December 10, 2009


An excerpt from Shoshan Sodot (“The Rose of Mysteries”), p. 69b (Koretz ed.), written by Rabbi Moshe ben Yaakov of Kiev (1449-1518).

From Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, “Meditation and the Kabbalah” (Jason Aronson or Samuel Weiser editions), pp. 109-110. Although footnotes have been removed, several source references have been restored to the text.

Encountering One’s “Double”

“The power of the prophets to liken a form to its Creator” is a very great mystery . . . I found an ancient teaching that explains this, and I will write it down here . . . These are the author’s words:

The following was told to me by the enlightened sage, Rabbi Nathan, of blessed memory:

When an individual completely enters the mystery of prophecy, he suddenly sees his own image standing before him. He becomes totally unaware of his own essence, as if it were concealed from him. Then he sees his own image standing before him, speaking to him and telling him of the future. It is regarding this mystery that our sages say, “Great is the power of the prophets, since they liken a form to its Creator” (Bereshit Rabbah 27:1).

Rabbi (Abraham] ibn Ezra (1089-1164) likewise taught, “He who hears is a man, and he who speaks is a man” (Ibn Ezra on Daniel 10:21).

Regarding this, another sage writes:

Through letter combinations and meditation (hitbodedut), I had a number of experiences. One involved a light, that followed me wherever I went, as I discussed in Sha’arey Tzedek (“Gates of Righteousness”). However, I was never worthy of attaining a level where I could see my own image standing in front of me.

Still another sage writes:

I am aware how insignificant I am, and I realize that I am certainly not a prophet or a disciple of the prophets. I have neither attained Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), nor have I made use of a heavenly voice (Bat Kol). Of such things, I have not been worthy, for I have not divested myself of my “cloak” or “washed my feet” (see Recanati, beginning of parshat “Vayera”). But I call heaven and earth as my witnesses, that this account is true.

One day, I was sitting and writing mysteries in the manner of Truth. Suddenly, it was as if I had ceased to exist. I then saw my own image standing in front of me. As a result of this, I was forced to stop writing.

In his commentary on the Guide to the Perplexed (I:46), Rabbi Moshe of Narbonne (d. 1362) writes:

When the sages teach that the prophets “liken a form to its Creator,” they mean that they liken the form which is in the prophet’s own soul . . . to its Creator, that is, to God. It is thus written, “Over the form of the Throne there was a form like an image of a Man” (Ezekiel 1:26). These forms and images exist in the soul of the prophet.

This also happened to us when we were writing this book. Once, in the late afternoon, we were placing the vowel points on the Explicit Name. All at once, our eyes were confronted with visions, appearing like definite forms made of red fire. This occurred a number of times while we were writing this book.