The cosmic “Tree of Life” or the Ten Sefirot epitomize the emanations of “light” or G-d’s “qualities into the visible world of mankind. These are the ten emanations or “lights” through which God interacts and relates to this world.
When Kabbalah looks at various events that have transpired in the world, or various Divine commandments in the Torah, it classifies and describes them in terms of these modes of interaction.
Before we consider the Ten Sefirot and describe them and their use, we must first address the Oneness (Unity) of G-d vs. the Ten Sefirot.
Twice a day the Sh’ma “Hear, 0 Israel, G-d is our Lord, G-d is One” is proclaimed by observant Jews everywhere.
How do we reconcile the idea of “Ten Emanations” that seems to imply G-d is more than one with the Sh’ma of His unity? This very question was posed to the Rivash (14th century): “Do you Kabbalists not also believe in many Gods, as you postulate the Ten Sefirot?” This was his reply. G-d’s unity vis-a-vis the Ten Sefirot may be likened to a ray of sun passing through a prism. On one side, we have a single ray of light, while, on the other side, we perceive a radiation of seven colors. The person sitting on the other side perceives this as if it were many lamps radiating many hues, while in reality it is one lamp. The multi-hued rainbow is a “distortion” created by the prism that the light passed through.
When we examine G-d’s interaction with mankind we perceive such a wide variety of events, so overwhelmingly diffuse, and so oddly contradictory that we are inundated with misunderstanding of His essence. We perceive a G-d who breathes a breath of life into a newborn baby’s mouth, and extracts the last labored breath of a dying man. There is the G-d who has wrought the Holocaust, and the GA who has preserved a tiny, fragile Jewish people for over three millennium. There is the G-d who gives some people beautiful bodies, and the G-d who seemingly condemns the congenitally defective to a lifetime of suffering. On our side of the prism, each and every one of these events is disparate. Yet we recognize them as being the work of One G-d, with one purpose, with a unified plan of action for this world.
Therefore, the Ten Sefirot are the various ways we perceive G-d through His action within the world, while we firmly believe in the Unity of G-d.
The following is a literal translation of these ten modes, Do not read too much into these terms, since most of them are highly metaphorical and bear little resemblance to their literal terms.
The Ten Sefirot are:
Keter – crown,
Chochmah – wisdom,
Binah – understanding,
Chessed – kindness,
Gevura – strength,
Tferet – beauty,
NetzacI2 – victory,
Hod – awe,
Yesod – foundation,
Maichut – monarchy.
Sometimes the Sefirot are listed without Keter, and then Da~a -wisdom, is included between Binah and Chesed.
Imitating G-d through the ten Sefirot is to eventually lead mankind to a direct knowledge of G-d. He thought of the “Tree” as his own body dividing the left and right branches into “feminine” and “masculine” aspects of himself and of the universe. Assigning to the left negative energy and to the right positive energy with the Crown being neuter above all. The descending spheres now took on gender, color, form and sound. We should also note that in the Messianic Scriptures Yahshua said to imitate Him as a means of knowing YHVH.
Part of the stratagem was to practice the thirteen attributes of life, which were all condensed in the 10 emanations of the Tree of Life. As taught by Moshe Cordovero who lived in Safed in Israel (1522~70), these were:
1. Forbearance in the face of insult
2. Patience in enduring evil.
3. Pardon, to the point of erasing the evil suffered.
4. Total identification with his neighbor.
5. Complete absence of anger, combined with appropriate action.
6. Mercy, to the point of recalling only the good qualities of the tormentor.
7. Eliminating all traces of vengefulness.
8. Forgetting suffering inflicted on himself by others and remembering the good.
9. Compassion for the suffering without judging them.
11. Mercy beyond the letter of the Law with the good.
12. Assisting the wicked to improve without judging them
13. Remembering all human beings always in the innocence of their infancy.
The Kabbalist exerted himself to perfect each quality on the ~‘Tree of Life.” He was continually engaged in a continual contemplative flow between crown and Wisdom in his mind and between humility and communication of spiritual wisdom in his actions. The function of understanding was to provide him with a weapon against worldliness. Mediating on the sphere of Loving-Kindness, with its appropriate color, angelic guardian, and prayer the Kabbalist appropriated a model for projecting mercy into every possible life situation. Eventually, the Kabbalists’ meditations led to his contemplation’s and daily activity to become integrated. He has, as it were, become the quality Crown, Wisdom, and Understanding.
It was the Kabbalists job to coordinate the opposing energies on the “tree” in his own body. For example, all sexual and aggressive impulses stemmed from the sphere of Judgement on the left. Far from ignoring or suppressing sex or aggression, the Kabbalists learned to unify his “male” and “female” selves in marriage and in work. Once he had successfully integrated these impulses with his spiritual pursuit, the Kabbalist could then turn them toward the service of G-d to bind them to the right or “positive” side of the “Tree.” This binding was called yicud (one) suggesting a oneness with G-d. The idea was to bind yourself so firmly with the Crown (G-.dhead) that the She khinah (Divine Presence) never departs from your head.
Moses Luzatto and 18th Century Kabbalist said that the whole purpose of Kabbalah was to explain the nature of G-d. He further taught that it is our duty to understand Kabbalah intelligently, not merely as a matter of belief, but to have our judgment’s consent… When the Torah enters our soul, light comes with it and that there is knowledge hidden in each letter. He called this comprehension and application of the Torah through self-knowledge as the basis for a preparatory system for Kabbalists’, that he called “The Path to the Just.”
He stated that the stages that lead to perfect union with G-d are:
8. Fear of Sin,
For this reason he made a distinct difference between those who studied Torah merely for rewards, and zealous scholars who “lost” themselves in Torah. Outer movements like egoless Torah study and introspection awaken inner ones. See the Graphic of the Ten Sefirot.
Mark 9: 1 “Yes!” he went on, “I tell you that there are some people standing here who will not experience death until they see the Kingdom Of G-d come in a powerful way!” 2 Six days later, Yahshua took Kefa, Ya‘akov and Yochanan and led them up a high mountain privately. As they watched, he began to change form, 3 and his clothes became dazzlingly white, whiter than anyone in the world could possibly bleach them. 4 Then they saw Eliyahu and Moshe speaking with Yahshua. 5 Kefa said to Yahshua, “It’s good that we’re here, Rabbi! Let’s put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moshe and one for Eliyahu.” 6 (He didn’t know what to say, they were so frightened.) 7 Then a cloud enveloped them; and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” 8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Yahshua. (Jewish NT)
Those of you who are attending kabbalah class know that Jewish Mysticism, which is known today as Kabbalah is the private instruction of a rabbi to his Talmidim as opposed to Mishnah, which denoted a rabbis’ public ministry that his Talmidim were to pass on.
In the foregoing passage, we have the culmination of the Kabbalah of Yahshua and he warns His disciples not to reveal the vision of the Transfiguration until after He is resurrected.
Sha’ul also wrote of Kabbalah when he spoke of the transmigration of his soul in 2 Cor. 12:2-4.
Kabbalah also informs of a technique allowing one to enter into "Paradise," the eternal Garden of Eden adjacent to the Chariot-Throne that is fraught with danger.
In general Kabbalah is about our cleaving to G-d and approaching His Throne. Elijah, Ezekiel, Yahshua and Sha’ul all seem to have been familiar with kabbalistic techniques.
In the reading of the Transfiguration (Matthew 16:28-17:13; Mark 9:1-13; Luke 9:27-36) we have a glimpse into Yahshua’s kabbalah. We see Yahshua taking three of His Disciples – Peter, James, and John climbing above the villages, up the slopes of Mount Hermon or Mount Lebanon as Josephus called it in his Antiquities to an ancient site of worship.
On mount Hermon Yahshua here followed the example of Moshe who took three of his followers Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu up Mount Sinai where they ate and drank to celebrate the vision of the G-d of Israel on His sapphire throne (Ex. 24:1-11). But unlike what happened on Moshe’s mountain, Yahshua’s disciples, covered by a cloud of glory, heard a voice say, " This is my son, the beloved, in whom I take pleasure: hear Him (Matthew 9:8) and when the cloud passed they found Yahshua without Moshe and Elijah (Mark 9:8) standing alone as G-d’s son. "Divine son" was the same designation Yahshua had heard during His immersion with John the Baptist: now his own disciples saw and heard the truth of Yahshua’s own vision. We should note that the Transfiguration does not speak in the later exclusive language of the Christian Trinity that makes Yahshua into the only possible son of G-d. Here we perceive that the same spirit that had animated Elijah and Moshe was present in Yahshua and this spirit could make of whomever it wishes sons of G-d.
In the middle of the vision and hearing the divine voice Kefa (Peter) offers to build three huts (Sukkoth) for Yahshua, Moshe and Eliyahu. In Marks’ gospel we see this presented as an inept suggestion born out of fear (Mark 9:5-6).
A better translation of verse 6 would be that "For he (Peter) did not know how he should respond, because they were terrified" inferring that Peter’s suggestion was an inane remark because of a loss for words.
Frequently, during the formation of the Gospels and their many redactions the significance of Judaic symbolism was forgotten and blame fell on the alleged ignorance of the apostles, rather than the amnesia and ignorance of the Church. In this case the Sukkot Kefa refers to reflect both the great feast that was coming and the realization that great prophets like Moshe, Eliyahu, and Yahshua brought the Spirit of G-d to abide in Israel. Sukkot or booths symbolizes the providence of G-d in His provision for us. Kefa’s appreciation of the experience he had witnessed and his desire to build shelters is an indication that he, James and John had indeed joined Yahshua in the vision of the Chariot first reported in the translation of Eliyahu as witnessed by Elisha in, 2 Kings 2:11 and later Ezekiel’s Chariot-Throne in his book.
The Mishnah in Chagigah 2:1 teaches that the Chariot called Merkavah in Hebrew should not be introduced to one person alone because the vision of the divine Throne was laden with danger. Some initiates died, some went mad, and still others fell prey to polytheism, by meditating on the Throne imprudently, and it was His genius as a rabbi that Yahshua led his disciples into a vision of the Chariot in a way that mobilized and safely transformed them.
The Transfiguration represents the mature development of Rabbi Yahshua’s kabbalah as a man, tempted, in all the ways of humanity, for He was not only able to translate his own vision, but to initiate others into its richness. They now saw Him as a living presence in the pantheon of Israel’s patriarchs and prophets around G-d’s throne. Their rabbi, favored by the thundering voice of G-d (John 12:28, 29), stood at the vortex of creation’s source. Yahshua had given to them and gives to us, no matter the cost in hardships, deprivation and struggles the reward of intimacy with the divine presence.
Yahshua’s esoteric teaching as evidenced by the Scriptures had grown in advance of His public teaching, and that is a reversal of the pattern we would expect from the Mishnah and the Talmud. Kabbalah had an early prominent place in His teaching. Through the Transfiguration we see that G-d has exalted His son and this revealing of Yahshua’s entrance into the heavenly court forever more became a defining force in our consciousness of G-d in our culture.
The vision on Mount Hermon had shown that Yahshua was G-d’s son and this exerted a powerful temptation onto His disciples. They would counsel: Who would deny such a man the power to rule as the King of Israel? Yahshua to was susceptible to the same temptation. Yet, Yahshua who is the faithful son of G-d and being pressed by HaSatan day and night to being disloyal to G-d resisted it, and "The Lord’s Prayer" was completed in the dark night of what has become known as the Temptation:
Your name will be sanctified, your Kingdom will come: Give me today the bread that is coming, and release me my debts-not bring me to the test!
The disciples as were the people of Israel confused G-d’s Kingdom with their own national power, especially as Yahshua initiated then into the variations of His Kabbalah after the vision on Mt. Hermon.
Yahshua had healed the sick, raised the dead, stilled storms, walked on water and ultimately had appeared on Mt. Hermon with Eliyahu and Moshe. Why should He not break the rule of Rome?
His disciples even argued among themselves as to who should be the greatest next to Yahshua in the coming Kingdom on earth. Yahshua had to define His movement for by force they might make Him King.
In the Targum of Zechariah, chapter 14 communicates Yahshua’s mission and focus to Him. It provided the formula and ritual program, and the key that would unlock the magic door through which the transformation of the Kingdom of G-d would flow. The Targum predicts that G-d’s Kingdom will be manifested over the entire earth when the offerings of Sukkoth are presented both by Israelites and Gentiles at the Temple. It further predicts that these worshippers will prepare and offer their sacrifices themselves, in the Galilean manner without the intervention of middlemen. Significantly, the last words of the book promise that, "there shall never again be a trader in the sanctuary of the Lord of Hosts at that time" (Zachariah 14:21). Yahshua’s desire to realize the Targum prophecy brought on the dramatic confrontation that he would shortly provoke in the Temple. Zechariah’s vision of the ultimate Sukkoth restored the land to Israel and the Temple to the sacrifice G-d desired, The Romans would be banished, and Zion’s gate opened to all who would join with Israel there in worship (Targum Zechariah 14:9). Most Christians do not know that during the millennium there will be a return to animal sacrifice in the Temple. Zechariah 14 vv.16-21, ‘And it shall come to pass that everyone that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the king, the Lord of Hosts, and to keep the feast of the tabernacles… Yea every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the Lord of Hosts; and all that sacrifice shall come and take of them, and seethe therein; and in that day shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord of Hosts’. And again perhaps the clearest and most detailed references to the same are in the closing chapters of Ezekiel. The seven chapters Ezekiel 40-46 – give us a description of the millennial temple with its dimensions and its practices, including the sacrifices and offerings, which will take place.
All Yahshua’s actions were informed by Judaism and the tenets of its faith, and that is lost or even considered anathema to most professed believers, because they have been taught, erroneously, that His advent signaled a new path to redemption, a path that leads to Hellenistic Christianity, and it’s opposition to Judaism. Yet, any unbiased, informed believer can realize through Yahshua’s kabbalah and His mission that He was not only our paschal lamb to provide reconciliation unto HaShem, but he was also to usher in the Future Kingdom of G-d, established within the framework and parameters of a Messianic Judaism that upholds the practice of Torah. And not through another religion that has lost its Jewish roots, namely Christianity.