Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Daily Hekhalot: §420 Synthesized and Revised

Before proceeding to Hekhalot Zutarti §421, I want to take stock of pericope 420. Having discussed it in three parts--part a, part b, and part c--I want to synthesize it into one continuous post. And, due to secondary considerations prompted by the conversations in the comments, I also want to alter the translations and consider the implications of the alterations. As usual, I will place the Hebrew script first and then proceed to the new translation. For the variants and additional interpretations, see the previous posts.


אמר רבי ישמאל על מי שתק השר
שהוא קורא אותו מגיהשה
שאין בריה בכל משרתים שיקרא אותו בשם הזה
ואת קורא אותו מגיהשה
מפני שהוא שני להדרירון הדר תוב הדר טהור הדר זיו
אוריה יה יה אלהי ישראל

והוא עומד בפתח ראשון
ומשמש בשער הגדול
וכשראיתיו נשרפו ידי
והייתי עומד בלא ידים ובלא רגלים
עד שנראה לי פני יון השר ממשרתי עליונים

והוא עומד לפני כסא הכבוד נוכח דיבר שרפים
ששמו כשמו ושם אחד הוא‪.
והוא עומד מכסא הכבוד
ומתקן את הכסא
ומלביש את החלוק
ומהדר את החשמל
ופותח שערי ישועה להראן חן וחסד ורחמים בעיני כל רואיו וכל הרואים אותו
בין בחור בין בתולה בין נער בין זקן בין איש בין אשה בין גוי בין אמה בין אשראל
ירוצו לקראתו ויאהבוהו לשלמו וירוצו בטובתו וישמחו בפרנסתו בין בטובתו בין שלא בטובתו‪.

Rabbi Ishmael said: Concerning whom is the prince silent?
The one who calls him MGYHShH--there is no creature among all the ministers who will call him by this name and you call him MGYHShH--because he is distinguished to crown (or adorn) a good crown, a pure crown, a splendorous crown of the light of Yah Yah Yah God of Israel.

And he stands at the first entrance and ministers at the great gate;
and when I saw him my hands were burned
and I was standing without hands and without feet until he appeared to me--
PNI YVN, the prince among the ministers of the uppermost (or uppermost ministers).

And he stands before the throne of glory, facing (or in the presence of) the speech of the seraphim, for his name is as His name; it is the same name.

And he stands from the throne of glory
and he prepares the throne
and dresses the garment
and crowns the hashmal
and opens the gates of redemption to show favor and grace and compassion in the eyes of each who sees him.
And all who see him--both young man and virgin girl, young and old, man and woman, foreigner and handmaid and Israel--will desire to call to him and will love him to pacify/appease him and they will desire his goodness and will rejoice in his provision whether willingly or unwillingly.

Thanks to the comments, this, I think, is a clearer translation. You can also see that I am playing around with the formatting a bit to see if that helps visually to clarify what might be happening--for example, using the repetition of "he stands" as a guide.

The first line has been changed. As I noted before, it was possible to place the "concerning" as part of the direct or the indirect speech. Before I had it as indirect, but thought that was wrong almost immediately after I posted it. Here it is part of the direct. I am still not sure about the verb "to crown." There is clearly more going on with that word that has not been worked out. That's why I offer as a possible alternative--"adorn." I am sticking with "PNI YVN" as a name for now. It seems to be an alternate name for MGYHShH. PNI YVN may be a more exoteric name, and MGYHShH esoteric--since very few call him by it. With this alternative translation, however, it changes the "silent" from the mystic to the angel. Why is the angel, therefore, silent concerning this figure who can speak his name--this figure who turns out to be the mystic? The mystic calls, but the angel is silent.

In the comments, Nir pointed out what turned out to be some obvious mistakes with my first line of part c. So I have mostly followed the suggestions there and shifted to a much more interesting line: "facing the speech of the seraphim, for his name is as His name; it is the same name." I had misread the simple preposition נוכח as the niphal of יכח, which accounts for most of the mistakes of the line. And the emphasis on the "name" is more appropriate than "there." But let's take a look at the implications of the change. While the angel still seems to be in control of some sense of judgment (due to the later part of controlling the gates of redemption and people coming under his provision), it is not as evident in the first line as my original translation made it. On the other hand, it indicates that when before the throne he is also before the seraphic speech. I have deliberately not translated נוכח simply as "before"--there is a variation in terminology (using both לפני and נוכח) and so I thought I should preserve that in translation. Given the context, "facing" also denotes a spatial relationship to the "speech."

This makes this a fascinating line indeed. We normally do not associate speech with space, but it does make some sense--sounds come from places--"where is that noise coming from?" It indicates that, as in Isaiah 6, the seraphim are highly related to the throne itself. I have also suggested as an alternative "in the presence of." This might be relevant because sound is more ambient; it can surround you without clear directionality. Next, why not just say "before (or facing) the Seraphim" rather than the "speech of the Seraphim." Does that mean that the seraphim themselves are not seen or sensed--only their speech? I am not sure (and I kind of doubt it), but I think it does something else. This entire pericope has been very interested in different sensory experiences--and their absences. We begin with silence, and then calling. Then we turn to burning (touch) and perhaps numbness. Again with seraphic speech we have auditory emphasis. Oddly, although we presume an overall visual space--especially with the description of the crown, the garment, the hashmal, etc.--the pericope is conspicuously lacking in seeing terms.

Naming is clearly important. It was important in the first part of the pericope to know and call the angel's name; it only makes sense that this emphasis would continue. We, therefore, learn that the angel is able to stand before the throne because he shares his name with the one upon it--he is, perhaps, to be identified with the "angel of the LORD" and all the other angelic figures in apocalyptic literature that have the same name (e.g., Iaoel in Apocalypse of Abraham). Overall, as we knew before, this is a very highly placed angel--he is in charge of the crown, the divine garment, the hashmal; he controls the gates of redemption and so on--but now we know more: he has the divine name.

One question that remains: what are the implications of people rejoicing unwillingly? Is it that my reading of "universalism" is to be qualified now? That is, there is a more eschatological vision for all people, but people will not have a choice? If they look upon the angel (or perhaps seen by him), they have no choice but to desire the angel's provision? It is an automatic response.

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