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Revelation 22:1-5
Last update: August 2, 2008

1 And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.

As mentioned in the previous chapter notes, the completeness of the unification of the Name YHVH (as spoken of in Zechariah and symbolized by the uninterrupted connection between the first letter Yud and the last letter Hey) is linked to the return of the "River of Eden."

Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, 95b - …when the Yod is united with the He, they produce "the river which issues from Eden to water the Garden"

The return of this river is associated with the "Day of the Lord" and viewed in terms of a thousand year period of time:

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, 145b - The Day of the Holy One, blessed be He, is a thousand years, and this number symbolizes also the River which goes out of Eden.

The term for the "Godly sustenance" provided by this river is called "Shefa." In his introduction to Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto's book on the third Temple, Mishkney Elyon (Dwellings of the Supreme), Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum explains "Shefa" as follows:

In Mishkney Elyon and Kabbalah generally, Shefa refers to the spiritual influences which emanate from the higher levels of creation in order to sustain the lower and help bring them to their destiny. The word "creation" here refers to all the different "worlds" and levels brought into being by God. These created worlds encompass not only this material World of Asiyah (Action) in which we live, including the Earth and all it contains, and all the planets, stars and galaxies to the outer limits of the physical universe but also the spiritual worlds that exist in the metaspace that is "above" our World of Asiyah. These are the World of Yetzirah (Formation), world of the angelic hosts that sustain and govern the stars, planets and other natural phenomena of Asiyah, and the World of Beriyah (Creation), world of the higher angels, the "officers" that govern the angelic hosts of Yetzirah. The World of Beriyah is also known as the "World of the Throne". Beyond Beriyah lies a realm of Godly unity that is the source of all these created worlds: this realm of unity is the World of Atzilut (Emanation), from which the light of the Ten Sefirot shines forth to create, sustain and govern all the lower worlds. Creation is not only a single past act. It is also a continuing process in which all the worlds are governed in such a way as to bring all things to the ultimate goal, the complete revelation of God on all levels of creation. To accomplish this goal, there is a continuous influx of various kinds of "power" or "energy" into creation. These "powers" sustain and govern all the different levels of creation, spiritual and physical, so as to bring all things to the ultimate goal. This flow of power and energy is called Shefa.

The ultimate goal of creation is the end point to which everything is moving. The reason why everything is "going" in that direction is because that is where God is making everything go. To make something go is to drive it, as when one drives an animal or car. The Hebrew word for "driving" is Hanhagah, from the root Nahag, which means to drive or make something go. The kabbalistic concept of Hanhagah refers to the way the worlds are actually governed in order to bring everything to the ultimate goal of creation. Creation is seen as being "driven" by God, somewhat as a chariot (Merkavah) and the animals pulling it are driven by the charioteer. The "animals" of the divine "Chariot" are the Chayot, the higher angels that are the vital forces of creation. As the Chayot "draw" the Chariot, the Ofanim (literally "wheels") go round and round: these are the lower angels that govern the great wheels or cycles of creation. The Hanhagah or "driving" is ultimately determined by the One sitting "in the driver's seat", this being the Throne of Kingship. From it the King governs all His "armies" or "legions" – the souls, angels and other orders and levels of created beings. All these "hosts" are God's "armies" sent to accomplish His purpose, and He sustains them and provides all their needs according to their different levels, spiritual and physical. 1

This connection between the letter Yud and the final letter Hey (in YHVH) and the River of Eden is also spoken of in terms of "Upper Wisdom" and "Lower Wisdom." This explains why Wisdom is referred to in a feminine context in places such as the book of Proverbs. The axiom is, "When the daughter is connected to the father, she is called Wisdom"

Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, 141b - WISDOM CRIETH ALOUD IN THE STREET, SHE UTTERETH HER VOICE IN THE BROAD PLACES (Proverbs 1:20). ‘This verse’, he said, ‘contains a deep mystical teaching. The term hokhmoth (lit. wisdoms) implies the superior Wisdom and the lesser Wisdom which is included in the superior Wisdom and abides therein. The superior Wisdom is an essence most recondite and concealed, unknown and unrevealed, as Scripture says: “Man knoweth not the price thereof, etc.” (Job 28:13); and when it expands into a source of light, its illumination is that of the world to come, and that world is created by it: for so we have learned, that the world to come was created by the Yod, and there Wisdom remained hidden, the two being one. When God was crowned, it was through the mystery of the future world, as already said. There was joy at this illumination, but all was in silence without a sound being heard abroad. Wisdom then willed it to expand further, so that from that space there issued fire and water and air, as already said, from which there sprang up a voice which issued forth abroad and was heard, as already said. From that point onwards all is exterior (huz), whereas in the interior the voice is silent and not heard abroad. Once, however, the secret force has become audible, it is called “without” (huz). Hence it is incumbent on man to be zealous in searching after wisdom “in the wide places” (ba-rehoboth). This refers to the firmament, which contains all the luminous stars, and which constitutes the fountain of perennial waters, referred to in the verse: “And a river went forth from Eden to water the garden” (Genesis 2:10). And there “she uttereth her voice”, both the superior and the lower Wisdom, which in truth are one.

Author Aryeh Kaplan states the following in his classic "Waters of Eden":

Water is the primary connection we have with the Garden of Eden ... Even though a person cannot reenter the Garden of Eden itself, whenever he associates himself with these rivers - or with any other water - he is reestablishing this link with Eden  2

Rivers, water and wells are all associated with the idea of Wisdom (and with each other).  Thus we see numerous mentions of wells in Scripture. The Zohar further connects wisdom and water with the idea of resurrection and the world to come.

Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, 141a - AND ISAAC DIGGED AGAIN THE WELLS, ETC . R. Eleazar said: ‘In digging these wells Isaac acted fittingly, for he discerned from his knowledge of the mysteries of Wisdom that in this way he could attach himself more firmly to his faith. Abraham likewise made a point of digging a well of water. Jacob found the well already prepared for him, and he sat down by it. Thus they all looked for a well and strove through it to preserve their faith pure and undiminished. ...

Hence our ancestors strengthened themselves in the true faith in digging the well, symbolic of the supernal well, which is the abode of the mystery of perfect faith.’ AND HE REMOVED FROM THENCE, AND DIGGED ANOTHER WELL. R. Hiya discoursed on the verse: And the Lord will guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in brightness, and make strong thy bones (Isaiah 58:11). ‘The true believers’, he said, ‘have derived strength from this verse, where promise is made to them of the world to come, for the word "continually" includes both this world and the world to come. Again, the term "continually", which seems superfluous, is an allusion to the continual burnt-offering which is offered at dusk, and is held firm underneath the arm of Isaac and is symbolic of the world to come. The term "guiding" is similarly used by David in the verse: "He guideth me in straight paths for his name's sake" (Psalm 23:3). "And satisfy thy soul in brightness"; this is the "clear mirror" from the contemplation of which all souls obtain delight and benefit. "And make strong thy bones": these words do not seem to harmonise with what has gone before, which we have interpreted of the souls of the righteous ascending on high. We interpret them, therefore, to allude to the resurrection of the dead, when the Holy One, blessed be He, will reconstitute the bones and restore the body to its former state. The soul will then derive stronger illumination from the "clear mirror", so as to illumine the body to the full extent of which it is capable. Hence: "And thou shalt be like a watered garden" (Isaiah 58:11), that is, like the celestial garden whose supernal waters never fail, but flow on for ever and ever; "and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not" (Ibid.), alluding to the river that issues from Eden and flows on for all eternity. Observe that the "well of living waters" is a symbol within a symbol for guiding faith. There is the well which is the very source of the waters, and there is the well which is fed by that source of water. There are thus two grades, which are, however, really one with two aspects, male and female, in fitting union. The well and the issue of waters are one, designated by the name of "well", it being at once the supernal never-ceasing fountain and the well that is filled by it. And whoever gazes at that well gazes at the true object of faith. This is the symbol which the patriarchs transmitted in digging the well, in such a way as to indicate that the source and the well are indissoluble.

2a ... In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life ...

The following passage of the Zohar further connects Wisdom, the River of Eden and the Tree of Life, whose fruit brings everlasting life:

Soncino Zohar, Shemot 2a - It is written: And the wise shall be resplendent as the splendour (zohar) of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness shall be like the stars for ever and ever (Daniel 12:3). “The wise” are those who penetrate to the real essence of wisdom; “they shall be resplendent”, i.e. illumined with the radiance of the supernal Wisdom; “as the splendour”, this is the flashing of the Stream that goes forth from Eden (Genesis 11:10), this being alluded to as “the firmament”. There are suspended the stars, the planets, the sun and the moon, and all the radiant lights. The brightness of this firmament shines upon the Garden of Eden, and in the midst of the Garden stands the Tree of Life, whose branches spread over all forms and trees and spices in fitting vessels. All the beasts of the field and all the fowls of the air shelter beneath the branches of this Tree. The fruit of the Tree gives life to all. It is everlasting. The “other side” has no abode therein, but only the side of holiness. Blessed are they who taste thereof; they will live for ever and ever, and it is they who are called “the wise”, and they are vouchsafed life in this world as well as in the world to come. The Tree rises to a height of five hundred parasangs, and its circumference is six myriads of parasangs. Within this Tree is a light [Tr. note: Tifereth.] out of which radiate certain colours: they come and go, never being at rest save in the Tree.

The Zohar goes on to associate the River with the letter vav and the "central column" (another reference to the role of Metatron, as mentioned in earlier studies). The Tree of Life has dominion over the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, which is lined to the power of the mixed multitude:

Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, 26a - AND THE LORD GOD CAUSED TO GROW. The two names may be referred to the Father and the Mother; “every pleasant tree” refers to the Zaddik; “good to eat” refers to the Central Column, through which He provided food for all, and from which alone the Zaddik is nourished, as the Shekinah from him. These have no need of the lower world, but, on the contrary, all below are nourished from him. For in this period of captivity the Shekinah and “the Life of the universe” are only nourished by the eighteen blessings of Israel's prayer, but at the time he will be food for all. AND THE TREE OF LIFE. This means that at that time the Tree of Life will be planted in the Garden, so that “he shall take also of the Tree of Life and eat and live for ever” (Genesis 3:22). The Shekinah will no longer be in the power of the “evil influence”, i.e. the mixed multitude who are “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”, and shall no longer receive into itself anyone unclean, to fulfill what is written, “the Lord alone shall lead him and there shall be no strange god with him” (Deuteronomy 32:12). For this reason proselytes will no longer be admitted in the days of the Messiah. The Shekinah will be like a vine on which there cannot be grafted any shoot from another species, and Israel shall be “every tree pleasant to see”, and their former beauty shall be restored to them, of which we are told: “He cast from heaven to earth the beauty of Israel” (Lamentations 2:1). “The tree of the knowledge of good and evil” shall be thrust from them and shall not cleave to them or mingle with them, for of Israel it is said: “and of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil ye shall not eat”. This tree is the “mixed multitude”, and God pointed out to them that through mixing with them they suffered two losses, of the first and of the second Temple, as it is said: “and on the day that thou eatest of it thou shalt surely die”. They caused the Zaddik to be left parched and desolate by the loss of the first Temple, which is the Shekinah in heaven, and by the loss of the second Temple, which is the Shekinah on earth. Hence it is written, “and the river shall be drained dry”; i.e. the river vau shall dry in the lower he, so as to deprive it of the flow of yod issuing from En-Sof. But as soon as Israel shall go forth from captivity, that is, the holy people alone, then that river which was dried up shall become “the river that goes forth from Eden to water the garden”. This river is the Central Column; “goes forth from Eden” is the supernal Mother; “to water the garden” is the Shekinah on earth. In reference to that time it is said of Moses and Israel, “Then thou shalt delight in the Lord”, and the words shall be fulfilled, “then Moses shall sing” (Exodus 15:1).

2b ... which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

The Tree of Life is once again made accessible to human beings. Originally, this tree was not prohibited to Adam. Only after the sin with the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil did the Tree of Life become prohibited. This sin is compared to removing the bride from the groom (or the Sefirah of Malkut from the rest of the Sefirot) thus causing a "separation" in the Name of God. Access to the Tree of Life only comes through the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil which is rectified only when the name of God is made "one" again with the final "hey" (Malkut, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil) reunited to the Tree of Life (see verse 1 notes above).3

The reference to twelve fruits and leaves healing the nations shows the relationship of the Tree of Life to Israel and Israel's to the nations. The latter is often expressed in terms of the numbers twelve and seventy and related to the wells and palm trees in Elim from Exodus 15:27.

Just as there were twelve and seventy below at Elim, there are twelve and seventy in the spiritual worlds as one is patterned on the other:

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, 62b - It has been said at that hour Israel was perfected below according to her prototype above, for it is written, “and they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water and threescore and ten palm trees” (Exodus 15:27). Now the Holy Tree [Tr. note: Tifereth.] spreads to twelve boundaries on the four quarters of the earth, and to seventy branches closely intertwined, so that what was above should have here its counterpart below.

The twelve wells/fruits (Israel) provide for all the nations.

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, 64b - Blessed are the Israelites who “sow beside the water”-the water which is under the branches of the Holy One's Tree, a Tree great and mighty, containing food for the whole universe. This Tree is encompassed by twelve frontiers and adjoins all four sides of the world, and has seventy branches, and Israel is in the “body” of the Tree, and the seventy branches encompass her. This is symbolized by the “twelve wells of water and the threescore and ten palm trees”, as we have often explained.

The following texts mirrors the end of verse 2 (above) closely:

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, 58b-59a - ‘There is a mighty and wondrous tree in the celestial sphere which supplies nourishment to beings above and below. It has twelve boundaries and stretches along the four sides of the world which encompass it. Seventy branches ascend from it and imbibe nourishment from its roots. Each branch, as the time arrives for it to be dominant, endeavours to drain the whole life of the tree, which is the essence of all the branches, and without which they would not exist. Israel clings to the main body of the tree, and when its time comes to be dominant, it endeavours to protect the branches and to give peace to all. This is also symbolized by the seventy oxen offered on the feast of Tabernacles. Therefore it says: “Who is like unto thee among the gods (elim), O Lord?”; elim in the sense of “trees”, as in the passage, “for ye shall be ashamed of the elim (terebinths) which ye desired” (Isaiah 1:29). “Who among these is like unto Thee, Who hast pity on all? Among the surroundings of the tree is any like unto Thee, eager to be the guardian of all, even when it dominates them”, not wishing to destroy them? “Who is like unto Thee, glorified in holiness?” Namely, in that supreme power called “Holiness”, “power of the Lord”, “pleasantness of the Lord”, as already stated.’

3 And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.

The return to Eden reverses the effects of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Regarding the idea of the Lamb being in the throne, refer to the section "The Divine Jacob" in our notes to Chapter 14 verse 1a where we highlight the idea in multiple Jewish sources of Jacob (the primary messianic figure in the Torah) being in, on or under the heavenly throne. The key source for a compilation of citations on this idea is Elliot Wolfson's book, "Along the Path." 4

Some examples are:

  • Numbers Rabbah 4:1:

There is a Scriptural text bearing on this: Since thou art precious in My sight, and honourable, etc. (Isaiah 43:4). The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Jacob: Jacob, thou art exceedingly precious in my sight. For I have, as it were, set thine image on My throne, and by thy name the angels praise Me and say: Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting and to everlasting (Psalm 41:14).

  • From Midrash Yelammedenu:

The angels descended and saw his (Jacob's) image. They said, "Certainly this is the form (surah) and this is the image (demut) engraved upon the throne of glory." All of them responded and said, "Bless the Lord, God of Israel."

  • From a liturgical poem of Moses ben Eleazar ha-Darshan:

... the Biblical expression "majesty of Israel" (from Lamentations 2:1) is transformed into a symbol for the icon of Jacob engraved on the throne.

Wolfson also shows that the angelic figure, Metatron, is seen as being engraved in the Throne and that the term "angel of the Lord" is used in conjunction with Metatron.

Metatron, the angel of the countenance (sar ha-panim) is identified as Jacob who is said to be inscribed upon the Throne and upon the heart of Metatron. 5

Additional insight on the nature and role of Metatron will be provided in the final section of this study. (Rev. 22:6-22)

4 They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.

The curse (verse 3) from Eden results in "the Face" of God being hidden. Its removal results in a new level of relationship between God and man.

(See for additional insight on this idea.)

There is of course a reference to many of Israel seeing God in the Torah in Parsha Mishpatim (Exodus 21:1-24:18). It is interesting not only in the reference to God being "seen" but also that those who saw God did not die. Compare this to Exodus 3:6 when Moses did not dare look at God and also Exodus 33:20 where God makes it clear that to see His Face would result in death. (Also see Isaiah 6:1 where the prophet "sees" God in His Throne.)

Even seeing an angel is shown to be fraught with danger as shown later in the Tenakh when Samson’s father Manoach after seeing an angel said, “We shall surely die, for we have seen a divine being!” (Judges 13:22)

In Parashat Mishpatim, not only do Moses and others see God and live, they end up enjoying a meal in God’s presence! This would seem to be a foreshadowing of the great banquet destined to occur at the time of the Olam Haba.

In the Future to Come, the Holy One blessed be He, will make a banquet for the pious in the Garden of Eden. 6

Rabbi Elazar said, "The banquet of the righteous in the Future to Come will be as it is written, 'And they beheld God and did eat and drink' (Exodus 24:11)." 7

5 There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.

The aforementioned "banquet" is the time of great light throughout the world:

In the Future to Come, the Holy One blessed be He, will bring the pious to the Garden of Eden ... the Holy One blessed be He hearkens unto them and enters with them into the Garden of Eden. And as soon as the Holy One blessed be He comes there, the pious stand up on their feet, and the whole world becomes filled with light ... He says to them, "My sons, since the day that I created the world, I never withheld anything from you except my Throne of Glory ... but now I give you a share even in my Throne of Glory. 8

There is a connection between the "Face" of God in verse 4 and the light mentioned here in verse 5 and the state of total mercy expressed in verses 1-3 beforehand:.

Whenever you see the words "light" and "face" in the Torah (i.e., Proverbs 16:15), their essence is contained above where the gates of the realm of great mercy are opened and all the Spheres are full of mercy and life, and all the worlds are filled with compassion and mercy and no prosecutor has the power to harm any creature through harsh judgment or punishment at all. 9

Humanity enters a new and miraculous time:

In the Era of the Redemption, even the miracles which are enclothed in the natural order will be revealed. That is, mankind will be able to perceive these miracles. In addition, this will indicate a higher level of the miracles themselves. At present, the natural order conceals the miracles because the natural order represents the very opposite of the miraculous [even when a miracle is enclothed with it]. This is because a miracle represents a deviation from the natural order, a change from its ordinary functioning. Therefore [in the present era, the uniqueness of] the miracles which transcend the natural order is more apparent. In the Era of the Redemption, however, the miracles which are enclothed within the natural order will also be revealed, as it is said, "I will show you wonders". The reason for this difference is that in the Era of the Redemption, the natural order will be elevated, and it will also be a suitable medium for the revelation of the infinite dimensions of the light of the Ein Sof which will be enclothed within it. Therefore, the miracles which are enclothed in nature will also be overtly revealed.

Thus the new dimension implied by the prophecy "I will show you wonders" - that the wonders will be perceived - will be reflected in the wonders themselves. At present, the miracles enclothed in nature are such that even after the revelation of the infinite dimensions of the light of the Ein Sof through the miracle, the existence of the natural order remains unaffected. In addition, its thrust is directly opposite to the revelation of infinite light (except that the revelation of the infinite light controls it and compels its course to follow the dictates of G-d's will). In the Era of the Redemption, by contrast, the miracles that are enclothed within the natural order will possess both advantages: 1) the revelation of light of the Ein Sof will be expressed within the natural order; and 2) there will be no entity whose existence runs contrary to the revelation of [G-d's] infinity, for even nature will be a medium [for the expression of] the infinite dimension of light of the Ein Sof.

1. Secrets of the Future Temple (Mishkney Elyon), Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato, translated by Avraham Greenbaum, Temple Institute and Azamra Institute, Jerusalem, 1999,  p.28-30.

2. Waters of Eden, Aryeh Kaplan, 1976, NCSY, Brooklyn, NY. p.35

3. Fully explained in Sha'are Orah (Gates of Light) Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla, English translation by Avi Weinstein, Altamira Press, London, 1994,  p. 219-220.

4. Along the Path: Studies in Kabbalistic Myth, Symbolism, and Hermeneutics, Elliot R. Wolfson, State University of New York Press, Albany, 1995 pp. 1-62

5. ibid., pp.19, 20, 142 and numerous other references.

6. Numbers Rabbah 13:2, as cited in The Messiah Texts, Raphael Patai, Wayne State University Press, Detroit, 1979,  p. 238.

7. Mid. haNe'elam, Zohar 1:135b, as cited in The Messiah Texts p. 244.

8. S'udat Livyatan BhM6:150-51, as cited in The Messiah Texts p. 240.

9. Sha'are Orah (Gates of Light) Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla, English translation by Avi Weinstein, Altamira Press, London, 1994,  p. 353, 354.

10. From