UNIVERSAL TIKKUN & TESHUVAH: UNIFICATION OF THE NAME OF G-D
Several major concepts underlie the text, beginning with this chapter, through chapter 16. We will encounter three series of events, commonly referred to as the “seal,” “trumpet” and “bowl” judgments. Traditional commentaries have focused solely on the effect these judgments have upon the earth and mankind. In this study we offer an alternative view. This is a complex subject so will discuss certain fundamentals before getting to verse 6:1.
“Tikkun Middot” (tikkun=’repair’) is a term generally used on a personal level for the development of positive soul traits that enable the process of teshuvah (‘return’). The focus is centered upon the ‘middot’ within us – the seven lower ’emotive’ Sefirot that we deal with in our present reality (Chesed, Gevurah, Tiferet, Netzach, Hod, Yesod, Malchut).
For example, during the 49 days of the counting of the Omer between Passover and Shavuot, we reflect on each of these seven Sefirot, examining each of the seven attributes as they operate within each of themselves. What applies on a personal level does as well on a cosmic one. For instance, we are told that our bodies are likened to the temple, which in turn is patterned on a heavenly model. The same ‘spiritual template’ applies to everything. This is the ‘B’tzelem Elohim’ – the ‘Image of G-d’ mentioned in Genesis.
The judgments in Revelation are part of a similar process of tikkun of the ‘three worlds of Creation;’ Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah. This need of rectification existed from the beginning. When Adam was born, his ‘dimension’ is said to have stretched out from “Beriah” to the end of the world “Asiyah.” Because of this, the sin committed in Gan Edan impacted all three of these worlds, which are called the, ‘three worlds of defilement’ (‘B.Y.A. d’Toomah’).
Prior to the sin of Adam, ‘evil’ was associated with ‘restriction’ and ‘separation,’ which were part of creation. At this fundamental level, evil takes on a sense of ‘necessity,’ or ‘part of a process,’ and is not something ‘bad’ in the usual sense of the word. Beginning with Adam in Gan Edan, ‘evil’ took on a different, more specific (and ‘negative’) meaning, with the idea of ‘sin’ – mankind choosing to act contrary to the revelation of G-d – causing ‘restriction’ in a harmful way.
A key concept in the text of Revelation is that the sin of the ‘first Adam,’ impacted all three worlds of creation, and is rectified by the ‘last Adam’ – Mashiach, specifically through these three sets of judgments.
‘The Mashiach is an individual who is responsible for, and who, either overtly or covertly, spearheads a collective process of tikkun.’
‘The Secret Doctrine of the Vilna Gaon – Volume I,’ Joel David Bakst, City of Luz Publications, 1990, p. 178
Another key to understanding this sequence of judgments is a comprehension of the Unification of the Name of G-d (‘Yichud Hashem’) and the ushering in of the Messianic Kingdom. Revelation presents the messiah (lion, lamb, etc) in an active role regarding this tikkun.
This is an established Torah concept:
“1. The soul of Mashiach preceded the world. It is the root of the souls of Israel, and the entire Creation, for “The entire universe was only created to attend him” (Berakhot 6b) and “The Tzaddik is the foundation of the world” (Proverbs 10:25).
2. The Holy One, blessed-be-He, took counsel with this soul in the creation of His Universe, as it is written: “With whom did He take counsel, who gave Him understanding and guided Him in the way of judgment?” (Isaiah 40:14).
3. He gave God a guarantee that he will repair the Universe.”
‘The Seventh Pillar: The Tzaddik” – http://www.breslov.org/the-seventh-pillar-the-tzaddik/
There is a mystical relationship between the messiah and creation from its very beginning through the end of the age.
Speaking of Genesis 1:24 (‘Let the earth bring forth every kind of living creature.’) Sha’are Orah, a 13th-century text, states:
“This verse … includes the soul of all that moves and crawls on the earth, the life-force of all species of fish, fowl, beasts and domesticated animals as well as the animal soul that dwells within man. One must also include the upper soul that dwells within man … therefore this verse was interpreted (by the rabbis) “… the verse is referring to the soul of the Messiah.”
Sha’are Orah (“Gates of Light”), Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla, translated by Avi Weinstein, Altamira Press, 1994, pp. 55,56
A modern commentary makes a link between Messiah and the spiritual entity known as Metatron (called by the Hebrew acronym ‘Memtet,’ in the following text) of whom it is said will come and rule over all of creation:
“MemTet rules over G-d’s entire universe, not just here on planet earth. Thus when Melekh HaMashiah comes, he will be MemTet incarnate. As such, he will serve as G-d’s regent over the entire universe and not just king here on earth. Mashiah will be to HaShem what Yosef was to Pharaoh in Egypt. Thus, we see that the role and authority of Mashiah is not merely limited to this world.”
“Identifying Shiloh – The Secret Soul of the Mashiah,” Parashat Vayehi, 5762, www.koshertorah.com/vayehi.html
The book of Hebrews makes a similar claim, stating that Messiah is heir of all things within creation:
“G-d, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds.”
“For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels. But one testified in a certain place, saying: “What is man that You are mindful of him, Or the son of man that You take care of him? You have made him a little lower than the angels; You have crowned him with glory and honor, And set him over the works of Your hands. You have put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him.”
THE REMOVAL OF ‘EVIL’
As stated, the three worlds within creation, Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, require some measure of tikkun. The higher world of Atzilut (a world of ‘existence’ which is ‘beyond creation’) is pure and has no such requirement. (‘Atzilut’ relates to ‘nearness’ to G-d.) The Shekinah itself is attached to the evil realm (the ‘sitra achra’ = ‘other side’).
When Adam was born, he was put into the three worlds of “Kedushah”. This means that Adam’s dimension stretched out from “Briah” to the end of the world “Assiah”
What must take place before all things are ‘given to the Messiah’ (and G-d’s Name is ‘unified’), is a purging of evil from the worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyyah.
This is considered to be their ‘return’ (teshuvah) to G-d. Though Adam’s sin caused ‘evil’ to take on a new dimension, the concept of evil, preexisted him and was necessary part of creation and is integral to our purpose of existence, to bring good into the world and unify the Name of G-d.
The Ramchal says of this:
“Included in G-d’s decree that the world contain both good and evil, He also decreed that evil would be found throughout Creation at every degree and at every level possible.”
‘Derech Hashem’ (The Way of God), Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, translated and annotated by Aryeh Kaplan, Feldheim Publishers, Jerusalem, 1997, p. 207.
“The basis of the annihilation and removal of evil, as well as the perpetuation of good in all creation, is therefore the revelation of G-d’s unity … we see that the ultimate rectification of all creation depends on the revelation of G-d’s unity.”
‘ibid, p. 275.
The Zohar mentions the following with regard to the idea of celestial cleansing:
“The spirit of impurity does not mingle with the spirit of holiness, and therefore those angels that are called “spirits” cannot enter into the Holy Presence because of that spirit of impurity. Those angels, however, which are within are “fire”, and that supernal holy fire ejects the impurity so that it cannot enter into the innermost place. Thus all combine to push out the impure power and prevent it from mingling with them; and, as we have said, the celestials can only begin to praise the Holy One after they have banished the “other side” from the heavenly courts.”
Zohar, Shemoth 173b
As what occurs in any one of these worlds has effect on the others, when evil is purged from the world of Beriah the impact is felt on the earth. The same goes for when evil is abolished from Yetzirah. Finally, when evil is driven from Asiyah (the physical world) into Gehenna (which exists “beyond” Asiyah), all worlds are ready for unification, the great wedding feast, and Messianic kingdom.
All of creation will undergo teshuvah at the end of days:
“The first real sign that the End of Days is approaching is seen, we are told, when the terrestrial and celestial Worlds begin to be profoundly troubled. Both in the Heavens and on the Earth there will be major disturbances that indicate that a vast change is under way. Wars and rumors of disorder will abound. It is to be a period of trial, especially for those who are committed to aiding the process of cosmic growth, as the forces of those who deny everything but their own will seek to hold back the imminent transformation of the World. This crisis is precipitated by the fact that the accumulating level of Yezirah and Beriah present in Asiyah is about to undergo a quantum jump of Teshuvah or conversion and redeem the physical World.”
‘A Kabbalistic Universe,’ Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi, Samuel Weiser, Inc. York Beach Maine, 1977, p. 199.
What we are “seeing” in John’s accounts of the seal, trumpet and bowl judgments, is primarily the effect upon the earth of the three worlds being rectified. What is not so explicit is that which the physical eye cannot see in the spiritual realms.
A Chassidic commentary offers these insights, which may well be applied to what is depicted in the book of Revelation:
“The Torah speaks about the upper realms, and alludes to the lower realms. This means that the narratives of the Torah are descriptions of the interrelation between Divine attributes in the spiritual realms. Nevertheless, since material existence is an outgrowth of spiritual existence, whatever happens in the spiritual realms is reflected in this world. Thus, every narrative in the Torah is a record of an actual event, but that event represents far more than what transpires in the material world. It is a dynamic movement beginning within the sublime spiritual planes and having ramifications on all levels of existence. This approach expresses the positive dimensions of both the views mentioned. On one hand, the historical integrity of the Torah is preserved. Conversely, the relevance of the Torah is not as a book of records, but as a guide, reflecting spiritual truths that should be applied in our Divine service.”
‘In the Garden of Torah: Parshat Mikeitz, An End and a Beginning,’ December 13, 2001, chabadonline.com
Rabbi Pinchas Winston comments on this idea, that leads to the Millennial Kingdom. Keep in mind, the Sefirot are rooted in the world of Atzilut, which is ‘above’ the three worlds of creation. As the lower worlds are rectified (first Beriah, then Yetzirah, then Asiyah) we become ‘closer’ to the source:
“The Sefirot work in a similar fashion. They are a system that G-d employs to translate HIS will into OUR reality, so that creation can interact with us, and we, with it, and through it all, earn our portion in the World-to-Come. And depending on the command of G-d, a certain sefirah is activated to provide a certain effect at precisely a certain time in a precise way. Just as with the computer, there can be a chain of command where one signal triggers another, and so on until the intention of the typist is executed. So too, does one sefirah give light over to another, until the light reaches its Divinely intended and final destination. The more conductors the electrical current has to pass through a computer, the weaker the signal. The more sefirot the light passes through, the weaker, the more physical the light. In Moshiach’s time, may it be soon in our time, the lower sefirot begin to move in the opposite direction from whence they originally came, upward, and with them, human reality. Therefore, the light that will sustain us will have less sefirot through which to travel, and therefore, it will be less filtered. That is why evil will and must cease to exist, just as darkness is banished with the introduction of light.”
‘Perceptions On The Parsha, Parshas Ki Saitzai, Out & Up,’ Rabbi Pinchas Winston, http://www.torah.org/learning/perceptions/5761/kiseitzei.html
Also expressed is the same idea in terms of G-d’s ‘light’ reversing its direction at some predestined point in history:
“The process of creation is really one of light moving through time, G-d’s time, and history is just the record of what that light has, is, and will do along its path from its Source – Ain Sof – towards the center of the “hollow.” It will continue along its path until it reaches a point at which time the light is to begin changing its direction, a point that only G-d knows and pre-determined when He first thought to make creation. In other words, at a point in time, the light will begin to back-track, and rather than move away from Ain Sof, it will begin to return back in the direction of Ain Sof, and with it will go the levels of reality that it created on the ‘way down’.”
‘Perceptions On The Parsha – Parashas Shoftim: Judging by the Situation,’ Rabbi Pinchas Winston, http://www.torah.org/learning/perceptions/5761/shoftim.html
The Zohar reminds us that Rosh haShana (‘New Year’s Day’) marks the beginning of this time (‘the Day of the Lord’), where G-d judges each ‘sphere’ (world) of creation:
“New Year’s Day is a day of judgment for those who have not accepted the healing food, and have neglected the ‘medicine’ of the Torah for the sake of another food, which is leaven. For on this day that ‘leaven’ ascends and accuses mankind and speaks evil against all whom it can malign in any wise. And at that time the Holy One, blessed be He, sits in judgement over all and pronounces His decrees in regard to all the spheres.”
Zohar, Shemoth 183b-185a
Following the ‘Day of the Lord,’ all of creation from the ‘heavenly Jerusalem’ to the physical world of earthly Jerusalem, will have undergone teshuvah. When the earthly Jerusalem is thus “ready,” the final stages of ‘Yichud Hashem’ will be enabled.
The Talmud expresses this idea as follows:
“The Holy One, blessed be He, said, ‘I will not enter the heavenly Jerusalem until I can enter the earthly Jerusalem’. Is there then a heavenly Jerusalem? – Yes; for it is written, Jerusalem thou art builded as a city that is compact together.”
Talmud, Ta’anith 5a
This time of unification, (the seventh Millennium), is also known as the Great Sabbath, is closely associated to the Shekinah itself. At this time, the Shekinah will be freed from any connection to the ‘Sitra Achra’ (other side/evil realm). Only with evil being “put aside” as such, does the unification process go forward.
The Zohar speaks of the weekly Sabbath giving us a picture of what is to come:
“In the prayer before the entrance of the Sabbath the Throne of Glory is prepared for the Holy Heavenly King. And when the Sabbath arrives the Shekinah is in perfect union with Him and is separated from the “other side,” and all the potencies of severe judgement are severed from Her, She being in closest union with the Holy Light and crowned with many crowns by the Holy King, and all the principalities of severity and all the lords of judgment flee from Her, and no other domination reigns in any of the worlds, and her countenance is illumined by the supernal light, and she is crowned here below by the Holy People, all of whom are invested with new souls. Then is the time for the commencement of prayer, when the worshippers bless Her with joy and gladness, saying, “Bless ye the Lord, the Blessed One!” (the beginning proper of the Sabbath Eve prayer). For the holy people cannot be allowed at this moment to begin with a verse that suggests judgement, as on weekdays, when “Bless ye” is preceded by “And He being merciful, forgiveth iniquity and destroyeth not”, because the Shekinah is then entirely severed from the mystery of the “other side” and all the lords of judgement have separated themselves and passed away from Her, and he who rouses judgement in the lower spheres causes vibrations of doom and severity also in the celestial regions, and while this disturbing element is in evidence the Holy Throne cannot crown itself with the crown of holiness. Then the lords of judgement who have severed themselves for the time being from the rest of creation, hiding themselves away from all eyes in a deep and secret recess at the bottom of the sea, are roused to return to the celestial habitations, and they come back with violence and fury, so that the Holy Sphere, which requires above all rest and peace for the entrance of the Sabbath, is hard pressed by these potencies of judgment.”
Zohar, Shemoth 133b
Both the Shekinah as well as faithful Israel (and those gentiles who cleave to her), are considered the “bride” (Malkhut). Thus Israel’s enemies must also, once and for, all be vanquished prior to the Yichud Hashem:
“The Community of Israel is called “bride”, as it says, “Thou art all fair, my love” (Song of Songs 4:7.) She is also called “a kingdom of priests” when blessed by the priests, since the priests enthrone her and give her power, making her queen over all the treasures and armoury of the King, over higher and lower, over the whole world.’ R. Jose said: ‘It is written, “He hath established his bond upon the earth (Amos 9:6), namely, when the King joins her with all his holy Crowns in one company, for then She rules over all and shines above and below; and this at the time when the priest performs his service and brings the offering and burns the incense, uttering fitting prayer the while.’ R. Jose said: ‘When Aaron raised his hands, all raised with him, until the Community of Israel was blessed and higher and lower angels with her. Hence it says, “Blessed be the Lord out of Zion, who dwelleth in Jerusalem, Halleluyah” (Psalm 135:21).”
Zohar, Vayikra 34b-35a
The above theme is reflected in Rabbi Chayim Henoch’s book on Nachmanides, which relates the function of the divine World of Atzilut in purging evil from the world in terms of the spiritual power of the nations decreasing and that of Israel increasing — a key topic to the book of Revelation:
“Certain kabbalists highlight in the law of actualization of the seven Sefirot of the Atziluth edifice not only the evolutionary developmental aspect, but also the cathartic cleansing aspect of the purification of evil, expressed by decreasing the forces of the celestial chiefs of the nations, until the final ascendancy of the the strength of Israel.”
‘Ramban, Philosopher and Kabbalist,’ Chayim J. Henoch, Jason Aronson Inc. Jerusalem, 1998, p. 261.
Scripture tells us that the final redemption of Israel and the ingathering of the exiles to the Land of Israel is directly tied to the ultimate sanctification (unification) of the Name of G-d:
“Thus said the Lord YHWH-Elohim: When I gather in the House of Israel from the peoples among whom they were scattered, then I will be sanctified through them in the eyes of the nations, and they will dwell on their land that I gave to My servant Jacob.”
I saw that the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying, as with a voice of thunder, Come and see!
In the chapters ahead, numerous metaphors are used to represent spiritual concepts, including; Messiah as a “Lamb,” a scroll with seals, horses, horsemen, stars, the heavens as a scroll, mountains, islands, dens, rocks and colors. These will be discussed as they are encountered in the text.
The concept of ‘seven punishments’ is found in Pirkei Avot:
Seven kinds of punishment come to the world for seven categories of transgression:When some of them give tithes, and others do not give tithes, a famine from drought comes some go hungry, and others are satisfied. When they have all decided not to give tithes, a famine from tumult and drought comes; [When they have, in addition, decided] not to set apart the dough-offering, an all-consuming famine comes. Pestilence comes to the world for sins punishable by death according to the Torah, but which have not been referred to the court, and for neglect of the law regarding the fruits of the sabbatical year. The sword comes to the world for the delay of judgment, and for the perversion of judgment, and because of those who teach the Torah not in accordance with the accepted law.
Pirkei Avot 5:8
As mentioned in the previous chapter, the setting for the initial set of events is Beriah, the world of the “Throne” of G-d, and ‘uppermost’ of the three Worlds of Creation. As we will see, the second set of trumpet judgments center in the world of Yetzirah, and the last (bowl judgments) directly impact Asiyah, the physical world.
This set of judgments begins with four that are carried out by “horsemen” who go from Beriah to afflict the earth. Keep in mind that in the world of Beriah we are dealing things at the archetypal level of creation, which is a world of higher spiritual concepts or outside of the realm of physical experience. The idea of ‘archangels’ is associated with this world. In Derech Hashem the term ‘forces’ is used. In the New Testament, we see Paul refer to such as ‘powers’ (as opposed to ‘principalities’ which are the angels of Yetzirah).
As discussed, everything in Beriah is connected to that which we experience in the physical world of Asiyyah. The worlds, and entities existing in each, are ‘separate’ yet all linked together:
“Everything in the physical word has a counterpart among the transcendental Forces. Every entity and process in the physical world is liked to these Forces, following a system decreed by God’s wisdom … The physical and the spiritual are thus bound together like links in a chain. We also know from tradition that every physical entity and process is under the charge of some type of angel. These angels have the responsibility of maintaining the natural order, as well as bringing about changes, according to God’s decree. The existence and state of being of the physical universe thus emanate from these highest Forces and are dependent upon them. Whatever exists in the physical world is a result of something that takes place among these Forces. This is true of both what existed in the beginning and what transpires with the passage of time.”
Derech Hashem (The Way of God), Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, translated and annotated by Aryeh Kaplan, Feldheim Publishers, Jerusalem, 1997, pp. 78-79.
A key concept to understand here is why these judgments seem to not only afflict the earth in a devastating way, but do so in such an intense manner (the ‘birth pangs of messiah.’) The ‘Shekinah’ is the ‘Divine Presence’ in the world. (Although G-d is ‘everywhere’ we understand things are not as they were (Gan Edan) or one day will be (Olam Haba). The Shekinah is associated with the last Sefirot of Malchut/Kingdom and the earth and all that is in it. As such, it ‘draws’ from the Sefirot above it (like links in a chain). When Israel and the rest of humanity are essentially ‘behaving properly,’ things ‘flow properly.’
However when sin runs rampant, separation is caused between below and above. The Shekinah continues to ‘draw’ spiritual energy into the world, but with the proper source now ‘cut off,’ it draw from the impurities of the Sitra Achra:
“Know that this attribute, because it receives energy from higher powers (once received) has various qualities; to give life, or bring death, to bring up or bring down, to smite or to cure. All, however, is dependent upon the kind of energy that can be drawn to this attribute. It acts among all Creation according to the energy it receives … There are, however, other times when people transgress and the channels of judgment obstruct the channels of loving-kindness and mercy, causing much stress to be drawn into the world. The world, at that time, knows much suffering and want, and it is fraught with diseases and plagues. And there are times when all the higher channels are closed off and the everflow is diverted through the outer channels; then all places are in pain, for this situation wields destruction upon all the lands, the deposing of kingdoms as well as the the imposition of difficult, evil exiles.”
Sha’are Orah (“Gates of Light”), Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla, translated by Avi Weinstein, Altamira Press, 1994, pp. 50-54
(Malkut/Shekinah) “… draws from external elements known as ‘ra choleh’ (evil sickness) which contains all kinds of destructive forces and sufferings, These, in turn, are sent into the world to all living creatures, each according to how he is judged. Thus the world becomes filled with plagues and afflictions.”
Sha’are Orah (“Gates of Light”), Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla, translated by Avi Weinstein, Altamira Press, 1994, p. 65.
THE PURPOSE OF ‘EVIL’
In Isaiah 45:7, G-d states that He creates evil – a verse that troubles many and leads to an assortment of ‘explanations’:
‘Who forms light and creates darkness, Who makes peace and creates evil; I am the Lord, Who makes all these.’
The concept of ‘evil’ is important to understand at this point, as there is exists more than one ‘definition.’ The most common idea is found when human beings, knowing both good and evil, choose to do the latter. There is also ‘evil’ in terms of spiritual entities who seem to exist as such. Naturally, Isaiah is not applying such things to G-d.
The four horsemen of Revelation may be considered ‘evil’ in terms of their function causing problems for humanity, but it is important to realize that all created beings, even ‘evil ones’ exist to serve G-d’s purpose.
As described in the work, Derech Hashem:
“There are many levels among the qualities of these evil forces and what results from them. In general, their effects are called corruption (tumah), darkness, pollution (zohamah), mundane (chol), and the like … For each one of these concepts however, there are Agents (or Overseers) belonging to the general class of angels, appointed to translate them into action in the physical world. This is true of both good concepts and their opposites. These angelic agents are G-d’s servants, obeying His word. G-d willed and organized things so that His decrees should be translated into action through angels, each in its own appointed area of influence.”
Derech Hashem (The Way of God), Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, translated and annotated by Aryeh Kaplan, Feldheim Publishers, Jerusalem, 1997, p. 87
The book of Enoch speaks of angels of Satan in terms of their accomplishing G-d’s will:
“For I saw all the angels of punishment abiding (there) and preparing all the instruments of Satan. And I asked the angel of peace who went with me: ‘ For whom are they preparing these Instruments?’ And he said unto me: ‘ They prepare these for the kings and the mighty of this earth, that they may thereby be destroyed. And after this the Righteous and Elect One shall cause the house of his congregation to appear: henceforth they shall be no more hindered in the name of the Lord of Spirits.”
The Sitra Achra is also referred to as ‘the left side’ of the Sefirotic tree, as this is the side of restriction and judgment.
“The ‘left side’ of the Tree of Life is said to be the side from which evil emanates, but this too must be seen in terms of G-d’s justice and severity that act in order to correct what is wrong, especially in the physical world of Asiyah – where free will exists.”
See ‘A Kabbalistic Universe,’ Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi, Samuel Weiser, Inc. York Beach Maine, 1977, p. 92
The Zohar associates the Sitra Achra (other side/evil realm/left side) with being the counterpart to the “holy side” of the Kingdom of Heaven:
“That ‘other side’ is the central point of the waste places of the world, just as the central point of the whole inhabited world is occupied by the “holy side”, and therefore Jerusalem is in the centre of the inhabited world. The kingdom of heaven, which is the side of holiness, is fixed at two points, one its own and one belonging to the world to come. The upper point is hidden, and therefore it has two points. Under its own point is Jerusalem, the centre of the inhabited world. The point which takes from the hidden supernal Mother is the terrestrial Paradise, which is in the centre of the whole world.”
Zohar, Shemoth 184b
As stated by Rabbi Luzzatto:
“It was therefore arranged that every good concept have its counterpart in evil. This is what Scripture means when it says, ‘G-d has made one opposite the other’.”
‘Derech Hashem’ (The Way of God), Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, translated and annotated by Aryeh Kaplan, Feldheim Publishers, Jerusalem, 1997, p. 207.
The Zohar supports this idea and goes into even greater detail, saying that there is a symmetry between the holy Sefirot (called “crowns”) and an unholy Sefirot, also made up of ten “crowns”:
R. Simeon said: ‘As there are ten Crowns of Faith above, so there are ten crowns of unclean sorcery below. All things on earth are attached either to one side or to the other.
Zohar, Vayikra 41b
The reason is, as we have learnt, that G-d has made lower crowns which are not holy, and which, in fact, pollute, and with these are marked all who are not circumcised.
Zohar, Bereshith 95a
This concept is also reflected in the colors of these horses. The first three are said to be white, red and black. The last is rendered as “pale” in most translations, however, the Greek word used to describe this (‘chloros’ – Strongs #5514) denotes a pale green. These four colors – white, red, black and green, mimic the divine colors, as mentioned previously.
“That expanse of heaven, above the lower Paradise, displays four colours: white, red, green, and black, and correspondingly contains four doors in its four sides.”
Zohar, Shemoth 209b
The following passage from the Zohar shows that the connection between the physical and spiritual realms, includes both a good and evil side:
“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.”
Zohar, Shemoth 56a
An especially interesting concept is that evil is necessary for “true good’ to come about:
“For there is no light except that which issues from darkness, for when that “other side” is subdued the Holy One is exalted in glory. In fact, there can be no true worship except it issue forth from darkness, and no true good except it proceed from evil. And when a man enters upon an evil way and then forsakes it the Holy One is exalted in glory. Hence the perfection of all things is attained when good and evil are first of all commingled, and then become all good, for there is no good so perfect as that which issues out of evil. The divine Glory is extolled and extended thereby, and therein lies the essence of perfect worship.”
Zohar, Shemot 183b
And behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow. A crown was given to him, and he came forth conquering, and to conquer.
“Again I lifted up my eyes, and saw, and behold, four chariots came out from between two mountains; and the mountains were mountains of brass. In the first chariot were red horses; in the second chariot black horses; in the third chariot white horses; and in the fourth chariot dappled horses, all of them powerful. Then I asked the angel who talked with me, What are these, my lord? The angel answered me, These are the four winds of the sky, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth. The one with the black horses goes out toward the north country; and the white went out after them; and the dappled went forth toward the south country.The strong went out, and sought to go that they might walk back and forth through the earth: and he said, Go around and through the earth! So they walked back and forth through the earth.”
The color white is generally associated with chesed/mercy. In this case however, it may be a ‘false peace’ (i.e., Ezekiel ch. 13, 1st Thessalonians ch. 5). We know from other Torah literature that the world will be overcome by a great deception in the last days, one that will precede a time of awesome calamity. The text concerning the first of the four “horsemen” seems to support this idea, particularly the idea of the crown, a symbol of authority.
The concept of “bow” also has allusions to Nimrod, who was a mighty hunter as well as the force behind Babel, a precursor to Babylon. This also is consistent with the rest of Revelation, which speaks of a modern “system of Babylon” will overcome the earth.
What follows in the next several verses is a picture of war, famine and other disasters, all brought about via the remaining “horsemen.” As mentioned, these horsemen are spiritual entities who serve G-d, and bring what we consider ‘evil’ to the earth, but with the purpose of giving mankind the opportunity for teshuvah (i.e., Revelation 9:20; 16:9).
The relationship of horsemen to evil spiritual entities (here called “fishes”), is mentioned in this text from the Zohar:
“R. Isaac said: ‘Dan is compared to a serpent lying in wait in the way. But there is also a reference to another serpent above, lying in wait in ways and paths, from whom issue those who lie in wait for the sons of men on account of the sins which they cast behind their backs.’ R. Hiya said: ‘The primeval serpent above, before he is appeased with gladdening wine, is “a serpent by the way”. As there is a “way” above, so there is a “way” below, and the sea is divided into various paths on every side. There is one path which has abundance of water and breeds many kinds of evil fishes, just as the waters below breed good and bad fishes. When they escape from the path of the sea, they appear like riders on horseback, and were it not that this serpent who is the rearward of all the tents lies in wait at the end of the path and drives them back, they would destroy the world. It is from the side of these that sorcerers come forth. … In the hollow of the great abyss, which is on the north side, there are many demons endowed with power to do mischief in the world.”
Zohar, Bereshith 243b
When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, ‘Come!’
Another came forth, a red horse. To him who sat on it was given power to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another. There was given to him a great sword.
The color red relates to Gevurah/Judgment.
When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, ‘Come and see!’ And behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a balance in his hand.
The color black is generally associated with Malkhut. This Sefirah is entirely ‘receptive,’ meaning when things are functioning ‘correctly,’ mankind benefits from the blessings of G-d and creation. However, in times when evil abounds, the ‘path of righteousness’ from above to below is interrupted. This is reflected in the following verse, depicting ‘shortages.’
I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, A choenix of wheat for a denarius, and three choenix of barley for a denarius! Don’t damage the oil and the wine!
The days leading up to the coming of the Messiah will be filled with war and famine, specifically a seven year period of trials:
“The rabbis taught: The seven-year cycle during which Moshiach will come, in the first year, the verse, “I caused it to rain on one city, but on another city, I did not cause it to rain” (Amos 4:7). In the second year, slight famine (Rashi: a slight famine so that no place will be completely satisfied). In the third year, the famine will be great, and men, women, children, pious people, and men of good deeds will die; Torah will be forgotten by those who learned it. In the fourth year, some will be satiated while others will not, but in the fifth year there will be plenty and people will eat, drink, and be joyous, and Torah will return to those who learned it. In the sixth year, there will be voices … In the seventh year, there will be war.”
Talmud. Sanhedrin 97a
BREAD, OIL AND WINE
The reference to wheat and barley (both used to make bread) in verse six, selling for a “denarius” seems to indicate an “inflated cost” and thus scarcity. Though this may in fact depict a physical famine, there is also a deeper meaning, related to a scarcity of “spiritual bread,” that being Torah, at this time.
This is reflected in the end-time prophecies of the prophet Amos:
“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord G-d, “That I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine of bread, Nor a thirst for water, But of hearing the words of the LORD. They shall wander from sea to sea, And from north to east; They shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the LORD, But shall not find it.”
Note in the Talmudic reference above how the reference to physical famine is linked to the idea of spiritual famine, where Torah is lacking. When Torah “returns,” it is said that the people will again ‘eat and drink.’ This may be compared to both the Tanya as well as the gospel of John, which use similar metaphorical language:
“Since through the knowledge of Torah the Torah is absorbed in the soul and intellect of the person and is encompassed within them, it is therefore called the “bread” and “food” of the soul. Just as physical bread nourishes the body when it is ingested and absorbed within it, and [when] it is transformed there into blood and flesh of one’s own flesh, and only then will the body live and be sustained; similarly, through the knowledge and comprehension of Torah by the soul of a person who studies it well, with the concentration of his intellect, to the point where the Torah is grasped by his mind and is joined with him so that they become one, [the Torah thereby] becomes food for the soul.”
Tanya, chapter 5
“Then Yeshua said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.”
G-d’s sustenance will continue in the very last days, but not in great abundance. This is based on the principle that as long as there is at least one righteous person on the earth, that person acts in the role of Gd’s tzaddik. In the case of this seven year tribulation, there will be 144,000 tzaddikim serving Gd and man as such. They will bring the ‘gospel’ (Torah) to the world, and then the end will come (i.e., Matthew 24:14).
Several sections of the Zohar (shown below), address the subjects of “oil and wine” in close proximity, and lend to the idea of Gd’s spiritual provision. This first section shows how oil and wine represent the right and left sides of the Sefirotic Tree and how oil must be present on the “table below” in order for blessings to come from above (Thus the instruction in Revelation to not “harm” the “oil” or “wine” below.):
“R. Judah discoursed on the text: I am my beloved’s and his desire is towards me (Song of Songs 7:11). He said: ‘The inner meaning of this verse is that the stirring below is accompanied by a stirring above, for there is no stirring above till there is a stirring below. Further, blessings from above descend only where there is some substance and not mere emptiness. We learn this from the wife of Obadiah, to whom Elisha said, “Tell me, what hast thou in the house” (2Kings 4:2), meaning that blessings from above would not descend on an empty table or an empty place. When she said: “Thy handmaid hath nothing in the house save a cruse of oil” – only enough to smear her little finger-he said to her: “You have relieved me, for I did not see how blessings were to descend from above on to an empty place, but since you have some oil, this will provide a place sufficient for the purpose.” (The connection of “oil” with “blessing” is found in Psalm 133, where it says “like the good oil,’, etc., and then “for there the Lord commanded the blessing, life for evermore”. It is true, the immediate comparison in the passage is with dew, not oil, but the two mean the same thing, as this dew was distilled by God from the supernal oil. Wine and oil belong respectively to the Left and the Right sides, and from the Right side blessings descend on the world, and from there the holy kingdom is anointed. Thus because it was fixed upon below, oil was first prepared above as the source of blessings. From the stirring of this supernal oil the lower oil was poured on David and Solomon to bring blessings on their descendants. This is derived from a collation of the text “and the oil stood”, in 2Kings 4:6, with the text “the root of Jesse which standeth for an ensign of the nations”, Isaiah 11:10.) We derive the same lesson from the fact that the table of shew-bread, from which issued blessings, was not to be left empty a single moment; and on that account we do not say grace over an empty table, since blessings from above do not rest on an empty table. To resume, then, the verse “I am my beloved’s and towards me is his desire” indicates that “first of all I am my beloved’s, and then, in consequence, his desire is towards me; first I prepare for him a place, and then his desire is towards me”. The verse may also be explained by reference to the dictum that the Shekinah is not found in the company of sinners, but when a man exerts himself to purify himself and to draw near to God, then the Shekinah rests on him. So “I am my beloved’s” to begin with, and then “his desire is towards me’.”
Zohar, Bereshith 88a,88b
The following section links wine to both Torah, Messiah and the “spirit of Messiah” present at the creation of the world. The subject of bread is linked closely to wine and oil in terms of G-d’s spiritual provision for the world:
“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. The “spirit of God which hovered over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2) is the spirit of the Messiah, and from the time of the Creation he “washed his garments in celestial wine”. “His eyes shall be red with wine”: this is the intoxicating celestial wine from which the masters of the Torah drink. ” And his teeth white with milk”, because the Torah is both wine and milk, the Oral and the Written Law. It is written of wine that it “rejoiceth the heart of man” (Psalm 114:15). Wine at first brings gladness, being the place from which all gladness issues, but afterwards it brings punishment, because its end is the place where is gathered all punishment. Hence the verse continues: “And oil to make the face shine”, to wit, from the place from which all gladness issues. It then says: “And bread that strengtheneth man’s heart”, bread being the support of mankind. It is not, however, the only support, because there is no night without day, and they must not be separated. If so, it may be asked, why did David say that “bread supports the heart of man”? The answer is that this is why he added the word “and” before “bread”, to show that the others are included. Observe that grace after meals should not be said over an empty table, but there should be bread on it and a cup of wine, and the wine should be taken in the right hand, in order to join the Left hand to the Right, and in order that the bread should be blessed by them and linked with them, so that the whole should be linked together to bless the Holy Name fittingly. For the bread being joined with the wine, and the wine with the right hand, blessings rest on the world and the table is duly perfected.”
Zohar, Bereshith 240a
This next section again speaks of the right and left sides, and the association of water, oil and wine to the priesthood. Note that in chapter 7 of Revelation, there are 144,000 members of the “royal priesthood” bringing witness (“oil” and “wine”) to the world. There is also mention of a “bad wine,” which corresponds to the wine of Babylon discussed later in Revelation:
“Wine rejoiceth the heart of man” (Psalm 104:15). ‘If’, he said, the priest requires to be glad and smiling more than other men, why is he forbidden wine, which creates joy and smiles? The truth is that wine rejoices at first and saddens afterwards, and the priest must be glad throughout. Also wine is of the side of the Levites, but the side of the priests is pure and clear water.’ R. Jose said: ‘Each lends to the other, and therefore wine gladdens at first because it contains water, but afterwards it reverts to its own nature and brings gloom.’ R. Abba said: ‘Wine, oil and water issue from the same place. Water and oil, which are on the right, are taken by the priests, especially oil, which is joy first and last, as it is written: “Like the goodly oil upon the head that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard” (Psalm 133:2). Wine, which is on the left, is inherited by the Levites, that they may raise their voices in song and not be silent, for wine is never silent, but oil is always noiseless. The difference between them is this. Oil comes from the side of Thought, which is always silent and unheard, whereas wine, which is for raising the voice, comes from the side of the Mother. Therefore the priest, when he entered the Sanctuary to perform divine service, was forbidden to drink wine, because his service is carried out quietly.’R. Judah and R. Isaac were once going from Be Merunia to Sepphoris, and with them was a youth leading an ass, on which was a jar of honey. Said R. Judah: ‘Let us discourse on the Torah as we go.’ R. Isaac began by quoting the verse: “And thy palate is like the best wine that goeth down smoothly for my beloved” (Song of Song 7:9). ‘This wine’, he said, ‘is the wine of the Torah, which is in truth good, because there is another wine which is not good. But the wine of the Torah is good for all-good for this world and good for the world to come. This, too, is the wine that pleases the Holy One, blessed be He, more than all, and therefore he who quaffs deeply of the wine of the Torah will wake in the world to come and will come to life when God shall raise the righteous.’ Said R. Judah: ‘We have learnt that even in that world he will be able to study the Torah, as it is written, “He causeth to mutter the lips of the sleepers” (Ibid.).’ The youth hereupon remarked: ‘If it had been written, “thy palate is from the best wine”, your explanation would have been correct, but it is written “like the best wine”.’ They looked at him, and R. Judah said: ‘Speak on, for your remark is a good one.’ He continued: ‘I have heard that if a man who studies the Torah diligently allows his expositions to be heard and does not merely whisper them.”
Zohar, Vayikra 39a
This next text links the oil and wine to “the world to come” (Olam Haba) and to “repentance,” both of which are associated with the Sefirah of Binah/Understanding, the source of spiritual provision for the lower seven Sefirot and the world. (Binah is the “Supernal Mother” mentioned in the Zohar, Shemoth 184b reference in verse 1 above):
“The youth then followed, taking as his text: “The king by judgement establisheth the land, but a man of offerings overthroweth it” (Proverbs 29:4). ‘The king here’, he said, ‘is the Holy One, blessed be He. “Judgement” is Jacob, who is the epitome of the patriarchs. “A man of offerings” is Esau, who used to ask questions about offerings, but never bring any. Or again, I can say that ‘offerings” is the negation of judgement, being the elevation of mercy, and therefore “a man of offerings overthroweth it”. But was not David “a man of offerings”, and yet the land was established by him? This was because it is written of him, “the sure mercies of David”; as he clung to one quality, so did he cling to the other. All his days David strove that this “offering” should be united with judgement. Solomon came and wedded them together, so that the moon became full and the land was established. Zedekiah came and parted them, and the land was left without judgement, and the moon was impaired and the land was devastated. Note that oil was for the priests and wine for the Levites-not because they require wine, but from the “treasured wine” some comes to their side to link the whole together and make all worlds glad, right and left being found clasped together in them, so that they should be beloved of the true believers. Whoso concentrates his thought on this is perfect in this world and in the world to come, and all his days clings to repentance, the place where oil and wine are found. In this way he will not hanker after this world or its delights, for another kind of wealth is stored up for him, and he has a share in the future world, the place where oil and wine are stored. And he who loves this place does not require wealth or strive for it. Happy are the righteous who all their days strive after the celestial wealth of which it is written, “Gold and glass cannot equal it, neither shall the exchange thereof be jewels of fine gold” (Job 28:17).He further discoursed on the verse: “And the Lord said unto Moses, Come up to me, and I will give thee… the law and the commandment which I have written to teach them” (Exodus 24:12). ‘The word lehorotham (to teach them) may be read lehoratham (to her that conceived them), the “them” referring to the law and the commandment. “She that conceived them” is the place of “treasured wine”, because all writing of the Supernal Book commences there, and from thence issues the Torah which we call the Written Torah. The other Torah is called the Oral Torah (Torah of the mouth), the “mouth” being Knowledge which is the mouth of book and writing.’It is written: “Take away the wicked from before the king and his throne shall be established in lovingkindness ” (Proverbs 25:3). When sinners are numerous in the world, the throne of the holy King is established in judgement and flames play around the world. But when the wicked are removed from the world, His throne is established in lovingkindness and not in judgement. This shows that the lower world depends on the higher, and the higher is disposed according to the conduct of the lower.”
Zohar, Vayikra 40b
This Zohar reference ties the concept of supernal wine back to the idea of G-d’s left and right hands “working together,” as discussed at the beginning of chapter five’s notes. Again we encounter the concept of having something present below (in this case bread), to assure blessing from above:
“Rab Hamnuna the Elder would not allow anyone else to take the cup of blessing, but he himself took it in his two hands and said the blessing. We have affirmed that the cup should be taken in the right hand, and not in the left. It is called “cup of salvations” (Psalm 116:13), because through it blessings are drawn from the supernal salvations, and in it is collected the supernal wine. Also, the table over which the blessing is said should not be devoid of both bread and wine. The Community of Israel is called “cup of blessing”, and therefore the cup should be raised both by the right hand and the left hand, so as to be set between. It should be filled with wine, because of the wine of the Torah which issues from the future world. There is a mystic allusion in this cup of blessing to the holy chariot. The right and left hands correspond to the north and south, between which is “the couch of Solomon”. He who says the blessing should fix his eye upon the cup to bless it with four blessings. Thus the cup contains the emblem of faith, north, south, east, and west, and so the holy chariot. There should be bread on the table in order that the lower bread may be blessed, and the “bread of poverty” may become the “bread of luxury”. In this way the Community of Israel will be blessed in all four directions, above and below-above by the bread of blessing and the cup of blessing through which King David is joined to the patriarchs, and below, that bread should never be lacking from the Israelite’s table.”
Zohar, Bereshith 250a,b
In addition to all the above, Chassidic teaching associates the concepts revealed in kabbalah as “wine” and “secret,” whereas chassidus is “oil” and the idea of “secrets of secrets.”
“For the same reason (that it is the Essence of the life-force), Chassidus is compared to oil which represents the “secret of secrets.” Oil represents the distilled essence of everything. Hence it necessarily possesses the following two characteristics: on the one hand, it is in itself distinct and separate from everything (for if it were to be bound to any one particular thing, it could not then be the essential aspect of every thing;); yet at the same time, because it is ‘essence,’ it must also pervade and be found within everything, for the essence, by definition, exists and it is found everywhere. This concept, like all matters pertaining to the Inner Torah, is also expressed in the Revealed Torah, even in an actual Halacha (practical law) on the one hand, oil does not mix with any liquides, and conversely, it penetrates into all matter. And thus, Chassidus is likened to oil, for it also possesses these two properties. By virtue of its nature as Essence, it does not mix with any other thing – it is the essential core of the life-force, higher than any radiation and reflection; on the other hand, Chassidus diffuses into and permeates every single thing, as explained above.”
“Examine there further difference between ‘wine’ (the category of secret) and ‘oil’ (the secret of secrets). Wine, through its being withheld and concealed by grapes, gains strength and power when it is finally pressed. Oil, on the other hand, through being contained and withheld in the olive, does not gain any additional power at all. Thus wine is in the category of concealment – and has the numerical value of the word ‘sod’ (secret). (Hence it derives its strength from being withheld and concealed.) Oil, on the other hand, transcends ‘concealment’ and ‘revelation’ (and therefore the constraints of concealment do not give it any additional strength). From this it is understood that Chassidus, which is likened to oil, is also above ‘concealment’ and ‘revelation’ (and therefore it has the power to bring out revelation from concealment.”
“… Kabbalah is concerned with the technical identities and relations between the Sefirot, the Worlds … Chassidus, however, is concerned with the direct perception of Divinity underlying all these terms, forms, ‘locations.’ It will thus employ all manner of explanation, example, parallels – including Kabbalah – in order to reveal the Essence of Divinity expressed in all levels. That is, Kabbalah is the technical explanation of these forms and terms in themselves. Chassidus only uses and is interested in these forms as a means for perceiving Divinity … Chassidus is not limited to any ‘forms.”
On the Essence of Chassidus, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, pp. 30-34
When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the fourth living creature saying, Come and see!
And behold, a pale (green) horse, and he who sat on it, his name was Death. Sheol followed with him. Authority over one fourth of the earth, to kill with the sword, with famine, with death, and by the wild animals of the earth was given to him.
The color green is associated with the central Sefirah of Tiferet, which is beauty in terms of harmony. Note also, that as Tiferet is said to be the synthesis of the other Sefirot, so is the fourth green Horse a synthesis of all four, as it contains the authority of the first, the sword (war) of the second, the hunger of the third, and its own forms of death.
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been killed for the Word of G-d, and for the testimony of the Lamb which they had.
“It was taught, R. Eliezer said: ‘The souls of the righteous are hidden under the Throne of Glory, as it is said, yet the soul of thine Lord shall be bound up in the bundle of life.”
Talmud, Shabbat 152b
“R. Anan said; Whoever is buried in the Land of Israel is deemed to be buried under the altar, since in respect of the latter it is written in Scripture, ‘At altar of earth thou shalt make unto me,’ (Exodus 20:21) and in respect of the former it is written in Scripture, ‘And his land does make expiation for his people.’ (Deuteronomy 32:43)
Talmud, Ketubot 111a
How does one see a soul? How can they be “under an altar?” This verse especially reveals the deep mystical concepts found in the text of Revelation.
The Zohar offers the following commentary on altars – both heavenly and earthly:
“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, YHWH; 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 30a
The following text relates the suffering of the messiah to souls under a heavenly throne:
The Holy One, blessed be He, will tell (the Messiah) what will befall him: ‘There are souls that have been put away with you under My throne, and it is their sins which will bend you down under a yoke of iron, and make you like a calf whose eyes grow dim with suffering, and will choke your spirit as with a yoke; because of the sins of these souls your tongue will cleave to the roof of your mouth. Are you willing to endure such things?…if your soul is sad at the prospect of your suffering, I shall at this moment banish these sinful souls.’ The Messiah will say: ‘Master of the universe, with joy in my soul and gladness in my heart I take this suffering upon myself, provided that not one person in Israel shall perish; that not only those who are alive be saved in my days, but that also those who are dead, who died from the days of Adam up to the time of redemption; and that not only these be saved in my days, but also those who died as abortions; and that not only these be saved in my days, but all those whom You thought to create but were not created. Such are the things I desire, and for these I am ready to take upon myself whatever you decree.’ At these words, the Holy One, blessed be He, will appoint for the Messiah the four creatures who will carry the Messiah’s throne of glory.”
Pesikta Rabbati 36, Yale University Press, Translated by William G. Braude
They cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, Master, the holy and true, until you judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?
“How long, God, shall the adversary reproach? Shall the enemy blaspheme your name forever?”
The book of Enoch contains a similar reference to a place of souls, who until the day of judgment comes, cry out to heaven for justice:
“And thence I went to another place, and the mountain [and] of hard rock. And there was in it four hollow places, deep and wide and very smooth. How smooth are the hollow places and deep and dark to look at. Then Raphael answered, one of the holy angels who was with me, and said unto me: ‘These hollow places have been created for this very purpose, that the spirits of the souls of the dead should assemble therein, yea that all the souls of the children of men should assemble here. And these places have been made to receive them till the day of their judgement and till their appointed period [till the period appointed], till the great judgement (comes) upon them.’ I saw (the spirit of) a dead man making suit, and his voice went forth to heaven and made suit. And I asked Raphael the angel who was with me, and I said unto him: ‘This spirit which maketh suit, whose is it, whose voice goeth forth and maketh suit to heaven ?’ And he answered me saying: ‘This is the spirit which went forth from Abel, whom his brother Cain slew, and he makes his suit against him till his seed is destroyed from the face of the earth, and his seed is annihilated from amongst the seed of men.”
A long white robe was given to each of them. They were told that they should rest yet for a while, until their fellow servants and their brothers, who would also be killed even as they were, should complete their course.
The book of Enoch also speaks of the garments of the righteous:
“And it came to pass after this that my spirit was translated And it ascended into the heavens: And I saw the holy sons of G-d. They were stepping on flames of fire: Their garments were white [and their raiment], And their faces shone like snow.”
1 Enoch 71:1
“And the righteous and elect shall have risen from the earth, And ceased to be of downcast countenance. And they shall have been clothed with garments of glory, And these shall be the garments of life from the Lord of Spirits: And your garments shall not grow old, Nor your glory pass away before the Lord of Spirits.”
The “rest” these souls are given is in preparation for the “great rest” (the Millennial Sabbath, when Ezekiel’s Temple will be placed in Jerusalem), when their cries will be turned to words of thanksgiving:
“As soon as they will rise from the dead all those hosts will march, each man to the portion of his ancestors, as Scripture says, “and ye shall return every man unto his possession” (Leviticus 25:10). They shall recognize each other, and G-d will clothe every one in embroidered garments; and they will all come and offer up thanksgiving to their Master in Jerusalem, where there will assemble multitudes upon multitudes. Jerusalem itself will spread out in all directions, to a further extent even than when the exiles returned there. When they assemble and offer up praises to their Master the Holy One, blessed be He, will rejoice in them. So Scripture says: “And they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow unto the goodness of the Lord”, etc. (Jeremiah 31:12), namely, every one to his portion and the portion of his ancestors. And the possession of Israel will extend till it will reach Damietta of the Romans, and even there they will study the Torah. All this has already been stated, and it is in harmony with the Scriptural passage, saying: “Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust”, etc. (Isaiah 16:19). Blessed be the Lord for evermore! Amen and Amen!”
Zohar, Shemoth 219b
It would also seem that the group “about to be killed” in this verse, shares a fate with those of the Assembly of Smyrna (Chapter 2), who are told that many of them will be killed (during the final days of “great tribulation”).
I saw when he opened the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake. The sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became as blood.
“The sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of HaShem comes.”
“Our Rabbis taught, When the sun is in eclipse it is a bad omen for idolaters; when the moon is in eclipse, it is a bad omen for Israel, since Israel reckons by the moon and idolaters by the sun. If it is in eclipse in the east, it is a bad omen for those who dwell in the east; if in the west, it is a bad omen for those who dwell in the west; if in the midst of heaven it is bad omen for the whole world. If its face is red as blood, [it is a sign that] the sword is coming to the world; if it is like sack-cloth, the arrows of famine are coming to the world; if it resembles both, the sword and the arrows of famine are coming to the world. If the eclipse is at sunset calamity will tarry in its coming; if at dawn, it hastens on its way: but some say the order is to be reversed. And there is no nation which is smitten that its gods are not smitten together with it, as it is said, ‘And against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments.’ But when Israel fulfill the will of the Omnipresent, they need have no fear of all these [omens] as it is said, ‘Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the nations, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven, for the nations are dismayed at them, the idolaters will be dismayed, but Israel will not be dismayed.”
Talmud, Sukkah 29a
Although it may be possible for the literal sun to go dark and moon to turn red, the verse implies a metaphorical interpretation in light of the surrounding text. (i.e., see notes to verse 13 below.) Kaballistically, the sun represents Tipheret, the “bridegroom” and the moon is Malkut (the bride — the Shekinah and people of G-d).
As the earth will turn from the true bridegroom to a false one (the “anti-messiah,” who may also be considered a false tzaddik who comes between the bride and groom), the sun turns dark, no longer giving its light, and the bride turns to the judgmental color of red, as she prepares to unleash unmitigated judgment on the earth. (This concept was discussed in our background studies on the Shekinah, Tipheret and Yesod.)
The Zohar associates these events with the land of Israel falling under control of the evil realm:
“NOW THOU ART COMMANDED, THIS DO YE: TAKE YE WAGONS OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT, ETC . R. Hiya opened a discourse with the text: Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her rejoice for joy with her, etc. (Isaiah 66:10). ‘When’, he said, ‘the Temple was destroyed and Israel on account of their sins were driven from their land, God removed Himself, as it were, to the height of heights and regarded not the destruction of the Temple nor the exile of His people, and so the Shekinah was exiled with them. When God again descended, He observed His House that was burnt down. He looked at His people and behold, they were in exile. He inquired concerning the Matron (Shekinah) and found that she had been driven out. Then, “in that day did the Lord, the God of hosts, call to weeping, and lamentation, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth” (Isaiah 22:12); and the Matron was called upon to “lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth” (Joel 1:8), because He had removed Himself from her and they were separated. The very heaven and the very earth lamented, as it is written: “I clothe the heaven with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering” (Isaiah 50:3). The celestial angels all raised their voices in lamentation, as it says: “Behold, the angels cry without; the angels of peace weep bitterly” (Isaiah 33:7). The sun and the moon mourned and their light was darkened, as we read: “The sun shall be darkened in his going forth, etc.” (Ibid. XIII, 10). For what reason? Because the other side had obtained sway over the Holy Land.”
Zohar, Bereshith 210a
There are numerous references to such end-time cosmic disturbances in other Hebraic literature. Note the following texts from the Zohar which ties the moon’s color turning to blood to the “waters” below. This of course is an allusion to the Egypt and the Exodus:
“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 God 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 centred 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.”
Zohar, Shemoth 29a
“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” (Gen. I, 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 planets 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” (Isa. XXXIV, 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.”
Zohar, Shemoth 28b
Not surprisingly, the subject of Metatron comes up in the context of the shaking of the heavens (see comments to verse 13 below), and resumption of the moon’s light:
“The time, however, will come for the moon to resume her primordial light, and in allusion to this it is written: “Behold, my servant will prosper.” That is to say, there will be a stirring in the upper realms as of one who catches a sweet odour and stands alert. “He shall be exalted”, from the side of the most exalted luminaries; “and lifted up”, from the side of Abraham; “and shall be high”, from the side of Isaac; “very”, from the side of Jacob. At that time, then, the Holy One will cause a stirring on high with the object of enabling the moon to shine with her full splendour, as we read: “Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of the seven days” (Isaiah 30:26). There will thus be added to the moon an exalted spirit whereby all the dead that are in the dust will be awakened. This is the esoteric meaning of “my servant”, [Metatron] viz. the one that has in his hand the key of his Master.”
Zohar, Bereshith 181b
As mentioned, Rosh haShana, is associated with the beginning of the Day of the Lord, the final judgment of God upon the earth. What is interesting in the following text is the mention of the importance of the number “seven” with regard to sanctifications, as the judgments of Revelation come in three sets of seven:
“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 judgement, both celestial and terrestrial beings, and a herald makes proclamation throughout all the firmaments, saying: “Prepare the Throne of Judgement 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 stars of the sky fell to the earth, like a fig tree dropping its unripe figs when it is shaken by a great wind.
The concept of “stars” has been mentioned earlier in the study as being associated with spiritual entities (as it is throughout Hebraic literature), and should also be understood in the same fashion here. If these were literal stars, just one “falling to the earth” would destroy the planet and the story would end here.
Moses Maimonides (Rambam) also used the term “stars” for spiritual entities. Speaking on the topic of ‘foreign deities,’ Maimonides writes:
“That of a prophet who arises and declares, a certain star cast its spirit upon me, telling me to worship it in a certain way, so that it will save me …”
‘Maimonides’ Introduction to the Talmud,’ translated and annotated by Zvi Lampel, The Judaica Press, Brooklyn, NY, 1998, p. 48.
The book of Enoch refers to “stars” who were punished for transgressing the ways of G-d:
‘And beyond that abyss I saw a place which had no firmament of the heaven above, and no firmly founded earth beneath it: there was no water upon it, and no birds, but it was a waste and horrible place. I saw there seven stars like great burning mountains, and to me, when I inquired regarding them, The angel said: ‘This place is the end of heaven and earth: this has become a prison for the stars and the host of heaven. And the stars which roll over the fire are they which have transgressed the commandment of the Lord in the beginning of their rising, because they did not come forth at their appointed times. And He was wroth with them, and bound them till the time when their guilt should be consummated (even) for ten thousand years.’
Enoch goes on to say that in the last days (as depicted in Revelation) there will once again be “stars” who transgress their domain and who will be sought after as G-d’s by men:
“And in those days the angel Uriel answered and said to me: ‘ Behold, I have shown thee everything, Enoch, and I have revealed everything to thee that thou shouldst see this sun and this moon, and the leaders of the stars of the heaven and all those who turn them, their tasks and times and departures. And in the days of the sinners the years shall be shortened, And their seed shall be tardy on their lands and fields, And all things on the earth shall alter, And shall not appear in their time: And the rain shall be kept back And the heaven shall withhold (it). And in those times the fruits of the earth shall be backward, And shall not grow in their time, And the fruits of the trees shall be withheld in their time. And the moon shall alter her order, And not appear at her time. [And in those days the sun shall be seen and he shall journey in the evening on the extremity of the great chariot in the west] And shall shine more brightly than accords with the order of light. And many chiefs of the stars shall transgress the order (prescribed). And these shall alter their orbits and tasks, And not appear at the seasons prescribed to them. And the whole order of the stars shall be concealed from the sinners, And the thoughts of those on the earth shall err concerning them, [And they shall be altered from all their ways], Yea, they shall err and take them to be gods. And evil shall be multiplied upon them, And punishment shall come upon them So as to destroy all.”
Other verses in Revelation, such as 9:1 clearly associate “stars” with spiritual entities. (Also see notes to verse 16 below.)
The Zohar contains the following esoteric text regarding the end times, where spiritual entities called both stars and flames (i.e., Hebrews 1:7), do battle in view of the entire world. This leads to the coming of Messiah, who Himself takes vengeance on behalf of His spouse (The Shekinah and Israel) and the “shaking” of the earth and heavenly realms. Note in the latter part of this text that the crown which G-d adorns Himself is also the crown of Messiah:
“At the time when the Holy One shall arise to renew all worlds, and the letters of his Name shall shine in perfect union, the Yod with the He, and the He with the Vau, a mighty star will appear in the heavens of purple hue, which by day shall flame before the eyes of the whole world, filling the firmament with its light. And at that time shall a flame issue in the heavens from the north; and flame and star shall so face each other for forty days, and all men will marvel and be afraid. And when forty days shall have passed, the star and the flame shall war together in the sight of all, and the flame shall spread across the skies from the north, striving to overcome the star, and the rulers and peoples of the earth shall behold it with terror, and there will be confusion among them. But the star will remove to the south and vanquish the flame, and the flame shall daily be diminished until it be no more seen. Then shall the star cleave for itself bright paths in twelve directions which shall remain luminous in the skies for the term of twelve days. After a further twelve days trembling will seize the world, and at midday the sun will be darkened as it was darkened on the day when the holy Temple was destroyed, so that heaven and earth shall not be seen.
Then out of the midst of thunder and lightning shall a voice be heard, causing the earth to quake and many hosts and principalities to perish. On the same day when that voice is heard throughout the world, a flame of fire shall appear burning in Great Rome; it will consume many turrets and towers, and many are the great and mighty who shall perish then. All shall gather against her to destroy her, and no one will have hope to escape. From that day on, for twelve months, all the kings (of the world) will take counsel together and make many decrees to destroy Israel; and they shall prosper against him, as has been said. Blessed is he who shall live in that time, and blessed is he who shall not live in that time! (i.e., Revelation 14:13)
And the whole world then will be in confusion. At the end of the twelve months the “sceptre of Judah”, namely the Messiah, will arise, appearing from Paradise, and all the righteous will surround him and gird him with weapons of war on which are inscribed the letters of the Holy Name (YHWH). Then a voice will burst forth from the branches of the trees of Paradise: “Arise, O ye saints from above, and stand ye before the Messiah! For the time has come for the Hind (Shekinah) to be united with her Spouse, and he must avenge her on the world and raise her from the dust”. And all the saints from above will arise and gird the Messiah with weapons of war, Abraham at his right, Isaac at his left, Jacob in front of him, while Moses, the “faithful shepherd” of all these saints, shall dance at the head of them in Paradise.
As soon as the Messiah has been installed by the saints in Paradise, he will enter again the place which is called “the Bird’s Nest’, there to behold the picture of the destruction of the Temple, and of all the saints who were done to death there. Then will he take from that place ten garments, the garments of holy zeal, and hide himself there for forty days, and no one shall be able to see him. At the end of those forty days a voice shall be heard from the highest throne calling the Bird’s Nest and the Messiah who shall be hidden there. Thereupon he shall be carried aloft, and when the Holy One, blessed be He, shall behold the Messiah adorned with the garments of holy zeal and girded with weapons of war, he will take him and kiss him upon his brow. At that moment three hundred and ninety firmaments shall begin to shake.
The Holy One shall command one of these firmaments, which has been kept in waiting since the six days of creation, to approach, and He shall take out from a certain temple in it a crown inscribed with holy names. It was with this crown that the Holy One adorned Himself when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea and He avenged Himself on all the chariots of Pharaoh and his horsemen. With this same crown will He crown King Messiah. As soon as he is crowned, the Holy One will take him and kiss him as before. All the holy multitude and the whole holy army will surround him and will bestow upon him many wonderful gifts, and he will be adorned by them all. Then will he enter into one of the temples and behold there all the upper angels, who are called “the mourners of Zion” because they continually weep over the destruction of the Holy Temple. These angels shall give him a robe of deep red in order that he may commence his work of revenge. (i.e., Revelation 14:14-16)
The Holy One will again hide him in the “Bird’s Nest” and he will remain there for thirty days. After the thirty days he will again be decked with those adornments from above and from below, and many holy beings will surround him. The whole world then shall see a light extending from the firmament to the earth, and continuing for seven days, and they will be amazed and not comprehend: only the wise will understand, they who are adepts in the mystic lore, blessed is their portion. All through the seven days the Messiah shall be crowned on earth. Where shall this be? “By the way”, to wit, Rachel’s grave, which is on the cross-road. To mother Rachel he will give glad tidings and comfort her, and now she will let herself be comforted, and will rise and kiss him. (i.e., Matthew 2:18)
The light will then move from that place and shall stand over Jericho, the city of trees, and the Messiah will be hidden in the light of the “Bird’s Nest” for twelve months. After the twelve months that light will stand between heaven and earth in the land of Galilee, where Israel’s captivity began, and there will he reveal himself from the light of the “Bird’s Nest”, and return to his place. On that day the whole earth will be shaken from one end. to the other, and thus the whole world will know that the Messiah has revealed himself in the land of Galilee. (i.e., Matthew 3:13)
And all who are diligent in the study of the Torah-and there shall be few such in the world-will gather round him. His army will gain in strength through the merit of little infants at school, symbolized by the word ephroah-“young bird” (Deuteronomy 22:6). And if such will not be found at that time it will be through the merit of the sucklings, “the eggs” (Ibid), “those that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts” (Isaiah 22:9), for whose sake the Shekinah dwells in the midst of Israel in exile, as indeed there will be few sages at that time. (i.e., Luke 18:8)
This is the implication of the words “And the dam sitting upon the young, or upon the eggs”, which, allegorically interpreted, means that it does not depend upon the Mother to free them from exile, but upon the Supreme King; for it is the young ones and the sucklings that will give strength to the Messiah, and then the Supernal Mother, which “sits upon them”, will be stirred up towards Her Spouse. He will tarry for twelve months longer, and then he will appear and raise her from the dust: “I will raise up on that day the tabernacle of David that is fallen” (Amos 9:2). On that day the Messiah will begin to gather the captives from one end of the world to the other: “If any of thine be driven out unto the utmost parts of heaven, from thence will the Lord thy God gather thee” (Deuteronomy 30:4). From that day on the Holy One will perform for Israel all the signs and wonders which He performed for them in Egypt: “As in the days of thy coming out of the land of Egypt, will I show unto him wonders” (Micah 7:15).”
Zohar, Shemoth 8b-9a
The “earthquake” mentioned by John in verse 12 is connected to verse 13, where the “stars of heaven” are said to fall, and compare to fig trees. This is reminiscent of language in Luke’s gospel:
“And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.”
The sky was removed like a scroll when it is rolled up. Every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
The idea of the heavens being “rolled up” sounds very much like Rabbi Pinchas Winston’s concept of the Sefirot being withdrawn back toward G-d, as outlined in the notes prior to verse 1. The text implies that the “mountains” and “islands” being moved out of their places are themselves in the world of Beriah. (See notes to verse 17 below.)
The books of Isaiah and Hebrews allude to the same concept:
“All the host of heaven shall be dissolved, And the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll; All their host shall fall down. As the leaf falls from the vine, And as fruit falling from a fig tree.”
“And: “You, LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You remain; And they will all grow old like a garment; Like a cloak You will fold them up, And they will be changed. But You are the same, And Your years will not fail.”
The kings of the earth, the princes, the commanding officers, the rich, the strong, and every slave and free person, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains.
“Men shall go into the caves of the rocks, and into the holes of the earth, from before the terror of the LORD, and from the glory of his majesty, when he arises to shake the earth mightily.”
They told the mountains and the rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb,
“The high places also of Aven, the sin of Israel, will be destroyed. The thorn and the thistle will come up on their altars. They will tell the mountains, Cover us! and the hills, Fall on us!”
for the great day of his wrath has come; and who is able to stand?
“You, even you, are to be feared. Who can stand in your sight when you are angry?”
Verses 15-17 must be understood metaphorically. Men do not generally speak to mountains, much less ask rocks to hide them from G-d. The idea of mountains (and islands) in the angelic/spiritual realm carries with it the concept of “separation” — that which is in opposition to the (coming) unity of G-d and His creation. They are therefore associated with the Sitra Achra – the evil realm. These mountains, islands and rocks are similar to the “principalities and powers” mentioned in the “New Testament” (i.e., Romans 8:38; Ephesians 3:10, 6:12; Colossians 1:16, 2:15).
The Zohar speaks of a mighty “rock” associated with the sitra atra, that is responsible for covering up the moon, a sign of judgment:
“But that “other side” is encased in a powerful shell which cannot be broken, except by means of that counsel which the Holy One, blessed be He, gave to Israel when He said: “Blow the trumpet in the new moon, in the covering (ba-kese) of our solemn feast-day”, in order to break that “covering” (kese) which prevents the Moon from shining. And when the Israelites blow the trumpet here below the voice thereof smites the air and breaks through all firmaments until it reaches the mighty rock which covers up the Moon through the evil power of the “other side”, and when Satan, who has ascended and stands above, perceives that Mercy has been roused he becomes confused, and the trumpet’s voice causes the strength of the Accuser to depart from him, and the voice of judgement to be hushed and rigorous punishments to be revoked.”
Zohar, Shemoth 184a
As for “mountains,” these would seem to indicate evil “high places” just as their are righteous high places. The book of Enoch associates spiritual mountains as such, even comparing one to the Throne of G-d. It also brings forth the idea of spiritual “trees” as is seen later in Revelation:
“And from thence I went to another place of the earth, and he showed me a mountain range of fire which burnt day and night. And I went beyond it and saw seven magnificent mountains all differing each from the other, and the stones (thereof) were magnificent and beautiful, magnificent as a whole, of glorious appearance and fair exterior: three towards the east, one founded on the other, and three towards the south, one upon the other, and deep rough ravines, no one of which joined with any other. And the seventh mountain was in the midst of these, and it excelled them in height, resembling the seat of a throne: and fragrant trees encircled the throne. And amongst them was a tree such as I had never yet smelt, neither was any amongst them nor were others like it: it had a fragrance beyond all fragrance, and its leaves and blooms and wood wither not for ever: and its fruit is beautiful, and its fruit n resembles the dates of a palm. Then I said: ‘How beautiful is this tree, and fragrant, and its leaves are fair, and its blooms very delightful in appearance.’ Then answered Michael, one of the holy and honoured angels who was with me, and was their leader. And he said unto me: ‘Enoch, why dost thou ask me regarding the fragrance of the tree, and why dost thou wish to learn the truth?’ Then I answered him saying: ‘I wish to know about everything, but especially about this tree.’ And he answered saying: ‘This high mountain which thou hast seen, whose summit is like the throne of God, is His throne, where the Holy Great One, the Lord of Glory, the Eternal King, will sit, when He shall come down to visit the earth with goodness.”
Thus, these final verses of the chapter would indicate that men will call upon various (evil) spiritual forces and entities (“mountains” and “rocks”), rather than turning to G-d.
Eventually, these kings of the earth will have to face the one on the Throne. According to the book of Enoch, only then will they offer a token form of repentance to the Messiah — one that will be firmly rejected:
“And all the kings and the mighty and the exalted and those who rule the earth Shall fall down before him on their faces, And worship and set their hope upon that Son of Man, And petition him and supplicate for mercy at his hands. Nevertheless that Lord of Spirits will so press them That they shall hastily go forth from His presence, And their faces shall be filled with shame, And the darkness grow deeper on their faces. And He will deliver them to the angels for punishment, To execute vengeance on them because they have oppressed His children and His elect And they shall be a spectacle for the righteous and for His elect: They shall rejoice over them, Because the wrath of the Lord of Spirits resteth upon them, And His sword is drunk with their blood.”