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Shabbetai Donnolo, Sefer Hakhmoni, pp. 6-8

Jewish Mysticism
“The secret of the Lord is for those who fear Him; to them He makes known His covenant” (Ps. 25-14). It is written, “O Lord, there is none like You! You are great and Your name is great in power” (Jer. 10-6), and it is written, “Who can tell the mighty acts of the Lord” (Ps. 106-2). Who is capable of thinking the slightest bit about the great, mighty and awesome God, to comprehend His image (demuto), for even the beasts under the throne of glory and the seraphs above it, the ministering angels, the [angels called] ’er’ellim, and all the host of heaven cannot comprehend His image… Even the holy ones on earth, the prophets and seers with whom He has spoken did not comprehend or see His image as it is. Moses our master, who was the chief prophet and who spoke to Him mouth to mouth, requested to see the image of His face, but He did not heed him. As it is written, “Show me Your glory” (Exod. 33-18), and [God] responded to him, “You cannot see My face” (ibid., 20), and it says, “And the Lord said, ‘See there is a place near Me. Station yourself on the rock, and, as My glory passes by, etc.'” (ibid., 21)… From these verses we understand that Moses, may he rest in peace, requested from God only to see the image of His face as it is, but his prayer in this regard was not heard. Concerning that which the prophet Isaiah, may he rest in peace, said, “I beheld the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne [and the skirts of His robe filled the Temple] seraphs stood above Him etc. and one would call to the other etc.” (Isa. 6-1-3), even though it says “I beheld the Lord” he did not see the image of His face but he saw the throne. He did not see the glory of the Lord upon the throne but rather the skirts [of His robe] as the skirts of a coat. Thus we have learned that Moses saw the glory of His back standing and Isaiah saw in a vision His glory seated on a throne. From the vision of the throne and the seraphs standing above Him, he understood that [the throne] was that of God. He saw, however, the glory of His skirts which is the glory under His feet. When [the glory] was seen by Moses, Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel, [even though it is written, “And they saw the God of Israel], they saw only His glory which is under His feet by means of a sign and symbol (be-’ot we-siman), as it says, “And under His feet was the likeness of a pavement of sapphire” (Exod. 24-10). With respect to Ezekiel the prophet, even though he saw in his vision the beasts and the ophanim which were above the heads of the beasts… the image of God did not appear to him as it is, “for man may not see Him and live” (Exod. 33-20). [God] did not want to show him [the glory] except in the image of man, in an image which he was accustomed to seeing, so that he would not be frightened and startled from the appearance of His image, resulting in his sudden death. Thus [the glory] appeared to Adam, Cain, Abel, Enoch, Noah, the three Patriarchs, and to prophets and seers in the image of man… And to Daniel [the glory] appeared in the vision of the night in the image of man, as it is written, “As I looked on thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days was sitting etc. A river of fire etc.” (Dan. 7-9-10). From all these proofs we know in truth that there is no creature in heaven or earth who can contemplate in their mind the divine image (demut ha-’elohim).

Translated by Elliot Wolfson in Through a Speculum that Shines- Vision and Imagination in Medieval Jewish Mysticism, Princeton- Princeton University Press, 1994.

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