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.

  • 1
    See also Philo's view of God and Gnosticism, both of which are philosophically indebted to Platonism.
    – Lucian
    Oct 29 '20 at 13:47
  • 4
    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 '20 at 14:19
  • 1
    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 '20 at 16:53
  • 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 '20 at 19:42
  • @AlBerko I agree. They can say it, but we cannot. See here, and here.
    – Turk Hill
    Oct 29 '20 at 20:58

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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