Sha‘ar ma’amare Rashbi (The Gate of the Sayings of R. Simeon bar Yohai)

Ḥayim Vital

Second half of the 16th Century

Explanation of the Book of Modesty

Human prayer that is properly intended is above, in the supernal depths, according to the secret of the point of Zion; and there is the secret place of the holy supernal covenant. And from there come forth two types of emanations by way of the supernal coupling: either the emanation of blessing and freedom, as it is written: “for from there flow forth all of the blessings” (Zohar I:229a); or an emanation of vitality and sustenance and longevity for the sefirot and for all existents, according to the secret of the verse: and you give life to all (Nehemiah 9:6). For behold, if the supernal emanation should cease to flow upon the angels for even one moment, they would not be able to stand. . . . And in regard to the second emanation, it is said: “And from there it goes forth in order to give sustenance to the all.” And both of these emanations are made by the supernal coupling, and when there is something lacking from them—i.e., the emanation of blessing—then it is not called a complete coupling. . . . Behold, it has arisen within our hands that the complete coupling is of blessing and freedom and brings forth springs and streams. And this was lacking at the time of the destruction [of the Temple], although there is a constant coupling in order to sustain them in their stance. [ . . . ]

Behold, He prepared these garments to clothe Himself within them and to conceal Himself within them. And the concealed is the reason for the revealed, for one can only grasp Him and enjoy His light by way of these garments. This is likened to the light of the sun, which no man can look at on account of its brightness, unless he distances himself from it and puts a dividing screen between himself and the sun. Then he can enjoy its light. And if the light is great and very radiant, then he will need many screens in order to be able to enjoy that light. [ . . . ]

Explanation of Zohar II:254b

Know that before the world of emanation was emanated, an aspect of those ten sefirot was emanated from a different position that is not as it is now. . . . And the seven lower ones were under the aspect of judgment. . . . And as it was, there was absolutely no tikkun [repair] for those ten sefirot whatsoever. Thus, when the light of the eyn sof [infinite] would descend and break forth into them from above to below, the light would descend from keter [“crown”; the first sefirah] to ḥokhmah [“wisdom”; the second sefirah] and from ḥokhmah to binah [“understanding”], which is the third sefirah. But with the spreading forth of that supernal light, which is the secret of complete compassion and complete mercy, and with its arrival at the seven lower sefirot, which are underneath judgment, as has been mentioned, and from whom judgment becomes integrated, they could not receive it. For they are opposites: one is Mercy and the other is Judgment. And they would have been annulled by the Supernal Light, and would have died. And in their being there, the waste was clarified and sorted from thought (Zohar II:254b). For since they are severe judgments, the waste of the shells was intermingled with them, and when they were thrown down, they were extracted and repaired, and the good and holiness that was within them returned to a state of repair by way of the eighth king, who is called hadar (splendor). And they rose up above, and the waste that was in them was made into an aspect of the shell; and these remained below.

Explanation of ’Idra Rabba, Zohar III:135a

The whole idea of the property of tikkun is that the Supernal Light is emanated through screens and spacers and dividers. For in such a manner, the lower entities can bear it, and they will not be like one who looks upon the spark of the sun without a screen, whose eyes will be struck blind. But when he places screens between himself and the sun, his glance at that light will be able to increase according to the number of screens, and he will be able to receive it and to bear it. It becomes apparent that the lessening of the light is the property of the tikkun. [ . . . ]

Explanation of ’Idra Zuta

Know that the aspect of the feminine waters of Ze‘ir anpin [Lesser Countenance] and its feminine counterpart are the souls of the righteous, who are called their children . . . and the aspect of the feminine waters of abba [father] and ima [mother] are Ze‘ir anpin and its feminine counterpart, their children. . . . For each and every night, the lower souls ascend . . . in order to renew those souls and to give them power and to enlighten them. . . . Thus Ze‘ir anpin and his feminine counterpart, the children of abba and ima, ascend above into abba and ima, according to the secret of the feminine waters, in order to renew their brains and to enlighten them.

Explanation of the Zohar II:254b

This is the secret of the tikkun ha-tefilot [repair of prayer] which our sages of blessed memory set for us in order to make a tikkun above at every time of the three prayers, and to return them to their place, temporarily facing each other during the time of coupling. And they elucidate some of the few sparks from those same kings, and they raise them up according to the secret of the feminine waters, connected with the supernal masculine waters; and from this connection are formed the souls of human beings. Afterwards, they return and stand back-to-back, for it is not worthwhile according to their actions to collect and to sort absolutely all of the sparks of holiness that are within those kings. Rather, the matter is carried out very slowly, and with each and every coupling, some sparks are extracted, according to the commandments, and according to the merit of the generation at that time. And in this manner, the extrication goes forth and is carried out. And once all are finished being extracted, then will be fulfilled that which the sages of blessed memory have written, “The Son of David will not come until all of the souls that are in the body are finished” [b. Yevamot 62a].

Translated by


Ḥayim (ben Joseph) Vital, “Perush Sifra de-tsni’uta (Explanation of the Book of Modesty),” “Biur Zohar II (Explanation of Zohar II:254b),” “Biur ’Idra Rabba (Explanation of ’Idra Rabba, Zohar III:135a),” “Biur Idra Zuta (Explanation of ’Idra Zuta),” in Shaʻar ma’amare Rashbi ve-Razal (The Gate of the Sayings of R. Simeon bar Yohai) (Jerusalem: Yizhak Nachum Levy, 1898), pp. 21c, 34a, 29a–b, 57a–c.

Published in: The Posen Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization, vol. 5.

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