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
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