279. "You have seen what I did to Egypt and how I bore you on eagles' wings" (Shemot 19:4). What does "eagles' wings" mean? Rabbi Yehuda said that "eagles' wings" means Mercy, as it is written in the verse, "As an eagle stirs up her nest" (Devarim 32:11), MEANING THAT "AN EAGLE" SIGNIFIES MERCY. And this is the secret in Rabbi Shimon's words, "The way of the vultures in the air" (Mishlei 30:19). "In the air" means with Mercy, FOR ZEIR ANPIN IS CALLED 'HEAVEN' AND HAS MERCY, FOR CHESED, GVURAH AND TIFERET ARE JUDGMENT AND MERCY. As the eagle watches mercifully over its own young but is cruel toward others, so is the Holy One, blessed be He, merciful towards Yisrael but judges the heathen nations severely.
280. Rabbi Elazar was once going from Cappadocia to Lod accompanied by Rabbi Yosi and Rabbi Chiya. They had risen at sunrise and as the light appeared they started to walk. Rabbi Chiya said, I see the vision which is described in the verse, "And they four had the face of a lion, on the right side and they four had the face of an ox, on the left side, they four also had the face of an eagle" (Yechezkel 1:10), AND I WONDER, If the lion is on the right side and the ox is on the left one, where is the place of the eagle?
281. Rabbi Elazar replied, Its place is where Jacob is, MEANING THE CENTRAL COLUMN. The reason for this is that the eagle combines everything, BOTH MERCY AND JUDGMENT - Mercy to its own young and Judgment to the others. So the Holy One, blessed be He, THE SECRET OF THE CENTRAL COLUMN, led Yisrael with love and dealt sternly with others, as it is written, "And bore you on eagles' wings," and, "As an eagle stirs up her nest."
282. We can learn that an eagle signifies Mercy, for it is written, "The way of the vultures (lit. 'eagle') in the air (lit. 'heaven')," actually 'in heaven,' WHICH IS ZEIR ANPIN, THE PROPRIETOR OF MERCY. Therefore, the lion is on the right and the ox on the left, and the eagle is between them and combines both of them. "THE FACE OF a man" includes all of them and in it they are all comprised, FOR HE IS THE ASPECT OF MALCHUT WHICH RECEIVES FROM ALL OF THEM, as it is written, "Upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it" (Ibid. 26).