51. "For I appear in the cloud upon the ark cover" (Vayikra 16:2). Rabbi Yehuda said: Fortunate are the righteous, whom the Holy One, blessed be He, delights to honor. We have learned about a king of flesh and blood, that if someone rides on his horse, he has committed a capital offense. However, the Holy One, blessed be He, placed Elijah on His own, as it is written, "And Elijah went up by a storm of wind into heaven" (II Melachim 2:11) AND IT IS WRITTEN, "HASHEM ANSWERED JOB OUT OF THE STORM" (IYOV 38:1). It is written: here "that he die not: for I appear in the cloud upon the ark cover." The Holy One, blessed be He, brought Moses into the cloud, as it says, "And Moses went into the midst of the cloud" (Shemot 24:18), meaning into the midst of the cloud, DENOTING MALCHUT. IT IS WITHIN THE SAME CLOUD, OF WHICH IT SAYS, "For I appear in the cloud upon the ark cover." This is the meaning of, "And Hashem will create upon every dwelling place of Mount Zion and upon its assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day" (Yeshayah 4:5), "For the cloud of Hashem was upon the tabernacle by day" (Shemot 40:38). ALL THESE CLOUDS HINT AT MALCHUT.
52. We have learned that it is written, "And Hashem descended in the cloud" (Shemot 34:5) and "I appear in the cloud upon the ark cover." We have learned that this is the place, NAMELY MALCHUT, where the Cherubs rested, WHO ARE METATRON AND SANDALPHON, as we learned. The Cherubs were in place by means of a miracle (Heb. nes), MEANING UPON MALCHUT THAT IS CALLED NES. We have learned that three times daily - THE SECRET MEANING OF THE THREE COLUMNS - a miracle (Heb. nes) occurred, MEANING THAT THE SHECHINAH REVEALED HERSELF in their wings. At the moment when the sanctity of the King revealed itself upon them, they raised their wings of their own accord, spread them, and covered over the ark cover. Afterwards, they closed their wings and held them against their bodies, as the verse says, "And the Cherubs shall stretch out their wings on high" (Shemot 25:20). The verse uses the term "stretch out," MEANING AT TIMES THEY WOULD SPREAD AND AT TIMES CLOSE. The verse does not read 'stretched out,' WHICH WOULD BE CORRECT WERE THEY PASSIVE; IN THE SAME WAY, 'overspreading' instead of 'were overspread.' This is WHAT THEY SAID, 'they were erect by means of a miracle and were rejoicing in the Shechinah.'
53. Rabbi Aba said: What does THE VERSE wish to say with the statement, "I appear in the cloud upon the ark cover," WHICH MEANS THE PRIEST SEES THE SHECHINAH? ALSO, in the verse, "Thus (with zot) shall Aaron come," WHICH IS THE SHECHINAH REFERRED TO AS ZOT. Behold, the priest did not see the Shechinah when he entered THE HOLY OF HOLIES. HE ANSWERS: The cloud, WHICH IS THE SHECHINAH, would come down. In coming down, it reached the covering of the ark, the wings of the Cherubs would stir and the Cherubs would strike with their wings and sing a song. FROM THIS, THE PRIEST WOULD REALIZE THAT THE SHECHINAH WAS NOW APPEARING. THIS IS WHAT IS MEANT BY, "I APPEAR IN THE CLOUD UPON THE ARK COVER."
54. HE QUESTIONS: What song did they sing? HE ANSWERS, "For Hashem is great, and greatly to be praised: He is to be feared above all Elohim" (Tehilim 96:4). THEY SAID this when they raised their wings, WHICH IS THE ASPECT OF THE RIGHT COLUMN, MEANING CHESED TERMED "GREAT." When they spread them, they would say, "For all the Elohim of the nations are idols: but Hashem made the heavens" (Ibid. 5). THIS IS THE ASPECT OF THE LEFT COLUMN THAT SUBDUES THE ENTIRE OTHER SIDE. When they covered the ark cover, they would say, "Before Hashem; for He comes to judge the earth: with righteousness shall He judge the world, and the people with equity" (Tehilim 98:9). THIS IS THE ASPECT OF THE CENTRAL COLUMN DENOTING TIFERET, REFERRED TO AS JUSTICE.
55. When the priest heard their voices in the Temple, he placed the incense in its right place and meditated on something, in order that the blessing should flow to all. The wings of the Cherubs were moving up and down, singing and covering the ark. Then they would raise them. This is the meaning of "overspreading." "Overspreading" is exact. Where do we derive that their voices were heard? NAMELY from the verse, "I heard the noise of their wings" (Yechezkel 1:24).
57. It is written, "Then he heard the voice speaking to him from off the covering that was upon the ark of Testimony, from between the two Cherubs: and it spoke to him" (Bemidbar 7:89). Rabbi Yitzchak said: From here, we learned that whenever there are not both male and female present, one is not worthy to behold the presence of the Shechinah. THEREFORE, HE HEARD THE VOICE SPEAKING ONLY FROM BETWEEN THE TWO CHERUBS. This is the intent of the verse, "The upright (Heb. yesharim) shall dwell in Your presence" (Tehilim 140:14), MEANING THE CHERUBS REFERRED TO AS MEISHARIM. We have learned that there is a verse, "Just and right is He" (Devarim 32:4), DENOTING male and female. "JUST" REFERS TO THE MALE, MEANING YESOD, AND "RIGHT" REFERS TO THE FEMALE, MEANING MALCHUT. Here also, the Cherubs are male and female, as it is written of them, "You have established equity (Heb. meisharim in the plural)" (Tehilim 99:4) AND ALSO "the people with equity (Heb. meisharim)," AS MENTIONED ABOVE. For this reason, "And their faces shall look one to another" (Shemot 25:20), THE SECRET OF FACE TO FACE UNION, as we have established.