Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Tradition of Judaism - Above then Below, or Below then Above, as Written in the Talmud

You are to take a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot, a burn for a burn, a wound for a wound, a bruise for a bruise.

- Exodus 21:23-25

The Talmud contains a great many metaphorical references to the two separate triangles which, when combined together, form a a six-pointed star known as a hexagram, or what most Judeo-Christian believers call the Star of David. Traditionally, these two components of the hexagram have been used to symbolize the four basic elements of Creation- Earth, Air, Water, and Fire:

Earth = Green, Yellow = Air, Blue = Water, Red = Fire

This simple triangular-based method of religious symbolism and meaning includes the Great Seal of the United States seen on the backside of every U.S. dollar bill. To be specific, the Eye above the Pyramid (Air and Fire) may also be viewed upside-down in order to refer to other complementary aspects (Earth and Water) of both the material and spiritual worlds. Obviously, these two eyes, whether they are situated above or below, can be combined together to form a Star of David as well. What follows is a comprehensive list of quotes taken from the Talmud and later supplementary additions and Rabbinical writings which give direct reference to the two opposing triangles of the hexagram. This list is made up of two main sections which can be seen below:

The Two Main Talmudic Reference Lists

I. References to the Eye Above then Below in the Talmud

II. References to the Eye Below then Above in the Talmud

I. References to the Eye Above then Below in the Talmud

One should never break away from custom. For behold, Moses ascended on High and ate no bread, whereas the Ministering Angels descended below and ate bread. (Baba Mezi’a 86b)

Do Thy will in heaven above, and grant relief to them that fear Thee below and do that which is good in Thine eyes. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who hearest prayer. (Berakoth 29b)

Two dwelt in a house, one above and one below. Now, the plaster on the ceiling between the two became broke, so that when the one above washed with water, it dripped down, causing damage to the one below. Now, who must repair? - R. Hiyya b. Abba said: 'The upper dweller.' R. Elai said: "The lower one. Now, the sign thereof is, 'And Joseph was brought down to Egypt.'" (Baba Mezi’a 117a)

Those sacrifices whose blood is to be sprinkled above and was sprinkled below, those whose blood is to be sprinkled below and was sprinkled above. (Niddah 40b)

From the days of Moses up to Rabban Gamaliel, the Torah was learned only standing. When Rabban Gamaliel died, feebleness descended on the world, and they learned the Torah sitting (down). (Megillah 21a)

Solomon was in a different category, because he ruled over the denizens of the upper world as well as of the lower. (Megillah 11b)

It stood by the bank of the Jordan and injected a virus into the Canaanites which blinded their eyes above and castrated them below; as it is said: ''Yet destroyed I the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars, and he was strong as the oaks; yet I destroyed his fruit from above and his roots from beneath, etc.' (Sotah 36a)

It is impossible to declare that Levi was stationed below since it is stated that he was above, and it is impossible to declare that he was above since it is stated that he was below; so how was it? The elders of the priests and Levites were below and the rest above. R. Joshiyah said: 'All the Levites who were qualified to serve as bearers of the ark were below and the rest above.' Rabbi says: 'Both the priests and Levites and also the Israelites were standing below...They turned their faces towards mount Gerizim and opened with the blessing, and then towards mount Ebal and opened with the curse;.' (Sotah 37a)

The governor of Beth-peor (asked): 'Show us where Moses is buried.' When they stood above, it appeared to them to be below; when they were below, it appeared to them to be above. They divided themselves into two parties; to them who were standing above it appeared below, and to those who were below it appeared above. This is in fulfilment of what is said: 'No man knoweth of his sepulchre'. R. Hama son of R. Hanina said: 'Even Moses our teacher does not know where he is buried.' (Sotah 14a)

This wild goat is heartless towards her young. When she crouches for delivery, she goes up to the top of a mountain so that the young shall fall down and be killed, and I prepare an eagle to catch it in his wings and set it before her, and if he were one second too soon or too late it would be killed. (Baba Bathra 16a-16b)

Good men lift up their eyes and look one straight in the face. Bad, wicked men drop their eyes. (Tanchum. Vayaishev)

There is a limit to everything except to the greatness and depth of the Torah. (Genesis Rabba 10)

The well of Miriam can be seen from the top of the mountain Jeshimon (Numb. 21:20), and its waters have healing properties. (Midrash Ecclesiastes 5)

Death is designed for man from time immemorial. When the hour of man's departure hence arrives, nothing will save him from it. If he had the wings of an eagle and could soar high up above the earth, he would, of his own accord, come down to meet his fate.--Death is a new gate for the righteous to enter in. (Tanchum. Voeschanan)

Man is above everything, even over demons he can have dominion, but when he falls (by sin), dominion is given over him. (Numbers Rabba 11)

Nebuchadnezzar was indeed the proverbial gale coming from the north, and sweeping everything before it in the south. (Midrash Songs 3)

One should always strive to be on the best terms with his brethren and his relatives and with all men and even with the heathen in the street, in order that he may be beloved above and well-liked below and be acceptable to his fellow creatures. (Berakoth 17a)

Do Thy will in heaven above, and grant relief to them that fear Thee below and do that which is good in Thine eyes. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who hearest prayer. (Berakoth 29b)

If all your life is given up to the pursuit of earthly things, it is quite consistent for you to look downwards; but if you pursue the higher life, look upwards. (Midrash Psalms 32)

Heaven and earth wept at the death of Moses. (Deuteronomy Rabba 11)

The sun rises and the sun goeth down. Before Sarah died there arose the sun of Rebecca. The sun of Athniel shone before that of Joshua set. So on the day when Rabbi Akiba died Rabbi Judah Hanasi was born. (Midrash Ecclesesiates 1)

It is but right and proper that one should be right in the sight of God, but it is also desirable so to act as to be just and right in the eyes of man. (Tanchum. Pekudai)

The higher the position the greater is the fall, and this applies to the serpent, who not only was the chief of all animals, but walked upright like man, and when it fell it sank into the reptile species. (Genesis Rabba 19)

One of the reasons why Moses called upon heaven and earth as witnesses is that by them the Torah was given. (Deuteronomy Rabba 10)

'He maketh peace in his high places.' How much more, then, is pece needed amongst God's creatures in this lower sphere. (Leviticus Rabba 9)

The Sanhedrin were known by the designation, 'The eyes of the community.'

- Midrash Songs 4

II. References to the Eye Below then Above in the Talmud

When no justice is done here below, it will be executed from above. (Deuteronomy Rabba 5)

What Solomon meant to convey by the words, 'What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?' (Ecclesiastes 1:2) is that whatever a man may possess on earth, under the sun, he must inevitably part with, but it is different if he provides for himself above the sun, in heaven. (Midrash Ecclesiastes)

He took the pan in his right hand and the censer into his left hand. ‘The native below and the alien in the Heavens above’ This one the ladle is small, the other coal-pan large, and even where both are alike, as with R. Ishmael b. Kimhith, the one is hot and the other cold. (Yoma 47a)

Said Raba thereupon: Is the native born to be on the Earth and the stranger in the highest Heavens? (Baba Kamma 42a)

As the cloud is consumed and vanisheth away, so he that goeth down to Sheol shall come up no more.(Baba Bathra 16a)

The native would be in the earth and the stranger in the highest heavens? Yes, the like has found his like and is aroused. (‘Erubin 9a)

He that sanctifies himself here (ion earth)will receive sanctification from on high. (Numbers Rabba 10)

'No man shall see me and live,' said God (Exodus 33). Not in this earthly life, but in the higher life. (Numbers Rabba 14)

Let no man be deterred from repenting by knowing the great depth of his sin. Let him bear in mind that he does not come to a stranger but to his Heavenly Father. (Deuteronomy Rabba 2)

He who devotes his strength to prayer below, has no enemies to overcome above. (Sanhedrin 44b)

So that the snake cannot attack him either from below or above. (Shabbath 110a)

When no justice is done here below, it will be executed from above. (Deuteronomy Rabba 5a)

And they stood under the mount...This teaches that the Holy One, blessed be He, overturned the mountain upon them like an inverted cask, and said to them, 'If ye accept the Torah, 'tis well; if not, there shall be your burial.' (Shabbath 88a)

Once a man becomes poor in friends below on Earth, he becomes poor above in Heaven. (Sanhedrin 103b)

A man who offers up his prayers must direct his eyes towards the Temple below, for it is said, 'And Mine eyes and Mine heart shall be there perpetually.' And the other said: "The eyes of him who offers up prayers shall be directed towards the Heavens above, for it is said 'Let us lift up our heart with our hand.'" (Yebamoth 105b)

A man who offers up his prayers must direct his eyes to the Sanctuary below and his heart towards the Heavens above so that these two Scriptural texts may be complied with. (Yebamoth 105b)

There is no contradiction between sneezing and sneezing either; in the one case it is above, in the other below. For R. Zera said: 'This dictum was casually imparted to me in the school of R. Hamnuna, and it is worth all the rest of my learning: If one sneezes in his prayer it is a good sign for him, that as they give him relief below on Earth so they give him relief above in Heaven. (Berakoth 24b)

The Sages have indicated in the physical development of a woman three marks below and corresponding ones above. If, namely, she is like an unripe fig above, it may be taken for granted that she has not yet grown two hairs. (Niddah 47b)

The Jew signed first below thinking that another Jew would sign above, but the lender got the signature of a Samaritan instead. (Gittin 10b)

My fathers stored up below and I am storing above, as it says, 'Truth springeth out of the earth and righteousness looketh down from Heaven.' My fathers stored in a place which can be tampered with, but I have stored in a place which cannot be tampered with, as it says, 'Righteousness and judgment are the foundation of his throne.' (Baba Bathra 11a)

Resh Lakish said: 'He who devotes his strength to prayer below, has no enemies to overcome above.' R. Johanan said: 'One should ever implore mercy that all Heavenly beings may support his effort in prayer so that he may have no enemies on high.' (Sanhedrin 44b)


GEMARA. Rab said: BELOW means actually below and ABOVE means actually above. Samuel, however, said: 'BELOW means beneath the binding and ABOVE means above the binding'...R. Ishmael said: 'He does not rend his clothes in the manner of other people, but he rends from below while an ordinary priest rends from above!' (Horayoth 12b)

There are certain things which seek ascendancy over one another. Thus the mighty deep is overshadowed by the high ground, and the mountains are still higher, but they can be levelled by iron. (Midrash Ecclesiastes 7)

May the LORD God bless you in the name of St. Judah.

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