Shemot: Chapter 28

"Make haste, my beloved"


When Rabbi Chiya the Great goes to visit Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai to learn from the masters of the Mishnah, he sees a curtain of fire behind which Rabbi Shimon and his students converse. Deciding to listen to the conversation from outside of the house, he hears an explanation of the title verse. According to the masters, we learn that this verse signifies the longing of the children of Yisrael for God, as they implore Him not distance Himself from them without looking back.

Rabbi Shimon then hears Rabbi Chiya weeping outside of the house and tells his students that the Shechinah is with him. Knowing that the Shechinah will protect him from being burned by the fiery curtain, Rabbi Elazar is about to go and bring him in when he hears a voice that stops him. Rabbi Chiya then quotes the title verse and the curtain parts, a sign granting Rabbi Chiya permission to enter. Rabbi Shimon then stands up and the fire moves from the place where he stands to Rabbi Chiya, causing him to become mute. Rabbi Chiya enters with his eyes lowered and is unable to speak until Rabbi Elazar passes his hand over Rabbi Chiya's mouth. Rabbi Chiya then expounds upon his newfound insight: "It is good to die in the good golden fire that is burning." This is the place of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. From here, sparks fly on all sides and ascend to the 370 Chariots, each of which then separates into thousands until it reaches the Ancient of Days, who sits on a throne. The throne trembles, and this trembling penetrates to 260 worlds until it reaches the righteous in Eden and is heard throughout all the Firmaments. When Rabbi Shimon expounds on the Torah, all the celestial beings listen to his voice in silence.

After he concludes, all rejoice and the souls and angels come to kneel before God, raising up the secrets of the spices that are in Eden to the Ancient of Days. Rabbi Shimon then explains that six levels of Holiness (Sfirot) descended with Jacob into Egypt, and corresponding to these are the six levels of Yisrael and the six steps to the supernal throne. Each of the aforementioned six are equal to ten, and so there are sixty in all, corresponding to the sixty mighty men that surround the Shechinah. When Rabbi Chiya points out that there are seven Sfirot, Rabbi Shimon explains that the level of Malchut is not counted because it is not self-illuminating.


The Zohar speaks of a "fiery curtain" that separates Rabbi Chiya from Rabbi Shimon and his companions. This curtain refers to the concealment of the supernal Light from our own eyes. The curtain's existence is the cause of darkness in our world.

Rav Ashlag's profound commentary explains that our world generates no Light of its own. Rather, the Light that animates our existence radiates from six candles. These six candles are the six dimensions that are enfolded into one, known collectively as Zeir Anpin. The curtain separates these six dimensions from our dimension.

The notion of multiple dimensions was unimaginable among the scientific and lay community during the time of Rabbi Shimon. Yet, today, physics concurs with Kabbalah that indeed, the universe consists of ten dimensions and that six of them curled up into one at the moment of physical creation. This realm of the six is the source of all our joy. It is where wisdom, love, happiness, and all information dwell. When we make contact with this realm, at will or inadvertently, Light flows to our soul, resulting in happiness, joy, awareness, discovery, and enlightenment.

The ultimate purpose of existence is to remove this curtain gradually through spiritual elevation, so that infinite Light and joy may shine upon the world. But during the course of a lifetime, a man often falls to great depths of darkness; there are times when his suffering seems unbearable, and the hurt feels unendurable. However, the Light of the Creator incandesces with super-radiance, without end. The souls of humanity requested that this awesome Light be hidden by the curtain until we, by our own hand, reveal its full splendor by means of climbing the spiritual ladder. The rungs on this ladder are known as the Fifty Gates of Binah.

Prior to the worldwide dissemination of the Zohar, which began in the 20th century, it could take numerous lifetimes for a soul to reach the highest rung on the ladder. Fortunately, our meditation upon this sacred Book of Splendor now elevates us to the fiftieth gate. The Light of Binah floods our darkness with iridescent streams of Celestial Light that soothe our pain and heal humanity to the point of perfection. This is attainable upon the greatness and prominence of the soul of Rabbi Shimon, the author of the Zohar.

The actual words that speak of this saintly sage's eminence imbue our own souls with greatness.