Last update: January 30, 2007
11a Now I saw heaven opened and behold, a white horse ...
The following teaching concerns the unification of the physical and spiritual realms. The symbol of Mashiach on a horse is explained as him riding on the "Community of Israel." (This may be contrasted to the beast and its rider in a previous chapter.) It also alludes to the role of the angel Metatron, who is known as the angel of Messiah ben Joseph. 1
This is the reason it is written about the Mashiach that he is "just and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey" (Zachariah 9:9). The word "humble" [in Hebrew, "oni"] in that verse is spelled ayin nun yud and is an acrostic for the three tractates of the Talmud that deal with the strict decrees - Eruvin, Nidah and Yevamot.... In the mystical realms these tractates represent the control of the physical realm as it given over to the angelic forces supervised by the faithful servant of the King, the angel Metatron. The commands of the King are delegated to this angel to carry out or delegate to others. He represents the spiritual forces affecting the physical world . Until the servant fulfills his command, He is not called King. The higher spiritual level is only revealed when there is unity between the spiritual and the physical, between the King and the Community of Israel. [He] is not called "King" until he rides on his horse, which is the Community of Israel. When the King is outside his residence, not united with his Queen, He is not in His full majesty. In the future, when He returns to His residence, then "G-d shall be King over all the earth; on that day G-d will be one, and His name one" (Zachariah 14:9). All Israel are called "the sons of the King". Their relationship is like father and son, but not like the sons of the King until they return to the Land of Israel. When they return to the Land of Israel, the full majesty of their relationship will be revealed. 2
Another interesting passage, this from Talmud, has Messiah coming on a white horse:
Talmud - Mas. Sanhedrin 98a - R. Alexandri said: R. Joshua b. Levi pointed out a contradiction. it is written, in its time [will the Messiah come], whilst it is also written, I [the Lord] will hasten it! if they are worthy, I will hasten it: if not, [he will come] at the due time. R. Alexandri said: R. Joshua opposed two verses: it is written, And behold, one like the son of man came with the clouds of heaven whilst [elsewhere] it is written, [behold, thy king cometh unto thee . . . ] lowly, and riding upon an ass! if they are meritorious, [he will come] with the clouds of heaven; if not, lowly and riding upon an ass. King Shapur said to Samuel, Ye maintain that the Messiah will come upon an ass: I will rather send him a white horse of mine.
11b ... And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.
This qualities of faithfulness, truth, righteousness and judgment (of the nations) coming from "the rod of his mouth" is grounded the Tenakh:
Isaiah 11:11-5 - There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots. The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. His delight is in the fear of the LORD, And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, Nor decide by the hearing of His ears; But with righteousness He shall judge the poor, And decide with equity for the meek of the earth; He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, And faithfulness the belt of His waist.
These messianic characteristics are at the core of the Torah and our goal:
Matthew 23:23b - ... the weightier matters of the Torah: justice and mercy and faith.
The judgment of the nations by Messiah usher in the Messianic Kingdom:
Isaiah 2:3,4 - Many people shall come and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths. For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, And rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore.
For more on the judgment aspect of Messiah, see notes on Psalm 72 in verse 2 of the previous section of this study.)
12a His eyes were like a flame of fire and on His head were many crowns ...
The term "crown" in kabbalistic language in certain contexts may allude to any of the Sefirot. Most precisely, it is Keter, the "uppermost" and most enigmatic of the Sefirot as it serves as a "buffer" between the remaining Sefirot (which may be comprehended to some degree) and Eyn Sof, "God" that we cannot comprehend in any way. Keter, being the first, "includes" all of the other Sefirot.
Keter is the intermediate category between the Infinite Light and the sefirot. In each of the worlds, it is the source of the other sefirot. 3
The "Torah of Mashiach" is said to be at the level of Keter.4
As shown in the previous two studies the Torah, the Sefirot (all contained with Keter), the "Image of God" and the divine attributes of the Messiah are all connected. Thus, Paul wrote of Messiah being the "goal of the Torah" in Romans 10:4, just as Keter may be viewed as a goal for us.
Romans 10:4 - For Messiah is the goal of the Torah for righteousness to everyone who believes.
In the following text (in which the Torah itself is said to be crowned) the Torah at the level of Keter is linked to themes such as a "higher level," "inwardness," "food" and "inner aspect" directly relate to Yeshua's teachings as found in places such as John, chapter 6 and Matthew 23:23. Note the reference to us (the bride/Matrona/Malkut) circling the scroll of the written Torah (the groom/King/Tiferet) seven times, as the bride in the Jewish wedding ceremony circles the groom in the same manner:
The focal point of the service on Simchat Torah is the hakafot, when we circle the Torah seven times; it is said that the simcha (joy) at this time is so great that even the feet are rejoicing. If the concept of Simchat Torah is so closely associated with dancing, why do we read from the Torah? The answer lies in the fact that, on Simchat Torah, the Jewish People brings down a higher aspect of Torah within the Torah itself, a joy which crowns the Torah from the aspect of keter. There are two ways of understanding this simcha. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all of Israel, including Mashiach, are rejoicing in the Torah on Simchat Torah. In addition, the Torah itself is rejoicing, because on this day it receives its crown, a level that is higher than the head. Keter is an encompassing power which surrounds the Torah, and is on a higher level than learning, which penetrates the Torah and is associated with the concept of inwardness (pnimiyut). This level of Torah is compared to food as in the verse "create your own sustenance". The sustenance can take the form of bread, the most basic form of food, but, at this level, the Torah reflects the level of "fat meat", as in the verse, "eat fat meat". Bread is necessary to sustain life, but meat, especially fat meat, is above the level of mere physical existence the way that the inner aspect of the Torah is on a spiritual level - above basic survival. However, the level of keter is above even the level of the richness of the Torah, i.e. "fat meat". 5
The Zohar has much to say on the subject of crowns,often in the context of the unification of the King and His Bride. This first citation fits in with the idea of Messiah defeating the nations as it points to the kings of the world uniting (with the Erev Rav, the evil "mixed multitude," within Israel) to fight against Messiah:
Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, 7b - Also the Messiah shall be hidden for twelve months in the pillar of fire, which shall return again, although it shall not be visible. After the twelve months the Messiah will be carried up to heaven in that pillar of fire and receive there power and dominion and the royal crown. When he descends, the pillar of fire will again be visible to the eyes of the world, and the Messiah will reveal himself, and mighty nations will gather round him, and he shall declare war against all the world. At that time the Holy One shall show forth his power before all the nations of the earth, and the Messiah shall be manifested throughout the whole universe, and all the kings will unite to fight against him, and even in Israel there will be found some wicked ones who shall join them in the fight against the Messiah. Then there will be darkness over all the world, and for fifteen days shall it continue, and many in Israel shall perish in that darkness. Concerning this darkness it is written: Behold, darkness covers the earth and gross darkness the peoples (Isaiah 40:2).
The following section depicts the study of Torah as creating "crowns" that in turn ascend onto the head of the Zaddik, the life of the universe," a term for the Messiah:
Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Page 4b - IN THE BEGINNING. R. Simeon opened his discourse with the text: And I put my words in thy mouth (Is. LI, 16). He said: How greatly is it incumbent on a man to study the Torah day and night! For the Holy One, blessed be He, is attentive to the voice of those who occupy themselves with the Torah, and through each fresh discovery made by them in the Torah a new heaven is created. Our teachers have told us that at the moment when a man expounds something new in the Torah, his utterance ascends before the Holy One, blessed be He, and He takes it up and kisses it and crowns it with seventy crowns of graven and inscribed letters. When a new idea is formulated in the field of the esoteric wisdom, it ascends and rests on the head of the Zaddik, the life of the universe, and then it flies off and traverses seventy thousand worlds until it ascends to the Ancient of Days.
This theme continues in this text where our words of Torah ascend and are formed into a heavenly crown:
Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, 215b-217b - For the words of the holy Law spoken here below ascend on high, where multitudes come to meet them to take them up and present them before the Holy King, there to be adorned with many crowns woven of the supernal radiances. All these words, then, are self-spoken, as it were, before the Most High King. Whoever saw such joy, whoever witnessed such praises, as mount up into all those heavens at the moment those words ascend, whilst the Holy King looks on them and crowns Himself with them! They spring up and down, they settle, as it were, on His bosom for Him to disport Himself with them, whence they ascend toward His head and are woven there into a crown. Hence the words spoken by the Torah: "and I would be playing always before him" (Proverbs 8:30), In the verse cited there is twice mention of "them that fear the Lord"; the first indicates the men themselves as they are here below, and the second their images as reflected in their words that ascend on high.
This esoteric doctrine is found in the Book of Enoch, where it says that all the words of exposition uttered by the righteous on earth are adorned with crowns and are arrayed before the Holy One, blessed be He, who delights Himself with them. They then descend and come up again before His presence in the image of that righteous man who gave expression to them, and God then delights Himself with that image. The words, then, are inscribed in "a book of remembrance before Him", so as to endure for evermore. "And they that thought upon His name" is an allusion to those that meditate on the words of Torah in order thereby to cleave to their Master through an insight into the Divine Name, so as to know Him and beceme equipped with the wisdom of His name in their heart. It is written: "And above the firmament that was over their heads was as the appearance of a sapphire stone, the likeness of a throne" (Ezekekiel 1:26).
This idea is further elaborated on in a more modern study on the subject:
A Jew must serve G-d with the totality of his being, as the Mishnah declares: the purpose of his creation is to serve his Creator, with a service which incorporates all ones heart, soul, and might every aspect of his personality. There must be a level of service which serves as a crown, standing above all the individual aspects of his nature, his intellect and emotions. This involves serving with true will and true pleasure, above the feelings of ones heart. Each person has a particular tendency which dominates his personality and shapes it into one fundamental thrust. This is his crown. 6
The Zohar states that the righteous receive "crowns" along with their "robes" (as discussed in earlier chapters of this study). Note the link to "prophetic vision" in this citation (connecting back to verse 19:10):
Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, 227b - ... the righteous see into the distant future and God crowns them with His own crown.
The following text is similar to the above, only this one mentions the stream the flows into the Garden of Eden. This hidden source of the River of Eden is further mentioned in another citation below (Zohar, Vayikra 62a,b):
Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, 224b - ... all the virtuous who have acquired a robe of glory through their days are crowned in the future world with crowns like those of the patriarchs, from the stream that flows continually into the Garden of Eden, and of them it is written, the Lord shall lead thee continually and satisfy thy soul in dry places (Isaiah 58:11)
In the next section the righteous (i.e., Israel, when they keep Torah), are said to unify the Name of God. This is further expressed as the "holy crowns" (Sefirot) being "drawn near" to one another (rectified). This is further associated with the sacrificial system, which is in turn expressed in terms of God's mercy and union of the "Matrona" (Shekinah/Bride) to the King:
Soncino Zohar, Vayikra, 4b-5b - Happy are Israel, he said, in that wherever they congregate God is among them and takes pride in them, as it says, Israel in whom I will be glorified (Isaiah 49:3). Nay more, Israel attain to perfect faith on earth and Israel consummate the Holy Name. For when Israel are blameless in their conduct the Holy Name, so to speak, is whole, but when Israel are faulty in their conduct on earth, the Holy Name, if one may say so, is not whole above. For so we have learnt: One went up and the other went down. The supernal Israel ascended aloft, the Community of Israel came down to earth. So they were parted from one another, and the Holy Name was left incomplete; and all because the Community of Israel is in exile. Yet though Israel are in exile, the Holy One, blessed be He, is to be found among them, and precedes them to the synagogue, where he exclaims: Return, ye backsliding children, I will heal your backslidings (Jeremiah 3:22). And if none heed, then God says: Wherefore when I came was there no man, when I called was there none to answer? So on the day when the Tabernacle was completed God came at once and rested thereon and straightway called unto Moses and spake to him from the tent of meeting, saying. He made known to him how Israel would sin and how this tent of meeting would be pledged[Tr. note: A play on the words mischan, tent, and mashcen (Aramnaic), pledge.] for their sins and would not endure. There was, however, a remedy for this: if a man should bring an offering to the Lord.
R. Hizkiah once, when in the company of R. Simeon, asked him what was the precise meaning of the term korban (offering). He replied: As is well known to the Companions, it means their drawing near. [Tr. note: From karab, to draw near,] It refers to those holy Crowns which are all knit together and drawn near to one another until they all form a perfect unity to make whole the Holy Name. Hence it is written, a korban to YHVH, meaning that the drawing near of those Crowns is to YHVH to unify properly the Holy Name so that mercy should be shown to all worlds, and rigour should not be aroused. Hence the name YHVH is used (in connection with the sacrifices), and not the name Elohim. Said R. Hizkiah: How glad I am that I asked this question, so as to receive such an explanation. But is it not written, The sacrifices of Elohim are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, Elohim, thou wilt not despise (Psalm 51:18)? He replied: It does not say here offering (korban), but sacrifices (zibehe). It is for this reason that the sacrifices were killed on the north side of the altar, because that is the side of Geburah, which is designated Elohim, the purpose being to soften and break the spirit of severity, so that mercy may obtain the upper hand. It is meet, therefore, that a man should stand by the altar with a contrite spirit and repent of his misdeeds so that that stern spirit may be softened and mercy prevail over severity. WHEN ANY MAN OF YOU OFFERETH AN OBLATION UNTO THE LORD. R. Eleazar said: The words of you are inserted here to show that the word man (adam) does not refer to Adam, who also brought a sacrifice when God created the world, as explained elsewhere. Said R. Simeon to him: You are quite right. R. Abba discoursed here on the Psalm commencing: A song, a psalm of the sons of Korah (Psalm 48). This psalm, he said, surpasses all the other hymns of praise, sung by the sons of Korah, being hymn upon hymn, a hymn with two facets, song and psalm. It was sung in praise of the Community of Israel. Wherein lies this praise? In the words, Great is the Lord and highly to be praised, in the city of our God, in his holy mountain. For when is the Holy One, blessed be He, called great? When the Community of Israel is with Him; He is great in the city of our God. We learn from this that the King without the Matrona is no king, nor is He great nor highly praised. Hence, whoever being male is without his female is bereft of all his praises and is not included in the category of man, nor is he even worthy to be blessed. (So in the book of Rab Hamnuna the Elder we find it stated that Job was called great (Job 1:3) only because of his wife, who was God-fearing like himself.) The praise of their espousals is contained in the next words, Beautiful in elevation, the one referring to the Holy One, blesssed be He, and the other to the Zaddik, this union being the joy of the whole earth. God hath made himself known in her palaces for a refuge
The following text contains allusions to related themes such as:
- "The River of Eden" (which reappears later in Revelation for the first time since the beginning of Genesis)
- The "Holy Son," who receives a crown and inheritance
- The Sefirah of Yesod (i.e., foundation, the tzadik) through which blessings come upon the marriage of the King and His Bride
Soncino Zohar, Vayikra, 62a,b - R. Abba took as his text the verse: "While the king sat at his table, my spikenard sent forth its fragrance" (Song of Solomon, 1:12). This has been applied by the Companions to the children of Israel when at the giving of the Law they sent forth a sweet fragrance which will bestead them in all generations by saying "we will do and we will hear". Or we may translate "my spikenard forsook its fragrance", applying the words to the making of the calf. There is, however, also an esoteric allusion in this verse. It says "A river went forth from Eden to water the garden" (Genesis 2:10). This stream first issues in a path which none knoweth. Then Eden joins with it in perfect union, and then fountains and streams issue and crown the holy Son, who thereupon assumes the inheritance of his Father and Mother, and the supernal King regales himself with royal delights. Then "my spikenard gives forth its fragrance": this is Yesod, who sends forth blessings at the union of the Holy King and the Matrona, and so blessings are dispensed to all worlds and upper and lower are blessed.
The following two sections link these "spiritual crowns" to the Song of Moses (also called the Song of the Sea) in Exodus, which is said to be sung in Revelation 15:3. The Zohar also speaks of this song being sung again with the coming of a crowned Messiah, who exacts judgment on his enemies:
Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, 132a - At the hour when the Song of the Sea is recited the Community of Israel is crowned with the crown wherewith the Holy One, in the time that is to be, will crown the King Messiah. That crown is engraved with Holy Names, those same Names which glittered as crowns of fire upon the head of the Holy One Himself on the day when Israel crossed the Sea and Pharaoh and his hosts were drowned therein. Therefore that song must be recited with special devoutness, and he who is able to recite this hymn in the present world will be found worthy to behold King Messiah in the hour of His crowning and to sing then this song of redemption. All this is beyond dispute.
Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, 8b-9a - He shall take out from a certain temple in it a crown inscribed with holy names. It was with this crown that the Holy One adorned Himself when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea and He avenged Himself on all the chariots of Pharaoh and his horsemen. With this same crown will He crown King Messiah. As soon as he is crowned, the Holy One will take him and kiss him as before. All the holy multitude and the whole holy army will surround him and will bestow upon him many wonderful gifts, and he will be adorned by them all. Then will he enter into one of the temples and behold there all the upper angels, who are called "the mourners of Zion" because they continually weep over the destruction of the Holy Temple. These angels shall give him a robe of deep red in order that he may commence his work of revenge.
In the following teaching, the "crown of God" is said to be upon the high priest. Note the importance given to the subject of purity (as has been discussed in our previous studies):
In order to digest this overwhelming development let us study the inner workings of the Kohain Gadol. In this week's parsha, the Torah gives us the reason for the Kohain Gadol's elevated status. After listing all his specific regulations the Torah states "And he should not leave the Mikdash and not profane the sanctity of Hashem because the crown of Hashem is upon his head." (Vayikra 21:12) Sefer HaChinuch (in Mitzva 270) elaborates upon the concept of "the crown of Hashem". He cites the opinion of the Rambam (in Hilchos Klei Hamikdash 5:7) that the Kohain Gadol was confined to the Bais Hamikdash area throughout his entire day of service. In addition, Rambam teaches us that the Kohain Gadol was forbidden to leave the holy city of Yerushalayim during nightly hours. This produced an incredible focus on Hashem and His service yielding the supreme sanctity of the Kohain Gadol. Sefer HaChinuch profoundly states, "Although the Kohain Gadol was human he was designated to be Holy of Holies. His soul ranked amongst the angels constantly cleaving to Hashem thus detaching the Kohain Gadol from all mundane interests and concerns." (ad loc) Sefer HaChinuch understands the Kohain Gadol's elevated sanctity as a product of his total immersion in the service of Hashem. His surroundings of total sanctity together with his constant focus on Hashem and His service produced the holiest man on earth. His elevated life-style was restricted to one of total sanctity because his total interest and focus were devoted to purity and sanctity. 7
The following verse concerns Abraham being "crowned" and has another reference to prophetic vision. Interestingly, it describes Abraham's vision in terms of being able to see "all the celestial figures," which may be the idea behind Yeshua's words in John 8:56.Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 91a - Until Abram was circumcised, God spoke to him only in a vision, as it says above, "The word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision" (Genesis 15:1). By "vision" we understand the grade in which all figures are apparent, and which symbolises the covenant. ...
Of Balaam it is said that he saw "the vision of Shaddai" (Numbers. 24:4), and of Abraham that God spoke to him "in a vision", simply. The difference is that Balaam saw only those (angels) below the Almighty, whereas Abram saw the "He" in which all the celestial figures are reflected. Till Abram was circumcised, he was addressed only by that degree which we have mentioned; after he was circumcised, then THE LORD APPEARED UNTO ABRAM, i.e. all the other grades appeared over this grade, and this grade addressed him without reserve. Thus when Abram was circumcised he emerged from the unripe state and entered into the holy covenant, and was crowned with the sacred crown, and entered into the covenant on which the world is based, and thus the world was firmly established for his sake.
This final text on the subject of crowns summarizes the subject - it is by faith we receive our crown. Interestingly, the test of that faith is the "manna" (i.e., John chapter 6):
Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 62b - Said R. Simeon: Observe that before the Holy One gave Israel the Torah He tried them to see who would be a son of faith and who would not be. How did He try them? By the manna. All those who were found to be sons of faith were signed with the sign of the crown of Grace by the Holy One Himself; and from those who were not found to be thus, this supernal crown was withheld.
1. Kol Hator (Voice of the Turtledove) Apect #112 of Messiah ben Joseph as found on http://www.yedidnefesh.com/kaballah/kol-hator/2.htm
4. As discussed in, Mashiach - Who? What? Why? How? Where? When?, (an exposition of the teachings of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov), Chaim Kramer, Breslov Resarch Institute. See also the chart featured at www.yashanet.com/studies/judaism101/chart
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