Fashioned of Fire and Water,
Strong Ones of the lofty city
they stand like walls.
With trembling and dread,
repeatedly they celebrate the power
of God, founder of the earth.
And I, chosen of all people,
His high praises are in my throat.
and Gabriel clamours.
and Raphael bellows.
and Achtriel acclaims God's majesty.
And I, the assembly of Israel,
declare: 'there is none like God!'
of firebrand streak
flaming torches dart
like rays of light,
uttering songs of praise.
And I, the lily of the valley,
devote myself to His precepts and statutes.
Thousands and myriads of angels,
chariots of fire and bolts of fire
circle and whirl around the throne,
raised upon the seventh heaven.
Three times they say `Holy!'
and they listen to the murmuring sound.
And I, daughter of the three fathers,
my prayers always please Him.
The sweat of the four Heavenly
Beasts swells the rushing river of fire,
and above them stands a fifth
gigantic Beast. He begins to
chant God's glory
and all attendants join in.
And I, in the house of prayer,
my lips pour forth your praise.
Benjamin ben Zerah (A Merkavah Ofan
by an 11th century Ba'al ha-Shem)
In "The Emergence of the Mystical Traditions of the Merkavah" by Rachel Elior she writes:
"...The sages constrained and prohibited "expounding on the deeds of the chariot" (m. Hag. 2:1; b. Hag. 13bâ"14b) without explaining the background of this ruling and its connection to ancient priestly perceptions of holy time and holy place, angelic liturgy, priestly ritual, and heavenly chariots..."
Why was this area of study forbidden?
"...Notably, the priestly calendrical traditions written B.C.E. were forbidden for study by the leader of the sages, R. Akiva, who labeled them "external books" (m. Sanh. 10:1). R. Akiva took a central part in shaping the alternative rabbinical order based on new perception of lunar time and human observation (m. RoÅ¡. HaÅ¡. 2:9). The new hegemony further replaced the narrative of heavenly ascent and angelic knowledge that were associated with the priestly solar calendar with stories relating to Enoch's humiliation, punishment, and death (b. Hag. 15a; Tg. Onq. on Gen 5:21â"24; Ber. Rab. 25). These supporters of the lunar calendar also replaced the priestly orientation of the stories relating to the origin of the solar calendar with alternative story connecting Enoch with the greatest calendric prohibition, changing the number of days in a year (Jub. 6:30â"38) required by sod haIbur (the secret of the leap year required by lunar calendar; Pirqe R. El. 8)..."
It is acknowledged that Judaism of the Second Temple period (i.e. up to 70CE) consisted of several groups all vying for precedence in regard to religious/cultural/ political ideology. There is a body of evidence and scholarship suggesting that one such movement favoured the patriarch Enoch as revelator (in precedence, particularly, over Moses). The so-called 'Enoch literature' promotes a solar 364 day calendar as a major part of its revision, with Jubilees tying this in to the preordained harmonic structure of the cosmos which has since become corrupt. The group behind these texts, who appear to have some relationship to the Qumran sect, seem to have believed that only by following the divine solar calendar could festivals and sabbaths be accurately timed so as to concur with the heavenly ordinations; merely observing the movements of the planets would lead to error as the material world had fallen from grace. This Enochic tradition thus pulled away from much of the orthodoxy of the Temple practice, feeding into alternative currents such as Essenism, Qumran and, eventually, Christianity (the Enoch literature in particular was much used by the early Church, and much of their mystical/speculativ e/revisionist/ anti-law thought also fell on glad ears with early Christians, many of whom were Jewish). After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70CE and the emergence of Christianity as a religion in its own right, the Rabbis (emerging from the Pharisees) began restructuring the faith, emphasising what they believed were the correct and original principles. This included a definite movement away from the heterodox and apocalyptic ideas which had caused so much strife in recent history: the Enochic being one example. Due to the lack of central Temple, the faith had to find a new central focus which became the Torah, i.e. the Mosaic law. Clearly the challenge presented by Enoch could have little place in this.
As regards heavenly ascension/Merkavah Mysticism, Alan Segal in his book 'Two Powers In Heaven' makes a good case for this tradition also relating to the ascension of patriarchs and prophets (including Enoch, Jacob, Moses et al), something which the rabbinic normalisers saw as particularly dangerous for general consumption, although not ineffective in the correct hands.
I hope this is an adequate summary. There is much current scholarship on the Enochic tradition: Andrei Orlov's 2004 book 'The Enoch-Metatron Tradition' is very good (but very expensive); in relation to the calendar, David Jackson's 'Enochic Judaism: Three Defining Paradigm Exemplars' provides much interesting information.
''Enochic Judaism: Three Defining Paradigm Exemplars" by David Jackson.
Jackson analyses the Enochic tradition according to three separate 'exemplars' which he feels are defining features and shed light on a prime motive in the writings. These are:
Shemikhazah, the Watcher (fallen angel) who led his followers into sexual liaison with human women, siring a race of Giants. This is an example of deviation from the separation of human-angelic.
Aza'el, the Watcher who taught humans technologies of war and beautification which brought great suffering and wickedness; this is breaking the rules by bringing heavenly secrets to earth, and humans going astray from what is good and proper.
Finally, the cosmos falling out of sync with the divine plan due to the disobedience/laxity of the spirits responsible for the movement of stars and planets. This is calendrical deviation.
So, all three examples relate to straying from the prescribed divine course. As such, jackson argues that the Enochic tradition is largely concerned with returning the people of Israel to the true course, i.e. back to proper observation of the divine commandments and away from hellenism. It has often been noted that there is an overarching emphasis in the Enoch literature on regularity: it presents a minutely ordered, clockwork universe where any deviation is seen as sinful. The 364 day calendar is understood to be so perfect that it must be the way God ordered the universe; the irregularity of either the lunar, or even a 365.25 day calendar can only be the result of the natural world going astray from God's plan. Of course, this all relates very clearly to the transmission of this knowledge in these writings, from the most righteous patriarch Enoch, from before the destruction of the flood. Jackson of course goes into the specifics in very great detail which I won't recount here (it's really not that interesting to be frank)...the book's available on Amazon and not too pricey, though I'd warn anyone considering it that it is written by an academic for academics and I don't doubt that it would be almost impenetrable to anyone not already aware of the fundamentals of the Enochic literature (he provides zero background).