As Rabbi Simeon concluded his remarks, Rabbi Eleazar, his son, spake and said: My father! I along with other students were one day discussing in the college a remarkable saying of Rabbi Akiba to his novitiates, viz., "When you come to places paved with pure white marble glittering in the sunlight, you should not say here is water, for then ye will expose yourselves to the danger expressed in the words, 'He that speaketh lies shall not tarry in my sight'" (Ps. ci. 7).
Suddenly there appeared in our midst an aged and venerable looking man who said unto us: "What may be the subject of your discussion." Having informed him thereof, he said: "Truly it was a most dark and abstruse saying and had been a subject of discussion in the celestial college. In order that you may grasp and comprehend its latent meaning, I have come hither in order to give you an explanation which has not heretofore been granted or given to any man of this generation. Stones of white and glittering marble symbolize the pure waters that spring forth and take their origin from the fountain. Aleph (A) denotes the beginning and end or sum total of created life. The letter vav, separating the higher from the lower yod, symbolizes the tree of life, the fruit of which gives immortality. The two yods have the same meaning as in the word vayitzer (and
he created) denoting the two appearances of the Divine Presence26b-27a under the form of the higher and lower sephiroth called hochma (wisdom) and symbolized by the two yods or I's. This hochma is found just below the sephiroth kether (crown) and denotes the beginning and end of all things. The two yods also symbolize the two eyes of these sephiroth from which fell two tears unto the great abyss of primal matter. Why did they fall? Because of the two tables of the law which Moses brought down from on high, which the children of Israel were unable to appreciate to their advantage. They were therefore broken and destroyed. The same cause occasioned the destruction of the first and second temples, for the vav had taken flight and disappeared. Other tables of the law were then given with affirmative and negative precepts, rewards and penalties corresponding to the sephiroth on the right and left sides of the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil, from which the law as now promulgated, came forth. The sephiroth on the right side symbolize life; those on the left, death.
This then was why Rabbi Akiba said to his students: "When ye behold pavements of pure white marble, ye shall not say they are water, or to be more explicit, do not confound together the law of the lower nature (the flesh) with that of the higher (spirit), for the one inflicts death, the other gives life. Do not fall into the error of imagining that they are one and the same, lest convicted of inexactitude, ye come under the category of those mentioned in Scripture. "He that speaketh lies shall not tarry in my sight" (Ps. ci. 7). The difference between the two sets of tables of the law was this; the first that was broken and destroyed proceeded from the tree of life, the other from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and corresponded, as we have stated, to the right and left sides of the sephirotic tree, and this is why it is said, "A wise man's heart is on the right hand, but a fool's on the left hand" (Eccles. x. 2).
At the conclusion of these words we all crowded round the venerable stranger to embrace him, but he suddenly vanished out of sight and we saw him no more. Resuming his discourse Rabbi Simeon spake and said:
"There is yet another exposition of the words 'And a river went out of Eden.' This Edenic river symbolized the tree of life in the spiritual world; that stands fair and beautiful amidst all
that is pure and holy, as it is written, 'Evil shall not dwell with thee' (Ps. v. 4); 'went out of Eden,' denotes Enoch or Metatron the great angel of the Divine Presence and who came from the higher Eden of the Holy One (which is never infested with inferior orders of angelic beings) to take charge of the lower or earthly Eden and protect it from the assaults and ingress of demons. It was the garden into which Ben Azar, Ben Zoma and Elisha, found an entrance; and from the tree of good and evil planted in it came forth the law inscribed on the two tables of stone containing on one side positive precepts and on the other negative commandments, respecting what ought to be done and what left undone, what is pure and lawful and what is impure and unlawful."
As Rabbi Simeon ceased speaking, there rose up in the midst of his audience an aged stranger grave and venerable in appearance and aspect and exclaimed:
"Rabbi! Rabbi! what thou hast just spoken is true.27a The tree of good and evil is not the tree of life. The esoteric doctrine of the two yods in the word vayitzer is this: They denote and symbolize two separate creations, one good, the other evil; one of life, the other of death; of things commanded and things forbidden, and are alluded to in the words, "And the Lord God formed the man out of dust from the earth and breathed into his nostrils or soul the breath of life," the divine Shekina. Man is a threefold product of life (nephesh), spirit (rauch), and soul (neschamah), by the blending and union of which he became a living spirit, a manifestation of the Divine."
Having uttered these words, the unknown stranger suddenly vanished out of sight, leaving the students lost in wonder and amazed. Then spake Rabbi Simeon and said:
"We have been honored with the presence in our midst of a great adept, and what he has spoken is in strict conformity with the words and teaching of Scripture."