Rabbi Azriel of Gerona's Text

QUESTION: If the inquirer persists and asks: What are their names, their order, and their rank?

ANSWER: The names of the powers are as follows: The first is called Elevated Height (ram ma'alah), for it is elevated above the probing of an investigator. The second is called Wisdom (hokmah), for it is the beginning of conceptualization. The third is called Understanding (binah). Up to this point is the World of Intelligence ('olam ha-sekhel). The fourth is called Loving Kindness (hesed). The fifth is called Fear (pahad). The sixth is called Beauty (tiferet). Up to this point is the World of the Soul ('olam ha-nefesh). The seventh is called Victory (nezah). The eighth is called Majesty (hod). The ninth is called the Righteous One, Foundation of the World (saddiq yesod 'olam). The tenth is called Justice (sedeq). Up to this point is the World of the Body ('olam ha-guf).

Following is the order of their activity: The first is the Divine Power. The second is for Angelic Power. The third is for Prophetic Power. The fourth extends Loving Kindness to the heights. The fifth passes Judgment with the Fear of His Strength. The sixth has compassion in fear upon the lower worlds. The seventh Nurtures and Strengthens the vegetative soul. The eighth Weakens and Infirms it. The ninth draws together all their powers, sometimes for one purpose, sometimes for another. The tenth is the Lower Attribute of Severity. It is composed of the power of all the others to judge the lower worlds [i.e., called Asiyah]. The energy of the human soul is drawn from them and their powers in the following way: Elevated Heights exists as the power of that soul which is called "only one" (yehidah). Wisdom exists in the soul as the animative soul. Understanding exists in the power of spirit. Fear in the power called 'animus,' or neshama. Beauty in the power of the blood. Majesty in the flower of flesh. Foundation of the World in the power of sinew. Justice in the power of the skin.

And their placement above is as follows: Elevated Height encompasses and encircles Wisdom and Understanding which, in turn, surround all that is beneath them. Loving Kindness is drawn to Eternity -- which is on the right side. Fear is drawn to Majesty -- which are in the middle. Justice is opposite them. (Translated by Prof. Ronald C. Kiener in The Early Kabbalah, Paulist Press, 1986, pp. 94-95)

Reb Yakov Leib's Commentary

To begin with, notice that R. Azriel identifies the Sefirot as ten "powers" (sometimes with different names than we normally associate them with) which, in turn, are divided into three "worlds." These Ten Powers and the Three Worlds into which they fall are as follows:

I. WORLD OF INTELLIGENCE (a.k.a., Atziluth, or "Supernal Realm")

  • First Sefirah: "Elevated Height" (Ram Ma'alah) = "Crown" (Keter)
  • Second Sefirah: "Wisdom" (Hokmah)
  • Third Sefirah: "Understanding" (Binah)

II. WORLD OF THE SOUL (a.k.a., Beriah, or "Realm of Re-making")

  • Fourth Sefirah: "Loving Kindness" (Hesed)
  • Fifth Sefirah: "Fear" (Pahad) = "Judgment" (Gevurah)
  • Sixth Sefirah: "Beauty" (Tiferet)

III. WORLD OF THE BODY (a.k.a., Yetzirah, or "Realm of Formation")

  • Seventh Sefirah: "Victory" (Nezah)
  • Eighth Sefirah: "Majesty" (Hod)
  • Ninth Sefirah: "Righteous One, Foundation of the World" (Yesod)
  • Tenth Sefirah: "Justice" (sedeq) = "World" (Malkut)

Now, notice here that the Sefiroth of the Right Column, as named by R. Azriel -- Hokmah ("Wisdom"), Chesed ("Loving Kindness") and Nezah ("Victory") -- are all positive, while those of the Left Column, again as he identifies them -- Binah ("Understanding"), Pahad ("Fear") and Hod ("Majesty" or, as he also calls it, "that which weakens and infirms the soul") -- are primarily negative.

Thus, we see why the Left-Hand Column of the Ten Sefirot is called "The Palace of Samael" (i.e., Satan) by another 13th century Kabbalist, R. Isaac ben Yakov Ha-Kohain, in his Treatise on the Left Emanation (which I discuss in greater detail in my lecture, Commentary on the 13th Century "Treatise on the Left Emanation" also translated by Prof. Kiener), or the Sitrah Achrah ("Other Side") of which Scholem writes:

"The demonic forces manifest themselves in Samael and his hosts; they are the 'serpents' dwelling in the 'hole of the great abyss.' In the context of this doctrine, the Zoharic designation of the sphere of evil as the 'other side' takes on a startlingly novel meaning. It refers to the 'other side' of En Sof itself -- that is, to that half of [God] which resists the process of differentiation and organization, and which, by its very resistance to the dramatic process of creation, becomes actually Satanic." -- Prof. Gershom Scholem (Sabbatai Sevi: The Mystical Messiah, Princeton University Press, 1973, pp. 301-302)

Quite literally, then, this Left-Hand Column of the Ten Sefirot -- this "Palace of Samael" -- is not only the "other side" of the Right-Hand Column, but also of God himself. This is what Jung alludes to as the enantiodromia in the personality of God when he writes:

"[Job] clearly sees that God is at odds with himself -- so totally at odds that he, Job, is quite certain of finding in God a helper and an 'advocate' against God [himself.] As certain as he is of the evil in Yahweh, he is equally certain of the Good." (C. G. Jung, Answer to Job, par. 567)

So God is both Adversary and Advocate to man, the Left- and Right-Hand Columns of the Ten Sefirot, respectively. Moreover, we can see from R. Azriel's classifications, that it is in the "middle" world of the Ten Sefiroth -- what he calls the "World of the Soul" -- that the conflict between God's "good" and "evil" sides begins to take form with the battle between the fourth and fifth Sefirot, Hesed ("Loving Kindness") vs. Pachad/Gevurah ("Fear/Stern Judgment"), and the closer the Sefirot come to mankind (Sefirah Malkut) the more intense this battle becomes until finally, in the lower World of the Body, the right side "Nurtures and Strengthens the....soul" while the left side "weakens and infirms it." For this reason, the Zohar concludes, "Nothing is revealed while the person is still under the spell of the body." (Zohar 1:183a-b)

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