a willow tree, and R. Eliezer of Modim said: It was an olive-tree. But whatever it was, it was bitter and yet it sweetened the bitter waters. So it was that Moses who had provoked G-d only with the word ‘az’ made atonement with the very word with which he sinned, and said, THEN (AZ) SANG MOSES.”
Midrash Rabbah, Exodus 23:3
On a deeper level, the bitter cure that G-d has given is His Torah:
“AND THEY WENT THREE DAYS IN THE WILDERNESS AND FOUND NO WATER . In Scripture “water” stands as a symbol for the Torah: “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters” (Isaiah 55:1). ‘But’, remarked R. Jesse, ‘the time for the giving of the Torah was not yet, and how could they expect to find this “water” there?’ Said R. Eleazar: ‘They went out into the wilderness to see the glory of the Holy One, but could not, for He removed it from there. We learn from this that “water” is the symbol of the Torah, and the Holy One and the Torah are one.’ Said R. Simeon: ‘There in the wilderness a strange power, representing the nations of the world, the ruling spirit of the desert, appeared to them, but they soon discovered that it was not the radiance of their King’s glory. Hence it says: AND WHEN THEY CAME TO MARAH THEY COULD NOT DRINK OF THE WATERS OF MARAH, FOR THEY WERE BITTER, and they did not feel the same “sweetness” in their souls as before. Moreover, this power came to act as an accuser against them. Then HE (Moses) CRIED UNTO THE LORD, AND THE LORD SHOWED HIM A TREE, WHICH, WHEN HE CAST IT INTO THE WATERS, THE WATERS WERE MADE SWEET. The tree is a symbol of the Torah, which is “a tree of life to those who lay hold upon her” (Proverbs 3:18), and the Torah and the Holy One, blessed be He, are one.’ R. Abba said: ‘The “Tree” is a direct symbol of the Holy One, for it says: “The tree of the field is (the supernal) Adam” (Deuteronomy 20:19). The “field” is the “Field of the holy apples”. Thus, when the light of their King’s glory manifested itself to them, “the waters were made sweet”, and the accuser became an intercessor.’
Zohar, Shemoth 60a,b
As we see in this chapter of Revelation, the bitterness sent upon the world of Yetzirah effects the physical world that we live in. HaSatan is G-d’s “agent” in carrying this out:
“For the Sacred Sea has many sweet rivers flowing into it, yet since it presents the world’s judgement its waters are bitter, since universal death is attached to it. Yet when these waters flow outwards they are sweet. The sea, besides, exhibits a variety of colours. Now it is when the Serpent injects into it its venom that its waters become bitter and accursed.”
Zohar, Bemidbar 125a
“All the judgments passed upon the world, and all decrees and decisions are stored in a certain palace, where seventy-two members of Sanhedrin deliberate upon them. The palace is called “the Palace of Acquittal”, because the judges there lay stress on whatever can be pleaded in favour of the accused. Not so the “other side”, where there is a place called “Accusation”, because in that abode of the Serpent, the “Wife of whoredom”, every effort is made to procure the condemnation of humanity, and to prejudice the servant in the eyes of the Master. Symbolically, the former is represented by “sweet, clear water”; the latter by “bitter water that causes the curse” (Numbers 5:18).”
Zohar, Shemoth 6a
Although the entire world experiences the wrath of G-d in the end times, His chief concern is bringing Israel back to where they belong:
“THY NAME IS AS OIL POURED FORTH: Just as oil is in its original form bitter but afterwards becomes sweet, so though thy beginning was small, yet thy end should greatly increase (Job 8:7) Just as oil is improved only by pounding, so Israel are brought to repentance only by chastisements.”
Midrash Rabbah, Song of Songs 1:21
The fourth angel sounded, and one third of the sun was struck, and one third of the moon, and one third of the stars; so that one third of them would be darkened, and the day wouldn’t shine for one third of it, and the night in the same way.
I saw, and I heard an eagle, flying in mid heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe! Woe! Woe for those who dwell on the earth, because of the other voices of the shofars of the three angels, who are yet to sound!
The loss of physical light from the sun, moon and stars is representative of the loss of spiritual light in the world, as mankind for the most part refuses to repent.