Posted by: admiralfrum | November 17, 2009

Vision of Gan Eden – R’ Chaim Vital

I mentioned Sefer HaChezyonos earlier, so here I include a little translation of one of the chapters there (2nd Chelek, 5th Os). Hopefully you will see why it made Lazar laugh. When I started this I wasn’t aware that it had already been translated by Paulist press. I had considered translating it for an independent study credit next semester (that would have been fun). It’s a little bit silly that the only translation was done by the Catholics, but I guess that’s how it goes.

The year 1586, Sabbath eve of the 8th of Teves. I said kiddush and sat at the table to eat, and my eyes were flowing with tears. I sighed and groaned because on the 10th of Cheshvan that passed I married my wife Chana and they bound me with witchcraft. And I said to Hashem Yisborach: “Behold, through a shailas chalom I returned her as mentioned above, and how can such a great suffering occur to me, particularly that I had the sin of keri levatola when I checked myself with her”.

And I also cried over the great bittul of not learning torah for those two years, as I have written in the pamphlet “About my soul” (printed in this volume). And from my great worries I did not eat at all, and I lay on my bed on my face crying, until I fell asleep from great weeping.

I dreamed an incredible dream, and saw myself sitting in the house of Rabbi Shem Tov Halevi za”l(the Raza), davening mincha, which is called an eis ratzon, on shabbos afternoon. After the davening an elderly man with the appearance of Rabbi Chaim Halevi Ashkenazi za”l [the Ari] stood before me and called me by name. He said “You Rabbi Chaim – do you want to go out to the fields with me to escort away the shabbos queen, as is your custom to greet her when she comes in, and I will show you incredible things?”. And I said “Here I am”. Thus we went and walked to the wall of the ancient tower at the west side of Tzfas, next to the “Chan”, where the doorway used to be.
it's pretty steep And I looked and behold there was a huge mountain with its summit in the heavens, and he said to me “Come ascend with me and there I will tell you the story of my shlichus that I was sent to you”. In the blink of an eye I saw him sitting on the top of the mountain and I was sitting below. I couldn’t go up at all because the mountain was steep like a single wall and was not sloped like other mountains. I said to him “I don’t understand: I am young and I cannot ascend at all, but you are old and you went up in the blink of an eye”. And he said “You Chaim, Don’t you know that every day I go up and down by way of this mountain a thousand times to do the shlichus of the Omnipresent one. Why do you wonder about it?”.

When I saw that at first he called me Rabbi Chaim and and now he called me Chaim, and also listening to terrifying words, I knew that he was certainly Eliahu Z”L from the tribe of Levi, and then I my eyes teared and flowed with great terror. I entreated him with tears and said to him “calm my soul with your eyes, and ascend with me”. He said “Don’t be afraid, because my shlichus is to you”. My arms strengthened and I ascended to the mountaintop with him in the blink of an eye. And I saw, a ladder was placed on the mountaintop with its feet on the ground and its top reaching to the heavens. The only had 3 rungs, that is to say bars or levels, and between each rung and the next was the distance of the height of a man. He said to me “Until here I have permission to help you, now and onwards see what you must do”. He disappeared and I cried from great suffering.

And behold, an important woman, beautiful as the sun, sat facing me on top of the ladder, and I thought in my heart that she was my mother. She said “What’s going on my son Chaim crying like that, I heard your tears and came to help you”. She reached out her right hand and lifted me to the top of the ladder. I saw there a large round window, with a fiery burning flame coming out from it, going back and forth like lightning with great force, and it burned anything that in its way. I knew in my heart that it was the flaming sword that turns, at the opening of the Garden of Eden. I called with a bitter soul to the woman and said “Mother mother, help me now from this flame so that I don’t get burned”. She said “Only you can help yourself from the sword, therefore I will tell you what to do. Look – place your hand on your head and you will find there cottonwool, white as snow, take it and put it in the burning window and it will close, and then cross over quickly”. And It seemed to my lowly knowledge that the wool was my hair that had been transformed from black (din) to white through some merits, through the secret of ‘and the hair of his head was white as wool’. I did it and crossed quickly. Right away the fire returned and the woman disappeared.

And Eliahu z”l returned as before, and he grasped me with his right hand and said to me: “Come with me to the place where I was sent to take you”. And he brought me to a vast courtyard, without measure, and inside it were great rivers drawing living waters, to water the garden. On the banks of the rivers on both sides were beautiful fruit trees, fat and flourishing, without end. Most of them were apple trees, fragrant like myrrh. They were exceedingly tall, and the branches curved close towards the ground as they left the trunk, creating a kind of sukkah below them.

And in that garden were countless birds which looked like white geese, moving the length and breadth of the garden and repeating the mishnayos of maseches Shabbos (because it was then friday night, as mentioned at the beginning of the dream). And in teh course of their travel they would recite a mishneh or a perek and then curve their necks to eat apples from the trees and drink water from the rivers. And this they did continually. And I understood that they were the souls of the tzaddikim who were masters of the mishnah, but I did not know why they had the appearance of white geese and birds, and not the appearance of men.

And I went further deeper into the garden until I saw an elevated place [aliyah] that was large and high, as though it were on top of a high hill, and there was no building below it. It went from the ground of the garden to the height of a man, and opened on the west side, and a ladder of three levels made of stone went from the ground to the opening. And Eliahu z”l disappeared fry my eyes. And I ascended the ladder alone, and went into the entryway of the elevated place, and I saw G-d sitting alone on a chair on the south side of the wall. His appearance was like the Ancient of Days, an old man with a beard white as snow, infinitely beautiful, and the tzaddikim sat before him on the ground on top of beautiful new cushions and rugs, learning Torah from his mouth. And I knew in my soul that the were the tzaddikim known as ‘Bnei Aliah’ and they had the image of men, gazing at the face of the schinah and learning Torah from his mouth continually. They were not on the same level as the baalei mishneh, for they looked like birds and geese, about them it is said (Brochos 57a) “One who sees a white goose in his sleep should expect wisdom”. And they stood in the courtyard of the garden and did not receive the face of the schina continually like the bnei aliah, and they didn’t learn torah directly.

And when I entered and saw his face I was terrified and a shaking gripped me and I fell to the floor in a fetal position, without any strength at all. And he sent is hand and grasped my right hand and said “Chaim my son, come and go, why are you fallen on your face, do not fear and do not be afraid.” And I said to him “My lord, I have no strength left and my majesty is turned to destruction because of my great fear of you. I do not have strength to arise”. And he said “Behold I have strengthened you and and reinforced you, stand in your place and sit at my right hand, in this empty space, as though you actually sat next to me”.

Then I said to him “How can I sit next to your right hand in that place, behold that place was already prepared for R’ Yosef Caro”. And he said to me, “That is what I thought at first, but afterwards I gave him a different place and I give you this place, and I have already prepared it for you”. And I said to him “Behold this is the place of Shmuel the Ramathite z”l”. And he said to me: “It is true that it is his place, but when the Holy Temple was destroyed he took it upon himself not to sit at this place until the future temple will be built. And then he went to the ruins of the temple in Jerusalem and he stands there continually and mourns it until it will be built. Therefore his place is left open, and I give it to you that you may sit in it”. Then I sat to his right, literally next to him, on the cushions on the ground like the other tzaddikim.

And he said to me: “This place is good in your eyes”. And I replied “Who can recount the wondrous great praises of this elevated space, however explain to me the difference between the baalei mishneh and the bnei aliyah, that there should be such a great difference in their appearance”. And he said “Have you forgotten what the sages said (Sanhedrin 92b) that “In the time to come HKB”H will make wings of eagles for the tzaddikim and they will swim on the face of the water”. This group are called baalei mishneh, because they appear like birds and geese and dwell on the face of the water that is in the rivers of Gan Eden, as you have seen with your eyes”. And then I said to him: “My lord, I have already recalled what is written in the introduction to sefer hatikkunim on the posuk “If you come across a birds’ nest… and the mother is sitting on the chicks or eggs…”, that you take the young because the eggs are baalei mishnah, and the young are baalei kabbalah, and these are baalei aliah, these that have the appearance of children”.

And I repeated to him “My Lord, have mercy on my soul, leave me in this place and don’t return me to descend into the fallen world, because it is revealed to you that I intend to do your will and I am afraid that the yeast in the dough will cause me to sin and I will be lost from this holy place”. And he said to me “You are still a young man and you have more time to toil in my Torah and my Mitzvos, but you need to return in order to complete your soul, and at the end of your life you will return to your place here. And if you are afraid to descend in case you sin, give me your hand and swear to me that you will not forsake the study of the Torah for any other occupation at all, and I will swear to you that I will not change or switch this place for anyone but you, and this will be your place at my right hand forever”. Then I raised my right hand and swore to keep those words, and he too swore to keep his word. And he said to me “Go in peace, remember and do not forget all these things”. Then I descended from the elevated space, I alone, and I found myself standing in this lowly world in the dream itself, and I did not see anything from all that I had seen in my ascent before.

Incredible stuff, no?

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