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Part 1 - Chapter 1 - Note 5

The word “TETRAGRAMMATON” which appears in this text is the four letter name of God: YHVH -yhvh.gif (1569 bytes)

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Raya Mehemna, Page 42b (2:42b)

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 “TETRAGRAMMATON”, 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 TETRAGRAMMATON”, 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, I9), 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. Xl, 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.

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