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Part 1 - Chapter 5 - Note 37


The portions of the following texts that are the most relevant to the book appear in bold.


Midrash Rabbah - Genesis 10:6

6. The son of Sira said: God caused drugs to spring forth from the earth; with them the physician heals the wound and the apothecary compounds his preparations.7 R. Simon said: There is not a single herb but has a constellation in heaven which strikes it and says, ‘Grow,’8
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(1) E.V. ’service’.
(2) I.e. until one's own disciple can take his place; v. B.B. 116a.
(3) Others: all man's desires are in respect of earthly matters.
(4) I.e. full of labour and trials.
(5) He translates zaba in the last verse quoted ' host’--a host for a man may either mean for his benefit or one fighting against him.
(6) Who at the end of the day must render an account of his work. So man, too, must render an account in the next world for his actions in this.
(7) Cf. Eccl. XXXVIII, 4, 7, 8. This, too, is a comment on zeba'am, which he translates ' their desires ‘, i.e. everything in creation serves a purpose (Mah.).
(8) On mazzal cf. Sanh. (Sonc. ed.), p. 629, n. 10; it is here applied even to plant life.


as it is written, Knowest thou the ordinances of the heavens? Canst thou establish the dominion thereof (mishtaro) in the earth (Job XXXVIII, 33)? Canst thou bind the chains of the Pleiades, or loose the bands on Orion (ib. 31)? R. Hanina b. Papa and R. Simon said: Pleiades binds the fruit and Orion draws it out between knot and knot, as it is written, Canst thou lead forth the constellations (mazaroth) in their season (ib. 32)? R.Tanhum b. R. Hiyya and R. Simon said: [Mazaroth’ connotes] the constellation which ripens (me-mazzer) the fruits.


The ark is the receptacle for the Written Torah, whereas the covenant is the sun that illumines it. The covenant is the “lord of all the earth”; and on its account the ark is also called

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Adon (lord), which is the same as Adonai (the Lord). Observe that stars and planets exist through a covenant which is the firmament of the heaven, in which they are inscribed and engraved.’ R. Yesa the Elder used to explain thus: ‘The words “let there be lights” refer to the moon, which is suspended in the firmament of the heaven. The words “and let them be for lights” indicate the sun. “They shall be for seasons”, because seasons, holydays, new-moons and Sabbaths are determined by them. There are seven planets corresponding to seven firmaments, and by all the world is regulated. The supernal world is above them. There are two worlds, an upper world and a lower world, the lower being on the pattern of the upper. There is a higher king and a lower king. It is written: “The Lord reigneth, the Lord hath reigned, the Lord will reign for evermore”, i.e. “the Lord reigneth” above, “the Lord hath reigned” in the middle, “the Lord will reign” below.’ R. Aha said: ‘”The Lord” refers to the supernal Wisdom; “reigneth”, to the supernal world which is the world to come. “The Lord hath reigned” refers to the “beauty of Israel”; “the Lord will reign” signifies the ark of the covenant. At another time David reversed the order and said, “The Lord is king for ever and ever” (Ps. X, 16), i.e. “the Lord is king”, below, “for ever”, in the middle, “and ever”, above, for there is the reunion and the perfection of all. God “is king” above, and “will reign” below.’ R. Abba said: ‘All those lights are collected in the firmament of the heaven to give light on the earth. What is this firmament that gives light upon the earth? It is, of course, that stream which flows and issues forth from Eden, as it is written, “And a river went forth from Eden to water the garden.” For when the moon is dominant and is illumined by that stream which flows and issues forth, all the lower heavens and their hosts receive increased light, and the stars which have charge of the earth all function and cause plants and trees to grow, and enrich the earth, and even the waters and the fishes of the sea are more productive. Many emissaries of divine justice also traverse the world, because all are in good spirits and full of energy when there is gladness in the king's palace, and even the beings which hover on the outskirts are glad and fly about the world; and therefore it is necessary to take special care of young children.’

AND GOD SET THEM IN THE FIRMAMENT OF THE HEAVEN. R. Aha said: ‘When all of them were there they rejoiced in one another. Then the moon diminished its light in presence of the sun; all the light which it receives from the sun is to shine upon the earth, as it is written, “to give light upon the earth”.’ R. Isaac said: ‘It is written, “The light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun as the light of the seven days” (Is. XXX, 26). These seven days are the seven days of the Creation.’ R. Judah said: ‘They are the seven days of the consecration of the Tabernacle, when the world was restored to its original completeness, and the moon was not impaired by the evil serpent. This will again be at the time when “God shall swallow up death for ever” (Is. XXV, 8), and then “the Lord will be one and his name one”.’

LET THE WATERS SWARM WITH SWARMS OF LIVING CREATURES. R. Eleazar said: ‘These are the lower waters, which brought forth species corresponding to those above, so that there was a lower order and a higher order.’ R. Hiya said: ‘It was the upper waters which brought forth a “living soul”, to wit, the soul of the first man, as it is written, “and the man became a living soul” (Gen. II, 7).’ AND FOWL TO FLY ABOVE THE EARTH. These are the emissaries from the upper world which appear to men in visible shape. For there are others of whose existence man knows only by conjecture.


Observe that ever so many streams and rivers rise out of the Supernal Sea, which in their courses

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divide and subdivide again into many other rivers and streams: and the portion that fell to the side of Egypt were waters swarming with such creatures. For all waters issuing from that sea breed various kinds of fishes, to wit, messengers sent into the world to carry out the will of their Master through the spirit of Wisdom. In regard to this a traditional text tells us that there are waters that breed wise men and other waters that breed foolish men, according to the various rivers that branch off into all sides. Now the Egyptian rivers breed masters of sorcery of various kinds, and of ten degrees, as enumerated in the verse, “one that useth divination, a soothsayer, or a charmer, or one that consulteth a ghost or a familiar spirit, or a necromancer” (Deut. XVIII, 10-11). Here we have ten species of sorcery. And at that time the Holy One, blessed be He, stretched forth His finger and disturbed the brooks and rivers of Egypt so that their fishes of wisdom were confounded: some waters turned into blood, others threw up small fishes of no account upon whom the spirit of sorcery never rested. Then there came upon them the plague called ’arob (lit. mixture, i.e. mixture of various beasts) which allegorically indicates that the Almighty confounded their magical arts so that their practitioners were not able to piece them together. Moreover, that confusion produced a mingling of a perverse and hybrid kind similar to those referred to in the words of Scripture, “thou shalt not sow thy field with two kinds of seed; neither shall there come upon thee a garment of two kinds of stuff mingled together” (Lev. XIX, 19). Many were then the legions that bestirred themselves above, but the Holy One, blessed be He, confounded them altogether; these mighty deeds which the Almighty performed in Egypt were accomplished by the raising of one of his hands against them, both on high and below. It was then that the wisdom of Egypt perished, as Scripture says: “and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid” (Isa. XXIX, 14). Note further the pronouncement: “And I will confuse Egypt with Egypt” (Ibid. XIX, 2), that is to say, celestial Egypt with terrestrial Egypt. For the celestial legions are in charge of the terrestrial ones, and they both were altogether thrown in disorder. They were confused on high so that the Egyptians could not derive inspiration from the celestial sources as formerly. It was with this object that the Almighty brought on them the ’arob, or mixture and confusion, manifested in a mixed horde of beasts that assailed them; as well as the plague of vermin, engendered from the dust of the earth. Observe that whatever is engendered on earth grows through the stimulus of a celestial Chieftain who has charge over it, and that all on earth is shaped after a celestial pattern. There are on high seven firmaments, and seven zones of earth. Correspondingly, in the lower world there are seven graded firmaments and seven zones of earth. These, as the Companions have expounded, are arranged like the rungs of a ladder, rising one above the other, and each zone has ten divisions, so that there are seventy in all. Each one of these is presided over by a Chieftain, and these seventy Chieftains have under their charge the seventy nations of the earth. These seventy earth-divisions, again, border on and surround the Holy Land, as Scripture says: “Behold, it is the couch of Solomon; threescore mighty men are about, of the mighty men of Israel” (S.S. III, 7), there being, in addition to the threescore mentioned, ten concealed among their number. All these surround the Holy Land. This alludes to the upper world, and the same is reproduced in the lower world. Now at that time the Holy One, blessed be He, stretched forth His finger over the zone that was allotted to the Egyptians, and a fiery flame passed through the whole tract and dried up all the alluvial soil, with the result that the dust of the earth generated vermin. It was Aaron that smote the dust, in order to show that the right hand of the Holy One, blessed be He, breaks His enemies, as we read: “Thy right hand, O Lord, dasheth in pieces the enemy” (Ex. xv, 6). The same punishment is destined to be meted out by the Holy One, blessed be He, to Rome the great Metropolis, as it is written: “And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone” (Isa. XXXIV, 9). Thus “all the dust of the earth became vermin throughout all the land of Egypt”.


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If men but knew the wisdom of all that the Holy One, blessed be He, has planted in the earth, and the power of all that is to be found in the world, they would proclaim the power of their Lord in His great wisdom. But the Holy One has purposely hidden this wisdom from men, in order that they should not turn from His way by trusting in that wisdom alone, forgetting Him.” ‘When I afterwards recounted the happenings of that day to R. Simeon, he said: “Surely, that was a wise man! For it is indeed as he said. Mark this! There is no grass or herb that grows in which God's wisdom is not greatly manifested and which cannot exert great influence in heaven. We may see this from the hyssop. Whenever the Holy One desires that men should purify themselves from defilement, he orders that hyssop be used as a means of purification. Now why is this? In order that the power above which is represented by that herb should be roused to exterminate the spirit of impurity, that the defiled one may be cleansed. And as to thee, I say: Blessed be the Merciful One who delivered thee.” ‘ YE HAVE SEEN WHAT I DID UNTO THE EGYPTIANS. AND HOW I BARE YOU ON EAGLES’ WINGS. What do “eagles’ wings” denote? According to R. Judah, the “eagles” are a symbol of mercy, as it says: “As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings, so the Lord...” (Deut. XXXII, 11). As the eagle watches lovingly over its own young, but is cruel towards others, so does the Holy One manifest His loving mercy to Israel and His severe judgement to the heathen nations. R. Simeon found the same indication in the verse: “The way of an eagle in the heavens” (Prov. xxx, 19). R. Eleazar once went from Cappadocia to Lydda, accompanied by R. Jose and R. Hiya. They had risen at sunrise, and as the light appeared, R. Hiya said: ‘I see before me the vision of the prophet, “As for the likeness of their (the Hayoth) faces, they four had the face of a man and the face of a lion, on the right side; and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle” (Ezek. I, 10). Thus the lion is on the right hand, the ox on the left; but what about the eagle?’ R. Eleazar replied: ‘It belongs to the sphere of the “child” (i.e. Mercy), for the eagle combines mercy and cruelty; and so God led Israel with love and dealt sternly with others, and the expression, “the way of an eagle in the heavens” is thus to be taken literally, for love (mercy) is, as it were, in the centre of heaven. Hence the lion is at the right, the ox at the left, and the eagle between, uniting them. As for “man”, he comprises all, as it is written: “And upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it” (Ezek. I, 26).’ AND IT CAME TO PASS ON THE THIRD DAY. R. Abba connected this with the following verse: “We have a little sister, and she hath no breasts; what shall we do to our sister in the day when she will be spoken for?” (S.S. VIII, 8). ‘The “little sister” is the Community of Israel, who is called the Holy One's sister; “she hath no breasts”, i.e. when they approached Mount Sinai she had no merits, no good works to protect her; “what shall we do to our sister?”, when the Holy One shall reveal Himself on Mount Sinai to proclaim the words of the Torah, and her soul will fly away (out of fear).’ Said R. Jose: ‘When the Israelites approached Mount Sinai, on that night which followed the three days during which the people abstained from conjugal intercourse, the heavenly angels came and received them with brotherly affection. For as they are angels above, so are the Israelites angels below; as they sanctify the Supreme Name above, so do the Israelites sanctify it below. And the Israelites were crowned with seventy crowns on that night. Then it was that the angels said: “We have a little sister, and she hath no breasts. What shall we do to our sister? How should we honour her on the day when the Holy One will reveal Himself to give her the Torah?” ‘ R. Simeon said that when the Holy One came to reveal Himself

on Mount Sinai, He called together His whole celestial Family and said to them: “At present the Israelites are like children, they will not know how to deport themselves in My Presence.


Said R. Abba: ‘How mighty are the works of the Holy One, blessed be He, in heaven above and in the earth below! Who can understand it, these two stars emerging from different directions, meeting, and disappearing?’ R. Eleazar replied: ‘And even if we had not seen these two stars, we have yet reflected

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on them, as on many great works which the Holy One, blessed be He, is constantly performing.’ He then went on to discourse on the verse, “Great is our Lord, and of great power; his understanding is without number” (infinite, Ps. CXLVII, 5). ‘Great and strong, and sublime is, indeed, the Holy One’, he said. ‘But did we not always know that the Holy One is great and of infinite power? What honour does David pay to God here? Note, however, that in other psalms he says, “Great is TETRAGRAMMATON” (Ps. CXLV, 3), but here he says, “great is our Lord” (adonenu). Why is this? It is because when he says “Great is TETRAGRAMMATON, and greatly to be praised”, he is referring to the highest grade, while here it is of a lower grade that he speaks: “great is our Lord”, which is parallel to “the Lord (adon) of the whole earth” (Joshua III, 13). What does it say in the preceding verse? “He counts the number of the stars, he calleth them all by their names” (Ps. CXLVII, 4). If all of mankind since the first man were to come together to count the stars, they would not succeed in numbering them, as it is written: “Look now toward heaven and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them” (Gen. xv, 5). But of the Holy One it says: “He counts the number of the stars; he calleth them by their names”. Why is this? Because “Great is our Lord, and of great power; His understanding is without number.” As the stars have no number except to Him, so is His understanding “without number” (absolutely). Mark this also. It is written: “Who bringeth out their host by numbers; he calleth them all by names” (Isa. XL, 26). The Holy One brings out all the hosts, camps, and stars, each one is called by its own name, and “not one faileth” (Ibid.). Over all these stars and constellations of the firmament there have been set chiefs, leaders, and ministers, whose duty is to serve the world each one according to his appointed station. And not the tiniest grass-blade on earth but has its own appointed star in heaven. Each star, too, has over it a being appointed who ministers before the Holy One as its representative, each according to his order. All the stars in the firmaments keep watch over this world: they are appointed to minister to every individual object in this world, to each object a star. Herbs and trees, grass and wild plants, cannot flourish and grow except from the influence of the stars who stand above them and gaze upon them face to face, each according to his fashion. Most of the planets and the starry hosts come out and shine at the commencement of the night, and they remain until three hours less a quarter after midnight. After that only a few appear. And all these stars do not shine and serve in vain. Some of them are busy the whole night long, enabling the plant over which they are appointed to grow and blossom forth. Some there are whose activities last only till midnight, operating on the object of their charge from the commencement of the night until that midnight hour. Others there are whose appointed task is quickly done each night, so soon as they have shown themselves in conjunction with the particular plant or grass which depends upon them. So the appearance of those stars which we observed was not without purpose. As soon as their purpose is fulfilled they are seen no more in this world, but they ascend to their appointed places above. In the Book of the higher Wisdom of the East, it says, speaking of certain stars which form a tail (sceptre) in the firmament, that on the earth there are herbs, of the kind that are called “elixirs of life”, and precious stones, and fine gold, which forms within the breast of high mountains, under shallow water- which are all ruled by those comets by whose influence they grow and increase; it is the glance of that luminous tail which such stars trail after them across the sky that causes those things to flourish. Certain illnesses of men, as jaundice, can be cured through the patient's gazing upon shining steel, which is held before his eyes and rapidly moved from side to side, so that, like a comet's tail, it sends flashes of light into the face, thus healing the disease. Therefore all those objects over which such stars as these are appointed can have no proper development and growth unless the light of the comet actually passes over them, whereby they are enabled to renew their colour

and their energy according to their need.


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[Note: The first 6 lines of the Hebrew text are not found in our translation]

They then rose, and as they went along R. Eleazar cited the verse: THOU SHALT NOT GO UP AND DOWN AS A TALE-BEARER AMONG THY PEOPLE, ETC. All these rules’, he said, ‘have been commented on by the Companions. Let us, however, also give some exposition of this section. It is written: YE SHALL KEEP MY STATUTES. THOU SHALT NOT LET THY CATTLE GENDER WITH A DIVERSE KIND, ETC. It is written: “Ye are my witnesses said the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen” (Isa. XLIII, 10). Israel are called witnesses and the heaven and earth are called witnesses, as it says, “I testify against you heaven and earth” (Deut. xxx, I9). Israel witness against one another and heaven and earth against all. Observe now. When God created the world, He assigned all things to their respective sides, and appointed over them celestial powers, so that there is not even a tiny herb without such a supervisor, [Tr. note: v. Bereshith Rabbah, l0.] and whatever they do is done through the power of that heavenly control, and all are rigidly assigned, and none


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