The root of piety (hasidut): How [is it to be practised]? When a person devotes his heart to qualities of piety, and it is difficult for him because everyone criticises him, embarrasses him, and says things to oppress him, and remind him of his earlier evil deeds, he should not abandon his piety on account of those who scoff, but should enter into good qualities little by little, day after day, gradually gathering a great many [such qualities]....
King: Tell me what you think about the Creator--may God be blessed.
First Sage: What our first teacher said is true: there is a Creator who is not visible, and the things and images (DiMyonot) that the prophets saw are in [their] thoughts, for the Creator causes a thought to enter into their hearts, so that [God] is visible and is imagined (niDMeH) in a particular way, like an illusion. There is a barrier [placed] on humanity so that its eyes cannot see; hence [God] allowed this wondrous thing to be done by magicians, so that [people] should believe this thought. (131)
Second Sage: Truly, we know with our intelligence that there is a Creator, who has no end or measure, but the Glory (kavod) does have an end, and its attachment (devekut) is to the Creator. No creature has the power to see into the place of [that] attachment. Concerning this it says: 'You cannot see My Face' (Exodus 33:20)--which looks toward the Creator's essence. Therefore it does not say: 'A human cannot see My Face and live' but '[A human] cannot see Me [and live],' for the 'Face' looks toward the essence. (133-4)
Thus the Face appeared to the prophets and the Glory [looks] toward the creatures--just as it [looks] toward the essence, and towards [all] creatures, the prophets, the angels and those that ascended to their secret [Enoch, Elijah & the Riders of the Chariot?]. But in the [messianic] future, 'the Glory will appear' and 'they will see' (Isaiah 40:5)--that which [looks] towards the prophets, and the like; and the angels [will see that which looks] towards the Glory that [looks] towards created beings. (134-5)
However, [God] gave the prophets [permission] to see Him, and when they realised that He is the Glory, the greatest level, they fell on their faces, heard the words, and knew that the words [came] from before the Creator--may God be blessed--and not [from] another [being] nor [from] an angel. Thus [the divine] Name and the Face do not [look] towards the essence of the Creator, [but] towards the creatures. (135)
And when it appears (meDaMMeH) to the prophets like this, it is thus like the pupil of the eye and encompasses what it is like(?); and so in a place with windows [and] a shadow [or, a reflection] the shadow/reflection of everything the sun rises over, in water, milk or on a wall, everything is the same (DoMeH leDoMeH). Thus does the Face, and the Glory that [looks] towards [all] Creatures which is like that which [looks] towards the essence, appear to the prophets. Therefore, a person's heart turns upwards, like a person standing and speaking to a friend face to face. (136)
When a person's soul leaves the body, it bears evil corresponding to its sin. If [the person] was perfectly righteous, the soul ascends to the Throne of Glory and adheres to the Upper Throne, 'and may the soul of my lord be bound up (TZRuRah) in the bundle (biTZRoR) of life' (II Samuel 25:29). [The word] biTZRoR has the same numerical value as [the phrase] bakisse' hakodesh ('on the Holy Throne'). [Both equal 498.] And it is written 'God sits on His Holy Throne' (Psalm 47:9). (137)
Third Sage: Then the third sage said: Surely this is so, except that I differ regarding what you say about the Glory in relation to the Creator. This is not so; rather it [the Glory] is created, just as the angels were created, except that the Glory is much more wondrous and distinguished than all the angels. (137-8)
Said the third sage: the Glory is not able to adhere to the Creator. Every creature is created, and the Creator--may God be blessed--does not allow any creatures to see Him. So what the prophets saw was [something] created, a wondrous splendour. (140)
And the heart of the worshipper, with all the heart's substance, should consider the One who is supernal over all, but not consider nor imagine (yiDMeH) any sight in his heart. It is written: 'I will exalt You, O my God, O King' (Psalm 145:1); the Creator--may God be blessed--is above His blessing: 'His Glory is over the heavens' (Psalm 113:4), in order that the thought of the heart be [directed] upwards. Moreover, 'I will exalt You,' 'You are supreme over all gods' (Psalm 97:9). (140-141)
So what the prophets saw is [something] created, a wondrous thing, and what one says he saw, someone next to him would not see. For example, Elisha saw, but [his] servant did not see (cf. II Kings 5:15ff.).... Do not be surprised about this, for we also see that a person cannot look into a book until he bends his head and fixes his eyes on the book, and something that is not near to him seems merely like air to him. But '[God] made His wonders to be remembered' (Psalm 111:4); the one who is highest in [God's] memory sees and the one who asks hears. Yet do not be surprised at the voice that entered the ears of [God's] prophets, while those around them did not hear. When a person puts one end of a straw into the ear of a friend and speaks into the other end, [the friend] hears, but no one else hears. [Thus] one [person] may see visions, while another does not see. Thus some people see [visions] in thumbnails and in the 'archons of the cup', while another person does not. Thus do not be surprised about the prophets. (141)