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Moses ben Jacob Cordovero: From The ‘Tomer Devorah’- Ascending The Tree

Plate from Jean-Joseph Brierre-Narbonne monumental work,

here ‘Exégèse Zoharique des Prophécies Messianiques’,

Librairie Orientaliste Paul Geutner, Paris, 1938.


Today’s sharing from the Blue House of Via-HYGEIA is an excerpt from Moses ben Jacob Cordovero’s ‘Tomer Devorah’, The Palm Tree of Deborah, here in an 1960 English translation by Rabbi Louis Jacobs. The 1985 French translation by Charles Mopsik published by editions Verdier is provided with the original Hebrew included. This text is about praxis and echoes what the Ba’al Shem Tov wrote about ‘How the ten Sephirot manifest in the person‘(80-2, ‘Sefer Ba’al Shem Tov al hat Torah’) well worth considering as a springboard for contemplation and prayer.



Moses ben Jacob Cordovero (Hebrew: משה קורדובירו Moshe Kordovero ‎; 1522–1570) was a central figure in the historical development of Kabbalah, leader of a mystical school in 16th-century Safed, Ottoman Syria. He is known by the acronym the Ramak (Hebrew: רמ״ק).

Tomer Devorah (Hebrew: תומר דבורה, English: The Palm Tree of Deborah) was written in Hebrew in the middle of the 16th century by Moses Cordovero, a Jewish kabbalist in Safed, Ottoman Syria. This short text deals mostly with the Imitation of God through the acquisition of divine traits, especially those of the sephirot. The first edition was published in Venice in 1588. Although not widely read among Jews today, it is popular in the mussar tradition, which focuses on the individual cultivation of the middot, or qualities of God. The title “Tomer Devorah” is borrowed from the original Hebrew in Book of Judges 4:5. (Wikipedia).


Chapter X – Ascending the Tree

In the first chapter of Genesis[1] R. Simeon explains a great and magnificent counsel of the Torah how man may be bound to the Supernal Holiness and nevermore be separated from the Higher Sephiroth. It is necessary for man, in this connection, to conduct himself according to time, that is, to know which Sephirah rules and to bind himself to it and to perform the Tikkun associated with that ruling quality.

He begins with the night, the time when man sleeps on his bed. The ruling force then is Night, the quality of Sovereignty[2], but if he continues to sleep, sleep is like death and the tree of death rules. What should he do? He should anticipate, by preparing to bind himself according to the secret holiness, namely, the secret of the quality of Sovereignty in the aspect of its holiness. With this he should go to his bed, accepting upon himself the complete yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven with the intention of his heart. He should rise at midnight, wash his hands of the Shell which has dominion over them[3], remove the evil from his flesh and recite the benediction[4]. He should then make a Tikkun for the Shekinah by studying the Torah, concerning which it is written: ‘When thou liest down[5] it shall watch over thee‘ – from the Outside Ones – ‘and when thou awakest it shall talk with thee‘ – and he will be bound to Her and She to him. The form of his soul will ascend to the Garden of Eden with the Shekinah who enters there to delight with the righteous and with him in their company, for they all hearken to his voice. So that he actually journeys with Her from death and sleep to the secret of Superal Life and he is bound there, according to the secret of the Garden of Eden, and the light of Beauty which shines upon the righteous in the Garden of Eden begins to shine upon him. And so it is explained in the section Terumah[6].

With the dawn of day he, too, begins to make ready to enter the Synagogue, binding himself to the three Patriarchs. At the entrance to the Synagogue he says: ‘As for me[7], in the abundance of thy lovingkindness will I come . . .’ and he includes himself in the secret of Beauty – for man embraces Lovingkindness, Power and Beauty and he enters the Synagogue, which is Sovereignty[8]. When reciting this verse he should think of the three Patriarchs: ‘in the abundance of thy lovingkindness‘ is Abraham[9]; ‘I will bow toward[10] thy holy temple‘ is Isaac (for ‘bowing down’ is from his side[11], namely, to bow his full height opposite the quality of judgment to be pushed aside[12] by it and then the hour is pushed aside from before him so that the flow of divine pity is drawn upon it from above to make it sweet); ‘in the fear of thee[13]’ is Jacob, of whom it is written: ‘how awful[14] is this place!‘ Behold, he has embraced them[15] by means of thought, speech and action. For thought is the intention we have mentioned, speech, the verse he recites, and action, the deed of coming to Synagogue and bowing opposite His temple before prayer. He stands in the Synagogue his open mouth the source of prayer and union, so that Foundation[16], the source of the well, is open into the well which is the Synagogue. And he makes a Tikkun for the Shekinah as much as he is able by virtue of his concentration in prayer.

On his exit from the Synagogue he ascends to the secret of the Torah and he binds himself to the Torah, according to the secret of the quality of the day, and he conducts himself with the Torah during the whole day until the time of the Afternoon Prayer, when he binds himself to Power. For in the morning he was bound to Lovingkindness in his prayer, during the day to Beauty with this Torah, and in the evening to Power. And all this in the quality of day, that he comes to the Synagogue to make the union according to the secret of Power in the same way as he did with regard to the aspect of Lovingkindness. Between the two he binds the Shekinah to him by virtue of his meal in which he does kindess to ‘this poor thing[17],’ as Hillel the Elder[18] used to say: ‘The righteous knoweth[19] the soul of his beast.’ This should be his intention in eating to do kindness to his animal soul and to bind it according to the secret of food. After the time of the afternoon prayer has come and he has been bound to Power he waits until the evening when Beauty descends to Sovereignty. And, behold, he is with Her at the beginning of the night. He binds himself to Her and enters the Synagogue with afore-mentioned intention. And he binds himself below when Beauty comes to its lodging. When he leaves the Synagogue he actually unites himself with Sovereignty alone, according to the secret of accepting the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven.

This is his daily cycle in accord with the cycle of the Sephiroth, so that he is attached, ever, to the dominating light[20]. This counsel is chiefly contained in the opening section of Genesis and the rest of it has been compiled from many places in the Zohar. And this is a comprehensive method by which man can bind himself always to holiness so that the crown of the Shekinah nevermore departs from his head.



1. first chapter of Genesis Zohar I, Prologue, 11a.

2. Night, the quality of Sovereignty ‘The dominion of the day belongs to the male and the dominion of the night belongs to the female’ (Zohar 1, 20b).

3. the Shell which has dominion over them ‘Further, when men sleep on their beds at night-time and night spreads her wings over the world, they are having a foretaste of death, and in consequence the unclean spirit is let loose in the world, carrying pollution. In particular it rests upon a man’s hands and defiles them, so that when he wakes up and his soul is restored to him, everything which he touches with his hands is rendered unclean’ (Zohar I, 53b).

4. the benediction Over the washing of the hands P.B. p. 4.

5. When thou liest down Prov. 6:22.

6. in the section Terumah ‘R. Eleazar and R. Abba entered the house and rested a while. At midnight they got up to study the Torah. Said R. Abba: ‘Verily, now is the time of the Holy One’s favor, since we have often remarked that at the moment of midnight the Holy One, blessed is He, goes in unto the righteous in the Garden of Eden to have joyous fellowship with them. Blessed is he who is occupied with the study of Torah at this time.'” (Zohar II 173b).

7. As for me Ps. 5:8 also P.B. p. 1.

8. which is Sovereignty The Hebrew for “Synagoge” is Beth Ha-Keneseth, the House of the Community, the Shekinah is the archtype of the Community of Israel.

9. Abraham the man of mercy, the symbol of the Sephirah Chesed (Lovingkindness).

10. I will bow toward Ps. 5:8.

11. his side From the side of Power (Geburah) symbolized by Isaac.

12. pushed aside A Kabbalistic interpretation of the Talmudic saying: ‘He who pushes his hour (i.e. who tries to force his good fortune) will be pushed by his hour (i.e. will be dogged by ill-fortune) and whoever is pushed by his hour his hour will be pushed aside for him’ (Ber. 64a). By accepting this quality of judgment man sweetens its power.

13. in the fear of thee Ps. 5:8.

14. how awful Gen. 28:17.

15. embraced them The three Patriarchs.

16. Foundation Symbolized by the source of the well because it pours into Sovereignty, the well.

17. this poor thing The soul.

18. Hillel the Elder Hillel used to say that he had a permanent guest in his house whom it was his duty to feed, namely, the soul which is a guest in his body, Lev. R., sec. 34.

19. the righteous knoweth Prov. 12:10, but in our editions of the Midrash Hillel does not quote this verse, but Prov. 11:17: ‘The mercifulman does good to his own soul.’

20. the dominating light i.e. the light of the Sephirah which rules at the time.


French Translation

providing the original Hebrew

‘Le rythme quotidien et les Sephirot’




Introduction of The Palm Tree of Debora (Tomer Debora) by Charles Mopsik

‘Treatise on ethics which sets out the principles of ideal conduct based on the model provided by each of the ten sefirot in which the divinity manifests itself in the world and in the image of which men must act. Humility is considered the highest virtue, because it frees the intelligence from constraints of all kinds that hinder the discovery of truth and it is the equivalent in man of the first sefira, identified with divine Nothingness. Creator. The philosophical-theological postulate which underlies all the developments, is the existence of a structural and systemic symmetry between the divine organism formed by the organism of the emanations (the ten sefirot and the channels which connect them) and the physico-psychological organism of the human being.’

Original French Le Palmier de Débora (Tomer Débora)

‘Traité d’éthique qui expose les principes d’une conduite idéale à partir du modèle fourni par chacune des dix sefirot en lesquelles la divinité se manifeste au monde et à l’image desquelles les hommes doivent agir. L’humilité est considérée comme la plus haute vertu, car elle libère l’intelligence des contraintes de tous ordres qui font obstacle à la découverte de la vérité et elle est l’équivalent en l’homme de la première sefira, identifiée au Néant divin créateur. Le postulat philosophico-théologique qui sous-tend l’ensemble des développements, est l’existence d’une symétrie structurelle et systémique entre l’organisme divin formé par l’organisme des émanations (les dix sefirot et les canaux qui les relient) et l’organisme physico-psychologique de l’être humain.’


More about Moses ben Jacob Cordovero : 🌿English text source: 🌿 The French translation by Charles Mopsik: 🌿 More about Charles Mopsik: 🌿 More about Rabbi Louis Jacobs: 🌿 All of his translations are here:
Moses ben Jacob Cordovero: From The ‘Tomer Devorah’- Ascending The Tree

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