Sefer HaBahir

'The Book of Brightness'

Rabbi Nechuniah ben HaKanah said: One verse says, 'And now people do not see the bright light ('or bahir) that is in the clouds' (Job 37:21), while another verse says, 'He made darkness His secret place' (Psalms 18:12), *and [yet another verse] says, 'Clouds and darkness surround Him' (Psalm 97:2).* [There is a] contradiction [here]. [But] a third verse comes to reconcile them, [namely], 'Even the darkness is not too dark for You; night shines like the day, and darkness and light are the same' (Psalm 139:12).

Margoliot & Scholem eds., §1;

(*-* not found in all mss.)

Why does the Torah begin with the [letter] bet [in bereshit, 'In the beginning', Genesis 1:1]? So that it would begin with berachah, 'blessing'. And where do we learn that the Torah is called a 'blessing'? It says, 'and full of the blessing of the Lord, the sea [or, west] and south a possession' (Deuteronomy 33:23). There is no sea except for the Torah, as it is said, 'and broader than the sea' (Job 11:9). What is the meaning of 'and full of the blessing of the Lord'? Unless [it refers] to every place, as it says [...(?)], 'Bet is indicative of blessing, as we have learned in [regard to the opening word of the Torah] bereshit ['In the beginning'], and there is no beginning except for Wisdom, Hochmah, as it is said, 'The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord' (Psalm 111:10). And there is no wisdom except for blessing, as it is said, 'and God blessed Solomon' [not a proper quotation, but cf. I Kings 2:45] and then it is written, 'and the Lord gave Solomon wisdom' (I Kings 5:26). Parable of a king who married his daughter to his son, and gave her in marriage to him, and said to him, 'Do with her as you please.'

Margoliot & Scholem eds., §3

Rabbi Yochanan said, The angels were created on the second day, as it is written, 'Who lays the beams of the upper chambers in the waters' (Psalm 104:3) [that is, the separation of the upper & lower waters, described by Genesis 1:6-8 as having taken place on the second day] followed by 'Who makes the ruchot (winds/spirits) His angels; flames of fire His ministering angels' (Psalm 104:4). Rabbi Levitas ben Tavros said, Everyone agrees, and Rabbi Yochanan agrees, that the waters existed already, but that on the second [day] He 'laid the beams of the upper chambers in the waters.' And who was it who 'makes the clouds His chariot,' and who 'walks on the wings of the winds' (Psalm 104:3)? [The archangels?] However, the angels that are sent [with set tasks] were not created until the fifth day.

But everyone agrees that [the angels] were not created on the first day [of Creation] so that people should not say that [the archangel] Michael pulled on the southern end of the firmament, and [the archangel] Gabriel on the northern end, while the Holy, Blessed One, measured it in the middle, but 'I am the Lord, who makes all, who spread out the heavens alone, who laid out the earth by myself (me'itti)' (Isaiah 44:24). Who was with Me ('itti)? [This is quoted almost verbatim from the midrash Bereshit Rabbah 1:3.]

I am the one who planted this tree, that the whole world might delight in it, and with it I laid out All (kol), and called it 'All', for everything is dependent on it. All precedes from it, needs it, looks upon it, yearns for it. From it souls fly joyfully away. I was alone when I made it, and no angel can exalt himself above it and say, I preceded you. For when I laid out the earth, in which I planted and rooted this tree, and made them delight together [i.e. the earth and the tree], and I delighted in them--Who was with Me (mi 'itti) to whom I could have revealed this secret of Mine?

Margoliot ed., §§22-23; Scholem ed., §14.

Rabbi Yochanan said, Why is it written: 'The Lord is a man ('ish, spelled 'aleph, yod, shin) of war, the Lord is His name' (Exodus 15:3)? The word 'man' is a symbol, as we have translated [into Aramaic] 'The Lord is a man of war' [means] 'The Lord is man of victory [in] wars' (Targum Onkelos). And why is He [called] a 'man'? 'Aleph is first [symbolising] the Holy Temple.... Yod [which has a numerical value of 10, symbolises] the Ten Sayings by which the world was created (Mishnah, Pirke Avot 5:1). And what is it? It is the Torah that contains all worlds. And why shin? He replied, It is the root of the tree, for the letter shin is like the root of a tree [in shape].

And what is this tree of which you have spoken? He replied, It is the powers of the Holy, Blessed One, one on top of the other. Together they are like a tree. Just as a tree produces fruit by means of water, so too, the Holy, Blessed One increases the powers of the tree by means of water. And what is the Holy, Blessed One's water? It is Wisdom (Hochmah), [and the fruit] is the souls of the righteous that fly from the source to the great channel, and [the fruit] rises and clings to the tree. And by what means does it blossom? By means of Israel: when they are good and righteous the Shechinah dwells amongst them, and by their deeds, it dwells in the bosom of the Holy, Blessed One, and He lets them be fruitful and multiply.

Margoliot ed., §§117-119; Scholem ed., §84.

And why is it written, '[Blessed is the glory of the Lord] from its place' (Ezekiel 3:12)? Because no one knows its place. A parable of a princess who came from far away, and no one knew where she had come from. When they saw that she was a fine lady, pleasing and worthy in all her deeds, they said: This one was certainly taken from the side of light, for her deeds give light to the world. They asked her, Where do you come from? She replied, From my place. They said, If so, the people of your place must be great! Blessed are you, and so is your place to be blessed.

Margoliot ed., §132, Scholem ed., §90.

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