Monday, 7 September 2015

New Year, New Chapter

New Year

Next week it will be Rosh Hashanna, the Jewish New Year. Actually there are four New Years... Rosh Hashanna is for the anniversary of mankind achieving awareness of Divine consciousness; the other three new years are the boundaries in time for Kings, Festivals and of course Trees.

Anyway, rather than being a time for wild parties and celebrations - Rosh Hashanna is a time for taking in to account all the things that we have achieved or not achieved, all the people we have helped or harmed, and is generally a time for weighing up all our actions over the past year. It's a time for reconciliation between each person and their friends, family & community, as well as reorienting ourselves to aim towards reconnecting with the Divine.

Teshuva means return rather than repentance. Teshuv-heh means taking action to return the letter heh to the Divine four letter name. Being a partner in ongoing Creation of these realities.

If I have caused you any upset, insult, or harm - I sincerely apologise for my misdeeds. Please let me know how and I will endeavour to improve for the coming year onwards.

New Chapter

Every year I re-read Sefer Yetzira, the Book of Formation. Initially I read it in English from Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's commentary and translation. Then I read the text in Hebrew and in the last couple of years I have moved on to reading and translating the commentary by Rabbi Moshe Cordovero (RaMaK).

Whilst my skill as a translator still has a VERY long way to go before it's worth sharing much, here is a sample of a loose translation of Ramak's commentary on Chapter 2 Verse 2. [Words in square brackets are my additions to the text to ease reading] I have also added paragraph breaks to make it easier to read.

2: Three Mothers Emesh [Aleph-Mem-Shin], the offspring of the heavens are fire, the offspring of the earth is water, the offspring of the air is wind.

[Commentary starts]
I have not found this mishna [verse] in many books nor explained by the [previous] commentators. None the less we will go over it. Three Mothers Emesh. There is no doubt that they are called mothers to be as a source for all because they are three firsts [primaries]. In the [same] way that that the ten [Sefirot] conceal in general the twenty two [letters], so the three [Mothers] conceal the remaining [letters] which are nineteen, and they [three Mothers] are the sources to all that is emanated.

Or if you would like [to say], because fire, air, and water are not actually the three [Mothers] they - [the Mothers] are actually Keter [Crown root of the will], Chochmah [intuitive Wisdom], Binah [rational Understanding], rather [the Mothers] are a root [source] to them [their existence].  The essence of water is in Chesed [Kindness], the essence of air is in Tiferet [Harmony] and fire in Gevurah [Severity].

The offspring of the heavens are fire, the essence of the intent here [with regards to] firsts [primaries] is to separate the letters Emesh [Aleph-Mem-Shin] with the emanation of fire on [His] domain, since the essence of heavens if from the letter Shin which is from Binah [Understanding], this is why is states that the offspring of the heavens are fire.

And so The offspring of the earth is water, if so they are from Chochmah [intuitive Wisdom] that since Mem is water without any doubt. And we need [to say] that the existence of earth comes from water. And this is explained by those who know that if you boil water in a vessel [for] many days you end up with dust [earth].

The offspring of the air is wind, we need [to say] that the air is called air which rests quietly between the earth and fire [heavens] which is the foundation of the supernal [realms]. The offspring is from wind. If so, we find it's existence is rooted in Aleph which is Da'at [intimate Knowledge]. If so, we find the these three [Mothers] that are heavens and earth and what is between them is emanated from the letters Emesh without any doubt.

On this basis at length we learned the reason for the heavens offspring [being] fire as it is written [Psalms 104: 4] "..., burning fire His ministers...", because their existence is from fire. It's possible they stated offspring, [because] it's explained that they emanate their existence. 

So too the offspring of the earth is water, as we see coming out of the earth are water, rivers and canals. And the offspring of the air is wind, if you force out air resting in a bag it creates a powerful wind [really not sure about this last sentence's translation]. 

And so it is possible to explain the offspring of heaven, it's explained that to raise [grow] created [organisms] requires fire, like the the sun which gives light of the fire and so too the stars.  That is why our Sages of blessed memory explained the blessing on [the multi-wicked candle at the conclusion of Sabbath] "Blessed [is He who gives] light to the fire".

The offspring of the earth is water since water [provides an environment for the] germination of life specifically. The offspring of air is wind, since there are living things in the air who are sustained by the winds, and is known that no vacant space [devoid of life] between earth up to the heavens, and their offspring is from the wind. 

And this is possible in all three [elements] since all are in this and in this - their existence hangs together and it's all one thing. These [living things]  are [generated] in water and their offspring in water develop further in the water. [I believe this means that the element of water supports life that forms a chain of emanations or evolutions of forms]. So too with the heavens and with the winds as we have explained.

And we have explained the emanation of Emesh according to their order and it states Fire above which is in the [conceptual] domain of Bina [rational Understanding], Water below which is in the [conceptual] domain of Chochmah [intuitive Wisdom], Air in the conceptual domain of Da'at [intimate Knowledge] balances between them. [This is a quote from earlier in Sefer Yetzira] since water is not lost [does not intrude upon] fire and fire not on water. Air is the same to fire as it is to water. [Which is in the] secret of Da'at which is severity from one side and kindness from the other side and thus it balances between them. These three foundations are the vehicles for all [of] emanated [reality].

And if you say that the foundation earth is the fourth to them [then] why do we have three Mothers and no four foundations, I will answer that the three are the essential foundations. Since the foundation of earth is the offspring of water in combination with fire and air. Because the fire lights up by means of the air which boils the water and from it comes forth the earth which is a complex [combination of the other three elements].

And it does not have a portion of water, and a portion of fire, etc. as if it was combination of four foundations. Rather the intention is [to consider] the fourth foundation that comes out of the existence of the three [elements]. If so its existence is by means of the three. So too with the supernal attributes that are Emesh, the Malchut [receptive Kingship] is the fourth to the [other] three as is explained in the previous chapter. And if so Emesh [Aleph-Mem-Shin] are the Mothers to all that is emanated and to each division of creation which are heavens, earth and what is between them.

And more going over the topic of Fire above etc, this is what out Sages of blessed memory stated that the Shedim are masters of air and winds, they are between men of the earth and angelic entities of the heavens without any doubt [angels and shedim entities are not composed of as many of the elements and hence do not generally have corporeal form in the way that humans do]. It's possible to say that the reason for the combination of the foundations is due to their sources [roots]. Since it was fitting for water to be above [see division of water and firmaments in Genesis chapter 1] since Chochmah is above, and the fire is below since Bina is below.

Since existence is from the side of Gevurah and Binah and the forty two letter name and name Elohim which balances and it strictness [judgement]. So too in [the month of] Tishrei the world was created and this is [the month] of judgement. And we have seen that [the world could] not [be] sustained with[out] the participation of compassion. So the fire is the essence and the stronger [element], and that is [why] fire is above and water is below, and this is how it [creation] has arisen and is founded. 

[This cycle of creation is dominated by Gevurah in combination with Chesed as the former was not suitable for being the sole source of power for creation and neither was the latter. Only in combination could they sustain to form this cycle of creation with Gevurah dominant - hence why this cycle of human development has been shaped mostly by severity (war) and boundaries (various forms of rulership backed by force)]

And Air rules, the word rules needs to be given an attribute that it rules in two directions. And this is [that it] balances between them and the way the wording [uses] balances. And with this we finish this mishna [explanation of this verse].

[This is a loose translation of 2 pages from a commentary on SY that is on pp.57 - pp.158 of a book containing multiple commentaries in Hebrew.  Time to learn (more) Hebrew].