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
The return of this river is associated with the "Day of the Lord"
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"
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.
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
Rivers, water and wells are all associated with the idea of Wisdom (and
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
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
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
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
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 -
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
Regarding the idea of the Lamb being in the throne, refer to the section
"The Divine Jacob" in our notes to
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."
Some examples are:
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
- 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
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.
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.
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)."
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
Secrets of the Future Temple (Mishkney
Elyon), Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato, translated by Avraham Greenbaum,
Temple Institute and Azamra Institute, Jerusalem, 1999,
Waters of Eden, Aryeh Kaplan, 1976, NCSY, Brooklyn,
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.
Along the Path: Studies in Kabbalistic Myth, Symbolism, and Hermeneutics,
Elliot R. Wolfson, State University of New York Press, Albany, 1995 pp.
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,
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.
Sha'are Orah (Gates of Light) Rabbi Joseph
Gikatilla, English translation by Avi Weinstein, Altamira Press, London,