Ex. X, 1-XIII, 17
AND THE LORD SAID UNTO MOSES, GO IN UNTO PHARAOH, FOR I HAVE HARDENED HIS HEART. R. Judah opened here with the verse: Blessed is the people that knows the joyful sound; O Lord, they shall walk in the light of thy countenance (Ps. LXXXIX, 16). He exclaimed: 'How important it is for man to walk in the ways of the Holy One, blessed be He, and keep the commandments of the Torah, that so he may be worthy of the world to come and triumph over all accusations, both on earth and in heaven! For as there are accusers of man here below, so there are also accusers above. But those who keep the commandments of the Torah and walk in righteousness, in fear of their Lord, will never lack intercessors in heaven, for is it not written: "If there be with him an angel-intercessor, one among a thousand ... then he is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom" (Job XXXIII, 23-24)?' Said R. Hiya to him: 'Why should man need an angel to intercede for him? Is it not written: "The Lord shall be thy confidence and shall keep thy foot from being taken" (Prov. Ill, 26); "The Lord shall keep thee from all evil" (Ps. CXXI, 7)? Yea, verily, the Holy One Himself beholdeth all that man does, whether it be good or evil, as it is written: "Can a man hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him?" (Jer. XXIII, 24).' R. Judah replied: 'Indeed, thou speakest truth! But it is also written that Satan said: "But put forth thine hand and touch his bone and his flesh", and that the Holy One Himself said to Satan, "And thou movest me against him" (Job II, 3-4); which proves that permission was given to the powers of the "other side" that they might so rise up against man on account of the deeds he had done in this world. And in all this the ways of the Holy One are hidden, and it is beyond me to follow them, for these are the statutes of the Holy One, which men must not examine too closely, save those who walk in the way of wisdom and so are in truth worthy to penetrate into the veiled paths of the Torah, and to comprehend the hidden truths contained therein.'
R. Eleazar then discoursed on the verse: And there was a day when the sons of God came to stand before the Lord, and Satan came also among them (Job I, 6). 'This "day"', said he, 'was New Year's Day, on which the Holy One sits in judgement on the world. "The sons of God" are the supernal beings who are appointed to watch the actions of mankind. The expression "to stand before the Lord" is parallel to the verse, "All the hosts of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left" (I Kings XXII, 19). But in this verse it has a more special significance, viz. to make manifest the love of the Holy One for Israel. For these messengers who are appointed to watch over the works of men roam hither and thither throughout the world, gathering up the deeds of all creatures so that on New Year's Day, the day of judgement, they may stand before the Lord with their burden of accusations. Yet of all the peoples of the earth, it is only one -- Israel -- whose works are examined by them carefully and in detail, for the Israelites are the Holy One's children in a particular sense, and when their works are not according to the Divine purpose, they actually weaken the power of the Holy One Himself, but when they do His will they, as it were, increase His power and might -- "give strength to God" (Ps. LXVIII, 35). Thus "the sons of God", the supernal messengers, when they "stand" with their accusations against Israel, stand also "against ('al) God". "And Satan came also among them." "Also" signifies that [33a] he came with the set purpose of displaying his superior power as the greatest of all the celestial accusers and so making it difficult for Israel to obtain forgiveness. When the Holy One saw that they all came thus to accuse, "He said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? And Satan replied, From going to and fro in the land." Now we know that the control of all lands is entrusted to the supernal Chieftains, save that of the Land of Israel alone. Hence, when the Satan said "the land", God knew that he intended to accuse Israel, and therefore straightway asked him: "Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth?", in order to divert him to another subject and make him leave Israel alone -- like a shepherd who throws a lamb to a wolf in order to save the rest of the flock. Thereupon Satan left Israel and turned his attention to Job, saying: "Doth Job fear God for naught?", as if to say, "No wonder the servant fears the Master who gives him all that his heart desires! Remove thy providential care from him and then see what his fear and reverence will be worth!" Mark this! When in the hour of need something is thrown as a sop to the "other side" -- like the lamb thrown to the wolf -- the representative of the "other side" soon ceases to attack its original victim. This is the reason for the offering of a goat at the New Moon and on the Day of Atonement; for Satan occupies himself with these and leaves Israel in peace. Now the time had come for the "other side" to have its due from the whole seed of Abraham. For Satan had a case against Abraham for having brought as a sacrifice an animal instead of Isaac -- an unlawful transaction, since it says, "he shall not alter it (an animal destined for sacrifice) nor change it" (Lev. XXVII, 10). His claim, therefore, was quite reasonable. Thus, from the time when Isaac was saved and an animal substituted for him as a sacrifice, the Holy One, blessed be He, apportioned unto Satan another branch of Abraham's family that he might accuse it, namely the (heathen) descendants of his brother Nahor, the family of Uz (and Job was from the land of Uz). Now Job was one of the closest counsellors of Pharaoh, and when the latter formed the intention of exterminating the children of Israel, Job advised him: "Do not kill them, but take their possessions from them and subject their bodies to severe toil." Then said the Holy One: "As thou livest, thou shalt be judged according to thine own judgements!" Therefore, when Satan said, "But put forth thine hand now and touch all that he has and touch his bone and his flesh" (v. 11), the Lord placed in his power all Job's possessions and his flesh, only bidding him to "save his soul" (v. 12) -- that is, his life. It is true, the text says, "And thou movedst me against him to destroy him without cause" (Job. 11, 3), which would seem to show that Job's sufferings were undeserved. We should, however, translate not "against him" (bo), but "in him", i.e. in his opinion, this being only Job's own idea, not the real fact.' [33b] R. Abba here interposed, saying: 'All that is correct to a point, but we have been taught that Satan, the "old but foolish king" (Eccl. IV, 13), has the right to accuse only individuals, not humanity as a whole; for the judgement of the world is executed by the Holy One Himself, as it says concerning those who built the Tower of Babel: "And the Lord came down to see" (Gen. XI, 5); also in connection with Sodom and Gomorra: "I will go down now and see" (Ibid. XVIII, 21); for the Holy One would not rest satisfied to condemn the world to perdition merely on the strength of the word of Satan, who is the great accuser and whose only desire is to destroy the world. The truth is, however, that on New Year's Day two "sides" stand before the Holy One, blessed be He, for the reception of mankind. Those men of whom good deeds and repentance can be recorded are privileged to be inscribed in the roll of that side which is life and which brings forth life, and whoever is on its side is inscribed for life; but those whose works are evil are assigned to the other side, which is death. Sometimes, however, it happens that the world is, as it were, exactly balanced between the two. Then if there is but one righteous person to turn the scale, the world is saved; but if one wicked, then the whole world is condemned to death. And in just such a condition were the affairs of men in the time of Job, when the Accuser "stood before the Lord", eager to denounce the world. Straightway the Holy One asked him: "Hast thou considered my servant Job?" And as soon as Satan heard this name, he concentrated all his attention upon him. For this reason we are taught that it is wrong to isolate oneself and be separated from the corporate community, since one is then liable to be singled out and accused in the upper realm. Therefore the Shunammite woman said, "I dwell among my people" (2 Kings IV, 13), meaning that she had no desire to separate herself from the majority, having dwelt hitherto among her people and being known above merely as one with them. Job, however, was known apart from his people: he was singled out; and this was Satan's opportunity.
Said he: "Doth Job fear God for naught? Hast not thou made an hedge about him and about his house? ... " (Job I, 9-10), meaning, "Take away all the good things with which thou hast endowed him, and he will curse thee to thy face (v. 11): he will leave thee and become attached to the 'other side'. At present he eats thy bread; take that away and we shall soon see of what stuff he is made and to whom he will cleave!" Whereupon "the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy hand" (v. 12). Thus permission was given to the Satan to persecute Job and to show that his motives were not really pure; for as soon as he was tried he left the right way and did not remain steadfast: "He did not sin with his lips" (II, 10), but he did sin in his mind, and later, also in his speech. He did not, however, go so far as to attach himself to the "other side", as Satan had predicted. His trials lasted twelve months, for this is the space of time allotted to the "other side", as, according to tradition, sinners are judged in Gehenna for twelve months. And because Job did not attach himself to the "other side", "the Lord blessed the [34a] latter end of Job more than his beginning" (XLII, 12).
R. Simeon said: 'The Holy One, blessed be He, did not tempt Job in the same way as He tempted other righteous men; it does not say concerning him, as it says concerning Abraham (Gen. XXII, 1), that God tempted him. Abraham led with his own hands his only begotten son to be sacrificed to the Holy One, but Job gave nothing to Him. Indeed, he was not bidden to do anything of the kind, as God knew that he would not be equal to the trial. He was merely delivered to the Accuser, and the Holy One spurred Satan, through the medium of the attribute of Justice, to test him, as it says: "Hast thou considered my servant Job? " ...'
Said R. Simeon: 'It is written concerning Cain that he brought a sacrifice "at the end of days" (Gen. IV, 8), and we have laid down that this expression indicates the "other side" (v. Zohar, Gen. 62b). And of Abel it says that "he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof" (Ibid. 4).The expression "he also" (gam hu) suggests that, unlike Cain, he brought his offering primarily to the Holy One, and spared only "the fat thereof" to the "other side"; whereas Cain offered primarily to the "other side", and gave only a part to the Holy One, and therefore his sacrifice was not accepted. Now we read in regard to Job that "his sons went and feasted ... and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them" (Job I, 4.).While they thus feasted and made merry the Accuser was daily present in their midst, but he could not prevail against them, as it is written: "Hast not thou made an hedge about him and about his house?" And when Job made sacrifices, he did not give Satan any part whatsoever, for it says, "He offered burnt-offerings according to the number of them all" (Ibid. 5), this being an offering which ascends ('olah) entirely on high, so that he gave no portion to the "other side". Had he done so, the Accuser would not have been able to prevail against him. Hence in the end he only took what was his due. As to the question which might be asked, why then did God allow Job to suffer thus, the answer would be that, had he given Satan his due, the "unholy side" would have separated itself from the holy, and so allowed the latter to ascend undisturbed into the highest spheres; but since he did not do so, the Holy One let justice be executed on him. Mark this! As Job kept evil separate from good and failed to fuse them, he was judged accordingly: first he experienced good, then what was evil, then again good. For man should be cognizant of both good and evil, and turn evil itself into good. This is a deep tenet of faith.'
R. Simeon continued: 'It is now fitting to reveal mysteries connected with that which is above and that which is below. Why is it written here, "Come (bo) unto Pharaoh"? Ought it not rather to have said "go" (lekh)? It is to indicate that the Holy One, blessed be He, guided Moses through a labyrinth right into the abode of a certain supernal mighty dragon -- that is to say, Egypt's celestial representative -- from whom many lesser dragons emanate. Moses was afraid to approach him, because his roots are in supernal regions, and he only approached his subsidiary streams. When the Holy One saw that Moses feared the dragon, and that none of the supernal messengers was able to overcome him, He proclaimed: "Behold, I am against thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon (tanim) that lieth in the midst of his rivers, which hath said: My river is my own, and I have made it for myself" (Ezek. XXIX, 3). Yea, truly, the Lord Himself had to war against this dragon, and no lesser being. This is the mystery of the "great dragon" for those who are familiar with the esoteric lore.' Said R. Simeon further: 'It is written: "And God created the great dragons (taninim) and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind" (Gen. I, 21). This verse', he said, 'we have already discussed, but the words "He created the great dragons" contain a yet more special and particular mystery: they refer [34b] to the Leviathan and his mate, which last was slain and is preserved by the Holy One for the regaling of the righteous (in the days of the Messiah). The great dragon reposes between nine rivers, the waters of which are turbulent; and there is a tenth river whose waters are calm, and into the depth of which the blessings of the waters of Paradise descend three times a year. Into this river the dragon enters, making there his habitation; and thence he sallies forth and swims down to the sea, and devours there fish of all kinds, and then returns again to the river. The nine swift rivers are banked by trees and fringed with flowers. The parent river issued from the Left Side and from it three drops fell into a certain channel, and each of the three was divided again into three, and every drop became a river. These are the nine rivers which flow through all the firmaments. And from the final moisture that remained when all the drops had issued forth yet another drop was formed, which issued gently, and of this drop was formed that tenth river, which flows calmly. Into this river also flows a drop from the blessings poured forth from the Right side by the "perennially flowing stream", and it is greater than all the rest. When the four rivers which flow out of the Garden of Eden divide, the one called Pison flows into and is fused with the calm tenth river of which we have spoken. Out of the calm river, thus augmented, are fed and filled all the other rivers; in each of which a dragon dwells, so that the number of the dragons is nine. And each of these nine has a hole in his head, and the great dragon as well, because each of them emits breath upwards and not downwards. It is written: "In the beginning God created ..." and also "And God created the great dragons". This indicates that all the ten acts of Creation had their counterpart in these ten rivers, on each of which one of the dragons breathes heavily. Now, that great dragon, when he raises his fins, heaves up the waters around him, and all the earth is shaken and all the lesser dragons, and this takes place every seventy years.' Said R. Simeon: 'Verily, though the members of the Fellowship are students of the story of Creation, having knowledge of its wonders and perception of the paths of the Holy One, blessed be He, yet even among them there are few who know how to interpret it in connection with the mystery of the great dragon.'  [35b]
FOR THE LORD WILL PASS THROUGH .... R. Jose commented on the expression, "The Lord shall see the blood ... and pass over". 'Does God then', he said, 'require a sign? Are not all secrets revealed to Him? The explanation, however, is that only when a thought -- be it good or evil -- is translated into action, does it bring about its due result above, whether for reward or punishment, saving only the intention of idolatry, of which it says, "Take heed to yourselves that your heart be not deceived" (Deut. XI, 16).' As to the significance of the hyssop, R. Jose explained that all the streets and market-places of the Egyptians were filled with idols, and all their houses with implements of magic to link them with lower "crowns", and therefore it was necessary to purge the doors with the hyssop, in order that these powers might be exorcised; and this was done in three places, namely upon the lintel and the two side-posts. THEREFORE THE LORD WILL PASS OVER THE DOOR AND WILL NOT SUFFER THE DESTROYER TO COME IN UNTO YOUR HOUSES, because he will see the design of His Holy Name upon the door. Said R. Judah: 'But if so, why was blood only required, seeing that, as we have been taught, the divine attributes are symbolized by three colours, white, red, and a colour which is between the two and combines both?' R. Jose replied: 'The blood was of two kinds, that of circumcision and that of the Passover lamb, the former symbolizing mercy and the latter justice.' 'Not so,' rejoined R. Judah. 'It is even as we have been taught, that the Holy One made the blood a symbol of mercy, as if there were white in it, and therefore it says: "And when I passed by thee and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee: In thy blood live" (Ezek. XVI, 6). To this end was the door smeared with blood in three places, viz. on two sides and in the middle.' R. Hezekiah, however, held that two kinds of blood appeared on the doors to represent the two "crowns" which were manifested at that moment in the regions above. R. Jose maintained that it was one crown consisting of two sides blended, [36a] viz. mercy and justice. Said R. Abba: 'In how many ways does the Holy One show His loving-kindness to His people! A man builds a house; says the Holy One to him: "Write My Name and put it upon thy door (mezuzah), and thou wilt sit inside thy house and I will sit outside thy door and protect thee!" And here, in connection with the Passover, He says: "You inscribe on your doors the sign of the mystery of My Faith and I shall protect you from the outside!" They inscribed the likeness of the Holy Name in the form of the letter He. As the Holy Name was then turned from Mercy to Judgement, chastisement came into (God's) view at that time. Everything was turned into red, as a symbol of vengeance on Israel's enemy. Esoterically speaking, it is fitting to show below the colour corresponding to the state above, whether mercy or judgement. And as it was then even so shall it be in the future, as it says: "Who is this that cometh from Edom (= Rome), with dyed garments from Bozra?" (Isa. LXIII, 1); for He will clothe Himself entirely in judgement to avenge His people.'
AND NONE OF YOU SHALL GO OUT AT THE DOOR. The reason is found in the dictum of R. Isaac, that, when punishment impends over a place a man should not go out into the open, since, once the Destroyer is given leave, he does harm indiscriminately, and makes no distinction between the righteous and the unrighteous; therefore the people of God should hide themselves lest they be consumed in that vengeance which is the due of the Destroyer. R. Jose said that the same power which exercised judgement on the Egyptians was the agent of mercy to Israel, as it is written: "When I see the blood I will pass over you" (v. 13). For, as we have been taught, all the holy crowns above contain at one and the same time both judgement and mercy. R. Hezekiah drew the same inference from the verse, "And the Lord shall smite Egypt, smiting and healing" (Isa. XIX, 22), i.e. smiting the Egyptians and healing Israel, to wit, from the wound of circumcision, the phrase "the Lord will pass over the door" suggesting the "door" of the body, which is the place of circumcision.
R. Simeon interpreted it in a similar way: at the moment when the night was divided and the Holy Crown (the Sefirah Kether) was moved to unite with the masculine principle which is the supernal Grace -- for they never manifest themselves one without the other -- one smote and the other healed. Also, "the Lord passed over the door": that door which is the opening of spirit and body. That circumcision is of such significance can be seen from Abraham: before he was circumcised he was, as it were, a closed vessel, impervious on all sides, but when he was circumcised, and the sign of the letter yod of the Holy Name was manifested in him, he became open to supernal influences, this being the inner meaning of the words, "he sat at the door of the tent in the heat of the day" (Gen. XVIII, 1), i.e. of the supernal holy Tent. R. Eleazar said that when the yod was manifested he received the glad tidings that Grace was confirmed with Righteousness. R. Abba said it refers to the tenth crown (that of Grace), with which he was then endowed, as indicated by the words "in the heat of the day", namely at the time when Grace predominates. According to another explanation, [36b] the word "pass" here signifies that God passed over the pleadings of the lower crowns, which were connected with certain celestial crowns, and loosened them from their foundations, and did constraint to Himself in order to execute judgement on them and to guard Israel. And so whenever the word "pass" is used of the Almighty, it means "constraining or forcing Himself", whether to exercise mercy or severity. 
AND IT CAME TO PASS THAT AT MIDNIGHT THE LORD SMOTE ALL THE FIRSTBORN IN THE LAND OF EGYPT. R. Hiya and R. Jose were once journeying from Usha to Lydda, the former mounted on an ass. Said R. Jose: 'Let us pause awhile and pray, for the time of the afternoon prayer is at hand and we have been taught particularly never to neglect this prayer. Why so? Because severity is then dominant, and therefore a man should pay special heed to this prayer.' R. Hiya descended and they recited their prayers, after which they continued on their way. As they journeyed, evening drew on, and they saw that the sun was setting. Said R. Hiya: 'Why art thou silent?' R. Jose replied: 'I was reflecting that the condition of mankind depends entirely on their leaders: when these are worthy, the world and all in it prosper, but when they are unworthy, woe to the world and woe to the people!' Said R. Hiya: 'Indeed thou speakest the truth, for it is written, "I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills as sheep that have not a shepherd, and the Lord said, These have no master; let them return every man to his house in peace" (I Kings XXII, 17). Instead of "let them return to" (yashubu) we should expect the text to say "let them stay in" (yeshbu be-) their houses, since they had as yet not left them! The explanation is that, as we have been taught, when the head (in this case, the king of Israel) is unworthy, the people are punished for his guilt, as David expressed it: "Lo, I have sinned ... but these sheep what have they done?" (2 Sam. XXIV, 17); but as "these have no master (because Ahab was punished for his disobedience and killed in the battle) let them return ... in peace". Thus, when the head of the people is punished, the people escape punishment, for then the attribute of Justice can claim no power over them (having already been appeased). And Jehoshaphat also would have been punished for joining Ahab had he not "cried out" (I Kings XXII, 32).'
As they thus proceeded on their journey, night came on. They said: 'What shall we do? Should we go on we shall be lost in the darkness, and to stay here may be dangerous.' So they turned off the road a little way, and sat down under a tree, keeping themselves awake by conversing on Scriptural subjects. At midnight they heard a sound, and lo, a hind passed by, crying loudly. R. Hiya and R. Jose started up, trembling. Then they heard a voice, proclaiming in a loud tone: 'Ye who are awake, arise! Ye who are sleeping, wake! Ye worlds prepare to meet your Lord.' Said R. Hiya: 'It must now be just midnight, and this is the voice that "maketh the hinds to travail" (Ibid.). The esoteric significance of it is as follows. At the hour when the Lord thus shows Himself in the Garden, all the Garden assembles and keeps close to Eden, from whence the stream of life flows forth into numerous channels. The Garden is called "the Bundle of Life", and in it the pious are beatified with the light of the world to come. And at the hour when the Holy One, blessed be He, reveals Himself to these saints, a voice is heard, crying: "Awake, O north wind, come, O thou south, blow upon my garden, may its spices flow out. Let my beloved into his garden come, his pleasant fruit to eat" (S.S. IV, 16). The "pleasant fruit" signifies the sacrifices which are offered to the Holy One out of the soul-essence of the righteous. These offerings take place at midnight.'
After R. Hiya had spoken thus, he and R. Jose sat down. Said R. Jose: 'It has often seemed strange to me that the smiting of the Egyptian firstborn took place at midnight instead of by day, when its wonder would have been manifest to all; also that the firstborn of the "captives in the dungeon and the firstborn of the cattle" (Ex. XII, 29) died, and not the kings, princes, and warriors, as in the case of Sanherib, of whom it is written, "And the angel of the Lord slew in the camp of Assyria, etc." (2 Kings XIX, 35). On that occasion, tradition tells us, the whole camp consisted of kings, princes, and mighty men of war, so that one angel there must have shown [37a] more power than was shown here by God Himself.' Said R. Hiya: 'This is a good question, which I am unable to answer. However, I have heard that R. Simeon ben Yochai is at present "purifying the streets of Tiberias" (cf. Midrash, Gen. R. 170a), therefore let us go to him.' They remained beneath the tree until the morning, and then set forth. When they reached the place where R. Simeon was, they found him sitting deep in study, with an Haggadic book in his hand. He was commenting on the verse: "All nations are before Him as nothing and they are counted to him as less than nothing" (Isa. XL, 17). 'The word "nothing",' he said, 'describes the religion of the pagans, who do not bring the heavenly and the earthly into union and adopt a faith of folly; and they are "counted less than nothing", like chaff blown about by the wind.' He also interpreted the verse: "God created the (eth) heavens and the (eth) earth" (Gen. I, 1), referring the first eth to the Right Hand and the second to the Left Hand; and these two "stand together" (Isa. XLVIII, 13) through the agency of the Crown which is called zoth and which comprises both Mercy and Judgement. Thereupon R. Hiya said: 'Will our master allow us to explain why we have come? It is written: "and it came to pass that at midnight the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt", and from what we have just heard we gather that this verse contains the same idea which you have been expressing, so that we have just come at the right time to consult you.' R. Simeon prefaced his answer with a reference to the verse: "Who is like unto the Lord our God who dwelleth on high, and yet humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven and earth?" (Ps. CXIII, 5), which he expounded thus: '"Who is like unto the Lord our God", who ascends to the highest spheres in order to be crowned with the supernal holy crown, the splendour of which is more resplendent than the glories of all lesser crowns; "and yet he humbleth himself" to descend from crown to crown, that is, from one sphere to another, from one abode of light to another, and each one lower than the last, and all this in order to exercise His providential care for the higher and lower worlds?' He then proceeded: 'Instead of "at midnight" in this passage we should have expected "about (ka-hazi) midnight", which was the phrase actually used by Moses when he predicted the event. Our colleagues, we know, explain that Moses used the word "about", so that, were the event not to occur at the exact second of midnight, the Egyptian astrologers should have no chance of calling him a liar. But this hardly solves the difficulty, for in that case he should not have put the expression in the mouth of the Lord (Ex. XI, 4). Another difficulty is that Moses, when speaking of the death of the firstborn, referred to the "firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill" (v. 5), yet in our verse we read of the "firstborn of the captive that was in the house of the pit". And on top of all comes your question, which is the last straw that breaks the camel's back. The whole subject, however, is explained esoterically among "the reapers of the field", for it contains a supreme mystery, having been proclaimed by the faithful prophet, even Moses, of whom it is written, "Thou art fairer than the children of men; grace is poured into thy lips; therefore God hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness [37b] above thy fellows" (Ps. XLV, 3, 8). "Thou art fairer than the children of men" refers to Seth and Enoch; "grace is put into thy lips" means that Moses was greater than Noah and his sons; "therefore God hath blessed thee" signifies that he was above Abraham and Isaac; "oil of gladness" suggests that Moses was greater than Jacob; and "above thy fellows" that he was above all other prophets. Could a man so great, who ascended to degrees not attained by any other, have spoken with such a lack of precision? The truth, however, is as follows. It is written: "Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke?" (S.S. III, 6). This smoke symbolizes the Crown which is called Zoth (lit. this, i.e. the Sefirah Malkuth -- Kingdom) and "Woman"; as it is written, "This (le-zoth) shall be called woman" (Gen. II, 23). This Crown which is called zoth rules over the middle of the night, so that it is able to be at one and the same moment white to Israel and black to the heathens; and so long as the night is not divided it cannot perform this function, as we learn from the case of Abraham, for whom, as we are told, "the night divided against them" (Gen. XIV, 15). So here, Moses used the expression ka-hazoth, meaning thereby "when the night is divided", knowing that it would not perform its function till then; but the latter expression "in the middle" (lit. half) means "in the second half", which is always the period when this zoth executes judgements. As to the references to the "firstborn behind the mill", and to the "firstborn of the captive and of the cattle", they relate to the three grades of impurity, with all their spirits and powers, higher and lower, with whom Pharaoh, being himself the wiliest of all his magicians, endeavoured to entangle the Israelites so subtly and so inextricably that they should never again be free. Here it was that the power of the Holy One, blessed be He, was revealed: [38a] for He loosened all the bonds of impurity and broke all those "crowns" of magic, that His children might be liberated. Therefore it is written: "Who would not fear thee, O king of nations ... forasmuch as among all the wise men of the nations and in all their kingdoms there is none like unto thee" (Jer. X, 7).'
Having spoken these things, R. Simeon wept, meditating on the greatness of the Lord; then he lifted up his voice, and said: "And so you thought this passage a bundle of contradictions! But verily, the significance of the Exodus is great indeed! For this reason the Holy One, blessed be He, frequently reminds Israel of her deliverance, as when He says: "Who hath brought thee out of the land of Egypt." (Ex. XX, 2). Now, as there are ten crowns above, so likewise there are ten such below; and all are concealed in the three grades, symbolized by "the firstborn of Pharaoh", "the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill", and "the firstborn of the cattle", by means of which Pharaoh sought to keep the Israelites captive for ever. Blessed indeed are ye, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, for whose sake the knots of magic were loosed, because the Holy One, blessed be He, recollected in His mercy and lovingkindness the indissoluble bonds of your faithfulness, as it says: "And the Lord remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob" (Ibid. II, 24.). Festivals, Sabbaths, and all days of moment in Israel have this "remembrance" for their object and basis, therefore the deliverance from Egypt is mentioned in connection with such days. Truly, this "remembrance" is the foundation and root of the whole Torah, the basis of all the commandments and of the real faith of Israel. Now, as to your question why the last act did not take place by day, the fact is that in this connection there is an apparent contradiction, since on the one hand we read, "to-day come ye out" (Ex. XII, 4), and on the other, "The Lord thy God brought thee out of Egypt at night" (Deut. XVI, I). However, it is true that Israel's essential redemption took place at night, because only at night does the Holy One exercise judgement, therefore it was night when the knots of sorcery were loosened and the bonds of darkness rent in twain; yet were they led out by day, before the eyes of the world, that all men might marvel at the works of the Lord; therefore they were freed "with a high hand, in front of all the Egyptians" (Num. XXXIII, 3).'
R. Simeon then ceased, and R. Hiya and R. Jose prostrated themselves before him and kissed his hand, saying, with tears in their eyes: 'Surely not only earthly creatures, but also celestial beings, look out from their abode to catch a sight of thee! The Holy One, blessed be He, built Jerusalem below as a counterpart of the Jerusalem above. He made the walls of the city and the gates thereof holy. None may enter the city unless the gates be opened for him, nor ascend unless the steps of the walls are firm. Who is able to open the gates of the city, who can fix the steps of the walls but R. Simeon ben Yochai? For it is he who opens the gates of the mysteries of wisdom, and fixes the ladder to the higher spheres! It is written, "Three times in the year all thy males shall be seen before the face of the Lord" (Ex. XXII, 17). Who then is this "face of the Lord"? None other than R. Simeon ben Yochai! And as to the reference to the "males" appearing before him, indeed only "the males of the males" (the truly manly, i.e. students of the esoteric lore) may draw near to him.'
R. Simeon continued: 'I have not yet finished answering your questions. You ask why the smiting of the firstborn took place at night. It was because then they were all at home, and not abroad in the fields. Further, tradition tells us that night was as bright as a day in Tamuz, therefore the whole Egyptian people could witness the mighty hand of the Holy One: "the night shined as the day; the darkness was as light" [38b] (Ps. CXXXIX, 13). Nothing so miraculous was witnessed since the creation of the world. 'Come and see,' he said, 'it is written: "It is a night (leyl) of observations unto the Lord for bringing them out from the land of Egypt; this is that night (ha-layla) of the Lord, observations to all the children of Israel" (Ex. XII, 42). Now, why "observations" in plural, and "night" first in the masculine gender (layil), and then in the feminine (layla)? To indicate the union which took place on that night between the Masculine and Feminine aspects in the Divine attributes, and also the same union which will take place in the future Redemption: "As in the days of thy coming out of Egypt will I show unto him marvellous things" (Micah VII, 15).'
R. Hiya and R. Jose sat down and R. Simeon taught them the mysteries connected with the book of Leviticus, and they used to come every day and study with him. One day R. Simeon went out for a walk, and they, following, came upon him in a wood. They all sat down, and R. Simeon began to speak thus: 'It is written: "All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a righteous man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in wickedness" (Eccl. VII, 15). How could Solomon, the wisest among men, have spoken thus? He must have intended some inner meaning, for we see for ourselves that the ways of the Holy One, blessed be He, are not thus, for He "giveth every man according to his ways and according to the fruit of his works" (Jer. XVII, 10). But Solomon hinted here at two things. When the "eyes" of the Holy One "run to and fro through the whole earth" (Zech. IV, 10), and the world is full of sinners, their guilt is visited upon the one righteous of his generation, whereas God is patient with the wicked and waits for their repentance. If they do not repent, they are left without an intercessor, for "the righteous perisheth", i.e. he has been taken away from the world. It is on this account that the Rabbis have warned us to live only in a place which is the abode of men of pious deeds, and woe betide him who fixes his dwelling among the wicked! He will surely be "seized" for their sins! Conversely, when one lives among pious people one shares the reward of their goodness. Rab Hisda may serve as an example. Originally he lived among the Cappadocians, and suffered great poverty (cf. T. B. Shab. 140b) and many grievous ills; but when, after some time, he left those parts and removed to Sepphoris, all went well with him: he benefited both materially and spiritually, and he remarked, "all these blessings have come upon me because I have made my abode among people on whom the Holy One bestows His loving-kindness". There is, however, another explanation of the passage, arising out of another difficulty in the text. How could Solomon say, "All things have I seen in the days of my vanity (hebli)"? Did not Solomon attain to wisdom beyond all his contemporaries (I Kings V, 10, 11)? And did not his seven names -- Solomon, Jedidiah, Agur, Jakeh, Ithiel, Lemuel, Koheleth (cf. Midrash Rabbah, Eccl. I, 2) -- correspond to the [39a] seven supernal grades, the greatest of which is Koheleth, the essence of them all, signifying the supernal Holy Assembly of ten (Sephiroth)? Could he whose names thus symbolize grades of wisdom, and whose three books contain the whole essence of it -- the Song of Songs representing Grace; Koleleth, Judgement; and Proverbs, Mercy -- could such a one as he have said: "In the days of my vanity", and "vanity of vanities"? However, hebel is here to be understood in the literal sense, namely "breath", and conveys a very precious lesson. From the "breath" which issues out of the mouth the voice is formed, and according to the well-known dictum the world is upheld only by the merit of the "breath" of little school children who have not yet tasted sin. Breath is itself a mixture, being composed of air and moisture, and through it the world is carried on. Esoterically speaking, the breath of the little ones becomes "voice", and spreads throughout the whole universe, so that they become the guardians of the world. Solomon inherited this "breath" from his father, and through it he saw with clear vision. Hence he said, "I have seen all things in the days of my breath (hebel)". And what did he see? "The righteous perishing in his righteousness." That is to say, if this breath emanates from the sphere of Judgement, then "a righteous man perisheth in his righteousness"; but when the breath derives from the attribute of Mercy, then it may happen that "there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life". Therefore it says "in the days", and not "in the day", as it all depends on the "when" and the "whence" the "breath" emanates.'
As they thus sat listening to the master's expositions, they suddenly beheld smoke ascending and descending at a little distance, where there was a clearing in the wood. Said R. Simeon: 'The ground has been heated by the light from above, and now this field emits an aroma of all spices, passing sweet. Let us remain here, for the Shekinah is present with us. It is "the smell of the field which the Lord hath blessed" (Gen. XXVII, 27).' Presently he began to comment on this verse and referred to the tradition (cf. Midrash, Rab., Gen., LXV, 18; Zohar, Gen, 142b) that the "precious garments" which emitted a sweet odour when Jacob appeared before Isaac originally belonged to Adam, and in time came into the hands of Nimrod, "the mighty hunter", and finally to Esau, who was also a hunter. 'It has been remarked', he said, 'that these garments were made by the Holy One Himself (Gen. III, 21), by the agency of both Divine Names, YHVH and Elohim, which is more than can be said for heaven and earth, which were created only by Elohim (Gen. I, 1). It is rather difficult to understand how they came to Esau. For in the first place we are told that God made garments for Eye also (Ibid.), and what became of these? And surely Adam and Eve would have been [39b] buried in them and not abandoned such a precious gift. The truth is, however, that no other human being ever wore those garments, which placed Adam and Eve on a par with supernal beings. And as for the "goodly raiment" which Rebekah put upon Jacob (Gen. XXVII, 15), this was royal apparel of silk and gold, which it is usual to keep in perfumes, and this is what Isaac smelt, and he said, "See the smell of my son" (Ibid. 27), because he knew that the smell was so sweet on account of him. How, it may be asked, did Isaac know of "the smell of the field which the Lord hath blessed" (Ibid.)? From two sources, which are essentially the same. It says, "and Isaac went out to meditate in the field" (Gen. XXIV, 63). Why in the field? Did he not have a house or any other place in which to pray? The truth is that that field was actually the very one which Abraham bought from the sons of Heth, that field which was near the cave of Machpelah; and when Isaac passed it the Shekinah was present there and the field emitted holy heavenly aromas, and Isaac, recognizing the Presence, made it a regular place for his prayer. The second fact was that Isaac smelled the myrrh ascending from Mount Moriah. Thus, when Jacob approached him, the Paradisiacal savours brought back to him the recollection of the sweet odour he smelled in that field.
ON THE TENTH DAY OF THIS MONTH THEY SHALL TAKE TO THEM A LAMB. According to R. Abba, the tenth day was chosen because on this day the Jubilee illumines the Moon (i.e. Binah communicates light to Malkuth); for of the Jubilee it is written: "On the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement" (Lev. XXIII, 27). "They shall take a lamb." Why a lamb? Because it symbolized the power of the lowest "crown", which the Holy One broke, the "crown" to which all the other inferior "crowns" cling, forming the unholy triad signified by the phrase, "lambs, menservants, and womenservants", sent by Jacob to Esau, as a sop, as it were, to the evil powers which the latter represented. The Holy One said: "Do ye perform this act of slaughtering the Passover lamb, and I myself will nullify its power above. Do ye let it pass through fire (v. 8) here below, and I shall lead the impure principality which it represents through the fiery Stream." And why was the lamb to be tied up on the tenth day and slaughtered on the fourteenth? Because, according to R. Abba, the four days corresponded to the four hundred years that Israel was subjected to the power of Egypt. And why was the slaughter performed in the evening? Because that is the time when judgement predominates above and below, and also because it was at this time ("between the evenings") that Israel's exiles were foretold [40a] to Abraham, as it is written: "And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abraham, and lo, a horror of great darkness fell upon him" (Gen. XV, 12). "Horror" signifies one supernal "crown" which represents Egypt; "darkness" is a second such, representing Babylon; and "great" refers to the Edomite (Roman) exile, which was to be the hardest of all. Thus it is seen that the Israelites did not go out of Egypt until all the supernal powers and principalities which were Israel's enemies had been brought to nought; but when these things had come to pass the people were freed from their domination and brought under the holy and heavenly sway of the Holy One, blessed be He, and were joined to Him and to Him alone, as it is written: "For unto me the children of Israel are servants; they are my servants whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt" (Lev. XXV, 55). Similarly, R. Simeon interpreted the verse: "Even the first day ye shall put away leaven (hamez) out of your houses, for whosoever eateth leavened bread (mahmezeth), etc." (Ex. XII, 15). Said he: 'Seor, hamez, and mahzmezeth all mean one and the same thing, and are symbols of the same supernal grade, namely the powers appointed to represent all the other nations, which are pagan and enemies of Israel, and are termed variously "evil imagination", "foreign domination", "strange god", and "other gods".' Said God to Israel: 'All these years ye have been subject to an alien power, but now you are free men, you shall put away leaven, etc.' Said R. Judah: 'If so, why is leaven prohibited on these seven days only?' R. Simeon answered: 'This ceremony is only necessary when the Israelite requires to demonstrate the fact of his freedom. If a king raises a man to a high office, the latter will celebrate his elevation by rejoicing and donning costly festive garments for a few days; but subsequently he merely celebrates the anniversary as it comes round. The same is true of Israel: they, too, have each year their season of joy and gladness when they celebrate the high honour which the Holy One, blessed be He, showed them when He brought them out of the power of impurity into the invincible power of His holiness. Therefore it is written, "seven days ye shall eat mazoth (unleavened bread)".' Said R. Simeon further: 'The unleavened bread is called "the bread of poverty" (Deut. XVI, 3), because at that time the moon was not at full strength, the reason being that, although the Israelites were circumcised, the rite had not been completed by "peri' ah", and therefore the seal of the covenant was not revealed in its complete form. But later, when this completion had been achieved -- namely at Marah, where Moses "made for them a statute and an ordinance" (Ex. XV, 25) -- the Holy One spake unto them, saying: "Until now ye have eaten the 'bread of poverty', but from now on your bread shall emanate from a far other region: 'I will rain bread from heaven for you' " (Ibid. XVI, 4). This phrase means literally "from heaven", that is, from the very centre of Grace, and not, as previously, from the blemished "Moon". Therefore the holy Israelites observe as a memorial the anniversary of the days when they came under the wings of the Shekinah, and eat the bread which emanates from Her. And why was the rite not brought to its completion in Egypt? Because the Exodus would then have been delayed until those who had undergone this operation had recovered. [40b] Observe that when the Israelites were about to enter the Holy Land, Moses described it as "a land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness" (Deut. VIII, 9), in contrast to the "bread of misery, of poverty", which was their food in Egypt, when the moon did not derive blessing and light from the sun, when she was not illumined by the Jubilee. And because they did not carry out the peri'ah in Egypt, the unification and harmonization of the Divine attributes was not manifested in its fulness. Why they continued to eat the "bread of poverty" in the land of Israel was in remembrance of Egypt.' R. Simeon also connected the words, "Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement" (Lev. XXIII, 27), with the words, "In the tenth day of this month" (Ex. XII, 3), used in regard to the Passover lamb; for the one "tenth day" is dependent on the other.
 AND THE PEOPLE TOOK THEIR DOUGH BEFORE IT WAS LEAVENED. On the strength of this is founded the precept that the leaven should be burned on the Passover Eve. "Leaven" and "unleaven" symbolize the evil and the good inclinations in man.
It is obligatory for every Israelite to relate the story of the Exodus on the Passover night. He who does so fervently and joyously, telling the tale with a high heart, shall be found worthy to rejoice in the Shekinah in the world to come, for rejoicing brings forth rejoicing; and the joy of Israel causes the Holy One Himself to be glad, so that He calls together all the Family above and says unto them: "Come ye and hearken unto the praises which My children bring unto Me! Behold how they rejoice in My Redemption!" Then all the angels and supernal beings gather round and observe Israel, how she sings and rejoices because of her Lord's own Redemption -- and seeing the rejoicings below, the supernal beings also break into jubilation for that the Holy One possesses on earth a people so holy, whose joy in the Redemption of their Lord is so great and so powerful. For all that terrestrial rejoicing increases the power of the Lord and His hosts in the regions above, just as an earthly king gains strength from the praises of his subjects, the fame of his glory being thus spread throughout the world. [41a] And similarly a man should acknowledge and proclaim any wonder that God has wrought for him. This should he do, not in order that the Omniscient should become aware of all His wonderful acts, since to Him all things of the past, as well as of the future, are already known, but rather in order that the praises may ascend even unto the highest spheres and awaken among the supernal beings a responsive outburst of praise and worshipful delight in the faithfulness of His people and in the invincible greatness of His glory, who is Himself rejoiced at the rejoicings of His people and His heavenly hosts. Conversely, with the confession of sin: the Holy One is aware of all man's sins and needs no reminder thereof; yet, since Satan, the supernal adversary and accuser, continually lies in wait, ever ready to bring man's sins before the Holy One, it is but a natural precaution to hasten on in advance of him, making full confession of one's sins, so that the Accuser, when he comes, may find himself anticipated and left without ground for his denunciations, and so be discouraged and leave his intended victim alone. Then, should the sinner carry out his repentance fully, he will be fully exonerated, and all will be well; and if not, Satan will thus obtain a just opportunity to rise up against the impious one, saying: "Here is a man who has had the audacity to appear before Thee, and yet has rebelled against his Lord!" Therefore man should at all times beware lest he falter in his fealty, and strive ever to be found a faithful servant before the Holy One, blessed be He.
Then follows the command that we should eat unleavened bread during Passover, it being a memorial, throughout the generations, of the true secret of Faith. For, as already stated elsewhere, Israel at that time emerged from the association with idolatry and entered into the mystery of Faith.
THIS IS THE ORDINANCE OF THE PASSOVER: THERE SHALL NO STRANGER EAT THEREOF. This commandment is a memorial of the Passover of Egypt. The lamb had to be kept from the tenth day of the month, because on that date the moon begins to increase her light until the fifteenth day, when she is in her full strength. The lamb was slaughtered on the fourteenth, "between the evenings", namely at an hour when judgement hangs over the world. It signified the removal of the impurity from the holy sign (of the circumcision). Therefore "no uncircumcised person should eat thereof" (v. 48); for this sacrifice was brought by sons of the covenant, in order to break down the power of the "other side", to remove the "foreskin" from the sign of the holy covenant. When the Holy One came to Egypt He saw the blood of the Passover lamb smeared on the door, as well as the blood of the covenant, and the doors purged with hyssop, in order, as has already been explained, that the powers of impurity might be exorcised at the time of the supreme redemption of Israel. This memorial of the past redemption is, however, at the same time a sign and a token of the future Redemption, when the Holy One will "slaughter" the evil inclination once and for all. [41b] And because He killed all the firstborn of the "other side", He ordered that the firstborn of Israel should be redeemed, so that nothing of that "side" should cleave to them. In all things He watched over Israel like a father over his children.
WITH BITTER HERBS THEY SHALL EAT IT ... NEITHER SHALL YE BREAK A BONE THEREOF. The bitter herbs signify the Shekinah's exile with Israel in all their bitter afflictions in Egypt. Why were the bones of the Passover lamb not allowed to be broken? So that the dogs might drag them about and the Egyptians be thus made to realize the nothingness of that which they worshipped, and so be put to shame, and the Holy One be glorified.
SANCTIFY UNTO ME ALL THE FIRSTBORN. The 'am haarez (ordinary man) requires redemption from the power of the evil impulse, which is his lord and master, as Jacob averred when he said: "Let my lord (Esau = evil) pass over before his servant" (Gen. XXXIll, 14). In this world the "evil impulse" is indeed the lord, because of the multitude of sins and evils which attack the body of man; as it has been truly said: "The righteous is judged by the good impulse, the sinner by the evil impulse, and the intermediate, he who is between these two extremes, is judged by both". Thus, he who is of the intermediate sort is a "brother" to the good as well as to the evil impulse, as Esau, the evil one, said to Jacob: "My brother, keep that thou hast unto thyself" (Gen. XXXIII, 9). When, however, there is a preponderance of meritorious works, the spirit breaks down the two "nightwatches of asses and dogs" and he ascends to the morning watch wherein resides man, and becomes master of his animal nature. As for the intermediate person, a war is continually being waged between the principalities of justification and of condemnation to gain control of him; and when the side of condemnation sees that it cannot prevail against him, it tries to make him forget all his Torah, by transferring him into one of the seven regions of forgetfulness. For when a man is about to be born into the world the angel Gabriel wrestles with the dust of which man is formed, and inculcates into the potential man seventy languages, which, however, he retains not when he enters into this world, since the evil impulse wipes them out from his mind, so that the battle between the conflicting principles begins even before the man is born. Before all this, there are four angels which descend with him if he comes of pious stock. One of the four angels will be Michael, in remembrance of Abraham; one Gabriel, in remembrance of Isaac; one Nuriel, in remembrance of Jacob; and one Raphael, in remembrance of Adam; and the good impulse hovers over him. But if he himself is unworthy and possesses no heritage of righteousness to assist him, four powers of evil shall be his companions when he enters into this world, namely, Anger, Destruction, Depravity, and Wrath; and the evil impulse hovers over him to become his judge in the world to come. This explains the aforesaid saying, that, "the wicked is judged by the evil inclination, the righteous by the good, and the intermediate by good and evil mingled". In the case of the last-mentioned, Gabriel, who represents the good impulse, [42a] and Samael, who represents the evil, become his judges. For every man who is compounded of the four elements is accompanied by four angels on his right hand and four on his left, those already named; and from the side of his body Metatron presses close to him at the right and Samael at the left. Now all men are formed of the four elements, but on the order in which these elements are found -- that is, the order of the planets with which each man is connected -- depends the order of the angels who accompany him, and also the potential characteristics of the man. Thus, if his ruling planet be the Lion, Michael will lead, and be followed by Gabriel, and after him Raphael, and lastly Nuriel. If, however, his planet is the Ox, first comes Gabriel, then Michael, then Nuriel, then Raphael. If the Eagle be the planet by which he is influenced, Nuriel will be first, then Michael, followed first by Gabriel and then by Raphael. And should his planet be Man, then will Raphael lead, with Michael, Gabriel and Nuriel coming after in the order named. Now all aspects of Michael are of the attribute of mercy. A man whose leading angel is Michael will be benevolent, he will be pious and wise; but all this applies only if he is a student of the Torah, for if he is not so he will be the very reverse of all this, since he will be formed after the evil inclination; he will be stupid and unfeeling, without benevolence or worth -- for no ignorant man can be truly pious. Should a man be from the side of Gabriel, his attributes will all partake chiefly of the quality of justice: he will stand up courageously against the wicked; he will prevail over his own evil inclinations, will abhor sin and cleave unto all things righteous, and he will become a judge by profession; but again, all this will only come to pass if he study the Torah with diligence and attain proficiency; should he neglect this, he will be as strong in iniquity as otherwise in holiness; he will rejoice in the tribulations of the righteous; he will be hard in his condemnations, bold in evildoing, with no fear of sin; he will have a red face, and will be of the type of Esau -- a blood-shedder. He whose planet is the Eagle possesses neither the attribute of mercy nor that of justice in a marked degree, but is either moderately good or moderately bad, as his good or evil inclination obtains influence over him, as his countenance reveals, red and white being blended therein. He who is under the guidance of the planet Man combines in himself -- in so far as he derives his characteristics from the good side -- all the good qualities: he is wise and pious, strong in intellectual apprehension, sin-fearing, full of excellent virtues; and the colour of his countenance is dark. But if he is governed by the principle of evil, he will be full of bad qualities. Now if a man's evil actions predominate, all the (angelic) hosts of the good prompting will leave him and those of the evil prompting obtain control, and Samael will become completely master of him and ruler over all the members of his body -- Samael and his whole band. On the other hand, should his good actions be plentiful, all his evil concomitants will be removed, and his good inclinations permeate his whole being, so that the powers of holiness may obtain entire sway over him and the holy name YHVH will rule over him. Should he by nature belong to the class of intermediaries, the heavenly hosts will be ranged at his right hand and on his left, the one side accusing and the other defending, and his ultimate salvation or destruction will depend on the relative strength of these conflicting celestial hosts, for whichever wins will claim him, be it for justice or for mercy. Therefore it has been said that man should always imagine that the fate of the whole world depends upon him. Now he who emanates from the side of Michael is called "firstborn". Michael's grade is white silver, and therefore the redemption of the firstborn is silver: five sel 'as, according to the numerical value of the letter he in Abraham. Should such a man be successful in the study of the Torah, then a letter yod is added to him, which symbolizes holiness: for with the numerical value of yod -- namely ten -- the firstborn of cattle had to be redeemed. And when a man shall have reached this degree of holiness, then the words "Israel is holy to the Lord" (Jer. II, 3) can indeed be applied to him. Now all the supernal holy beings (hayoth) are called according to the letters of the Holy Name, as it is written, "Every one that is called by my name, I have created him for my glory, I have formed him, yea, I have made him" (Isa. XLIII, 7). And not only these celestial creatures themselves, but also all lesser creatures created through the instrumentality of these holy beings are stamped with this name in order that it may proclaim Him who created it. The Yod is the symbol of the head of all creatures; the two He's represent the five fingers of the right hand and the left; the Vau is the symbol of the body. Yet God says, "to whom then will ye liken me that I should be equal to him?" (Ibid. XL, 25), which means, "among all created things there is none that could be likened to Me even among the number of those whom I have created in the likeness of the signs of My Name; for I can efface the form and then create newly again and yet again, but there is no god above Me who could efface [42b] My likeness". Should one ask: "Is it not written, Ye saw no manner of similitude?" the answer would be: "Truly we did behold him under a certain similitude, for is it not written, 'and the similitude of the Lord should he (Moses) behold' (Num. XII, 8)?" But only in the similitude which Moses beheld was the Lord revealed, not in any other similitude of any creature formed by His signs. Hence it is written: "To whom then will ye liken God? Or what likeness will ye compare unto him ?" (Isa. XL, 18). Even that "similitude" was a likeness of the Holy One, blessed be He, not in His own place, for that cannot be penetrated, but in the aspect of the King when He shows forth His power to rule over the whole of His creation, appearing, therefore, to each of His creatures according to the capacity of each to comprehend Him, as it is written: "And through the prophets I am represented in similitudes" (Hos. XII, 11). And therefore He says: "Although I represent Myself to you in your own likeness, to whom will ye liken Me that I should be equal to him?" For in the beginning, before shape and form had been created, He was without form and similitude. Therefore it is forbidden to one who apprehends Him as He is before creation to picture Him under any form or shape whatsoever, not even by His letters He and Vau, nor by the whole of His Holy Name, nor by any letter or sign soever. The words, "For ye saw no manner of similitude" thus mean, "Ye saw nothing which could be represented by any form or shape, nothing which ye could present or simulate by any finite conception". But when He had created the form of supernal Man it was to Him as a chariot, and He descended on it, to be known according to the style "YHVH", in order that He might be known by His attributes and perceived in each attribute separately. For this reason He let Himself be called "El, Elohim, Shaddai, Zebaoth, and YHVH", each being a symbol to men of His various Divine attributes, that it may be made manifest that the world is sustained by mercy and by justice, according to the works of men. Had the brightness of the glory of the Holy One, blessed be His Name, not been shed over the whole of His creation, how could He have been perceived even by the wise? He would have remained unapprehendable, and the words "The whole earth is full of his glory" (Isa. VI, 3) could never be spoken with truth. But woe unto the man who should presume to compare the Lord with any attribute, even one which is His own, much less any human created form, "whose foundation is in the dust" (Job IV, 19), and whose products are frail creatures, soon vanishing, soon forgotten. The only conception of the Holy One, blessed be He, which man dare frame is of His sovereignty over some particular attribute or over creation as a whole. And if we perceive Him not under those manifestations, there is left neither attribute, nor similitude, nor form in Him; even as the sea, whose waters have neither form nor tangibility in themselves, but only when they are spread over a certain vessel which is the earth. On the basis of this fact we can calculate thus: The source of the sea is one. A current issues from it with a revolution which is Yod. The source is one and the current makes two. Next it makes a great basin, like a channel dug in the earth, which is filled by the waters which emanate from the source. It is this basin which we know as "Sea": this is the third factor involved. This large basin is split up into seven channels, which are like so many long tubes. Thus the waters are conveyed from the sea into these seven channels. The source, the current, the sea, and the seven channels form together the number ten. Should the master who constructed these tubes come to break them up, then the waters return to their source, and there remains nought but broken vessels, dry, without water. It is thus that the Cause of causes has brought forth the ten Sephiroth, and called the Crown the "Source", an inexhaustible fount of light, wherefore He designates Himself "En-sof", Limitless. He has neither shape nor form, and there is no vessel that could contain Him, no means to comprehend Him. It is in this sense that it has been said, "Search not the things that are too hard for thee, and seek not the thing which is hidden from thee" (Ben Sira, 320-324). Then He formed a vessel, small as the letter Yod, which is filled from Him, and He called it "Wisdom-gushing Fountain", and Himself in virtue of it "wise". Afterwards He made a large vessel and called it "Sea", and designated it "Understanding" (Binah) and Himself in virtue of it "understanding". He is both "wise" and "understanding" in His own essence: for Wisdom does not merit the title by itself, but only through Him who is wise and who has filled it from His "fountain"; and Understanding does not merit the title by itself, but only through Him who filled it from His own essence: if He were to depart from it it would be turned into aridity. In regard to this it is written, "As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up" (Job XIV, 11). Finally, "He smites (the sea) into seven streams" (Isa. XI, 15), i.e. He diverts it into seven precious vessels, and calls them "Greatness", "Strength", "Beauty", "Victory", "Majesty", "Foundation", "Sovereignty"; and Himself He calls "great" in the "Greatness", "strong" in the "Strength", "beauteous" in "Beauty", "victorious" in "Victory"; in "Majesty" He calls His Name "the beauty of our Fashioner" and in "Foundation" "righteous" (cf. Prov. X, 25). In "Foundation" He sustains all things: all vessels and all worlds. [43a] Finally, in "Sovereignty" He calls Himself "King", whose is "the greatness, the strength, the beauty, the victory, the majesty; for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine. Thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all" (I Chr. XXIX, 11). All things are in His power, whether He wills to lessen the number of vessels or to increase the light which springs from them, or whether He wills the contrary. Above Him, however, there is no god who could increase or lessen. Then He created ministering beings to those vessels: one throne supported on four columns and six steps to the throne: ten altogether. And the whole throne is like the chalice of benediction, in regard to which ten things are formulated, in harmony with the Torah which was given in Ten Words (Decalogue), and with the Ten Words by which the world was created. Then He prepared for the throne angelic hierarchies to serve Him: malachim (angels), erelim, seraphim, hayoth (living beings), ophanim, hamshalim, elim, elohim, bene (sons of) elohim, ishim (supernal "men"). To these He appointed as ministers Samael and all his groups -- these are like clouds to ride upon when He descends to earth: they are like horses. That the clouds are called "chariots" is expressed in the words, "Behold the Lord rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt" (Isa. XIX, 1). Thus the Egyptians saw their Chieftain like a horse bearing the chariot of the Holy One, and straightway "the idols of Egypt were moved at His presence, and the heart of Egypt melted in the midst of it" (Ibid.), i.e. they were "moved" from their "faith" in their own Chieftain.
AND EVERY FIRSTLING OF AN ASS THOU SHALT REDEEM WITH A LAMB, AND IF THOU WILT NOT REDEEM IT ... THOU SHALT BREAK HIS NECK. The ass and the lamb symbolize the evil and the good inclinations. The very evil can be turned into good by repentance: the "ass" must be redeemed by a "lamb". In other words, even if a man is an "ass", a spiritual ignoramus, he can be redeemed from the exile of darkness and be included in the redemption of Israel, "the scattered sheep" (Jer. L, 17). But if he does not repent, "thou shalt break his neck", meaning, he belongs to the stiffnecked ones who will be blotted out from the Book of Life, for concerning such unrepentant sinners it is written: "Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book" (Ex. XXII, 33).
AND IT SHALL BE FOR A TOKEN UPON THINE HAND AND FOR FRONTLETS BETWEEN THINE EYES. This commandment has also another significance besides being a Divine ordinance, for the phylacteries are signs and means of sanctification, symbols of the beauty of the supernal colours. It is written: "And thou shalt do that what is right and good." "Right" here indicates the phylactery of the hand, which has to be supplemented by and joined with the phylactery of the forehead. The four Biblical sections (Ex. XIII, 1-10, 11-16; Deut. VI, 4-9, XI, 13-21) are in the head-phylactery in four compartments, but in the hand-phylactery in one, for the latter has nothing of itself but what it receives from above (the head). This mystery is expressed in the words, "all rivers run into the sea" (Eccl. I, 7). And because it draws the influx of Divine light from that which is above, it is called tephillah (entreaty, prayer, the traditional name for phylactery); and because it derives holiness, it is called kedushah, and it also symbolizes "Sovereignty", "Kingdom", the Kingdom of God in its completeness. The symbolism of the four sections has been explained in various places. The first of them (Ex. XIII, 1-10) [43b] is of supreme significance, containing all the four divisions of the supernal light which emanates from Ain (lit. "nothing", the hidden, unapproachable, transcendent). Each word in the verse, "sanctify unto Me all the firstborn" stands for something connected with the Divine attributes: "sanctify" is related to the hidden region of supernal Holiness, the mystery of the Wisdom which comes from above; "unto Me" refers to Binah -- Understanding, the Mystery of the supernal world, the inner Hall -- as it is written, "unto Me are the children of Israel slaves"; "unto Me belongs every firstborn"; "ye shall be unto Me a precious people" -- all these are connected with Binah. "All" signifies Grace: grace above and grace below; "firstborn" has a symbolic reference to "Israel my firstborn" (Ex. IV, 22), who represents all the sides and all the colours. These four words, esoterically considered, contain all the truths which are given in greater detail in the four Scripture sections written on the parchment scrolls of the phylacteries. Thus the first section is a summary of all the four. The second section (Ex. XIII, 11-16), referring, as it does, to the Exodus from Egypt, symbolizes the freedom of the "Jubilee", and represents Dinah. The third section, the Shema, contains the mystery of the right side, called "The Supernal Grace", for it effects the union of all things extending unto the four quarters of the universe; and the Holy One, blessed be He, through the medium of this attribute, brings forth order and harmony in the whole universe, a harmony which extends even to the lowest depths. By this attribute of Grace the Holy One created the world, when He wrapped Himself in the garment of light. This Supernal Grace is the Unifier. For this reason the section of the Shema is joined to that of "And it shall be"; for the act which makes each day a unity and likewise forms the whole sum of separate days into the perfect whole, is the fact of following the Divine Will in knowledge and action; and through this act alone (of concentration on the union during prayer and the recitation of the Shema) can that union of which we have frequently spoken be attained: that is, the union of each day, the union which is expressed in the sentence: "Hear, O Israel, YHVH Elohenu YHVH is one". These three are one. How can the three Names be one? Only through the perception of Faith: in the vision of the Holy Spirit, in the beholding of the hidden eyes alone. The mystery of the audible voice is similar to this, for though it is one yet it consists of three elements -- fire, air, and water, which have, however, become one in the mystery of the voice. Even so it is with the mystery of the threefold Divine manifestations designated by YHVH Elohenu YHVH -- three modes which yet form one unity. This is the significance of the voice which man produces in the act of unification, when his intent is to unify all from the En-sof to the end of creation. This is the daily unification, the secret of which has been revealed in the holy spirit. There are many kinds of unification, and all are appropriate, one involving the other, but the one which is effected on earth by the symbolism of the voice is the most appropriate.
The fourth section (Deut. XI, 13-21) contains the mystery of rigorous Judgement: "Take heed to yourselves that your heart be not deceived" (V. 16). We have already dealt with the symbolism of the relationship of the two phylacteries to one another. The strap that is passed through the head-phylactery ends at the back of the head in a knot representing the letter Daleth (D. in Shaddai), and concerning it it is written: "And thou shalt see My hinder-parts", for all is tied up there in one knot. The strap that is passed through the hand-phylactery is fastened in a knot in the shape of the letter Yod, the sign of the mystery of the holy covenant, to which we have frequently referred. It is all a part of one mystery. Blessed are the Israelites for being made aware of this mystery. It is essential that every man should put on the phylacteries daily, in order that he may achieve the likeness of the supernal Prototype, and then "all the people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of thee" (Deut. XXVIII, 10).
1. Here follows, in the original, an elaboration of the same theme belonging to a later section ("The Book of Concealed Mystery").
2. This explanation is based on the use in Talmudic Hebrew of the expression "'aba,'ar middothav" (lit. passed beyond his usual qualities), to mean "forcing or constraining oneself".
3. From here to the end of the section (p. 43b) is from the Ray'a Mehemna.