The Night of the ‘Sod’


« Talmud »

They spend a lifetime sailing between the ends of the world, aiming for the very high or the very low, the bright or the dark, without ever finding a way out. Everywhere dead ends, clogged skies, impenetrable mountains, high walls, closed seas, and bottomless abysses.

Tired of detours, perplexed by fences, impatient for open roads, some people try to seek direct help: « Where have you been hiding ? » they ask, as the poet once did, thrown into the bottom of a low pit in Toledo: ¿ Adónde te escondiste? i

But who will answer? In the game of worlds, silence can be heard, speech is rare. We call, we implore, we groan, in vain. The hidden remains consistent and keeps hiding. Why would He betray himself by a mad « here!  » ?

All means are good, to whoever wants to find. With an acute eye, one can scrutinize the signs, detect traces, read between the lines. One can juggle endlessly, with the obvious (pshath), the allusion (remez), the allegory (drash), to continue trying to grasp the hidden (sod).

But is that enough? Sod is « mystery ». Barely touched, it suddenly discovers its nature, it is the abyss. It deepens unceasingly, as one throws in it furtive glances. Suddenly, a sinkhole collapses, bitter avens and swallowing ouvalas multiply. The more one brushes against the sod, the more it slips away, and sinks endlessly into its night.

Pedagogically, Amos has accumulated some clues in an ample sentence: « It is He who forms the mountains and creates the wind, who reveals to man his thoughts, who turns dawn into darkness, and who walks on the heights of the earth.»ii

Is the mystery hidden in the shape of the mountains, or is it at the origin of the wind?

Does it hide itself in the dawn drowned at night? Above all it is hidden in the man himself. Man, says Amos, doesn’t know what he thinks, he doesn’t know who he is, he doesn’t know what’s going on inside him. It is necessary to reveal it to him.

Man also is sod, therefore, and that even he does not see it, nor does he know it. So ill-prepared for himself, how could he face the « great mystery » (raza raba)?

Amos’ successive metaphors give an overview. Man can be compared to « mountains », in the moments when they « form » (orogeny, in technical style), or to a « wind » (ruah), shapeless but « created », or to a power that in an instant changes the dawn into darkness, or to the march of the spirit, above the heights of the world.

These metaphors are also understatements, which say, by antiphrase, that man ignores himself royally.

Mountain, wind, dawn, darkness, walking, world, height, all this man is in a way, and yet these prodigious images explain nothing yet.

Hidden, far below these figures, is waiting, patient and lurking, an ultimate image.

A unique topos. Buried within man is a secret place, which he does not know he possesses and which encloses « treasures », – as Isaiah tells us. « And I will give you secret treasures, hidden riches »iii.

Man possesses them in essence, these secrets and treasures, but he also ignores them. It has already been said: he doesn’t really know who he is, what he says, what he thinks. Nor does he know whether he really believes what he says he is or what he believes.

A fortiori, how little does he know his own abyssal depths, and their sealed secrets! For him to start guessing their presence, perhaps someone greater than himself must resolve to reveal them to him.

Climbing to the heights, flying in the winds, going to the ends of the world, is useless to discover what is already there, deep inside man.

As for the wind, really its flight is vain, in the dark.

And, on the highest mountain, the summit too is vain, if one must hide in the crevice (niqrat), like Moses, to take cover, – under a shadow thick enough to erase the fire of consciousnessiv .

In the crevices, in the depths of the night, perhaps the truth is there,baking in its own light, since it is nowhere else? One can hope in this shadow to catch a glimpse of the elusive silhouette, which is already slipping away.

The darkness, the obscurity, the night are somber and propitious premises, for the man who seeks.

They indicate to the researcher that one should hide « in the shadow of the wings »v.

What shadow? Which wings?

The word « wing » (in Hebrew kanap) has a double meaning. It also means « to hide ».

The wing « hides », « covers », « protects ».

Triple pleonasm: « to hide », « in the shade » of « the wing ».

Why all these hiding places, these blankets, these shadows, when we are in search of clarity and discovery? Isn’t it counter-intuitive?

Could it be a reaction to the fear of danger? There are indeed those who « hide » when enemies come running and attack the depths of the soulvi. But is death assured, if other enemies lie in wait, lurking in the hiding place itselfvii?

We must hide, not to flee, but because it is the only way to enter into the heart of the dark.

The inaccessible, the hidden, how to reach it other than by plunging into the dark shadows?

The mystery, the intelligence does not grasp it. It also evades the senses and is tasteless. Nothing emanates from it, it leaves cold. Hermetic, its depth, its opacity, its absence, put it out of reach, out of reach.

Unless, against all reason, one is obviously drowning in its shadow.

The more the mystery is opaque, the more it is revealed, by this very opacity. The more it resists openly, the more it opens in secret. It is the very opposite of ordinary logic.

The less you sense what is hidden, the closer you get to it. The less we grasp its meaning, the more we learn about our intuition.

The less one waits for its presence, the more it emerges.

One approaches, and the darkness deepens; one might think that one has taken the wrong road, that one is beating the countryside, that one is going astray. Paradox!

So close, so sublime is the knowledge of the mystery, it is still immensely far from its essence. But so far away are we lost in the depths of the unfathomable cave, we are already closer than in any light.

Paradox again.

You can’t see anything. But it is blindness that we must see. It is blindness that reveals.

« If he comes I will not see him, if he withdraws, I will not notice. »viii

We see nothing, and it is that « we don’t see » that we must see…

« Truly you are a hidden God! » ix

Wisdom once said of herself: « From eternity I was established, from the beginning, before the origin of the earth.» x

From eternity, ‘olam. From the principle, mé-rosh.

The Bahir reports a commentary on these expressions by Rabbi Bun:

« What is mé-‘olam? The word designates that which must remain hidden from everyone, for it is written : ‘He has also put the ‘olam in their hearts’xi. Do not read ha-‘olam (eternity) but ha-‘elem (the hidden) »xii.

The Hebrew word עָלַם lends itself to this play on words, since it is used as a noun (« eternity ») and as a verb (« hide »).

In the heart of man, « eternity » is hidden, and the « hidden » itself, under the shadow of its « wings ».

The hidden, the wing and eternity!

Three images for one secret.

______________

iJohn of the Cross. Spiritual Song B, 1

iiAm 4.13

iiiIs 45,3

ivEx 33.22

vPs 17,8

viPs 17:9

viiPs 17:12

viiiJb 9.11

ixIs 45,15

xPr 8.23

xiQo 3.11

xiiBahir, 10