Reb Yakov Leib HaKohain, Founder & Spiritual Director
"Before the world was created, the Holy One, blessed be He, with His Name alone existed." (Pirke De Rabbi Eliezer 2B.ii)
A fundamental and revolutionary teaching of early Sabbatianism, at least for Jewish theology -- and later in that of Zevi's 18th century heir, Yakov Leib Frank -- was that the God of Creation and the God of Israel were "different" Gods -- or at least different emanations of God -- and that while the God of Creation was central to nominal Judaism, it was the God of Israel (or, as Frank would later call Him, "Big Brother") that was the God of the Faith of Sabbatai Zevi. Many scholars, including Gershom Scholem, have pointed out the obvious parallels between this conception and that of early Gnosticism; but it rests, I submit, on more than the possible influence of Gnostic thinking on Zevi and his successors, and is at the very heart of the Neo-Sabbatian doctrine of Tikkun HaPanim, or "Repairing the Face of God," as a careful reading of the opening passages of Genesis 1 will reveal.
There are two creation accounts in the Bible, the first is found in Genesis 1:1-31 and the second in Genesis 2:5-7. There are striking differences between them. For example, in the first we read:
"In the beginning Elohim created the heavens and the earth . . . " (Genesis 1:1-2)
Now, compare this early passage of Genesis with the later one, which states:
"At the time when Yahweh Elohim made earth and heaven . . . " (Genesis 2:5)
As I already pointed out, there are several significant differences between these two scriptures, and I propose to discuss them separately in what follows, with a view to better understanding Sabbatai Zevi's God of the Faith as compared to nominal Judaism's God of Creation.
To begin with, in the first scripture God is called merely "Elohim," but in the second He is called "Yahweh Elohim;" moreover, the first states that He "created the heavens and the earth," while the second reverses the order of this creation to say that He "made earth and heaven." Thus, not only the names of God differ between these two creation accounts -- the first omitting the sacred Yahweh which Oral Scripture tells us "alone existed with the Holy One, blessed be He, before the world was created" -- but the very order by which creation proceeds is reversed from one to the other.
Let's consider first the differences between the two names themselves and what they suggest about the God of the Faith and the God of Creation. The first God mentioned in the Bible, the one that creates "heaven and earth," is merely Elohim, a kind of vague generic term that has both singular and plural meanings in Hebrew. However, the second God is Yahweh Elohim. This clearly marks the second as He who "alone existed with His Name [i.e., Yahweh] before the world was created. (Pirke De Rabbi Eliezer 2B.ii) In other words, "Yahweh Elohim" existed prior to the creation of the world, but "Elohim" alone (lacking the sacred "Yahweh" and the qualities it implies) was the "God" (or at least the first emanation of God, or Keter in the Ten Sephiroth) by which the world -- up to but not including an ensouled mankind -- was created. (I will have more to say about the "un-ensouled" and "ensouled" Adams, created by "Elohim" and "Yahweh Elohim," respectively, later in this lecture.)
Moreover, the God of Creation, "Elohim," is further described as follows:
"In the beginning Elohim created the heavens and the earth . . . And there was darkness [Hebrew = Koshek] over the deep [water] and the Spirit of Elohim hovered over the water." (Genesis 1:1-2)
Thus, the "darkness" hovering "over the water," the aspect by which "heaven and earth were created," was Elohim itself -- an emanation of God that was lacking in the qualities of "light" inherent in Yahweh, that living divine personality, which "alone existed as the Holy One, blessed be He, before the world was created."
We also see this "Not-Yahweh" Elohim, this Dark God, creating Heaven first and then Earth (Gen. 1:1-2) -- thus providing a weak foundation on which the latter was to stand -- and further accounting for the cataclysmic Sheviret HaKelim, or "Shattering of the Sephirotic Vessels," described in Luria's Kabbalistic account of God's first attempt at creating the world and a "soul-less" Adam (Gen. 1:26). It was not until Yahweh God intervened and created earth first and then heaven (Gen. 2:5) that the world "stood firm" and an "en-souled" man, the second Adam, could be created (Gen. 2:7).
Thus, the God of Creation was the "Not-Yahweh" Elohim, the "Dark God" that "hovered over the chaos," who created the first unsuccessful versions of a foundationless world and a Soul-less man; but Sabbatai Zevi's God of the Faith -- the 'Big Brother" and "God of Israel" of his 18th century heir, Yakov Leib Frank -- was Yahweh Elohim, the pre-mundane "God of Light" who created a world with a "solid foundation" that could stand, and a mankind with a "Holy Spirit" that made him, unlike the first Adam, "a living being." (Gen. 2:7 vs. Gen. 1:26-28)
To summarize, both Sabbatai Zevi and his 18th century spiritual heir, Yakov Leib Frank, taught the radical notion (at least for Judaism and Kabbalah) that the "God of Israel" was somehow "different" than the "God of Creation." In the words of Scholem,
"The assertion that the 'God of [Sabbatai Zevi's] faith was emanated from a higher principle and that it was, therefore, a Second rather than a First Cause, is based on the 'heretical' assumption that the 'Cause of all Causes' has no religious significance." (Gershom Scholem, Sabbatai Sevi: The Mystical Messiah, Princeton University Press, pp. 912-913)
I propose to show, in this lecture, the Biblical support for such a radical assertion.
To begin with, Moses makes the curious declaration in Deuteronomy 10:17 that begins with the Hebrew words,
"Kiy YHVH 'eloheykhem hu' 'elohey ha-'elohim va-'adoney ha-'adonim."
which is always translated (incorrectly) to mean,
"For the Lord Your God is God of gods and Lord of lords."
However, a more accurate (or at least variant) translation would be:
"For your God, YHVH, is God of the Elohim."
Now, it is a curious fact of the Hebrew language that the word "Elohim" can mean either "God" or "Gods" -- that is, it can be read in both the singular and plural sense. Thus, we see that the word "Elohim" is used throughout the opening (Hebrew) passages of Genesis in which the creation is described up to and including the first of two Adams (Genesis 1:1-2.3).
For these reasons, it is equally correct to translate the following opening passages of Genesis to read:
It is extremely important to remember that TWO versions of Adam, and not ONE, were created in Genesis. These are as follows:
Thus, Sabbatai Zevi's "God of the Faith" can be seen as YHVH -- who created the second, "perfected" Adam -- and not the plural Elohim, who created the first "imperfect" man. Sabbatai's God, YHVH, "rules over" the "Elohim" (or gods) who created the universe and all that is in it. For this reason, He is, as Scholem says, "emanated from a Higher Principle" than the God(s) of creation. With this in mind, consider the following Scripture:
"On the journey [back to Egypt], when Moses had halted for the night, Yahweh came to meet him and tried to kill him. At once Zipporah [his wife], taking up a flint, cut off her son's foreskin and with it touched the Genitals of Moses. 'Truly you are a bridegroom of blood to me!' she said. And Yahweh let him live." (Exodus 4:24)
Why would Yahweh, who only hours before (Exodus 3:1-11) had commissioned Moses to be His "anointed one" (i.e., Messiah), later attempt to kill him? Or was it "Yahweh" who had spoken to Moses from the center of the burning bush, saying:
"I send you to Pharaoh to bring the sons of Israel, my people, out of Egypt . . .[Aaron the priest] will be your mouth [i.e., prophet] and you will be as the god inspiring him." (Exodus 4:16)
Was it not, actually, by the name Eheyeh ("I AM"), rather than "Yahweh," that God identified Himself to Moses at that moment:
"Then Moses said to God: 'I am to go, then, to the sons of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you.' But if they ask me what his name is, what am I to tell them?' And God said to Moses . . . . 'You shall say to the children of Israel, Eheyeh [i.e, I AM] has sent me to you'." (Exodus 3:13-14)
And if so, why is he called by one name when He commissions Moses to redeem the Children of Israel from their bondage, but by another when He enters his tent to kill him?
The answer, originally offered by Sabbatai Zevi and Jacob Frank, is that the God of Israel is different than the God of Creation -- and, furthermore, that this difference can be seen in the Tree of the Ten Sefirot wherein Sefirah Tiferet (also called Ze'ir Anpin, or the "Smaller Face"), according to Sabbatai and Frank, represents the God of Israel, while Sefirah Keter (also called Arikh Anpin, or the "Larger Face") represents the God of Creation -- the difference between them is that in Keter (the God of Creation) his One-ness is shattered into "10," but in Tiferet (the God of Israel) it is, as shown in the Sefirotic diagram itself, returned to wholeness:
That is, in order that "God shall be One, and his name One" (Zechariah 14:9), the reconstituted Community of Israel -- in which "Jacob" and "Esau" are finally joined in Seir, as they had promised to be (Genesis 33:12-17) -- must, through their joint theurgy and kavannah (intention), reunite the "Smaller" and "Larger" faces of God thereby re-establishing His divine Unity and, through it, His eternal dominion over all the earth.