When you want to enter the higher worlds…..Klippot (frustrating forces) will stand in your way…..Continue to work with all your might, and in the end you will…..enter the higher worlds.”

Sefer Baal Shem Tov

 

 

Tales of Wonder! Tales of Woe!

20. “Queen Sabbath”

by

Joseph Patai

(from “Souls and Secrets” )

A. Introduction

by

Jacobus Swart

A remarkable derivation from the Merkavistic Tradition, is the concept of Divine Wisdom based on Proverbs 8 and Job 28, which was understood to be the “Feminine Power” through which God created the world. The suggestion is that this female force coupled with the masculine God in order to create the whole of manifestation. In the extra-canonical Wisdom of Solomon 7:25, “She” is described as “A breath of the power of God, and a clear effluence of the glory of the Almighty…..for She is an effulgence from everlasting light and an unspotted mirror of God, and an image of His goodness.” This Wisdom was also seen to be the Sabbath and the Torah or Law, as the verbal expression of God. There were various terms for the feminine counterpart of God including Kavod (Glory), and the most important of all the names for this feminine creatrix is the word Shechinah, a word which earlier simply meant the “Presence of Divinity” in this world. There is a direct connection between the word Shechinah and the Greek word “skene” or, as we now say, “scene.” It originally meant a tent or tabernacle, or a stage for actors. Sometimes a Temple. It was a “blanket-word” meaning “surroundings,” or something that both displayed and concealed the “Presence of God” on earth.

In Kabbalah the Shechinah came to be seen as something separate from God, an intrinsic companion, as understood in Proverbs and the Midrash (Commentary) on Proverbs, where it is written that: “the Shechinah stood before the Holy One, blessed be He, and said to Him.” Thus with the Shechinah or “Divine Bride,” the Presence of God was recognised in this world. We might say it was just “Nature” as a spiritual force, or the action of Divinity through natural energies. For example, it is interesting that the old desert-dwelling Semites used to look on the “Ark of the Covenant” with awe, because it sometimes appeared to glow in the dark. Of course, this might have been nothing more than static electricity in that dry atmosphere, or “St Elmos Fire,” which they thought was the Shechinah making Herself visible. Since night, sleep and dream is believed to be the realm of the feminine, it was said that it was the Shechinah who appeared to Solomon in his dream in which he made the choice of the attainment of Wisdom, and got gold to boot.

There is a Zoharic legend that the righteous will be granted a vision of the Shechinah at the time of their deaths, and there might be a connection between this and the Christian clause in the “Hail Mary” which reads: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our deaths. Amen.” I personally feel there is a great similarity of beliefs between Judeo-Christian ideas. The Paternal Jewish religion had displaced the old Matriarchy, yet they had a sneaking feeling that it was not wise to abandon the Old Goddess altogether, just as the Christians later compromised with the “Virgin Mary” concept. It is said the Shechinah is present when ten men meet to pray, three men meet for justice, or two meet to study Torah. Ultimately the Shechinah came to be identified with the “House of Israel,” and these ideas finally found their way into the Sefer Bahir. This work takes a lot of its thinking from the earlier Sefer Yetzirah (the “Book of Creation”), and developed it further still.

In the Sefer Bahir the union between God and his Kavod, or Shechinah, is described in highly erotic terms. Let me make it clear here that the Kabbalah does not forbid or deride sex as such, neither encourage it unduly or advocate anything unsavoury such as cruelty and humiliation. Instead, it shows us how to use sex with intelligence and enjoyment combined so as to benefit by the God-Force it was and is meant to be. This Tradition has something alive and vital about it rather than only a lot of speculations concerning the Cosmos and details of Divinity. For instance the Shechinah is Kabbalistically considered to be with the male during sexual congress. In other words it was the old idea of “God-the-Father” in the “Man-human” mating with “God-the-Mother” in the “Female-human.” To put it crudely, God mating with God, which is exactly what happens.

The Shechinah, the Female Counterpart of God, or the Presence of God in this world, has always been seen to be represented by all women alive, and thus it was believed by Kabbalists that if you spend your time studying Torah, thus being in the company of the Shechinah all the time, it was your obligation to give pleasure to your spouse on the seventh day, since it was through her that the Shechinah or Divine Presence came to you. In fact the Seventh Day, or Sabbath, itself became associated with the Shechinah as a Divine Bride, and her arrival at the Friday Evening meal was greeted with ecstatic hymns, like this one which was written by the famous Isaac Luria, the greatest Kabbalists of the Safed School.

“I sing in hymns
to enter the gates,
of the field of apples
of holy ones.

A new table
we lay for her,
a beautiful candelabrum
sheds its light upon us.

Between right and left
the Bride approaches
in holy jewels
and festive garments.

Her husband embraces her
in her foundation,
gives her fulfilment,
squeezes out his strength.

Torment and cries
are past.
Now there are new faces
and souls and spirits.

He gives her joy
in twofold measure.
Lights shine
and streams of blessing.

Bridesmen, go forth
and prepare the bride,
victuals of many kinds
and all manner of fish.

To beget souls
and new spirits
on the thirty-two paths
and three branches.

She has seventy crowns
but above her the King,
that all may be crowned
in the Holy of Holies.

All worlds are formed
and sealed within her,
but all shine forth
from the Old of Days.

To southward I set
the Mystical candelabrum,
I make room in the north
for the table with the loaves.

With wine in beakers
and boughs of myrtle
to fortify the Betrothed,
for they are feeble.

We plait them wreathes
of precious words
for the coronation of the seventy
in fifty gates.

Let the Shekhinah be surrounded
by six Sabbath loaves
connected on every side
with the Heavenly Sanctuary.

Weakened and cast out
the impure powers,
the menacing demons
are now in fetters.”

A magnificent hymn, of which the last stanza is referring to the Klippot (Demonic shells – a Kabbalistic term, alluding to the “frustrating forces” of the Sefirot, once believed to be demons. The legend behind the “shells” is that they consist of all the imperfections of Creation, which “filter down” as it were to the bottom before being finally consumed by the Abyss system. As such, they obscure and obstruct the Shechinah in this world, except on the Sabbath, when they are said to be powerless because of the regenerating forces operating within the Union of God and His Shechinah. The task God intended for man was to “redeem” the fallen Shechinah.

Since his “Highest Soul,” his Neshamah, the Divine Spark Itself, is in fact part of the Shechinah, man should redeem this Divine Presence in himself, and thus perfect the whole “Plan.” Adam failed to do this, and his descendants are still struggling. It has been said many times that when the Messiah comes, everything will be made plain, and man will achieve the “Mystical Marriage” with the Shechinah or his True Self, and regain his Heaven-state. Another presentation of this said last verse in this Sabbath Hymn reads:

“The insolent dogs must remain outside and cannot come in,
I summon the Old of Days at evening until they are dispersed.
Until his will destroys the ‘shells.’
He hurls them into their abysses, they must hide deep in their caverns.
And all this now, in the evening, at the festival of Ze’ir Anpin.”

Ze’ir Anpin means the “Impatient One,” or the Aspect of Divinity which accelerated the Process of Perfection. In other words: “Get a move on God!”

B. “Queen Sabbath”

W e must hurry,” Luria said, turning back to his disciples. “The sun is setting and the Queen is approaching.”

With quick steps they left the vineyards behind and moved up the slopes of Mount Safed. The slender figure of the young master, a full head taller than all his companions, was wrapped in a white satin robe reaching down to his ankles. The disciples too were clad in festive clothes, and their white headcloths fluttered in the mild evening wind. For a while they kept silent as they walked side by side, lest an inadvertent word disturb the reverential mood of the master.

But soon the excitement overpowered the disciples, and, almost simultaneously, they intoned the Song of Songs, and walked on singing with growing enthusiasm.

Hark! My beloved! Behold he cometh,
Leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.

Already the faraway mountains were printed purple by the messengers of the approaching Queen Sabbath, who spread violet-colored carpets before the feet of the eagerly expected royal Bride. The song of the disciples grew louder:

O my dove in the clefts of the rock, in the covert of the cliff,
Let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice,
For sweet is thy voice and thy countenance is comely.

The swelling tones of the song enraptured the master, and he too began to sing softly:

Come with me from Lebanon, my bride,
With me from Lebanon,
Look from the top of Amana,
From the top of Senir and Hermon,
From the lions’ dens,
From the mountains of the leopards.

The air began to cool, the breezes of dusk caressed the fronds of the date-palms and swept a sweet scent into the flushed faces of the master and the disciples. Luria sang almost inaudibly, as if the Song of Songs and the balsamic scents had dazed him:

Until the day breathe, and the shadows flee away,
Turn, my beloved, like a gazelle
Upon the mountains of spices.

They were out of breath when they reached the top of Mount Safed. A wonderful scene spread before their burning eyes. To the east they could see the valley of Gennesaret and the Jordan. Rows of pomegranate, fig, date, and sycamore trees divided the valley into narrow strips, and in its middle hurried the waves of the Jordan, which was lost to the south in the smooth waters of Lake Gennesaret, surrounded by a crown of dark trees. The purple of dusk painted a red color over the mirrorlike surface of the lake, and a red glow enveloped also the olive and palm trees that framed its banks and lifted their heads proudly toward the flaming sky, as if they too were offering silent hymns while waiting with outstretched arms for the appearance of the glorious Queen Sabbath. Luria and his disciples gazed enchanted into the distance, and whispered the verses of the Song of Songs:

Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my bride,
Thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes,
With one bead of thy necklace.

But the master raised his hand, and the disciples fell silent. Luria’s ecstatic soul was aflame with the beauty of the Sabbath, and dazzling visions opened up before his eyes.

For a few moments he remained standing motionless and then spoke with a trembling voice:

“My brothers, I see the Time of Mercy approaching. Perhaps this is the Sabbath of Sabbaths.”

The disciples trembled in rapturous anticipation, but none of them dared to ask a question. Wordless, they riveted their eyes on the master, as if expecting a miraculous revelation. Only after a few minutes passed in silence did Luria’s favorite disciple, Hayyim Vital, break the hallowed silence:

“O Master, reveal to us too the secret of the Sabbath of Sabbaths!”

Luria, as if he had not even heard the words, clasped his hands over his breast, and looked around into the distance. His glance fell on Mount Meron where in the gathering dusk the torches of Ben Yohai’s tomb could be seen, and around them the believers, clad in festive white garb, rhythmically swayed in prayer, as if white ghosts of the dead were hovering about the holy tombs.

Luria suddenly turned to his disciples. “If you don’t feel it,” he said with sadness in his voice, “if you don’t see it with your own eyes, don’t hear it with your ears, I would tell it to you in vain.”

“But, O Master, open our ears! Remove the scales from our eyes, O light of Israel!”

“Do you not see that the air of heaven, near and far, is full of flames, of wandering fires, of souls seeking recovery, redemption?”

“I see it, O Master,” whispered Vital, the head of the disciples, with bated breath.

“You can see it, my son, because your soul is a spark from the heights of the Creator’s throne, because no dross of earthly sin has become attached to your soul, and its vision has not been dimmed by the stain of primeval sins. But he whose soul is heavy with old and new sins, cannot rise up into the heights, cannot endure the eternal light. He falls back to earth, tired and worn out, into the mire and sludge.”

And Luria raised his arms feverishly, and continued:

“The souls wandering about despondently in the oceans of the world are like small ships lost in the dark night of endless seas, always on the lookout and yearning for the appearance of a lighthouse on the horizon, so that they may hurry toward it. Without it they cannot find the way back to their ancestral home, from which they had set out, that home of eternal radiance and pure Light. They wander and err, and ever new waves beat against them and cover them with mud and slime, and the poor, tortured souls cry and whine, and seek refuge…..until, finally, in the distance, they espy a pure, lofty soul, the beacon, and they swarm toward it, grateful and happy to have found the eternal way.”

A flock of ravens circled over the head of the master, with slow, silent beating of wings. Luria looked up at them, and said:

“Perhaps these too are erring souls. And do you see there, on the neighboring hill, the little deer running toward us? Perhaps he too is a seeking, wandering soul. And down there in the valley flow the waters of the Jordan; perhaps its waves too carry fugitive souls toward the holy city, so that they may be able to bathe and become purified, and soar up into the highest Heights, for which they pine and yearn. Do you not hear the song of the souls in the rush of the waters, in the whisper of the boughs, the chirping of birds, the hum of the air, the flight of the clouds and their lightnings? It is the aching song of wounded, suffering souls, which would like to fly home, up into the Hall of Souls, to merge with the Highest Soul from which they were torn away. And the redemption of the world will be complete only when all the erring souls shall be cleansed and return to the Highest, the fragmented sparks become united again, and the soul of the world is filled with the repose of the Sabbath, with peace and mercy.”

“And will that be the Sabbath of Sabbaths?” asked Vital impatiently.

“Amid the worries of the weekdays,” Luria continued, the sparks produced by good deeds disintegrate, or hide within opaque, heavy husks. And when the time of the flaming of the souls comes, the sacred moment of receivmg Queen Sabbath, the divine Shekhinah, the soul bathes :n the lake of purification, and the hidden sparks divest their husks, and flash, hover, naked over the heads. This is the light of Sabbath, the Sabbath soul. And happy is he above whose head a whole wreath of collected sparks hovers and shines, like a sparkling heavenly diadem. It is of these that Scripture says, ‘And they that are wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament…..’ And the wandering souls, the poor little erring lights, are attracted to place where the great light shines, where the flame soars up into the heights, and sweeps up and carries with it the little lights, up into the Infinite.”

Intoxicated with his own words, Luria embraced Vital, and then, placing his arm on the shoulders of the faithful desciple, advanced a few more steps:

“Come, my friend, to meet the Bride, let us receive the Sabbath.”

Alkabez, the young poet, recognized the words of his Sabbath song, and following in the footsteps of the master, continued happily:

Arise, arise, your light has come,
Arise, and shed your light,
Arise and sing a song,
God’s glory is revealed.

The disciples encircled the poet, and sang the refrain in unison:

Come, my friend, to meet the Bride,
Let us receive the Sabbath.

The melody of the Sabbath song filled the air, and the surrounding hills echoed faintly the shreds of the joyful words.

“It is the time of Mercy,” said Luria in a trembling voice. “Najara, my son, let us hear your Sabbath song too. When you sing, the gates of heaven open, and the angels come down from on high to enjoy it.”

Obediently, and with a disciple’s humility, Najara intoned his Sabbath song, and the companions hummed it together with him. Luria listened to it silently, dreamily. They reached the last stanza:

Return to Your Holy of Holies,
The place where spirits and souls rejoice,
And sing exalted songs of thanks
In Jerusalem, the city of beauty.

In the distance, over the crags of Gilead and the summit of Mount Tabor, it seemed as if red lightnings were streaking, as if bloody swords and spears were flashing in the air. From the mountains of Bashan and from the Lebanon red clouds, like hosts of racing horsemen mounted on fiery steeds, rushed in the flames of the dusk toward the Dead Sea and the Eternal City.

Luria suddenly drew himself up to his full length, and turned to his disciples with eyes aflame:

“Do you want to come with me to Jerusalem?”

“To Jerusalem!” exulted Vital. “Let us go. The Time of Mercy is at hand!”

“To Jerusalem!” Luria repeated with passion. “I can see on the distant peaks the crowned Queen, and with her the eternal glory of God. They are going to Jerusalem, and the Palace is being rebuilt, the Throne restored, and the ancient glory shines again. Behold, the Time of Mercy! The heavens open up, all the souls are elevated, and the wandering earthly beings see a great light, soar toward it, and say, ‘Up! Let us go in the light of the Lord!’ The summit of Lebanon catches fire, the captive of Jerusalem rises from the dust, the daughter of Zion throws off her shackles, and puts on her festive clothes. And she lifts up her eyes and sees, behold, her children all gather from the four winds and flock about her, and her eyes shine and her soul jubilates, saying, ‘Who are these who fly like clouds, and like doves toward their nests?’ The Sabbath of Sabbaths awaits us in Jerusalem. Come, let us go!”

“To Jerusalem!” the disciples echoed enthusiastically, and they set out after the Master in the gathering mysterious darkness. Luria stopped for a moment and looked around.

“Are all of you here, my children? And what is the matter with you, my son Uzziya, why do your knees tremble?”

The disciple answered modestly and sadly:

“O Master, allow me first to go home and take leave from my loving young bride with whom I celebrated our wedding only this Sukkot and who would despair at my absence. For the road is very long, and the night full of dangers.”

“Long and dangerous?” asked Luria, surprised. “If we want it, we shall be there in a moment, and if the Lord is with us, whom have we to fear?”

“But from Safed to Jerusalem, O Master, the distance is three days’ walk, and the dense gloom of dusk has already covered the hills.”

Luria gave a start.

For a moment he looked around hesitating, disturbed, with pain in his eyes, as if he had awakened from a deep dream. He felt that all his wonderful visions had all of a sudden disintegrated from the sober words. Everything was over. In place of the dazzling images, high black mountains stood in the darkness. And Luria buried his face into his hands and began to cry aloud.

“Let us go, my holy Master!” begged Vital. “Sadness drives off the light of the Shekhinah , and the Sabbath of Sabbaths is awaiting us in Jerusalem!”

Luria wiped his eyes, looked lovingly at his disciple, and answered despondently:

“It is over, my son. Faintheartedness kills the miracle. Had we all wanted and believed it, it would have come to pass. But one unbeliever can play sad havoc with a thousand believers, and hold back the redemption of the world. The sacred Bride, the Queen of Queens, was waiting for us, but he pined after his young spouse. Come, my sons, let us finish our Friday night prayers and return to the city, to Safed.”

The End

 

 

There’s a ‘Tree of Klipoth’ in page 10 of Sepher ha’Ilan haGadol, http://www.jnul.huji.ac.il/dl/books/html/bk1325487.htm

 

 

  1. Tomi’el or Tumi’el;
  2. Ugi’el or Go’iy’el;
  3. Sitri’el or Harasi’el;
  4. Ga’ashkala;
  5. Geivlahav;
  6. Tagiriron;
  7. Arav Tzarak;
  8. Sama’el;
  9. Gamali’el or Nachashi’el; and
  10. Lillit.

 

 

“The difference between the use and abuse of the power of the cosmos, through the wisdom of Kabbalah, lies in the use of Resistance. And that is why Resistance/Restriction is the key…..

Nature is balanced and strives to maintain balance. When we do not exert Resistance by our own free will, nature – physically and metaphysically – steps in to gain her due balance. Because the Thought of Creation was only to provide fulfillment to the Vessel, the moment, it, or we, want to receive, Light enters immediately and automatically: because a Desire to Receive constitutes a vessel for the Light. However,…..when we receive immediately, a veil of negativity, called Klipot (Husks) or a Masach (Curtain) is effected and covers the Light. That is, we can always draw energy; but when we draw unbalanced energy, we inevitably blow a (cosmic) fuse, which immediately shuts down the flow of energy/Light.

Basically what this means is that whenever we act to gratify our desires immediately, we draw what is called Direct Light and cause a ‘short cirtcuit’ in the spiritual flow of energy from the Light to the Vessel, which is ourselves. Drawing Direct Light is very much like going out in the sun without sunscreen. One can get the most rays without sunscreen, but one will also burn. Aside from the pain of a sunburn, the skin then peels, and the initial goal of suntanning is forfeited. Instead, we strive to create Returning Light, which is Direct Light on which we have exerted Resistance – by pushing some of the Light away, like sunscreen resisting (our drawing of) some of the physical sunlight. It is only Returning Light that can be retained and thus enjoyed indefinitely. And it is only by resisting the Light that we convert Direct Light into Returning Light…..

[S]uffice to say for now that where there is is not a balance of giving and receiving, of positive and negative energy, which is the essence of Returning Light, a short circuit inevitably results…..

With every short circuit, another Klipah (Husk) or Masach (Curtain) is automatically erected, which in turn dims the Light from shining through. Direct Light causes a burnout; and what is burned out is the Light from that drawing Vessel.

It is important here to remind ourselves that the Light is a constant: It never changes nor ever ceases to shine. The Klipot or Masachim (the plural of Husk and Curtain) would be like lampshades put up around a lightbulb. With each layer added to the lampshade, the (physical) light appears to dim. The layers may become so numerous that they in essence block out the light and create the illusion of darkness.”

Nekhama Schoenburg (The Unifying Factor: A Review of Kabbalah

 

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