1 Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete.
With the spiritual worlds of Beriah and Yetzirah having been "dealt with," it is now time for the final phase of the rectification ("tikkun") of Creation -- this time of the (spiritual) World of Asiyah and the physical earth. (It is interesting to note that "tikkun" is an Aramaic word meaning both rectification and warfare, i.e., the theme of Ephesians 6:10-18.)
As previously discussed, there is an integral relationship between the spiritual and physical realms in that "events" in one not only impact the other, but that which will occur in the physical realm has already been "ordained" in the upper spiritual realms (i.e., in Beriah). This was first mentioned in our background study, "As Above - So Below" and our notes for 11:19 to 12:6. See also notes to verse 4 below. 1
This idea is also expressed as "drawing down" the perfection of the world of Atzilut into the physical realm (tikkun/rectification of the lower Worlds):
The will of God, "originating" in the perfection of Atzilut, and "established in heaven" (i.e., the World of Beriah) will be "done" (i.e., "acted out") on earth (i.e., the World of "action" - Asiyyah). This concept underlies the following quotations:
Matthew 6:9-10 - In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, 197a - Observe that God has made the earthly kingdom after the pattern of the heavenly kingdom, and whatever is done on earth has been preceded by its prototype in heaven.
The life of the tzaddik assists in this process (including prayer, i.e., Matthew 6:9f) with the tzaddik's work done primarily in the "connecting" world of Yetzirah (the World of the soul). Sometimes something has to be done in one World before the upper and lower Worlds are "brought together." In this next passage Jerusalem and Israel "below" must be dealt with first, before the heavenly realms join in to complete the process:
Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, 231a - I have made a covenant with my chosen., 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 (exile), 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. We also see this idea in the following discussion on Joseph:
In his commentary on the Torah, Nachmanides (Ramban) poses this question: Why didn't Joseph try to contact his father during all his time in Egypt? After all, the distance between the land of Israel and Egypt is only "six days" of travelling, according to Nachmanides' calculations. Why, when he became the head of Potiphar's household -- and could easily do such a thing -- didn't Joseph send a letter to his father, informing him that he was alive and well? Certainly, once he became viceroy, the second most powerful man in Egypt, he could have done anything he wanted. All those many years of Jacob languishing, mourning for his favorite son, could have been avoided. Didn't Joseph miss his father just as much? How could he be apart from him all those years? The answer which Nachmanides offers is that Joseph could not contact Jacob until the dreams of his youth had come true. Joseph had dreamt that his brothers would one day bow to him, and his revelation of this dream had set off the brothers' jealous rage that led to his eventual sale into slavery. Only when the dream came true could Joseph be vindicated and reveal himself. 3 Another example is where Jacob wrestled with and defeating the "angel of Esau" (as found in Genesis 32:24). Because the angel of Esau conceded defeat "above," Esau had no more claim against Jacob "below."
Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, 172a - R. Abba said: Assuredly Esau's wrath was allayed at the moment he beheld Jacob, since his chieftain had confirmed Jacob's claims, and therefore it would have been vain for Esau to vent his wrath. For all the affairs of this world depend on what is done above, and whatever is agreed upon above is accepted below, and no power can be exercised below until power is granted above. Thus one world depends always on the other. The above idea of mutual "cause and effect" between the Worlds was introduced (in a simple way) in our background study on "Spiritual Space." See also the background study, "As Above, So Below."
Lastly, as mentioned in the previous section, the idea of "rivers" (emanating from the "River of Eden") is closely linked to judgment. The following passage is similar to John's "seven angels" in verse 2, in that the "seven rivers of fire" may be seen as angels, based on Psalm 104.
Soncino Zohar, Vayikra, 64b - At the time called between the evenings all those angels called masters of howling are vocal, and contention is rife in the world. That is the time when the Holy One arouses Isaac [Tr. note: Geburah.] and rises to judge the guilty who transgress the precepts of the Law. Seven rivers of fire issue forth and descend on the heads of the wicked, along with burning coals of fire.
Psalm 104:4 - Who makes His angels spirits, His ministers a flame of fire. 2a And I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire ... John's description is similar to a passage found in Talmud, which describes what was seen by one of four rabbis who "entered the garden" in a mystical experience:
Hagigah 14b - When you come to the stones of pure marble, do not say, "water, water!" For it is said: "He who speaks untruth shall not stand before my eyes." The above verse was also considered to have been a "warning" by this rabbi (R. Akiva) to his colleagues that they should not proceed beyond their limits into where they were prohibited. This goes back to our discussion on the relationship between a person's spiritual purity and their level of attainable vision (See notes on "purity" in Revelation 14:2-5.)
The Book of Enoch, depicting another "spiritual journey," presents a similar picture:
Enoch 14:8-25 - And the vision was shown to me thus: Behold, in the vision clouds invited me and a mist summoned me, and the course of the stars and the lightnings sped and hastened me, and the winds in the vision caused me to fly and lifted me upward, and bore me into heaven.. And I went in till I drew nigh to a wall which is built of crystals and surrounded by tongues of fire: and it began to affright me. And I went into the tongues of fire and drew nigh to a large house which was built of crystals: and the walls of the house were like a tesselated floor (made) of crystals, and its groundwork was of crystal. Its ceiling was like the path of the stars and the lightnings, and between them were fiery cherubim, and their heaven was (clear as) water. A flaming fire surrounded the walls, and its portals blazed with fire. And I entered into that house, and it was hot as fire and cold as ice: there were no delights of life therein: fear covered me, and trembling got hold upon me. And as I quaked and trembled, I fell upon my face. And I beheld a vision, And lo! there was a second house, greater than the former, and the entire portal stood open before me, and it was built of flames of fire. And in every respect it so excelled in splendour and magnificence and extent that I cannot describe to you its splendour and its extent. And its floor was of fire, and above it were lightnings and the path of the stars, and its ceiling also was flaming fire. And I looked and saw therein a lofty throne: its appearance was as crystal, and the wheels thereof as the shining sun, and there was the vision of cherubim. And from underneath the throne came streams of flaming fire so that I could not look thereon. And the Great Glory sat thereon, and His raiment shone more brightly than the sun and was whiter than any snow. None of the angels could enter and could behold His face by reason of the magnificence and glory and no flesh could behold Him. The flaming fire was round about Him, and a great fire stood before Him, and none around could draw nigh Him: ten thousand times ten thousand (stood) before Him, yet He needed no counselor. And the most holy ones who were nigh to Him did not leave by night nor depart from Him. And until then I had been prostrate on my face, trembling: and the Lord called me with His own mouth, and said to me: 'Come hither, Enoch, and hear my word.' And one of the holy ones came to me and waked me, and He made me rise up and approach the door: and I bowed my face downwards.
2b and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God.
These who "have victory" avoid the punishment of theangels. That they lack the "mark of the beast" is directly tied to the judgment placed in the hands of the seven angels. The Zohar states that such a mark (good or bad) is used by the angels to identify those who are judged (reminiscent of the tenth plague of Egypt where the doors were to be marked):
Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, 101b,102a - The fact is that angels do not know of happenings in this world save what is necessary for their mission. This is borne out by the text, For I will pass through the land of Egypt... I am the Lord (Exodus. 12:12), which indicates that although the Holy One had many messengers and angels to perform His work, yet they would not have been able to distinguish between the germ of the first-born and of the later born-only the Almighty Himself could do this. Another example is the verse, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men etc. (Ezekiel 9:4), which proves that the angels require a mark, as otherwise they only know what is specially communicated to them, as, for instance, the sufferings which the Holy One is about to bring upon the world as a whole and which He proclaims throughout the seven heavens. The idea of angels "requiring a mark" to make "identification" gives us further insight into this verse. John speaks of having victory over "four things" -- the beast, his image, his mark and the number of his name. These four descriptions may be seen as paralleling the "four worlds" of existence (see previous study on this).
Within the four worlds of existence (as well as within the idea of ten Sefirot) we have both a "good" and "evil" realm. A clear mention of this is found in the Zohar:
Soncino Zohar, Vayikra, 70b- The Holy One, blessed be He, has produced ten holy crowns above wherewith He crowns and invests Himself, and He is they and they are He, being linked together like the flame and the coal. Corresponding to these are ten crowns beneath, which are not holy, and which cling to the uncleanness of the nails of a certain holy Crown called Wisdom, wherefore they are called wisdoms. We have learnt that these ten species of wisdom came down to this world, and all were concentrated in Egypt, save one which spread through the rest of the world. [Tr. note: v. T.B. Kiddushin, 49b.] They are all species of sorcery, and through them the Egyptians were more skilled in sorcery than all other men.
Thus, there are "10 unholy crowns" (Sefirot) and "ten unholy worlds of existence" corresponding to the holy ones. What we have in verse 2 is an understanding of the "beast" across the "four worlds" of the Sitra Achra (or "Sitra Atra"), i.e., the "evil realm." This being may also be seen as a "personification" of evil, just as Messiah is the personification of "goodness."
John's four-part description may be viewed as follows:
3 They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: "Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints!Their are numerous references to the "Song of Moses" in Hebraic writings. Both the song at the Sea (Exodus 15) and the song just prior to Moses' death (Deuteronomy 32) are called "the Song of Moses." What is consistent among the citations is the connection to the coming of Messiah and unification of the Name of God.
The following three citations from the Zohar make this point:
4a Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You ...
This verse is grounded in a Psalm of David:
Psalm 86 - A Prayer of David. Incline your ear, O Lord, answer me; for I am poor and needy. Preserve my soul; for I am pious; O my God, save your servant who trusts in you. Be merciful to me, O Lord; for I cry to you daily. Rejoice the soul of your servant; for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. For you, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive; and of bountiful love toward all those who call upon you. Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; and attend to the voice of my supplications. On the day of my trouble I will call on you; for you will answer me. Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord; nor are there any works like yours. All nations whom you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord; and shall glorify your name. For you are great, and you do wondrous things; you alone are God. Teach me your way, O Lord; I will walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. I will thank you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; and I will glorify your name for evermore. For great is your loving kindness toward me; and you have saved my soul from the depths of Sheol. O God, the arrogant have risen against me, and the assembly of violent men have sought after my soul; and have not set you before them. But you, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, long suffering, and bountiful in loving kindness and truth. O turn to me, and have mercy upon me; give your strength to your servant, and save the son of your maidservant. Show me a sign for good; that they who hate me may see it, and be ashamed; because you, Lord, have helped me, and comforted me.
Several texts indicate that the nations will indeed bow to the Messiah:
David also writes how the nations coming to accept God is prerequisite to unification of the Name. The Zohar offers the following commentary:
4b ... For Your judgments have been manifested."
(See above discussion on verse 1 regarding the physical manifestation of that which has been ordained in the heavenlies.)
The "manifestation of judgments" in the physical realm culminates in the coming of the Messiah and unification of the Name of God. As stated earlier, this is seen as the "playing out" of that which was conceived of Messiah from the "foundation of the world":
Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, 239b, 240a - He hath washed his garments in wine, even from the time of the Creation the reference being to the coming of the Messiah on earth. Wine indicates the left side, and the blood of grapes the left side below. The Messiah is destined to rule above over all the forces of the idolatrous nations and to break their power above and below. We may also explain that as wine brings joyfulness and yet typifies judgement, so the Messiah will bring gladness to Israel, but judgement to the Gentiles. The spirit of God which hovered over the face of the waters (Genesis 1:2) is the spirit of the Messiah, and from the time of the Creation he washed his garments in celestial wine.
Revelation 13:8 - All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
1 Peter 1:20 - Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.
Hebrews 4:3 - For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: "So I swore in My wrath, "They shall not enter My rest," although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.5 After these things I looked, and behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened. Recall that the Temple ("My House" below) itself is associated with judgment:
Midrash Rabbah - Lamentations Prologue XXXII - R. Hanina opened his discourse with the text, Though I would take comfort (mabligithi) against sorrow, my heart is faint within me (Jeremiah 8:18). What means mabligithi? Because there are none (mibli) who meditate (hogim) in the Torah to perform Divine precepts and meritorious acts, I have made My house into My wine-press (gitti).
6 And out of the temple came the seven angels having the seven plagues, clothed in pure bright linen, and having their chests girded with golden bands.Linen is associated with judgment (i.e., Revelation 19:11-15). The linen garments of the seven angels is reminiscent of the judgment found in Ezekiel chapters 9-10. That account also indicates six "men" (angels) with a seventh specific angel in linen. (A "mark" is also placed on the heads of the righteous - for the sake of the angels - as mentioned in verse 2b above.)
Midrash gives this account of Ezekiel's vision:
Midrash Rabbah - Lamentations II:3 - It is written, And, behold, six men came forth from the way of the upper gate, which lieth toward the north, every man with his weapon of destruction in his hand; and one man in the midst of them clothed in linen, with a writer's ink-horn on his side. And they went in, and stood beside the brazen altar (Ezekiel 9:2). The number six is mentioned here; but there were five decrees, as it is written, And to the others He said in my hearing: Go ye through the city after him, and smite; let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity (ib. 5); and it is written, Slay utterly the old man, the young man and the maiden, and little children and women (ib. 6)! R. Johanan said: He spoke thus to the sternest of the angels, viz. Gabriel ; as it is stated, And one man in the midst of them clothed in linen, with a writer's ink-horn on his side. That angel served in three capacities: as scribe, executioner, and High Priest. Scribe, as it is written, With a writer's ink-horn on his side; executioner, as it is said, He hath utterly destroyed them, He hath delivered them to the slaughter (Isaiah 34:2); and High Priest, as it is said, And one man in the midst of them clothed in linen, while of the High Priest it is written, He shall put on the holy linen tunic (Leviticus 16:4). Every man with his weapon of destruction in his hand: viz. his weapon for fighting, his implement for rasing, and his instrument to cause the exile. His weapon for fighting, [as it is said,] Every man with his weapon of destruction in his hand. His implement for rasing, [as it is said,] When he maketh all the stones of the altar as chalkstones that are beaten in pieces (Isaiah 27:9). ' His instrument to cause the exile, as it is written, Thou art My maul and weapons of war (Jeremiah 51:20). 7 Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever. The relationship between the (Beriatic) Temple and the "four living creatures" is discussed in the following Midrash and Zohar passages. In the Midrash, the four creatures are said to be "engraved in the Throne of Glory, showing God's authority over them:
Midrash Rabbah - The Song of Songs III:23 - There are four lordly creatures. The lord among the birds is the eagle; the lord among cattle is the ox; the lord among beasts is the lion; and the lord over all of them is man. The Holy One, blessed be He, took them and engraved them the Throne of Glory, as it says, The Lord hath established His throne in the heavens, and His kingdom ruleth over all (Psalm 103:19). The fact that He has established His throne above the lordly ones proves that His kingdom ruleth over all.
In the Zohar, the four creatures are said to "support" the Throne in that they carry out the will of God into the lower worlds:
8 The temple ...
We may assume from the flow of the text that John is continuing to refer to the "heavenly temple." The following text discusses both spiritual and physical temples as well as the Tabernacle:
Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, 241a - R. Jose asked R. Simeon: How is it that Scripture seems to speak of three Tabernacles, in that it says: And on the day that the tabernacle was reared up the cloud covered the tabernacle, even the tent of the testimony; and at even there was upon the tabernacle as it were the appearance of fire, until morning (Numbers 9:15)? And further, why tabernacle rather than house, inasmuch as a house was needed rather than a temporary abode? R. Simeon prefaced his reply with the verse: Thus saith the Lord: The heaven is my throne, etc. (Isaiah 66:1). Observe, he said, that the Holy One, blessed be He, found delight in Israel as His inheritance and portion, brought them near to Himself, and divided them into certain grades after the celestial model, so as to bring into one complete whole all the worlds, both the upper and the lower. Thus the heaven is my throne indicates the firmament wherein Jacob dwells, an exalted image, as it were, of the most high Divine Throne ; [Tr. note: Al. an exalted throne for the supernal sacred form.]And the earth is My footstool, to wit, the firmament where King David abides to feast on the resplendency of the luminous glass; and since this resplendency is designed to be diffused downwards, the term My footstool is used. The house that ye may build unto me alludes to the Temple; and the place that may be my resting-place speaks of the Holy of Holies of the lower Temple. Now observe that all the time that the Israelites wandered in the desert they possessed a Tabernacle, which remained in existence until they came to Shiloh. This, then, is the allusion of the threefold mention of the word tabernacle, that it went from one place to another, carrying a trail of light through all, but it was not a permanent resting-place. This only came about when the Temple was built in the days of King Solomon. Then was there indeed rest, both in the upper world and the lower; there were no more journeyings from place to place. The difference between tabernacle and house may be illustrated thus. In regard to the former we have to imagine a king who comes to visit his friend without bringing with him all his retinue, but only a few attendants, so as not to put his friend to trouble. But a house is a place where he comes to abide accompanied by his full retinue. The Temple, then, was designed as an ever-enduring resting-place for all the legions, all the symbols, all the solemn works, on the model of the celestial Temple; but the Tabernacle was the same, only on a small scale.
8b ...was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power, and no one was able to enter the temple till the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed. The judgment coming from the temple, is associated with the "glory" and the "power" of God. This would allude to the two "judgmental" Sefirot, Malkut (glory) and Gevurah (power). Further, this would indicate a state of less mitigated judgment as the sinfulness of mankind has caused a "disruption" of the Sefirot in the "separation" of Malkut from the rest (as has been discussed throughout earlier studies).
The "normal flow of judgment" typically "softened" by passing through Ze'er Anpin (the "Son") to Malkut (the "Daughter") no longer does so. Thus, judgment comes directly and forcefully from Gevurah to and through Malkut. Keep in mind that the "character" of Malkut, being the "last" of the Sefirot is determined by "what comes before it."
An explanation of this is found in the notes to the Soncino edition of the Zohar:
(See also the above reference in notes to verse 1 from Soncino Zohar, Vayikra, 64b, regarding Gevurah.)
It is also worth repeating an explanation from Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, found in an earlier study:
There are two modes through which God judges the world, the Attribute of Judgment (Midat HaDin) and the Attribute of Mercy (Midat haRachamim). The Attribute of Judgment demands a single, fixed, unmitigated response for any wrong, while the Attribute of Mercy admits a number of mitigated responses. Therefore, Judgment comes from the Female, which is derived from a single Sefirah, Malkhut-Kingship, and therefore has just one single response. Zer Anpin, on the other hand, is constructed from six Sefirot, and therefore allows an infinite blend of responses. It is therefore the source of the Attribute of Mercy. Actually, however, all providence ultimately comes from the Sefirah of Malkhut-Kingship, this being the definition of the word. But in order for Malkhut-Kingship to act in a mode Mercy, it must be bound to Zer Anpin, this being the concept of the Supernal Union. This Union, however, takes place through Yesod-Foundation ... We will elaborate on the "Millennial Temple" (Ezekiel chapters 40-48) in our notes to chapter 19.
1. An excellent, concise study of the four worlds of existence, from a Chasidic viewpoint, is "The Four Worlds," by Rabbi Yosef Y. Schneersohn of Lubavitch, available from www.kehotonline.com 2. http://www.kabbalaonline.org/Introductions/firststeps/Worlds_6_Action_and_the_Physical.asp 3. http://www.aish.com/torahportion/moray/The_Beauty_of_Joseph.asp
4. i.e., Sefer Yetzirah, (1:7) states: "Ten Sefirot of Nothingness: Their end is embedded in their beginning, and their beginning in their end, like a flame in a burning coal. For the Master is singular, He has no second. And before One, what do you count?"
5. Talmud - Pesachim 54a. See also Jewish Encyclopedia on preexistence (of the Messiah) at: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=504&letter=P
6. As cited in The Messiah Texts, Raphael Patai, Wayne State University Press, Detroit, 1979, p. 177.
7. ibid, p. 178.
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