Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Da'at and Speech: Responses

On the blog: Osiris Risen, the author talks about praying out loud. It reminds me of an idea that a friend shared recently.

Rabbi Moshe Cordovero (Ramak) in his commentary on Sefer Yetzirah chapter 2 talks about how we take the physical letters written on the page, transform them in to sounds which are part physical and part spiritual (ruach), and are then internalized in the consciousness - entirely spiritual.

The breath balances between the conscious and the unconscious mind. Between the watery intuition of the gut via the lungs to the fiery (electrical) thoughts of the brain. Neshima, the Hebrew word for breath, is the same root as the word Neshama - a level of soul consciousness.

So what does this all mean? Simply that by praying out loud we transform physical in to spiritual through the power of our breath. By having kavannah, focused intent, we can imbue our words with the power of emotion and enliven them. So the next time you pray, don't sit in silence - speak. And if you are readying psalms, for goodness sake Sing!

On the blog: Disrupt & Repair, the author talks about [NB] Da’ath and Gevurah in the Amidah. As it so happened, I have recently read some of Dovber Pinson's "Toward the Infinite" which has some interesting quotes on the topics of Chochmah, Binah, and Da'at.

"...We have discussed chochmah and binah, the first two of the three intellectual capacities that make up the word ChaBaD. The third letter of the word ChaBaD stands for da'at. Traditionally da'at is translated as knowledge...
...What exactly is this knowledge?...
...While knowledge is commonly perceived to be a function of the intellect, associated with the mind, da'at in fact is, in a sense, an act of identification. Leda'at, or to know, means to be completely identified with that information. Da'at is the attachment of the mind to the idea it is contemplating. A thought becomes fully absorbed in da'at. There is no thorough and complete understanding until the thought is brought down into the state of da'at...
...The Torah uses the term da'at to connote the idea of attachment, connection, and union. The word da'at essentially means to internalize a thought or concept, and make an association with the idea. In da'at consciousness, the boundary that usually separates the knower from the known is eliminated...
...Eating from the tree of knowledge caused an identification with and attachment to evil. Prior to eating from the tree of knowledge, Adam and Even intellectually understood that good and evil existed. By eating from the tree, they internalized evil. From then on, evil ceased existing as an external objective reality and became an internal subjective interpretation. From then on mankind knew and identified with both good and evil. The good resides within us, and so does the potential to do evil..."

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

September update 2015

Changing Time

This is a short note to self as a reminder of a recent lesson by my teacher. The way to change the past is Teshuvah , Teffilah , and Tzedakah.

Teshuvah is often translated as repentance. But the word actually means 'return'. As in, the return to the correct path to align oneself in the service of the Divine. Teshuvah can change the past.

Tefillah means judging oneself, weighing up how to change in order to follow the correct path. Thinking about how to improve the relationships we have with our fellow humans and with the Divine. Tefillah can change the present.

Tzedakah is charity and charity given in the right way is giving someone hope. Tzedakah can change the future.

Monday, 7 September 2015

New Year, New Chapter

New Year

Next week it will be Rosh Hashanna, the Jewish New Year. Actually there are four New Years... Rosh Hashanna is for the anniversary of mankind achieving awareness of Divine consciousness; the other three new years are the boundaries in time for Kings, Festivals and of course Trees.

Anyway, rather than being a time for wild parties and celebrations - Rosh Hashanna is a time for taking in to account all the things that we have achieved or not achieved, all the people we have helped or harmed, and is generally a time for weighing up all our actions over the past year. It's a time for reconciliation between each person and their friends, family & community, as well as reorienting ourselves to aim towards reconnecting with the Divine.

Teshuva means return rather than repentance. Teshuv-heh means taking action to return the letter heh to the Divine four letter name. Being a partner in ongoing Creation of these realities.

If I have caused you any upset, insult, or harm - I sincerely apologise for my misdeeds. Please let me know how and I will endeavour to improve for the coming year onwards.

New Chapter

Every year I re-read Sefer Yetzira, the Book of Formation. Initially I read it in English from Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's commentary and translation. Then I read the text in Hebrew and in the last couple of years I have moved on to reading and translating the commentary by Rabbi Moshe Cordovero (RaMaK).

Whilst my skill as a translator still has a VERY long way to go before it's worth sharing much, here is a sample of a loose translation of Ramak's commentary on Chapter 2 Verse 2. [Words in square brackets are my additions to the text to ease reading] I have also added paragraph breaks to make it easier to read.

2: Three Mothers Emesh [Aleph-Mem-Shin], the offspring of the heavens are fire, the offspring of the earth is water, the offspring of the air is wind.

[Commentary starts]
I have not found this mishna [verse] in many books nor explained by the [previous] commentators. None the less we will go over it. Three Mothers Emesh. There is no doubt that they are called mothers to be as a source for all because they are three firsts [primaries]. In the [same] way that that the ten [Sefirot] conceal in general the twenty two [letters], so the three [Mothers] conceal the remaining [letters] which are nineteen, and they [three Mothers] are the sources to all that is emanated.

Or if you would like [to say], because fire, air, and water are not actually the three [Mothers] they - [the Mothers] are actually Keter [Crown root of the will], Chochmah [intuitive Wisdom], Binah [rational Understanding], rather [the Mothers] are a root [source] to them [their existence].  The essence of water is in Chesed [Kindness], the essence of air is in Tiferet [Harmony] and fire in Gevurah [Severity].

The offspring of the heavens are fire, the essence of the intent here [with regards to] firsts [primaries] is to separate the letters Emesh [Aleph-Mem-Shin] with the emanation of fire on [His] domain, since the essence of heavens if from the letter Shin which is from Binah [Understanding], this is why is states that the offspring of the heavens are fire.

And so The offspring of the earth is water, if so they are from Chochmah [intuitive Wisdom] that since Mem is water without any doubt. And we need [to say] that the existence of earth comes from water. And this is explained by those who know that if you boil water in a vessel [for] many days you end up with dust [earth].

The offspring of the air is wind, we need [to say] that the air is called air which rests quietly between the earth and fire [heavens] which is the foundation of the supernal [realms]. The offspring is from wind. If so, we find it's existence is rooted in Aleph which is Da'at [intimate Knowledge]. If so, we find the these three [Mothers] that are heavens and earth and what is between them is emanated from the letters Emesh without any doubt.

On this basis at length we learned the reason for the heavens offspring [being] fire as it is written [Psalms 104: 4] "..., burning fire His ministers...", because their existence is from fire. It's possible they stated offspring, [because] it's explained that they emanate their existence. 

So too the offspring of the earth is water, as we see coming out of the earth are water, rivers and canals. And the offspring of the air is wind, if you force out air resting in a bag it creates a powerful wind [really not sure about this last sentence's translation]. 

And so it is possible to explain the offspring of heaven, it's explained that to raise [grow] created [organisms] requires fire, like the the sun which gives light of the fire and so too the stars.  That is why our Sages of blessed memory explained the blessing on [the multi-wicked candle at the conclusion of Sabbath] "Blessed [is He who gives] light to the fire".

The offspring of the earth is water since water [provides an environment for the] germination of life specifically. The offspring of air is wind, since there are living things in the air who are sustained by the winds, and is known that no vacant space [devoid of life] between earth up to the heavens, and their offspring is from the wind. 

And this is possible in all three [elements] since all are in this and in this - their existence hangs together and it's all one thing. These [living things]  are [generated] in water and their offspring in water develop further in the water. [I believe this means that the element of water supports life that forms a chain of emanations or evolutions of forms]. So too with the heavens and with the winds as we have explained.

And we have explained the emanation of Emesh according to their order and it states Fire above which is in the [conceptual] domain of Bina [rational Understanding], Water below which is in the [conceptual] domain of Chochmah [intuitive Wisdom], Air in the conceptual domain of Da'at [intimate Knowledge] balances between them. [This is a quote from earlier in Sefer Yetzira] since water is not lost [does not intrude upon] fire and fire not on water. Air is the same to fire as it is to water. [Which is in the] secret of Da'at which is severity from one side and kindness from the other side and thus it balances between them. These three foundations are the vehicles for all [of] emanated [reality].

And if you say that the foundation earth is the fourth to them [then] why do we have three Mothers and no four foundations, I will answer that the three are the essential foundations. Since the foundation of earth is the offspring of water in combination with fire and air. Because the fire lights up by means of the air which boils the water and from it comes forth the earth which is a complex [combination of the other three elements].

And it does not have a portion of water, and a portion of fire, etc. as if it was combination of four foundations. Rather the intention is [to consider] the fourth foundation that comes out of the existence of the three [elements]. If so its existence is by means of the three. So too with the supernal attributes that are Emesh, the Malchut [receptive Kingship] is the fourth to the [other] three as is explained in the previous chapter. And if so Emesh [Aleph-Mem-Shin] are the Mothers to all that is emanated and to each division of creation which are heavens, earth and what is between them.

And more going over the topic of Fire above etc, this is what out Sages of blessed memory stated that the Shedim are masters of air and winds, they are between men of the earth and angelic entities of the heavens without any doubt [angels and shedim entities are not composed of as many of the elements and hence do not generally have corporeal form in the way that humans do]. It's possible to say that the reason for the combination of the foundations is due to their sources [roots]. Since it was fitting for water to be above [see division of water and firmaments in Genesis chapter 1] since Chochmah is above, and the fire is below since Bina is below.

Since existence is from the side of Gevurah and Binah and the forty two letter name and name Elohim which balances and it strictness [judgement]. So too in [the month of] Tishrei the world was created and this is [the month] of judgement. And we have seen that [the world could] not [be] sustained with[out] the participation of compassion. So the fire is the essence and the stronger [element], and that is [why] fire is above and water is below, and this is how it [creation] has arisen and is founded. 

[This cycle of creation is dominated by Gevurah in combination with Chesed as the former was not suitable for being the sole source of power for creation and neither was the latter. Only in combination could they sustain to form this cycle of creation with Gevurah dominant - hence why this cycle of human development has been shaped mostly by severity (war) and boundaries (various forms of rulership backed by force)]

And Air rules, the word rules needs to be given an attribute that it rules in two directions. And this is [that it] balances between them and the way the wording [uses] balances. And with this we finish this mishna [explanation of this verse].

[This is a loose translation of 2 pages from a commentary on SY that is on pp.57 - pp.158 of a book containing multiple commentaries in Hebrew.  Time to learn (more) Hebrew].

Friday, 31 July 2015

July 2015 update

Like the Digital Ambler, I've been offline for a bit and taken a break from most of my projects. It's been what I call a couple of "dry months" or simply the doldrums. Thankfully that is now starting to change. Rants, as Rose highlights, are one way to keep the conversation going - but I prefer (mostly) to focus on study, if not practice.

The one project that I have kept going is memorizing Chapter 1 of Sefer Yetzirah (again). There is something transformative about memorizing this text. I don't just recite it in Hebrew as a series of sounds, but need to think about what the next words are and why they are a meaningful continuation from the previous verses.

In other news I've received a copy of Sa'adiah Gaon's Arabic with Hebrew translation of his commentary to Sefer Yetzirah. This means that I now have he following commentaries to Sefer Yetzirah:

From the Big White Book:
  • Ra'avad
  • Ramban
  • Eliezer of Germizah
  • Sa'adiah Gaon 
  • Moshe Bottril
  • Chakmoni
  • Gra (Vilna Gaon)
  • Pri Yitzchak
Other Books:
  • Sagie Nahor (Isaac the Blind) [Read]
  • Ramban (chapter 1 only)
  • Ramak (Moshe Cordovero) [Read]
  • Sa'adiah Gaon (Arabic and Hebrew)
  • Abraham Abulafia (Gan Na'ul and Otzar Eden Ganuz)
In other news I have started to fill in the massive void in my knowledge of Jewish astrology. Starting with Glazerson's "Above the Zodiac". Next on that stack of books are Joel Dobin's books.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015


Life has been very busy of late, apologies for the lack of updates. Here is a brief summary of the things that I have learned in the last month or so...

Relationship expectations - don't!
Recently a Rabbi and Rebbitzen came to the community to talk about relationships. The Rabbi gave a very interesting talk in which he said (in a nutshell) that putting expectations on other people in a relationship limits them. It limits their freedom, happiness, ability to express themselves, etc. If you agree to live within certain bounds and not set any expectations - you open the relationship up to the potential to thrive.

I gave this advice to a colleague who was struggling to support his daughter in her end of school studies. Instead of telling her "you must study", he said "I would love for you to succeed in your studies, but if you have your own ideas about other routes to success let me know and I will support you 100%. However I will no longer pay your mobile phone bill when you reach 25". That night she stayed up until 1am studying.

Book: magi & maggidim - some unexpected connections
'Magi and Maggidim: The Kabbalah in British Occultism 1860-1940' by Liz Greene is a really, really interesting book. Here is part of the blurb:
Current scholarship generally assumes that 'occultist' Kabbalah is a modern reinvention of older traditions,with little relationship to its Jewish roots. This assumption ignores the documented contributions of Jewish scholars and Kabbalists to the occultists' work, and there is little, if any, in-depth comparison of the ideas expressed by British occultists and the Jewish Kabbalistic literature of the medieval and early modern periods. And why was the Jewish Kabbalah was so compellingly attractive to non-Jewish occultists at a time of turbulent social and scientific change, when religious, political, and racial antisemitism constituted a normative attitude in many circles of British society? This book provides a new, exciting, and penetrating analysis of how and why the Jewish Kabbalah was adopted and integrated, rather than reinvented or recreated, by important figures in the British occult revival, and why it remains a dominant
I did not know, for example, that Mather's wife Mina Bergson came from a Chassidic family. This explains much. In fact, the book helped me fill in a lot of connections between occultists and their sources of inspiration and translations.

This book met my expectations

Mike Cohn - admitted he was wrong, in a good way
In the free lecture "Letting Go of Knowing: How Holding on to Your Views May be Holding You Back" the Agile guru Mike Cohn explains concepts such as Confirmation bias, Hindsight bias, and Intellectual Humility.

It was particularly refreshing hearing him describe how the Project Management community has moved on in its adoption to better ways of working. RO wrote a blog post recently about getting a job in tech industry in the USA. When I get time (tm) I will work on a similar post of my own. Finding the right job is quite a bit (IMO) about setting correctly - your and your potential employers expectations.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - worth watching
The TV adaptation of the book by Susanna Clarke available via BBC iPlayer has exceeded my expectations. Really enjoying it so far and I will be sad when it finishes, but one mini-series is about as much TV watching as I have managed in the past year or so.

Jupiter Ascending - no expectations, fun & full of symbolism
Having said that I have only had time to watch one TV mini-series, I have also managed to watch a couple of films. One of those was Jupiter Ascending. It's a very pretty film that I hope will one day grow in to a cult classic. There is a lot of symbolism in the film which I could write a whole blog post about (and may still do so). I had no expectations of this film and enjoyed it for what it was, a visually very impressive film that conceals more than it illuminates.

Time as a commodity - not meeting own expectations
I mist apologise about having complained too much that I have little in the way of spare time these days. Most of the beginning of the year was filled with catching up with things that spilled over from last year. Also, I have increased my daily study routine, which has left less time for things like blog updates.

Anyway, Jason's blog post on Strategic Sorcery about time being a commodity has helped to keep me sane in this time of growth, learning, and transformation.

A final note
One last thing... I really recommend the Tree of Life series by Blogos. Especially if you have some knowledge of biology and if you don't, it's still interesting to see how the Sa'adia Gaon's commentary is mapped out on to the molecular structure of the building blocks of life.

EDIT: One last, last thing. Seth Godin made a really good posting recently on The tragedy of small expectations (and the trap of false dreams). The important distinction that I understood from his post and my comment on expectations in a relationship is that is that expectation on self can be positive, expectations on others are sometimes less so.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

the letter Yud

Recently a friend asked me about whether the letter Yud was associated with coitios on not. I had a look in some of my versions of Sefer Yetzirah and found that whilst the Raivad links it to lust - it seems to be associated more with the kidneys which are related to Wisdom. See Avodah Zarah 14b "...Our father Abraham learned 400 chapter. Who taught him all this? His kidneys became like two springs from which there flowed to him wisdom and Torah..." You know that expression to trust your gut? Well, sometimes you need to listen to your kidneys (left and right).


Ramak (Rabbi Moshe Cordovero) comments in 5:5 about the letter Yud. He first of all explains how the material covered here is about connecting the upper realities to the lower realities (with respect to our perception of how everything is being emanated from the Source.  

For Yud he writes (below is my rough translation)...

“...Yud. Crown the letter Yud and bind to it a crown and form with it Virgo in the world, [the month of] Ellul in the year, left kidney in the nefesh [lowest level of the soul]..”

The big white book, as I like to call it, has on pp.140. In 5:2 the the same version as quoted in the Ramak. However, there are significant differences in the rest of the wording of chapter 5.

The Raivad's commentary on the left kidney is (what follows is my even poorer attempt at a translation)... 'that Virgo has a feminine form and a human face. She is lacking in complete knowledge and can be overpowered by lustful desires from the side of the left kidney. Therefore a person is weak in the heat of the month of Ellul and can bring about drought/dryness.

According to the bigwhite book, Rabbi Sa'adia Gaon has the same attribution of ' Crown the letter Yud and bind to it a crown and form with it Virgo in the world, Ellul in the year, left kidney in the nefesh'. He also mentions the order in which the letter Yud is to be combined with the other Simple/Elemental letters.

The same order is given in Sefer Chakmoni pp.177 of the big white book. He writes (rough translation) '...Crown the letter Yud and bind a crown to it, carve it the head of speech, and build first with Yud, Tet, Chaff, Zayin... and form with it the zodiac of Virgo in the world, the month of Ellul in the year, and left kidney as director in the nefesh...'

In commentary on Sefer Yetzira by the GRA (Vilna Gaon), see page 36 5:8, it states (rough translation) '...Crown the letter Yud with Action, bind to it a crown, combine it this with that [i.e. permute with the other simple letters], form with it Virgo in the world, Ellul in the year, and left hand in the Nefesh male and female...'

Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan uses the same version as the GRA (Vilna Gaon).


So what does the Yud represent? Well, most authorities link it to the left kidney, the month of Ellul, and the zodiac of Virgo. Kidneys are related to wisdom and some of the commentators explain what order to combine 12 the Simple/Elemental letters. 

There seems to be very little poiting to Yud being associated with coitios. There is mention of sexual relations in the list of 12 letters but this is linked to the letter Lamed in the GRA version.


EDIT: Adding some source of Sefer Yetzira translations from WMT books...

1. Translated by Isidor Kalisch [1877]
-> correct translation
-> GRA version

2. W.W. Wescott, tr. [1887]
-> correct translation
-> But not sure which version he used

3. Work of the Chariot
-> correct translation
-> GRA version

4. Kalisch and Stenring translations
-> not correct...
-> Who is K.T. ? the notes in parenthesis are correct.
-> Site states... "Parenthetic notes by Bill Heidrick from the Kalisch and Stenring translations"
-> since the Kalisch version is correct, who introduced the incorrect assignment of coition...?!!??

Tuesday, 12 May 2015


Penelope Trunk's recent article about re-inventing yourself, as well as Frater Acher's article about the limited lifespan of our magical tools - made me think about the transience of identities, objects, and even beliefs.

Jason Miller then wrote an article about Extraction Magic. Here is a brief extract from his post:
"...Most things like elements and directions, or planetary hours and days, are IMO a correspondence that magicians use to do magic and not inherently true. For instance I do not think that the west is inherently more watery, of that Thursdays are inherently more Jupitarian than Saturdays.
Just like a scientist might take a cell and use enzymes and alcohol to extract the DNA, magicians use colors, directions, days, and hours to extract the force that we want to address in our magic..."
This got me think that in order to know what you are changing, whether your magical tools, identity, or view on correspondences... you need to know where you are coming from before you can figure out where you are moving to.

Which in turn reminded me of a conversation recently with a friend about Alan Brill's book: "Judaism and Other Religions: Models of Understanding". In it he describes (copied from reviewer, my emphasis)...
A sturdy theological, categorical framework is borrowed from Race (1983) and Hick (1987), which broadly sets out four main positions of exclusivism, pluralism, inclusivism and universalism:
Exclusivism states that one's own community, tradition, and encounter with God compromise the one and only exclusive truth; all other claims on encountering God are a priori false.
Pluralism takes the opposite position, accepting that no one tradition can claim to possess the singular truth. The beliefs and practices of all groups are equally valid. It is widely taught among Western academics.
Inclusivism situates itself between these two extremes, where one acknowledges that many communities possess their own traditions and truths, but maintains the importance of one's comprehension as culminating, or subsuming other truths. One's own group possesses the truth; other religious groups contain parts of the truth.
Universalism proposes a universal monotheism; it was widely taught by medieval Jewish philosophers who postulated a common Neo-platonic or Aristotelian truth to all religions. (p.9)
Now take this model of 4 categories and see which your current belief system fits in to? Does your system believe that all magic is done via spirits exclusively? Do you think we all (or most) have a portion of a universal truth and are equally valid?

Whilst it might be argued that categorizing your magical belief system in to the 4 labels above is academic, I think it has merit purely on the basis as this reflects on how you interact with practitioners of other magical belief systems.

I struggled to come to any meaningful conclusion about this blog post. Perhaps just to open it up for discussion on:

Question: Do you look in to the paths of transmission that our traditions have taken to understand which giants shoulders you are standing on? If so, what surprises have you come across recently?

Tuesday, 5 May 2015


Whilst there are a lot of interesting and educational conversations about magical practice on the Internet, this post is not likely to add to that...

Anyway, if you have or are working in the software world - you might be familiar with something called Agile. This is a philosophy based on 4 simple principles that is transforming the way that software is developed. Here is the Agile manifesto:

Manifesto for Agile Software Development

We are uncovering better ways of developing
software by doing it and helping others do it.
Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on
the right, we value the items on the left more.

Whilst I have read and re-read this manifesto in more books, articles, and blogs than I care to count... it never occurred to me to create one for the occult community until now. So here is version one of the magical agile manifesto (M-Agile):

Manifesto for Development of Magical Practitioners

We are uncovering better ways of developing
magical practitioners by doing it and helping others do it.
Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over magical societies and organizations
Working/Practical magic over comprehensive scholarship
Practitioner collaboration over teacher/student hierarchy
Responding to change over following a prescribed path

That is, while there is value in the items on
the right, we value the items on the left more.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Translation Mistakes, part 1

This post could have been titled "This is not a review: Future Tense by Rabbi J Sacks", but I'm only going to focus on one part of the book for now. That part is on pp.232-234 from the section "The Voice of Hope".

Below is the first of the sections that highlights what the implications are of mistranslation. Since I am reading through Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Formation) and translating the commentary of Rabbi Moshe Cordovero for a second time, I am becoming painfully aware of just how big an impact mistranslation can have.

Here is the quote from Rabbi Sacks (warning: long!) answering the question about what the 4 distinctive messages that G-d seeks to say to the world via the Jewish people, its laws, life and history:

"...The Great Mistranslation

The first occurs at the formative moment in the life of Moses, when the prophet encounters God at the burning bush. God summons him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, but Moses is reluctant. 'Who am I,' he asks, 'to be worthy of such a task?' God reassures him, and then Moses asks, 'Who are you? When the Israelites ask, who has sent you, what shall I say?' God replies in a cryptic three-word phrase, Ehyeh asher ehyeh (Exodus 3:14).
It is fascinating to see how Christian Bibles translate this clause. The King James Version reads it as 'I am that I am.' Recent translations are variants of the same idea. Here are some examples:

I am who I am.
I am what I am.
I am - that is who I am.

These are all mistranslations, and the error is ancient. In Greek, Ehyeh asher ehyeh becomes ego eimi ho on, and in Latin, ego sum qui sum: 'I am he who is.' Augustine in the Confessions writes: 'Because he is Is, that is to say, God is being itself, ipsum esse, in its most absolute and full sense.' Centuries later, Aquinas explains that it means God is 'true being, that is being that is eternal, immutable, simple, self sufficient, and the cause and principle of every creature'. And so it continued in German philosophy. God became Hegel's 'concrete universal', Schelling's 'transcendental ego', Gilson's 'God-is-Being' and Heidegger's 'onto-theology'.
The mistake of all these translations is obvious to the merest beginner in Hebrew. The phrase means, 'I will be what I will be.' The verb does not use the present tense. Elsewhere, the Bible does. In the Ten Commandments, for example, the first verse reads, 'I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.' Here the present tense ('I am') is used. But then, that verse does not speak of God's name. It speaks of his deeds. Here, however, Moses asks God for his name. God might have replied, as did the angel who wrestled with Jacob, with a rhetorical question, 'Why do you ask for my name?', implying that the very question is out of order. There are things that human beings cannot know, mysteries they cannot fathom, matters that transcend the reach of human understanding.
But that is not what God says. He does answer Moses' question, but enigmatically, in a phrase that needs decoding, God tells Moses to say to the Israelites, '"I will be" sent me to you. ' It is as if God had said, 'My name is the future tense. If you seek to understand me, first you will have to understand the nature and significance of the future tense.'
'I am that I am' is a translation that owes everything to the philosophical tradition of ancient Greece, and nothing to the thought of Ancient Israel. The God of pure being, first cause, prime mover, necessary existence, is the god of philosophers, not the God of the prophets.
What, then, is the meaning of 'I will be what I will be'? The name itself never recurs in the Hebrew Bible, but there is a later echo, in the great scene in which God appears to Moses on the mountain after the sin of the Golden Calf, in which he says, 'I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion' (Exodus 33:19).
What this means is that God cannot be predicted or controlled. He cannot be confined to categories or known in advance. He is telling Moses, 'You cannot know how I will appear until I appear; how I will act until I act. My mercy, my compassion, my strategic interventions into history, cannot be controlled or foretold. I will be what, when and how I choose to be. I am the God of the radically unknown future, the God of surprises. You will know when you see me, but not before.'
To be sure, in one sense, the future is connected to the past. God keeps his promises. That is an essential element of Jewish faith. But this very fact reveals the difference between predictability on the one hand, and faithfulness on the other. Objects fall, gas expands, particles combine: these things are predictable. But people freely honour obligations that they have undertaken because they are faithful. That is the difference God never fails to teach Moses and the prophets. 
God's name tells us that he is not an entity knowable by philosophers or science, deducible from the past. God awaits us in the unknown and unknowable future. That is the first stage of the argument: the God of Israel is the God of the future tense..."

Kind of makes me wonder how many other mistranslations have had such a profound impact? In particular in translation of Kabbalistic literature...

Sunday, 15 March 2015

March 2015 round-up

This is another somewhat random post of topics that could have become larger posts, but I lack the time to develop them further...

Passing in to Legend

As I am sure that you must be aware Terry Pratchett passed away last week. Although I met him only briefly in passing, some of my friends knew him well and were all great fans. I particularly liked that for many years I could walk in to any number of airports and find one of his novels. It was nice to know that no matter what was happening in my personal world or the wider world - Discworld novels would accompany me from one adventure to the next.

As well as learning a lot about life, the universe and everything from his novels "Small gods" and "Good Omens"... I also really liked that he could make people genuinely care about golems.

Blew a Fuse

Last week whilst I had two major workings on the go and another one just completed I got ill rather suddenly. It's nothing serious but I spent 23 hours out of 48 asleep and have not done any meditation or magical work since. It felt as though I had used up all my mana pool so to speak and had nothing left. Any practitioner, even a petty dabbler like myself, needs to listen carefully to what their physical and subtle body is telling them. If it is says "stop!", better listen before you're made to stop.

Victoria Hannah

Whilst taking some time out to wonder the wider web, I came across this video Victoria Hanna- Aleph-bet (Hosha'ana). I'm an instant fan of her work for a number of reasons. First the video is about the Apelh-bet, but has plenty of symbolism from Sefer Yetzira. Elemental, numerical, vowel permutation, etc.

Secondly then there is this talk: "Victoria Hanna - I sleep and my heart is awake" she gave at the conference "Music and Brains: The Surprising Link". It's basically a lesson in vowel sounds from Sefer Yetzira and how they are made by the throat, lips, tongue, palate, and teeth. OK, if you need a simpler demonstration - check out her Victoria Hanna - Hebrew Vowels Demonstration.

Thirdly, if that is not enough... here is a jamming session that she did with Bobby McFerrin. In it she is quoting mishnas (verses) from Sefer Yetzira. Word for word she has it memorized! This is a lady who has a relationship with the Hebrew letters and vowels that I can only dream off.

Now I'm off to have a cold shower.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Shushan Funk

I forgot to include something light-hearted in my last post about Purim and Gemmatria. So please find below my favourite Purim song this year.

I'll return to posting about Merkavah mysticism, practice and Sefer Yetzira shortly. And remember folks, you need to be in a state of joy to access Divine inspiration.

Waiting for a Gemmatria

Sometimes it takes awhile for a Gemmatria to be clear. In the case copied from Ohr Somayach website below, it took approximately 2500 years.

On 1 October 1946, after 216 court sessions, the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg delivered its verdicts sentencing the leaders of the Nazi party to death by hanging. The author of the following account, Kingsbury Smith of the International News Service, was chosen by lot to represent the American press at the execution of ten of those leaders.
NurembergGaol, Germany
16 October 1946
International News Service

…Julius Streicher made his melodramatic appearance at 2:12 a.m. While his manacles were being removed and his bare hands bound, this ugly, dwarfish little man, wearing a threadbare suit and a well-worn bluish shirt buttoned to the neck but without a tie (he was notorious during his days of power for his flashy dress), glanced at the three wooden scaffolds rising menacingly in front of him. Then he glanced around the room, his eyes resting momentarily upon the small group of witnesses. By this time, his hands were tied securely behind his back. Two guards, one on each arm, directed him to Number One gallows on the left of the entrance. He walked steadily the six feet to the first wooden step but his face was twitching.
As the guards stopped him at the bottom of the steps for identification formality he uttered his piercing scream: 'Heil Hitler!' The shriek sent a shiver down my back.
As its echo died away an American colonel standing by the steps said sharply, 'Ask the man his name.' In response to the interpreter's query Streicher shouted, 'You know my name well.'
The interpreter repeated his request and the condemned man yelled, 'Julius Streicher.'
As he reached the platform Streicher cried out, 'Now it goes to G-d.' He was pushed the last two steps to the mortal spot beneath the hangman's rope. The rope was being held back against a wooden rail by the hangman.
Streicher was swung suddenly to face the witnesses and glared at them. Suddenly he screamed, 'Purim Fest 1946.' [Purim is a Jewish holiday celebrated in the spring, commemorating the execution of Haman, ancient persecutor of the Jews described in the Old Testament]…
Streicher had been a Nazi since early in the movement’s history. He was the editor and publisher of the anti-Semitic newspaper "Das Strummer." In May of 1924 Streicher wrote and published an article on Purim titled "Das Purimfest" (The Festival of Purim). In order to publish his vitriolic attack Streicher must have had a good deal of knowledge about Jewish thought and practice. However we can only speculate to what extent he was aware of the remarkable parallels between Haman and his own execution. However, they are indeed striking:
“And the king said to Esther the queen, ‘The Jews have slain and destroyed five hundred men in Shushan the capital, and the ten sons of Haman...Now whatever your petition, it shall be granted; whatever your request further, it shall be done.’
Then said Esther, ‘If it please the king, let it be granted to the Jews that are in Shushan to do tomorrow also as this day, and let Haman's ten sons be hanged upon the gallows.’ ” (Esther 9:12-14)
If Haman’s ten sons had already been killed, how could they hanged?
Our Sages comment on the word “tomorrow" in Esther's request: "There is a tomorrow that is now, and a tomorrow which is later." (Tanchuma, Bo 13 and Rashi, Shemot 13:14).
In the Megilla, the names of Haman’s ten sons are written very large and in two columns. This is in distinct contrast to the style of the rest of the Megilla. The left-hand column contains the word v'et (and) ten times. According to our Sages the word v'et is used to denote replication. The inference is that another ten people were hanged in addition to Haman's ten sons.
If we examine the list of Haman's sons three letters are written smaller: the taf of Parshandata, the shin of Parmashta and the zayin of Vizata.
Those three letters together form taf-shin-zayin, the last three numbers of the Jewish year 5707, which corresponds to the secular year 1946, the year that those ten Nazi criminals were executed.
The Nuremberg trials were a military tribunal and thus the method of execution was usually by firing squad. The court, however, prescribed hanging. Esther’s request "Let Haman's ten sons be hanged" echoes down the ages,
Equally uncanny is that the date of the execution (October 16, 1946) fell on "Hoshana Rabba" (21 Tishrei), the day on which G-d seals the verdicts of Rosh Hashana for the coming year.
As the Megilla recounts, a decree that the king has sealed cannot be rescinded, and thus Achashverosh had to promulgate a second decree to allow the Jewish People to defend themselves. In other words, that first decree was never nullified.
Our Sages teach us that eventually the Jewish People will return to G-d either voluntarily, or if not, G-d will raise up another despot whose decrees will be “as severe as Haman” (Sanhedrin 97b).
When we look toward the place of our original encounter with Haman and see the rise of a fanatic whose rhetoric rivals our most vicious enemies, we should remember that history most often repeats itself for those who fail to learn its lessons.
© 1995-2015 Ohr Somayach International - All rights reserved.

Here is the relevant bit of text from the megilla (scroll) read on Purim.

In case you were wondering what happened to the 11th person in this trial in 1946 - Hermann_Göring committed suicide. According to the Midrash - Haman's daughter also committed suicide. Whilst there are rumours that Goering was a transvestite, Wikipedia states:
Göring was known for his extravagant tastes and garish clothing. He had various special uniforms made for the many posts he held; his Reichsmarschall uniform included a jewel-encrusted baton. Hans-Ulrich Rudel, the top Stuka pilot of the war, recalled twice meeting Göring dressed in outlandish costumes: first, a medieval hunting costume, practicing archery with his doctor; and second, dressed in a red toga fastened with a golden clasp, smoking an unusually large pipe. Italian Foreign Minister Galeazzo Ciano once noted Göring wearing a fur coat that looked like what "a high grade prostitute wears to the opera". He threw lavish housewarming parties each time a round of construction was completed at Carinhall, and changed costumes several times throughout the evenings.
Last but not least, Jacob's son Benjamin never bowed to Esau (since he had not yet been born). His descendant Saul failed to destroy the last of Amalek. Mordechai, also a descendant of Benjamin, vanquished Haman the descendant of Amalek in his lifetime. I just hope that the Benjamin of this generation got his message through about the lessons from history.