The Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic and Mysticism: Second Edition (2016)
Ta’anit Chalom: (). “Dream fast.” This defensive ritual fast meant to avert an evil omen is first described in the Talmud. When an individual experiences an ominous dream and wishes to escape the fulfillment of the premonition, he or she should fast, usually on the day following the dream. The importance of such fasts to avoid ill omens is considered so great that some authorities permit it to even override the obligation to feast on the Sabbath and festivals (Tan. 11b; Ber. 31b). SEE DREAM; FASTING; PURITY OR PURIFICATION.
Tabernacle: (/Mishkan, also Ohel Moed). The portable sanctuary built by the Israelites while they sojourned in the desert for forty years. The Clouds of Glory of God would descend into the tent and address the whole people through Moses (Ex. 40:38).
Given that the Israelites began as a seminomadic people, it should come as no surprise that a ohel (“Tent”) is a significant object with metaphorical and even spiritual significance, symbolizing authority, shelter, salvation, sanctuary, and pilgrimage (Pss. 27:5, 61:4, 91:10, 104:2; Isa. 15:5, 54:2; Jer. 30:18, 35:7). Pre-Israelite Canaanites believed that their gods assembled in the sacred tent of El, the supreme god:
She [Anat] stamped her feet and left the earth; then she headed toward El, at the source of the two rivers [Mount Zaphon] in the midst of the two seas’ pools; she opened El’s tent and entered the shrine of the King, Father of Time … 1
Psalms 15:1 and 61:5 describes Israel’s God in a celestial tent sitting atop a sacred mountain, a mythic motif in Israelite similar to the Canaanite one. Thus the idea that the God of Israel would command Moses to build a tent-sanctuary would have seemed appropriate given the cultural milieu. Still, it was novel in another regard—that God would transfer the dwelling place of divine glory to the Earth (Ex. 25-28) is a startling innovation. No longer would divinity be remote from humanity, but instead would dwell amidst people. This is an innovative notion of deity in relationship to humanity couched in mythic imagery. This also set in place the idea that the heavenly abode of divinity has an earthly analog. Its design was a microcosm of creation (Ex. R. 35:6; Num. R. 12:13, LOTJ 409). It was the mirror image of a supernal tent in the celestial realms:
When the Blessed Holy One told Israel to set up the Tabernacle He intimated to the ministering angels that they also should make a Tabernacle, and when the one below was erected the other was erected on high. The latter was the tabernacle of the youth whose name was Metatron, and therein he offers up the souls of the righteous to atone for Israel in the days of their exile. The reason then why it is written ET THE TABERNACLE [the direct object marker “et” appears] because another tabernacle was erected simultaneously with it. In the same strain it says, The place, Adonai, which Thou hast made for Thee to dwell in, the Sanctuary, Adonai, which Thy hands have established. (Ex. 15:I7) [“Place” refers to one Mishkan, “sanctuary” refers to the other.] (Num. R. 12:12)
In the erotic theology of the rabbis, it also the bridal chamber where God consummates His “union” with Israel:
[At Sinai] Moses went forth and came to the Israelite camp and aroused the Israelites from their sleep, saying to them: Arise from your sleep, for your God desires to give you the Torah. Already the bridegroom wishes to lead the bride and to enter the bridal chamber … And the Holy Blessed One went forth to meet them like a bridegroom who goes forth to meet the bride, so the Holy One went forth to meet them and give them the Torah (Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer 41) … by the words “In the day of His espousals” is meant the day He entered the Tent of Meeting; and by the words “In the day of the gladness of His heart” is meant His gladness at Israel’s building of the Eternal habitation. (PdRK 1:3)
The Mishkan was built at the explicit instructions of God (Ex. 25). The building project was overseen by Bezalel, a craftsman imbued with the spirit of wisdom and the capacity to manipulate the Hebrew alef-bet to wondrous purposes. The structure was built out of a vast array of materials—wood; gold; silver; copper; clothes of blue, purple, and red; animal skins—given as freewill offerings by the Israelites. Its design was a microcosm of the world (Ex. R. 35:6; Num. R. 12:13). Its dimensions were based on symbolic numbers: sevens and tens. Besides the furnishings demanded by God, the Mishkan displayed two miraculous items: the rod of Aaron and a bowl filled with manna.
Divided into three zones (the enclosure, sanctuary, and devir), it housed the Ark of the Covenant, the tablets of the Ten Commandments, the main and incense altars, and the menorah, as well as the other sacred vessels and instruments of the sacrificial cult. The relationship of the Mishkan to the “Tent of Meeting” (Ohel Moed) also mentioned in the Torah is ambiguous. In some passages they appear to be separate structures, in others they are one and the same. Once the people settled Israel, the tent resided in various locations until David brought it to Jerusalem. Eventually, Solomon replaced it as the central sanctuary of the Jews by building the permanent Temple, a shift emblematic of the Israelite transition from pastoral-rural tribalism to urban monarchy. SEE CHERUB OR CHERUBIM; GOLD; OHEL; TENT OF MEETING.
1. Coogan, Stories from Ancient Canaan, 12, 95.
Tahorah: “Purity.” SEE PURITY OR PURIFICATION
Taitazak, Joseph: Legalist and mystic (Turkish, ca. 17th century). He was the leading figure among the mystical circle in Salonika that gathered there after the expulsion of Jews from Spain. He experienced numerous revelations through a maggidthat triggered automatic writing. He is possibly the author of Sefer ha-Meshiv.1
1. Kaplan, Meditation and Kabbalah, 173-75. Also see Bilu, “Dybbuk and Maggid,” 350.
Takhlit he-Chacham: “Aim of the Wise.” A Hebrew version of a popular gentile text of astrological magic, known as Picatrix in the Latin version, Ghayat al Hakim in the Arabic, that circulated in Jewish magical circles in the Middle Ages.
Taleh: (). “Ram/Aries.” zodiac sign for the month of Nisan, which falls in the spring. It is a symbol of fire, birth, and the masculine principle. Passover, which occurs during Nisan, once entailed the sacrifice of a ram for the Seder meal. Since the Sages believed the Egyptians worshipped a sheep-headed God, this act signified the slaying of the demonic principle of bondage and constriction.1
1. Erlanger, Signs of the Times, 27-40.
Talmud: (). Second in authority and influence only to the Bible, the Talmud is a vast compendium of Jewish lore made up of sixty-three tractates, each devoted to a different topic. There are two versions of Talmud, created by two separate communities in Late Antiquity, the Jerusalem Talmud and the more authoritiative Babylonian Talmud. Both build upon the same core text, the Mishnah, but the commentaries in each can be quite different. Unless otherwised specified (in this work with a “J.” prefix), the word “Talmud” refers to the Babylonian work.
The arrangement of information is more associative than categorical, and it often requires the study of multiple tractates in order to find all relevant information on a single topic. It is made up of several strata of material, composed over the 2nd through 6th centuries.
The function of the Talmud in Jewish life is ultimately more heuristic than normative; later generations study the Talmud’s intricate debates over Jewish practice and theology for what these teach about logic, probing analysis, the mustering of evidence, and reasoning, rather than for any conclusive answers. The debates of the Sages entail competing, even contradictory, opinions on a host of subjects without reaching any definitive statement as to which opinion is the authoritative “answer.” Thus one must search later, post-Talmudic Jewish sources for anything more than the most cursory sense of how Jews actually observe the religion. With regards to Jewish beliefs, especially, the great contribution of the Talmud is to establish a tradition of preserving and honoring dissenting opinions and a kind of nascent pluralism.
A page of the Talmud
While the major focus of the Talmud is Jewish law, arguing out the application of the biblical commandments to everyday life, the Talmud also overflows with aggadah, non-legal materials—stories, proverbs, medical remedies, and much more—of mythological, legendary, miraculous, fantastic, and esoteric nature.
Tamar: Judah’s Canaanite daughter-in-law, who was the daughter of Melchizedek (Gen. R. 85:10), tricked her father-in-law into sleeping with her in order to perpetuate Judah’s family line. She did so as a modest prophetess, inspired by the Holy Spirit. Samael worked to thwart her, but aided by Gabriel, she succeeded in her mission (Gen. 38; Gen. R. 85:9, 12; Meg. 10b). In the Zohar she is the pivotal figure in actively ensuring the proper transmigration of and Tikkun of souls ; she, along with Ruth, knowingly made the birth of David possible (Zohar I:188a-b; III:71b-72a).
Tannin: SEE DRAGON.
Tanin’iver: ( ). “Blind Dragon.” An evil cosmic entity, which may or may not be Leviathan, described in the Kabbalistic teachings of the Treatise of the Left Emanation, Zohar, Emek ha-Melech, and subsequent writings based on these systems. He is the “steed of” Lilith, the mechanism by which evil is activated, Though Tanin’iver is castrated (echoing legends about Leviathan and the Yetzer ha-Ra.), he is still the catalyst for the coupling of Lilith with Samael, a union that brings pestilence into the world until God’s final intervention to slay chaos for all times at the end of days:
And about this mystery it is written, And on that day the Lord with His sore and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the Slant Serpent, and Leviathan the Tortuous Serpent, and He will slay the Dragon that is in the sea (Isa. 27:1). Leviathan is the connection and the coupling between the two who have the likeness of serpents. Therefore it is doubled: the Slant Serpent corresponding to Samael, and the Tortuous Serpent corresponding to Lilith … (Pardes Rimmonim 186b) 1
SEE DEMON; DRAGON.; SERPENT.
1. Patai, Gates to the Old City, 465.
Tanna de Eliyahu: SEE SEDER ELIYAHU.
Tanya: (). Formally titled Likkutai Amarim but universally known as “Tanya” (“The Sages Taught”) it is the magnum opus of Chasidic master Sh’neur Zalman of Laydi and the central text of the CHaBaD branch of Chasidism. Tanya is a large, sprawling fusion of medieval philosophy with Zoharic and Lurianic Kabbalah . It has many teachings regarding the Pleroma, the soul, and reincarnation, among other things. Its most radical teaching is that of “acosmism,” that the world is an illusion (Tanya 320). Its most problematic concept is its endorsement of a kind of metaphysical racism, for it teaches that non-Jewish souls emanate from the Sitra Achra, the realm of evil, and are fundamentally different from Jewish souls (5).
Targum: (). Any translation of the Hebrew Bible into Aramaic. Often the translations are highly periphrastic, with explanations and occult interpretations being woven right into the verses. Targum Song of Songs is a classic example of this, since the mythic/Midrashic Aramaic “translation” bears only the most tenuous relationship to the plain meaning of the Hebrew original. Targum Jonathan also contains many fabulous tidbits, though all the targums incorporate popular paranormal beliefs of the times in which they were composed.
Tarot: A set of cards, modeled on playing cards, used for the purposes of divination. Tarot cards are a gentile invention of 14th- or 15th-century occult Italy. Despite the presence of Hebrew letters, including the Tetragrammaton, on some decks, the relationship of tarot to Jewish esotericism is largely non-existent. Rather, the letters reflect the general occult enthusiasm for Kabbalah that arose in Renaissance culture. Because of their interest in divination, many Jews have become devotees of tarot reading. SEE CHRISTIAN QABBALISTS.
Tarshishim: ( ). A class of angels mentioned in Seder Gan Eden and Sefer Raziel.
Tav: (). The twenty-second and last letter of the Hebrew alphabet. It has the vocalic value, depending on the regional dialect, of either “th,” “t,” or “s.” Tav has the numeric value of three hundred. It symbolizes truth, perfection, and the end.1 SEE HEBREW AND HEBREW ALPHABET; LANGUAGE.
1. Munk, The Wisdom of the Hebrew Alphabet, 214-20.
Tefillin: (). “Prayer [Frontlets].” Also known as phylacteries, tefillin are two leather boxes with straps containing biblical verses (Deut. 6:4, 11:13-21; Ex. 13:1-10, 11-16), which are bound to the brow and left bicep with leather straps during morning prayers . They are meant to be worn as an ot, a “sign” or reminder of God’s covenant with Israel. According to Talmud tractate Berachot, humans wear tefillin in imitation of God, who wears tefillin with the name “Israel” contained in them (6a).
The fact that some early post-biblical literature calls tefillin kamiaot (amulets) points to the idea that many perceived them as objects of protection and power. Thus, according to one legend, during a time of persecution, a rabbi wore his tefillin despite the prohibition. When officers came to arrest him, he concealed his phylacteries in his hands. When the authorities demanded to see what he was concealing, the tefillin turned into dove (Shab. 19a).
Wearing tefillin during prayer
Tefillin are the religious article most mentioned in rituals for mystical ascent and for summoning angels. Safed mystics thought that the wearing of tefillin was a prerequisite for being possessed by an ibbur, a beneficent spirit. Beyond the general potential for tefillin to serve as an amulet (Ber. 23a-b), tales of miraculous sets of tefillin also appear in Jewish literature (ShB 172). These items gain their wondrous power either because they were previously owned by a righteous person, or because they have supernal origins, like being a gift from Elijah.1
1. Trachtenberg, Jewish Magic and Superstition, 145, 158.
Teleportation: (/Kefitzat ha-Derech). “Jumping the Way.” Physical teleportation is first mentioned in the Midrash, where the saintly Sage Chanina ben Dosa is instantaneously transported to Jerusalem by a team of angels (S of S R. 1:4; Eccl. R. 1:1). The Talmud lists three biblical figures, Eliezer, Jacob, and Abishai, who traversed huge distances at miraculous speeds (Sanh. 95a; Chul. 91b). There are several other accounts of angelically assisted teleportation, usually involving religious virtuosos on a particular mission, such as one involving Simon bar Yochai’s quest for an audience with Caesar in which angels progressively get Bar Yochai to Rome, past the palace guards, and then directly before the Emperor. Angels cease to be a part of later reports, and instead it becomes one of the wondrous talents available to the enlightened. Reports of teleportation were discussed by early medieval legal authorities. Chai ben Sherira Gaon writes about reports of a Baal Shem who could appear the same day in two synagogues several days apart (Otzer Geonim). Two medieval German Pietist , Samuel he-Chasid and Judah he-Chasid, could deploy a cloud to transport them over long distances (Sefer ha-Peliyah). Other sources suggest teleportation is achieved by enslaving demons for the purpose (Biur Maamar l’Rav Chayyim Vital). Both Isaac Luria and Chayyim Vital are credited with this feat.
Teleportation accounts increase dramatically in Chasidic wonder stories. There is even an account, reminiscent of the “night journey” of Mohammed, of a horse being able to transport a rider with supernatural speed after the Tetragrammaton was written on each of its hooves.
Teli: (). This enigmatic term first appears in Sefer Yetzirah (6:3, Long Recension), where it is described as being like a celestial “king on his throne.” Some commentators take this to be an astronomical reference either to the constellation Draco, or to the Milky Way as a whole, or to the axis on which the celestial spheres turn. In Bahir, it is translated as “axis” and is linked to the divine hair (taltalim) described in Song of Songs chapter 5. It has also been translated as “dragon” and “serpent.” Again, the assumption is that this is a in some fashion a reference to the sinuous appearance of the Milky Way galaxy. Abraham Abulafia regards it to be the dark astro-magical source of the power of Jesus (Mafteach ha-Shemot 130).
Temple: (/Beit ha-Mikdash, also ha-Heichal; Beit Elohim; ha-Bayit; Beit ha-Bechira). The Holy Temple in Jerusalem was one of the six (or seven) things God conceived before beginning the creation of the world:
Six things preceded the creation of the world. Some were actually created, and others came up only in God’s thought as what was to be created: Torah and the Throne of Glory were created. The [eventual] creation of the [great] ancestors, [the people] Israel, the Temple, and the name of the Messiah came to God’s mind. R. Ahavah son of R. Ze’era said: So, too, repentance. And some say: Also the Garden of Eden and Gehenna. (Gen. R. 3:9)
In one of the most oft repeated ideas about the structure, here is a heavenly Temple to which the earthbound Temple corresponds:
The place for you to dwell in, Adonai (Ex. 15:17). [The place that] corresponds to Your [existing] dwelling place. This statement hints that the throne below corresponds exactly to the throne in heaven. For it is also written, Adonai is in His holy Temple [below]; Adonai is in His heavenly throne [above]. (Ps. 11:4). (MdRI Shirata 10.25. Also see Tan. 5a; Ex. R. 33:4; Chag. 12b; Men. 110a; Zohar I:183b)
The site of the Temple was the Foundation Stone, the navel of the world. The building itself was made up of the Court (in the second Temple expansion, there were multiple courts), the Sanctuary and the Holy of Holies, each zone being one of more intense holiness:
[Jerusalem is holy, but] The Temple Mount is still more holy … The hel (the administrative mall?) is still more holy … The Court of the Women is still more holy … The Court of the Israelites is still more holy … The Court of the Priests is still more holy … Between the Porch and the Altar is still more holy … The Sanctuary is still more holy, for none may enter therein with hands and feet unwashed. The Holy of Holies is still more holy, for none may enter therein save only the High Priest on the Day of Atonement at the time of the service. (M. Kel. 1.8-9)
The design of the Temple was that of a microcosm, a model representation of Earth, heaven, and the Throne of Glory(Num. R. 12:13; War 5:5.4). There is also a strain of Jewish tradition that metaphysically links the Temple with Eden.1 The Temple instruments and objects, decorated in such floral motifs as palms, pomegranates, and almonds, were meant to evoke that “garden” association (1 Kings 6; II Chron. 3; I Enoch 29-32; Jubilees 3, 8), as were the decorative Cherubim (1 Kings 6, 7), known to the Israelites as the guardians of Eden (Gen. 3). The Temple is also understood to be a kind of macrocosm of the human soul, its three-chamber structure reflecting the three levels of the soul: nefesh, ruach, and neshamah.
Many wonders were associated with its building. It only rained at night throughout the building project, the Shamir worm cut all the stones needed for the work, the stones moved of their own accord from the quarry, and all the workers were immediately transported to the Garden of Eden upon the Temple’s completion (Gen. R. 2:5; PR 6). According to the extracanonical Testament of Solomon, the great king enslaved the demons of the underworld to assist him in completing the sacred project.
There are a plethora of symbolic and powerful objects associated with the Temple. The Ark of the Covenant emanated a supernal light that illuminated the interior of the Temple (Yoma 54b; Lev. R. 20:4). The gold menorah at the doorway would glow when the time for morning prayer came (Yoma 37b). The altar, Molten Sea, the bread of the Presence, and the pillars Boaz and Yachin all have mythic and, at times, occult significance.
During the entire existence of the Temple, the rain and wind never put out a single sacrifice. The fire of the altar was unlike any other: it was clear, yet its flames were solid; it could consume both dry and wet wood; and the smoke it produced was never affected by the wind. Instead, the movement of the smoke was a kind of continuous omen, and the people could divine whether the future was positive or negative based on which way it flowed (Yoma 21a-b).
God and/or other divine entities such as angels would appear in the Temple precincts. The presence of God could be experienced in auditory and/or visible manifestations (1 Kings 8:10-12; Isa. 6; Ber. 7a).
According to most of the prophets, God punished Israel for its many sins by decreeing the destruction of Solomon’s Temple. God sent multiple omens to Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, directing him to conquer Judah (Eccl. R. 12:7; Lam. R. petichta 23). Angels even opened the city walls to the invaders (PR 26).
For the forty years preceding its destruction, signs of God’s judgment were manifest throughout the building. Doors opened of their own accord, the Urim and Thummim did not give a positive answer, and the scarlet cord would not turn white (Yoma 39b).
At the time of the First Temple’s destruction, objects of power kept there were hidden away, including the Ark of the Covenant, the anointing oil, a jar of manna, Aaron's rod, and the treasure of the Philistines (Hor. 12a).
When the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the Second Temple, the Sages were divided on whether it, too, was a punishment sent from God, or happened for some other, more positive divine purpose. As the Romans looted the building, the High Priest fled to the rooftop. There he took the keys and cast them into heaven, where a supernal hand caught them and took them to be held until the coming of the Messiah (Tan. 29a). When Titus finally entered the sanctuary, he cut the curtain of the Holy of Holies, causing it to bleed. Those Temple vessels he could find he took as prizes to Rome.
As mentioned earlier, there is a heavenly Temple, which the earthly one mirrors. Even though the earthly one is gone, the angel Michael continues to make offerings to God in the ascendant Temple (MdRI Shirata 10; Chag. 12a; Gen. R. 1:4; Tanh. Vayakehel 7; Tanh. Pekudei 1-3; Ex. R. 33:4). The Zohar equates this Temple on high with Binah (I:2b).
At the End of Days, this supernal Jerusalem will descend and will rest upon the tops of the sacred mountains of Israel: Tabor, Carmel, Sinai, Zion/Moriah, and Hermon (Isa. 2:2; PdRK 21:4; Sefer Zerubbabel). In the Messianic Temple a mighty river, a fountain of purity and life, will flow from the Temple precincts, healing and fructifying the world (Zech. 14; Ezek. 47:1-12).
Much of early Jewish mystical practice revolved around obtaining visions of the heavenly Temple.2 SEE ASCENT, HEAVENLY; PALACE; TABERNACLE.
1. Green, Jewish Spirituality, vol. 1, 51-52.
2. Berman, The Temple: Its Symbolism and Meaning Then and Now (Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1995) and Elior, The Three Temples.
Temple Mount: SEE ZION.
Temple Scroll: A document found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, it is a revised version of Exodus through Deuteronomy, in which Moses is portrayed as mandating the agenda of the sectarian priests of Qumran, including the solar calendar, the organization of the Temple, and the purity of the sacred precincts and the surrounding city. It shares themes and teachings in common with I Enoch and Jubilees.
Temurah: Letter substitution. This is a popular method for revealing esoteric names of power for God. SEE ENCRYPTION.; HAFUCH; TZERUF/Tzerufim.
Ten Commandments: (twrbdh trç[/Eseret ha-Dibrot). The two tablets on which God inscribed the commandments were first carved from the Foundation Stone (Tanh. Kedoshim 10). When Moses shattered the first tablets, the letters flew back up to heaven (Avot 5:6; AdRN 2:11; Shab. 146a; Eruv. 54a; Deut. R. 15:17). God required Moses to make the second tablets with mortal hands, so the second stones did not have the same potent power, though the second stones were actually sapphire (PdRE 44). Surprisingly, while the Ten Commandments are a frequently cited text, they are rarely used in Jewish rituals of power.
Ten Lost Tribes: When the biblical northern kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyrians, the tribes that made up that nation—Simon, Levi, Gad, Dan, Naftali, Issachar, Reuben, Benjamin, Manasseh, and Ephraim—were carried off into exile. They subsequently vanished from history, but since the prophets repeatedly refer to their eventual restoration, many occult traditions about the whereabouts of the ten “lost tribes” continue to this day. In rabbinic tradition, the tribes dwell in the east , beyond the mythic River Sambatyon, which they cannot cross. Periodically, individuals would appear claiming to be from one of the tribes (Sanh. 10:6; Gen. R. 73:6; PR 31).
The ten tribes have been variously identified with the Pathans, the Kurds, the Masai, the Japanese, and Native Americans. A Christian movement, the “Anglo-Israelites,” have claimed that the English (and German) peoples are the tribes. The Sefardic Chief Rabbinate of modern Israel has designated the Beta Yisrael, the black Jews of Ethiopia, to be descendants of Dan.1
1. A. Segal, “The Ten Lost Tribes: Looking for the Remnants,” Hagshama, World Zionist Organization Education Center. http://www.wzo.org.il.
Ten Martyrs: (/Aseret Harugei Malchut). These ten Sages who died during Roman persecution are the archetypal martyrs. Their story is preserved in the collection known as Eleh Ezkarah (“This I Remember”) and is recited every Yom Kippur afternoon in the synagogue. Many of the stories feature supernatural and miraculous elements. SEE AKIBA BEN JOSEPH; DECREES, DIVINE; RIGHTEOUS, THE
Ten Miracles on the Twilight of the Sixth Day: According to Avot de Rabbi Natan 5:6, ten miracles alluded to in the Bible were already preordained at Creation and merely awaited their appointed time to occur:
1) The mouth of the earth that swallowed Korach and his companions; 2) The well of Miriam; 3) The mouth on Balaam’s donkey; 4) The rainbow; 5) Manna 6;) The rod of Moses; 7) The Shamir worm; 8) The supernal script on the first tablet of the Ten Commandments; 9) The divine pen for writing the script; 10) The stone tablets able to withstand the script.
Some add demons , the grave of Moses, Abraham's ram, and the first set of tongs (to make other tongs) (Avot 5:6).
Ten Trials of Abraham: God tested his chosen servant by ten trials. These were:
1) Having to leave his home as an old man; 2) Facing the famine in Canaan; 3) The taking of his wife by Pharaoh; 4) His battle with the four kings to rescue his nephew Lot; 5) The infertility of Sarah; 6) Accepting the command to circumcise himself as an old man; 7) The taking of his wife by the Philistine king; 8) Having to send away Hagar; 9) Having to send away Ishmael; 10) Having to offer his son Isaac for a sacrifice. (Jubilees 17:17; Avot 5:4; AdRN 33; PdRE 26-31)
Ten Utterances of Creation: The Sages teach that God created the world with ten speech-acts. These correspond with all God’s direct speech in Genesis 1-2:4 (Gen. R. 17.1; Avot 5:1; PdRE 3; Zohar III:11b). These become one of the bases for the sefirot.
Tent: (/ohel). SEE ADAT EL; OHEL.; TABERNACLE.; TENT OF MEETING.
Tent of Meeting: (/Ohel Moed). In most passages of the Torah, this term appears to be a synonym for the tabernacle. This is what the Targum assumes:
And when Moses entered into the Tent of Meeting to speak with him, he heard the voice of the [Holy] Spirit which spoke to him from the highest heaven, above the seat of mercy which was on the ark of witness; from between the two cherubim. And there the Word spoke to him. (Targum Jonathan, Num. 7:89)
In Exodus 33:7-11, however, the Tent seems to be a separate structure, an oracular building outside the camp. God descends upon it in a pillar of cloud and then addresses the people from its entrance (Ex. 33:9-11; Deut. 31:14-15). SEE ADAT EL
Teomim: (). “Twins/Gemini.” The Hebrew zodiac sign for the month of Sivan. It signifies unity, especially the unity of God and Israel, as this was the month in which the revelation at Sinaioccurred.1 SEE CALENDAR.
1. Erlanger, Signs of the Times, 55-69.
Terach: The father of Abraham, he is alternately portrayed in the Midrash as a noble figure and a base idolater. He was witness to several miracles performed on behalf of his son.
Terafim: (). Terafim were small figurines, evidently representations of either gods or ancestor, kept in the homes by the Semitic peoples of the ancient Near East. The etiology of the word itself is subject to debate. It may be a derivation of the Hittite tarpish, meaning “spirit,” or possibly from the Arabic raffa, “shine.” Terafim were clearly regarded to be objects of power, as illustrated by the determination of Laban to retrieve the terafim removed by his daughter Rachel when she departed with Jacob (Gen. 31:34). Scholars speculate that terafim may have been part of a complex of beliefs concerning the deified dead among the Western Semitic peoples, including the Hebrews.
The Hebrew Scriptures clearly associate terafim with mantic practices (Judg. 17:5, 18:14; Ezek. 21:26; Hos. 3:4; Zech. 10:2). The exact manner of their divinatory use is unclear, though Ezekiel 21:26 raises the possibility that arrows or other sticks may have been cast in front of the statues, I Ching fashion. The terafim had some connection to the Urim and Thummim used by the Israelite priesthood. Both were used for divination, but some speculate they resembled each other in form as well as function. There is some evidence that some terafim were made from alabaster or some other stone that would interact with light, and may be related to the luminous elmeshu stone mentioned in Mesopotamian sources.
The terafim were the butt of satirical humor in the Bible, such as having a menstruating woman sit on them (Gen. 31) and having Michal, the wife of David, use one as a decoy (1 Sam. 19:13). Such stories are intended to denigrate the spiritual value of terafim in the eyes of the reader.
In the Zohar, they are identified as idols specifically used in witchcraft (I:164b). According to Targum Jonathan and Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer (36), the terafim were actually enchanted talking skulls.
Tesira: A demon of the underworld that attacks the ritually lax after the end of the Sabbath (Zohar I:17b).
Testament of Abraham: SEE ABRAHAM, TESTAMENT OF.
Testament of Levi: SEE LEVI, TESTAMENT OF.
Medieval woodcut of Solomon commanding demons
Testament of Solomon: A Greek text of Late Antiquity devoted to the power of demons and their control, the Testament of Solomon is probably a document with Jewish roots, but has been thoroughly reworked with the addition of Christian beliefs and themes. This book provides the most comprehensive presentation of Solomon as arch-magi and summoner of demons. In the narrative, he uses a magic ring to force thirty-six demons to help him construct the Temple. From each demon, he extracts its name, the nature of its malevolent activities, and the angel that is its nemesis. One interesting idea it contains that has some Jewish providence is that demons are the offspring of humans and fallen angels.
Tet: Ninth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, it has the vocalic value of “t” and the numeric value of nine.1
1. Munk, The Wisdom of the Hebrew Alphabet, 118-24.
Tetragrammaton: Greek: “The four-letter name.” YHVH is derived from the Hebrew stative verb hay-yud-hay, “to be,” so it carries the sense of “The Eternal” or “[Ultimate] Being.” Also known as the “ineffable name” of God and the “explicit name” of God, it is the holiest of God’s names and the archetypal divine name of power.1 So great was its holiness that eventually the proper pronunciation was concealed to prevent its abuse (Yoma 39b-40a). Even great Sages who misuse the name can expect dire punishments (A.Z. 17b). According to one Midrash, every angel wears a seal with the Tetragrammaton inscribed on it (PdRK 12:22). Using only the first two letters, God created both this world and the World to Come (PR 21). God revealed it to Moses while granting him his prophetic powers (Ex. 4). It was inscribed on Aaron's rod of power. Solomon inscribed it on his ring, giving him control of demons . It subsequently appears in countless tales of wonders performed by prophets, sages, and other men and women of God, as it grants virtually unlimited powers to those who know how to properly activate it (Mak. 11a; Git. 68b; PdRK 19). It is used to summon angels, perform healings, empower amulets, and animate golems. Inscribed on weapons, it made the bearer invulnerable (ChdM; Tar. S of S 2:17; Tanh. Bashallach 1; PdRE 47).
The name, however, is like plutonium and can be used for purposes both good and ill. In Leviticus 24, a man misuses the divine name in a curse, a capital offense (Lev. 24:10-16). Lilith used it to escape Eden and the reach of the angels. Jeroboam used it to animate the golden calves in his false sanctuary and so deceived the northern tribes into following him (Sot. 47a). Jesus used it to gain magical powers (Toldot Yeshu).
As mentioned earlier, by long-standing custom, the four-letter name of God is not pronounced. According to one tradition, the Sages would reveal the correct pronunciation of the Name only once in seven years (Kid. 71a). Based on Psalm 29—kol YHVH al ha-mayim (“the sound ‘YHVH’ is upon the water”)—Eleazar of Worms taught that a master could only transmit the proper pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton to a disciple while they were both partially immersed in water (Sefer ha-Shem).
While in biblical and rabbinic literature the name serves as a metaphor for the presence of God on Earth (Ex. 24), in sefirotic metaphysics YHVH is the divine name linked with Tiferet. There is also a mystical tradition that the morphology of the letters of the Tetragrammaton are seen as a visual representation of the sefirot, when arranged vertically, with yud representing Keter, the first hay representing the middle sefirot, the vav signifying the lower sefirot, and the second hay symbolizing Malchut . Other configurations and associations are proposed in various mystical tracts, such as the idea that the first two letters signify the negative reality of God (God is “No-thing”), while the last two represent God’s positive existence (Kedushat Levi, Bereshit). SEE ENCRYPTION; EXPLICIT NAME OF GOD; NAMES OF GOD.
1. Janowitz, Icons of Power, 19-31.
Tevel: One of the seven material worlds. According to Seder Gan Eden, it is where the earthly Garden of Eden is located. In other sources, it is one of the compartments of Gehenna.
Theurgy: Theurgy is a ritual means to both influence deity and to gain and exercise power through that deity. Rabbinic thought teaches that humanity has the power to affect change in the divine Pleroma, and even contribute to its well-being, empowering God through our actions (PdRK 26). Conversely, both Midrash and later Kabbalah also assert that human sin actually “weakens divine power” (Bahir 102; Bachya ben Asher, Commentary to Num. 14:17). By the same token, humans are able to use divine power to influence things in the lower realms. This subsidiary ability goes beyond the mere power of supplication in prayer; the knowledgeable Jew can, in effect, borrow God’s power and use it in what we today would call a “magical” fashion.
Two things distinguish theurgy from magic. First, the power that the theurgist adjures is a personalistic entity—a god, angel, or demon —rather than abstract, impersonal forces, as is the case with magic. Thus, for example, Hechalot texts will command angels to do the work, whereas Greek magical ritual texts will simply say, “I bind so-and-so.” Second, while anyone can sustain the Pleroma through prayer and ritual, for the adept to be effective in performing rituals of power on the human level, spiritual and moral excellence is required of the adept. Magic is merely a technology that anyone can be trained to use.
There are several mechanisms Jewish theurgists used to exercise this power. The most ancient is the belief that Hebrew letters and words, being supernatural first creations of God, are repositories of divine energy. This is all the more true of names and, especially, divine names. The adept who knows how to tap the power of words and angelic and divine names can perform mighty feats. This idea is first hinted at in the Talmud and further developed in Sefer Yetzirah . Subsequently, the theurgic power of language is one of the foundational assumptions of merkavah mystics, amulet makers, practical Kabbalists, and sorcerers.
The second mechanism is that the shefa, or divine influx that flows from God through the sefirot and animates the lower worlds, can be channeled and tapped by the Kabbalist for practical purposes. With the right knowledge, both letters and shefa can be tapped at will, much like one can use the energy of a river to drive a power plant (Pardes Rimmonim 21:2; Hesed L’Avraham 15). To use these forces, the human soul is the transformer, and the adept must attune his or her Body to these spiritual forces through Jewish rituals, incantations and special practices in order to use them. In some mystical-magical systems, these two theories of theurgy are fused together and harmonized (Chayyim ha-Olam ha-Ba).
In some texts the Jewish belief in the human ability to manipulate sefirotic energy also becomes conflated with yet a third mechanism: the astral-magical belief found in the Hermetic traditions that one can harness the power and influence of the stars and constellations. These gentile traditions especially emphasize the use of objects that are in some way analogous to the power being accessed, or represent the force or desired result. Thus we see throughout the Middle Ages both the correlation of angels (named entities of power) and sefirot (influx of power) with astrological symbols and the increasing use of sympathetic magic and homeopathic objects in Jewish theurgy.1
1. Idel, Hasidism, 65-69; Idel, Kabbalah, 165-99; Ginsburg, The Sabbath in Classical Kabbalah, 3.
Thirteen Attributes of Mercy: (/Shelosh-’Esreh Middot Ha-Rachamim). Based on the “revelation of the cleft” given Moses (Ex. 34:6),
1. Adonai: compassion before a person sins;
2. Adonai: compassion after sinning;
3. El: mighty giving to all creatures according to their need;
4. Rachum: merciful;
5. Chanun: gracious;
6. Erech appayim: slow to anger;
7. Rav chesed: abundant in love;
8. Emet: truth;
9. Notzer chesed laalafim: maintaining love, even to a thousand generations;
10, Noseh avon: forgiving iniquity;
11. Feshah: [forgiving] transgression;
12. Chata’ah: [forgiving] sin;
13. veNakeh: vindicating (or pardoning).
These thirteen attributes of God are symbolized in the thirteen twists found in the last winding of each ritual fringe on a tallit. Since God recites them on high when desiring to forgive Israel, any Jew who recites these verses in sincere contrition while wrapped in a tallit will be forgiven all sins. Others insist they must be accompanied with action (R.H. 17b; Tomar Devorah 1).
Thirty-Two Paths of Wisdom: In Sefer Yetzirah , this refers to the supernal power inherent in the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet and the ten sefirot:
With Thirty-two wondrous Paths of Wisdom Yah engraved and created His Universe with Three Sefarim: with Sefer (letters), with Sefar (numbers), and with Sippur (book); [The Thirty-two Paths are] ten sefirot of nothingness and twenty-two Foundation Letters … (SY 1:1)
The twenty-two letters are the Hebrew alef-bet. The ten sefirot are based on the ten utterances of God in performing the Creation (Gen. 1). Mastery of the paths gives one both transcendent knowledge and theurgic power.
Thread, Blue: SEE FRINGES.
Throne of Glory: (/Kisei ha-Kavod, also merkavah). Both Isaiah and Daniel describe visions of God seated upon a throne (Isa. 6; Dan. 7). Ezekiel’s vision is of a “semblance” of God seated in a chariot (Ezek. 1, 10). Some understand that all the prophets are describing the same entity. As a result, it is sometimes characterized as God’s “Throne-Chariot.” The Throne is mentioned multiple times in the Hebrew Scriptures (Jer. 14:21, 17:12; Isa. 6:1; Ezek. 1:26, 10:1), but with little description. It may be made of sapphire (making it co-equal with the heavens?) (Ezek. 1:26), and/or it may be formed of living, numinous entities [probably Keruvim, Cherubs, but also possibly other numinous creatures— Chayyot, Serafim, and Ofanim] (Ibid.), but little else is revealed in the Bible.
As the archetypal symbol of God’s Gevurah, God’s power, the Throne of Glory is one of the six things that preexists Creation (Gen. R. 1:4). God threw a chunk of the Throne into the abyss and the cosmos coagulated around it (Mid. Konen 2:24). There are many vivid, often rather literal, descriptions of the Throne and its prominent features. It is a celestial sky blue, the same blue that is part of the fringes an Israelite must wear. Another Midrash calls it Chashmal, amber. Made of half fire, half hail, it hovers in the air, is eight hundred thousand parasangs in length and five hundred thousand in width—and that is calculated in the parasangs of heaven, which is two thousand cubits of the length of God’s arm (PdRE 3, 4, 6; BhM 2:25, 41-46). Some descriptions acknowledge it more as metaphor: Hechalot Rabbati, which offers a poetic meditation on the Throne, calls it a meon (a “dwelling”), and a keli chemdah (a “precious vessel”). Since the first letter of the word kisei (“throne”) is kaf, and crescent moon shaped, Batei Midrashot (2:406) imagines the moon to be a visible sign of God’s throne, and therefore, God’s sovereignty.
When sitting upon the Throne in judgment, God is draped in a supernal robe of purple inscribed with the names of the martyrs of Israel (Mid. Teh. 4:12). The Throne is also inscribed with a human image. Some sources say it is Adam:
The most noble of creatures is Adam; the image of man is on Your throne (Hechalot Rabbati 6:5)
but the majority claim it is the image of the Patriarch Jacob. Thus the Throne, like God’s tefillin, represents the metaphysical bond of the people Israel to the Godhead (Hechalot Zutarti). This passage, also from Hechalot literature, describes God addressing the ascendant adept:
Give testimony to them of what you see by Me, of what I have done to the face of Jacob, your father, which I have engraved on the Throne of my Glory. (Hechalot Rabbati)
The idea that Jacob's image is inscribed on God’s throne, that Israel is the centerpiece, the chief mechanism for the unfolding of God’s kingdom, appears several times in different genres of Jewish writing, not just esoteric texts:
And [Jacob] dreamed. And behold, a staircase was set upon the earth; and its head reached to the heights of heaven. And behold, the angels who had come with him from his father’s house ascended bearing good news to the angels on high, saying, “Come and see a just man” The one whom you desired to see, whose image is engraved on the Throne of Glory” And behold, the angels from before the Eternal were ascending and descending to gaze at him. (Targum Neofiti, Gen. 28:1. Also see Gen. R. 68:5)
The angel Sandalfon stands over the Throne, weaving the prayers of Israel into God’s crown. Four princes surround the Throne: Michael (right), Gabriel (left), Uriel (in front), and Raphael (behind). Other texts describe myriads of armies of angels arrayed around it. The Earth is the footstool of God’s throne.
Diagram of the elements of God’s Throne of Glory
There is one tradition that there are actually two thrones, the Throne of Strict Justice and the Throne of Mercy. When Israel prays for forgiveness, it moves God to leave the first and sit in the second (Sanh. 38b; PDRK 23.3).
Despite the detailed and exacting descriptions, the exact nature of the Throne is difficult to pin down. It has sentience and at times it speaks—and sings. Some passages suggest the Throne consists entirely of cherubim and Ofanim (winged and wheeled angels) (Hechalot Rabbati).
Later Kabbalistic teachings tend to understand the Throne as being more metaphorical than concrete. As a result, various sources equate the Throne with the heavens, the divine mind (Mada’ey ha-Yahadut), the supernal first light of Creation, or the Torah (Meshiv Devarim Nekhochim). Some Kabbalistic sources coyly intimate that that the Throne is, like the Shekhinah, an attribute of the divine feminine principle, so when the Glory of God sits upon it, it signifies a hieros gamos, that the male and female principles are unified.
Based on Daniel 7:9, one Sage teaches that there are thrones for the Righteous beside the Throne. Abraham, Moses, and David sit upon these thrones. Metatron, the “lesser YHVH” also has a throne proximate to the Throne of Glory. It is such an enthronement in the presence of God, amounting to a kind of “angelification,” that is the ultimate desire of the merkavah mystic.
Akin to this idea that God draws the righteous close to the Throne, there are a number of traditions about what God keeps under the throne, including a Treasury of souls waiting to be born and a Treasury of Souls of the saintly dead. Four angelic encampments are arranged around the throne, just as the tribes of Israel were once arrayed around the tabernacle while they encamped in the desert (PdRE 4).
According to an oft-repeated legend, the face of Jacob is inscribed upon the Throne, signifying God’s special devotion to the Patriarch and to Jacob’s children (Gen. R. 68:12; PdRE 35). In the World to Come , the Throne will become visible and evident to all (J. Shab. 6:9).
The throne is represented in the material world by the Ark of the Covenant, as two Cherubim whose wings form God’s “Seat of Mercy,” corresponding to Ezekiel’s vision describes God upon a chariot, also supported by cherubim (also see Ps. 99:1).
Throne of Solomon: Inspired by the Holy Spirit, King Solomon constructed a throne that resembled God’s Throne of Glory (I Chron. 29:23). The throne had the images of the four faces that Ezekiel saw on God’s chariot-throne: a man, an eagle, an ox, and a lion. It was engraved with the words of the Priestly Blessing and encrusted with precious gems so that it glowed. Sefer Raziel states that it resembled ice and that divine names are inscribed upon it.
Behind it was a large wheel back-panel, mimicking the Ofan angel behind God’s throne. A dove hovered over the seat, and it was surrounded by images of Cherubim and Chayyot angels. It was mounted on six steps, reminiscent of the six lower levels of heaven. There were twelve golden lions and twelve golden eagles on the steps. Trees grew around the throne, and multi-hued cloths hung above it.
“Solomon’s Throne” from Cassell’s Illustrated Universal History by Edward Collier (1896)
There were also many living animals, clean and unclean, predators and prey, ringing the dais. These animals lived harmoniously together and would serve as mounts, moving Solomon on and off the platform. Some of the animals could speak. At times the animals would raise their voices together in Solomon’s honor, imitating the angelic choirs that sing God’s praises. Eagles could lift the entire throne complex, moving him from place to place.
Solomon’s throne room was filled with seventy thousand chairs. The seventy leaders of Israel were always seated at the forefront. Two chairs nearest the throne were reserved for the prophets who attended Solomon—Gad and Nathan. A golden menorah of seven branches, each inscribed with the name of an antediluvian or a Patriarch, stood nearby (Targum Sheni I:100).
Whenever Solomon uttered a just decision from his throne, the Holy Spirit would confirm the decision and lions would lick his feet.
After the Babylonian conquest, the throne was carried off to the east. Many kings attempted to sit on it, but the beasts surrounding it would prevent them. Finally the Romans broke it into pieces (Es. R. 1:2; Num. R. 12:21; BhM 2:83-85, 5:34-37).
Tiferet: (). “Beauty.” The sixth and central of the sefirot. In classical Kabbalah , it is usually understood as the masculine principle of the Godhead. It is the sefirah of the written Torah (Zohar I:77a). It is also the critical harmonizing principle of the Godhead, balancing between the polar “left” and “right” sides of divine emanations. In the Zohar it is equated with the divine title Blessed Holy One. Jacob and Moses personify this sefirah, and green and purple are the colors that symbolize it.
Tihirin: “Noon [Demons].” This class of disease-bearing demon is mentioned in Targum Song of Songs 4:6, based on psalm 91:6. Loosely derived from the “scourge that ravages at noon” (tzohoriyim) mentioned in the anti-demonic Psalm 91 (verse 6). Based on their name and the context, the unique attribute of these creatures would seem to be their propensity to move about in daytime, a quality not generally associated with the demonic (Meg. 3a; Ber. 3b; Sanh. 65b).
Never brought up in Talmud or early Midrash, they first get explicit mention Targum Shir ha-Shirim 4:6. In the critical text, Song of Songs in the Targumic Tradition, they appear as teiharei, which is translated as “noontime ghosts.” They receive the most prominent treatment in zohar, where they are referenced multiple times (ironically, given their name derivation) as a creature that interferes with the night flight of the soul to heaven (I:83a). Perhaps there is another layer of irony, because the name closely resembles the Hebrew word for “pure” and “glittering,” yet these may be the very demons that trigger entrancing yet impure dreams in men (I:200a). Wittily, in his new Zohar translation Daniel Matt translates tehirin by the seductively charming alliterative “dazzling demons.” 1
1. Matt, The Zohar, vol. 3, 162.
Tikkun: (). “Repair/Rectification/Completion.” Many magical-mystical practices in Judaism come with the rationale of Tikkun; that performing a commandment, rite, or act correctly will have the theurgic effect of repairing the cosmos and/or strengthening the Godhead. This idea, first fully developed in the teachings of Isaac Luria, reflects the notion that humanity exists in order to rebuild Adam Kadmon , the quasi-divine Anthropos that was God’s ideal creation at the beginning of time. Tikkun can take place in virtually any situation; all aspects of the Creation, whether mundane or supernatural, are in need of tikkun. animals achieved it by being sacrificed in the Temple or by being slaughtered in accordance with the laws of Kashrut. People need to continue personal tikkun both in this life and the next. Chasidic exorcists, for example, perform “tikkun” upon ghost, helping them make the journey into the afterlife.1 SEE BREAKING OF THE VESSELS.
1. Green, Jewish Spirituality, vol. 2, 27-30, 65-69, 107-8, 411-12.
Tikkun Leil Shavuot: (). “Rectification of Shavuot Night.” In response to a Midrash which blames Israel for blemishing its relationship with God by sleeping in too long on the day God intended to give the Torah (S of S R. 1:57; PdRE 40), the mystics of Safed instituted a late night study session on the night of Shavuot, the festival dedicated to the giving of the Torah. To make up for the laxity of their ancestor, participants aim to remain awake until the morning service to hear the reading of the Ten Commandments. It is perhaps no coincidence that this ritual appeared in the 16th century, coinciding with the spread of coffee consumption into Jewish culture in the Middle East and Mediterranean.
Tikkun Chatzot: (). “Rectification of Midnight.” A theurgic ritual developing out of the ideology of Lurianic Kabbalah. Modeled on the midnight study habits of King David (Ps. 119:62; Suk. 29b) and intended to rectify the cosmic damage to the Pleroma caused by the loss of the Temple and its world-sustaining ritual, it is mostly observed in the summer, between the commemorative days of the seventeenth of Tammuz and the ninth of Av (when the Temple was destroyed). The Tikkun is performed in two parts, the Tikkun Rachel and the Tikkun Leah, an effort to “arouse” the feminine forces within the deity to union with its masculine counterpart, thereby affecting a harmonization of the cosmic order. The liturgy mostly consists of psalms of lamentation and vidui (“confession”) prayers, though the exact texts vary quite a bit from community to community.
Tikkun Shovavim: (). “Rectifying the mischievous ones.” SEE BANIM SHOVAVIM
Tikkunei Zohar: A late addition to the corpus of the Zohar, it is in fact a free-standing work in its own right, a commentary devoted primarily to expounding the mysteries of Creation, though it is quite free-ranging in its topic matter.
Tish: (). “Table.” Also Firen Tish; Farbrengen. Among the spiritual customs of Chasidism is the rebbe’s tish, a mass gathering of Chasids around their spiritual leader, in which the sharing of food and drinking is combined with lengthy discourses on Torah, singing (often wordless melodies known as niggunim), and ecstatic dancing. These normally occur at Sabbaths, festivals, or commemorative days, and can last many hours.
The Sages of the Talmud characterized the dining table of the Jewish home as a mikdash me’at (a “small altar”), elevating the mundane business of eating to a sacerdotal level. The idea of a meal punctuated with Torah study also goes back at least as far as the Talmud (Avot 3:4; Tan. 5b). The practice continued on into the Middle Ages (Zohar II:154a), but early Hasidic masters were critical of their conventions, which focused more on virtuoso demonstrations of homiletic prowess rather than on spiritual inspiration.1
The Tish, by comparison is focused on cultivating an emotional and spiritual identification between the attending Chasids and their leader. Attendees are encouraged to observe and reflect on the every gesture of the rebbe, whose actions are understood to be “living Torah.” Thus, for example, how the rebbe handles the food, or which morsel he chooses as his first, are all assumed to convey a spiritual lesson. In most cases, the tzadik makes no effort to explain his actions. It is left to the individual chasid to find the metaphysical implications of the master’s behavior.
For many devout chasids, the tish is the highlight of their communal spirituality, for some it is more powerful than prayer. By means of notarikon, R. Sholem of Belz found that the initials of the phrase “You spread a table before me”—T’l’Sh —(Ps. 23:5) are the same as the initials for the phrase Tikkun Leil Shavuot, midnight study vigil held by Jews prior to celebrating the giving of Torah. Every evening spent at the tzadik’s tish is as if you celebrated a major festival.
While there may be considerable food present, it is the food (usually bread and/or fish) that is blessed and distributed through the hand of the rebbe that holds the greatest interest. In large crowds, often only those closest to the rebbe get more than a fragment. In very large gatherings, to get any at all is a rare and precious event, enhancing the significance of receiving it. It comes to signify a kind of grace. This food, called shirayim, is considered imbued with great sanctity. While most will eat it, some participants will keep the morsels as amulets.2
Among CHaBaD Hasidim, these spiritual hoedowns are often called a farbrengen (Yiddish: “Gathering”). Functionally identical to the rebbe’s tish practiced by other Chasidic groups, the farbrengen features long discourses on mystical teachings of Torah, interrupted by chanting, song and dance.3 The crowd is also loosened up by a liberal supply of liquor present at all such events.
1. Werthheim, “Traditions and Customs in Hasidism,” 383.
2. Rabinowicz, The Encyclopedia of Hasidism, 495-496.
3. Ibid., 125.
Tit ha-Yaven: ( ). “Miry Clay.” One of the seven compartments of Gehenna, its existence is derived from psalm 40:3. There slanderers, bribe takers, traitors, heretics, and all those who betrayed the trust of their fellows are punished (Gedulat Moshe).
Tobiah: Pious Israelite boy who is the protagonist of the book of Tobit. With the aid of Raphael, he battles and exorcises a demon that haunts a damsel in distress.
Tobit: This Jewish novella that is included in the Catholic canon of the Apocrypha tells the story of a young man, Tobiah, who is sent on a journey by his father. Meanwhile, a young bride, Sarah, is haunted by the demon Asmodeus, who slays seven grooms to the girl on each of their Wedding nights. The angel Raphael brings these two together and gives Tobiah the tools to defeat the demon and win the girl. It is the first detailed description of an exorcism found in Jewish literature.
Toilet: The Talmudic Rabbis actually offer considerable advice on toilet hygiene and the preservation of health during bodily evacuation. One is particularly vulnerable to the evil eye and witchcraft while in a privy (Ber. 62a; Shab. 67a). There is also a malevolent spirit that lurks in toilets and privies (Ber. 23a-b) known as the shed shel beit ha-kisei (“the demon of the outhouse”). SEE PRIVY DEMON; UNCLEAN SPIRITS OR IMPURE SPIRITS.
Toldot Adam: An 18th-century medical/magical book, possibly composed by Yoel ben Uri Halperin.
Toldot Yeshu: “The Chronicle of Jesus.” A polemical tract against Christianity that gives an alternate version of the life of Jesus from that found in the Gospels. Like the Gospels, it is full of fabulous events, but in Toldot Yeshu these are credited to Jesus’s talent as a magician. A fragmentary Aramaic copy appears among the Cairo Geniza collection. Since the medieval Church would not tolerate any counter-narrative to the New Testament or criticism of Christian traditions, even in parody form, the book was suppressed by Christian censors wherever they had to power to do so.
Tomar Devorah: “Palm Tree of Deborah.” This 16th-century mystical-ethical treatise by Moses Cordovero explains that human transgression produces Mashchit/destructive entities. It also explains the power of Torah to counteract Samael and all forces of evil.
Tophet: (). “Roaster.” A high place designated for the sacrifice of children to Pagan gods such as Molech. Child sacrifice, mostly in time of national or communal crisis, was an accepted element of Western Semitic paganism and tophets were created not only in Israel and Lebanon (2 Kings 3:27, 23:10; Jer. 7:31), but also in Phoenician colonies such as Carthage.1
1. L. E. Stager and S. R. Wolff, “Child Sacrifice at Carthage,” Biblical Archaeology Review (Jan./Feb. 1984).
Torah: (). “Instruction.” The Pentateuch, the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). By tradition, all five of the books that constitute the Torah were given to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai through the agency of Moses. The term “Torah,” however, can also be used informally to refer to the entire corpus of Jewish teachings (the phrase, “to study Torah,” for example, can mean the study of any sacred Jewish text). At times it is even used as a synonym for “Judaism.”
Despite the seemingly “historical” character of the five books (an account going from Creation to the death of Moses), in Jewish mythos Torah is a truly timeless supernal entity. It is one of the six primordial things (or seven primordial things) that predate Creation (Gen. R. 1:4, 8:2; Mid. Teh. 90:12; Mid. Mish. 8). The true Torah, the soul of the Torah, exists in heaven as black fire written on white fire (Tanh. Bereshit 1). Perhaps the most important myth in Jewish culture is that God used the Torah as the chief device and blueprint for ordering the universe:
“In the beginning God created …” Rabbi Oshaya began: “Then I was by Him, as a nursling (amon); and I was daily all delight …” (Prov. 8:30); “amon” is a craftsman (uman). The Torah declares: “I was the working tool of the Blessed Holy One” in the manner of humanity; when a mortal king builds a palace, he builds it not with his own skill but with the skill of an architect. The architect moreover does not build it out of his head, but employs plans and diagrams to know how to arrange the chambers and the wicket doors. Thus God consulted the Torah and created the world, while the Torah declares, “In the beginning God created,” “beginning” referring to the Torah, as in the verse, “Adonai made me [i.e., Torah] as the beginning of His way.” (Prov. 8:22) (Gen. R. 1:1, 1:4; also see Tanh. Bereshit 1; PdRE 3)
According to Midrash Konen, God drew three drops of water and three drops of fire from the supernal Torah kept in heaven and from them God made the world (2:24). The Torah is the light of Creation (Ex. R. 5:3). It is also the Tree of Life that grew in the center of Eden. Lost after the expulsion of Adam and Eve, it was restored to humanity at Sinai, liberating humanity from Death by serving as the key to the afterlife (Ber. 32b, 61b; Lev. R. 18:3; Zohar I:132a). Other sources describe it as the ketubah, the Wedding contract between God and Israel, who have entered into a kind of cosmic marriage (Deut. R. 3:12; Pes. 106a).
The medieval German Pietist identified Torah as “the footstool of God,” conflating it with God’s Glory and the Shekhinah. Torah, in these terms, is nothing less than the physical manifestation of divinity, a kind of “God inscripted,” as it were. To be constantly engaged in its study is the highest form of worship known to Judaism.
In what is perhaps the most description of the transcendent nature of the Torah, the Zohar teaches that the Torah has four aspects, the “garments” (narratives), the “body” (laws), and the “soul” and “soul of soul,” the purely spiritual entity that is the hypostasis of deity. This passage merits being presented in its entirety:
Rabbi Shimon said: Woe to him among men who says that Torah relates earthly stories and ordinary words! If so, even we today could compose a Torah with ordinary words, and more praiseworthy than all of them. And if it relates earthly stories? Even the rulers of the world possess more exalted stories. If so, we could imitate them and make a Torah out of them! Rather, all the words of Torah are exalted.
Come and behold, The world above and the world below correspond perfectly. Israel below, the angels above. It is written concerning the angels, “He makes his angels spirits” (Ps. 104:4). But in the hour when they descend below, they dress in the garment of this world. For if they did not dress in a garment suited to the world [below] they would not be able to endure in this world, and the world could not tolerate them.
If so with the angels, do too with Torah, who created them and the [lower] worlds, all of them, and for whose sake they all endure. In descending to this world, if she did dress in the garments of this world, the world could not tolerate it. Thus, the narrative of the Torah is the [external] garment of Torah. Whoever thinks that the garment is the Torah in essence, and not something else—may his lungs deflate and he will have no portion in the World to Come. It is for this reason David said: “Open my eyes, so I can see wonders from your Torah” (Ps. 119:18) [so I can see] what is under the garment of Torah.
Come and behold: One in a garment is obvious to everyone, but the witless see someone in a fine garment and they scrutinize no further. But more important than the garment is the body; and the most important [aspect] of the body is the soul. So too regarding Torah. She has a body: the commandments of Torah, that are called “the body of Torah” [gufei Torah]. This body is dressed in garments, which are the narratives of this world. The witless of the world only look at that garment, the narrative of Torah, and they understand nothing else, and do not look for what is under that garment.
The wise in understanding do not look at the garment, but at the body under that garment. The wisest, servants of the exalted King, who stood at Mount Sinai, look to the soul, the essence of it all, the essence of Torah. In the time to come, they even look upon the soul of the soul of Torah …
Woe to the sinners who say that Torah is mere [worldy] narrative. They look at this garment and do not scrutinize further. Happy are the righteous that look at Torah as they should. Just as wine must be held in a jug, so must the Torah be dressed in a garment. So look only under the garment. (Zohar III:152a)
The earthly Torah, however, is still very powerful. King David wore a miniature Torah strapped to his right arm in combat and won every battle, thus illustrating that the Torah is also used as an amulet (Ps. 16:8). Both the words of Torah and the physical object of the Torah scroll have protective powers.
The Talmud notes that at times Torah narratives appear out of order. The Sages go on to explain this is deliberate—for if the Torah were properly arranged according to its heavenly configuration, any person reciting it could perform wonders, even resurrect the dead (Mid. Teh. 3:2; Yalkut 625:3). SEE BIBLE; ORAL TORAH; SEFER.
Torat ha-Melachim: (). “Torah of the Angels.” A term for secret meanings to the Torah, the commandments, and/or Jewish law that are revealed by angels to pious individuals. While most authorities did not recognize angelic revelations as a basis for Jewish observance, some Jews of medieval Europe and Kabbalists put special stock in such angelic insights (Sefer Or Zarua; She ‘lot u’Teshuvot min ha-Shamayim). SEE LAW AND THE PARANORMAL;MAGGID; STUDY; SUMMONING.
Tosafist: (). “Amenders.” Medieval French-German Talmudists and Bible commentators (11th-13th centuries). Though the greater bulk of their studies concentrated on Jewish law and understanding the plain meaning of both the Bible and Talmud, the Tosafists were not without their own occult beliefs. A number of them engaged in theurgic practices, especially pertaining to adjuring angels and demons to assist them in their study of Torah. They also made use of amulets and mantic techniques.1
1. Kanarfogel, Peering through the Lattices, 121-231.
Tosefta to Targum Ezekiel: A Hechalot text on angel adjurations.
Totem: An object of nature, usually an animal, taken as a symbol for a people. Ancient Israelites had many totemistic symbols. The tribe of Judah (ancestor of modern Jews) had the lion as their totem, which is why lion iconography appears in synagogues and Jewish art to this day. Other tribes were also identified with plants or animals (Gen. 49; Deut. 33). Israelite mothers would often name their children based on events or phenomena associated with their birth. Animal names (Devorah, “bee”; Nachshon, “snake”; Huldah, “weasel”) were commonplace. The “Tree of Life ” is the totem for the Torah. A number of totemistic animals are associated with God (eagles, lions, oxen) (Ezek. 1). SEE MENORAH.
Tower of Babel: (/Migdal Bavel ). Already a fantastic tale as recorded in the Bible (Gen. 11), Jewish tradition added occult elements to the story. The Midrash includes the tradition that the builders intended to storm heaven and take it by force. After God confounded the speech of its builders, one-third of the building burned, one-third was swallowed by the Earth, and only one-third remained visible above ground. In the apocalyptic tradition, its designers turned into demons and spirits (Sanh. 109a; Apocalypse of Baruch). The peoples then scattered and eventually formed the distinctive seventy nations that make up the newly diverse humanity (PdRE 24; Tanh. Noah).
Trance: An altered state of consciousness. Many different forms of trances have been described in Jewish literature, including prophetic, mystical, and mediumistic or possessive types.1 SEE ASCENT, HEAVENLY.; DANCE; MEDITATION;MEDIUM; PROPHECY AND PROPHETS.; VISION; YORED MERKAVAH.
1. Bilu, “Dybbuk and Maggid,” 341-48. Also see Davila, “The Hechalot Literature and Shamanism.”
Transmigration: SEE REINCARNATION.
Treasury of Souls: SEE TZROR HA-CHAYYIM.
Treatise on the Left Emanation: This revolutionary and influential esoteric text by Isaac ben Jacob ha-Kohen offers the first comprehensive mystical interpretation of evil as an integral part of God’s emanation of Asiyah, the material world. In it, we learn of a demonic universe, later known as the Sitra Achra, which parallels and mirrors the angelic structures of the sefirot. The book also offers a mystical eschatology.
Treatise of Shem: An astrological almanac, found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, for predicting the future (especially agricultural conditions) based on the position of the stars and other conditions at the beginning of each year. The purported author of this work is Shem, the son of Noah , though the internal evidence of the document, like explicit references to the Romans, mark it as a work of late antiquity.
Tree: (/Eitz; Eitzim). A tree is one of the most potent symbols in Jewish semiotics. It is a bridge between heaven and Earth, and can symbolize the Torah, the human being, and the sefirot:
I Adonai make all; I alone stretch out the sky, the earth spreads out from Me (Isa. 44:24). [Read the last word as] Who is with me? I [alone] am the one that planted this tree for all the world to delight in it. 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, and from there the souls blossom in joy. I was alone when I made it. No angel excels above it who can say “I preceded you!” I was also alone when I spread out my earth in which I planted and rooted this tree. I rejoiced in unity and I rejoiced in them, who was with me that I revealed to him this mystery? (Bahir 22)
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. 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 forth 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, and through their deeds they dwell in the bosom of the Holy Blessed One. He makes them fruitful and multiplies them. (Bahir 119)
Trees are sentient (Gen. R. 13:2). The trees that grow in the Garden of Edenhave healing powers (BhM II:53). They sing praises to God (Perek Shirah; J. Chag. 2:1; Zohar I:77a). The leaves give off a heavenly scent. Rabbi Abbahu, who collected such leaves in his gown, was later able to sell the gown for a fortune (B.M. 114a-b). The leaves of Edenic trees can be ground up and eaten for their healing properties. Solomon planted a variety of wondrous trees on the grounds of the Temple (J. Yoma 41d). They produced fruits for those who visited the Temple, but when gentile armies entered the Temple, the trees withered instantly and will not be restored until the Messianic Age (Yoma 38a; Sanh. 100a).
Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil: (). The tree at the center of the Garden of Eden. God forbade the primordial couple from eating its fruit, but at the prompting of the serpent, they did anyway (Gen. 2-3).
The Hebrew phrase tov v’ra (“good and evil”) is actually a merism, two extremes which encompass all points between them; a fairer translation would be “The tree of the knowledge of all things,” which would be in keeping with the serpent’s claim that eating would make one like God (Also see “knowing good and evil” as a divine attribute, Gen. 3:5, 3:22). Because it is the source of humanity’s expulsion from Eden, it is sometimes also called the “Tree of Death” (Seder Eliyahu Rabbah 5). Somewhat surprisingly, the Zohar regards the Tree of Knowledge to be an allegory for the Shekhinah (I:35a), because it draws from both sides of the sefirot.
The exact type of fruit that Adam and Eve ate was a matter of rabbinic debate. Candidates put forward several options including: grapes, pomegranates, etrogs, and figs. One Sage even argued for wheat, but his colleagues ridiculed him for that claim (Ber. 40a; Sanh. 70a-b; Gen. R. 15.7; RaSHI comment to Gen. 3:7). Fig has been the most obvious choice, because only a few verses later it is described how they made garments of fig leaves (Gen. 3:7). There is also a Talmudic tradition that the leaves of the Tree contain the knowledge of magic and consuming them grants one such gnosis (Ber. 40a; B.M. 114b).
The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is linked to Atarah (Keter) in the sefirotic system (Biur al ha-Torah 1:67). In the Messianic Age, God will uproot the Tree from the world and replant it in Gehenna.
Tree of Life papercut by Deborah Tepper
Tree of Life: (). The source of immortality (Biur al ha-Torah 1:67-69), the Tree of Life grew in the middle of Eden with the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The Zohar claims that both trees grew from the same trunk. It is so big that the circumference of its trunk is “five hundred years’ walking” (the ancients like to measure distance by time, see the book of Jonah) and watered all the places of the Earth (I:35a). All four of the primordial rivers branched out from beneath it (J. Ber. 2c). One legend claims the rod of Moses was culled from the Tree. According the rabbinic understanding, the Tree of Life is the Torah, and the eternal life that was lost in Eden was restored to humanity with the giving of the Torah at Sinai (Prov. 3:18; Ber. 32b, 61b; Zohar I:132a). This may explain the enigmatic declaration that the souls of the righteous ascend to heaven via the tree (Bahir 122; Mid. Konen). It is Tiferet in the sefirotic system, which is also equated to the Torah.
Twilight: This is a liminal time, a time of transition. Most fantastic traditions regarding twilight are associated with the twilight of the sixth day of Creation, the eve of the first Sabbath. Adam and Eve committed the sin of disobedience at that time, initiating history (A.Z. 8a). According to Avot 5:6, ten miracles mentioned in the Bible were preprogrammed into Creation at that time. A related tradition says that demons were created at twilight of the sixth day. SEE NIGHT.
Twin: (). There is one famous pair of twins mentioned in the Bible (Jacob and Esau) and one in rabbinic literature (Abel and his twin sister, later Cain's wife) (PdRE 21). SEE PAIRS.
Tzadakhazy: (). An angel of the Countenance mentioned in Ma’aseh Merkavah.
Tzadi: (). The eighteenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet. It has the linguistic value of “tz/ts.” It has the numeric value of ninety. It is one of the five letters that has a sofit form, a different shape if it appears at the end of a word. It symbolizes righteousness and humility.1
1. Munk, The Wisdom of the Hebrew Alphabet, 189-93.
Tzadik: (). SEE REBBE; RIGHTEOUS, THE
Tzadikiel: (). “Righteous of God.” An angel mentioned in Sefer Yetzirah and the Zohar. He is the good angel who escorts the individual home on the eve of the Sabbath (Shab. 119b) and who assists the dead entering Eden (Zohar II:247a; Zohar III:144a).
Tzavua: (). A ferocious beast whose fur contains 365 colors, mostly likely a hyena (Gen. R. 7; Josh. 1:3).
Tzedakah: (). SEE CHARITY.
Tzeidah Laderekh: Medieval tract by Menachem ben Aharon devoted to the astrological signs and their influence on humanity.
Tzelanit: (). “Shadow [Demon].” A class of demons frequently mentioned in amulets and incantation bowls. It also appears in Targum to Song of Songs.
Tzelem: (). “Image.” In the Zohar and later Jewish mysticism, the “image” of God mentioned in Genesis 1:26 is thought to refer to a specific dimension of the human being, a kind of spiritual membrane or aura that mediates between the Body and the soul. The shadow cast by the human body is a visible effect of this aura.1 This tzelem may be the same concept that appears in other Kabbalistic works as the Guf ha-DAK. SEE SHADOW.
1. Scholem, On the Mystical Shape of the Godhead, 251-73.
Tzeruf/Tzerufim: (). Acrostic or letter recombination or permutation. As a technique of mystical research, Tzeruf refers to recombining letters in different order both to uncover names of God and in constructing incantations and other power phrases (SY 2:2, 6:4). It can also refer to incantations involving the combination of names of God with elaborate mathematical permutations of letters of the Hebrew alphabet. This was the preferred ecstatic practice of Abraham Abulafia. The worthy ancients, such as Moses, were purportedly especially adept at this practice (Ber. 55a; Zohar III:2a; Sefer Peliyah 1:17b). Tzerufim incantations are used in a variety of theurgic rites, most notably summoning angels and demons and constructing a golem. SEE ABBREVIATIONS; CODES.
Tzimtzum: (). “[Divine] Self-Contraction/Withdrawal.” According to Lurianic cosmogony, the Ein Sof of God had to “withdraw” (imagine creating a finite space within infinity, like a bubble or a womb) in order for the universe to emerge from within it as an independent reality. The implication of this is that God is “absent” from the world in a very real sense. On the flip side, there could be no sense of “otherness,” or existence outside God, unless God had made this self-contraction:
Know, that before the emanations were emitted and the creatures were created, a supernal light was extended, filling the entire universe. There was no unoccupied place, that is, empty air or space; rather, all was filled by that extended light … But then, the Infinite contracted Itself into a central point which is truly in the center of the light, and that light was contracted and withdrew to sides around the central point. Then an empty place remained with air and empty space. The Infinite then extended one straight line from the light, and in the empty space It emanated, created, formed, and made all of the worlds in their entireties. (Etz Chayyim I:1) 1
This is necessary for the sake of Creation itself, for free will, and the fulfillment of God’s ultimate will in Creation—that we engage in the Tikkun, or repair, of the world and so become worthy partners with God (Shem Olam; Tanya 20). While the cosmic model of God’s withdrawal is a novel teaching of Luria, the concept of divine contraction was already taught in rabbinic literature (Tanh. Vayakehel 7).
According to one Chasidic theosophy, there is no differentiation or diversity from God’s perspective—all is still One. From our perspective, however, God seems more absent than present. This divine-human disconnect in perception is the real nature of Tzimtzum (Tanya).2 SEE EMANATION; EXILE.
1. R. Elior, “Tzimtzum: A Kabbalistic Approach to Creation,” Sh’ma Journal (Jan. 6, 2010).
2. S. Drob, Symbols of the Kabbalah: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives (Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1996), 12-154.
Tziyya: (). “Dry Land.” One of the seven realms that makes up the lower worlds, it is a desert/wilderness whose people aspire to the more fertile Tevel (Sitre Torah, Zohar I:253b-254a).
Tzohar: (). A luminous gemstone holding the primordial light of Creation. Those who possessed it not only had illumination, but access to the secrets of the Torah and all its powers. Its biblical source is Genesis 6, where God instructs Noah to illuminate the ark by tzohar taaseh, “A brightness you will make.” Tzohar literally means “Bright/glittering/noon light” (The Hebrew word for noon, tzohoriyim, is derived from the same root), is not further defined in the Hebrew Bible. Some translate this simply as “window.” Jewish esoteric tradition, however, regards the tzohar to be a kind of luminous gemstone holding the primordial light of Creation.
The ambiguity and the imaginative use of the word tzohar is grounded in its status as a hapax legomenon, a word that appears only once in the Bible, and therefore lacking any further point of comparison for the purpose of fixing its meaning. All philologists have to go on regarding the word is the one context of Genesis 6:16. In this verse it seems to refer to a structural feature. Some translators propose “roof.” Others use “window,” “skylight,” or simply “opening.” Each translation presents a problem in that we already have elsewhere in the Hebrew Scriptures other words for these objects. There are also logic problems: why put an opening in a structure that will subject to torrential rain for forty days? And since the day and night provided little or no natural light during the Flood (Gen. 8:22; Gen. R. 25:2, 34:11), what would be the purpose? All this invites speculation the tzohar was something as unique as the word itself (Gen. R. 31:11).
The fact that the word for “noon/zenith,” tzohoriyim, shares the same root, but especially because of its linguistic similarity to the word zohar (“shine/radiant”), triggered an assumption that it is a form of light source rather than an aperture to let light in.
Targum Yonatan may be the first source to claim the tzohar was a luminous stone, pulled from the primordial river Pishon (Gen. 6:16). This is elaborated on in Genesis Rabbah 31:11:
During the entire twelve months that Noah was in the Ark he did not require the light of the sun by day or the light of the moon by night, but he had a polished stone which he hung up—when it was dim, he knew it was day, when it was bright, he knew it was night.
Another version of this idea appears in the Talmud, Sanhedrin 108b:
“Make a tzohar for the ark,” R. Johanan said, The Blessed Holy One instructed Noah: “Set there precious stones and jewels, so that they may give you light, bright as the noon.”
[In Hebrew, this is a play on words between tzohar and tzohoriyim.]
The same idea is reiterated in the medieval Midrash Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer 23. The matter might rest there, but elsewhere in the Talmud, there is another tradition that Abraham also had a miraculous stone:
R. Shimon b. Yochai said, Abraham had a precious stone hung round his neck which brought immediate healing to any sick person who looked on it, and when Abraham our father left this world, the Blessed Holy One hung it from the wheel of the sun. (B.B. 16b)
This naturally led to speculation that that the stones of Noah and Abraham were one and the same. And given Genesis Rabbah’s allusion to the river Pishon that flowed through the Garden of Eden, the logical origin for this tzohar would be with there, where God hid the supernal light of the first day for the sole use of the righteous:
It was taught, the light which created in the six days … cannot illumine by day, because it would eclipse the light of the sun. Where is it? It is stored for the righteous in the messianic future … He set it apart for the righteous in the future. (Gen. R. 3:6)
The Holy Blessed One created many things in His world, but the world being unworthy to have the use of them, He hid them away … the example being the light created on the first day, for Rabbi Judah ben Simon said: Man could see with the help of the first light from one end of the world to the other. (Ex. R. 35:1. Also see Talmud Chag. 12a; Lev. R. 11:7; Gen. R. 41:3; and Zohar I:31b, all homiletically based on Gen. 1:3; Ps. 97:11; and Job 38:13)
Those who possessed the tzohar not only had illumination, but access to the secrets of the Torah and all its powers. The angel Raziel gave it to Adam after the Fall. Adam gave it to his children. It passed to Noah . In one version, Abraham returned the tzohar to heaven and hung it on the sun, while other traditions track its continued use by the righteous of each subsequent generation: Joseph used it for his dream interpretations. Moses recovered it from the bones of Joseph and placed it in the tabernacle (Sanh. 108b; B.B. 16b; Lev. R. 11; Gen. R. 31:11). A text known today as “The Queen of Sheba and Her only Son Menyelek,” translated by Sir E. A. Wallis Budge includes this verse:
How the House of Solomon the King was illuminated as by day, for in his wisdom he had made shining pearls which were like unto the sun, the moon and the stars in the roof of his house.
Even that is not the end of the matter. The Zohar claims that Simon Ben Yochai possessed it in the Rabbinic era (Zohar I:11a; Otzer ha-Midrash).
Tzorecha Gevoha: (). “A Need on High.” Judaism teaches the relationship between God and humanity is one of interdependency. Ever since the pre-socratic philosopher Parmenides offered his reasoning on the nature of divinity and perfection, Western philosophic theology has rejected the idea that God lacks self-sufficiency (God, being perfect, needs nothing outside of Himself ) and possesses impassibility (God is not affected by human actions). Yet the God of Israel, who is without question the “supreme being,” nonetheless is frequently portrayed as in need of humanity’s partnership. It is implicit throughout the Hebrew Bible, where, for example, God’s anger over humanity’s disloyalty betrays an anxiety that God might, in fact, lose us.
The piyutim (liturgical poems) of Byzantine Judaism imply that God needs the worship of Israel to truly be a “supreme being”:
The One surveyed, and looked out at the world as a city without inhabitants, and a commander without and army. He considered this, and said “What have I accomplished? I created and achieved, but who will recount My praises?” 1
Rabbinic teaching assumes this interdependency in a variety of ways. First, the Talmud continues the theme that God needs our praise, or, at least, our encouragement:
It was taught as Rabbi Ishmael ben Elisha says: “I once entered the innermost part of the Temple to offer incense and saw Akatriel-Yah, seated upon a high and exalted throne. God said to me: ‘Ishmael, My son, bless Me [barcheini]!’ I replied: ‘May it be Your will that Your compassion overcome Your anger. May Your compassion prevail over Your other attributes. May You deal with Your children compassionately. May You not judge us solely with strict justice!’ And God nodded to me.” (Ber. 7a)
Rabbi Joshua Ben Levi also said: When Moses ascended on high, he found the Holy Blessed One tying crowns on the letters. He said to him, “Is there not ‘Peace’ in your town [won’t people even wish me well]?” He answered, “Shall a servant offer a greeting of ‘Peace!’ to his master?” He said, “Yet you should help Me.” Immediately he cried out to Him, “And now may the power of Adonai be magnified, as You have spoken!” (Num. 14:17; Shab. 89a)
This theme continues to be stated in variant forms (PdRE 6). God only achieves the status of God through the act of creating something outside Himself that can bear witness to God’s existence (PdRK 12:6). According to the Rabbis, God cannot prevent even the most repugnant human decisions directed against Him, though God can bend nature to punish such actions (Lev. R. 22:3; PdRE 49).
The Kabbalists continue to affirm that God is, in a very real sense, “dependent” upon us. The unique contribution of the medieval mystics to this belief is how they dovetail it with another aspect of Jewish thought (one that extends well beyond the mystical), the taamei mitzvot, the “reasons for the commandments.” The TaNaKH is fickle about explaining the purpose of commandments. Sometimes an explanation of an individual command is offered (why for example, taking bribes is forbidden), sometimes the reason approaches the self-evident (why we shouldn’t murder), but often, no explanation for a particular commandment is forthcoming at all (much of the sacrificial system, for example, is mandated without any clear rationale).
The Rabbis do attempt to explain the rationale for many of the mitzvot, but again, there is not a lot of effort to offer a systematic theory of the mitzvot, except perhaps this:
Israel is beloved by God, for He surrounded them with mitzvot: tefillin upon their heads and arms, tzitzit upon their garments … This can be compared to a king of flesh and blood who said to his wife: “Adorn yourself with all your jewelry [I gave you] so that you will be desirable to me.” So too the Holy Blessed One says to Israel, “Distinguish yourself with mitzvot so you will be desirable to me.” (Sif. D. 36)
In other words, the Rabbis include the mitzvot in their erotic theology: In love God gives us the commandments as ornaments of His love. When Israel wears (performs) them, it enhances God’s desire for us. Still, this is not such a compelling reason, particularly when one is called upon to perform arcane and seemingly pointless rituals.
Early Kabbalism resolves this puzzle. The commandments, all of them, are understood to function theurgically; they don’t just help us, they help God. This is baldly stated in the 13th century mystical treatise Sha’arei Orah, Gates of Light, asks rhetorically, “Doesn’t one see that the lower worlds have power to build or destroy the worlds above?” 2
Underpinning all of this is the assumption that while God is certainly the ultimate entity, the “supreme being,” God is also passionate and dynamic and the created universe serves a need in God. It is not, as the Greeks theorized, that God is “The unmoved mover,” but rather as A.J. characterizes divinity, as “the most moved mover.”
1. M. Swartz, The Signifying Creator: Non-Textual Sources of Meaning in Ancient Israel (New York: NYU Press, 2012), 26.
2. Gikkatilla, Gates of Light, 62.
Tzoreif: (). “Alchemy.” SEE ALCHEMY.
Tzror ha-Chayyim: (). “The Bonds of Life.” In Kabbalistic metaphysics, this is the supernal resting place of righteous souls before they are transmigrated into new bodies (Maggid Meisharim, Ki Tissa). Other sources describe this as a realm where the highest soul (neshamah) dwells in the constant presence of God. It is also characterized as a treasury or storehouse beneath or within the Throne of Glory (Yev. 62a), which is also demonstrated by gematria: b’kisei ha-kavod “In the Throne of Glory,” has the same value as b’tzaror “In the bond.” It is the womb of the Shekhinah (Zohar I:181a). In any case, it is a place of unsurpassed bliss (Siddur; Etz ha-Chayyim 2). SEE GUF HA-BRIYOT.