The Chariot (3)

Given that a chariot represents what it does — the various ways God administers the cosmos from His throne — we now understand why we’re taught that “The subject of … the workings of the chariot (may not be expounded to anyone other than) . . . a sage who has an innate understanding (of it). (In fact,) whoever (else) speculates on it would have been better off not having come into the world” (Mishna Hagigah 2:1). That’s so because knowledge of God’s ways in the world can lead one astray.

Yet we’re taught that “The account of the Chariot is a great matter while the discussions of Abaya and Rava” — which is to say, the discussions upon which all practical Halacha are based — “is a lesser matter” (Sukkah 28a). And that a Torah scholar who appears before God after his death is asked, “My son, since you occupied yourself with the study of the Talmud, did you gaze upon the Chariot? For in My world there is no real pleasure except when sages are sitting occupied with the words of Torah and gaze and look, behold and meditate upon” the realm of the Chariot as well (Midrash Mishlei, Chapter 10). So it’s obviously a vitally important subject of study.

Interestingly enough, though, the above Midrash starts to veer off onto a discussion of the Divine Throne rather than on the Chariot per se, thus equating the two.

This could be explained by the fact that the word “chariot” isn’t cited in the first chapter of Ezekiel, as we indicated, while “throne” is (twice in 1:26). But that didn’t seem to affect the change, given that the term Chariot continued to be used after the codification of The Book of Ezekiel, as we see from the Post-Biblical references. So, when and why did the concern for the Chariot become a concern with the Throne?

(c) 2013 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org

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3 responses to “The Chariot (3)

  1. Our first exposure to the Heavenly Retinue, in Shemos, is stationary. I though the reason why Yirmiyahu and Yechezqel saw Hashem in a chariot was because He was prepared for our exile. And not that it was something intrinsic to existence as a whole when not in the exilic state.

  2. It’s seems to me, at least, that Menachos 43b / Sotah 17a treats Shemos 34:10 as a vision of the same thing as what Yechezqel saw. At least the sapphire paving was.

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