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Today I was confronted with a quotation from Rabbi Simeon Bar Yochai, commenting on the Zohar:

There is a perfect man, who is an messenger, this messenger is Metatron, the keeper of Israel; he is a man in the image of the Holy One, blessed be He, who is an emanation from Him; yea, He is HaShem; of him cannot be said, He is created, formed or made; but he is the emanation from G-d. This agrees with what was written in Jeremiah 23:5-6 of the sprout from David, that though he shall be a perfect man, yet he is ‘the Lord our Righteousness’ - Rabbi Simeon Bar Yochai. The Propositions of the Zohar.cap 38, Amsterdam Edition.

This sounds like blasphemy to me, but maybe I misunderstood because of the translation.

What does Rabbi Yochai means when he says ‘man who is an messenger (angel)’, ‘in the image of the Holy One’, ‘an emanation from Him’, ‘not created, formed or made’ and ‘he shall be a perfect man, yet he is the Lord our Righteousness’.

I’m trying to understand where his words are coming from, how I should understand his words and what he meant to say when he wrote these things.

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    See also Philo's view of God and Gnosticism, both of which are philosophically indebted to Platonism.
    – user18041
    Oct 29, 2020 at 13:47
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    Do you have a link to whatever book and actual page you are quoting? That would be helpful to understand what they are saying. Oct 29, 2020 at 14:19
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    Basically, it is not a blasphemy, but the flipside of Rambam's monotheistic views which were very common at that time especially amongst the Jews in Christian surroundings. This not only supports God's anthropomorphism but a seamless scale of divinity, starting from God, through various types of angels, seraphim, (some called Elohim), and to our prophets, us Jews, and the rest of humanity.
    – Al Berko
    Oct 29, 2020 at 16:53
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    The confusion between God and angels is common even in the Torah, in numerous places where the Torah says "מלאך ה'" it intended for God and vise versa, like preventing Avraham from slaughtering Isaac or talking to Moses from the bush. The commentators try to reconcile this by pointing to different manifestations, but it does not really matter for us, as we want to show the origins of this confusion.
    – Al Berko
    Oct 29, 2020 at 19:42
  • @AlBerko I agree. They can say it, but we cannot. See here, and here.
    – Turk Hill
    Oct 29, 2020 at 20:58

2 Answers 2

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The passuk says at the Akeida

וַיִּקְרָ֨א אֵלָ֜יו מַלְאַ֤ךְ יְהֹוָה֙ מִן־הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וַיֹּ֖אמֶר אַבְרָהָ֣ם ׀ אַבְרָהָ֑ם וַיֹּ֖אמֶר הִנֵּֽנִי׃

And an angel of Hashem called him from the heavens and he said, "Avraham, Avraham." And He said, "Here I am."

The Zohar says that the reason Avraham's name appears twice is because this represents the two elements of the soul, one element remains in the supernal spheres and one element descends to this world.

There is a pesik between the two names of Avraham to denote that there was not perfect unity between these two elements, as opposed to what we find with Moshe (at the burning bush) where there isn't, because there was.

The mekubalim further explain that the reference to the angel of Hashem in the beginning of the passuk is a reference to Avraham himself, i.e. Avraham called to Avraham. I.e. the hisorerus nevuah was experienced by the supernal element of Avraham's neshama and from there was communicated to Avraham's worldly neshama.

At any rate it is evident according to this explanation, that when the passuk refers to a malach, it can mean the person themselves. (See also Reb Tzadok on the passuk ve'kol adam lo yiheye be'ohel moed who says that this includes the cohen gadol.)

Subsequently it is possible to understand the references that you quote in light of the saying of the Zohar, *kudsha brich hu ve'yisrael ve'oraysah chad hu' - Hashem, the benei yisrael and the Torah are one.

I.e. a description of the emanation of a malach is actually a description of the emanation of the neshama. (Which explanation then merges with @Al Berko's first comment.)

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The quotation you cited is not from Rabbi Simeon ben Yochai. It is rather the words of Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh ben Yakov in his commentary on the Zohar known as the Chemads Tzvi included in the Shiv'im Tikunei ha-Zohar or the Tikunim, a central text of Kabbalah. The following is the original Hebrew with my own translation:

ואיה אדם ראית אדם דאיהו מלאך ודא מטטרון ואית אדם בדיוקנא דקנ"ת ראיהו אצילותיה ורא יור הא ואו הא ולית ביה בריאה ויצירה ועשיה אלא אצילותא

Where have you seen the man (vayah adom) who is actually an angel? This [angel] is certainly Metatron. He is a man in the image of d’knet? His vision is the emanation (azulah) of G-d. Behold the light, look at the awesome light of Havaya [G-d]. In it there is no creation (bariah), formation (yetzirah), or action (assiah), only an emanation (azulah) of G-d. (Source)

Here we see that Metatron is said to be a man (adom) who is also an angel and experiences the light of G-d. This is in reference to Enoch who was translated into heaven and transformed in Metatron, an idea can be seen in other Jewish mystical texts such as 3 Enoch. Adom could very well also be an allusion to Metatron as the manifestation of the Adam Kadmon, the highest of the five worlds of Kabbalah.

During Enoch’s translation, he is taken into the atzulah, the world of emanation which is higher than the worlds of creation (bariya), formation (yetzirah), and action (assiah), since all other realms leading up to the azulah are said to be the body of Metatron.

I am unsure how exactly to translate the word דקנ”ת (d''knet). I am tempted to say that it has something to do with the דתקנתא, the knesset yisrael or the community of Israel, a common theme in Kabbalah. Or perhaps it refers to the image of G-d, which is how your translation reads.

It’s certainly a fascinating quote, especially when one understands key concepts within the rich theology of Kabbalah.

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  • The quote is misattributed, the transcription of the text is full of errors, the language of the text is misidentified, and the translation and explanation make up for this with pure fantasy
    – b a
    Feb 20 at 21:55
  • @ba 1. The quote is not misattributed, I linked to the page of the Shiv'im Tikunei ha-Zohar where it can be found
    – Bob
    Feb 20 at 22:28
  • @ba 2. Can you demonstrate how the transcription is "full of errors" and how the translation and explanation are "pure fantasy"?
    – Bob
    Feb 20 at 22:29
  • @ba 3. The language is a mixture of Hebrew and Aramaic, I don't see how the language was misidentified by saying it's Hebrew.
    – Bob
    Feb 20 at 22:31
  • @ba I am happy to accept valid criticism, but throwing out accusations without any proof is completely unfair.
    – Bob
    Feb 20 at 22:33

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