Last update: May 18, 2003
There are several keys to understanding this chapter, that evolve around the relationships between the Sephirot (especially the lower four of Yesod, Netzach, Hod and and Malkut). One is how the earth and mankind (which are associated with Malkut), receive physical and spiritual sustenance from above, via Yesod. A second key is the function of Netzach and Hod with regard to the Yesod-Malkut connection. A third is how the unification of Malkut to Yesod (and therefore to the remaining Sephirot above) relates to the coming of the Millennial Temple.
1 And there was given to me a reed like to a rod, and the messenger stood, saying, `Rise, and measure the sanctuary of God, and the altar, and those worshipping in it;
The idea of measurement is associated with God's judgment and the left side of the Tree of Life. The Sephirah of Binah (Understanding) sits atop the left side of the Tree of Life and is linked particularly with the heavenly Temple as understood kabbalistically in this verse:
Proverbs 9:1 - Wisdom (Chokmah) has built her house (Temple-Binah), She has hewn out her seven pillars. (The seven lower Sephirot)
The Temple being measured by John is the coming "Third Temple" (re: Ezekiel chapters 40-48) which will have an earthy abode during the Millennial Kingdom, a time of strict judgment, when Messiah "rules with a rod of iron."
Midrash Rabbah - Genesis XCVII - THE SCEPTRE [STAFF] SHALL NOT DEPART FROM JUDAH alludes to the Messiah, son of David, who will chastise the State with a staff, as it says, Thou shalt break them with a rod [staff] of iron (Psalm 2:9).
2 and the court that is without the sanctuary leave out, and thou mayest not measure it, because it was given to the nations, and the holy city they shall tread down forty-two months;
Forty-two is a significant number as has been discussed in various places earlier in this study. (See background file on the Unique Name of God.) The number forty-two is associated with the timing of significant events. For example, there are the forty-two segments of the Israelites journey in the wilderness. This leads to their arrival in the Promised Land, symbolic of what the future holds when they will be permanently brought in at the time of Messiah - a time of unification of above and below.
This is reflected in the Midrash Rabbah:
Midrash Rabbah - The Song of Songs I:41 - MY MOTHER'S SONS, the sons of my nation, namely the spies, WERE INCENSED AGAINST ME: they attacked me, they filled the Judge with wrath against me. THEY MADE ME KEEPER OF THE VINEYARDS: because I stayed in the wilderness journeying forty-two stages, I was not able to enter the land of Israel. Hence, MY OWN VINEYARD I DID NOT KEEP.
Midrash Rabbah - Exodus XXV:5 - The manna descended after [they had traveled] forty-two stages
There are also the forty-two generations between Adam and Yeshua as presented by Matthew. Again, with Messiah on earth in the form of Yeshua, you have the symbolism of unity of above and below:Matthew 1:17 - So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Messiah are fourteen generations.
Returning to the text, in the scenario depicted by John, there are two segments of forty-two months, which combined equal seven years. This seven years is the final shemita week of Daniel's prophecy of the seventy shemita cycles, which have to do with the coming of Messiah.
The distinction between the two sets of forty-two months may be reflected in this verse:
Daniel 9:26b-27 - ... the Leader who hath come doth destroy the people; and its end is with a flood, and till the end is war, determined are desolations. And he hath strengthened a covenant with many -- one week, and in the midst of the week he causeth sacrifice and present to cease, and by the wing of abominations he is making desolate, even till the consummation, and that which is determined is poured on the desolate one.'
The above concept seems to reflect what Yeshua and Paul warned of:
Matthew 24:15-16 - "Therefore when you see the "abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place" (whoever reads, let him understand), "then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 - Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Messiah had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
Thus, it would seem that the two sets of forty-two months represent the following:
- The first forty-two months lead up the anti-Messiah proclaiming himself to be God. (The time of "union" between the counterfeit Tzaddik with his "false bride.")
- The second set of forty-two months lead up the union of the true Tzaddik with His bride and creation of the Temple.
As mentioned in an earlier study, the number forty-two is associated with the idea of the gate to the Holy of Holies of the third Temple, whose measurements are 6 cubits by 7 cubits (6x7=42). This gate comes into fullness when the heavenly groom and bride come together, as will occur with the coming of Messiah.
This union may be viewed in two ways, that being the 7th Sephirah of Malkut (of the lower seven) is joined with either:
- the sixth Sephirot of Yesod, which is viewed kabbalistically as either the groom or the servant that connects her to the groom (Tipheret), or
- the six Sephirot above (Yesod, Hod, Netzach, Tipheret, Gevurah and Hesed), by way of the direction connection between to Yesod. (Recall on the Tree of Life that Malkut's sole coupling to the other Sephirot is through Yesod)
The "unifying of above and below" may be seen in rod of Moses, which acted as a "connecting agent" in the fashion of Yesod. This rod is said to have the name of 42 letters engraved upon it:
Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 9a - And in the Egyptian's hand was a spear like a weaver's beam (I Chr. XI, 23). This alludes to the divine rod which was in Moses hand, and on which there was engraved the divine ineffable Name radiating in various combinations of letters. These same letters were in possession of Bezalel, who was called weaver, and his school, as it is written: Them hath he filled with wisdom of heart... of the craftsman and the skilled workman, and the weaver, etc. (Exod. XXXV, 35). So that rod had engraved on it the ineffable Name on every side, in forty-two various combinations, which were illumined in different colours.
As discussed in earlier studies, this same "connecting rod" is associated with Metatron:
Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 27a - AND THE LORD GOD TOOK THE MAN AND PUT HIM IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN, ETC. From whence did he take him? He took him from the four elements which are hinted at in the verse and from there it parted and became four heads. God detached him from these and placed him in the Garden of Eden. So does God do now to any man created from the four elements when he repents of his sins and occupies himself with the Torah; God takes him from his original elements, as it is said, and from there he parts, i.e. he separates himself from the desires which they inspire, and God places him in his garden, which is the Shekinah, to dress it, by means of positive precepts, and to keep it, by means of negative precepts. If he keeps the law, he makes himself master of the four elements, and becomes a river from which they are watered, and they obey him and he is their ruler. But if he transgresses the law, they are watered from the bitterness of the tree of evil, which is the evil inclination, and all his limbs are full of bitterness; but when the members of the body are kept holy from the side of good, it may be said of them that they came to Marah and were not able to drink waters from Marah, for they were bitter (Ex. XV, 23). Similarly, the study of the Talmud is bitter compared with that of the esoteric wisdom, of which it is said, And God showed him a tree (Ibid.); this is a tree of life, and through it the waters were sweetened. Similarly of Moses it is written, And the staff of God was in his hand. This rod is Metatron, from one side of whom comes life and from the other death. When the rod remains a rod, it is a help from the side of good, and when it is turned into a serpent it is hostile, so that Moses fled from it, and God delivered it into his hand. This rod typifies the Oral Law which prescribes what is permitted and what is forbidden. When Moses struck the rock God took it back from him, and he went down to him with a rod (II Sam. XXXIII, 21), to smite him with it, the rod being the evil inclination, which is a serpent, the cause of the captivity.
Metatron is also associated with the "connecting Sephirah" of Yesod by way of having the same numerical value as the name Shaddai, which is the Name of God associated with that Sephirah:
Metatron = MEM (40), TET (9), TET (9), RESH (200), VAV (6), NUN (50) = 314
Shaddai = SHIN (300), DALET (4), YOD (10) = 314
Recall that the letter Vav, associated with the Tzaddik/Yesod and having the numerical value of six, is written/drawn in the form of a "hook" that joins things together.
Part of the mystical meaning of the vav is rendered as follows:
The internal force of the line is the power to reveal the inherent interinclusion of the various aspects of reality, one in the other, thereby joining them together as an organic whole. This property of the letter vav, in its usage in Hebrew, is referred to as vav hachibur, the vav of connection"--"and." The first vav of the Torah--"In the beginning G-d created the heavens and [vav] the earth"--serves to join spirit and matter, heaven and the earth, throughout Creation.1
The Sephirah of Yesod and its role connecting above and below will be significant in the ensuing verses.
3 and I will give to My two witnesses, and they shall prophesy days, a thousand, two hundred, sixty, arrayed with sackcloth;
Again we see forty-two months (1260 divided by a 30 day month = 42 months) as a specific measure of time associated with both judgment (i.e., "sackcloth") and the coming Temple.
4 these are the two olive [trees], and the two lamp-stands that before the God of the earth do stand;
This verse is an allusion to Zechariah:
Zechariah 4:1-14 - And the angel who talked with me came again, and waked me, like a man who is wakened out of his sleep, And he said to me, What do you see? And I said, I have looked, and behold a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl upon its top, and seven lamps on it, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon its top; And there are two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon its left side. And I answered and spoke to the angel who talked with me, saying, What are these, my lord? Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, Do you not know what these are? And I said, No, my lord. Then he answered and spoke to me, saying, This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of hosts. Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forward its headstone, shouting Grace, grace to it. And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. For who has despised the day of small things? For they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel. These seven are the eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth. Then I answered, and said to him, What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the lampstand and upon its left side? And I answered again, and said to him, What are these two olive branches which are beside the two golden sprouts, from which the golden oil is poured out? And he answered me and said, Do you not know what these are? And I said, No, my lord. And he said, These are the two anointed ones, who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.
When placing the elements of Zechariah and John's visions upon the Tree of Life, the lampstand (Menorah) is representative of the community of Israel and the Shekinah, who are upon the earth.The bowl atop of the Menorah is Yesod, and the Olive Trees (the two witnesses / anointed ones) are Hod and Netzah. The following texts help explain more of what Zechariah and John are referring to.
The "house" ("Beit") is the Temple (associated with Binah - see comments to 11:1 above), which rests upon the lower seven Sephirot (called God's "seven eyes"). All of this is said to rest upon a foundation stone, which is the headstone mentioned by Zechariah:
Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 186a - So Scripture says: Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars (Proverbs 9:1). These in turn are upheld by one grade from among them called the Righteous One (Tzaddik/Yesod), the everlasting foundation (Proverbs 10:25).
Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 231a - R. Jose discoursed on the verse: Whereupon were the foundations thereof fastened ? (Job 38:6). He said: When God created the world, He established it on seven pillars, but upon what those pillars rest no one may know, since it is a recondite and inscrutable mystery. The world did not come into being until God took a certain stone, which is called the foundation stone, and cast it into the abyss so that it held fast there, and from it the world was planted. This is the central point of the universe, and on this point stands the holy of holies. This is the stone referred to in the verses, Who laid the corner-stone thereof (Ibid. 6), the stone of testing, the precious corner-stone (Isaiah 28:16), and the stone that the builders despise became the head of the corner (Psalm 118:22). This stone is compounded of fire, water, and air, and rests on the abyss. Sometimes water flows from it and fills the deep. This stone is set as a sign in the centre of the world. It is referred to in the words, And Jacob took a stone and set it as a pillar (Genesis 31:45). Not that he took this stone, which was created from the beginning, but he established it above and below, by making there a house of God. This stone has on it seven eyes, as it is written, On one stone seven eyes (Zechariah 3:9), and it is called foundation stone, for one thing because the world was planted from it, and for another because God set it as a source of blessing to the world.
The following verses explains how this foundation stone is the "hidden force" behind creation as well as the building of the Tabernacle, which represents (and links) above and below. Note that the union of Yesod and Malkut is said to be symbolized by the Tabernacle:
Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 127a - As to the words great is Thy goodness, these connote the Foundation of the world, as in the verse, great goodness towards the house of Israel (Isaiah. 63:7). This is here said to be hidden, because it has been stored away like the primordial light (which is called good). The verse continues: Which Thou has wrought for those who trust in Thee. Yea, for in this Foundation is the fabrication of the whole, of all the world, of souls and spirits; this is the hidden force behind the creation of the (lower) heaven and earth, and this is also the hidden force behind the building of the Tabernacle, which was erected in the likeness both of the world above and of the world below. This is the significance of the words: that they take me a heave offering: two grades [Tr. Note: Yesod and Malkuth.] become united as one in the Tabernacle which is the emblem of that union.
Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 72a - R. Judah began to expound the verse, And this stone which I have set up for a pillar shall be God's house (Genesis 28:22). That stone, he said, was the foundation stone out of which the world evolved, and on which the Temple was built. The Judean raised his head and said, How is this possible? This foundation stone was created before the world, to be the point from which the world evolved, and yet you say that it is referred to in the verse, and this stone which I have set up for a pillar, which indicates that Jacob put it there, this being the same stone of which it is said, and he took the stone that he had put under his head (Ibid. I8).
The golden bowl seen above the Menorah, is interpreted in one of two ways; a) as a sign Israel is accompanied by the Shekinah in their exile, or b) Israel's redeemer (Yesod):
Midrash Rabbah - Ecclesiastes IV:1 - The Holy One, blessed be He, spake, Since they were under a disability in this world, as regards the Hereafter Zechariah says, " I see that they have seats [of pure gold]," as it is stated, Behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl (gullah) upon the top of it... and two olive-trees by it (Zechariah 4:2 f.). Two teachers differ about the meaning of the world gullah. One said that it signifies captivity (golah), while the other said that it signifies ' redemption ' (ge'ulah). He who said that it signifies captivity refers it to the exile to Babylon and the exile of the Shechinah with them. He who said that it signifies redemption refers it to the Redeemer...
John's text shows us that the two witnesses have an impact on the amount of light that descends from above to the earth. With the absence of God's light comes all sorts of plagues and death. This is a direct function of that aspect of God associated with the Sephirah of Yesod. On the left and right of Yesod, are the Sephirot of Hod and Netzach, which in this case operate via the work of these two anointed ones/witnesses that stand on each side. Yesod is said to "arbitrate" between Hod and Netzach.
These two Sephirah are associated with war on earth and prophecy, and are referred to as "disciples" of God:
Know that these two attributes ... sustain all the heavenly and earthly hosts in the world and are responsible for all the wars of the world ... It is from this place that prophecy is nurtured. 2
Soncino Zohar, Vayikra, Section 3, Page 61a - When the holy oil flows to those two pillars [Tr. note: Nezah and Hod.] that are called the disciples of the Lord, it is gathered in there, and when it issues thence through the grade called Yesod to this lesser Wisdom (Malkut), it is called the tongue of the disciples, and it goes forth to arouse the superior holy saints.
Another aspect of Netzah and Hod, as seen in the phrase, These are the two anointed ones, who stand by the Lord of the whole earth, is that of being the place of counsel alongside God:
Know that these two attributes, Netzach and Hod are the Makom haEytzah (the Place of Counsel) for the heavenly court. The essence of this is, "For YHVH Tzvaot has conferred, so who will retract it?" (Isaiah 14:27) For when God, Blessed be He, decrees from the heavenly court, He confers with these two attributes. Thus it is written: "This is the counsel that has been conferred upon all the land. (Isaiah 14:26) And it is written: For YHVH Tzvaot has conferred, so who will retract it? (Isaiah 14:27) 3
As discussed in earlier studies, the term "mountain" ("Har") often has to do with spiritual forces - either positive in negative. As Zerubbabel is coming against the "great mountain" in Zechariah's text, we know that this mountain is from the evil side, and is indeed THE great mountain, that of Samael/haSatan, that rules over Edom/Rome in the last days.
This is what will continue to hold back the building of Har Tziyon (Mount Zion/Yesod) and the building of the altar on Har Moriyah (Mount Moria/Malkhut) until the time has come for Edom to be punished and receive its revenge. When will this be? When the Harrei Tziyon will wear the garments of vengeance, which are the names YHVH Tzvaot (Netzach) and Elohim Tzvaot (Hod) and then dwell on Har Tziyon. These are the names which are known as Liberators, YHWH, Elohim and Tzvaot, the essence of which is proved in the verse, "And the liberators went up from Har Tziyon to judge Har Esav (the mountain of Esau... Obadiah 1:21) ... this is Amalek, the son of Esau with whom God has to wage war and he is the one who prosecutes against Har Tzi, and he is Samael, Esav's guardian angel who went against the Brit (covenant) of peace (Yesod). 4
Jewish tradition suggests that Moses and Elijah will come at the end and may be the ones to fill these roles of Netzach and Hod in the physical realm.
Regarding the reference in Zechariah to "the day of small things," the Talmud indicates that this has to do with a time of famine, which is reflective of this seven-year period:
Talmud - Mas. Sotah 48b - AND MEN OF FAITH DISAPPEARED. R. Isaac said: These are men who had faith in the Holy One, blessed be He. For it has been taught: R. Eliezer the Great declares: Whoever has a piece of bread in his basket and Says. What shall I eat tomorrow? belongs only to them who are little in faith. And that is what R. Eleazar said: What means that which is written: For who hath despised the day of small things? [It signifies,] What is the cause that the tables of the righteous are despoiled in the Hereafter? The smallness [of faith] which was in them, that they did not trust in the Holy One, blessed be He. Raba said: They are the little ones among the children of the wicked of Israel who despoil the verdict upon their fathers in the Hereafter, Saying before Him, Sovereign of the Universe! Since thou art about to exact punishment of them, why hast Thou blunted their teeth?
(Note from Soncino Talmud: "The above term "blunted their teeth" has to do with causing them suffering in this world by our death in childhood.)
Rabbi Moshe Luzzatto, in his work on this Temple, offers the following insight which connects Gevurah, the Sephirah of judgment, to the Sephirah of Yesod:
All the various chambers, courtyards, and other places, are built by one "builder": this is the ninth light (Yesod - Foundation) called by the sages, "the life of the worlds," since it is the source of life for all. This light is called "a rod," and now indeed it is the "measuring rod," since it included the quality of strict measure in order to set limits to the various buildings and structures that emerge from it. It is really the "linen cord," that signifies the quality of strict measure, for linen is rooted in Gevurah, strength, strict judgment and limitation. 5
Luzzatto's reference is found in the book of Ezekiel:
Ezekiel 40:3 - And he brought me there, and, behold, there was a man, whose appearance was like the appearance of bronze, with a thread of flax ("pishteh" = linen) in his hand, and a measuring reed; and he stood at the gate.
(Refer back to verse 1 regarding the measuring reed.)
Linen is seen as being associated with Gevurah via the breastplate of judgment:
Exodus 28:15 - And you shall make the breastplate of judgment with skilful work; after the work of the ephod you shall make it; of gold, of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, and of fine twined linen, shall you make it.
The Sephirah Yesod is also associated with the name of God known as Shaddai. The Hebrew term "dai" means "enough," again indicating the idea of judgment and measurement.
Another interesting aspect to this vision shared by Zechariah and John is found in the following Midrash that makes both a connection between Zerubbabel and Messiah:
Midrash Rabbah, Genesis XCVII - Again, from the tribe of Judah there came forth Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and it is written, Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah (Hag. II, 2). And it is written, In that day saith the Lord of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, My servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the Lord, and will make thee as a signet; for I have chosen thee (ib. 23); and it is written, The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house (Zech. IV, 9): also, For who hath despised the day of small things (ib. 10)? also, Who art thou, O great mountain before Zerubbabel (ib. 7)? Furthermore, the royal Messiah will be descended from the tribe of Judah, as it says, And it shall come to pass in that day, that the root of Jesse, that standeth for an ensign of the peoples, unto him shall the nations seek (Isa. XI, 10). Thus from the tribe of Judah were descended Solomon, who built the first Temple, and Zerubbabel who built the second Temple; and [from him will be descended] the royal Messiah, who will rebuild the Temple. Thus we find that these two tribes, Judah and Levi, are the most distinguished in their lineage of all Israel, since in them were royalty and priesthood.
Lastly, it should be noted that in John's text he refers to two Menorahs. This seems to reflect the idea of heavenly Israel and earthly Israel:
Soncino Zohar, Vayikra, Section 3 Page 40a - All the life of this world that they inherit is derived from the World-to-come, because that is life both above and below, and the place where the treasured wine commences, and from which life and holiness issue. And Israel use wine on account of the wine of another Israel, for the supernal Israel derives life therefrom, and therefore they bless the Holy One with wine. Hence, when the idolater, who is unclean and defiles anyone who associates with him, touches the wine of Israel it becomes unclean and is forbidden; all the more the wine which he himself makes. All the practices of Israel are on the supernal pattern, and especially their offering of wine, which holds a very high rank, like the treasured wine. Hence Israel drink the wine of Israel which has been made in holiness, as is fitting, just as the Israel above drinks of that holy wine, and they do not drink wine which has been made in defilement and from the side of defilement, for the spirit of uncleanness rests on it, and if one drinks it his spirit is defiled and he is not of the side of Israel and has no share in the World-to-come, which is the treasured wine.
Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2,Page 65b - AND MOSES SAID UNTO JOSHUA, CHOOSE US OUT MEN, AND GO OUT, FIGHT WITH AMALEK. Why did Moses abstain from fighting the first battle which God Himself commanded? Because he was able to divine the true meaning of his Master's command. Hence he said: I will prepare myself for the war above, and thou, Joshua, prepare thyself for the war below. This is the meaning of the words: When Moses lifted up his hand, Israel prevailed (Ibid. v, 11), namely Israel above. Therefore Moses did not participate in the war on earth, so that he might throw himself with greater zeal into the war in Heaven, and thus promote victory on earth. Said R. Simeon: Let us not think lightly of this war with Amalek. Verily, from the creation of the world until then, and since then till the coming of the Messiah, there has been and will be no war like that, nor can even the war of Gog and Magog be compared with it; and this not because of the mighty armies taking part in it, but because it was launched against all the attributes of the Holy One, blessed be He.
Soncino Zohar, Bemidbar, Section 3, Page 185a - Woe is thee, Moab; he that was thy shield has been crushed. Seeing this, Moab was sore afraid of the people-more than of death, because they saw that Israel prevailed above and below, over their Chieftains and Rulers above, and over their chieftains and rulers below. Israel, in fact, was the great one, the elder and the holy one, and not Esau.
Talmud - Mas. Ta'anith 5a - The Holy One, blessed be He, said, I will not enter the heavenly Jerusalem until I can enter the earthly Jerusalem. Is there then a heavenly Jerusalem?-Yes; for it is written, Jerusalem thou art builded as a city that is compact together.
5 and if any one may will to injure them, fire doth proceed out of their mouth, and doth devour their enemies, and if any one may will to injure them, thus it behoveth him to be killed.
6 These have authority to shut the heaven, that it may not rain rain in the days of their prophecy, and authority they have over the waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the land with every plague, as often as they may will.
The turning of waters to blood is of course a repetition of Moses' actions in Egypt, which (as discussed above) involved the use of his rod, which is associated with Yesod, El Shaddai and Metatron.)
As mentioned, "rain" is an allusion to both spiritual and physical provision. Here we see a connection between the appearance and prophecy of these two witnesses and a lack of such heavenly provision as discussed above.
In our notes to Revelation 6:6, we discussed how the Talmud teaches that during the seven year tribulation, "rain" will become scarce (and thus God's blessings are withheld from the earth):
Sanhedrin 97a -The rabbis taught: The seven-year cycle during which Moshiach will come, in the first year, the verse, "I caused it to rain on one city, but on another city, I did not cause it to rain" (Amos 4:7). In the second year, slight famine (Rashi: a slight famine so that no place will be completely satisfied). In the third year, the famine will be great, and men, women, children, pious people, and men of good deeds will die; Torah will be forgotten by those who learned it. In the fourth year, some will be satiated while others will not, but in the fifth year there will be plenty and people will eat, drink, and be joyous, and Torah will return to those who learned it. In the sixth year, there will be voices ... In the seventh year, there will be war.
The lack of "rain" resulting in famine (spiritual and physical) on earth is caused by the "break" between Malkut/Shekinah below and Yesod/Shaddai above. This may be understood kaballistically as follows:
... the primary place for the Shechinah is on earth, as alluded to: "And the earth is my footstool." (Isaiah 66:1), and when the Shekinah receives nurture from the blessings above she is called mikveh hamayim (pool of water) and when she does not receive her blessings she is called yabashah (dry land).6
As mentioned, all blessing that flows from above to below must pass through the Sephirah of Yesod, which is linked to El Shaddai:
This attribute (Yesod) is sometimes known as El Shaday. The reason is that this attribute brings the power, the fulfillment, the everflow, and the emanations into the name Adonai (Malkut), until it says "That is enough" ("Shedy") ... the essential principle to be learned is that the attribute El Shaday gives sustenance to all creatures and sends forth the blessings ... This attribute (Yesod/Shaddai) is responsible for the prevention of tribulation in the world, therefore Jacob our father, peace be with him, prayed to El Shaday. This attribute is also referred to as makor mayim chayyim (the fountain of living waters).7
Yesod/Shaddai thus determines whether God's blessings flow or are withheld, in the latter case resulting in evil and death becoming greater throughout Malkut/earth:
... the one who distances himself from this attribute will be confronted with death and evil. The construct of good is mirrored by the identical construct of evil to which the verse in Ecclesiastes alludes: So in times of good fortune enjoy the good fortune; and in times of misfortune reflect; the one no less than the other was God's doing. (Ecclesiastes 7:14). This attribute is called Yesod, for just as a house rests on its foundations (Yesodot) so does Adonay (Malkut) rest on the attribute of Yesod. 8
... Tzadik (Yesod) stands as an overseer over humanity and when he sees them involved in Torah study and mitzvot (good deeds) yearning to purify themselves while behaving in purity and cleanliness, then the attribute Tzadik spreads and broadens filling itself with a vast array of everflow and energy from above in order to empty it into the attribute Adonay (Malkut/earth), which gives great reward to those who cleave to the Torah and the commandments, purifying themselves. ... If, heaven forbid, humanity defiles itself, distancing itself from the Torah and the commandments, choosing instead iniquity, wickedness and deceit, the attribute Tzadik stands, observing their deeds. When it sees humanity defiling itself, disdaining the Torah and its commandments while performing iniquities and deceits, the attribute Tzadik collects itself and soars far above, thereby ceasing the ebb and flow of the channels. Then the attribute Adonai (Malkut/earth) is left like a barren land, desolate and empty of all that is good. This is the essence of the verse: "... Because of evil, the Tzadik was taken away." (Isaiah 57:1) 9
The above idea may shed light on a very mysterious verse from the "New Testament":
2 Thessalonians 2:7 - For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work, but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so until he is taken out of the way.
If Tzadik/Yesod so withdraws, the result is devastating. Malkut/Shekinah then:
... draws from external elements known as ra choleh (evil sickness) which contains all kinds of destructive forces and sufferings, These, in turn, are sent into the world to all living creatures, each according to how he is judged. Thus the world becomes filled with plagues and afflictions. 10
7 `And when they may finish their testimony, the beast that is coming up out of the abyss shall make war with them, and overcome them, and kill them,
This is the first mention of a spiritual "beast" in a negative sense. The entry of this beast into physical realm from out of the abyss is a direct result of the unrighteousness of mankind:
Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 269a - THEN THE CLOUD COVERED THE TENT OF MEETING, whereby the Shekinah dwelt on the earth, and the unclean spirit, designated end of all flesh, passed out of the world and disappeared into the cavern of the great abyss. The Holy Spirit had thus sole sway over the world, as Scripture says: Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting. It is further written: AND MOSES WAS NOT ABLE TO ENTER INTO THE TENT OF MEETING, BECAUSE THE CLOUD ABODE THEREON, in other words, because the Holy Spirit hovered over the world and the unclean spirit passed out. The wicked, however, draw him again into the world, and if not for them he would completely disappear. But in the days to come the Holy One, blessed be He, will cause him to pass completely out of the world, as Scripture says: He will swallow up death for ever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the reproach of his people will he take away from off all the earth; for the Lord hath spoken it (Isa. xxv, 8); also, and (I will cause) the unclean spirit to pass out of the land (Zech. XIII, 3).
8 and their dead bodies [are] upon the broad-place of the great city (that is called spiritually Sodom, and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified,)
The "broad place" is an allusion to the Temple Mount. The text gives a negative connotation to Jerusalem in light of the lack of Torah emanating from there. However, as with the Tzadik who falls only to rise to greater heights than before (see background study on Messiah as Tzadik), so does Jerusalem "fall" spiritually at the end of days only to reach a far greater glory in the Millennium:
Isaiah 2:3 - And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
The above verse is yet another allusion to the unification of Yesod (Zion) and Malkut (Jerusalem.)
9 and they shall behold -- they of the peoples, and tribes, and tongues, and nations -- their dead bodies three days and a half, and their dead bodies they shall not suffer to be put into tombs,
The "three and half days" mirrors the idea of the 42 months (three and a half years), both being "a half of seven."
10 and those dwelling upon the land shall rejoice over them, and shall make merry, and gifts they shall send to one another, because these -- the two prophets -- did torment those dwelling upon the land.'
This stubborn refusal to heed the truth provokes God to lessen His mercy. As mentioned by Paul (in a passage related to the very last days of the anti-Messiah), when people reach this point, God will even "give them the rope with which they can hang themselves":
2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 - And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
11 And after the three days and a half, a spirit of life from God did enter into them, and they stood upon their feet, and great fear fell upon those beholding them,
12 and they heard a great voice out of the heaven saying to them, `Come up hither;' and they went up to the heaven in the cloud, and their enemies beheld them;
The "voice out of the heaven" is called the Bat Kol (literally "daughter of a voice") in Hebraic literature and is associated with determining who is worthy of ascending into the heavenly clouds:
Talmud - Mas. Chagigah 14b - Moreover, in my dream, I and ye were reclining on Mount Sinai, when a Bath Kol was sent to us, [saying]: Ascend hither, ascend hither! [Here are] great banqueting chambers, and fine dining couches prepared for you;
Talmud - Mas. Chagigah 13a - A Bath Kol went forth and said to him: O wicked man, son of a wicked man, grandson of Nimrod, the wicked, who stirred the whole world to rebellion against Me by his rule. How many are the years of man? Seventy, for it is said: The days of our years are threescore years and ten, or even by reason of strength fourscore years. But the distance from the earth to the firmament is a journey of five hundred years, and the thickness of the firmament is a journey of five hundred years, and likewise [the distance] between one firmament and the other. Above them are the holy living creatures: the feet of the living creatures are equal to all of them [together]; the ankles of the living creatures are equal to all of them; the legs of the living creatures are equal to all of them; the knees of the living creatures are equal to all of them; the thighs of the living creatures are equal to all of them; the bodies of the living creatures are equal to all of them; the necks of the living creatures are equal to all of them; the heads of the living creatures are equal to all of them; the horns of the living creatures are equal to all of them. Above them is the throne of glory; the feet of the throne of glory are equal to all of them; the throne of glory is equal to all of them. The King, the Living and Eternal God, High and Exalted, dwelleth above them. Yet thou didst say, I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High! Nay , thou shalt be brought down to the nether-world, to the uttermost parts of the pit.
This is similar to a passage regarding Yeshua after His resurrection:
Acts 1:9-11 - And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Yeshua, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.
The heavenly clouds are associated with the Shekinah:
Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 176b - Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant (S. S. III, 6). When Israel, he said, were journeying in the wilderness, the Shekinah went in front of them, as it is written: And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light (Ex. XIII, 22). They on their side followed its guidance; wherefore it is written: Thus saith the Lord: I remember thee the affection of thy youth, the love of thine espousals; how thou wentest after me in the wilderness, etc. (Jer. II, 2). The Shekinah was accompanied by all the clouds of glory, and when it journeyed the Israelites took up their march, as it says: And whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tent, then after that the children of Israel journeyed, etc. (Num. IX, 17). And when the Shekinah ascended, the cloud also ascended on high, so that all men looked up and asked: Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke?
Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 51b - AND THE PILLAR OF THE CLOUD REMOVED FROM BEFORE THEM AND STOOD BEHIND THEM. What was this pillar of cloud? R. Jose said that it was the cloud which is always seen with the Shekinah, the cloud into which Moses entered (Ex. XXIV, 18). R. Abba said that it was that which supports the Zaddik, coming from the side of Grace (Hesed), wherefore it went by day, while there was another cloud which went by night and was called pillar of fire. R. Simeon said that the pillar of cloud by day represented Abraham (Mercy), and the pillar of fire by night, Isaac (Severity), both attributes being united in the Shekinah, through the agency of the grade mentioned by R. Abba.
Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 143b - the Song of Songs represents the Cup of Blessing when tendered by the Right Hand, and therefore all love and joy is found therein, as in no other song in the world. Therefore was this song aroused from the side of the Patriarchs.On the day when this song was revealed the Shekinah descended to earth, as it is written, And the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud. Why? Because the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord (I Kings VIII, 11)
The Shekinah is associated with the abode of souls following death:
Soncino Zohar, Vayikra, Section 3, Page 53a - R. Eleazar said: When a man is on the point of leaving this world, his soul suffers many chastisements along with his body before they separate. Nor does the soul actually leave him until the Shekinah shows herself to him, and then the soul goes out in joy and love to meet the Shekinah. If he is righteous, he cleaves and attaches himself to her.
Soncino Zohar, Bemidbar, Section 3, Page 152b - IF ANY MAN (lit. a man, a man) OF YOU... SHALL BE UNCLEAN, ETC. What signifies the repetition of the term a man? It signifies a man who is a man, that is, who is otherwise worthy of the name man, and fit to receive the supernal soul, but who has allowed himself to be blemished and defiled so that the Shekinah cannot abide with him.
13 and in that hour came a great earthquake, and the tenth of the city did fall, and killed in the earthquake were names of men -- seven thousands, and the rest became affrighted, and they gave glory to the God of the heaven.
Earthquakes are associated with Netzach and Hod via the "Hosts" (Tzvaot) of heaven (YHVH Tzvaot and Elohim Tzvaot):
Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 231a - This covenant is the secret of faith. Or we may interpret the chosen one of the Zaddik from whom issue blessings to all the lower creation, all the holy Hayyoth being blessed from the stream which flows forth to the lower world. I have sworn unto David my servant, to wit, that he will always be established in this Zaddik, the foundation of the world, save in the time of galuth, when the flow of blessing is cut off, and faith is defective, and all joy is banished. During this period, at nightfall, joy no longer enters before the King. Yet, though rejoicings do not enter, angels stand outside and chant hymns, and at midnight when the impulse from below arrives on high, God arouses all the hosts of the heaven for lamentation and strikes the firmament, causing upper and lower worlds to quake; nor is there any respite save when those below commence to study the Torah. Then God and all those with Him listen with joy to that voice, and relief is felt. For on the day on which the Sanctuary below was destroyed, God swore that He would not enter the celestial Jerusalem until Israel should enter the earthly Jerusalem. Now all those singers stand outside and chant hymns in the three watches of the night and intone praises, and all the hosts of the heavens sing at night and Israel by day, nor is the sanctification recited above until it is recited by Israel below, and only then do all the hosts of heaven sanctify the holy name together. Hence, Israel are holy and are sanctified by upper and lower angels, since the sanctification of the holy name is complete only when uttered above and below together.
The earthquake comes subsequent to the death of the witnesses in a similar fashion to another:
Matthew 27:51-53 - Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.
The above verse from Matthew offers a parallel to verses 13-19 in this text. In Matthew we have the veil of the Temple being torn, an earthquake and resurrection. John's text shows an earthquake in verse 13, reward (resurrection) in verse 18 and the opening of the heavenly Holy of Holies in verse 19.
14 The second wo did go forth, lo, the third wo doth come quickly.
15 And the seventh messenger did sound, and there came great voices in the heaven, saying, `The kingdoms of the world did become [those] of our Lord and of His Messiah, and he shall reign to the ages of the ages!'
This would seem to end the sixth "trumpet judgment." With the arrival of the "seventh" comes an aspect of unity with the six before (union or Malkut and Yesod) and coming of the Kingdom.
As with the first series of judgments, the seventh in this series gives indication of an aspect of "completion" (primarily affecting Yetzirah) as well as introducing the next, and final, series of judgments (primarily affecting Asiyyah).
The following lengthy section from the Zohar paints elaborate picture of this time:
Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 135b - In the prayer before the entrance of the Sabbath the Throne of Glory is prepared for the Holy Heavenly King. And when the Sabbath arrives the Shekinah is in perfect union with Him and is separated from the other side, and all the potencies of severe judgement are severed from Her, She being in closest union with the Holy Light and crowned with many crowns by the Holy King, and all the principalities of severity and all the lords of judgement flee from Her, and no other domination reigns in any of the worlds, and her countenance is illumined by the supernal light, and she is crowned here below by the Holy People, all of whom are invested with new souls. Then is the time for the commencement of prayer, when the worshippers bless Her with joy and gladness, saying, Bless ye the Lord, the Blessed One! (the beginning proper of the Sabbath Eve prayer). For the holy people cannot be allowed at this moment to begin with a verse that suggests judgement, as on weekdays, when Bless ye is preceded by And He being merciful, forgiveth iniquity and destroyeth not, because the Shekinah is then entirely severed from the mystery of the other side and all the lords of judgement have separated themselves and passed away from Her, and he who rouses judgement in the lower spheres causes vibrations of doom and severity also in the celestial regions, and while this disturbing element is in evidence the Holy Throne cannot crown itself with the crown of holiness. Then the lords of judgement who have severed themselves for the time being from the rest of creation, hiding themselves away from all eyes in a deep and secret recess at the bottom of the sea, are roused to return to the celestial habitations, and they come back with violence and fury, so that the Holy Sphere, which requires above all rest and peace for the entrance of the Sabbath, is hard pressed by these potencies of judgement. So it is evident that we should not imagine that She (the Shekinah) is independent of our rousings, for there is no vibration above of any sort but is caused by those which take place in the midst of Israel below, as we have already pointed out in connection with the expression in the time appointed, on our solemn feast day; it is not merely a feast day, but our feast day; that is to say, we effect a movement in the higher spheres by our prayers. Therefore the holy people, who are crowned with holy crowns of souls in order to awaken rest and peace above, may not order judgement there, but, on the contrary, must all consciously and with exceeding great love awaken blessings both above and below. The congregation respond: Blessed is the Lord who is blessed for ever and ever. The expression who is blessed indicates the streaming of blessings from the source of life to the place whence issue nourishment and bounty for all creatures. And why do we call this source blessed? Because it sustains and waters olam va'ed (lit. for ever and ever), which is the Sabbath eve. In this way blessings are transmitted to this olam va'ed from the highest world, so that it attains its full perfection. Thus in this benediction, blessed represents the ultimate source whence all blessings emanate ; [Tr. note: Hohmah.] the Lord is the centre[Tr. note: Tifereth.] of all the supernal sides; who is blessed represents the peace of the house, the fountain of the cistern, [Tr. note: Yesod]. providing completion and nourishment for all, while for ever and ever refers to the world below, [Tr. note: Malkuth.] which needs these blessings: the good oil of blessed, the Lord, and the Blessed One is all for this olam va'ed. Therefore the whole congregation has to recite this every day; but on Sabbath eve it must be recited with special devotion and gladness, in order that the Sabbath may be fitly blessed by the holy people. When they begin to recite this benediction a voice is heard in all the heavens that are sanctified by the entrance of the Sabbath: Blessed are ye, holy people, for that ye bless and sanctify on earth below, that thereby many supernal holy hosts may be blessed and sanctified above. Blessed are they in this world and blessed are they in the world to come. The Israelites do not recite this benediction until they are crowned with the crowns of holy souls, as we have said before. Blessed is the people who is worthy of them in this world, so that it may merit them in the world to come. This, to the pious, is the night of conjugal unions, when they are thus crowned with new souls and new additional holy spirits, for, being in a state of supernal holy tranquillity, they may then beget holy children.
16 and the twenty and four elders, who before God are sitting upon their thrones, did fall upon their faces, and did bow before God,
17 saying, `We give thanks to Thee, O Lord God, the Almighty, who art, and who wast, and who art coming, because Thou hast taken Thy great power and didst reign;
18 and the nations were angry, and Thine anger did come, and the time of the dead, to be judged, and to give the reward to Thy servants, to the prophets, and to the saints, and to those fearing Thy name, to the small and to the great, and to destroy those who are destroying the land.'
With people turning away from God's Torah (and "destroying the land"), there is a withdrawal of God's light (i.e., nothing passes through Yesod to Malkut) and all sorts of evil and death befalls mankind (Malkut/Shekinah becomes attached to the evil side to a full degree. See previous discussions on this concept in the background notes.)
Note that "the Lord God Almighty" (Yesod) is responsible for the rewarding the righteous as well as the destruction of the unrighteous as discussed above in verse 4. The God names "El Hai" and "Shaddai" are associated with Yesod on the Tree of Life, as is the location of the Ark in the heavenlies. This theme will be developed in the next chapter.
19 And opened was the sanctuary of God in the heaven, and there was seen the ark of His covenant in His sanctuary, and there did come lightnings, and voices, and thunders, and an earthquake, and great hail.
This last verse would be more properly placed as the beginning of the next chapter, where we shall comment on it.
1. The Mystical Significance of the Hebrew Letters, Vav - Connection, Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, http://www.inner.org/HEBLETER/vav.htm
2. Gates of Light (Sha'are Orah), by Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla, translated by Avi Weinstein, Altamira Press, London, 1994, p. 119.
3. ibid, pp. 138-139.
4. ibid, pp. 96-97.
5. Secrets of the Future Temple (Mishkney Elyon), Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, The Temple Institute, Jerusalem, 1999, p. 70.
6. Gates of Light (Sha'are Orah), by Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla, translated by Avi Weinstein, Altamira Press, London, 1994, p. 37.
7. ibid, pp. 57-58.
8. ibid, p. 59.
9. ibid. pp. 61-62.
10. ibid. p. 65.
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