1

It is a mitzvah to love and fear this glorious and awesome God, as [Deuteronomy 6:5] states: "And you shall love God, your Lord" and, as [Deuteronomy 6:13] states: "Fear God, your Lord."

א

הָאֵל הַנִּכְבָּד וְהַנּוֹרָא הַזֶּה מִצְוָה לְאָהֳבוֹ וּלְיִרְאָה אוֹתוֹ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים ו ה) "וְאָהַבְתָּ אֵת ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ". וְנֶאֱמַר (דברים ו יג) "אֶת ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ תִּירָא":

2

What is the path [to attain] love and fear of Him? When a person contemplates His wondrous and great deeds and creations and appreciates His infinite wisdom that surpasses all comparison, he will immediately love, praise, and glorify [Him], yearning with tremendous desire to know [God's] great name, as David stated: "My soul thirsts for the Lord, for the living God" [Psalms 42:3].

When he [continues] to reflect on these same matters, he will immediately recoil in awe and fear, appreciating how he is a tiny, lowly, and dark creature, standing with his flimsy, limited, wisdom before He who is of perfect knowledge, as David stated: "When I see Your heavens, the work of Your fingers... [I wonder] what is man that You should recall Him" [Psalms 8:4-5].

Based on these concepts, I will explain important principles regarding the deeds of the Master of the worlds to provide a foothold for a person of understanding to [develop] love for God, as our Sages said regarding love: "In this manner, you will recognize He who spoke and [thus,] brought the world into being."

ב

וְהֵיאַךְ הִיא הַדֶּרֶךְ לְאַהֲבָתוֹ וְיִרְאָתוֹ. בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁיִּתְבּוֹנֵן הָאָדָם בְּמַעֲשָׂיו וּבְרוּאָיו הַנִּפְלָאִים הַגְּדוֹלִים וְיִרְאֶה מֵהֶן חָכְמָתוֹ שֶׁאֵין לָהּ עֵרֶךְ וְלֹא קֵץ מִיָּד הוּא אוֹהֵב וּמְשַׁבֵּחַ וּמְפָאֵר וּמִתְאַוֶּה תַּאֲוָה גְּדוֹלָה לֵידַע הַשֵּׁם הַגָּדוֹל. כְּמוֹ שֶׁאָמַר דָּוִד (תהילים מב ג) "צָמְאָה נַפְשִׁי לֵאלֹהִים לְאֵל חָי". וּכְשֶׁמְּחַשֵּׁב בַּדְּבָרִים הָאֵלּוּ עַצְמָן מִיָּד הוּא נִרְתָּע לַאֲחוֹרָיו וִיפַחֵד וְיוֹדֵעַ שֶׁהוּא בְּרִיָּה קְטַנָּה שְׁפָלָה אֲפֵלָה עוֹמֶדֶת בְּדַעַת קַלָּה מְעוּטָה לִפְנֵי תְּמִים דֵּעוֹת. כְּמוֹ שֶׁאָמַר דָּוִד (תהילים ח ד) "כִּי אֶרְאֶה שָׁמֶיךָ מַעֲשֵׂי אֶצְבְּעֹתֶיךָ" (תהילים ח ה) "מָה אֱנוֹשׁ כִּי תִזְכְּרֶנּוּ". וּלְפִי הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלּוּ אֲנִי מְבָאֵר כְּלָלִים גְּדוֹלִים מִמַּעֲשֵׂה רִבּוֹן הָעוֹלָמִים כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּהְיוּ פֶּתַח לַמֵּבִין לֶאֱהֹב אֶת הַשֵּׁם. כְּמוֹ שֶׁאָמְרוּ חֲכָמִים בְּעִנְיַן אַהֲבָה שֶׁמִּתּוֹךְ כָּךְ אַתָּה מַכִּיר אֶת מִי שֶׁאָמַר וְהָיָה הָעוֹלָם:

3

Everything which the Holy One, blessed be He, created within His world is divided into three categories. They include:

a) Creations which are a combination of matter and form. They are constantly coming into existence and ceasing to exist; for example, the bodies of man and beasts, plants, and metals.

b) Creations which are [also] a combination of matter and form, but do not change from body to body and from form to form as those in the first category. Rather, their form is permanently fixed in their matter, and they do not change as the others do; for example, the spheres and the stars [which revolve] in them. The matter [from which] they [are composed] differs from [a simple conception of] matter, and their form differs from [a simple conception of] form.

c) Creations which have form, but no matter at all; for example, the angels, for the angels do not possess bodies or corporeal being, but rather are forms which are separate from each other.

ג

כָּל מַה שֶּׁבָּרָא הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא בְּעוֹלָמוֹ נֶחְלָק לִשְׁלֹשָׁה חֲלָקִים. מֵהֶן בְּרוּאִים שֶׁהֵן מְחֻבָּרִים מִגּלֶם וְצוּרָה וְהֵם הוִֹים וְנִפְסָדִים תָּמִיד כְּמוֹ גּוּפוֹת הָאָדָם וְהַבְּהֵמָה וְהַצְּמָחִים וְהַמַּתָּכוֹת. וּמֵהֶן בְּרוּאִים שֶׁהֵן מְחֻבָּרִים מִגּלֶם וְצוּרָה אֲבָל אֵינָן מִשְׁתַּנִּין מִגּוּף לְגוּף וּמִצּוּרָה לְצוּרָה כְּמוֹ הָרִאשׁוֹנִים אֶלָּא צוּרָתָן קְבוּעָה לְעוֹלָם בְּגָלְמָם וְאֵינָן מִשְׁתַּנִּין כְּמוֹ אֵלּוּ. וְהֵם הַגַּלְגַּלִּים וְהַכּוֹכָבִים שֶׁבָּהֶן. וְאֵין גָּלְמָם כִּשְׁאָר גְּלָמִים וְלֹא צוּרָתָם כִּשְׁאָר צוּרוֹת. וּמֵהֶן בְּרוּאִים צוּרָה בְּלֹא גּלֶם כְּלָל וְהֵם הַמַּלְאָכִים. שֶׁהַמַּלְאָכִים אֵינָם גּוּף וּגְוִיָּה אֶלָּא צוּרוֹת נִפְרָדוֹת זוֹ מִזּוֹ:

4

What is meant by the prophets' statements that they saw an angel of fire or with wings? All these are prophetic visions and parables, as [Deuteronomy 4:24] states: "God, your Lord, is consuming fire," though He is not fire and [the description of Him in this manner] is only metaphoric. Similarly, [Psalms 104:4] states: "He makes His angels as winds...."

ד

וּמַהוּ זֶה שֶׁהַנְּבִיאִים אוֹמְרִים שֶׁרָאוּ הַמַּלְאָךְ אֵשׁ וּבַעַל כְּנָפַיִם. הַכּל בְּמַרְאֵה הַנְּבוּאָה וְדֶרֶךְ חִידָה. לוֹמַר שֶׁאֵינוֹ גּוּף וְאֵינוֹ כָּבֵד כַּגּוּפוֹת הַכְּבֵדִים. כְּמוֹ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים ד כד) "כִּי ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֵשׁ אֹכְלָה הוּא" וְאֵינוֹ אֵשׁ אֶלָּא מָשָׁל. וּכְמוֹ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (תהילים קד ד) "עשֶֹׁה מַלְאָכָיו רוּחוֹת":

5

Since they possess no body, what separates the form [of the angels] from each other? Their existence is not alike. Rather each one is below the level of the other and exists by virtue of its influence, [in a progression of levels,] one above the other.

Everything exists by virtue of the influence of the Holy One, blessed be He, and His goodness. Solomon alluded to this [concept] in his wisdom, saying (Ecclesiastes 5:7): "Because above the one who is high there is a watcher [and there are others higher than them]."

ה

וּבַמֶּה יִפָּרְדוּ הַצּוּרוֹת זוֹ מִזּוֹ וַהֲרֵי אֵינָן גּוּפִין. לְפִי שֶׁאֵינָן שָׁוִין בִּמְצִיאוּתָן אֶלָּא כָּל אֶחָד מֵהֶן לְמַטָּה מִמַּעֲלָתוֹ שֶׁל חֲבֵרוֹ. וְהוּא מָצוּי מִכֹּחוֹ זֶה לְמַעְלָה מִזֶּה וְהַכּל נִמְצָאִים מִכֹּחוֹ שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא וְטוּבוֹ. וְזֶהוּ שֶׁרָמַז שְׁלֹמֹה בְּחָכְמָתוֹ וְאָמַר (קהלת ה ז) "כִּי גָבֹהַּ מֵעַל גָּבֹהַּ שֹׁמֵר":

6

The expression "below the level of the other" does not refer to height in a spatial sense as [one might say], he is sitting higher than his colleague, [but rather, in regard to spiritual level]. For example, when speaking about two sages, one of whom is greater than the other, we say, "one is above the level of the other." Similarly, a cause is referred to as "above" the effect [it produces].

ו

זֶה שֶׁאָמַרְנוּ לְמַטָּה מִמַּעֲלָתוֹ שֶׁל חֲבֵרוֹ אֵינָהּ מַעֲלַת מָקוֹם. כְּמוֹ אָדָם שֶׁיּוֹשֵׁב לְמַעְלָה מֵחֲבֵרוֹ. אֶלָּא כְּמוֹ שֶׁאוֹמְרִין בִּשְׁנֵי חֲכָמִים שֶׁאֶחָד גָּדוֹל מֵחֲבֵרוֹ בְּחָכְמָה שֶׁהוּא לְמַעְלָה מִמַּעֲלָתוֹ שֶׁל זֶה. וּכְמוֹ שֶׁאוֹמְרִין בְּעִלָּה שֶׁהִיא לְמַעְלָה מִן הֶעָלוּל:

7

The different names with which the angels are called reflect their [spiritual] levels. Thus, they are called:

1) The holy chayyot, who are above all the others;

2) the ofanim; 7) the elohim;

3) the er'elim; 8) the sons of the elohim;

4) the chashmalim; 9) the keruvim;

5) the serafim; 10) the ishim.

6) the mal'achim;

These ten names which are used to refer to the angels reflect their ten [different spiritual] levels. The level above which there is no higher level except that of God, blessed be He, is that of the form called chayyot. Therefore, the prophets state that they are below God's throne of glory.

The tenth [and lowest] level is that of the form called ishim. They are the angels who communicate with the prophets and are perceived by them in prophetic visions. Therefore, they are called ishim, (“men”), because their level is close to the level of human knowledge.

ז

שִׁנּוּי שְׁמוֹת הַמַּלְאָכִים עַל שֵׁם מַעֲלָתָם הוּא. וּלְפִיכָךְ נִקְרָאִים חַיּוֹת הַקֹּדֶשׁ וְהֵם לְמַעְלָה מִן הַכּל וְאוֹפַנִּים וְאֶרְאֶלִּים וְחַשְׁמַלִּים וּשְׂרָפִים וּמַלְאָכִים וֵאלֹהִים וּבְנֵי אֱלֹהִים וּכְרוּבִים וְאִישִׁים. כָּל אֵלּוּ עֲשָׂרָה הַשֵּׁמוֹת שֶׁנִּקְרְאוּ בָּהֶן הַמַּלְאָכִים עַל שֵׁם עֶשֶׂר מַעֲלוֹת שֶׁלָּהֶן הֵן, וּמַעֲלָה שֶׁאֵין לְמַעְלָה מִמֶּנָּה אֶלָּא מַעֲלַת הָאֵל בָּרוּךְ הוּא הִיא מַעֲלַת הַצּוּרָה שֶׁנִּקְרֵאת חַיּוֹת. לְפִיכָךְ נֶאֱמַר בַּנְּבוּאָה שֶׁהֵן תַּחַת כִּסֵּא הַכָּבוֹד. וּמַעֲלָה עֲשִׂירִית הִיא מַעֲלַת הַצּוּרָה שֶׁנִּקְרֵאת אִישִׁים וְהֵם הַמַּלְאָכִים הַמְדַבְּרִים עִם הַנְּבִיאִים וְנִרְאִים לָהֶם בְּמַרְאֵה הַנְּבוּאָה. לְפִיכָךְ נִקְרְאוּ אִישִׁים שֶׁמַּעֲלָתָם קְרוֹבָה לְמַעֲלַת דַּעַת בְּנֵי אָדָם:

8

All these [spiritual] forms are alive. They recognize and know the Creator with very immense knowledge, each of the forms according to its level and not according to its greatness.

Even the highest level is unable to conceive of the true nature of the Creator as He [truly] is, since its intellectual capacity is too limited to know or to grasp [Him]. It does, however, comprehend and know more than the form which is below it.

This is true regarding each and every level, including the tenth level. This [level] also knows the Creator in a manner that surpasses the potential to know and comprehend [God possessed by] human beings made up of body and soul. None [of these levels] can know the Creator as He knows Himself.

ח

וְכָל הַצּוּרוֹת הָאֵלּוּ חַיִּים וּמַכִּירִין אֶת הַבּוֹרֵא וְיוֹדְעִים אוֹתוֹ דֵּעָה גְּדוֹלָה עַד לִמְאֹד. כָּל צוּרָה וְצוּרָה לְפִי מַעֲלָתָהּ לֹא לְפִי גָּדְלָהּ. אֲפִלּוּ מַעֲלָה הָרִאשׁוֹנָה אֵינָהּ יְכוֹלָה לְהַשִּׂיג אֲמִתַּת הַבּוֹרֵא כְּמוֹ שֶׁהוּא אֶלָּא דַּעְתָּהּ קְצָרָה לְהַשִּׂיג וְלֵידַע אֲבָל מַשֶּׂגֶת וְיוֹדַעַת יוֹתֵר מִמַּה שֶּׁמַּשֶּׂגֶת וְיוֹדַעַת צוּרָה שֶׁלְּמַטָּה מִמֶּנָּה. וְכֵן כָּל מַעֲלָה וּמַעֲלָה עַד מַעֲלָה עֲשִׂירִית גַּם הִיא יוֹדַעַת הַבּוֹרֵא דֵּעָה שֶׁאֵין כֹּחַ בְּנֵי הָאָדָם הַמְחֻבָּרִים מִגּלֶם וְצוּרָה יָכוֹל לְהַשִּׂיג וְלֵידַע כְּמוֹתָהּ. וְהַכּל אֵינָן יוֹדְעִין הַבּוֹרֵא כְּמוֹ שֶׁהוּא יוֹדֵעַ עַצְמוֹ:

9

All existence, aside from the Creator - from the first form down to a small mosquito in the depths of the earth - came into being from the influence of His truth. Since He knows Himself and recognizes His greatness, beauty, and truth, He knows everything, and nothing is hidden from Him.

ט

כָּל הַנִּמְצָאִים חוּץ מִן הַבּוֹרֵא מִצּוּרָה הָרִאשׁוֹנָה עַד יַתּוּשׁ קָטָן שֶׁיִּהְיֶה בְּטַבּוּר הָאָרֶץ הַכּל מִכֹּחַ אֲמִתָּתוֹ נִמְצְאוּ. וּלְפִי שֶׁהוּא יוֹדֵעַ עַצְמוֹ וּמַכִּיר גְּדֻלָּתוֹ וְתִפְאַרְתּוֹ וַאֲמִתָּתוֹ הוּא יוֹדֵעַ הַכּל וְאֵין דָּבָר נֶעֱלָם מִמֶּנּוּ:

10

The Holy One, blessed be He, recognizes His truth and knows it as it is. He does not know with a knowledge which is external to Him in the way that we know, for ourselves and our knowledge are not one. Rather, the Creator, may He be blessed, He, His knowledge, and His life are one from all sides and corners, in all manners of unity.

Were He to live as life is [usually conceived], or know with a knowledge that is external from Him, there would be many gods, Him, His life, and His knowledge. The matter is not so. Rather, He is one from all sides and corners, in all manners of unity. Thus, you could say, "He is the Knower, He is the Subject of Knowledge, and He is the Knowledge itself." All is one.

This matter is beyond the ability of our mouths to relate, [or our] ears to hear, nor is there [the capacity] within the heart of man to grasp it in its entirety. [In expression of this concept, Genesis 42:15] states: "chay (By the life) of Pharaoh" and [I Samuel 25:26] states "chay, (By the life) of your soul," but [I Samuel, ibid.] does not say: "chay, (By the life) of God" but chai Adonai, “As God lives.” [This shows] that the Creator and His life are not two, as are the lives of living beings or the lives of the angels.

Thus, He does not recognize and know the creations in terms of the creations as we know them, but rather He knows them in terms of Himself. Thus, since He knows Himself, He knows everything, for the existence of everything else is dependent on Him.

י

הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מַכִּיר אֲמִתּוֹ וְיוֹדֵעַ אוֹתָהּ כְּמוֹ שֶׁהִיא. וְאֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ בְּדֵעָה שֶׁהִיא חוּץ מִמֶּנּוּ כְּמוֹ שֶׁאָנוּ יוֹדְעִין. שֶׁאֵין אָנוּ וְדַעְתֵּנוּ אֶחָד אֲבָל הַבּוֹרֵא יִתְבָּרַךְ הוּא וְדַעְתּוֹ וְחַיָּיו אֶחָד מִכָּל צַד וּמִכָּל פִּנָּה וּבְכָל דֶּרֶךְ יִחוּד. שֶׁאִלְמָלֵי הָיָה חַי בַּחַיִּים וְיוֹדֵעַ בְּדֵעָה חוּץ מִמֶּנּוּ הָיוּ שָׁם אֱלֹהוּת הַרְבֵּה הוּא וְחַיָּיו וְדַעְתּוֹ, וְאֵין הַדָּבָר כֵּן אֶלָּא אֶחָד מִכָּל צַד וּמִכָּל פִּנָּה וּבְכָל דֶּרֶךְ יִחוּד. נִמְצֵאתָ אַתָּה אוֹמֵר הוּא הַיּוֹדֵעַ וְהוּא הַיָּדוּעַ וְהוּא הַדֵּעָה עַצְמָהּ הַכּל אֶחָד. וְדָבָר זֶה אֵין כֹּחַ בַּפֶּה לְאָמְרוֹ וְלֹא בָּאֹזֶן לְשָׁמְעוֹ וְלֹא בְּלֵב הָאָדָם לְהַכִּירוֹ עַל בֻּרְיוֹ. וּלְפִיכָךְ אוֹמֵר חֵי פַרְעֹה וְחֵי נַפְשְׁךָ וְאֵין אוֹמֵר חֵי ה' אֶלָּא חַי ה'. שֶׁאֵין הַבּוֹרֵא וְחַיָּיו שְׁנַיִם כְּמוֹ חַיֵּי הַגּוּפִים הַחַיִּים אוֹ כְּחַיֵּי הַמַּלְאָכִים. לְפִיכָךְ אֵינוֹ מַכִּיר הַבְּרוּאִים וְיוֹדְעָם מֵחֲמַת הַבְּרוּאִים כְּמוֹ שֶׁאָנוּ יוֹדְעִין אוֹתָם אֶלָּא מֵחֲמַת עַצְמוֹ יְדָעֵם. לְפִיכָךְ מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהוּא יוֹדֵעַ עַצְמוֹ יוֹדֵעַ הַכּל שֶׁהַכּל נִסְמָךְ לוֹ בַּהֲוָיָתוֹ:

11

The concepts that we have mentioned about the subject matter in these two chapters are like a drop from the sea [when compared to] what is necessary to explain this matter. The explanation of all the fundamental principles of these two chapters is referred to as Ma'aseh Merkavah, (lit. “the work of [G‑d’s] chariot.”)

יא

דְּבָרִים אֵלּוּ שֶׁאָמַרְנוּ בְּעִנְיָן זֶה בִּשְׁנֵי פְּרָקִים אֵלּוּ כְּמוֹ טִפָּה מִן הַיָּם הֵם מִמַּה שֶּׁצָּרִיךְ לְבָאֵר בְּעִנְיָן זֶה. וּבֵאוּר כָּל הָעִקָּרִים שֶׁבִּשְׁנֵי פְּרָקִים אֵלּוּ הוּא הַנִּקְרָא מַעֲשֵׂה מֶרְכָּבָה:

12

The Sages of the early generations commanded that these matters should not be explained except to a single individual [at a time]. He should be a wise man, who can reach understanding with his [powers of] knowledge. In such an instance, he is given fundamental points, and an outline of the concepts is made known to him. He [is expected to continue to contemplate] until he reaches understanding with his powers of knowledge and knows the ultimate meaning and depth of the concept.

These concepts are extremely deep, and not every [person has] the knowledge necessary to appreciate them. In his wisdom, Solomon described them with the metaphor [Proverbs 27:26]: "Lambs for your clothing." [The root kevas - "lamb" - also has the meaning "hide."] Thus, our Sages interpreted this metaphor [to mean]: Matters which are the secrets of the world will be your clothing - i.e., they will be for you alone, and you should not discuss them in public.

Concerning them, [Proverbs 5:17] teaches: "They shall be for you and not for others with you." [Similarly, the Song of Songs 4:11] states: "Honey and milk will be under your tongue." The Sages of the early generations interpreted this [as a metaphor]: Subjects that are like honey and milk should be [kept] under your tongue.

יב

צִוּוּ חֲכָמִים הָרִאשׁוֹנִים שֶׁלֹּא לִדְרשׁ בִּדְבָרִים אֵלּוּ אֶלָּא לְאִישׁ אֶחָד בִּלְבַד וְהוּא שֶׁיִּהְיֶה חָכָם וּמֵבִין מִדַּעְתּוֹ וְאַחַר כָּךְ מוֹסְרִין לוֹ רָאשֵׁי הַפְּרָקִים וּמוֹדִיעִין אוֹתוֹ שֶׁמֶץ מִן הַדָּבָר וְהוּא מֵבִין מִדַּעְתּוֹ וְיֵדַע סוֹף הַדָּבָר וְעָמְקוֹ. וּדְבָרִים אֵלּוּ דְּבָרִים עֲמֻקִּים הֵם עַד לִמְאֹד וְאֵין כָּל דַּעַת וְדַעַת רְאוּיָה לְסָבְלָן. וַעֲלֵיהֶם אָמַר שְׁלֹמֹה בְּחָכְמָתוֹ דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל (משלי כז כו) "כְּבָשִׂים לִלְבוּשֶׁךָ" כָּךְ אָמְרוּ חֲכָמִים בְּפֵרוּשׁ מָשָׁל זֶה דְּבָרִים שֶׁהֵן כִּבְשׁוֹנוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם יִהְיוּ לִלְבוּשְׁךָ כְּלוֹמַר לְךָ לְבַדְּךָ וְאַל תִּדְרשׁ אוֹתָם בָּרַבִּים. וַעֲלֵיהֶם אָמַר (משלי ה יז) "יִהְיוּ לְךָ לְבַדֶּךָ וְאֵין לְזָרִים אִתָּךְ". וַעֲלֵיהֶם אָמַר (שיר השירים ד יא) "דְּבַשׁ וְחָלָב תַּחַת לְשוֹנֵךְ", כָּךְ פֵּרְשׁוּ חֲכָמִים הָרִאשׁוֹנִים דְּבָרִים שֶׁהֵן כִּדְבַשׁ וְחָלָב יִהְיוּ תַּחַת לְשׁוֹנְךָ: