The Divine Name YHVH in the Zohar Explanations of the Letters

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  1. ScholarlySeeker

    ScholarlySeeker Active Member

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    The Divine Name YHVH in the Zohar Explanations of the Letters

    Upon examining the Zohar one soon comes to several places throughout the various volumes that select individual letters and names which are developed, discussed, analyzed, and taken apart in the process of mythological descriptions of their meanings. It is one of the most fascinating things about reading the Zohar, as well as the Hebrew alphabet and language. In this paper, I will explore a few of these themes to show the flavor of the Zoharic exegesis of the rabbis. One of their most favorite and important is the divine name YHVH.

    In Kabbalah is a sacred diagram the rabbis and kabbalists called “The Tree of Life.” It has ten circles and twenty two paths connecting all the circles together in a geometric design.

    If one does not know what it looks like, a Google search, I am sure, could get you to a picture of it. It is necessary to at least have that in mind when we read how the rabbis discuss different letters because they many times equate a specific letter with a specific circle, called a “Sefira.” Sefiroth is the plural of Sefira, and the collection of sefiroth with the connecting paths is what they label “The Tree of Life,” perhaps one of the most famous diagrams in the Kabbalah..

    Daniel Matt says “According to Kabbalah, the name YHVH symbolizes the entire sefirotic spectrum.” That is, all ten sefira and the paths connecting them. He continues, :The י (Yod) symbolizes the primordial point of [the sefira] Hokhmah, while its [the yod’s] upper tip symbolizes Keter [the crown, the topmost sefira on the Tree of Life]. The first ה (he) often a feminine marker, symbolizes the Divine Mother, Binah. The ו (vav) whose numerical value is six, symbolizes Tif’eret and the five sefirot surrounding Him (Hesed through Yesod). The second ה (he) symbolizes Shekhinah.”[1]

    Why is YHVH meant to depict the sefirot, even the entire Tree of Life? What is this supposed to mean to us? The Jewish esoteric tradition says that “the world was called into being by ten utterances. Since the Middle Ages, these ten stages have been known as the Sefirot.”[2] “Why are they called Sephirot? Because it is written (Psalm 19:2) ‘The heavens declare (me-SaPRim) the glory of God.’[3] This is typical, yet serious, of the Jewish love of playing with words which convey hidden meanings. The very first sentence of the Jewish mystical text Sefer Yetzirah notes 32 paths which are manifest with 10 digits and the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, with the ten digits being the sefirot as well, “which are the most basic concepts of existence.”[4]

    Gershom Scholem described their function as “God reveals himself do[ing] so through the creative power of the sefiroth. The God of whom religion speaks is always conceived under one or more of these aspects of His Being, which the Kabbalists identified with stages in the process of divine emanation. This Kabbalistic world of the sefiroth encompasses what philosophers and theologians called the world of divine attributes.”[5] These are the channels God rules through and interacts with the universe, “from them come all of existence,” and the energy flows down through from the infinite to the finite levels and is geared down as it were until it reaches this earth. “All ten sefirot function as a unit to channel the divine energy.”[6]

    “The mystic who sets out to grasp the meaning of God’s absolute unity is thus faced at the outset with an infinite complexity of heavenly spheres and stages which are described in the Kabbalistic texts. From the contemplation of these ‘Sefiroth’ he proceeds to the conception of God as the union and the root of all these contradictions. Generally speaking, the mystics do not seem to conceive of God as the absolute Being or absolute Becoming but as the union of both; much as the hidden God of whom nothing is known to us, and the living God of religious experience and revelation, are one and the same.”[7]


    A scripture kabbalists use to demonstrate why the symbolism of the name YHVH fits the entire sefiroth is Isaiah 43:7 - “Even every one that is called by my name; for I have created him for glory, I have formed him: yea I have made him.” These four levels of calling, creating, forming, and making recur throughout the scriptures and throughout Kabbalah. They exist within the Primordial Tree of Life, in Atzilut and correspond symbolically to the root, trunk, branch, and fruit, or to the four letters of the Tetragrammaton, or most especial name of God, YHVH.”[8] This ten-fold nature according to Gershom Scholem and Leonora Leet, was influenced by Pythagoreanism, essentially being a “secret Rhythm of its movement and pulse beat is the law of motion of all creation.” Leet demonstrates at length the influence and parallels to the Pythagorean tetractys, and the ten sefiroth, including the same underlying philosophies of each and how they interlace with Plato’s creation account the Timaeus, all based upon the sound, number, geometry and the diatonic music scale.[9]

    The Tetsavveh says “First mystery י (Yod) primordial point standing upon nine pedestals supporting it. These are stationed in four directions of the world, just as End of Thought final point, is stationed in four directions of the world…”[10] “In Lurianic Kabbalah they [the Four Worlds] synergistically work with the ten sefirot, which become the five major archetypes, who are the manifestations of different Divine Names and Letters as they manifest or de-manifest in pre-cosmic history.”[11] The divine letter Yod has three tips or heads, all of which are chained and connect it with the higher worlds and lower worlds as it was taught in the Book of Enoch - “When he was shown supernal mysteries and saw the Tree in the Garden of Eden, he was shown wisdom by sublime mystery , and he saw that all the worlds are connected… all are established on Yod, from which they are composed and linked together.”[12] The very word itself יוד (Yod) signifies “three letters, fullness of all. Beginning of all, Yod highest of all. Vav - middle one, perfection of all aspects, conveying all spirits; upon it depends faith. Dalet - Garden, bundle of life.”[13]

    In “Be-Midbar” the four letters of the Divine name are labeled according to the 4 direction, Yod the east, the beginning of light, He the south, Vav in the center between north and south, and He suspended between north and south, final He is west.[14]

    It is not just the divine name which represent important concepts, rather, “All the alphabets combine, permuting one another, joining in permutation of the Holy Name. As soon as letters appear in this permutation, they are hidden away and others emerge; and so with all of them; these hidden and those emerging…”[15]

    “The Blessed Holy One created man with י (yod), ה (he), ו (vav), ה (he) within - His holy name, soul of soul - this is called Adam. Radiances shine through nine luminaries, suspended from י (yod). One light without division. Thus, body of man is called garment of Adam. ה (he) called soul. Coupling with י (yod). it spreads out to numerous radiances, and it is one. י (yod) ה (he), with no separation. Of this it is written God created the image in His image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them… and He called their name אדם (Adam) (Genesis 1:27, 5:2). ו (vav) - called spirit, and also called Son of יה (yod, he). ה (he) - called נפשא (nafsha), soul, and also called Daughter. Father and Mother, Son and Daughter - great mystery of יוד (yod vav dalet), הא (he alef), ואו (vav alef vav), הא (he alef), - called Adam. His radiance, scattering to forty-five radiances - numerical value of אדם (Adam), forty five. The name יוד (yod), הא (he) ואו (vav), הא (he) - male and female He created them… and He called their name אדם (Adam). [16]

    In the Matnitin, we read “Celestial ones fly off from the right. Nine points of Torah flow, apportioned among the letters. Letters undulate through them on subtle journeys, allocated to mysteries. These nine rule over letters - letters ramifying from them. Points remain to elevate them, mobilizing only when these emerge, in the mystery of Ein Sof - all letters undulating in the mystery of Ein Sof. Just as these convey those, so are these concealed ones conveyed. Letters revealed and not revealed. These hidden ones - upon what do they rest? Letters.”[17]

    The rabbis are positively obsessed with elaborating on the incredible connection of letters, language, words, with sound, color, and amazingly enough, geometry, as well as with man, the ultimate geometric concept of God. “Come and see: Utterly Supreme, Concealed One - י (yod), celestial point emerges from Him. From this supernal point everything issues, channeling and gushing forth ה (he), Supernal Mother, irrigating all. From here flows ו (vav) mystery of six, uniting all sides - rods of fresh poplar, almond, and plane (Genesis 30:37). Two arms joined to it extend and unite with lower ה (he), connecting to tabernacle as one, becoming one. Then the thirteen attributes are one. Whiteness revealed, ascending above all colors, as is written: exposed whiteness (ibid). Then it is called: YHVH is one and His name is one (Zechariah 14:9).”[18]

    “The letters represent the raw material with which we express the products of our intelligence… the letters of the Alpha-Beis are the array of individual spiritual forces through which God articulates His will in Creation.”[19]

    Endnotes
    1. Daniel Matt, The Zohar, Pritzker edition, (12 vols), Stanford University Press, 2012, “Va-Yiqra,” Vol. 7: 9, note 27.
    2. Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi, Kabbalah, Tradition of Hidden Knowledge, Thames & Hudson, reprint, 1998: 5.
    3. The Bahir, translated and commentary by Aryeh Kaplan, Samuel Weiser, 1st paperback, 1989: 47.
    4. Sefer Yetzirah, translated and commentary by Aryeh Kaplan, Samuel Weiser, 1997: 5. See David Sheinkin, Path of the Kabbalah, Paragon House, 1986: 194 - “Sefirot, the ten energy essences that are said to be in constant interplay and underlie all of the universe.” S. L. MacGregor Mathers, The Kabbalah Unveiled, Samuel Weiser, 5th printing, 1997: 21, says they are “the most abstract forms of the ten numbers of the decimal scale… in Qabalah we reason of the Deity by the abstract forms of the numbers.” A. E. Waite contends otherwise, The Holy Kabbalah, University Press, 1992: 194 - “We must not be so crude as to suppose that mere arithmetical numerals are here intended: it was powers, forces, vitalities, virtues, attributes, principles, which were thus produced or unfolded, and these are the ten sephiroth.”
    5. Gershom Scholem, On the Kabbalah and its Symbolism, Schocken Books, 1969: 35.
    6. Howard Schwartz, Tree of Souls, The Mythology of Judaism, Oxford University Press, 2004: 7. Neil Asher Silberman, Heavenly Powers, Unraveling the Secret History of the Kabbalah, Castle Books, 1998: 155, notes Cordovero “systematically described the chain of divine emanation as almost an industrial production process…”
    7. Gershom Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, Schocken Books, 1974: 13.
    8. Halevi, Ibid., p. 8.
    9. Gershom Scholem, The Mystical Shape of the Godhead, Schocken Books, 1992: 39. The divine energy taking a different shape at each level reached, which, theologically appears as different attributes. “In its totality the individual elements of the life process of God are unfolded yet constitute a unity (the unity of God revealing Himself); together they are the shape of the Godhead. See also Leonora Leet, The Secret Doctrine of the Kabbalah, Inner Traditions, 1999: 74-87; Also The Universal Kabbalah, Deciphering the Cosmic Code in the Sacred Geometry of the Sabbath Star Diagram, Inner Traditions, 2004: 4-6. Johann Reuchlin, On the Art of the Kabbalah, University of Nebraska Press, first Bison Book print, 1993: 43.
    10. “Tetsavveh” in Zohar, Matt translation, Pritzker edition, 6:4.
    11. Eliahu Klein, Kabbalah of Creation, The Mysticism of Isaac Luria, Founder of Modern Kabbalah, North Atlantic Books, 2005: xliii. According to Charles Ponce, Kabbalah, 4th Quest Books printing, 1986: 103, the sefirot are different colored vessels which change with influences from above and below and yet they represent what is eternal and unchanging.
    12. “Va-Yiqra,” Matt translation, Zohar, 2012, 7:54.
    13. “Emor,” Matt translation, Zohar, 2014, 8: 83.
    14. “Be-Midbar,” Matt translation, Zohar, 2014, 8: 263.
    15. Rav-Metivta,” Matt translation, Zohar, 2016, 9: 141.
    16. “Rut,” Joel Hecker translation, Zohar, Pritzker edition, 2016, 12: 95-96. In “Shir ha-Shirim,” Another explanation: Upright ones - יה (yod, he) - their love toward ו (vav), in complete harmony, and unified desire toward ו (vav). Zohar, 12: 421.
    17. “Mantinin,” Joel Hecker translation, Pritzker Zohar, 11: 535.
    18. “Tosefta,” Joel Hecker translation, Zohar, Pritzker ed., 11: 613-614.
    19, Rabbi Michael L. Munk, The Wisdom in the Hebrew Alphabet, Mesorah Publications, 2nd ed., 13th impression, 2003: 23.
     
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  2. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens Admin

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    Phew ...

    Kab med best.png






    I like this guy
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2021
  3. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic) Admin

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    Whoa, you're quite the stormy suitor!

    I am guessing this refers to Malkuth? Good place to start, and something I can actually relate to, down to earth.

    What grounding would you recommend, based on your studies, before attempting these heights?
     
  4. RabbiO

    RabbiO הרב יונה בן זכריה

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    Are you seeking to learn about..... or are you seeking to study and understand?
     
  5. ScholarlySeeker

    ScholarlySeeker Active Member

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    Thank you! I did not realize I can bring in images, or I would have. I still have so much to learn how to use this wonderful forum...Another forum I am on will not allow me to import images until I have been there for a few months, kinda aggravating actually. I think I understand why though. Especially with Kabbalah and all the ideas they share, I really need to grasp how to bring in images, it makes it so much easier to talk about.... and it is such a fantastically fascinating subject to me, and can be exciting reading if one comes about it correctly. That is not to say I do, but I can try to make it worthwhile reading.
     
  6. ScholarlySeeker

    ScholarlySeeker Active Member

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    Hi Cino!
    Well, ok, One of the easiest books I have read, but particularly valuable is that of Z'ev ben Shimon Halevi. "Kabbalah, Tradition of Hidden Knowledge." It should still be available and it won't be expensive at all being published by Thames & Hudson. It's solid basic stuff with a lot of pics and diagrams and yet he does give some fantastic details into the depths.

    Another quite fun solid beginning book is Charles Ponce's book "Kabbalah" because, like Halevi, Ponce has a lot of cool diagrams to look at about what he is saying.

    The book by David Sheinkin "Path of the Kabbalah" is a smaller book and very solid. It is just a terrific book to get the grasp of Kabbalah, though not nearly as profusely illustrated as the other two. I myself really like illustrations in this kind fo subject, but Sheinkin is really good too.

    And finally, as just a very nice, very thorough overview of all of Judaic mythology which is so comprehensive, so fantastically delightful to read because it shares the stories, the experiences, and the really good scholarship is Howard Schwartz's book "Tree of Souls, the Mythology of Judaism." I simply cannot say enough good about this fantastic resource! He has it all, and has done such a magnificent job keeping it on the basic level and since its so broad it is quite encyclopedic. Simple, and yet he puts a truckload of serious scholarship into it.

    The other nice thing is, I really don't think getting all 4 of these books at once would be out of range financially. I doubt you would have to spend very much at all to get a really good foundation of understanding, and that understanding can come at such a delightful way because of how these 4 texts have presented the Kabbalah. I return to them again and again. I suspect you could get everyone of these as used books for pennies on the dollar on Amazon books. They would be a steal.
     
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  7. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens Admin

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    Been waiting for the Rabbi to come in on this one ;)
     
  8. ScholarlySeeker

    ScholarlySeeker Active Member

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    I had no idea we have a Rabbi here! How nice! I am looking VERY forward to having some great discussions on this then! There is so much to learn, and its so energizing to me to do so. I just recently gathered the entire set of Matt's Zohar, and am looking into it, and am just truly impressed. It is so much more than I expected. Very nice to have the texts. This is going to just make my life man.....
     
  9. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens Admin

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    At the bottom right, press 'Upload a File'
    In the box that comes up, press 'Choose File'
    A pop-up box on the left top of your screen will take you to your computer files
    Select the image you want, and press 'Open'
    That will load the image at the bottom of the page with the choice of:
    Thumbnail or Full Size Image
    Press 'Full Size' and the image will load

    It only accepts images up to 1mb which is quite basic

    Sometimes it works better just to copy the image from the source and paste it direct into your post

    We have a minimum 30post threshold before new members can post links, in case of spammers, but you will see that your own post count has been increased to over 31, to avoid that, because you obviously are not a spammer.

    Great to have you as a member!
     
  10. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic) Admin

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    I'm seeking to study and understand. What do you recommend?
     
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  11. ScholarlySeeker

    ScholarlySeeker Active Member

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    I also seek to understand RabbiO, so I am sincerely interested in seeing what you recommend. This is very energizing to me to know there is a Rabbi here who may help us better get going well than we can on our own, although I confess, I am already eager to learn, so I have gone all out within my circumstances to get going on my own. But guidance from you? That would simply be cherished no end...
     
  12. ScholarlySeeker

    ScholarlySeeker Active Member

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    Thank you so much for your kindness and help. This is a great forum and I am looking so forward to learning from you all and sharing for years to come. I have been looking for a forum like this for some time, with intelligent, polite, well informed people who don't mind mixing it up and remaining friends because we all recognize our human limitations, yet also our human capabilities of rising together in knowledge, light, fun, and friendship. I appreciate your efforts as moderators and administrators. It is NOT a thankless job, I know the work it takes, and gratefully acknowledge the terrific jobs you all are doing. I do not say that smirking.
     
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  13. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens Admin

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    That is just great to know!
    There's not a lot of moderator work on this site, it's quite small.

    Regarding @RabbiO
    He seems to be a very busy man, impossible to know his intentions but would not expect him to get too engaged here on this thread. But IMO can definitely be relied upon to correct any erroneous ideas about the Jewish religion, lol :)
     
  14. ScholarlySeeker

    ScholarlySeeker Active Member

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    I understand, and will work within that parameter, but the idea that we have someone who can correct erroneous ideas about Judaism is exactly what thrills me. So this is all just good.
     
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  15. ScholarlySeeker

    ScholarlySeeker Active Member

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    This is just a test to see if I can upload a picture
    tetractys.jpg
     
  16. ScholarlySeeker

    ScholarlySeeker Active Member

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    Just testing the difference, sorry if its against protocol.
    tetractys.jpg

    WOW! That is gigantic! LOL......
     
  17. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens Admin

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    No go ahead, have fun with it. To size the image for the page is more complicated. It needs to be done from source, before uploading, and can be got googling and messing around. But sure: there's your pic posted, lol. The second version actually looks ok on phone screen really?
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2021
  18. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic) Admin

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    I can see it fine on my phone screen.

    While I am not Jewish, I still insist on treating Hebrew writing of the Tetragrammaton very respecrfully, and not as a mere test-case, to be deleted once satisfied. Leave it standing here, both versions, and tell us what this particular form means, so we can engage beyond the upload functionality.

    If nothing else, Interfaith courtesy would dictate such a respectful treatment of a faith's symbols.
     
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  19. ScholarlySeeker

    ScholarlySeeker Active Member

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    OK, another test, sorry.....just seeing if I can manipulate the size of the pics I upload.
    tree of life.jpg
     
  20. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens Admin

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    It looks ok on phone, but reduce dimensions to get a reduced image on the computer screen, if you like? Perhaps height 700 x width in proportion. I'm not that great at this the stuff myself really, lol
     

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