"Moses went into the cloud and climbed to the top of the mountain." (Ex. 24:18) [Translated according to the commentary of Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra]

Rabbi Shimon asked: Wasn't the Holy Blessed One upon Mount Sinai, and [in this regard] it is written, "The glory of G‑d appeared like a consuming fire on the mountain top"? (ibid. 24:17) So how was Moses able to ascend the mountain?

The question is this: a later verse states, "Moses could not enter the Communion Tent because the cloud rested upon it and the glory of G‑d filled the Tabernacle", (Ex. 40:35) so how was he able to enter the cloud now? (Yoma 4b)

Moses…cloaked himself in the cloud….

However, [the answer is found in:] the verse [that] states, "Moses went into the cloud and climbed to the top of the mountain" - he went into the cloud as if he was donning a garment. [That is,] he cloaked himself in the cloud that he entered, and, wrapped in the cloud, he approached the fire and was able to get close to it.

Similarly with Elijah about whom it is written, "Elijah ascended to Heaven in a whirlwind". (Kings II 2:11) How was Elijah able to ascend to the heavens? Is it not so that Heaven cannot tolerate any physical object from this world, even one as tiny as a mustard seed?

No physical object can exist in a purely spiritual universe, as the angels argued when Moses ascended on high to receive the Torah: "What is a human doing amongst us?" (Shabbat 88b)

And yet the Torah declares that Elijah ascended in a whirlwind to Heaven?!

…within that whirlwind he was able to ascend on high.

However [the explanation is that] he entered that whirlwind and clothed himself in it, and within that whirlwind he was able to ascend on high.

This mystical secret is explained in the Book of Adam, where it discusses the [unfolding] chronicle of the universe: In the future a certain spirit [Ruach] will descend to the world and will be clothed in a body upon earth. "Elijah" will be his name. In that very body he will ascend. But he will divest himself of that body, which will remain in the whirlwind, and another body - of light - will be prepared for him, enabling him to be among the angels. When he wishes to descend to this world he will again clothe himself in the body that remains in the whirlwind. It will be in this [latter] body that he will be revealed below, whereas he is revealed above in the other body [the body of light].


Zohar II, 137a; translation and commentary by Moshe Miller

Biographical note:
Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra (1089-1164) was born in Tudela during the height of Spain’s Golden Age. Three of his uncles were ministers in the royal palace. After the benevolent King Alfonso VI died, however, the anti-semitic masses began to harass the Jews, so he headed south to Muslim Spain - to Granada, Cordova, and Lucena. In 1148, he was forced to flee to Rome, Provence, and Rhodes (where he befriended Rabbeinu Tam and the Rosh). He traveled to Egypt and learned with the Rambam. He wrote a commentary on the Torah and Navithat is widely studied still today. He also wrote books on astronomy, astrology, and mathematics.