Friday, May 20, 2011

Eitz Hayyim: Sefer ha-Bahir on the Tree of Life II

"The Tree is Really Rooted in the Sky" -Simone Weil

So I understand Terrence Malick has filmed a movie with Brad Pitt in Texas entitled The Tree of Life. Always an interesting filmmaker, I look forward to seeing it. Seems like a good moment to continue my translation of the Jewish mystical sources for that motif:

119 The Tree and the Fountainhead
The words of a man's mouth are deep waters, and the fountain of wisdom is a gushing brook (Proverbs 18:4).

What this Tree that you speak of?
He said to him, [It is the] powers of the Holy Blessed One,
one atop another, so they resemble a tree.1
Just as a tree, by water[ing], yields fruit, so too the Holy Blessed One
multiplies the powers of the Tree by water[ing].
And what is the ‘water’ of the Holy Blessed One?
It is Wisdom, and the souls of the righteous fly forth2
From the fountainhead toward the great channel,
ascend and cleave to the Tree. And by what means do they fly?
By means of Israel, for when they are righteous and good,
the Shekhinah dwells in their midst,3
and through their deeds they dwell in the bosom of the Holy Blessed One.4
He makes them fruitful and multiples them.5

1. It is the powers of the Holy Blessed One. The Sefirot.

2. The souls of the righteous fly forth. In The Tree that is All, the image was of all souls blooming/flying forth from the Tree. Here, the image is reciprocal: wisdom flows “down” the conduit of the Tree, and in response, the souls of the righteous soar “upward” to nest in various branches of the Tree. The sacred communion of Israel serves as the fountainhead, the source of wisdom below to propel the ascent.

3. The Shekhinah dwells in their midst. The Divine Presence. Alluding to Exodus 25:8. Elsewhere she personifies righteousness (75), the quality that allows her to dwell with the people.

4. They dwell in the bosom of the Holy Blessed One. Through moral and ritual perfection, Israel becomes one with the Godhead. A cosmic union is realized at several levels.

5. He makes them fruitful and multiples them. The deeds of the righteous magnify God’s presence, but also multiply righteousness itself, sustaining the tree from below. The language of fruitfulness alludes both to the procreative blessing of primordial humanity (Genesis 1:28) and the cosmic potency of wisdom (Psalms 1:3) that the Tree embodies.

To learn more, read the EJMMM, available at amazon.com. Click here - http://www.amazon.com/Encyclopedia-Jewish-Myth-Magic-Mysticism/dp/0738709050/sr=1-1/qid=1159997117/ref=sr_1_1/002-7116669-7231211?ie=UTF8&s=books

Barack Obama, Rapture, End of Days, Israel, prophecy, revelation

Friday, May 06, 2011

Three Jews and a Norseman: Why Thor is (almost) a MOT

So my son loves, loves, loves, American comics. And you know I can't escape going to see Thor. Not a Jewish bone in his two-dimensional, four-color, Aryan-buff body, of course. Total pagan. Except....well, he is (in his alter ego) a doctor. But he also has a heck of a lot of Jewish DNA in his birth. After all, he was the love-child of three Jews - Stan Lee (the imagineer), his brother Larry Lieber (the maggid, or story-teller) and the mighty Jack Kirby (the pen-and-ink demiurge who brought him visually to life). Think of them as a Kind of Komic Kabbalah: Stan as Keter, Larry as Hokhmah, and Jack as Binah. All that Thor was and is emanates from them.

And speaking of KKK, there's another reason for Jews to go see this seeming goyisha fest: Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists hate it. As the poster above reveals, some lily-white schmucks (did I say that?) object to having a black dude guarding the gates to Asgard. They want A BOYCOTT! Owww it just makes the Jewish contrarian nudginess-sense tingle with the desire to see an integrated Norse pleroma over and over again. Of course, sense has nothing to do with any of this; the whole thought that a nice African guy somehow ruins their purity fest collapses in mind-boggling illogic when one knows the god-man Thor was immaculately conceived by three Members Of the Tribe.

Barack Obama, Rapture, End of Days, Israel, prophecy, revelation

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Sefer ha-Bahir: The Tree that is All

So, I'm just finishing up teaching my Kabbalah course at the University of North Texas. Great group of students, a lovely experience. My only gripe, having taught this from 2006? Teaching Sefer ha-Bahir. I'm frustrated by my translation options. Kaplan's complete translation of Margolioth is good, but his commentary is ahistorical, retrojecting later, post-Zoharic assumptions on the texts, and is basically a sefirotic version of Clue "I think its Yesod, using Malchut, in the Keter." Not terribly useful to the general learner.

I use Joseph Dan's selections found in the fine anthology Early Kabbalah (Thanks to the good Brothers at Paulist Press!). Good explanations, but he focused on a very limited number of the two-hundred portions, and he didn't even address many of what I consider te most interesting passages.

So that has meant this year I started writing my own translations and commentary for the students. Its been interesting and fun. I'm going to throw a few up here on the blog now that my focus on the class is winding down. I thought I'd start with a recurrent topic we discussed in class, the Eitz Hayyim, the Tree of life. So here's the first of two Bahir passages, with brief commentary below:

She is a Tree of Life for those who embrace her, and whoever holds on to her is happy (Proverbs 3:18)

I the Lord make all; I alone stretch out the sky, the earth spreads out from Me (Isaiah 44:24).
[Read the last word as] Who is with me?1
I [alone] am the one that planted this tree for all the world to delight in it.2
And through it I spread all. I called its name All, for everything depends on it,
everything goes forth from it, everything requires it, looks to it, waits for it,3
And from there the souls blossom in joy.4
I was alone when I made it.
No angel excels above it who can say “I preceded you!”5
I was also alone when I spread out my earth in which I planted and rooted this tree.4
I rejoiced in unity and I rejoiced in them,
Who was with me that I revealed to him this mystery?6

1. Who is with me? In Hebrew a minor emendation, mi eeti rather than meiti.

2. This tree. The Tree of Life, which is also the Sefirot.

3. I called its name All. The Tree is the totality of all there is. The cosmic Tree of Life is not only a biblical motif (Genesis 2,3, Proverbs 3) but a cross-cultural one.

4. Souls blossom in joy. All consciousness is connected to it. The Human soul is the fruit of the Tree. Elsewhere (section 180) this generative power is specifically located with the sefirah Yesod. There is also wordplay at work, porekh can mean "blossom" or "fly." So there is simultaneously an arboreal and avian vector to the idea of the soul. In the next passage (112), we will see the avian element fore-fronted.

5. No angel excels above it. The Tree pre-exists all spiritual as well as physical reality.

6. My earth in which I planted…this tree. Elsewhere (96) “earth” is revealed to be a code word for the Throne of Glory, the substrate of reality. These two pre-existent entities form the matrix of the universe. Without doubt there is also a syzergy here, a sense of the Tree and the Earth as a masculine/feminine pairing that yields universal fertility and generativity.

To learn more, read the EJMMM, available at amazon.com. Click here - http://www.amazon.com/Encyclopedia-Jewish-Myth-Magic-Mysticism/dp/0738709050/sr=1-1/qid=1159997117/ref=sr_1_1/002-7116669-7231211?ie=UTF8&s=books

Barack Obama, Rapture, End of Days, Israel, prophecy, revelation, Brad Pitt, Terrence Malick