I have traveled through a long dark night of the soul. As I emerge from this sacred time of exploration and wonder, I am still unable to fully understand it, yet I can share that I feel as though I have traveled through the Divine Orchard that the Kabbalists speak of…
The following is my own mystical interpretation of the famous passage of the “Four Who Entered the Divine Orchard” from the Babylonian Talmud (Hagigah 14b):
Four seekers entered the Divine Orchard. The first seeker said to the others: “When you reach the stones of marble, do not speak the words: 'water, water'...for it is said: 'You that speaketh falsehood shall not be established before my eyes.'” The second seeker gazed and died. Of this seeker it is said: “Precious in the sight of the Divine is the transcendence of physical form.” The third seeker gazed and was stricken with Holy Madness. Of this seeker it is said: “Hast thou found the sweetness? Consume that which is sufficient, or be filled to overflowing.” And the fourth seeker cut down the shoots in renunciation. In the end, only the first seeker departed in peace.
- The first seeker sees the truth behind form, and leaves in peace.
- The second seeker gazes at the Divine and loses body, for one cannot gaze upon that which is formless without losing form.
- The third seeker gazes at the Divine and loses mind, for one cannot gaze upon that which is beyond thought without losing thought.
- The fourth seeker gazes at the Divine and loses heart, for one cannot gaze upon that which is beyond love and fear without losing all attachment.
During my journey into the orchard, I felt all four forms of seeking within me: At times I felt as though I was going to die, and at other times I felt as though I was transcending my constructs of the physical universe; At times I thought I was losing my mind, and at other times I felt a loosening of my mental constructs; At times I felt myself losing heart and faith, and at other times I felt a loosening of my emotional attachments; and throughout the process I felt a soft whispering presence holding me and showing me the way through the orchard’s maze of truth and illusion.
Louis Jacobs. Jewish Mystical Testimonies. New York: Schocken Books, 1997.
Gershom Scholem. Jewish Gnosticism, Merkavah Mysticism, and Talmudic Tradition. New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1960.
Isidore Epstein. The Soncino Press Babylonian Talmud: Ta’anith/Megillah/Hagigah. Brooklyn, NY: The Soncino Press, 2001.
*Originally published on KabbalahBlog hosted by Enlightenment.com