2 Kings 2:9-12 As they were going along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven. Elisha saw it and cried out, "My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!" And he saw Elijah no more.
Hebrew Bible. Ezekiel 1:1-17 Now it came about in the thirtieth year, on the fifth day of the fourth month, …, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. … As I looked, behold, a storm wind was coming from the north, a great cloud with fire flashing forth continually and a bright light around it, and in its midst something like glowing metal in the midst of the fire. Within it there were figures resembling four living beings. …
Cont. In the midst of the living beings there was something that looked like burning coals of fire, like torches darting back and forth among the living beings. … Now as I looked at the living beings, behold, there was one wheel on the earth beside the living beings, for each of the four of them. The appearance of the wheels and their workmanship was like sparkling beryl, and all four of them had the same form, their appearance and workmanship being as if one wheel were within another.
Merkavah “Chariot” Mysticism Early Rabbinic speculations on God’s Throne / Chariot described in Bible. Early centuries C.E. Attempt to enter throne room.
3 Enoch 5-6 century C.E. “Enoch walked with God and he was not, for God took him.” Rabbi Ishmael said: When I ascended to the height to behold the vision of the chariot, I entered 6 palaces, one inside the other, and when I reached the door of the 7 th palace I paused in prayer before the Holy One, blessed be he; Then I entered the 7 th palace and he led me to the camp of the Shekinah and presented me before the throne of Glory so that I might behold the chariot.
Fear and Fascination Rabbis restricted teaching of mysticism Best not to ask what is before above below creation … b
Bavli: Chagigah 14b "Our masters taught: Four men entered the Pardes ('Orchard' of mystical teachings), Ben Azzai.. died, Ben Zoma.. became demented, Aher became a heretic. Rabbi Akiva departed unhurt." -
Kabbalah Sephardic Medieval tradition Many books written Torah has many levels of meaning. Mystic wants uncover the deepest.
Lady torah Torah “disrobes” before the mystic. Superficial meanings Midrashic meanings Mystical meanings: the ultimate truth.
Rituals Link between human and divine realms. Ritual transforms reality: Sabbath: divine forces reunited Sabbath as bride of Israel
God: Ein Sof Without End. God can only be described by what he is NOT! How then, can one approach God?
Ascent and Decent People must elevate themselves spiritually. God has created the world in a series of 10 projections or “Emanations” of himself Sefirah / Sefirot. Mystic’s quest: self perfection to understand the Sephirot
Feminization of God Different aspects of God are masc. and feminine. Goal is unification with God.
Zohar “Book of Splendor” 13 th Century Most important Kabbalah text Aramaic Commentary on Biblical readings.
Baal Shem Tov With the light created by God during the six days of Creation, Adam could see from one end of the world to the other. God hid the light away for the righteous in the hereafter. Where did he hide it? In the Torah. So when I open Zohar, I see the whole world.
Zohar Sefirot Sometimes likened to a person Unity of Tiferet & Shekinah influenced by human sin / righteousness
“Garment of Torah” Physical torah not the real torah. Handout:
Mysticism and Messiah Isaac Luria 1534-1572 taught that a saintly teacher could redeem a generation Revolutionary Messiah replaced by Heroic messiah
Lurianic Kabalah Tzimzum: Ein Sof (GOD) contracts to open a space for creation remnant of divine light remains light preserved in jars.
Lurianic K. Breaking the vessels Light cannot be contained. Shards of vessels are root of evil Light scattered and surrounded by matter
Lurianic K. TIKKUN: Repair. Rebuilding the primordial ADAM. separating divine sparks from shards. Obedience to torah etc: elevating worlds to original purity
Luria: Gradual redemption. Acts of righteousness prepare the way for Messiah Jews have special obligation to help bring Messiah
Breslauer, p. 100 Torah a secret code –Open to any interpretation outside of Oral Torah Prayer has magical power –New prayers will replace the old Disorder is fundamental to nature –Descent into disorder necessary to restore cosmos Leader is essential to salvation. –Small step to Messiah
1648 “Messiah will come…” Eastern European Kabbalists determined that Messiah will come in 1648
Sabbatai Zvi 1626-1672 1648 Claimed to be Messiah. Overturned traditional Halakhah Turks imprisoned him, forced conversion to Islam Many followers saw his “descent into sin” part of mystical repair of the universe.