1. "And these are the names of the children of Israel who came into Egypt with Jacob, every man came with his household" (Shemot 1:1). "And they who are wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever" (Daniel 12:3). "And they who are wise," are those who observe the secret of wisdom; "shall shine," means they illuminate and sparkle with the shine of supernal Chochmah; and "as the brightness," MEANS the brightness and sparkle of the river that emanates from Eden. This is the concealed secret that is called 'firmament'" for in it are located the stars and the constellations, the sun, WHICH IS THE ZEIR ANPIN, and moon, WHICH IS THE NUKVA, and all the candles that give light, WHICH ARE ALL THE LIGHTS THAT ARE IN THE WORLDS BRIYAH, YETZIRAH AND ASIYAH.
2. The brightness of this firmament illuminates the garden, WHICH IS MALCHUT, and the Tree of Life, WHICH IS TIFERET, stands in the center of the garden - THAT IS, IN THE CENTRAL COLUMN. Its branches, ITS SFIROT, cover all forms, NEFASHOT, trees, RUCHOT, and spices, NESHAMOT, in the garden that are in fitted vessels, MEANING THEY HAVE THREE COLUMNS, RIGHT, LEFT AND CENTRAL. And all the wild animals, WHO ARE THE EXTERNAL ANGELS, find shelter in its shadow. And all the birds of the sky, THE INTERNAL ANGELS, sit under its branches.
3. The splendor of the fruits of the tree, WHICH ARE THE SOULS THAT ARE BORN FROM IT, gives life to all. It exists forever. The Other Side OF IMPURITY does not dwell in it, MEANING THAT THE OTHER SIDE HAS NO NOURISHMENT FROM THE TREE OF LIFE, WHICH IS ZEIR ANPIN IN GREATNESS. Only the side of holiness is nourished. Fortunate are those who taste from it, for they live eternally, AS IS WRITTEN, "AND HE WILL TAKE ALSO FROM THE TREE OF LIFE AND EAT AND WILL LIVE FOREVER" (BERESHEET 3:22). They are called "they who are wise" and merit life in this world and in the World to Come.
4. The splendor of this tree, WHICH IS ZEIR ANPIN, rises higher and higher. WHEN RISING it is a distance of 500 parasangs. WHEN RISING HIGHER, its spread is 600,000 parasangs. In this tree, there is one radiation, WHICH IS MALCHUT, in which body, all the colors - WHITE, RED AND GREEN, WHICH ARE THE SECRET OF THE LIGHTS OF CHESED, GVURAH AND TIFERET - exist. These colors rise IN OR YASHAR ('DIRECT LIGHT') and descend IN OR CHOZER ('RETURNING LIGHT'), and do not settle anywhere except in this tree BECAUSE IT IS THE SECRET OF THE CENTRAL COLUMN.
5. When THE LIGHTS emanate from it, FROM THE TREE, to appear in the glow that does not illuminate, THESE LIGHTS sometimes settle and SOMETIMES do not settle in it; they sometimes exist and sometimes do not exist, because they settle in no other place EXCEPT THIS TREE. From this tree emanated twelve tribes whose boundaries are therein contained. They descended in this splendor that does not illuminate, into the exile of Egypt with many supernal camps. This is the meaning of, "And these are the names of the children of Israel..."
6. Rabbi Shimon opened the discussion saying: "The word of Hashem was (Heb. hayoh hayah)..." (Yechezkel 1:1). HE ASKS, Why is the word hayah repeated twice? We should further ask why Ezekiel revealed all that he saw if he was a faithful prophet. Should one whom the King brought into His sanctuary reveal what he saw? HE ANSWERS, Certainly Ezekiel was a faithful prophet, and all that he saw was by Faith, and whatever he revealed was with the permission of the Holy One, blessed be He, and all was as it should have been.
7. Rabbi Shimon said, Even though pain comes to him temporarily, someone who is accustomed to suffer pain bears his yoke and does not worry. But when pain comes to one who has spent all his days in pleasures and luxuries and is not accustomed to pain, this is complete pain and deserves weeping.
8. Yisrael was accustomed to pain when descending into Egypt, for all the days of that righteous man, their father, were spent in pain. Therefore, they endured the exile properly AND DID NOT WORRY GREATLY. But the exile of Babylon was in complete pain; it was a pain for which both those above and below wept.
9. Those above wept, as it is written, "Behold, the mighty ones shall cry outside" (Yeshayah 33:7). Those below cried, as it is written, "By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down..." (Tehilim 137:1). They all wept over the exile of Babylon. Why? Because previously they had the luxuries of kings, as is written, "The precious sons of Zion..." (Eichah 4:2).
10. As we learned, Rabbi Yitzchak said, What is meant by the verse, "On the mountains I will take up a weeping and wailing" (Yirmeyah 9:9)? The mountains that are referred to are the loftiest in the world. And who are these lofty mountains? They are "the precious sons of Zion comparable to fine gold." And now they are descending into exile with grindstones on their necks and their hands tied behind. And when they arrived in the exile of Babylon, they thought that they would never have support because the Holy One, blessed be He, had forsaken them and would no longer watch over them.