Today we’ll learn an idiom that is used identically in Hebrew, English and many other languages, yet its source is obscure from most speakers of these languages. First, ‘ra•ki•a’ means the firmament. As we see in Genesis, the firmament was multi-layered from the inception: ‘And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so’. And God called the firmament Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day’. Genesis 1:7-8. ‘ba’ is a prefix which means ‘in’ or ‘at’. ‘ba•ra•ki•a hash•vi•ee’, in the seventh heaven, means at a state of the greatest possible happiness.
Seven heavens is a part of religious cosmology found in many major religions such as Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Catholicism and in some minor religions as well. We see it mentioned for the first time in the Oral Torah. The Oral Torah, considered by Jews as an addition to the written Torah, is a group of books and other writings which, according to Jewish tradition, was passed down orally in an unbroken chain from one generation to the next until its contents were finally committed to writing following the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, when Jewish civilization was faced with an existential threat.
Naturally, we don’t have exact dates about the writings of the Oral Torah but some are believed to very ancient, from eras much earlier than the destruction of the second Temple. ‘Ba•ra•kia hash•vi•ee’ is mentioned in the Talmud in Chagiga 12:2, and in the Oral Torah in Devarim Raba 2.