The Nut Garden

Gleanings of Zohar

He is Unclean, He shall Dwell Apart: Yet it was Our Sickness He was Bearing

And the person afflicted with skin blanch, in whom the affliction is, his clothes shall be torn and his hair disheveled, and his moustache he shall cover, and he shall call out, “Unclean! Unclean!” All the days that the affliction is on him he shall remain unclean. He is unclean. He shall dwell apart. Outside the camp shall his dwelling be (Leviticus 13:45-46).

Yet it was our sickness that he was bearing, our pains that he endured—though we considered him plagued, stricken by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquities, he bore the chastisement that made us whole, and by his wound we were healed (Isaiah 53:4-5).

“The Rabbis said: [The Messiah,] his name is חִיוְורָא (Ḥivra), White, of the House of Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nasi], as is written, Yet it was our sickness that he was bearing, our pains that he endured—though we considered him plagued, stricken by God and afflicted (Isaiah 53:4) [i.e., מְצוֹרָע (metsora), the skin blanched one (Rashi)]” (BT Sanhedrin 98b).

“And he who [continually] declares [others] unclean is [himself] unclean and never speaks in praise [of people]. And Shemu’el said: With his own blemish he stigmatizes [others] as unclean” (BT Qiddushin 70a).

“Rabbi Yehoshua son of Levi met Elijah at the opening of the cave of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai. He asked him: ‘Have I a portion in the world to come?’ He said, ‘If this lord desires.’ Rabbi Yehoshua son of Levi said, ‘I saw two, but heard the voice of a third [the Shekhinah (Rashi)].’ He then asked him, ‘When will the Messiah come?’—’Go and ask him himself,’ was his reply. ‘Where is he sitting?’—‘At the portal of the city [of Rome (Gra)].’ And by what sign may I recognize him?’—‘He is sitting among the ill, poor, and suffering: all of them untie all at once, and rebandage them together, whereas he unties and rebandages each separately, [before treating the next], thinking, should I be wanted, I must not be delayed [by having to bandage a number of sores].’ So he went to him and greeted him, saying, ‘Peace be upon you, Rabbi and Teacher.’ ‘Peace be upon you son of Levi,’ he replied. ‘When will you come Master?’ he asked, ‘Today,’ was his answer. On his returning to Elijah, he asked, ‘What did he say to you?’—‘Peace be upon you son of Levi,’ he answered. Thereupon he [Elijah] observed, ‘He thereby assured you and your father of [a portion in] the world to come.’ ‘He spoke a lie to me, saying that he would come today, but has not.’ He [Elijah] answered him, ‘This is what he said to you, Today, if you would only heed His voice!’ (Psalms 95:7)” (BT Sanhedrin 98a).

“When [the souls in the Garden of Eden below roam on every new moon and Sabbath] they tell the Messiah about the suffering of Israel in exile and about the wicked among them who do not seek to know their Lord, he weeps aloud over the wicked, as is written: But he was wounded for our sins, crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5). Those souls return and stand in their places.

In the Garden of Eden there is one chamber called the Chamber of the Ill. The Messiah then enters that chamber and calls for all the illnesses, all the pains, and all the sufferings of Israel to come upon him, and they all do so. And if he did not ease them off of Israel, taking them upon himself, no one could endure the sufferings of Israel from the punishments of Torah, as is written: Yet it was our sickness that he was bearing (Isaiah 53:4). Similarly, Rabbi El’azar on earth [see BT Bava Metsi’a 83b-84b].

For innumerable are the sufferings looming over a person every day, all of which descended into the world at the time when Torah was given. When the people of Israel were in the Holy Land, they eliminated all those illnesses and sufferings from the world through rituals and sacrifices. Now, the Messiah removes them from inhabitants of the world, until a person departs from this world and receives punishment, as has been said. Except for the extremely wicked, who are sent deep within Hell, into those other compartments, where they are punished severely for the extreme filth of the soul; then intense fire is kindled to consume that filth. Woe to the soul who suffers that punishment! Furthermore, angels of destruction harass them with rods of fire to shake out that filth. Woe to the soul who suffers that punishment! Happy are those who keep the commandments of Torah!” (Zohar 2:212a).

For this command which I charge you today is not too wondrous for you nor is it distant. It is not in the heavens, to say, “Who will go up for us to the heavens and take it for us and let us hear it, that we may do it?” And it is not beyond the sea, to say, “Who will cross over for us beyond the sea and take it for us and let us hear it, that we may do it?” But the word is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it (Deuteronomy 30:11-14).

You are good and do good. Teach me Your statutes. The arrogant plaster me with lies—I with whole heart keep Your decrees. Their heart grows dull like fat—as for me, in Your teaching I delight. It was good for me that I was afflicted, so that I might learn Your statutes. Better for me Your mouth’s teaching than thousands of pieces of silver and gold (Psalms 119:68-72).

“Rabbi Abba said, ‘Yose, my son, I will tell you what happened to me with the Holy Lamp [Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai]. One day we were walking in the valley of Ono, delving into Torah that whole day. Due to the intensity of the sun, we sat ourselves down in the cleft of a certain rock [this recalls the cleft of the rock where God revealed His back to Moses (Exodus 33:22-23). Similarly, here, a profound mystery is revealed: the suffering of the righteous]. I said to him, ‘How is it that whenever the wicked proliferate in the world, the righteous among them are smitten on their account? For we have learned as follows: ‘For a generation’s חוֹבָא (ḥova), sin [lit., debt], the righteous are seized.’ Why? If because they do not reprimand the world for their deeds, well, there are many who do reprimand but are not heeded, and the righteous are overwhelmed by them. And if it is so that there will be no one to protect the world, then let them not die and not be seized for the sins [of the world], since the righteous find joy in the destruction [of the wicked].’

He replied, ‘For a generation’s sin, the righteous are surely seized, and we have established these matters. But when the righteous are seized with illness or afflictions, it is in order to atone for the world; then all sins of the generation are purged. How do we know this? From all members of the body. When all the members are in distress—grave illness prevailing over them—one member must suffer so that all of them may be healed. Which one is it? The arm. The arm is struck and blood is drawn from it, and then all members of the body are healed.

Similarly, inhabitants of the world are bodily members, interlinked. When the blessed Holy One wishes to grant healing to the world, He strikes one righteous person [Israel] among them, and through him provides healing to all. How do we know this? As is written: But he was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquities, and by his wound we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). And by his wound—bloodletting, like someone letting blood from his arm. By that wound we are healed—healing comes to us, to all members of the body.

Never is a righteous person smitten except to provide healing to the generation and to atone for them. This is the mystery of ‘a righteous one who suffers,’ for the Other Side prefers most of all that Judgment should overwhelm a righteous one—for then he does not care about the whole world and ignores them because of the joy of dominating him [cf. Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 1a-b]. Yet that righteous person attains supreme dominion in this world and in the world that is coming. As for ‘a righteous one who prospers,’ this is because the blessed Holy One does not care to atone for the world’” (Zohar 3:217b-18b).

Long-nosed

For the sake of My name אַאֲרִיךְ אַפִּי (a’arikh appi), I lengthen My nose, and for My praise אֶחֱטָם (eḥetom), restrain it, for you, so as not to cut you off (Isaiah 48:9).

“Secrecy within secrecy was prepared and arranged in a single skull filled with crystalline dew. Membrane of air, purified and sealed; those strands of clean fleece hanging evenly. Will of Wills is revealed through צְלוֹתָא (tselota), prayer [lit., roast sacrifice], of those below. Open-eyed watching, never sleeping, ever vigilant; supervision below by supervision of radiance above. Two nostrils of an official arousing breath for all [as a nose supervising commandingly]” (Zohar 2:176b, Sifra di-Tsni’uta).

“It has been taught: This nose is small, and when smoke begins to emerge, it comes out hurriedly and Judgment is executed. Who prevents this nose from spewing smoke? The nose of the Holy Ancient One, Who is called אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם (Erekh Appayim), Long-nosed, Long-suffering, of all… When the Holy Ancient One is revealed to Ze’eir Anpin, all appear in Compassion; the nose is assuaged, and no smoke emerges, as we have learned, for it is written: For My praise אֶחֱטָם (eḥetom), I restrain the nose, for you… (Isaiah 48:9)… Thus it is written YHWH smelled the pleasing aroma (Genesis 8:21), for all depends on the nose—that this nose may smell the smoke and red fire, whereby the offering is accepted with favor. This corresponds to what is written: The nose of YHWH will flare against you (Deuteronomy 11:17); My nose will flare (Exodus 22:23); lest the nose of YHWH flare (Deuteronomy 6:15)—all referring to Ze’eir Anpin” (Zohar 3:137b-138a, Idra Rabba).

“וַיִּפַּח בְּאַפָּיו נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים (Va-yippaḥ be-appaiv nishmat ḥayyim)And He blew into his nostrils the soul of life (Genesis 2:7)—חוֹתָם (ḥotam), stamp, signet ring, seal [חוֹתָם (ḥotam) puns on חוֹטֶם (ḥotem), nose]” (Ba’al ha-Turim).

The Locks of Your Head are Purple

Tefillin3.jpg“Rabbi Avin son of Rabbi Adda said in the name of Rabbi Yitsḥaq, ‘How do we know that the blessed Holy One puts on tefillin? For it is said: YHWH has sworn by His right hand and by the arm of His strength (Isaiah 62:8). By His right hand—this is Torah, as is said: From His right hand was a fiery law for them (Deuteronomy 33:2). And by the arm of His strength—this is tefillin, as is said: YHWH will give strength unto His people (Psalms 29:11). How do we know that tefillin are a strength to Israel? For it is written: And all the peoples of the earth will see that the name of YHWH is called over you and they will fear you (Deuteronomy 28:10), and it has been taught: Rabbi Eli’ezer the Great says, ‘This refers to tefillin of the head.’ Rabbi Naḥman son of Yitsḥaq asked Rabbi Ḥiyya son of Avin, ‘These tefillin of the Master of the World—what is written in them? He replied, ‘Who is like Your people Israel, a unique nation on earth’ (1 Chronicles 17:2)” (BT Berakhot 6a).

I will take away My palm and you will see My back (Exodus 33:23). Rav Ḥana son of Bizna said in the name of Rabbi Shim’on the Ḥasid, ‘This teaches us that the blessed Holy One showed Moses the knot of tefillin [at the back of God’s head]’” (BT Berakhot 7a).

“[Shekhinah] Her hair, called ‘stars of a scepter,’ precisely: masters of measure, masters of balance, masters of severity, masters of reaping—all called ‘purple hair’” (Zohar 1:223b, cf. Otsar ha-Midrashim, Olam Qatan, 406).

“בְּרֵאשִׁית (Bereshit), In the beginning (Genesis 1:1)—אַשְׁרֵי (Ashrei). This is אַשְׁרֵי (ashrei), happy, the man (Psalms 1:1); and אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה (Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh), I-Will-Be-What-I-Will-Be (Exodus 3:14)—Head of all heads [Keter], about it is said Your head upon you like כַּרְמֶל (Karmel), Carmel (Song of Songs 7:6)—tefillin of the head; and the locks of your head are אַרְגָּמָן (argaman), purple (ibid.)—tefillin of the hand, and through it they praise the בַּת (Bat), Daughter  [Shekhinah], with this אַשְׁרֵי (Ashrei) [prayer], as is written, And בְּאָשְׁרִי (be-ashri), what good fortune! For girls have acclaimed me fortunate (Genesis 30:13)” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 27a-b).

“בְּרֵאשִׁית (Bereshit)—בַּת רָאשֵׁי (Bat Rashei), First Daughter: אֵלֶּה (Elleh), these, are the רָאשֵׁי (rashei), first, of their fathers’ houses (Exodus 6:14). Concerning a daughter the Masters of Mishnah have said: ‘[If a] daughter [is born] first—a good sign’ (BT Bava Batra 141a). She is the י (yod) of the Name אֲדֹנָי (Adonai), a precious stone which includes all the colors [on אֵלֶה (elleh), these, as an appellation of Shekhinah, see Zohar 1:9a-10a. On רָאשֵׁי (rashei) as ‘first,’ and ‘heads,’ see Zohar 3:248a: ‘On the רָאשֵׁי (rashei), heads, of your new moon (Numbers 28:11). Now, how many heads does the moon have?…’]” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 10a).

“Therefore the blessed Holy One is the King bounce in bonds. He is bound with them through the tefillin of the head, which is beauty of the head, because tefillin of the head are in the place of the bond of the brain. This is: [A king is] caught in the tangle (Song of Songs 7:6)—He is bound to them through the tefillin of the hand in the knot of the hand. This is as written, Bind the turban of your head upon you (Ezekiel 24:17). Because He is bound to them in the exile it says, ‘A prisoner cannot free himself from jail’ (BT Berakhot 5b). The Shekhinah is His jail—because of Her love He is bound to Her—and the mystery of the matter: A sachet of myrrh is my lover to me, all night between my breasts (Song of Songs 1:13)” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 21b).

Whoever Goes to that World without this Knowledge, Even if He has Many Good Deeds, He will be Ejected from All Its Gates

ello-b484c786-ffb8-4fa9-b913-5241ad85bb79Tell me, whom I love so, where you pasture your flock at noon, lest I go straying after the flocks of your companions—If you do not know, O fairest of women, go out in the tracks of the sheep (Song of Songs 1:7-8).

“Happy are those engaged with Torah in order to learn the wisdom of their Master, knowing and contemplating transcendent secrets! For when a person departs this world, that lore causes all forms of judgments against him to vanish. Not only this, but thirteen gates of mysteries of pure balsam, from which the Supernal Wisdom is suspended, are opened for him. Not only this, but the blessed Holy One delights with him in the Garden of Eden, and he inherits two worlds: this world and the world that is coming.

The wisdom one must know: First, to learn how to complete the mystery of his Master.

Second, to understand his body, to become aware of who he is. How was he created? Where did he come from? Where is he headed? Perfection of the body—how is that achieved? How will he be summoned to judgment before the Sovereign of All?

Third, to know and contemplate mysteries of his soul. What is it, this soul within him? Where did it come from? Why did it enter this body—fetid drop!—here today, tomorrow in the grave?

Fourth, to contemplate this world in which he finds himself. How can it be perfected? Afterward, with supernal mysteries from the world above, to know his Master. All this, one should contemplate within mysteries of Torah.

Come and see: whoever goes to that world without this knowledge, even if he has many good deeds, he will be ejected from all its gates. Go out, look at what is written here: ‘Tell me (Song of Songs 1:7)—speak to me of mysteries of wisdom! How do you pasture and conduct that world? Teach me mysteries of wisdom, of that supernal Wisdom, those that I have neither known nor contemplated before, so that I will not be disgraced among those upper rungs that I shall enter. For until now, I have not contemplated them.’

Come and see what is written: If you do not know (ibid. 8). If you arrive without knowledge, without having contemplated wisdom before entering here, and you do not know mysteries of the upper world, go forth (ibid.)! You are unworthy to enter here without knowledge. Gain awareness בְּעִקְבֵי (be-iqvei), in the tracks of, the sheep (ibid.), among those people who are trampled בְּעָקֵב (be-eqev), underfoot. They know supreme mysteries of their Master, and from them you will learn how to perceive” (Zohar Ḥadash 70d, cf. BT Ḥagigah 27a).

Happy are You, Land, Whose King is a Noble

Judgment_of_Solomon_(by_Lee_Lawrie).jpg“May You give Your servant an understanding heart to discern between good and evil, for who can judge this vast people of Yours?” And the thing was good in the eyes of YHWH that Solomon had asked for this thing. And God said to him, “In as much as you have asked for this thing and you did not ask for long life for yourself and did not ask wealth for yourself and did not ask for the life of your enemies, but you asked to discern and understand justice, look, I am doing according to your words. Look, I give you a wise and discerning heart, so that your like there will not have been before you, and after you none like you shall arise…

Then two whore-women did come to the king and stood in his presence. And the one woman said, “I beseech you, my lord. I and this woman live in a single house, and I gave birth alongside her in the house. And it happened on the third day after I gave birth that this woman, too, gave birth, and we were together, no stranger was with us in the house, just the two of us in the house. And this woman’s son died during the night, as she had lain upon him. And she rose in the middle of the night and took my son from by me, your servant being asleep, and she laid him in her lap, and her dead son she laid in my lap. And I rose in the morning to nurse my son, and, look, he was dead, and when I examined him in the morning, look, he was not my son whom I had borne.” And the other woman said, “No, for my son is the living one and your son is dead.” And the other said, “No, for your son is dead and my son is the living one.” And they spoke before the king. And the king said, “This one says, ‘This is my live son and your son is dead,’ and this one says, ‘No, for your son is dead and my son is the living one.’” And the king said, “Fetch me a sword.” And they brought a sword before the king. And the king said, “Cut the living child in two, and give half to one and half to the other.” And the woman whose son was alive said to the king, for her compassion welled up for her son, and she said, “I beseech you, my lord, give her the living newborn but absolutely do not put him to death.” And the other was saying, “Neither mine nor yours shall he be. Cut him apart!” And the king spoke up and said, “Give her the living newborn, and absolutely do not put him to death. She is his mother.” And all Israel heard of the judgment that the king had judged, and they held the king in awe, for they saw that God’s wisdom was within him to do justice (1 Kings 3:9-12, 16-28, on King Solomon’s use of physiognomy, see Abarbanel ad loc.; Rabbi David ibn Zimra, Responsa of the Radbaz, № 634).

The look on their countenance does witness against them (Isaiah 3:9).

Woe to you, land, whose king is a youth, and your princes dine in the morning (Ecclesiastes 10:16). It is written, then two whore-women did come (1 Kings 3:16). Who were they? Rabbi Meir says: They were female spirits; the Rabbis say: They were yevamot [the widows of men with no male heir, see Deuteronomy 25:5-6]; Rabbi Simon says in the name of Rabbi Yehoshua: They were really whores, and Solomon gave his verdict without hearing witnesses and without giving warning [to the litigants, against the seriousness of perjury].

And the one woman said, ‘I beseech you, my lord… And it happened on the third day after I gave birth… And this woman’s son died during the night’ (ibid. 17)—because she slipped and fell on him. And she rose in the middle of the night… And I rose in the morning to nurse my son… And the other woman said, ‘No, for my son is the living one… And the king said, ‘This one says…’ (ibid. 20).

Rabbi Pinḥas and Rabbi Yirmeyahu said in the name of Rabbi Ḥiyya son of Abba and Rav Bibi, and the tradition goes back to the name of Rav Pedat: The procedure of judging a case is as follows: The judge sits and those to be judged stand; the plaintiff states his claim, the defendant replies, and the judge decides between them. Rabbi Simon said: From here we learn that it is necessary for the judge to repeat their pleas. From these verses: And the king said, ‘This one says, “This is my live son and your son is dead,” and this one says, “No, for your son is dead and my son is the living one.”’ And the king said, ‘Fetch me a sword.’… And the woman whose son was alive… (ibid. 24).

Rabbi Yehudah said in the name of Rabbi Ilai: If I had been there I would have wound a rope of wool around his neck, and when he said, ‘Fetch me a sword,’ had she not been filled with compassion for the babe he would already have been strangled; and concerning that time it says, Woe to you, land, whose king is a youth. Then [Solomon] in his wisdom began a concluding argument and said, ‘Was it for nothing that the blessed Holy One created for man two eyes, two ears, two legs, and two hands? The blessed Holy One foresaw that this case was to happen’ [i.e., that the child might be cut in two and a half given to each woman]. So he did not tarry [in keeping the real mother in suspense] but [immediately] said, Give her the living newborn, and absolutely do not put him to death (ibid. 27). Concerning that time it says, Happy are you, land, whose king is a noble, and your princes dine in fit time (Ecclesiastes 10:17)—in the time of the World that is Coming, not in שְּׁתִי (sheti), drunkenness (ibid.): in his strength, and not in תְשִׁישׁוּ (teshishu), his weakness. And the king spoke up and said, ‘Give her the living newborn, and absolutely do not put him to death’; and the Holy Spirit cried out, saying, ‘She is his mother, certainly’” (Qohelet Rabbah 10:15-18).

In the image of God (Genesis 5:1)—in that exact form, as our Master [Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai] has established. Further, This is the book of the generations of Adam (ibid.)—for features, in the mysteries of human features, to recognize those generations of a human being. The mysterious features of a human: in hair, in forehead, in eyes, in face, in lips, in ears, in lines of the hands. By these seven, humans are recognized…

Even so, Moses did not need this; rather, what is written? Moses chose men of caliber from all Israel (Exodus 18:25)—because Holy Spirit came to him, through whom he saw all. How do we know? As is written: When they have some matter, he comes to me (Exodus 18:16). It is not written they come to me, but rather he comes—Holy Spirit who came to him, through whom he knew, so he did not need all this examining and inspecting; rather, Moses knew instantly.

Similarly, King Solomon, by the throne—even though the Holy Spirit rested upon him. For whoever approached the throne was overcome with fear and awe, and thereby he judged cases without witnesses—because there were images on the throne, and if anyone approached with a lie, that image would vibrate and Solomon would know he was coming with a lie. So, fear of that throne fell upon all, and they all became virtuous in his presence.

King Messiah, by smell, as is written: His scenting will be by awe of YHWH: not by sight of eyes will he judge… (Isaiah 11:3). These three judged the world without witnesses or warning; the rest of the inhabitants of the world, by word of witnesses, by command of Torah. The wise who recognize those features, providing remedy for people and healing their souls—happy are they in this world and happy are they in the world that is coming!” (Zohar 2:70b; 78a, cf. BT Rosh ha-Shanah 21b).

π: A Line of Thirty Cubits Going all Around

hiram_allas_salomon_temppeli_brazen_sea_574Whatsoever has a circumference of three handbreadths is one handbreadth in diameter (Mishnah). Is it so?—Rabbi Yoḥanan replied: Scripture stated: And he made the cast metal sea ten cubits from edge to edge, circular all around, and five cubits in height and a line of thirty cubits going all around (1 Kings 7:23). But surely there was its brim?—Rav Papa replied: Of its brim, it is written in Scripture: [a mere] blossom of a lily; as is written: its thickness was a handspan, and its rim like the design of a cup’s rim, blossom and lily, two thousand bats did it hold (ibid. 26) [the bat is a relatively large unit of liquid measure, but the precise quantity is uncertain]. But there was [still] a fraction at least?—when it was reckoned it was that of the inner circumference [this is the only instance where a doubt is raised in the Talmud in connection with a mathematical statement, proving that the rabbis were well aware of the more exact ratio between the diameter and circumference and that the ratio of 1:3 was accepted by them simply as a workable number for religious purposes, cf. BT Eruvin 76a; Sukkah 7b]” (BT Eruvin 14a).

“Rabbi Abba opened, saying, ‘He made the sea [cast metal] (1 Kings 7:23), and it is written: Standing upon twelve oxen: three facing north, three facing west, three facing south, and three facing east, with the sea set upon them above… (ibid., 25), and it is written: the twelve oxen underneath the sea (ibid., 44). Standing upon twelve oxen—certainly so! For this sea [Shekhinah] is arrayed by twelve in two worlds: by twelve above, appointed by chariots; by twelve below, twelve tribes” (Zohar 1:241a).

Sometimes in those Empty Ones You May Discover Bells of Gold!

vishniac-beggars.pngA teaching did Moses charge us, a heritage for Jacob’s assembly! (Deuteronomy 33:4).

“Rabbi Parnak said in Rabbi Yoḥanan’s name: He who is himself a scholar, and his son is a scholar, and his son’s son too, Torah will nevermore cease from his seed, as is written, As for me, this is My covenant with them, says YHWH; My spirit that is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, nor out of the mouth of your descendants, nor out of the mouth of your descendant’s descendants, says YHWH, from this time forth and forever (Isaiah 59:21). What is meant by says YHWH?—the blessed Holy One, said, ‘I am surety for you in this matter.’ What is the meaning of from this time forth and forever?—Rabbi Yirmeyahu said: ‘From now on Torah seeks its home [i.e., it becomes hereditary in that family]” (BT Baba Metsi’a 85a).

“Rabbi Yose said: Let the property of your fellow be as precious to you as your own. Prepare yourself to study Torah, for it does not come to you as an inheritance. And let all your deeds be for the sake of heaven” (M Avot 2:17).

“If one wants to become a priest or a Levite he cannot because his father was not a priest or a Levite. However, if one wants to become righteous even if he is a gentile he can do so because it is not a family trait, as it says: bless YHWH, those who fear YHWH, bless YHWH (Psalms 135:20)—it does not say the house of those who fear YHWH but those who fear YHWH. It is not a family trait, rather, on their own they chose to fear and love the blessed Holy One. Therefore, the blessed Holy One loves them” (Bemidbar Rabbah 8:2).

“Be heedful of the children of the poor, for from them Torah goes forth, as is written, Water drips מִדָּלְיָו (midalyav), from his branch, [and his root in abundant waters] (Numbers 24:7)—[מִדַּלִּים (mi-dallim), from the poor,] goes forth Torah [likened to water]. And why is it not usual for scholars to give birth to sons who are scholars?—Rabbi Yosef said, ‘That they not say, The Torah is their legacy’ [i.e., others should not complain that it is useless for them to study, or that they themselves should not think study unnecessary]. Rav Sheshet, the son of Rav Idi, said: ‘That they should not be arrogant towards the public.’ Mar Zutra said: ‘Because they act high-handedly against the public.’ Rav Ashi said: ‘Because they call people donkeys.’ Ravina said: Because they do not first utter a blessing over the Torah [as required]. For Rav Yehudah said in Rav’s name: ‘What is meant by, Who is the wise man, that may understand this? [… for why is the land perished and is burned up like a wilderness, that none passes through?] (Jeremiah 9:11). Now, this question was put to the sages and prophets but they could not answer it until the blessed Holy One Himself did so, as is written, And YHWH says, Because they have forsaken My law which I set before them, and have not obeyed My voice, neither walked in it (ibid. 12): but is not have not obeyed My voice identical with, neither walked therein?—Rav Yehudah said in Rav’s name: ‘[It means] that they did not first recite a blessing over Torah'” (BT Nedarim 81a).

Like a slice of pomegranate רַקָּתֵךְ (raqatekh), your forehead (Song of Songs 4:3)… Even רֵיקַנִין (reiqanin), the empty ones, among you [i.e., among Israel] are as full of mitsvot as a pomegranate [is full of seeds]” (BT Berakhot 57a).

“That donkey-driver, is he here? For sometimes in those empty ones, you may discover bells of gold! [In rabbinic literature the bell appears as a symbol of revelation and inspiration, see BT Sotah 9b, in the name of Rabbi Neḥemiah: ‘Shekhinah was ringing before him like a bell’]” (Zohar 2:95a).

“Sometimes in a poor man’s undergarment you’ll find a pearl” (Zohar 3:157b, cf. M Avot 4:1).