1c ... and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father's name written on their foreheads.
Verse 14:1 gives the impression that the presense of the Lord becomes "closer" as events draw to their conclusion on earth - i.e., the "Lamb" has "moved" from the Throne (Beriah) to Mount Zion (Yetzirah) - and eventually makes it to Asiyyah - the physical realm. The idea of the Divine Presence being "nearer" to us at certain times is fundamentel. We will briefly address this concept before continuing with the rest of the verse.
"GOD IS NEAR"
Judaism teaches that there are times when "God is near" and at the other end of the spectrum, when the "evil realm" (the "Sitra Ahra") is allowed by God to have greater influence.1 These "cycles" of good and evil are found within each day, week, month, year and throughout history.
Another time to "be cautious of" is when transitioning from the mudane into the holy - i.e., the hours of Erev Shabbat (the afternoon heading into sunset on Friday) are often very hectic and stressful. (The word "erev" having the connotation of "mixture" -- as in the "Erev Rav," the mixed multitude that caused a lot of problems during the Exodus.) This can also be seen on a grand historical scheme where the six weekdays followed by Shabbat are compared to six thousand years of human history followed by a 1,000 year Messianic reign. In this case the time of transition is also quite turbulent - the "birthpangs of Messiah," preceding his coming, bring great judgment upon the earth.
Conversely, coming out of the holy, back into the mundane, is also a time of vunerability. A prime example of this is after a woman gives birth. The Torah gave certain instructions regarding this, as a woman is going from a "godlike" status ("creating life") back to her "regular" state.
One especially important time when God is said to be "near" is during the Days of Awe, between Rosh haShana and Yom Kippur. (The above verse from Isaiah 55:6 is often cited as applying to Rosh haShana). As mentioned in an earlier portion of this study, there is a relationship between this annual period (in terms of days) and the end-time events depicted in Revelation (in terms of years).
Earlier in John's vision, the "Lamb" was seen "amidst the throne," indicating the World of Beriah. At this juncture, the Lamb has "descended" to Yetzirah. Later, we see the Lamb in the physical realm of Asiyyah, as victor over the armies opposed to God and Light to those who follow God.
It is interesting to consider that the presence of Messiah in fact becomes "nearer" as things seem to get "darker" in the last days. This has to do with the fact that the "descent" of the Lamb is parallel to that of haSatan who was/is driven from the heavenly realm of Beriah into the mixed realm of Yetzirah and finally "down to the earth" in Assiyah.
Both Messiah and his evil counterpart - haSatan - must reach their "maximum potential" for the redemption to come. Both end up in physical form and both make a presence related to the Temple.2
The Torah commentary, Kli Yahar, depicts such a "mutual rise in power" (in relation to Pharaoh strengthening himself against God) as follows:
The messianic text, Kol Hator, frames this around the ingathering of the exiles:
The kabbalistic classic, Sha'are Orah, offers the following:
The antagonistic relationship between the Holy and "dark" realms is centered around the Sefirah of Yesod (as might be expected!). As mentioned in earlier studies, haSatan's final bid to mislead mankind comes in the form of the anti-messiah, the false tzaddik - who places himself at the level of Yesod, thereby cutting off the blessings of God (via the upper Sefirot through Yesod to Malkut - i.e., the earth).
Regarding Esau, we find that he came against the Covenant (Brit) which is a partzufim of the Sefirah of Yesod.
Again we cite from Sha'are Orah:
As mentioned before, peace (shalom) is a very deep concept and is also centered around the Sefirah of Yesod.
Samael comes against this Brit of Shalom in many ways (i.e., "doubt" through the spirit of Amalek, "deception" through the figure of the false Messiah/Tzaddik) in his efforts to separate the Shekinah (Bride) from her spouse, the "unforgiveable sin" (see previous notes on this.).
As the world of Yetzirah has now been "dealt with" (with the second set of judgments) we see the presence of the Lord "arriving" at this point. God, via his anointed one (Mashiach) has "descended near to us" to offer mercy and declare judgment. The world of Asiyyah (and physical earth) must still be dealt with however before Messiah comes. (i.e., Physical Jerusalem before Heavenly Jerusalem, as mentioned in the previous section.)
John's view of Mount Zion is in the Yetziratic realm and thus he views the souls of the 144,000 of Israel standing before the "Lamb." Traditional commentaries have difficulty determining if these 144,000 are on earth or "in heaven." However, as discussed earlier, man "exists" in all four worlds simultaneously, thus John speaks of them (at this juncture) from the point of view of their souls (i.e., at the level of Mount Zion/Yetzirah):
What specfiic significance the number 144,000 has is not clear. However, the idea of a large group of "righteous ones" being gathered around God is also found in Talmud:
THE NAME WRITTEN ON THE FOREHEAD
The "Name of God" being "written" on the forehead of these 144,000 righteous ones (tzadikim) gives indication of their affinity to God Himself. As shown in the previous lesson, in one of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov's discources on Messiah and the Millennial Kingdom, he expounds on how the tzadikim (righteous ones) will be called Holy, like God:
A relationship exists betwen the idea of the "forehead" and the "quasi" Sefirah of Da'at ("knowledge"). When superimposing the Tree of Life diagram on the image of Adam Kadmon (the image of man as made in the image of God) Da'at is seen on the forehead of man. (With Keter above the head, Binah to the left side and Chokmah to the right.) As mentioned in previous notes, Da'at is the confluence of wisdom and understanding. Da'at is the revelation of the "hidden" aspect of God known as Keter (crown).
As shown in the writings of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov:
As mentioned in chapter 13, John encourages his readers to seek both Chokmah (Wisdom) and Understanding (Binah), the confluence of which is Da'at. We therefore have a connection between those who follow John's advice and those who have God's mark on their foreheads.
The allusion to the forehead reflects deeper spiritual ideas as seen in this Midrash:
The above text links the forehead to the Sanctuary (Tabernacle/Temple). Hebraic teachings compare the attaining of Da'at to the building of the Temple - both the Millennial Temple as well as the "temple within each of us."
Rabbi Nachman takes this idea even further, comparing the animal sacrifices of the Temple to the "sacrificing" of our own "animalistic" selves in favor of "spiritual" Da'at:
This revelation of Godliness (and increase in Da'at) in the Millennium is reflected in Ezekiel's Temple vision (Ezekiel, chapters 40-48) where we see the appearance and function of the priests raised to the level of the High Priest. (The latter traditionally wearing the diadem on his forehead).
This idea of a connection between Chokhah/Wisdom and Binah/Understanding and the Temple is also found in Chassidic kabbalah. In the following text it is expressed in terms of the word "Lebanon" which is associated with the Temple:
The word "Lebanon" is divided into two parts. The first two letters (Lamed-Bet) form the number 32, alluding to the "32 Paths of Wisdom." The remaining three letters spell "Nun," which has a numerical value of 50, and alluding to the "50 Gates of Understanding." Thus, again, the Temple is associated with adding Understanding to Wisdom.
1. Hebraic literature speaks of the power of Balaam who knew about the times and functions of the spiritual realm and when he would have power to malipulate this. His power of divination was useless against Israel however, as it is said that Israel (as well "the righteous") are "above their mazel" (i.e., their "sign").
2. A movie series that exemplifies this concept very well is the kabbalistic "Matrix" trilogy, where the hero and messiah-type character (Neo) reaches the culmination of power at the same time the satanic-type character (Smith) does.
3. Kli Yahar - Shemot (Exodus), rendered into English by Elihu Levine, Targum/Feldheim Press, 2002, p.78.
4. http://www.yedidnefesh.com/kaballah/kol-hator/1.htm, Section 10.
5. Sha'are Orah ("Gates of Light"), Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla, translated by Avi Weinstein, Altamira Press, 1994, p. 99.
6. ibid, p. 97.
7. ibid, p. 67.
8. Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom, translated by Aryeh Kaplan, Breslov Research Institute, Jerusalem, 1973, p.255.
9. Anatomy of the Soul (based on the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov) Chaim Kramer, Breslov Research Institute, Jerusalem, 1998, pp. 132-133.
10. ibid p. 318.
11. Mashiach - Who? What? Why? How? Where? When? (based on the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov) Chaim Kramer, Breslov Research Institute, Jerusalem, 1998, p. 54.
12. Mystical Concepts in Chassidim, Jacob Immanuel Schochet, Kehot Publication Society, Brooklyn, 1988, p. 8.:
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