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Chashmal

by Rabbi Geoffrey W. Dennis
The mysterious substance or entity illuminating the heart of Ezekiel's chariot vision. The Talmud treats the word as a notaricon (a word that can be broken into multiple words), the division of which reveals two words, "words" and "quiet." Thus the heart of divinity is a matrix of silence and speech from which creation emanates (Chag. 14b).

According to Midrash Konen, chasmal is the fiery substance which makes up the pillars on which the world rests. Gematria yields several different equivalences: dimyon tzivonim, "image of colors," ki zohar aish "like a fiery splendor," neither of which are terribly edifying. But even these cryptic analyses can only approximate the truth. Those who truly comprehend the significance of chasmal place themselves in mortal danger (Chag. 13a). Midrash Konen attempts to resolves the confusion by designating chashmal another class of angelic being (2:25).

Article copyright 2004 Geoffrey Dennis.


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