Archive for the ‘Kabalah/Mysticism’ Category

The Path of the Just (מסילת ישרים), Ch. 24:


We have already found that the great transcendent angels tremble and shudder constantly before the awesomeness of the Eternal, to such a degree that our Sages of blessed memory have said in a wise allegory (Chagigah 13B): ‘From where does the [Heavenly] River of Fire originate? From the sweat of the holy creatures [who serve the Eternal].’ And this is because of their awe of the exaltedness of the Blessed One that is constantly upon them, lest they detract, even if only in a small way, from the glory and sanctity that befits Him.

Many sacred objects in Jewish tradition are described by Scripture or in Oral Tradition as being composed of sapphire stone. Some examples: the Throne of Glory (God’s “throne”), the Two Tablets of the Covenant, Moses’ staff.

For things such as the Throne of Glory, we can be certain the description of sapphire stone is meant figuratively, or merely in a comparative fashion, but as for the other items, whether this is meant literally or figuratively is a question for a separate discussion.

That notwithstanding, what makes the sapphire stone so special that it is the substance of choice for these sacred objects?

I had always surmised it is because of the stone’s color — it is blue, like the sky, which reminds us of the heavens generally, so its color is related to things of holiness.

However, I have discovered a new quality of sapphire which may also relate to its selection as the substance of choice for objects of supernatural origin. Here is an excerpt from Introduction to Geology by Robert Bakewell (p. 35):

Though alumine or pure clay communicates a soft quality to most stones of which it forms a principal constituent part, a very remarkable exception to this is offered in adamantine spar and the sapphire, which nearly equal the diamond in hardness. Klaproth, one of the most laborious and eminent chemists of the present age, has analysed these stones : the former contains 90 parts in the 100 of pure clay ; the latter 95 parts in the same quantity. ‘What a high degree of cohesive power (he observes) must nature command, to be able to transform such a common substance as clay (aluminous earth) into a body so eminently distinguished and ennobled as the sapphire by its hardness, brilliancy, and its resistance to the action of fire, of acids, or the effects of all-destroying time!’

So aside from its “heavenly” color, the sapphire is distinguished in that it is composed 95% of clay, a soft substance, yet despite this, is among the hardest, most durable substances on earth, rivaling the diamond! This while clay usually makes a substance softer! So sapphire, then, is a substance that in a way appears to defy the normal laws of nature. In this way, sapphire is an almost “supernatural” substance. (While I’m sure there is a naturalistic chemical explanation for this phenomenon, I merely mean to remark on the surprising quality of sapphire in this regard, giving the initial impression of an inexplicable, transcendental quality.) It makes sense then, that this substance is an appropriate choice for supernatural objects.

It also carries a profound lesson that even the most mundane and profane substances (clay) can be transformed into something extremely lofty and pristine. It is even more significant that man himself is described in Scripture as having been formed from the clay of the earth, and fashioned into a spiritual being with the introduction of a divine soul. This is very much analogous to the sapphire. I believe we have discovered something very deep and profound here.

May we merit to refine ourselves such that we, like the sapphire, transform our mundane bodies into pristine spiritual vehicles!

When each letter of ‘wisdom’ (חכמה) is spelled out — ‘chet’ (חי”ת), ‘kaf’ (כ”ף), ‘mem’ (מ”ם), ‘hey’ (ה”י) — the numerical value is 613 (the number of commandments in the Torah). An allusion to this is in the statement (from Avot): “Who is wise? He who sees that which will be born,” i.e. [the value of] the hidden letters (with which the revealed letters are ‘pregnant’).

(Shla”h, Masechet Yoma)

The above video, from one of my favorite science channels — IN A NUTSHELL — explains that science has determined that everything in the universe can be reduced to 17 basic particles and 4 fundamental forces. (See video for particulars.) When I heard these numbers my mind went straight to the significance in Jewish thought of these numbers. The number 17 in gimatriya (Hebrew numerology) is the equivalent value of the word טוב (Tov), meaning “good.” This word appears repeatedly in the Creation account in Genesis 1, as though the text is hinting to the 17 particles makeup of Creation. The number 4 throughout Jewish thought is always related to the Tetragrammaton, or Four-Letter Name of God, the primary name of God used throughout Hebrew Scripture. To me, this scientific discovery is like the universe screaming  of its relationship to the Creator, and shouting out loud, “God is good!” Torah-observant Jews recite Psalm 145 three times daily, in which verse 9 states: “God is good to all!” The Hebrew – טוב ה’ לכל – contains three consecutive terms — (1) “Tov” – the Hebrew word meaning “good” with the numerical value 17; (2) God’s 4-letter name (abbreviated here for reasons of sanctity); and (3) “LaKol” – meaning “to all.” I feel this verse hints at the scientific concept described above, that 17 particals + 4 forces = all; I.e. everything in the universe is comprised of 17 particles and 4 forces.


These are the words of the Zohar: ‘Rabbi Elazar says: Come see how benevolently the Holy One Blessed is He acts toward all people… for even at a time that He intends to judge the world, He causes the one He loves an avenue of merit prior to the judgment coming to the world, as we have learned: When the Holy One Blessed is He loves a person, He sends him… a poor person through whom to gain merit.'”

(Shlah, Parshas VaYera)