The Word Revealed in the Zohar

The Word Revealed in the Zohar
James Scott Trimm

In the introduction portion of the Zohar (Haqdamat Sefer Zohar) there is a very deep discussion of Isaiah 40:26. I wish I had time to fully explain this exposition to you. This is my second draft of this blog. In the first draft, I started to do just that, and then realized that I was having to explain so much background information to make it understandable, that the subject I really wanted to cover, was getting lost in the mix.

To summarize the setting, Rabbi El’azar is giving an exposition on the passage “Lift your eyes on high and see: Who created these?” Shimon bar Yochai interrupts him saying:

Said R. Simeon, ‘Eleazar, son of mine, cease thy discourse, that there may be revealed the higher mysteries which remain sealed for the people of this world.’

R. Eleazar then fell into silence.

R. Simeon wept a while and then said: ‘Eleazar, what is meant by the term “these”? Surely not the stars and the other heavenly bodies, since they are always visible, and were created through Mah, as we read, “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made” (Ps. 33:6). Nor can it imply the things inaccessible to our gaze, since the vocable “these” obviously points to things that are revealed. This mystery remained sealed until one day, whilst I was on the sea-shore, Elijah came and said to me, “Master, what means ‘Mi (Who?) created these?’ “ I said to him, “That refers to the heavens and their hosts, the works of the Holy One, blessed be He, works through the contemplation of which man comes to bless Him, as it is written, ‘When I behold thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, etc. O Lord our God, how glorious is thy name in all the earth!’ “ (Ps. 8:4-10). (Zohar 1:2a Soncino)

“Elijah said to me, ‘Rabbi, the word was concealed with the blessed Holy One, and He revealed it in the Academy on High,” (Zohar 1:2a Pritzker)

The Zohar continues:

When the most Mysterious wished to reveal Himself, He first produced a single point which was transmuted into a thought, and in this He executed innumerable designs, and engraved innumerable gravings. He further graved within the sacred and mystic lamp a mystic and most holy design, which was a wondrous edifice issuing from the midst of thought. This is called MI, and was the beginning of the edifice, existent and non-existent, deep-buried, unknowable by name. It was only called MI (Who?).

It desired to become manifest and to be called by name. It therefore clothed itself in a refulgent and precious garment and created ELeH (these), and ELeH acquired a name. The letters of the two words intermingled, forming the complete name ELoHIM (God). (When the Israelites sinned in making the golden calf, they alluded to this mystery in saying ’Eleh (these are) thy Gods, O Israel’ (Exod. XXXII, 4).) And once MI became combined with ELeH, the name remained for all time. And upon this secret the world is built.” (Zohar 1:2a Soncino)

And then we read:

“Then Elijah flew off; I did not see him. From him I discovered the word, whose mysterious secret I have demonstrated.” (Zohar 1:2a Pritzker)

And finally:

R. Eleazar and all the companions came and prostrated themselves before him, weeping for joy and saying, ‘If we had come into the world only to hear this we should have been content.’ (Zohar 1:2a Soncino)

(I have switched between the two versions of the Zohar because I do not have time today to prepare a fresh translation of the Aramaic of this material for you, and the Soncino version (which i can cut and paste from most easily) omits the term “word” which is actually key to the entire passage.)

This is part of what is meant by:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with Elohim, and the Word was Elohim.
2 The same was in the beginning with Elohim.
3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
(Yochanan 1:1-3)

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