Keroubim, the Gatekeepers


« They may not expound upon the subject of forbidden relations in the presence of three. Nor the work of creation in the presence of two. Nor [the work of] the chariot in the presence of one, unless he is a sage and understands of his own knowledge. Whoever speculates upon four things, it would have been better had he not come into the world: what is above, what is beneath, what came before, and what came after. And whoever takes no thought for the honor of his creator, it would have been better had he not come into the world. »

Talmud Bavli Haguiga 2 a

Keroubim, the next frontier

Jewish mysticism focuses on two fundamental mysteries about Supreme Being :
– “MaASsE BeReChIT” (“Made of Creation” « ) : Creation of the world. Eretz Israël. Unity (e’had)
– “MaASsE MeRKaBa” (“Made of the Chariot”) : Galout. Diaspora, scattering.
The root R Kh B giving the idea of ​​riding a mount, the « merkaba » is, literally, a team. The celestial chariot is described in the firts chapter of The Ezekiel book.
1 Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the river Chebar that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.
ד  וָאֵרֶא וְהִנֵּה רוּחַ סְעָרָה בָּאָה מִן-הַצָּפוֹן, עָנָן גָּדוֹל וְאֵשׁ מִתְלַקַּחַת, וְנֹגַהּ לוֹ, סָבִיב; וּמִתּוֹכָהּ–כְּעֵין הַחַשְׁמַל, מִתּוֹךְ הָאֵשׁ.
4 And I looked, and, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, a great cloud, with a fire flashing up, so that a brightness was round about it; and out of the midst thereof as the colour of electrum, out of the midst of the fire.
ה  וּמִתּוֹכָהּ–דְּמוּת, אַרְבַּע חַיּוֹת; וְזֶה, מַרְאֵיהֶן–דְּמוּת אָדָם, לָהֵנָּה.
5 And out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had the likeness of a man.
ו  וְאַרְבָּעָה פָנִים, לְאֶחָת; וְאַרְבַּע כְּנָפַיִם, לְאַחַת לָהֶם.
6 And every one had four faces, and every one of them had four wings.
ז  וְרַגְלֵיהֶם, רֶגֶל יְשָׁרָה; וְכַף רַגְלֵיהֶם, כְּכַף רֶגֶל עֵגֶל, וְנֹצְצִים, כְּעֵין נְחֹשֶׁת קָלָל.
7 And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf’s foot; and they sparkled like the colour of burnished brass.
ח  וידו (וִידֵי) אָדָם, מִתַּחַת כַּנְפֵיהֶם, עַל, אַרְבַּעַת רִבְעֵיהֶם; וּפְנֵיהֶם וְכַנְפֵיהֶם, לְאַרְבַּעְתָּם.
8 And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and as for the faces and wings of them four,
ט  חֹבְרֹת אִשָּׁה אֶל-אֲחוֹתָהּ, כַּנְפֵיהֶם:  לֹא-יִסַּבּוּ בְלֶכְתָּן, אִישׁ אֶל-עֵבֶר פָּנָיו יֵלֵכוּ.
9 their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward.
י  וּדְמוּת פְּנֵיהֶם, פְּנֵי אָדָם, וּפְנֵי אַרְיֵה אֶל-הַיָּמִין לְאַרְבַּעְתָּם, וּפְנֵי-שׁוֹר מֵהַשְּׂמֹאול לְאַרְבַּעְתָּן; וּפְנֵי-נֶשֶׁר, לְאַרְבַּעְתָּן.
10 As for the likeness of their faces, they had the face of a man; and they four had the face of a lion on the right side; and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four had also the face of an eagle
א  וַיְהִי בִּשְׁלֹשִׁים שָׁנָה, בָּרְבִיעִי בַּחֲמִשָּׁה לַחֹדֶשׁ, וַאֲנִי בְתוֹךְ-הַגּוֹלָה, עַל-נְהַר-כְּבָר; נִפְתְּחוּ, הַשָּׁמַיִם, וָאֶרְאֶה, מַרְאוֹת אֱלֹהִים.
Ezechiel, 1. 4-10

Genesis doesn’t describe the begining of the time, ‘big bang’ or everything like that but the human soul and transmission. “This is the book of the generations of Adam” (Gn 5, 1)

But jewish mystic is not a knowledge about G.od but about Humanity.

The keroubim are at the doors of the gan eden (Genesis, Bereshit) :

כד  וַיְגָרֶשׁ, אֶת-הָאָדָם; וַיַּשְׁכֵּן מִקֶּדֶם לְגַן-עֵדֶן אֶת-הַכְּרֻבִים, וְאֵת לַהַט הַחֶרֶב הַמִּתְהַפֶּכֶת, לִשְׁמֹר, אֶת-דֶּרֶךְ עֵץ הַחַיִּים.  {ס}« So He drove out the man; and He placed at the east of the garden of Eden the Kerubim, and the flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way to the tree of life. » (Gn 3, 24) 

… and ant the frontiers of Babylone (Ezechiel 1, ).

 Isaiah sees the Lord enthroned among the seraphim (Isa 6:1–2), Ezekiel is “ among the captives by the river Chebar that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of G.od” (Ez 1, 1). Chebar as Chrubim is the next frontier.

Keroubim defend the fence between secular and saint spaces, khol and kadosh, “leavdil ben kodesh lekhol” (Havdalah- Prayer, separation of shabbat and secular times)

Jewish mystic is not a knowledge about G.od but about Humanity

What is the sense of these gatekeepers of gan eden frontier and galout frontier?

My Rav ‘Haïm Harboun teached me that about Maasse Bereshit and Merkaba:

 » Maasse Bereshit symbolise erets Israel, the land of Israel, gan eden, the Masse Merkaba is the Jew in galout (dispersion, exile, diaspora, fragmentation).

In the land of Israel the Jew live under the wings of Providence, he is protected, he is built in his identity, he is strengthened by the Berakha (blessing). He is e’had “onement” (CF Barnett Newman). But when the Jew leaves in galout, he loses his identity, he is dispersed, fragmented, he suffers.

The word Galout tells us the Maharal is made up of the root: guimel, lamed, hey, which gives the verb galei: « to discover » (ani megalei: « I discover »). »The galout eats the Jews » he says.

The Jew in the diaspora « discovers » his true character, he knows himself. says the Talmudic proverb. In galout the Jew sees his convictions are solid. In exile the Jewish people lose their interiority, but they improve no such thing as right and wrong of which they had hitherto ignored.

Whoever has not gone through galout has never suffered, he cannot understand someone who is suffering. « 

We are at the same time crumbling psyches, dispersed, incapable of collecting and welcoming, physically in galout, in the diaspora, dispersed in the world of duplicity. Mental fracture, social fracture, spiritual fracture therefore. But we have within us at the same time the image of God, a principle of Unity which calls us to inner unity.

The two words galout (exile) and guéoula (redemption) differ only by a letter tells us the Maharal of Prague. They both contain the letters guimel and lamed, but galout contains the letter hey. Of value 4 as the four dimensions of the universe. The word guéoula contains the letters guimel – aleph – lamed. The letter aleph being the first letter, that of interiority, of the return to unity. Israel is the aleph of nations that will restore their interiority, connect them.

Exile and Redemption are two sides of the same ontological reality in the human soul. Without exile, Israel could not spread among the nations to accomplish its mission and at the same time this exile demands its teshuvah, its « return » to his land which is nothing other than his gan eden.

The exile of gan Eden, the exile of Israel from his land makes him « discover » his deep self, exposes him to violence, his own violence now coldly readable, fratricidal.

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