An (on purpose) unclear text of the Zohar evokes light, darkness, depth and night, and ties together these words in knots – in a web of warps and wefts.
Line after line, a veil of words is woven, – and, through the drifts that the Hebrew language encourages, this veil is also a sail, a wing, a shadow. i
Tight sentences, sealed signs, winged saltos.
A slow reading is required.
« It is said: ‘Light is sown for the righteous and for those who are upright in heart, it is joy’ii. The worlds will let their fragrance exhale and become one. But until the day of the world to come, the light will remain hidden, kept secret. This light came out of the heart of Darkness, which was carved by the onslaught of the All-Hidden One, so that from the hidden light a secret way to the darkness below took shape and the light could be deposited there. What is the darkness below? It is that which is called night and of which it is written, ‘As for that darkness, He called it night’.iii Tradition states the following verse: ‘He uncovers the depths from the darkness’.iv Rabbi Yossi explains it this way: For if you say that it is from this enclosed darkness that the depths are uncovered, know that all the supreme crowns are still hidden there and are also called ‘depths’. What then is ‘uncovered’? In fact, all the supreme things that are concealed are only revealed from the darkness of night, [and not from the Darkness Above]. Come and see: all the enclosed depths that emerge from the bosom of Thought and that the Voice grasps again are only revealed when the Word brings them to light. And what is the Word if not the Word? This Word is called Cessation (Sabbath) (…) This Word emanating from the dimension of darkness reveals the depths within it. It is written ‘From darkness’, that is, it comes from the dark realm, it has its source precisely ‘since’ the dark realm. » v
Gobbledygook? No. Dense compactness. And in this density, not everything is so sealed, so hidden, that no meaning emerge.
We discover that what is to be discovered here are not the supreme realities, but only the depths of the obscure Word, the depths that arise from Thought, brought to light by Words.
We also discover that darkness has more than one veil, and that every veil veils several nights.
There is the Darkness Below (which is ‘night’) and the Darkness Above (which is original darkness). There is the darkness of the depths and the darkness of emergence, the darkness of the sources, the darkness of the Word, the darkness of Thought, wrapped in their own abysses.
That is why it is written: « Let a veil separate for you the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. »vi
All of what is unveiled veil, by the same token, what is not yet unveiled.
This is also why it is written: « He takes the clouds for His chariot. »vii
The Zohar explains, in his inimitable style, that « Rabbi Yissa Saba divides the word ‘clouds’ (avim) into ‘av (opacity) and iam (the sea). The opacity which is the darkness from the left covers the sea. ‘He is moving forward on the wings of the wind’viii. This is the breath of the sanctuary of the Above which is, in the esoteric sense, the ‘Two golden cherubs’ix. It is written elsewhere: ‘He rode on a cherub and flew, and hovered on the wings of the wind’.x»xi
Let us note here, in passing, the paronomase, which is only possible in Hebrew, יִּרְכַּב / כְּרוּב , yrkav / kerouv (it overlaps / cherub). The psalmist is intoxicated with a love for game of words.
The wind, in Hebrew, is also the spirit (ruaḥ). The next verse of the psalm reveals where this flight of the spirit, this cherubic ride, goes:
יָשֶׁת חֹשֶׁךְ, סִתְרוֹ– סְבִיבוֹתָיו סֻכָּתוֹ
חֶשְׁכַת-מַיִם, עָבֵי שְׁחָקִים
« He made darkness His veil, His tent, darkness of water, cloud upon cloud. xii
The spirit goes and flies into darkness, – to veil itself from it, like a tent, or like if it were a dark water, a dense opacity.
Again, the question: « What then is ‘discovered’? »
It has been discovered that wings fly and veil, and that the farther the flight goes, the deeper the darkness is woven in which the wing-canopy becomes covered.
It has also been discovered that the more the mind enters the darkness, the more mystery is woven.
Are we any further along ?, will we ask again.
In a verse, also compact and strange, Isaiah lifts another corner of the veil :
אַךְ בָּךְ אֵל וְאֵין עוֹד אֶפֶס אֱלֹהִים
akh bākh El, v-éin ‘od éfès Elohim
« Only in You God, – and no other, no gods ». xiii
But why does the text say: « only in You God »?
We might rather have expected to read: « only You God »…
Why « in You » (בָּךְ, bākh)?
The word « You » is yet another veil.
You have to go into or with this « You », bākh.
For the Holy of Holies is veiled, closed.
And now the Temple itself is no more.
The journey is ever just beginning.
We have to ride the cherub, « with You », – bākh.
iThe word אהפ means « wing, leaf, foliage, eyelid », אהופ « bird, plumage », hence, in derived form, « shadow », and עוף fly.
vZohar. Berechit II, 32a. Translated by Charles Mopsik. Ed. Verdier, 1981, pp. 179-180.
xiZohar. Berechit II, 32b. My translation from the French version by Charles Mopsik. Ed. Verdier, 1981, p. 184.