“Every vision that is mentioned with respect to an angel and/or prophet involves the created light that the Holy One, blessed be He, created…..to show to the angels and prophets…..The speech and the visions go forth to the angels and prophets from the end of the great light…..from the end of the light the prophets see the divine visions and hear the voice go out from the spirit…..

        The Creator, blessed be He forever, created a light and a great fire for [His] glory, which is called the Holy Spirit as well as Shechinah…..no prophet can look at all upon the beginning of that great light…..From the end of the light the Creator shows lights and sparks according to His will to His angels, seraphs, and prophets. At times these sparks and lights emerge from the end of the light, whether for the angels or the prophets. There are occasions when they see the light in several images (dimyonot), visions, or dreams, or in a visible image (demut re’iyah) according to what God wills, as it is written, ‘and through the prophets I was images’ (Hosea 12:11)…..At times when God shows [the glory] He does so in the image of an anthropos (in the form) of fire or of the great light, and under his feet is a fiery and luminous throne…..All the prophets knew that all the forms they saw were created from light…..When God gives strength to the prophet in his eyes and his heart on account of his abundant sanctity, the Creator allows him to see something of the end of the light or the fire of the splendour of the Shechinah, or some of the sparks that come out from the end of the light…..

        Since they did not have the same capacity in their eyes and hearts as did Moses our master, [the glory] appeared to them from within these images (mar’ot), for they see their forms as the form of an anthropos. Sometimes they see them in the form of an elder and sometimes in the form of a youth. All these appearances are for them [mental] images (dimyonot) and not a [physical] vision (re’iyah). Just as there is no person in the mirror or glass [reflecting someone’s image], so there is no form of a person within those lights [that come forth from the created glroy]. By means of those great lights that they [the prophets] see there appears to them within these forms a form of an anthropos glorious in power, in the great light and in strength. This comes to them on account of the weakness and feebleness of their eyes and hearts, like a person whose vision is weak so that he sees that which is low as if it were high and that which is one as if it were two. Thus it is written, ‘and through the prophets I was imaged’ (Hosea 12:11), for they are [mental] images and not a [physical] vision. But with respect to Moses, whose mind and heart were refined and whose eyes were brighter than all other people’s, the Holy One, blessed be He, showed him His splendour and His glory, which He created for the honour of His name, for it is greater than all the other lights that the prophets saw. [Moses] looked at the end of the splendour and His glory, which He created for the honour of His name, for it is greater than all the other lights that the prophet saw. [Moses] looked at the end of the splendour of the Shechinah, which is the great created light, and he had the visual capacity to see it with an actual vision (re’iyah mamash) and not (through) visions, dreams, or images. Therefore he saw, knew, and discerned that there is no form of an anthropos there, or any other [corporeal] form except the form of the splendour, the light, and the created great fire that is the form of the great light whose beginning no man can see….. Since the vision of Moses, our master, was refined he did not see images but looked and saw that there was no form there at all except for the forms of the created lights and fires. Therefore he did not speak through images, as it is written, ‘With him I speak mouth to mouth, plainly and not in riddles, and he beholds the likeness of the Lord’ (Numbers 12:8)…..

        The prophets gaze upon the splendour of the Shechinah and know that all the lights and images that appear to them are created. They see within these visions (mar’ot) as if they saw forms of a man made from fire and the great light. It appears to them in several images (dimyonot), according to the times and the situation in which Israel finds itself. It appeared to Moses from within a thorn bush, for Israel was among the thorns, in a time of great distress. It appeared to Moses and Israel upon the [Red] Sea as a youth engaged in warfare, and in the desert during the giving of the Torah it appeared ‘like the pavement of sapphire’ (Exodus 24:10), that is, in the image of an elder sitting down. Thus it also appeared to Daniel regarding the future redemption in the form of an elder sitting down…..The prophets saw these images, for they saw the fires and lights created from the splendour of the Shechinah. From these lights and flames they saw their image, which is the image of the anthropomorphic form of the splendour and the great fire…..each and every prophet according to his capacity and the capacity of [the people of] Israel who were with him at the time, and in accordance with his period and that of Israel in which they were. All the images of the glory of our Creator [were not seen] with an actual vision (re’iyah mamash), as it is written, ‘and through the prophets I was imaged’ (Hosea 12:11). But Moses our master…..saw with an actual vision the great splendour that is the end of the created Shechinah. He did not see any image (demut) of the glory of our Creator within the light, but rather the end of the form of the great light that our Creator created for His glory. Thus it says concerning him, ‘the glory of the Lord appeared’ (Exodus 24:17). [With (Moses) I speak mouth to mouth] ‘in a vision and not through riddles’  (Numbers 12:8). If you say that it is also written concerning all the other prophets, ‘I make Myself known to him in a vision (ibid., 6), this vision (mar’eh) involved knowledge (yedi’ah) and not actual sight (mar’eh mamash). The Creator showed them created lights for their capacity for knowledge and their vision was not as refined as that of Moses. Images appeared to them from amidst the lights, but not in an actual vision. Moses our master saw the end of the great light, an actual vision of the light and not through images, riddles or (figurative) visions…..

        [God is] being seen in the heart by all His creatures but hidden from the eye…..as it is written, ‘No man shall see me and live’ (Exodus 33:20)…..In his mercy [God] appears in His glory to the prophets according to the matter and the time in which the prophets, the righteous, and Israel are living…..

        [God] created the Shechinah, which is the pure and holy spirit…..this spirit, which is called the Shechinah of His glory, is the Holy Spirit…..from which the prophets heard the voice, and the spirit rested upon them, and the speech spoke with them, and it appeared to them as a form, as it is written by Moses, ‘he beheld the likeness of God’ (Numbers 12:8)…..The sages did not speak of this explicitly so that people would not come to contemplate what is above…..Therefore they would transmit this matter to their students and sages in a whisper and privately, through [oral] tradition (kabbalah)…..

        The angels and the prophets see in their visions as if they saw the image of the throne and as if an image of the glory were upon it, and as if the ofanim and beasts were carrying it…..Since all the prophets saw the created glory, which is called Shechinah, on the throne of glory, they called it Shechinah, for there the Creator caused His glory to dwell. The prophets saw the splendour of the Shechinah to a degree from the end of the great light…..The Creator shows some of the light of the glory He created to His angels or prophets, and similarly He shows them an image of the speech (demut dibbur) on the throne, and this is the Shechinah…..”

 

– Judah ben Barzillai al-Barceloni (Perush Sefer Yetzirah)

 

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