The Nut Garden

Gleanings of Zohar

Little by Little

1377685452“Yehoshua ben Levi asked: ‘What is the meaning of: And this is the teaching which Moses שָׂם [sam] set, before the children of Israel [Deuteronomy 4:44]?’ – If he is meritorious it becomes for him סַם [sam], medicine, of life, if not, deadly סַם [sam], poison” (BT Yoma 72b, cf. BT Ta’anit 7a).

If you find honey, eat just what you need, lest you have your fill of it and throw it up (Proverbs 25:16).

“Marveling at the power of water to wear away a hard rock Akiva said, ‘If that which is soft can engrave that which is hard, then the words of Torah which are like steel can certainly penetrate my heart which is but flesh and blood.’ They replied, ‘Akiva, have you not read Water wears away stones [Job 14:19].’ He then went together with his son and they appeared before an elementary teacher. Said Akiva to him: ‘Master, teach me Torah.’ Akiva took one end of the tablet, and his son the other end of the tablet. The teacher wrote down the aleph bet for him and he learned it; aleph tav, and he learned it; the book of Leviticus, and he learned it. He went on studying until he learned the whole Torah. Then he went and appeared before Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua. ‘My masters,’ he said to them, ‘reveal the justification of Mishnah to me.’ When they told him one halakhah he went off to be by himself. ‘This aleph,’ he wondered, ‘why was it written? This bet, why was it written? This thing, why was it said?’ He came back and asked them, and reduced them to silence” (Avot de Rabbi Nathan A6).

He said, ‘Let me go, for dawn has risen! [Genesis 32:27]. Rabbi Yehudah opened, Who is this looking forth like the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun…? [Song of Songs 6:10]. This verse has been established and explained, but Who is this looking forth? – Israel, when the blessed Holy One will raise them, bringing them out of exile. He will then open for them a tiny crack of light, then another opening, wider, until the blessed Holy One opens for them supernal gates facing four directions of the world. So with all the blessed Holy One does for Israel and for the righteous among them – always so, never all at once. This can be compared to a person thrown into darkness, dwelling in darkness constantly. When they want to illumine him, they must open the light to him like the eye of a needle, then wider, always gradually, until he is illumined with all the light fittingly. Similarly with Israel, as is said: Little by little I will drive them out before you [Exodus 23:30]. And so with one who is being cured: not all at once, but little by little, until he is fortified.

But with Esau, not so! Rather, he is illumined all at once and deprived little by little, until Israel are fortified and eliminate him entirely from this world and from the world that is coming. Since he blazed all at once, he is annihilated completely, whereas Israel’s light increases little by little until they are invigorated and the blessed Holy One illumines them forever. Everyone asks, Who is this looking forth like the dawn? – at first a subtle glow; then fair as the moon, then bright as the sun, then awesome as bannered hosts [Song of Songs ibid.] – Beaming powerfully, intensely, fittingly” (Zohar 1:170a).

The World that is Coming

“The wise call it הַעוֹלָם הַבּא [ha-olam haba] World to Come, not because it does not exist now, but for us today in this world it is still to come” (Tanḥuma, Vayiqra 8).

“Rabbi Beraḥiah sat and expounded: Each day we speak of the World to Come. Do we then understand what we are saying? The Targum renders this as ‘the world that is coming.’ And what is it? We learned that before the world was created, it arose in thought to create an intense light to illuminate it. He created an intense light over which no created thing could have authority. The blessed Holy One saw, however, that the world could not endure. He therefore took a seventh of it and left it in its place for them. The rest He put away for the righteous in the לְעָתִיד לָבוֹא [l’atid lavo] future to come. He said, ‘If they are worthy of this seventh and keep it, I will give it to them in the לְעוֹלָם אַחֲרוֹן [le’olam aḥron] Ultimate World.’ It is therefore called the World that is Coming, since it already came [into existence] from the six days of Creation. Regarding this it is written, How great Your goodness that You hid for those who fear You [Psalms 31:20]” (Bahir 160).

“The world that is coming, constantly coming, never ceasing” (Zohar 3:290b Idra Zuta).

I Will Climb into the Palm Tree and Take Hold of its Branches

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“And all the holy forms oversee all the nations. But Israel is holy, taking the tree itself and its heart. The heart is the הָדָר [hadar] stately, fruit of the body. Similarly, Israel takes פְּרִי עֵץ הָדָר [pri etṣ hadar] fruit of a stately tree [Leviticus 23:40]. The date palm is surrounded by its branches all around it and has its sprout [לוּלָב (lulav) palm branch] in the centre. Similarly, Israel takes the body of this tree which is its heart. And paralleling the body is the spinal cord, which is the main part of the body. What is the לוּלָב [lulav] palm branch? לוֹ לֵב [lo lev] ­heart to it. The heart is also given over to it. And what is this לֵב [lev] heart? It is the ל״ב thirty-two, hidden paths of Wisdom that are hidden in it. In each of their paths there is also a form watching over it. Therefore it is written, To guard the way to עֵץ הַחַיִּים [etṣ ha-ḥayyim] the tree of life [Genesis 3:24]” (Bahir 98).

“Rabbi Beraḥiah sat and expounded: What is the לוּלָב [lulav] palm branch, that we discussed? It is the ל״ו thirty-six, given over to ל״ב thirty-two. And how? He replied: There are three princes, the תְלִי Quiver, the Wheel and the Heart. Each one is twelve, and the three therefore constitute a sum of thirty-six, through which the world is sustained [see BT Sanhedrin 97b; Sukkah 45b]. Therefore it is written, The Righteous One is foundation of the world [Proverbs 10:25]” (Bahir 101).

“A king had an idea to plant ten male trees in a garden. All of them were date palms. He said, ‘Since they are all the same kind, it is impossible for them to endure.’ What did he do? He planted a אֶתְרוֹג [etrog] citron, among them. This was one of those which he had intended to be male. And why is the אֶתְרוֹג [etrog] citron, female? Because it is written, פְּרִי עֵץ הָדָר [pri etṣ hadar] fruit of a stately tree, fronds of palm trees, (and a branch of a leafy tree and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before YHWH your God seven days) [Leviticus 23:40]. What is פְּרִי עֵץ הָדָר [pri etṣ hadar] fruit of a stately tree? The Targum renders this, פֵּרֵי אִילָנָא אֶתְרוֹגִין וְלֻלַּבּין וַהֲדַסִּין וְעַרְבִין Fruit of the citron tree, palm branches, [myrtles and willows]” (Bahir 172).

“What is this that is holy? It is the אֶתְרוֹג [etrog] citron, which is the הָדָר [hadar] stateliness, of them all. Why is it called הָדָר [hadar] stately? Do not read הָדָר [hadar], but הַדַר ­[ha-dar] which dwells. This refers to the אֶתְרוֹג [etrog] citron, which is not bound together with the לוּלָב [lulav] palm branch. Without it the command of the לוּלָב [lulav] palm branch, cannot be fulfilled. It is also bound with them all. It is with each one of them, and is unified with them all.

What does the לוּלָב [lulav] palm branch, parallel? It is the spine. Therefore it is written, [Fronds of palm trees,] and a branch of a leafy tree and willows of the brook [Leviticus 23:40]. The branches must cover the majority [of the bunch]. If its branches do not cover its majority, it is invalid. Why? What is this like? A man has arms, and with them he protects his head. He has two arms, and his head makes three: a branch of a leafy tree. A branch is to the left, and the leaves are to the right. It then comes out that the tree is in the centre. And why is it called a tree? Because it is the root of the Tree.

What are willows of the brook [Leviticus 23:40]? There are two [willow branches in the לוּלָב (lulav) palm branch], and these parallel the two legs in man. Why are they called עַרְבֵי-נָחַל [arvei naḥal] willows of the brook? Because the greater of the two is inclined toward the מַעֲרֵב [ma’arev] west, and draws its power from there. The one to the north is smaller than it by a journey of five hundred years. It is on the northwest side, through which it functions. It is named after it, since they are both עֲרָבִים [aravim] mixed” (Bahir 175-77).

“She [namley, Malkhut] is raised with the four species up to Thought [Ḥokhmah], as is written: I said, אֶעֱלֶה [e’eleh] I will climb, into the palm tree (and take hold of its branches) [Song of Songs 7:9]. אֶעֱלֶה [e’eleh] I will climb, is a sign: אֶתְרוֹג [etrog] citron, עֲרָבָה [arabah] willow, לוּלָב [lulav] palm branch, and הֲדָס [hadas] myrtle” (Ra’aya Meheimna Ki Tetze).

A Shelter for Them as a Mother Over Her Young

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“Come and see: When man sits in this apartment [Sukkah] which is the shadow of Faith, the Shekhinah spreads Her wings over him from above and Abraham and five other righteous fix their dwelling with him. This is the meaning of, In huts you shall dwell seven days [Leviticus 23:42]. It is written, seven days, rather than, in seven days. Similarly it is written, Six days did YHWH make: the heavens [Tif'eret who together with five surrounding sefirot is called Heavens] and the earth (Malkhut) [Exodus 31:17]. One should rejoice every day with a joyful countenance in those אוּשְׁפִּיזִין [ushpizin] guests, that dwell with him” (Ra’aya Meheimna Emor).

And on the fifteenth day of the seventh month [Tishrei] you shall have a sacred assembly, no task of work shall you do, and you shall celebrate a festival לַיהוָה seven days [Numbers 29:12]. And on the fifteenth day – from the side of יָהּ [which has a numerical value of fifteen]. And you shall celebrate a festival – the letter ו, which is the Central Column. Seven days – the side of בַּת-שֶׁבַע Bathsheba, [lit., Daughter of Seven], which is Malkhut [the final ה of the four letter Name יְהוָה]. The Patriarchs [Ḥesed, Gevurah, and Tif'eret] and the Faithful Shepherd [Netsaḥ], and Aaron [Hod], and David [Malkhut], and שְׁלֹמֹה [Shlomo] Solomon [alluding to שָׁלוֹם (Shalom) Peace, an appellation of Yesod] are seven, corresponding to seven sefirot. I want to construct for you a סֻכָּה Sukkah, which is supernal Mother [Binah], Who will provide a shelter over them as the Mother over young.

And on account of the seven sefirot, it is said: I made the Israelites dwell in סֻּכּוֹת [sukkot] huts, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt [Leviticus 23:43] – in seven clouds of glory. סוּכָּה Sukkah, [spelled] with a letter ו, is in the mystery of the two young [whom Binah provides a shelter, namely], יְהוָה and אֲדֺנָי, for the numerical value of סוּכָּה Sukkah, amounts to יְאֲהדֺוָנָהי [the two 'young,' יְהוָה and אֲדֹנָיִ joined, in the mystery of]: The cherubim shall spread their wings above, סֹכְכִים [sokhim] shielding, the cover with their wings, and their faces toward each other [Exodus 25:20].

And the cherubim are ten handbreadths from bottom to top [namely, ten sefirot of reflected light], from their feet to their heads, [and ten sefirot of direct light] from their heads to their feet, and they rest on a handbreadth, which is י. Ten from top to bottom and ten from bottom to top, and this is יוֹד (yod) [which has a numerical value of twenty]. And this is why the rabbis ruled that the size of a Sukkah should be not less than ten and not more than twenty. A Sukkah that is built in the shape of a kiln is from the side of Mother [Judgment] about which it is said: And Mount Sinai was all in smoke because YHWH had come down on it in fire, and its smoke went up like smoke from a kiln (and the whole mountain trembled greatly) [Exodus 19:18], and it is all one.

And there shall be a סֻכָּה [sukkah] hut, for a shadow in the daytime (from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a shelter from storm and from rain) [Isaiah 4:6]. This is because a roof is required, and this casts a shadow, about which it is said: בְּצֵל [be-tṣel] In the shadow, of Shaddai, he lies at night (Psalms 91:1). And the meaning is not of the shadow cast by an ordinary Sukkah that shields the body from the sun, but to the shadow that casts a protection over the נִשְׁמְתָא soul: In בְּצִלּוֹ [be-tṣillo] His shadow, I delighted to sit [Song of Songs 2:3] and Of Whom we said: ‘Under בְּצִלּוֹ His shadow, we shall live among the nations‘ [Lamentations 4:20]. The word צֵל [tṣel] with a final letter ם added to it forms the word צֶלֶם [tṣelem] image [where צֵל (tṣel) shadow, alludes to the roof thatching], and it is said: With צֶלֶם an image, a man goes about [Psalms 39:7]. Closed ם has four sides to it [alluding, graphically, to the four walls of a Sukkah]” (Ra’aya Meheimna Pinḥas)

Israel Make Merry

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“Come and see: There are times in the year when favor is found, and times in the year when Judgment looms. There are times in the month when favor is found, and times in the month when judgments looms over all. There are times in the week when favor is found, and times in the week when judgments appear in the world. There are times in the day when favor is found and the world is fragrant, and times in the day when judgments loom – and even in the hour. Thus it is written: [For everything there is a season,] and a time for every matter (under heaven) [Ecclesiastes 3:1], and similarly: [As for me, may my prayer to You, O YHWH, come] at a time of favor… [Psalms 69:14], and similarly: Why, YHWH, do You stand far off, and hide in times of trouble? [Psalms 10:1], and similarly: From afar, YHWH appeared to me [Jeremiah 31:3]. And times when He is near, as it is written: Seek YHWH when He may be found, call to Him when He is near [Isaiah 55:6]; YHWH is near to all who call Him [Psalms 145:18]. Therefore, that he not enter at all times into the sanctuary [Leviticus 16:2]” (Zohar 3:58a-b).

“In the ninth [month of the civil calendar, namely Sivan] Israel was answered by the Sea. And the ninth [seasonal] hour is the time of merriment, and blessing, and joy. It is the hour of the afternoon prayer in which Elijah was answered, as is written: And it happened at the hour of the afternoon offering that Elijah the prophet approached [1 Kings 18:36, cf. BT Berakhot 6b]. It is a tradition to you that the ninth year of the Jubilee will be the most auspicious year, the ninth month, will be a month of favor, and it will be the most auspicious of months. The ninth day of the month will be the most auspicious day of the month, and the ninth hour of the day will be the most auspicious hour of hours. And the same occurs above, among the highest ones; the ninth is most auspicious” (Berit Menuḥa).

“From the beginning of the month [of Tishrei] books are opened and judges sit in judgment. Every single day courts are empowered to open proceedings, until the day called ‘ninth of the month.’ On that day judgements all ascend to the Master of Judgment, and a supernal holy throne is prepared for the King. On that day Israel below should rejoice before their Lord, who is ready to sit over them on the holy Throne of Mercy, the Throne of Leniency” (Zohar 3:67a).

“On this day two radiances shine as one – Supernal Mother illumines Lower Mother. Thus it is written יוֹם הַכִּפֻּרִים [Yom ha-Kippurim], the Day of Atonements [Leviticus 23:27], as has been said…

There is one day a year to examine and inspect them, and when this day comes to pass, Supernal Mother – in whose hand is all freedom – appears, to observe Israel. And they gird themselves on this day with many rituals, prayers, and self-afflictions – all of them virtuous… Then She couples with the King in radiance, in joy, in perfection, in rapture, for She has raised children fittingly for the supernal King” (Zohar 3:102a-b).

“On Rosh Ha-Shanah, the left arm is aroused to welcome the Queen. The whole world is then in fear of Judgment, and the whole world has to be in complete repentance before the blessed Holy One. Later, on the ninth of the month [of Tishrei], the Queen comes and the palace retinue, Israel, make merry and immerse themselves in the river to purify themselves for the mating of the Queen, on the next day [namely, Yom Kippur]. For Her mating is accomplished by His placing His left hand under Her head, in accordance with, His left hand beneath my head (His right arm holding me close) [Song of Songs 2:6].

Then, on the tenth day Israel fast for their sins and are forgiven. For the Supernal Mother [Binah] looks kindly on Malkhut in the mating and makes atonement for all of the retinue of the temple, Israel, since the left welcomes Her on this day, for the head of Malkhut rests on the left [hand]” (Ra’aya Meheimna Pinḥas).

Four Worlds אַבִּיעָ

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“Rabbi Bun also sat and expounded: What is the meaning of, יוֹצֵר [yotṣer] He forms, light and בוֹרֵא [borei] creates, darkness [Isaiah 45:7]? Light has substance. Therefore, the term יְצִירָה [yetṣirah] formation, is used with regard to it. Darkness has no substance, therefore, with regard to it, בְּרִיאָה [beri’ah] creation, is used. It is similarly written, יוֹצֵר [yotṣer] He forms, mountains and בֹרֵא [borei] creates, the wind [Amos 4:13]. Another explanation: Light was actually brought into existence, as it is written, And God said, “Let there be light” [Genesis 1:3]. Something cannot be brought into existence unless it is עֲשִׂיָה [assiyah] made/actualized. יְצִירָה [yetṣirah] formation, is therefore used. In the case of darkness, however, there was no making, only separation and setting aside. It is for this reason that the term בָּרָא [bara] created, is used. It has the same sense as the expression, הִבְּרִיאָה פְּלוֹנִי [hiberi’ah ploni] so and so became healthy” (Bahir 13).

“The blessed Holy One created the human male and female, as it is written, Male and female He created them [Genesis 1:27]. Is it then possible to say this? Is it not written, And God created the human in his image, in the image of God He created him [Genesis 1:27]? It is only later written, [“It is not good for the human to be alone,] I shall make him a sustainer beside him” [Genesis 2:18] and, And He took one of the ribs and closed over the flesh where it had been [Genesis 2:21]. But we must say that Torah employs יְצִירָה [yetṣirah] Formation, and עֲשִׂיָה [assiyah] Actualization, and בְּרִיאָה [beri’ah] Creation: when the נְשָׁמָה [neshamah] soul, was made, עָשַׂה [assah] made, is used; Male and female He בָּרָא [bara] created, them; יְצִירָה [yetṣirah] Formation, was used when the נְשָׁמָה [neshamah] soul, was הַרְכִּיב [ha-rekiv] combined, with the body and the רוּחַ [ruaḥ] breath, was brought together. How do we know that יְצִירָה [yetṣirah] Formation, means to gather? For it is written, And YHWH God יִּצֶר [yitṣer] fashioned, from the soil each beast of the field and each fowl of the heavens and brought each to the human to see what he would call it [Genesis 2:19]. This explains the verse, Male and female He created them [Genesis 5:2]. It is also written, And God blessed them [Genesis 1:28]” (Bahir 198, cf. Guide of the Perplexed 2:30).

“On the side of Holiness, that אֱלֹהִים God of truth, King over the world, is empowered by three elements: בְּרִיאָה [Beri’ah] Creation; יְצִירָה [Yetṣirah] Formation; and by עֲשִׂיָה [Assiyah] Actualization. The mystery of each and every one is mentioned here. Corresponding to בְּרִיאָה Creation: He took from their hand [Exodus 32:4] – something that until now contained nothing at all. Corresponding to יְצִירָה Formation: וַיָּצַר [va-yatṣar] and he fashioned, it [ibid.]. Corresponding to עֲשִׂיָה [Assiyah] Actualization, וַיַּעֲשֵׂהוּ [va-ya'aseihu] and made it, into a molten calf [ibid.]. Who has ever seen such sorcerers in the whole world!” (Zohar 2:192b).

“Like a king that sends a document with his seal, and the likeness of the king is imprinted in the wax of the seal. The sefirot of אֲצִילוּת (Atṣilut) Emanation, are precisely the likeness of the King. The sefirot of בְּרִיאָה [Beri’ah] Creation, are the seal of the king, and the sefirot of יְצִירָה [Yetṣirah] Formation, are the angels which are the living creatures, and they are the form of the seal in wax” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 3b).

Listen to Your Soul

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“His students asked: What is [the vowel] חוֹלֶם [ḥolem]? He replied: It is the נְשָׁמָה [neshama] soul – its name is חוֹלֶם [ḥolem]. If you תִּשְׁמַע [tishema] listen, your body will be תַּחְלִים [taḥlim] reinvigorated, in the future of its builder [cf. BT Berakhot 60b]. But if you rebel against it, there will be חוֹלֶה [ḥoleh] illness, on your head, and חוֹלִים [ḥolim] illnesses, on its head” (Bahir 40).

“When the human was created, what is written? You clothed me in skin and flesh [Job 10:11]. What then is the human if not skin and flesh, and bones and sinews? But surely the human being is nothing but soul! And these that we have mentioned – skin, flesh, bones, and sinews are all merely a garment; they are a person’s clothing not the human. And when a person departs, he is stripped of those garments that he is wearing” (Zohar 2:76a).

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