The Gates (from Openings)

by Zohar (Moses de Leon)

English version by Daniel Chanan Matt
Original Language Aramaic

He [Abraham] was sitting in the opening of the tent....
Sarah heard from the opening of the tent. (Genesis 18:1, 10)


Rabbi Judah opened
"'Her husband is known in the gates
when he sits among the elders of the land'
(Proverbs 31:23).

Come and see:
The Blessed Holy One has ascended in glory.
He is hidden, concealed, far beyond.
There is no one in the world, nor has there ever been,
who can understand His wisdom or withstand Him.
He is hidden, concealed, transcendent, beyond, beyond.

The beings up above and the creatures down below--
none of them can comprehend.
All they can say is:
"Blessed be the Presence of YHVH in His place'
(Ezekiel 3:12)
The ones below proclaim that He is above:
'His Presence is above the heavens'
(Psalms 113:4)
the ones above proclaim that He is below:
'Your Presence is over all the earth'
(Psalms 57:12).
Finally all of them, above and below, declare:
'Blessed be the Presence of YHVH wherever He is!'
For He is unknowable.
No one has ever been able to identify Him.
How, then, can you say:
'Her husband is known in the gates'?
Her husband is the Blessed Holy One!

Indeed, He is known in the gates.
He is known and grasped
to the degree that one opens the gates of imagination!
The capacity to connect with the spirit of wisdom,
to imagine in one's heart-mind--
this is how God becomes known.

Therefore 'Her husband is known in the gates,'
through the gates of imagination.
But that He be known as He really is?
No one has ever been able to attain such knowledge of Him."

Rabbi Shim'on said
"'Her husband is known in the gates.'
Who are these gates?
The ones addressed in the Psalm:
'O gates, lift up your heads!
Be lifted up, openings of eternity,
so the King of Glory may come!'
(Psalms 24:7)
Through these gates, these spheres on high,
the Blessed Holy One becomes known.
Were it not so, no one could commune with Him.

Come and see:
Neshamah of a human being is unknowable
except through limbs of the body,
subordinates of neshamah who carry out what she designs.
Thus she is known and unknown.

The Blessed Holy One too is known and unknown.
For He is Neshamah of neshamah, Pneuma of pneuma,
completely hidden away;
but through these gates, openings for neshumah,
the Blessed Holy One becomes known.

Come and see:
There is opening within opening,
level beyond level.
Through these the Glory of God becomes known.

'The opening of the tent' is the opening of Righteousness,
as the Psalmist says:
'Open for me the gates of righteousness...'
(Psalms 118:19).
This is the first opening to enter.
Through this opening, all other high openings come into view.
One who attains the clarity of this opening
discovers all the other openings,
for all of them abide here.

-- from Zohar: The Book of Enlightenment: (Classics of Western Spirituality), Translated by Daniel Chanan Matt

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

Passover starts this evening. Regardless of spiritual tradition, it's a good time of year to recognize slavery in its many different forms, both external and internal, and to remember the ways each of us conducts our own personal Exodus toward freedom. It's also worth recalling that to attain liberation, we must pass through gates...

This selection may seem a little disorienting at first, but there is much worthy of contemplation here. The "gates" referred to are the Sephiroth of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. They are the stations of divine manifestation, through which the Eternal becomes the manifest in the material world.

Come and see:
There is opening within opening,
level beyond level.
Through these the Glory of God becomes known.


Not only do these gates mark the path of divine manifestation, they are also the stations of personal realization. Each gate or Sephiroth can be understood as an aspect of the Divine that ultimately leads the mystic to the wholeness of the Divine.

'The opening of the tent' is the opening of Righteousness,
as the Psalmist says:
'Open for me the gates of righteousness...'
(Psalms 118:19).
This is the first opening to enter.
Through this opening, all other high openings come into view.
One who attains the clarity of this opening
discovers all the other openings,
for all of them abide here.


The "tent" here is the entire Tree of Life, and the "opening of the tent" is the first gate or Sephiroth encountered by the seeker: Malkuth, the Kingdom, the realm of physical manifestation in harmony with the Divine Plan. Here, it is rendered succinctly as "Righteousness." In other words, as we cultivate a sense of harmony and justice and purity within our hearts and our lives, we approach the first gate. And it is only through that gate that the subsequent gates of spiritual realization reveal themselves.

I'd also like to point out how much fun is found in the sense of confusion in the following lines:

The ones below proclaim that He is above:
'His Presence is above the heavens'
(Psalms 113:4)
the ones above proclaim that He is below:
'Your Presence is over all the earth'
(Psalms 57:12).
Finally all of them, above and below, declare:
'Blessed be the Presence of YHVH wherever He is!'


Have a beautiful day!



Recommended Books: Zohar (Moses de Leon)

Zohar: The Book of Enlightenment: (Classics of Western Spirituality) Zohar: Annotated & Explained The Zohar (Revised Edition, Volumes 1-23) Zohar: The Book of Splendor: Basic Readings from the Kabbalah The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain





The Gates (from