And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee. At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.
Rabbi Abbahu said, ‘The blessed Holy One created and destroyed worlds before he created these, saying, “These please me. Those did not please me.” ’ If it be possible that God created and destroyed whole worlds before the heavens and earth that now exist – and he will make a new heavens and a new earth for those who love him now, for the sake of Jesus Christ – is it not possible a fortiori that he has created other mankinds before the Adamite, mankinds from whom Cain needed a mark of protection, mankinds whom God in his justice, not being bound to show mercy but to whom he will show mercy, utterly destroyed in Noah’s Flood?
For beyond (or, should we say, farther in than) the letter of Scripture – which is but the clothing, a true form but not the substance itself – is a world of truth, as Rabbi Simeon, though a Pharisee, rightly explained in the pages of the Zohar:
See how precisely balanced are the upper and the lower worlds. Israel here below is balanced by the angels on high, concerning whom it stands written: ‘who makest thy angels into winds’. For when the angels descend to earth they don earthly garments, else they could neither abide in the world, nor could it bear to have them. But if this is so with the angels, then how much more so it must be with the Torah: the Torah it was that created the angels and created all the worlds and through Torah are all sustained. The world could not endure Torah if she had not garbed herself in garments of this world.
Thus the tales related in the Torah are simply her outer garments, and woe to the man who regards that outer garb as the Torah itself, for such a man will be deprived of portion in the next world. Thus David said: ‘Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law,’ that is to say, the things that are underneath. See now. The most visible part of a man are the clothes that he has on, and they who lack understanding, when they look at the man, are apt not to see more in him than these clothes. In reality, however, it is the body of the man that constitutes the pride of his clothes, and his soul constitutes the pride of his body.
So it is with the Torah. Its narrations which relate to the things of the world constitute the garments which clothe the body of the Torah; and that body is composed of the Torah’s precepts, gufey-torah [bodies, major principles]. People without understanding see only the narrations, the garment; those somewhat more penetrating see also the body. But the truly wise, those who serve the most high King and stood on mount Sinai, pierce all the way through to the soul, to the true Torah which is the root principle of all. These same will in the future be vouchsafed to penetrate to the very soul of the soul of the Torah.
See now how it is like this in the highest world, with garment, body, soul, and super-soul. The outer garments are the heavens and all therein, the body is the Community of Israel and it is the recipient of the soul, that is ‘the Glory of Israel’; and the soul of the soul is the Ancient Holy One. All of these are conjoined one within the other.
Woe to the sinners who look upon the Torah as simply tales pertaining to things of the world, seeing thus only the outer garment. But the righteous whose gaze penetrates to the very Torah, happy are they. Just as wine must be in a jar to keep, so the Torah must be contained in an outer garment. That garment is made up of the tales and stories; but we, we are bound to penetrate beyond.
For to his Son the Everlasting says, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: they shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail. These garments are what St Paul in Galatians calls the ‘elements of the world’, under which we were in bondage, as children are to tutors and governors.
What Ecclesiasticus says is true, after the words of the Psalmist, who said, LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. For, following the Psalmist, he instructs the reader in the same principle:
My son, go on with thy business in meekness;
so shalt thou be beloved of him that is approved.
The greater thou art, the more humble thyself,
and thou shalt find favour before the Lord.
Many are in high place, and of renown:
but mysteries are revealed unto the meek.
For the power of the Lord is great,
and he is honoured of the lowly.
Seek not out things that are too hard for thee,
neither search the things that are above thy strength.
But what is commanded thee, think thereupon with reverence,
for it is not needful for thee to see with thine eyes the things that are in secret.
Be not curious in unnecessary matters:
for more things are shewed unto thee than men understand.
For many are deceived by their own vain opinion;
and an evil suspicion hath overthrown their judgment.
But there is nevertheless what we can see, and mysteries are indeed revealed to the meek, the little children, who receive what is given.
So it is when we consider the Nephilim and the worlds and mankinds God may have created and destroyed before the ones that now appear. Thus appear the reprobate in our memory, whom God was not bound to save, for this purpose: to cast in brighter light and to bring near to us in his light, the one who dwells in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see; even the everlasting Torah, the only-begotten Son Jesus Christ.