Jewish Mysticism
Rabbi Isaac and Rabbi Yehudah were sitting one night studying Torah. Rabbi Isaac said to Rabbi Yehudah, thus it is taught, that when the Holy One, blessed be He, created the world, He created the lower world corresponding to the upper world, and everything is this according to that, and His glory is above and below. Rabbi Yehudah said, thus it is indeed, and He created man over all, as it is written, “I have created the earth, and I have created man upon it” (Isaiah 45-12), “I have created the world” indeed, and for what reason [does it say] “I have created the world?” Because “I have created man upon it,” for he is the sustenance of the world, in order that everything can be in one perfection. He opened and said, “Thus says God the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who established the earth and that which comes forth from it, who gives soul to the people upon it, and spirit to those who walk upon it” (Isaiah 42-5). This passage is established, but “thus says God the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out,” this is the Holy One, blessed be He, above, above, for he creates the heavens and adorns them always at every instant. “Who established the earth and that which comes forth from it,” this is the holy land, the bundle of life. “Who gives soul to the people upon it,” Rabbi Isaac said, all is above, because from there issues forth the soul of life to this land. And the land takes the soul to give it to all, since that river that flows and goes forth gives and ascends souls to this land, and it gathers them and gives them to all. Come and see. When the Holy One, blessed be He, created Man, he gathered his dust from the four sides of the world, and made him in the place of the lower Temple, and He drew down upon him a living soul from the supernal Temple. And the soul encompasses three levels, and because of this the soul has three names in the manner of the upper mystery, breath, spirit, and soul. Breath, as it has already been established, is the lowest of all. Spirit is the sustenance that rules over breath, and it is the gradation above it, to be sustained above it as is appropriate. Soul is the sustenance that is above all, and it rules over every supernal holy gradation. These three gradations are encompassed within the human beings, within those who merit the worship of their master. In the beginning he has breath, and this is a holy adornment to be adorned within a human being. Once a human being comes to be adorned with this gradation, he is prepared to be crowned with the spirit, which is the holy gradation that dwells upon breath, to crown a human being who merits this. Once he ascends to breath and spirit, and he ascends and is adorned in the worship of his master as is appropriate, then the soul dwells upon him, a holy supernal gradation that rules over all, in order to be crowned in the supernal holy gradation. Thus, he is completed of all, complete in all sides, meriting the world to come, and he is the merciful one of the Holy One, blessed be He, as it is said, “That I [God] may bequeath substance [yeish] to those who love Me” (Prov., 8-21). Who are “those who love Me?” These are those who have a holy soul within them. Rabbi Yehudah said, if this is so, then why is it written, “all that had the soul of living spirit in its nostrils, [of all that lived upon dry land, died]?” (Gen., 7-22) He said to him, this is indeed the case, for there did not remain among those [that died in the flood] any that had a holy soul, like Enoch or Jared, or any of the righteous ones, to protect the world, and [since they were no longer alive at the time of the flood] the world was not saved for their sake. Thus it is written, “all that had the soul of living spirit in its nostrils, of all that lived upon dry land, died” (Gen., 7-22). They had already died and ascended from the world, and there did not remain any of them to protect the world at that time. Come and see. All of these gradations are one above the other, breath, spirit and soul, gradation above gradation. Breath comes first, and it is the lowest level, as has been said. Spirit comes next and it dwells upon breath and is sustained upon it. Soul is the gradation that ascends over all, as it is established. Breath, this is the breath of David, and this is that which is sustained from the breath that it receives from the river that flows continuously. Spirit, this is the spirit that dwells upon the Breath, and there is no sustenance for the Breath other than the spirit, and this is the spirit that dwells between fire and water, and from this it sustains the breath. Spirit subsists by the sustenance of another supernal gradation called soul, and from there come forth breath and spirit. From there the spirit is nourished, and when it [the soul] takes the spirit, it also therefore takes the breath, and thus All is one, and they draw near one anther, the breath draws close to the spirit, and the spirit draws close to the soul, and all is one. Come and see. “And then Yehudah drew near to him [Jacob]…” (Gen. 40-18). This is the drawing near of one world to another, in order to unite this with that, so that everything will be one. Since Judah is a king and Joseph is a king, they drew near one another and united with one another.

Translated by Hartley Lachter