Sefer Bahir on all this

After discussing the descent of the Sephirot from Ein Sof at length, Sefer Bahir (171) then raises a question about ascending or “backward” turning lights, as if we’d just naturally expect to find such things.

“We (now) know about (lights that descend) from up above down below,” the disciples point out, “but we don’t (yet) know about (lights that ascend) from down below up above”.

The source of the notion is apparently the verse from Ezekiel’s vision that speaks of “the Chayot (as having) darted to and fro like flashes of lightning” (1:14) which Ramchal himself refers to in his comments to this Petach.

It’s pointed out next in Sefer Bahir that while the Sephirot would naturally be assumed to descend rapidly, backward-turning light Sephirot would be assumed to move more slowly.

“Ascending can’t be the same as descending” the disciples point out. For, “one could run while descending, but he can’t do that while ascending”.

This observation is apparently accepted outright since it isn’t responded to, assumedly because it’s a foregone conclusion. But as we’ll see, this point has a number of ethical and spiritual implications otherwise it wouldn’t make sense given that the Sephirot aren’t physical and thus needn’t be affected by traction or by having to resist the pull of gravity.

Sefer Bahir then finishes its explanation of the layout there in the name of R’ Yochanan (see 135) with the statement that “just as the Shechina is below, it’s likewise above” as it “surrounds everything”; after all, isn’t it written “The whole world is full of His Glory” (Isaiah 6:3)? And it offers that the Shechina is there “in order to support and sustain them”.

First off, the use of the term “Shechina” here is awkward-sounding to us and exceptional, so it either refers to the Ein Sof (and should thus be translated “Divine Presence”, as R’ Aryeh Kaplan does in his work), or it refers to Malchut, which it often does in Zohar and in many other places, and it speaks to the fact that Keter comes to be Malchut and vice versa as cited above.

We’ll expand upon the all-encompassing nature of Ein Sof later on in various contexts as we go along.

Let’s see what Ramak says about this all.

(c) 2011 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org

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