The Nut Garden

Gleanings of Zohar

The Great Chain of Being and the Desire to Receive

Evolution-neanderthal-manThe eyes of all look in hope to You and You give them their food in its season, פּוֹתֵחַ אֶת-יָדֶךָ וּמַשְׂבִּיעַ לְכָל חַי רָצוֹן (poteaḥ et-Yadekha u-masbiah le-khal ḥai ratson), opening Your hand and sating to their pleasure all living things (Psalms 145:15-16).

“It seems very peculiar that for man, whose worth is but a wisp compared to the reality before us in this world, much less compared to the upper, spiritual worlds, the Creator would go to all the trouble of creating all that for him. And even more peculiar is what would man need all these vast spiritual worlds for?

And you must know that any contentment of our Maker from giving abundantly to His creatures depends on the extent that the creatures feel Him—that He is the giver, and that He is the One who delights them. For then He takes great pleasure in them, as a father playing with his beloved son, to the extent that the son feels and recognizes the greatness and exaltedness of his father, and his father shows him all the treasures he had prepared for him, as it is written: ‘Is Ephraim My precious son? Is he a child of delights? For since I spoke against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore My insides yearn for him; I will surely have compassion upon him,’ says YHWH (Jeremiah 31:19).

Observe these words carefully and you may come to know the great delights of the Name, may He be blessed, with those perfect ones that have been granted feeling Him and recognizing His greatness in all those manners He has prepared for them, until they are like a father with his precious son, the delight of his parents. And we need not continue on that, for it is enough for us to know that for this contentment and delight in those perfect ones, it was worth His while to create all the worlds, high and low alike.

To prepare His creatures to attain this exalted rung, the blessed Holy One desired to act on them in a sequence of four rungs, one הַמִתְפַּתֵחַוֹת (hamitpateḥot), evolving, from the other, called דוֹמֵם צוֹמֵחַ חַי מִדָּבָר (domem, tsomeaḥ, ḥai, midavar), mineral, vegetable, animal, human [lit., dumb, growing, living, speaking]. These are, in fact, the four phases of the רָצוֹן לְקַבֵּל (ratson le-qabel), desire to receive, by which the upper worlds are divided. For although the majority of the desire is in the fourth phase of the desire to receive, it is impossible for the fourth phase to appear at once, but by its preceding three phases, in which, and through which, it gradually מִתְפַּתֵחַת (mitpateḥat), unfurls, and appears, until it is fully completed in the form of phase four [cf. Rabbi Yosef Albo, Sefer ha-Iqqarim 3:1-6].

In the first phase of the desire to receive, called דוֹמֵם (domem), mineral, the initial manifestation of the desire to receive, in this corporeal world, there is but a general capacity for movement for the whole of the mineral category. But no motion is apparent in its particular elements. This is because the desire to receive, generates needs, and the needs generate movements sufficient to satisfy the needs. And since there is but a minimal desire to receive, its effect is only apparent as causing a general movement, but its effect over the particular elements is indistinguishable.

The צוֹמֵחַ (tsomeaḥ), vegetable, is added to it, which is the second phase of the desire to receive. Its measure is greater than in the mineral, and its desire to receive, dominates each and every element, because each element has its own capacity for movement, expanding through its length and breadth, and moving towards the sun. The matter of eating, drinking, and secretion of waste is apparent in each element too. However, the sensation of freedom and individuality is still absent in them.

Atop that comes the חַי (ḥai), animal, category, which is the third phase of the desire to receive. Its measure is already completed to a great extent, for this desire to receive already generates in each element a sensation of freedom and individuality, which is the life that is unique to each particular element. Yet, they still lack the sensation of others; they have no capacity for their companion’s distress or happiness and so forth.

Above all is the אָדָם (adam), human, the fourth phase of the desire to receive. It is the complete and final measure and its desire to receive includes the sensation of others as well. And if you wish to know the precise difference between the third phase of the desire to receive, which is in the animal, and the fourth phase of the desire to receive, in the human, I shall tell you that it is like the worth of a single creature compared to the whole of reality.

This is because the desire to receive, in the animal, which lacks the sensation of others, can only generate needs and desires to the extent that they are embedded in that creature alone. But man, who can feel others, too, becomes needy of everything that others have, too, and is thus filled with jealousy to acquire everything that others have. When he has a hundred, he wants two hundred, and so his needs forever multiply until he wishes to devour the whole world.

Now we have shown that the Creator’s desired goal for all of creation is to benefit His creatures, so they know His truthfulness and greatness, and receive all the delight and pleasure He has prepared for them, in the measure described in the verse: ‘Is Ephraim My precious son? Is he a child of delights?’ (Jeremiah 31:19). Thus, you clearly find that this purpose does not apply to the mineral and the great spheres, such as the earth, the moon, or the sun, however luminous they may be, and not to the vegetable or animal, for they lack the sensation of others, even from among their own species. Therefore, how can the sensation of the Divine and His bestowal apply to them?

Humanity alone, having been prepared with the sensation of others of the same species, who are similar to them, after delving in Torah and mitsvot, when they invert their desire to receive, to a  רָצוֹן לְהַשְׁפִּיעַ (ratson le-hashpia), desire to give, and come to equivalence of form with their Maker, they receive all the rungs that have been prepared for them in the upper worlds, called nefesh, ruaḥ, neshamah, ḥaya, yeḥida (being, spirit, soul, living, unique). By that they become qualified to receive the purpose of the thought of Creation. After all, the purpose of creation of all the worlds was for humanity alone.

And I know that it is completely unaccepted in the eyes of some philosophers. They cannot agree that man, which they think of as low and worthless, is the center of the magnificent Creation. But they are like a worm that is born inside a radish. It lives there and thinks that the world of the Creator is as bitter, as dark, and small as the radish it was born in. But as soon as it breaks the skin of the radish and peeps out, it claims in bewilderment: “I thought the whole world was the size of the radish I was born in, but now I see a grand, beautiful, and wondrous world before me!”

So, too, are those who are immersed in the shell of the desire to receive, they were born with, and did not try to take the unique antidote [lit., spice], which is practical Torah and mitsvot, which can break this hard shell and turn it into a desire to give contentment to the Maker. It is certain that they must determine their worthlessness and emptiness, as they truly are, and cannot comprehend that this magnificent reality had been created only for them.

Indeed, had they delved in Torah and mitsvot to give contentment to their Maker, with all the required purity, and would try to break the shell of the desire to receive, they were born with and assume the desire to give, their eyes would immediately open to see and attain for themselves all the rungs of wisdom, intelligence and a clear mind, that have been prepared for them in the spiritual worlds. Then they would themselves say what our sages said, “What does a good guest say? ‘Everything the host has done, he has done for me alone’” (BT Berakhot 58a).

Yet there still remains to clarify why man would need all the upper worlds the Creator had created for him? What use has he of them? Bear in mind that the reality of all the worlds is generally divided into five worlds, called: Adam Qadmon (Primordial Man), Atsilut (Emanation), Beri’ah (Creation), Yetsirah (Formation), and Assiyah (Actualization). In each of them are innumerable elements, which are the five sefirot KḤBTM (Keter, Ḥokhmah, Binah, Tif’eret, and Malkhut). The world of Primordial Man is Keter; the world of Emanation is Ḥokhmah; the world of Creation is Binah; the world of Formation is Tif’eret; and the world Actualization is Malkhut.

And the lights clothed in those five worlds are called YḤNRN. The light of yeḥidah shines in the world of Primordial Man; the light of ḥaya in the world of Emanation; the light of neshamah in the world of Creation; the light of ruaḥ in the world of Formation; and the light of nefesh in the world of Actualization.

All these worlds and everything in them are included in the Holy Name, YHWH, and the apex of י (yod). We have no perception in the first world, Primordial Man. Hence, it is only implied in the apex of י (yod) of the Name. This is why we do not speak of it and always mention only the four worlds ABiYA. י (Yod)—the world of Emanation; ה (he)—the world of Creation; ו (vav)—the world of Formation; the final ה (he)—the world of Actualization.

We have now explained the five worlds that include the entire spiritual reality that extends from Infinity to this world. However, they are included in one another, and in each of the worlds there are the five worlds, the five sefirot KḤBTM, in which the five lights nefesh, ruaḥ, neshamah, ḥaya, yeḥida are enclothed, corresponding to the five worlds.

And besides the five sefirot, KḤBTM in each world, there are the four spiritual categories—mineral, vegetable, animal, and human. In it, man’s soul is regarded as the human, the animal is regarded as the angels in that world, the vegetable category is called לְבוּשׁים (levushim), garments, and the mineral category is called הֵיכָלוֹת (hekhalot), chambers. And they all enclothe one another: the human category, the souls of people, enclothes the five sefirot KḤBTM, which is the godliness in that world. The animal category, which are the angels, enclothes the souls; the vegetable, the garments, enclothe the angels; and the mineral, which are chambers, revolve around them all.

The enclothing means that they serve one another and evolve from one another, as we have clarified with the corporeal mineral, vegetable, animal, and human in this world: the three categories—mineral, vegetable, and animal—did not extend for themselves, but only so the fourth category, which is the human, might develop and rise by them. Therefore, their role is only to serve man and be useful to him.

So it is in all the spiritual worlds. The three categories—mineral, vegetable, and animal—appeared there only to serve and be useful to the human category, which is man’s soul. Therefore, it is considered that they all enclothe man’s soul, meaning serve him (Ba’al ha-Sullam, Rav Yehudah Ashlag, Introduction to the Book of Zohar, 33-42).

He shall Shoot Up in His Place

043-plantingBehold the man whose name is צֶמַח (Tsemaḥ), Shoot; and he shall shoot up in his place, and he shall build the temple of YHWH (Zechariah 6:12).

“The sages said, ‘If the King Messiah comes from among the living, David will be his name; if he comes from among the dead, it will be David himself.’ Said Rabbi Tanḥuma, ‘I say that the scriptural basis for this teaching is, And keeping faith, with His anointed, to David (Psalms 18:51).’

Rabbi Yehoshua said son of Levi said, ‘צֶמַח (Tsemaḥ), Shoot, is his name.’ Rabbi Yudan son of Rabbi Ayybo said, ‘מְנַחֵם (Menaḥem), Comforter, is his name.’ Said Hananiah son of Rabbi Abahu, ‘They do not disagree. The numerical value of the letters of one name equals the numerical value of the other. צֶמַח (Tsemaḥ) is equal to מְנַחֵם (Menaḥem)’ [cf. Zohar 3:16a].

And this supports the view of Rabbi Yudan son of Rabbi Ayybo. Once a Jew was plowing and his ox snorted once before him. An Arab who was passing and heard the sound said to him, ‘O son of Judah, O son of Judah. Loosen your ox, and loosen your plow. For today your Temple was destroyed.’ The ox snorted again. He said to him, ‘O son of Judah, O son of Judah. Bind your ox, and bind your plow. For today the King Messiah was born.’ He said to him, ‘What is his name?’ [The Arab replied,] ‘Menaḥem.’ He said to him, ‘And what is his father’s name?’ He said to him, ‘Hezekiah.’ He said to him, ‘Where is he from?’ He said to him, ‘From the royal capital of Bethlehem in Judea.’ He went and sold his ox and sold his plow. And he became a peddler of infants’ clothes. And he went from place to place until he came to that very city. All of the women bought from him. But Menaḥem’s mother did not buy from him. He heard the women saying, ‘O Mother of Menaḥem, O Mother of Menaḥem, come buy for your child.’ She said, ‘I want to choke this enemy of Israel. For on the day he was born the Temple was destroyed.’ He said to her, ‘We are sure that on this day it was destroyed, and on this day it will be rebuilt.’ She said to him, ‘I have no money.’ He said to her, ‘It is of no matter to me. Come and buy for him and if you have no money, pay me when I return.’ After a while he returned. He went up to that place. He said to her, ‘What happened to the infant?’ She said to him, ‘Since the time you saw him a wind came and whisked him away from me.’

Said Rabbi Bun, ‘Why must we learn this from an Arab? Do we not have explicit scriptural evidence for it? And Lebanon with its mighty shall fall (Isaiah 10:34). And what follows this? And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1)’” (JT Berakhot 2:3, 5a cf. Eikhah Rabbah 1:51; Zohar 1:82b).

“שִׂיחַ (Shiaḥ), plant, of the field (Genesis 2:5)—the first מָשִׁיחַ (Mashiaḥ), Messiah, who was not yet on earth. עֵשֶׂב (Esev), shrub, of the field (ibid.)—the second Messiah. Why were they not on the earth? Because Moses was not there with them to serve the Shekhinah [called Earth]. Of him, it is written: and there was no human to till the soil (ibid.). The secret is given in: The scepter shall not pass from Judah (Genesis 49:10)—Messiah son of David. Nor the mace from between his legs (ibid)—Messiah son of Joseph. Until Shiloh comes (ibid.)—Moses, since מֹשֶׁה (Moshe), Moses, is numerically equivalent to שִׁילֹה (Shiloh), Shiloh. וְלוֹ יִקְהַת (Ve-lo yiqehat), and to him the submission, of peoples (ibid.)—the letters [of]: וְלֵוִי קְהָת (ve-Levi qehat), and Levi Kohath [i.e., reaching from Moses, to Kohath and Levi, his ancestors]” (Zohar 1:25b, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar).

“Rabbi Yoḥanan said in the name of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai: If Israel kept two Sabbaths according to the halakhah, they would be redeemed immediately” (BT Shabbat 118b, cf. JT Ta’anit 1:1)—מִיָד (miyad), immediately, an acrostic: מָשִׁיחַ (mashiaḥ), messiah (alt., מֹשֶׁה [Moshe], Moses), יוֹסֵף (Yosef), Joseph, דָוִד (David), David.

A Sojourner have I been in a Foreign Land: A Prisoner cannot Free Himself from Jail

 

20150502-crime-compensaIn his day you shall give his wages (Deuteronomy 24:15). The Faithful Shepherd opened ‘The following decree is to give a hired slave his hire in time. This is the meaning of, In his day you shall give his wages, and the sun shall not set on him (ibid.). Listen, heads of the Academy high and low. Metatron is the hire of the hired slave, a messenger from the eighteen worlds [Yesodto receive the eighteen blessings of the Amidah prayer [for Malkhut] every day, three times a day. For that reason, In his day you shall give his wages—the Shaḥarit service; and the sun shall not set on himMinḥa service, for if the day is past, the offering is no longer valid. For he is poor (ibid.)—surely he is poor in exile and has nothing but what he is given in prayer [see Zohar 1:179b: (Metatron) the youth who is a poor child, possessing nothing at all of his own]. For that reason his prayer is, A תְּפִלָּה (tefillah), prayer, for the lowly when יַעֲטֹף (ya’atof), he is faint (Psalms 102:1), namely the יַעֲטֹף (ya’atof), wrap, of the tsitsit and the hand תְפִלִין (tefillin) [playing with two senses of the root עטף (‘tf), which can mean both ‘to be faint’ and ‘to cover oneself, wrap,’ as in ‘wrapping oneself in a tallit’ before donning tefillincf. Zohar 3:113b, TZ 6, 22a-b, 11, 26b; 21, 55b].

And his heart counts on it (Deuteronomy 24:15)—the Arvit (evening) service, which [corresponds to] the parts of the sacrifice and the fatty parts that are left from the offerings of the day [prayer replaces sacrifice, see BT Berakhot 6b on Psalms 141:2, cf. Psalms 69:31-32; Hosea 14:3]. They are like single grapes of the vineyard and the edge of your field (Leviticus 19:9) of which we learned leaving things [over for the poor] is a mitsvah and hinders [divine] punishment. For the poor [Shekhinah and Metatron] and for the sojourner [Tif’eretyou shall leave them (ibid. 10). For the middle pillar, when he is outside his place is called a sojourner. For that reason, I [Moses the Faithful Shepherd, my rung being of the middle pillar], called myself a sojourner in the first exile. This is the meaning of, A sojourner have I been in a foreign land (Exodus 2:22), for He [Ze’eir Anpin] lies in exile for Her sake.’

The Masters of Mishnah asked him, ‘Faithful Shepherd, yet Israel performed this decree in the land of Israel? He said to them, this is in order to invoke compassion on those driven away from their place. For a man outside his place is called a sojourner, and all the more so the נִשְׁמָתִין (nishmatin), souls, that walk naked from that world and come into this world. Of them the verse says, Like a bird wandering from its nest is a man wandering from his place (Proverbs 27:8). The soul from, which the Shekhinah does not move, is a man (ibid.), of whom it says, YHWH is a man of war (Exodus 15:3), wandering from his place (Proverbs 27:8), roaming and roving from His place, which is the World that is Coming, Binah. And He wanders after her in this world, until the days that the soul needs to go outside her place are completed. He guards her until He returns her to her place and swears He shall not return to His place before He returns her to her own. [Therefore] whoever repents is as if he returned the blessed Holy One, and His Shekhinah to His place. This is the mystery of redemption as it said, If you would only heed His voice! (Psalms 95:7)” (Zohar 3:278a-b, Ra’aya Meheimna Ki Tetze).

If you should lend money to My people, to the pauper among you, you shall not be to him like a creditor, you shall not impose interest on him. If you should indeed take in pledge your fellow man’s cloak, before the sun comes down you shall return it to him. For it is his sole covering, it is his cloak for his skin—in what can he lie? (Exodus 22:24-26).

“Woe to ‘creditors’ that imprison the blessed Holy One with them in exile. The Shekhinah is imprisoned with them too, as it says, ‘A prisoner cannot free himself from jail’ (BT Berakhot 5b). Release is תְּשׁוּבָה (Teshuvah), Repentance [lit., Returning], supernal Mother [Binah], which does depend on them. The fifty gates of freedom are with Her [cf. Leviticus 25:54], for the fifty times going out of Egypt is mentioned in the Torah [see Zohar 3:262a]. This is: and he turned כֹּה וָכֹה (koh va-khoh), this way and that way (Exodus 2:12). Through these fifty letters one unifies twice every day in the recital of Shema which has כ”ה וכ”ה (twenty-five and twenty-five) letters. And saw that no man was about (ibid.)—to awaken Her inside of them.

She watches from the windows, it says about them And now, I pray you, beseech אֵל (El), God, that He will be gracious to us (Malachi 1:9)—to Her. About Her it is said, אֵל (El), God, pray, heal her, pray (Numbers 12:13), and the healing is through His hands, which is the spread hand to receive the penitents. And saw that no man was about—this is: through the window she looked out, and moaned (Judges 5:28), like teru’ah [of the ram’s horn], which is moaning. As it says, Noah opened the window of the ark he had made (Genesis 8:6)—on the day of Atonement, because the ark of Noah is supernal Mother, its window was the middle pillar, through it came the light, and Torah is light, and it is אוֹר הַגָּנוּז (or ha-ganuz), the hidden light.

And he turned this way and that way (Exodus 2:12). Peeping through the crannies (Song of Songs 2:9)—the ten days of repentance. And saw that no man was about (Exodus ibid.). Furthermore: Peering through the windows (Song of Songs ibid.)—the windows of the house of assembly. Father [Abba] and son [Ze’eir Anpin] are in the house of prisoners, and every day He [Arikh Anpin] watches over them and gives them sustenance.

And he turned this way and that way—if there might be someone who stirred to return and break his prison. As it is written, That You may say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Show yourselves (Isaiah 49:9). And he turned this way and that way and saw that no man was about (Exodus 2:12). We have turned everyone to his own way (Isaiah 53:6); they all look to their own way, everyone for his gain, from his own quarter (ibid. 56:11). To gain more in this world, to inherit this world, and they are not from that place of which it says, God-fearing men, truthful men, haters of bribes (Exodus 18:21). Rather all were howling in prayers on the day of Atonement like dogs. ‘Give! Give! Money, forgiveness, atonement, and life. Seal us for life!’ And these are the greedy, like dogs [cf. Isaiah 56:1; Proverbs 30:15]. They are the nations of the world, that moan for themselves, and they are not shamefaced [see BT Sotah 49b: ‘In the heels of Messiah, חוּצפָּה (ḥutspah), impudence, will increase… The face of the generation is like the face of a dog]. There are none who call to Him in repentance, to return the Shekhinah to the blessed Holy One, who is far from Him, to return Her to Him. They resemble dogs, as it says, And they mingled with the nations and learned their deeds (Psalms 106:35). These are the motley throng. Every good deed they do is only to benefit themselves [cf. BT Shabbat 33b; BT Bava Batra 10b].

Furthermore, they [only] ask for food, clothing, and time, which is time for coupling, as it says, he should not stint for this one her flesh, כְּסוּתָהּ (kesutah), her wardrobe, and her conjugal rights (Exodus 21:10, cf. BT Qetubbot 48a). There is nobody who asks for food of Torah, clothing of the Shekhinah, upper Mother [Binah], as it says, And do not forsake your mother’s teaching (Proverbs 1:8). ‘Clothing’ is the covering of tsitsit, and its cloak, and the tefillin of the hand as it says, A prayer for the lowly when he covers (Psalms 102:1). ‘And time’ is recital of Shema in its proper time. With these three they did not act for the Shekhinah, [And if he does not do these three for her,] she shall go free without payment, with no כֶּסֶף (kasef), money (Exodus 21:11)—they have no כִּסּוּפָא (kissufa), shame, for the Shekhinah [who is like a pauper], they are brazen. Furthermore: with no כָּסֶף (kasef), money—they will not have any portion in the כִּסּוּפָא (kissufa), hidden, world that is coming [cf. Zohar 2:97a (SdM)].

Look, all this God performs twice or thrice with a גָּבֶר (gever), man [to bring back his being from the Pit, to glow in the light of life] (Job 33:29). Because of this: for it is his sole כְסוּתֹה (khesutoh), covering (Exodus 22:26)—the first גִלְגּוּלָא (gilgula), [life] cycle. It is his cloak for his skin (ibid.)—his second cycle. In what can he lie? (ibid.)—his third cycle. These are the three garments, the three coverings of the three colors of the eye, which are garments for the pupil of the eye which is the נְשָׁמָה (neshamah), soul” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 22a-b).

The Devisings of the Human Heart are Evil from Youth

Xl30yZ9F“Rabbi Naḥman son of Rabbi Ḥisda expounded: What is meant by, Then YHWH God יִּיצֶר (yiytser), fashioned, the human (Genesis 2:7)—written with two י (yods), to show that God created two impulses, one good and the other evil. Rabbi Naḥman son of Yitsḥak demurred. According to this, he said, animals, of which it is not written יִּיצֶר (yiytser), fashioned [with two י (yods), see Genesis 2:19: and YHWH God יִּצֶר (yitser), fashioned, from the soil each beast of the field…], should have no evil impulse, yet we see that they injure and bite and kick? In truth it is as stated by Rabbi Shim’on son of Pazzi; for Rabbi Shim’on son of Pazzi said: Woe is me because of יוֹצֵרִי (Yotseri), my Maker, woe is me because of יִצֶרִי (yitseri), my urge! Or again as explained by Rabbi Yirmiyahu son of El’azar; for Rabbi Yirmiyahu son of El’azar said: God created דוּ פַּרְצוּפִין (du partsufin), two faces, in the first man, as it says, From behind and in front You shaped me (Psalms 139:5)…

Rav said: The evil impulse resembles a fly and dwells between the two openings of the heart [cf. BT Sukkah 52b], as it says, A dead fly makes the perfumer’s oil chalice stink (Ecclesiastes 10:1). Shemu’el said: It is like a kind of חִטָה (ḥittah), wheat, as it says, At the tent flap חַטָּאת (ḥattat), sin, crouches (Genesis 4:7). Our Rabbis taught: Man has two kidneys, one of which prompts him to good, the other to evil; and it is natural to suppose that the good one is on his right side and the bad one on his left, as it is written, A wise man’s mind [lit., heart] is at his right, and the fool’s mind at his left (Ecclesiastes 10:2)” (BT Berakhot 61a).

“Here is a mystery. In all actions performed by the blessed Holy One, He begins with the external, and then the kernel within… The Other Side always precedes: growing, developing, protecting the fruit. Once it has grown, it is cast aside; What the wicked will prepare, the righteous will wear (Job 27:17)—that קְלִפָּה (qelipah), shell, is thrown away and the Righteous One of the world is blessed” (Zohar 2:108b).

“Rabbi Ḥiyya opened, ‘Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but YHWH delivers him from them all (Psalms 34:20). Come and see how intensely a person is attacked, from the day that the blessed Holy One endows him with a soul to exist in this world! For as soon as a human emerges into the atmosphere, יֵצֶר הָרָע (yetser ha-ra), the evil impulse, lies ready to conspire with him, as has been said; for it is written: At the tent flap sin crouches (Genesis 4:7)—right then the evil impulse partners with him.

Come and see that it is so! For animals all protect themselves from the day they are born fleeing from fire and all menacing sites; yet a human being is ready at once to fling himself into the fire, because the evil impulse dwells within him, instantly luring him into evil ways.

We have established what is written: Better a poor and wise child than an old and foolish king who no longer knows how to heed warning (Ecclesiastes 4:13). Better a child—יֵצֶר טוֹב (yetser tov), the good impulse, who is a child, just recently with a person, accompanying him only from the age of thirteen, as had been said [see Avot de-Rabbi Natan B, 16; Qohelet Rabbah on 4:13; Midrash Tehillim 9:5; Zohar 1:78a-b (ST), 110b (MhN)].

Than a king—the evil impulse, who is called king, ruling over humanity in the world. Old and foolish, for he is surely old, as already established, since as soon as a person is born, emerging into the atmosphere, he accompanies that person. So he is an old and foolish king [on the link between foolishness and sin, see Numbers 12:11; BT Sotah 3a].

Who no longer knows how לְהִזָּהֵר (le-hizzaher), to heed warning. It is not written לְהַזְהִיר (le-hazhir), to give warning, but rather le-hizzaher, to heed warning—because he is a fool, of whom Solomon said The fool walks in darkness (ibid. 2:14), for he issues from dregs of darkness, deprived of light forever [but he who does not know how to take care of others is not yet considered foolish (Sullam)]…’

Than an old king—the evil impulse, as has been said, for since the first day he existed, he has never escaped defilement. And he is foolish—all his ways evil, leading humans astray, not knowing how to heed warning. He sidles up to people with ploys, luring them from the good way to the evil.

Come and see: This is why he hastens to be with a person from the day he is born, so that he will trust him. For look, when the good impulse arrives, the person cannot believe him—and considers him a burden! Similarly we have learned: Who is cunningly wicked? One who pleads his case in front of the judge before the other party arrives, as is said: The first to plead his case seems right… (Proverbs 18:17, cf. BT Sotah 21b). Similarly this cunning wicked one, as is said: The serpent was cunning (Genesis 3:1)—he arrives first, dwelling with a person before his counterpart comes to rest upon him. Since he appears first, pleading his case with him, when his counterpart—the good impulse—arrives, the person finds him obnoxious and cannot raise his head [cf. Zohar 2:199a: The good impulse, who guides all… said to him, ‘What are you doing sound asleep?’… Repent of your sins!], as if he loaded on his shoulders all the burdens of the world, because of that cunning wicked one who reached him first. Concerning this, Solomon said, The poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heeded (Ecclesiastes 9:16), because the other anticipated him.

So whoever accepts a person’s words before his counterpart arrives, acts as if he accepts belief in another, false god [see BT Shabbat 105b]. Rather, till the other comes and examines him (Proverbs, ibid.). This is the way of the righteous, for a righteous person does not believe that cunningly wicked evil impulse before his counterpart, the good impulse, arrives. Because of this, people stumble in the world to come.

However, one who is righteous, in awe of his Lord, endures many afflictions in this world so as not to trust and consort with that evil impulse, and the blessed Holy One delivers him from them all, as is written: Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but YHWH delivers him from them all. It is not written Many are רָעוֹת לַצַּדִּיק (ra’ot la-tsaddiq), the afflictions for the righteous, but rather צַדִּיק (tsaddiq), [of] the righteous, because the blessed Holy One אִתְרְעֵי (itre’ei), delights, in that human being and delivers him from everything in this world and in the world that is coming [because the afflictions he suffers alienate him from the evil impulse (Sullam)]. Happy is his share!” (Zohar 1:179a-b, cf. Bahir §163-4).

For He knows יִצְרֵנוּ (yitsrenu), our devisings, recalls that we are dust (Psalms 103:14).

“In the time to come the blessed Holy One will bring the evil impulse and slay it in the presence of the righteous and the wicked. To the righteous it will have the appearance of a towering hill, and to the wicked it will have the appearance of a thread of hair. Both the former and the latter will weep; the righteous will weep saying, ‘How were we able to overcome such a towering hill!’ The wicked also will weep saying, ‘How is it that we were unable to conquer this thread of hair!’ And the blessed Holy One will also marvel together with them, as it is said, Thus says YHWH of Hosts, If it is marvelous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, would it also be marvelous in My eyes? (Zechariah 8:6) [cf. Zohar 1:190b].

Rabbi Assi said, ‘The evil impulse is at first like the thread of a spider, but ultimately becomes like cart ropes, as it is said, Woe unto them that draw guilt with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope (Isaiah 5:18).’

Rabbi Avira or, as some say, Rabbi Yehoshua son of Levi, made the following exposition: The evil impulse has seven names. The blessed Holy One called it Evil, as it is said, For the יֵצֶר (yetser), devisings, of the human heart are evil from youth (Genesis 8:21). Moses called it the Uncircumcised, as it is said, Circumcise the foreskin of your heart (Deuteronomy 10:16). David called it Impure, as it is said, A pure heart create for me God (Psalms 51:12) which implies that there is an impure one. Solomon called it the Foe, as it is said, If your foe is hungry, feed him bread, and if he thirsts, give him water, for you would heap live coals on his head, and YHWH will pay you back (Proverbs 25:21); read not, יְשַׁלֶּם-לָךְ (yeshalem-lakh), will pay you back, but יַשׁלִימֶנוּ-לָךְ (yashlimenu-lakh), will cause it to be at peace with you. Isaiah called it the Stumbling-block, as it is said, Heap it up, heap it up, prepare the way, take up the stumbling-block out of the way of My people (Isaiah 57:14). Ezekiel called it Stone, as it is said, And I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). Joel called it צְּפוֹנִי (Tsefoni), Hidden One, as it is said, But I will remove far off from you אֶת-הַצְּפוֹנִי (et-ha-tsefoni), the northern one (Joel 2:20, cf. Jeremiah 1:14: Out of צָּפוֹן (tsafon), the north, an evil shall break forth).

Our Rabbis taught: But I will remove far off from you the northern one—the evil impulse which is constantly צָפוּן (tsafon), hidden, in the heart of man…

The school of Rabbi Yishma’el taught, If this repulsive wretch meets you, drag him to the House of Study. If he is of stone, he will dissolve, if of iron he will shatter  [cf. BT Qiddushin 30a]. ‘If he is of stone he will dissolve’—for it is written, Ho, everyone that thirsts, come you to the waters (Isaiah 55:1) and it is written, Water wears away stones (Job 14:19). ‘If he is of iron, he will shatter’—for it is written, Is not My word like a fire? says YHWH; and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? (Jeremiah 23:29).

Rabbi Shemu’el son of Naḥman said in the name of Rabbi Yonatan: the evil impulse seduces you in this world and bears witness against you in the world that is coming, as it is said, Who pampers his slave from youth, in the end there will be מָנוֹן (manon)  [alt., מָנוֹד (manod), dismay(Proverbs 29:21), for according to the [method of letter permutation] א”ט ב”ה (at bah) Rabbi Ḥiyya [teaches] סָהֵדַה (sahadah), witness, is called מָנוֹן (manon). Rav Ḥuna pointed out an incongruity: It is written, For the spirit of harlotry has caused them to err (Hosea 4:12), but is it not also written, [for the spirit of harlotry] is in the midst of them (ibid. 5:4)? First it only causes them to err, but ultimately it enters into them. Rabba observed, ‘First the evil impulse is a wayfarer in the street, then he is called guest, and finally he is called man [of the house], for it is said, And a wayfarer came to the richman, and it seemed a pity to him to take from his own sheep and cattle to prepare for the traveler who had come to him, and he took the poor man’s ewe and prepared it for the man who had come to him [ doomed is the man who has done this! And the poor man’s ewe he shall pay back fourfold, in as much as he has done this thing, and because he had no pity!] (2 Samuel 12:4-6)” (BT Sukkah 52b).

A Man Should Always Regard Himself as though He were Half Liable and Half Meritorious

il_fullxfull.654477583_8ktu“If a man strikes many coins from one stamp they all resemble one another, but the Supreme King of the Kings of Kings, the blessed Holy One, fashioned every man in the stamp of the first man, and yet not one of them resembles his fellow. Therefore every single person is obliged to say: ‘The world was created for my sake’” (BT Sanhedrin 37a).

Our Rabbis taught: A man should always regard himself as though he were half liable and half meritorious: if he performs one mitsvah, happy is he for weighting himself down in the scale of merit; if he commits one offence woe to him for weighting himself down in the scale of liability, for it is said, yet a single offender destroys much good (Ecclesiastes 9:18)—on account of a single offence which he commits much good is lost to him.

Rabbi El’azar son of Rabbi Shim’on said: Because the world is judged by its majority, and an individual [too] is judged by his majority, if he performs one mitsvah, happy is he for turning the scale both of himself and of the whole world on the side of merit; if he commits one offence, woe to him for weighting himself and the whole world in the scale of liability, for it is said: yet a single offender—on account of the single offence which this man commits he and the whole world lose much good.

Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai said: Even if he is perfectly righteous all his life but rebels in the end, he destroys the former, for it is said: The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his offence (Ezekiel 33:12, cf. Numbers 20:24). And even if one is completely wicked all his life but performs תְשׁוּבָה (teshuva), repentance, in the end, he is not reminded of his wickedness, for it is said, As for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall by it in the day that שׁוּבוֹ (shuvo), he turns, from his wickedness (ibid.). Yet, let it be regarded as half offences and half merits!—said Resh Lakish: It means that he regretted his former [in that case his righteous past is completely disregarded]” (BT Qiddushin 40b).

“Rabbi Shemu’el son of Naḥmani said in the name of Rabbi Yonatan: ‘Whoever fulfills a single mitsvah in this world—it ushers him into the world that is coming… And whoever commits a single transgression in this world—it clasps him and ushers him into the day of Judgment” (BT Sotah 3b).

“According to his merits and liabilities. As we have explained, he who does one mitsvah is treated well. He who is average, is a person whose merits and liabilities are balanced, the half of merits is below and the half of liabilities below. This is the secret of What is your petition, and it shall be granted to you, and what is your request? Up to half the kingdom, and it shall be done! (Esther 5:6). In the case of a completely righteous man, all his merits are above and his liabilities below. For a completely wicked man, his liabilities are above and his merits are below” (Zohar 3:111a, Ra’aya Meheimna Behar).

“If his offences are many and his mitsvot few, then he receives his reward in this world, [and this] is a wicked man who prospers… The Masters of Mishnah taught: ‘Woe to him for whom the hour smiles’ [for he receives his reward during his lifetime] (BT Berakhot 7b)” (Zohar 3:230b, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

Rabbi Shim’on replied: If the blessed Holy One had not created the evil and good impulses, which are light and darkness, there would not have been any merit or liability for the man of בְּרִיָּה (Beri’ah), Creation. So man was created with both, as it is written: See, I have set before you today life and good and death and evil, that I charge you today to love the Lord your God, to go in His ways and to keep His commands and His statutes and His Laws (Deuteronomy 30:15). They asked him: Why all this? Better He had not created darkness. Then man would have no reward or punishment as opposed to being created and having to offend, thereby causing much [damage].

He said to them: It was right to create him in this way because Torah was created for his sake, for it contains punishments for the offenders and rewards for the righteous. Thus, there can be no reward for the righteous or punishment for the offenders without the man of בְּרִיָּה (Beri’ah), Creation. He did not create it a wasteland. He formed it to be inhabited (Isaiah 45:18). They said, ‘Indeed, we have certainly now heard what we had never heard before. It is now clear that the blessed Holy One did not create anything that he did not require’” (Zohar 1:22a, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar).

All who are Merciful to the Cruel in the End Become Cruel to the Merciful: The Best of Serpents—Crush its Head!

And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, מְצַחֵק (mestaeq), laughing. And she said to Abraham, “Drive out this slavegirl and her son, for the slavegirl’s son shall not inherit with my son, with Isaac.” And the thing seemed evil in Abraham’s eyes because of his son. And God said to Abraham, “Let it not seem evil in your eyes on account of the lad and on account of your slavegirl. Whatever ever Sarah says to you, listen to her voice, for through Isaac shall your seed be acclaimed. But the slavegirl’s son, too, I will make a nation, for he is your seed” (Genesis 21:9-13, cf. the Code of Hammurabi, 146).

“Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai said, ‘Rabbi Akiva used to offer four explanations, and mine follows from his. Rabbi Akiva said that  מְצַחֵק (mestaeq) refers solely to idolatry, as it is written, And the people came back from eating and drinking and they rose up לְצַחֵק (letsaḥeq), to play. [And YHWH said to Moses, ‘Quick, go down, for your people (i.e., the motley throng, mixed multitude) that I brought up from Egypt has acted ruinously] (Exodus 32:6, cf. M Avot 3:17: Rabbi Akiva said: שְׂחוֹק (Seḥoq), mocking, and frivolity lead to immorality). From this we learn that Sarah saw Ishmael building idolatrous altars, catching locusts, and sacrificing them.

Rabbi Eli’ezer, son of Rabbi Yose of Galilee, said מְצַחֵק (mestaeq) was none other than illicit sexual relations. Sarah saw Ishmael molesting and assaulting the women, as it is written, there was Isaac מְצַחֵק (mestaeq), playing, with Rebekah his wife (Genesis 26:8, cf. ibid. 39:17: The Hebrew slave came into me, whom you bought us, לְצַחֶק (letsaeq), to play, with me).

Rabbi Ishmael said מְצַחֵק (mestaeq) refers to bloodshed, as it is written: And Abner said to Joab, ‘Pray, let the lads arise and ישַׂחֲקוּ (yesaḥaqu), play, before us.’… And they arose and crossed over—twelve in number… And each man grasped the head of the other with his sword at the side of the other, and they fell together  (2 Samuel 2:14-16). From this we learn that Sarah saw Ishmael taking his bow and arrow and shooting towards Isaac, as it is written Like a lunatic shooting deadly firebrands is a man who deceives his neighbor and says, ‘Why, I was joking’ (Proverbs 26:18-19).

But I say, perish the thought such a person be in the house of so righteous a man! How could there be idolatry, sexual licentiousness and bloodshed in the home of him, of whom it is said, For I have embraced him so that he will charge his sons [and his household after him to keep the way of YHWH to do righteousness and justice, that YHWH may bring upon Abraham all that He spoke concerning him’]  (Genesis 18:19). Therefore מְצַחֵק (mestaeq) here can refer only to the matter of inheritance; for when Isaac was born to Abraham, everyone rejoiced, saying, ‘Abraham has had a son, a son who shall inherit the world and take a double portion!’ And Ishmael was מְצַחֵק (mestaeq), sneering, saying, ‘Fools I am the firstborn, and I shall take a double portion.’ Indeed, [we may infer this] from Sarah’s response: for the slavegirl’s son shall not inherit with my son. My interpretation is more sound than that of Rabbi Akiva” (Tosefta Sotah 6:6, cf. Bereshit Rabbah 53:11).

“Rabbi Ḥiyya said, ‘Since the day Isaac was born, as long as Ishmael remained in Abraham’s house he did not attain a name. Wherever gold is found, scoria goes unmentioned. So, the son of Hagar the Egyptian, a male unworthy of being mentioned in the presence of Isaac.

Rabbi El’azar said, ‘Sarah saw. She saw him through a contemptuous eye, eyeing him not as the son of Abraham but as the son of Hagar the Egyptian. So, Sarah saw. Sarah saw him with that eye—not Abraham, since in relation to Abraham it is not written: son of Hagar the Egyptian, but rather: his son

Now, would you ever imagine that Sarah was jealous of her [namely, Hagar] or her son [Ishmael]? If so, the blessed Holy One would not have consented to her, as is written: Whatever Sarah tells you, hearken to her voice. Rather, because she saw him engaging in idolatry and because his mother taught him idolatrous customs, Sarah said, ‘For the son of this maidservant will not inherit! I know he will never inherit the share of faith, nor will he share a portion with my son—neither in this world nor in the world that is coming.’ Therefore the blessed Holy One consented” (Zohar 1:118b).

“Come and see! It is written: The people saw that Moses lagged [in coming down from the mountain, and the people assembled against Aaron and said to him, ‘Rise up, make us gods that will go before us, for this man Moses who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what happened to him] (Exodus 32:1). Who are the people? The עֵרֶב רַב (erev rav), mixed multitude [see Exodus 12:38; 32:7]. Who are the עֵרֶב רַב (erev rav), mixed multitude? Were they Lydians, Ethiopians, Cretans or Togarmans, that they are called עֵרֶב רַב (erev rav), ‘mixed multitude’? Were they not Egyptians, journeying from Egypt? If they were a mixture of many nations, it should have been written A mixed multitude ּעַלו (alu), went up, with them, corresponding to their mixture. Rather, A mixed multitude עָלָה (alah), went up, with them [written with the collective singular verb] (Exodus 12:38)—they were one nation, with one language, but consisting of all the sorcerers of Egypt and all its soothsayers, of whom is written and they too, the soothsayers of Egypt, did [thus with their spells] (Exodus 7:11), wanting to confront the wonders of the blessed Holy One. Once they saw the miracles and wonders that Moses performed in Egypt, they returned to Moses. The blessed Holy One said to Moses, ‘Do not accept them!’

Moses said, ‘Master of the Universe! Now that they have seen Your power, they want to convert. Let them see Your power every day and they will know that there is no God but You.’ And Moses accepted them [cf. Exodus 32:11; BT Pesaim 87b: The blessed Holy One scattered Israel amongst the heathens only so that they may accumulate converts]” (Zohar 2:191a, cf. Zohar 2:45b; 191a; 195a).

“Moses wanted to bring these converts under the wings of the Shekhinah and presumed that they too were drawn down from ה (he). Thus he caused the fall of ה (he) of אַבְרָהָם (Avraham), Abraham. This brought upon him descent, as it is written: Go, get you down, for your people… have become corrupt (Exodus 32:7). They did not receive small ה (he) with the awe of י (yod) and with the love of [the first] ה (he). So he fell from his rung, which is ו (vav)” (Zohar 1:25a, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar).

“All the exile and the destruction of the Temple and all the suffering, all of it came through Moses’ acceptance of the עֵרֶב רַב (erev rav), motley throng, and all the wicked ones and evildoers in every generation come from them, and this is what is referred to: [Once Shabbatai son of Marinus came to Babylon and entreated them to provide him with facilities for trading and they refused this to him; neither did they give him any food. He said:] ‘These are the descendants of the motley throng’ (BT Beitza 32b)” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 97a).

Everything has a season, and a time for every matter under the heavens. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to rip down and a time to build. A time to weep and a time to laugh. A time to mourn and a time to dance. A time to fling stones and a time to gather stones in. A time to embrace and a time to pull back from embracing. A time to seek and a time to lose. A time to keep and a time to fling away. A time to tear and a time to sew. A time to keep silent and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).

“[And Saul came up to the city of Amalek] and lay in wait in the ravine. [And Saul said to the Kenite, ‘Go, turn away, come down from amidst the Amalekite, lest I sweep you away together with him, for you did kindness to all the Israelites when they came up from Egypt] (1 Samuel 15:5).

Rabbi Mani said: Because of what happens in the ravine: When the blessed Holy One said to Saul: ‘Now, go and strike down Amalek, [and put under the ban everything that he has, you shall not spare him, and you shall put to death man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and donkey’] (ibid. 3), [Saul] said: If on account of one person Torah said: Perform the ceremony of the heifer whose neck is to be broken [in atonement for an unidentified homicide, see Deuteronomy 21:1-9], how much more [ought consideration to be given] to all these persons! And if human beings sinned, what has the cattle committed; and if the adults have sinned, what have the little ones done?

A divine voice came forth and said: do not be over-righteous (Ecclesiastes 7:16). And when Saul said to Doeg: ‘You, then, turn round [and stab the priests.’ … and he struck down Nob the priests’ town with the edge of the sword, man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and donkey and sheep, all by the edge of the sword] (1 Samuel 22:18), a divine voice came forth to say: don’t be over-wicked (Ecclesiastes ibid. 17)” (BT Yoma 22b, cf. Mekhilta, Beshalla 1; Guide of the Perplexed 3:39).

“All who are merciful to the cruel in the end become cruel to the merciful” (Qohelet Rabbah on 7:16, cf. Midrash Zuta; Tanḥuma, Mezora 1; Yalkut Shimoni, 1 Samuel, 121).

“Rav Yehudah said in Shemu’el’s name: When Solomon married Pharaoh’s daughter, she brought him a thousand musical instruments and said to him, ‘Thus we do in honour of that idol, thus in honour of that idol,’ yet he did not forbid her.

Rav Yehudah said in Shemu’el’s name: When Solomon married Pharaoh’s daughter, Gabriel descended and planted a reed in the sea, and it gathered a bank around it, on which the great city of Rome was built [i.e., Solomon’s unfaithfulness laid the seeds for the dissolution of the Jewish State]. In a Barraita it was taught: On the day that Jeroboam brought the two golden calves, one into Bethel and the other into Dan, a hut was built, and this developed into Magna Graecia [Greek Italy, i.e., Rome]” (BT Shabbat 56b, cf. Sanhedrin 21b; Shir HaShirim Rabbah 1, 1:10).

Who Causes the Tail to Rise Above, Dominate, and Strike?

Snake & his Tail“Rabbi El’azar wept. He opened, saying, ‘Her sound will move like a snake… (Jeremiah 46:22). Now that Israel is in exile, She surely moves like a snake. When a snake bends its head to the dust and raises its tail, the tail dominates and strikes anyone in front of it. Who causes the tail to rise above, dominate, and strike? The head, which is bent low. Nevertheless, who controls the tail, and who propels its movements? The head—although it is bent to the dust, it conducts [the tail’s] movements. Therefore, now the other nations—who are attached to the tail—rise above, dominate, and strike, while the head is bent to the dust, as is said: Fallen, not to rise again, [is Virgin Israel] (Amos 5:2). Nevertheless, this head controls the tail and preserves it, as is said: They made me keeper of the vineyards (Song of Songs 1:6)—the other nations, who are the tail.

Rabbi Yehudah came and kissed his hands, and said, ‘If I had asked nothing in the world except for this, and gained it, it would be enough for me! For now I know how the other nations and their dominion are controlled. Happy is the share of Israel, of whom is written For Yah has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel as His treasure (Psalms 135:4)’” (Zohar 3:119b).

“How fortunate are you, O Israel. When you act according to the will of YHWH no nation or tongue can dominate you. But when you do not act in accordance with the will of YHWH you are delivered into the hands of a lowly people, and not only a lowly people but into the power of the beasts of a lowly people” (BT Ketubot 66b).

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