The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

To Recover the Remnant of His People


malang“The blessed Holy One scattered Israel among the peoples only so that they may accumulate converts, for it is said: And I will sow her for Myself in the earth; [and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them who were not My people, you are My people; and they shall say, You are my God] (Hosea 2:25)—surely, a man sows a se’ah in order to harvest many korin….

Rabbi Yoḥanan said: The ingathering of the exiles is as important as the day when the heavens and the earth were created, for it is said, Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves רֹאשׁ אֶחָד (rosh eḥad), one head, and they shall come up out of the land: for great shall be the day of Jezreel (Hosea 2:2); and it is written, And it was evening and it was morning, יוֹם אֶחָד (yom eḥad), first day (Genesis 1:5)” (BT Pesaḥim 87b–88a, cf. Zohar 1:244a).

“‘The ten tribes will not return, as is written, And flung them into another land as on this day (Deuteronomy 29:27)—just as the day goes and does not return, so they too went and will not return: the words of Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Eli’ezer said: As on this day—just as the day darkens and then becomes light again, so the Ten Tribes. Even as it went dark for them, so will it become light for them’ (M Sanhedrin 10:3).

Our rabbis taught: The ten tribes have no portion in the World to Come, as it says, And YHWH tore them from upon their soil in wrath and in anger and in great fury [and flung them into another land as on this day] (ibid.). And YHWH tore them from upon their soil—this world; and flung them into another land—the World to Come: the words of Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Shim’on son of Yehudah, of the village of Akko, said in the name of Rabbi Shim’on: If their deeds are as this day’s [i.e., if they do not repent, this day referring to the time of their being exiled], they will not return; otherwise they shall. Rabbi said: They will enter the future world, as is said, [And it shall come to pass] on that day, that the great shofar shall be blown, [and they shall come who were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship YHWH in the holy mount at Jerusalem] (Isaiah 27:13).

Rabbah son of Son of Ḥanah said in Rabbi Yoḥanan’s name: [Here] Rabbi Akiva abandoned His חֲסִידוּת (ḥasidut), kindness, as is written, Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, you backsliding Israel, says YHWH; and I will not cause My anger to fall upon you: for I am חָסִיד (ḥasid), kind, says YHWH, and I will not keep anger forever (Jeremiah 3:12).

Now, to what does ‘his kindness’ refer? As has been taught: The children of the wicked of Israel, [who died] in their minority, will not enter the future world, as is written, For, behold, the day comes, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that comes shall burn them up, says YHWH of Armies, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch (Malachi 3:19). [… It shall leave them neitherroot—this world; [norbranch—the World to Come: the words of Rabban Gamaliel.

Rabbi Akiva said: They will enter the World to Come, as is written, YHWH protects פְּתָאיִם (peta’im), the simple (Psalms 116:6), and in the island cities, a child is called פָּתִּיאָ (pattia); and it is said also, Cut down the tree and destroy it but leave one of its roots in the ground (Daniel 4:20). How then do I fulfil that it shall leave them neither root nor branch? That He shall not leave them [unpunished the violation of] a single mitsvah nor the remnant of a mitsvah [i.e., even the most insignificant mitsvah]. Another interpretation: root—the נְשָׁמָה (neshamah), soul; branch—the body [but of the wicked themselves, not their children. Thus we see Rabbi Akiva, in his love for Israel, interpreting the verse as leniently as possible]. But as for young children of the wicked gentiles, all agree that they will not enter the future world. And he  derives it from [They are dead, they shall not live; they are deceased, they shall not rise: therefore have] You visited and destroyed them, and made all their memory to perish (Isaiah 26:14)” (BT Sanhedrin 110b, cf. Sifra, Be-Ḥukkotai, 8:1).

And it shall come to pass in that day, that YHWH shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people, who shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea. And He shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth (Isaiah 11:11–12).

And Israel saw Joseph’s sons and he said, ‘Who are these?’ (Genesis 48:8).

Rabbi Abba opened, ‘It is said: Then shall you say in your heart, who has begotten for me these, [since I have lost my children, and am desolate, a captive, and moving to and fro? and who has brought up these? Behold, I was left alone; these, where had they been?] (Isaiah 49:21). What does this mean? Israel below [i.e., on earth] saw that the children of Israel will come before Him, when they will come from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea (Isaiah 11:11), and a vast flock will be established. The Shekhinah will say, Who are all these? Are there not any who are unfit, of foreign children? They will say to Him, We are all Your children, there is no foreigner among us! For they will be severed the one from the other [i.e., the motley throng will be severed from the Assembly of Israel]. And they will be circumcised together and converted. The convert then will return together with Israel and they will be as one.

It was taught: ‘[Rabbi Ḥelbo said:] Converts are as tough for Israel as a סַּפַּחַת (sapaḥat), scab’ (BT Qiddushin 70b; Yevamot 47b; Niddah 13b), as is written, For YHWH will have compassion for Jacob, and will yet choose Israel, and set them in their own land: and the strangers shall be joined with them, וְנִסְפְּחוּ (ve-nispeḥu), and they shall cling, to the house of Jacob (Isaiah 14:1). When the children will return to their land and there will be compassion among them, then YHWH will be one and His name one (Zechariah 14:9). Then the convert will tag along with the people of Israel like a scab on their skin.’

Why so? Come and hear: Rabbi Shim’on said it refers to the borders of the land, for every one will want to live in the land of Israel, and the inhabitants will be afraid. It is written, [Enlarge the place of your tent,] and let them stretch forth the curtains of your habitations: [spare not, lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes] (Isaiah 54:2). The curtains you once had, should be stretched and strengthened, as it were, more than those of the other peoples whom you saw strengthening them in your exile. [Indeed, a vast flock of converts] will be established” (Zohar 1:215a).

In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the land [whom YHWH of armies shall bless, saying, Blessed be My people Egypt, My handiwork Assyria, and My heritage Israel] (Isaiah 19:24).

The seventy princes who govern the army on high are divided in their midst. One division is governed by the prince of Ishmael, called Egypt, and the other division is governed by the prince of Edom, called Assyria [cf. 2 Kings 16; Isaiah 7–9; 2 Chronicles 28]. Both divisions receive from Gevurah, at the left side of the Chariot, but as we said, Gevurah is divided in two: one aspect is harsh judgment and the other weak [cf. Zohar 2:178a, 187a]; the harsh is exceedingly hard and the weak is soft. However, one stately light expands from the way of Tif’eret engulfing these two qualities, covering and influencing them. And in the future yet to come, when these two princes behold this light, they will call it the Light of Blessing, as is written, In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the land. And look, truly some of the nations will be restored to the dominion of Israel” (Berit Menuḥa, Third Way: The Way of Peace, cf. Zohar 1:13a, 164a; 2:57b; 3:218a–b [RM], 227b).

And strangers will stand and feed your flocks; foreigners will be your plowmen and your vinedressers. But you shall be named the Priests of YHWH: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: you shall eat the riches of the gentiles, and in their glory shall you boast yourselves (Isaiah 61:5–6, cf. MekhiltaShabbetaKi Tissa 1; BT Berakhot 35b; Zohar 1:143b).

“Rabbi Ḥiyya was traveling to visit Rabbi El’azar. He found him sitting next to Rabbi Shim’on son of Rabbi Yose, son of Lekonya, his father-in-law. As he raised his head, he saw Rabbi Ḥiyya. He said, ‘In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the land, whom YHWH of armies shall bless, saying, Blessed be My people Egypt, My handiwork Assyria, and My heritage Israel’ (Isaiah 19:24). How foolish are the inhabitants of the world, who do not know or consider the words of Torah!

Are then Ashur and Egypt close to the blessed Holy One? Rather, all those members of the exiles who will go up from Egypt and Ashur. But if we say that it is Egypt and Ashur [themselves] it refers to the pious among them who repent, and remain to serve Israel and King Messiah, as is written, and may all kings bow to him, and all nations serve him (Psalms 72:11), and, kings shall be your foster fathers [and their queens your nursing mothers: they shall bow down to you with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of your feet; and you shall know that I am YHWH: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for Me] (Isaiah 49:23) [cf. BT Shevu’ot 47b: ‘In the academy of Rabbi Yishma’el it was taught: The servant of a king is like a king’]” (Zohar 2:57b).

“All things will be fittingly restored, and the impure aspect will be eliminated from the world. This has been affirmed, as is written: I will eliminate the spirit of impurity from earth (Isaiah 25:8). The blessed Holy One will then remain alone, as is written: Idols will utterly vanish (ibid. 2:18), and similarly: YHWH alone will be exalted on that day (ibid., 17)—He alone, as is written: No alien god with Him (Deuteronomy 32:12), for it will be eradicated from the world. Nothing will remain above or below except the blessed Holy One alone and Israel serving Him, a holy people—called ‘holy,’ as is written: Whoever is left in Zion, who remains in Jerusalem, will be called holy (Isaiah 4:3). Then there will be a single world above and below—a single above; a single world below, a single people serving Him, as is written: Who is like Your people Israel, a single nation on earth? (1 Chronicles 17:21) [Rabbi Moshe Cordovero maintains that other nations will be purified and integrated into Israel, see Or Yaqar]” (Zohar 1:164a).



Do Not Make the Fence Excessive Lest it Collapse and Cut the Shoots

IMG_1063“The Men of the Great Assembly said three things: Be careful in judgment; raise up many disciples; and make a fence for the Torah” (M Avot 1:1).

“Rabbi Akiva said: Mocking and frivolity lead to immorality. The oral tradition is a fence for Torah; tithes are a fence for wealth; vows are a fence for abstinence. The fence for wisdom is silence” (M Avot 3:17).

“‘Make a fence for the Torah.’ And make a fence for your words, in the way that the blessed Holy One made a fence for His words, and the first human made a fence for his words. Torah made a fence for her words. Moses made a fence for his words. So too, Job as well as the Prophets, the Writings, and the sages—all of them made a fence for their words [on Job’s ‘fence,’ see Job 31:1]” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan A, 1).

He who breaches a fence, a snake will bite him (Ecclesiastes 10:8).

Now the serpent was most cunning (Genesis 3:1).

For in much wisdom is much worry, and he who adds wisdom adds pain (Ecclesiastes 1:18): Because man increases his wisdom he increases worry against himself, and because he increases his knowledge he adds to his pain. Solomon said: Because I increased my wisdom I increased my worry, and because I increased my knowledge I increased my pain. Did you ever hear anybody say: ‘This donkey went out and caught the sun, or caught a fever? And where is suffering prevalent? With human beings. Rabbi said: A תַּלְמִיד חָכָם (talmid ḥakham), disciple of wisdom, does not require a warning [cf. BT Sanhedrin 8b]. Rabbi Yoḥanan said: It is like the fine linen garments which come from Bet Shean: if they are even slightly blackened they are ruined; but as for the [coarse] linen garments which come from Arbel, what is their value altogether?

Rabbi Yishma’el taught: According to the camel so is its load. It often happens that two people enter a tavern; one orders, ‘Bring me roast meat, white bread, and good wine,’ while the other orders, ‘Bring me bread and beets’: the former eats and suffers afterwards, while the latter eats and does not suffer. Thus human ills weigh heavily upon the one but not upon the other.

It was taught in Rabbi Meir’s name: According to the greatness of the serpent so was his downfall: because he was most cunning, he was [most] cursed of all (Genesis 3:14). Now the serpent was most cunning of all the beasts of the field. Rabbi Hoshaya the Elder said: He stood out distinguished like a reed, and he had feet. Rabbi Yirmeyah son of El’azar said: He was an אֶפִּיקוֹרֶס (epiqores), unbeliever. Rabbi Shim’on son of El’azar said: He was like a camel. He deprived the world of much good, for had this not happened, one could have sent goods through him, and he would have gone and returned [cf. BT Sanhedrin 59b]….

But from the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden God has said, “You shall not eat from it and you shall not touch it, lest you die” (Genesis 3:3). Thus it is written, Add nothing to His words, lest He rebuke you and you be given the lie (Proverbs 30:6) [cf. Deuteronomy 4:2: You shall not add… neither shall you take away from it]. Rabbi Ḥiyya taught: Do not make the fence excessive, lest it collapse and cut the shoots. Thus, the blessed Holy One had said, For on the day you eat from it, you are doomed to die (Genesis 2:17); whereas she did not say so, but rather, God has said, “You shall not eat from it and you shall not touch it, lest you die”; when he [the serpent] saw her lying so, he took and thrust her against it. ‘Have you then died?’ he said to her; ‘just as you were not stricken through touching it, so will you not die when you eat it, For God knows that on the day you eat of it [your eyes will be opened and you will become as gods knowing good and evil] (ibid., 5).

Rabbi Tanḥuma said: I was asked this question in Antioch. I answered: It is not written, יוֹדְעִים אֱלֹהִים (yod’im elohim), knowing gods, but rather, יֹדֵעַ אֱלֹהִים (yode’a Elohim), God knows. Rabbi Yehoshu’a of Sikhnin said in Rabbi Levi’s name: He [the serpent] began speaking לָשׁוֹן הָרַע (lashon ha-ra), slander, of his Creator, saying, ‘Of this tree did He eat and then create the world; hence He orders you, You shall not eat from it, so that you may not create other worlds, for every person hates his fellow craftsmen.’ Rabbi Yehudah son of Rabbi Simon said: He argued: ‘Whatever was created after its companion dominates it. Thus: the heavens were created on the first day and the firmament on the second: does it not bear its weight? The firmament was created on the second and herbs on the third: do they not interrupt its waters? Herbs were created on the third day and the luminaries on the fourth [and through the heat of the sun plant life matures and ripens]; the luminaries on the fourth and the birds on the fifth. Rabbi Yehudah son of Rabbi Simon said: The זִיז (ziz) is a clean bird, and when it flies it obscures the orb of the sun [thus it dominates the sun, as it were]. Now you were created after everything in order to rule over everything; make haste and eat before He creates other worlds which will rule over you. Hence it is written, And the woman saw that the tree was good [for eating and that it was lust to the eyes and the tree was lovely to look at, and she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave to her man, and he ate…] (Genesis 3:6): she saw [how plausible were] the words of the serpent” (Bereshit Rabbah 19:1, 3–4).

“Rabbi Shemu’el son of Naḥman said, ‘The serpent was asked, Why are you generally to be found among fences?’ He replied, ‘Because I made a breach in the fence of the world.’ Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai taught: The serpent was the first to make a breach in the world’s fence, and so he has become the executioner of all who make breaches in fences” (Vayiqra Rabbah 26:2).

“Rabbi Levitas the visionary opened, ‘Enmity I will set between you and the woman, between your seed and hers (Genesis 3:15)—abundant hatred from the day the world was created, on account of the incitement of the serpent. From the moment it was cursed, driven out from the gate of the King, it lies in ambush constantly amid fences in the world, amid those fences of the Torah, biting all who trample those fences underfoot [see BT Avodah Zarah 18a (in the name of Rabbi Shim’on son of Laqish); Tanḥuma, Eqev 1; Zohar 1:198a–b]. Woe to one who is caught! Woe to one who is bitten! Woe for the persistence of the vile enmity, for the snake’s wicked hatred for Her, the one called woman of valor (Proverbs 31:10). Malevolent animus it nursed for Her from the day the world was created until it ravaged Her, pulverizing Her until She lay in the dust (Zohar Ḥadash 91c [MhN]).

“Four died through the incitement of the serpent, namely: Benjamin the son of Jacob, Amram the father of Moses, Jesse the father of David, and Chileab the son of David” (BT Shabbat 55b).

“On the eve of the Passover Jesus the Nazarene was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, ‘He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and incited [or: enticed] Israel. Any one who can say anything in his favor, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.’ But since nothing was brought forward in his favor he was hanged on the eve of the Passover!—Ulla said: ‘Do you suppose that he was one for whom a defense could be made? Was he not an enticer concerning whom Scripture says, you shall not pity him and shall not shield him (Deuteronomy 13:9)? With Jesus however it was different, for he was connected with the government‘” (BT Sanhedrin 43a).

“What is different about an inciter [that the court does not seek to deem him innocent]? Rabbi Ḥama son of Ḥaninah says: I heard at the lecture of Rabbi Ḥiyya son of Abba: An inciter is different, as the Compassionate One says, [Should your brother, your mother’s son… incite you in secret, saying, ‘Let us go and worship other gods’ that you did not know, neither you nor your fathers…] you shall not spare him and you shall not pity him and shall not shield him. [But you shall surely kill him] (Deuteronomy 13:7–10).

Rabbi Shemu’el son of Naḥman said in Rabbi Yonatan’s name: Whence do we know that we do not plead on behalf of a inciter? From the primordial serpent. For Rabbi Simlai said: The serpent had many pleas to put forward but did not do so. Then why did the blessed Holy One not plead on its behalf? Because it offered none itself. What could it have said? ‘The words of the master or those of the disciple, whose words should be listened to? Surely the master’s!’

Ḥizqiyyah said: How do we know that whoever increases, decreases? From, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it and you shall not touch it [lest you die’] (Genesis 3:3).

Rav Mesharshiyya said: From: אַמָּתַיִם (ammatayim), two, and a half cubits its length (Exodus 25:10) [if אַמָּתַיִם (ammatayim), two, were spelled without א (alef) it would read מָתַיִם (matayim), two hundred. Thus by adding א (alef) the number is reduced]. Rav Ashi said: From: עַשְׁתֵּי עֶשְׂרֵה (ashtei esreh), eleven, curtains (ibid. 26:7) [if עַשְׁתֵּי עֶשְׂרֵה (ashtei esreh), eleven, were spelled without ע (ayin) it would read שְׁתֵּי עֶשְׂרֵה (shetei esreh)twelve. Thus by adding ע (ayin) the number is reduced]” (BT Sanhedrin 29a, cf. Zohar 2:233b).

“The נִשְׁמַת (nishmat), inspiration, of the female comes from the Female, and the inspiration of the male comes from the Male. This is the reason the serpent followed Eve [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 20:11]. He said, ‘Her inspiration is drawn from the north, and so I will soon seduce her.’ And how did he seduce her? By mounting her.

The wicked Samael made a bond with the entire army on high against his Master. This was because the blessed Holy One said, To hold sway over the fish of the sea and the winged creature of the heavens (Genesis 1:26) [cf. Deuteronomy 14:20]. He said, ‘How can we cause him to offend and be driven from before His presence?’ He descended with all his army, and sought a suitable mate on earth. At last he found the serpent, which looked like a camel, and he rode on it [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 19:1; Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 13; Zohar 1:228a]. He then went to the woman and said to her, ‘Though God said, you shall not eat from any tree of the garden… (Genesis 3:1)—I, however, will seek more, I will add in order that she detract.’ She replied, ‘From the fruit of the garden’s trees we may eat. He did not prevent us, other than: the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden God has said, You shall not eat from it and you shall not touch it, lest you die‘ (Genesis 3:2).

She added two things: the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden—He only said, From the tree (Genesis 2:17); and you shall not touch it, lest you die [while He only spoke of eating]. What did Samael do? He went and touched the tree. The tree cried out and said, ‘Wicked one, do not touch me!’ Therefore it is written: Let no haughty foot overtake me, nor the hand of the wicked repel me. There did the doers of mischief fall. They were toppled and could not rise (Psalms 36:12–13).’

He then said to the woman, ‘See, I touched the tree and did not die. You too can touch and not die.’ The woman went and touched the tree. She saw the Angel of Death approaching her and said, ‘אוֹי (Oy), woe! Now I will die and the blessed Holy One will make another woman and give her to Adam. I will therefore cause him to eat with me. If we die, we will both die, and if we live, we will both live.’ She took the fruit of the tree and ate it, and she also gave to her husband. Their eyes opened and their teeth were set on edge. He said, ‘What is this that you have given me to eat? Just as my teeth were set on edge, so will the teeth of all generations be set on edge’ [cf. Jeremiah 31:29: The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children’s teeth are set on edge].

He sat in true judgement, as is written: For You upheld my justice, my right, You sat on the throne of the righteous judge (Psalm 9:5). He called to Adam, and said ‘Why do you hide from Me?’ He replied, ‘I heard Your sound in the garden (Genesis 3:10). I heard Your sound in the garden—and my bones trembled. And I was afraid, for I was naked, and I hid—I was naked of works, I was naked of mitsvot, and I was naked of actions.’ Therefore it is written: and I was afraid, for I was naked, and I hid.

What was Adam’s garment? It was a skin of fingernail. As soon as he ate of the fruit of the tree, this skin of fingernail was removed from him, and he saw himself naked. Therefore it is written: Who told you that you were naked? (Genesis 3:11). Adam said to the blessed Holy One, ‘Master of all Worlds: When I was alone, did I once offend before You? But the woman that You gave me lured me from Your word.’ Therefore it is written: The woman whom you gave me, [she gave me from the tree, and I ate] (Genesis 3:12). The blessed Holy One said to her, ‘Is it not enough that you offended? But you also caused man to offend.’ She answered, ‘Master of all Worlds: The serpent deceived me to offend before You.’

He took the three of them, and decreed upon them a sentence of nine curses and death [see Genesis 3:14–19]. He then cast the wicked Samael and his band from their holy place in the heavens. He cut off the feet of the serpent and cursed it more than all the other creatures and beasts of the field. He also decreed that it shed its skin every seven years [see BT Bekhorot 8a; Bereshit Rabbah 20:4; Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 14; Zohar 1:18a]. Samael was punished and made prince over the wicked Esau.

In the future, when the blessed Holy One uproots the kingdom of Edom, He will lower him first. Therefore it is written: YHWH will punish the army of the exalted ones that are on high (Isaiah 24:21). This statement [of Eve’s], death and punishment all came because she added to the command of the blessed Holy One. Regarding this it is said, ‘Whoever increases, decreases’ (BT Sanhedrin 29a) [cf. Zohar 2:233b]” (Bahir §199–§200).

Under the Wings of Shekhinah: The Convert is Loved more than all who Stood at Mount Sinai

Baruch Hashem: Portrait of African American Jews“If a convert comes to convert, one should extend a hand to him to bring him under the wings of Shekhinah” (Vayiqra Rabbah 2:9).

“Our rabbis taught: If at the present time a man comes to be converted, he is to be told: ‘What have you seen that you came to become a convert; do you not know that Israel at the present time are persecuted and oppressed, despised, harassed and overcome by afflictions?’ If he replies, ‘I know and yet I am unworthy,’ he is accepted immediately, and is given instruction in some of the minor and some of the major mitsvot. He is informed of the crime [of the neglect of the mitsvot of] Gleanings, the Forgotten Sheaf, the Corner and the Poor Man’s Tithe. He is also told of the punishment for the transgression of the mitsvot.

Furthermore, he is told: ‘You must know that before you came to this condition, if you had eaten forbidden fat you would not have been punishable with being cut off, if you had profaned the Sabbath you would not have been punishable with stoning; but now were you to eat forbidden fat you would be punished with being cut off; were you to profane the Sabbath you would be punished with stoning.’ And as he is informed of the punishment for the transgression of the mitsvot, so is he informed of the reward granted for their fulfilment. He is told, ‘You must know that the world to come was made only for the righteous, and that Israel at the present time are unable to bear either too much prosperity, or too much suffering.’ He is not, however, to be persuaded or dissuaded too much [lit., and they do not overwhelm him nor are they too exacting].

If he accepts, he is circumcised immediately. Should any shreds [round the corona] which render the circumcision invalid remain, he is to be circumcised a second time. As soon as he is healed arrangements are made for his immediate immersion [in a ritual bath], when two learned men must stand by his side and acquaint him with some of the minor mitsvot and with some of the major ones. When he comes up after his immersion he is deemed to be an Israelite in all respects.

In the case of a woman convert, women make her sit in the water up to her neck, while two learned men stand outside and give her instruction in some of the minor mitsvot and some of the major ones” (BT Yevamot 47a).

“Why should [Abraham] not have circumcised himself at the age of forty-eight, when he recognised his Creator? So as not to shut the door in the face of converts. Then why not be circumcised at the age of eighty-five, when He spoke with him between the parts? [see Genesis 15:9–10]. In order that Isaac might issue from a holy source. Then let him be circumcised at the age of eighty-six, when Ishmael was born? Rabbi Shim’on son of Laqish said: ‘I will set up a cinnamon tree in the world: just as the cinnamon tree yields fruit as long as you manure and tend around it, so [shall Abraham be] even when his blood runs sluggishly and his passions and desires have ceased’ [i.e., the blessed Holy One promised to renew Abraham’s virility, precisely, by means of circumcision]” (Bereshit Rabbah 46:2).

“‘O gentle Hillel, blessings rest on your head for bringing me under the wings of Shekhinah!” (BT Shabbat 31a).

“Teach us master: If a convert converts on the eve of Passover, when is he allowed to eat his paschal lamb? So did our rabbis teach: The House of Shammai says: Let him immerse [in a ritual bath] and eat his paschal lamb in the evening. But House of Hillel says: He who separates from his foreskin is considered as if he departed from the grave [i.e., he has only to wash his hands like one who returns from the cemetery, and then he may partake straight away, cf. BT Pesaḥim 92a; Mekhilta de-Rabbi Shim’on bar Yoḥai, 12:48].

Rabbi Shim’on son of Laqish said to them: The convert is loved more than all who stood at Mount Sinai. Why? For had they not seen the thunder, the flames, the lightning, the mountain quaking, and the sound of the ram horns, they would not have accepted the Kingdom of Heaven upon themselves. Yet, this one who has not seen any of these, makes himself perfect [with circumcision], comes before the blessed Holy One and accepts upon himself the Kingdom of Heaven. Is there greater love than this?

It happened that Onqelos the convert asked an elder, ‘How is a convert loved before the blessed Holy One? For all that is written of His love is and loving the sojourner to give him bread and cloak (Deuteronomy 10:18).’ He answered, ‘Our father Jacob sought only this from the blessed Holy One: and give me bread to eat and clothing to wear (Genesis 28:20). And our rabbis said: The convert is loved because the blessed Holy One recorded his honor through the prophet, as is written, [O hope of Israel, its rescue in time of trouble,] why should you be as a sojourner in the land, [and as a wayfaring man that turns aside to tarry for a night?] (Jeremiah 14:8). The blessed Holy One said ‘I love the convert, but wicked ones have come to challenge Abraham, the father of all converts. אוֹי (oy), Woe, unto them, for they are doomed to fall before him, as is written, וַּי יָהּ (vai Yah)woe is Yah, in the days of Amraphel (Genesis 14:1) [reading וַּי יָהּ (vai Yah)woe is Yah, instead of וַיְהִי (va-yehi), and it happened, see Rabbi Enoch Zundel ben Yosef, Ets Yosef]. Who was this [wicked one]? Nimrod. Why was he called אַמְרָפֶל (amrafel), Amraphel? For he אָמַר (amar), said, to Abraham ‘פֹּל (pol), descend, into the fiery furnace!’” (TanḥumaLekh Lekha 6).

And the inhabitants of Gibeon had heard what Joshua did to Jericho and to Ai. And they on their part acted with cunning and provisioned themselves…. And they went to Joshua at the Gilgal camp and said to him and to the men of Israel, ‘We have come from a far-away land, and now seal a pact with us.’ … And the men took from their provisions, and they did not inquire of YHWH (Joshua 9:3–4, 6, 14).

“Do not think that the blessed Holy One only draws near גֵרֵי הַצֶּדֶק (gerei ha-tsedeq), converts of righteousness, who converted for the sake of Heaven. For even in the case of those who were converted with no intention of honoring the Name of Heaven we find that the blessed Holy One exacted punishment for an offence against them, as is written, And there was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year. [And David sought out the presence of YHWH. And YHWH said, ‘On account of Saul and on account of the house of blood guilt, because he put the Gibeonites to death.’ … and the Gibeonites were not of Israelite stock but from the remnant of the Amorites, and the Israelites had vowed to them, but Saul sought to strike them down in his zeal for the Israelites and for Judah] (2 Samuel 21:1) [cf. Joshua 9]. What is year after year? It teaches that they were three consecutive years. When David saw that famine began to make its appearance in his days, he said to himself: ‘Rain does not descend on account of the transgression of five things: For the transgression of those who serve idols, of those who practise immorality, of those who shed blood, of those who publicly subscribe to charity and do not pay, and for the transgression of those who do not give their tithes in accordance with the regulations.’ …

David thought: ‘Has then the blessed Holy One dealt [harshly] with His people because of these converts?’ The blessed Holy One said to him: ‘If you estrange those that are distant, you will ultimately estrange also those that are near. Go, learn a lesson from Joshua, your master.’ For when the Gibeonites said Come up quickly to us and rescue us and help us (Joshua 10:6), Joshua thought at first: ‘Shall we put the Assembly [of Israel] to trouble for the sake of these converts?’ And the blessed Holy One said to him, ‘Joshua, if you estrange those that are distant you will ultimately estrange also those who are near. Go, mark the plant from which you yourself have sprung! Is it not from converts? As is written, And to Joseph were born in the land of Egypt, whom Asenath daughter of Potiphera priest of On bore to him, Manasseh and Ephraim (Genesis 46:20), and as is written, of the tribe of Ephraim, Hosea, son of Nun (Numbers 13:8)? Immediately, The king [David] called to the Gibeonites and said to them—now the Gibeonites… (2 Samuel 21:2). Regarding the next words, now the Gibeonites were not of Israelite stock (ibid.): what connection has one thing with the other? Because David called the Gibeonites and said to them what he did [‘What shall I do for you and how shall I atone, that you may bless YHWH’s heritage?’ (ibid., 3)], and they refused to accept his words [saying, let seven men of (Saul’s) sons be given to us, that we may impale them before YHWH], therefore, the Gibeonites were not of Israelite stock, and David rose and removed them so that they might not enter the Assembly. Of this we have learned that Nethinim are forbidden to enter the Assembly [cf. Ezra 8:20: Also of the Nethinim, whom David and the princes had appointed for the service of the Levites, two hundred and twenty Nethinim: all of them were registered by name]. On that occasion David said: The blessed Holy One presented Israel with three gifts, making them compassionate, bashful, and generous [see BT Yevamot 79a; cf. BT Pesaḥim 113b]” (Bemidbar Rabbah 8:4).

“Whoever maintains this holy mark [of circumcision] is linked with those two sublime rungs [Yesod and Shekhinah], protecting him completely, crowing him with supernal glory…. Rabbi El’azar said, ‘But we have learned: A convert who has been circumcised and enters beneath the wings of Shekhinah is called גֵּר צֶדֶק (ger tsedeq), convert of righteousness, and nothing more. A convert of righteousness, surely—worthy of entering that crown of Righteousness [Malkhut, but no higher]. Yet you say that he attains both of them!’

Rabbi Shim’on replied, ‘El’azar, my son, there is no comparison between one who comes from a holy root, from a stock of truth, and one who comes from evil filth, from a root of foul, fierce loathsomeness. Of Israel is written I planted you as a noble vine, of entirely faithful seed (Jeremiah 2:21). Of the nations of the world is written whose flesh is the flesh of donkeys and whose emission is the emission of stallions (Ezekiel 23:20). Thus, holy Israel—faithful seed, stock that became fragrantly firm at Mount Sinai, where filth ceased—all turn fragrant, all enter the holy covenant of day and night, becoming totally complete. But as for nations of the world, it is difficult to remove filth from them, even up to three generations. Therefore we have learned: ‘The best among the Gentiles…’ (Mekhilta, Beshallaḥ 1). So a convert of righteousness, surely!” (Zohar 3:14a–b).

“It was taught: Rabbi Ḥananya son of Rabbi Shim’on son of Gamaliel said: Why are converts at the present time oppressed and visited with afflictions? Because they did not keep the seven commandments of the sons of Noah [see BT Sanhedrin 56a].

Rabbi Yose said: One who has become a convert is like a child newly born. Why then are converts oppressed? Because they are not so well acquainted with the details of the mitsvot as the Israelites.

Abba Ḥanan said in the name of Rabbi El’azar: Because they do not do it out of love but out of fear. Others said: Because they delayed before entering under the wings of  Shekhinah. Rabbi Abbahu said, or some say Rabbi Ḥanina: What is the proof-text? May YHWH requite your actions and may your reward be complete from YHWH God of Israel under whose wings you have come to shelter (Ruth 2:12)” (BT Yevamot 48a–b).

“Our Rabbis taught: He who mistreats a convert transgresses three prohibitions, and he who oppresses him transgresses two. How does mistreating differ? Because three prohibitions are written: You shall not cheat a sojourner (Exodus 22:20); and should a sojourner sojourn with you in your land, you shall not wrong him (Leviticus 19:33); and you shall not defraud each other (ibid. 25:17), a convert is included in each other. Three are written for one who oppresses as well: And you shall not oppress him (Exodus 22:20); no sojourner shall you oppress [for you know the sojourner’s heart, since you were sojourners in the land of Egypt] (ibid. 23:9); [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] (ibid. 22:24), which includes a convert!—but [say] both [are forbidden] by three [prohibitions].

It has been taught: Rabbi Eli’ezer the Great said: Why did Torah warn against [the wronging of] a convert in thirty-six, or as others say, in forty-six, places? Because the convert turns to evil [cf. Rashi on BT Horayot 13a]. What is that which is written, You shall not cheat a sojourner and you shall not oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt (Exodus 22:20). It has been taught: Rabbi Natan said: A blemish which is in you, do not say to your fellow. And thus people say: He who has a hanging in his family does not say to another, ‘Hang this fish up for me’” (BT Bava Metsi’a 59b).


If You Lose Your Way Follow in the Tracks of the Sheep

flock-on-narrow-road“The blessed Holy One scattered Israel among the peoples only so that they may accumulate converts, for it is said: And I will sow her for Myself in the earth; [and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them who were not My people, you are My people; and they shall say, You are my God] (Hosea 2:25)—surely, a man sows a se’ah in order to harvest many korin” (BT Pesaḥim 87b, cf. Zohar 1:244a).

Should man or woman commit any of the human offences, [to betray the trust of YHWH, that person shall bear guilt] (Numbers 5:6).

Rabbi Abbahu expounded: They that dwell under His shadow shall return (Hosea 14:8)—converts who come and take refuge in the shadow of the blessed Holy One; they shall sustain themselves with grain (ibid.)—with Talmud; and grow as the vine (ibid)—in Haggadah. Their remembrance shall be as the wine of Lebanon (ibid.): The blessed Holy one says: ‘The names of converts are as dear to Me as the wine of libation which is poured out upon the altar.’ Why is [the altar] called Lebanon? Because it מַּלְבִּין (malbin), turns white, as snow the crimes of Israel, as it says, Though your offences be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; [though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool] (Isaiah 1:18). Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai says: Because all לְּבָבוֹת (levavot), hearts, rejoice in it, as is written, Lovely in heights, all the earth’s joy (Psalms 48:3). The rabbis say: on account of And My eyes and My heart shall be there for all time (1 Kings 9:3) [this is arrived at by a play on לְבָנוֹן (Levanon), Lebanon, and לֵב וְעַיִן (lev ve-ayin), ‘heart and eye’].

Another interpretation: They shall revive as the grain—they will become of equal importance with Israel, as is written, grain shall make the young men cheerful, [and new wine the young women] (Zechariah 9:17); and grow as the vine—like Israel, as is written, You carried a vine out of Egypt, [You drove away nations and planted it] (Psalms 80:9). So you will also find that just as the Torah contains a section regarding one Israelite and another and laying down that if one transgresses against another he incurs a sacrifice, as is written, Should a person offend… and dissemble with his fellow (Leviticus 5:21), so the blessed Holy One inserted a section in the Torah regarding Israel and converts, teaching that if an Israelite takes anything by violence from a convert it is as if he had taken something by violence from an Israelite. You will find that He used the expression offence of the latter—should a person offend—and in the case of one who robs a convert it is written: any of the human offences. In the case of the former it is written And it shall be, when he offends and is guilty, [he shall return the theft that he stole or the fraud that he committed…] (Leviticus 5:23), and in the case of the convert it is written, that person shall bear guilt (Numbers 5:6). In the case of the former it is written, and he shall pay back the principal (Leviticus 5:24) and in the case of the convert it is written, and he shall render back for his guilt the sum of its principal (Numbers 5:7). In the case of the former it is written, and add a fifth (Leviticus 5:23). In the case of the former it is written, and his guilt offering he shall bring to YHWH, an unblemished ram (ibid., 25), and in the case of one who robs a convert it is written, besides the ram of atonement (Numbers 5:8). Thus we learn that converts are as important as Israel, and so we have explained the text: They shall sustain themselves with grain, and grow as the vine.

Man or woman (Numbers 5:6), as is written, YHWH loves the righteous. YHWH guards sojourners (Psalms 146:8–9). Thus, the blessed Holy One said: I, all my lovers I love (Proverbs 8:17); For those who honor Me will I honor [and My spurners shall be dishonored] (1 Samuel 2:30). They love Me and so I also love them. Why does the blessed Holy One love the righteous? Because their worth is due neither to heritage nor to family. You find that the priests constitute a father’s house and the Levites constitute a father’s house; for it says, House of Aaron, bless YHWH. House of Levi, bless YHWH (Psalms 136:19). If a man desires to be a priest, he cannot be one; a Levite, he cannot be one. Why? Because his father was neither a priest nor a Levite. But if a man, even a Gentile, desires to be righteous, he can be so, because the righteous do not constitute a father’s house. Thus it says, Those who fear YHWH, bless YHWH (ibid.). It does not say: House of those that fear YHWH, but Those who fear YHWH, for these do not constitute a father’s house, but have voluntarily come forward and loved the blessed Holy One. Therefore, He loves them, and for this reason it says, YHWH loves the righteous. The blessed Holy One greatly loves converts. To what may this be compared? To a king who had a flock which used to go out to the field and come in at evening. So it was each day. Once a single deer came in with the flock. He associated with the goats and grazed with them. When the flock came in to the fold he came in with them; when they went out to graze he went out with them. The king was told: ‘A certain deer has joined the flock and is grazing with them every day. He goes out with them and comes in with them.’

The king loved him. When he went out into the field the king gave orders: ‘Let him have a lovely pasture, such as he likes; no man shall beat him; be careful with him!’ When he came in with the flock also the king would tell them, ‘Give him to drink;’ and he loved him very much. The servants said to him: ‘Master! How many he-goats do you have? How many sheep do you have? How many kids do you have? Yet you never caution us about them; yet you give us instructions every day about this deer!’ The king said to them: ‘The flock have no choice; whether they want or not, it is their nature to graze in the field all day and to come in at evening to sleep in the fold. The deer, however, sleep in the wilderness. It is not in their nature to come into places inhabited by man. Shall we then not account it as a merit to this one which has left behind the whole of the broad, vast wilderness, the abode of all the beasts, and has come to stay in the courtyard?’

In like manner, ought we not to be grateful to the convert who has left behind him his clan and his father’s house, has left behind his people, and all the other peoples of the world, and has chosen to come to us? Accordingly, He has provided him with special protection, for He warned Israel that they be very careful in relation to converts so as not to do them harm; and so indeed it says and you shall love the sojourner, [for sojourners you were in the land of Egypt] (Deuteronomy 10:19); and You shall not cheat a sojourner [and you shall not oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt] (Exodus 22:20). In the same manner also as the Torah has imposed upon one who robs another the obligation of a money payment and of a sacrifice of a ram of atonement, so the Torah has imposed upon one who robs a convert the obligation of paying him his money and of bringing a sacrifice of a ram of atonement, as is written, Man or woman. This section refers to one who robs a convert, as is written, YHWH guards sojourners. Thus He made ample provision for safeguarding them in order that they might not return to their former perversion.

Beloved are converts, for Scripture in every instance compares them to Israel, as is written, But you, Israel, are My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham [My friend] (Isaiah 41:8). ‘Love’ is used of Israel, as is written, I have loved you, says YHWH (Malachi 1:2); and ‘love’ is used of converts, as is written, and loving the sojourner to give him bread and cloak (Deuteronomy 10:18). Israel are called slaves, as is written, For Mine are the Israelites as slaves (Leviticus 25:55); and converts are called slaves, as is written,  To be His slaves (Isaiah 56:6). ‘Acceptableness’ is used of Israel, as is written, And it shall be on his forehead perpetually for their acceptance [before YHWH] (Exodus 28:38); and it is used of converts, as is written, Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon My altar; [for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all people] (Isaiah 56:7). ‘Ministering’ is used of Israel, as is written, But you shall be named the Priests of YHWH: men shall call you the ministers of our God (ibid. 61:6); and it is used of converts, as is written, Also the sons of the foreigner, that join themselves to YHWH, to serve Him (ibid. 56:6). ‘Preservation’ is used of Israel, for it says, For You are my hope, Master (Psalms 71:5); and it is used of converts, as is written: YHWH guards sojourners (Psalms 146:9). You will find that it is the same in the case of the four classes of devotees who stand before the Omnipresent; as it says, One shall say, I am YHWH’s (Isaiah 44:5). If One shall say, I am YHWH’s, he must belong wholly to the Omnipresent, having no admixture of offence. And another shall call himself by the name of Jacob (ibid.) refers to righteous converts. And another shall write on his hand, YHWH’s (ibid.) refers to the penitent. And surname himself by the name of Israel (ibid.) refers to the God-fearing. Thus we learn that converts are like Israel. This is the reason for the insertion of the section, Man or woman” (Bemidbar Rabbah 8:1–2).

“About Israel, it is written, And they mingled with the nations and learned their deeds (Psalms 106:35)—until they are trampled under their feet in the exile, they can not be sorted out from them. About them, David of blessed memory said, Why should I fear in evil days, when crime comes round me at עֲקֵבַי (aqevai), my heels? (Psalms 49:6). About them Solomon said, Loveliest of women, if you lose your way, follow in the עִקְבֵי (iqvei), tracks, of the sheep (Song of Songs 1:8)—of יַעֲקֹב (Ya’aqov), Jacob. About him is written concerning the primordial serpent who seduced Eve, He will boot your head and you will bite his עָקֵב (aqev)heel (Genesis 3:15). [But] after leaving exile, they are compared to apples and all matters of fragrance, as when they departed Egypt, as it says, Under the apple tree I awakened you (Song of Songs 8:5)” (Zohar 2:120b, Ra’aya Meheimna Mishpatim).

Serpentine Sorcery: Whoever is Drawn Near Becomes Defiled

Moshiac ha nachash“Come and see: In the middle of the sky, a lustrous path is woven—Celestial Serpent—all gossamer stars clustered with mounds upon mounds, encharged with requiting the deeds of inhabitants of the world. Similarly, numerous bands of dazzling demons issue from this supernal, primordial serpent—by whom Adam was seduced—and they are all encharged with requiting deeds of the world.

So if a person comes to purify himself, he is assisted from above; his Lord’s assistance encircles him, and he is protected, called ‘holy.’ If a person comes to defile himself, numerous bands of dazzling demons lie in wait for him; they all hover over him, surrounding him, defiling him, and he is called ‘impure.’ They all go in front of him, proclaiming, ‘Impure! Impure!—as is said: He shall call out, ‘Impure! Impure!’ (Leviticus 13:45). All of them are linked with that primordial serpent, requiting countless deeds of the world.

Rabbi Yitsḥaq and Rabbi Yose were walking from Tiberias to Lydda. Rabbi Yitsḥaq said, ‘I am amazed at that wicked Balaam, all of whose actions stemmed from the side of impurity! Here we learn a mystery: All species of נְחָשַׁיָּא (neḥshayya), sorcery, throughout the world are linked with, and issue from, that primordial נָחָשׁ (naḥash), serpent—slimy spirit of impurity. So all witchcraft of the world is named accordingly: נְחָשִׁים (neḥashim), serpentine sorcery, all issuing from this side. Whoever is drawn here becomes defiled. Furthermore, he must defile himself in order to draw upon himself that side of impure spirit. For we have learned: As one arouses, so he draws upon himself supernal holiness from above—and is sanctified. If one arouses the side of impurity, he draws upon himself a spirit of impurity—and is defiled. As already mentioned, we have learned that if a person comes to defile himself, he is defiled.

So in order to draw upon himself impure spirit from that supernal serpent, that wicked Balaam defiled himself every night with his donkey, engaging with her conjugally [see BT Sanhedrin 105a–b; Zohar 3:207a], in order to become defiled and draw upon himself impure spirit; then he enacted his sorcery.

To begin with, he would take one of those snakes and offer up incense before it. Then he split its head, extracted its tongue, took certain herbs, and burned everything—concocting incense. Next he took the snake’s head, split it in four, and concocted another incense. He traced a circle, recited a formula, and performed further rites—until he had drawn upon himself impure spirits, who revealed to him what he needed. Through them he accomplished his acts, by their knowledge derived from that celestial serpent. He continued his acts of sorcery until he had drawn upon himself a spirit from that primordial serpent. This is how he discovered and grasped knowledge of sorcery and divination; so it is written: He did not go, as time after time, to encounter נְחָשִׁים (neḥashim), serpentine sorceries (Numbers 24:1)—neḥashim, serpents, literally! The essential root lies in impurity, as has been said; subsequently all begins solely in this….

‘All these practices, all of Balaam’s knowledge—where did he learn it? He replied, ‘From his father. But in those mountains of the East, land of the East, he mastered all kinds of sorcery and divination—for in those mountains reside Uzza and Azael, whom the blessed Holy One had cast down from heaven. Bound in iron chains, they divulge sorcery to human beings; so from there Balaam knew, as is said: From Aram, Balak led me; Moab’s king, from mountains of the East (ibid. 23:7)” (Zohar 1:125a–126a, cf. Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 69, 97a).


תולדות ישו (Toledot Yeshu) The Genealogy of Jesus

Salvator Mundi attributed to Leonardo da VinciIn the year 3671 in the days of King Jannaeus, a great misfortune befell Israel, when there arose a certain disreputable man of the tribe of Judah, whose name was Yosef Pandera. He lived at Bethlehem, in Judah.

Near his house dwelt a widow and her lovely and chaste daughter named Miriam. Miriam was betrothed to Yoḥanan, of the royal house of David, a man learned in the Torah and God-fearing.

At the close of a certain Sabbath, Yosef Pandera, attractive and like a warrior in appearance, having gazed lustfully upon Miriam, knocked upon the door of her room and betrayed her by pretending that he was her betrothed husband, Yoḥanan. Even so, she was amazed at this improper conduct and submitted only against her will [the author may well be poking fun at the Christian genealogies when he (too) highlights the Davidic lineage of Yoḥanan, the man who did not impregnate Miriam].

Thereafter, when Yoḥanan came to her, Miriam expressed astonishment at behavior so foreign to his character. It was thus that they both came to know the crime of Yosef Pandera and the terrible mistake on the part of Miriam. Whereupon Yoḥanan went to Rabban Shim’on son of Shetah and related to him the tragic seduction. Lacking witnesses required for the punishment of Yosef Pandera, and Miriam being with child, Yoḥanan left for Babylonia [alt., Egypt].

Miriam gave birth to a son and named him יְהוֹשֻׁעַ (Yehoshu’a), Joshua, after her brother. This name later deteriorated to (Yeshu), Jesus [cf. BT Arakhin 32b: “Scripture reproved Joshua, for in all passages it is spelt: יְהוֹשֻׁעַ (Yehoshu’a), Joshua, but here, יֵשׁוּעַ (Yeshu’a), Joshua (Nehemiah 8:17)”]. On the eighth day he was circumcised. When he was old enough the lad was taken by Miriam to the house of study to be instructed in the Jewish tradition.

One day Jesus walked in front of the sages with his head uncovered, showing shameful disrespect. At this, the discussion arose as to whether this behavior did not truly indicate that Jesus was an illegitimate child and the son of a niddah. Moreover, the story tells that while the rabbis were discussing the tractate Neziqin, he gave his own impudent interpretation of the law and in an ensuing debate he held that Moses could not be the greatest of the prophets if he had to receive counsel from Jethro. This led to further inquiry as to the antecedents of Jesus, and it was discovered through Rabban Shim’on son of Shetah that he was the illegitimate son of Yosef Pandera. Miriam admitted it. After this became known, it was necessary for Jesus to flee to Upper Galilee.

After King Jannaeus, his wife Helene [Salome Alexandra] ruled over all Israel. In the Temple was to be found the Foundation Stone on which were engraved the letters of the Ineffable Name. Whoever learned the secret of the Name and its use would be able to do whatever he wished. Therefore, the sages took measures so that no one should gain this knowledge. Lions of brass were bound to two iron pillars at the gate of the place of burnt offerings. Should anyone enter and learn the Name, when he left the lions would roar at him and immediately the valuable secret would be forgotten.

Jesus came and learned the letters of the Name; he wrote them upon the parchment which he placed in an open cut on his thigh and then drew the flesh over the parchment. As he left, the lions roared and he forgot the secret. But when he came to his house he reopened the cut in his flesh with a knife an lifted out the writing. Then he remembered and obtained the use of the letters.

He gathered about himself three hundred and ten young men of Israel [cf. BT Sanhedrin 100a: “The blessed Holy One will give to every righteous man three hundred and ten worlds, as is written, So I may endow those who love Me with substance, and fill their treasuries (Proverbs 8:21)—now the numerical value ofׁ יש (yesh), substance, is 310”]. He accused those who spoke ill of his birth of being people who desired greatness and power for themselves. Jesus proclaimed, “I am the Messiah; and concerning me Isaiah prophesied and said, Behold, a young woman shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14).” He quoted other texts, insisting, “David my ancestor prophesied concerning me: YHWH, He said to me: You are My son. I Myself today did beget you (Psalms 2:7).”

The insurgents with him replied that if Jesus was the Messiah he should give them a convincing sign. They therefore, brought to him a lame man, who had never walked. Jesus spoke over the man the letters of the Ineffable Name, and the one afflicted with skin blanch was healed. Thereupon, they worshipped him as the Messiah, Son of the Highest.

When word of these happenings came to Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin decided to bring about the capture of Jesus. They sent messengers, Annanui and Ahaziah, who, pretending to be his disciples, said that they brought him an invitation from the leaders of Jerusalem to visit them. Jesus consented on condition the members of the Sanhedrin receive him as a lord. He started out toward Jerusalem and, arriving at Knob, acquired a donkey on which he rode into Jerusalem, as a fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah [see Zechariah 9:9: Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, your king comes unto you: he is just, and rescued; lowly, and riding upon a donkey, and upon a colt the foal of a donkey].

The sages bound him and led him before Queen Helene, with the accusation: “This man is a sorcerer and entices everyone.” Jesus replied, “The prophets long ago prophesied my coming: And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, [and a Branch shall grow out of his roots] (Isaiah 11:1), and I, I am He (Deuteronomy 32:39); but as for them, Scripture says Happy the man who has not walked in the wicked’s counsel (Psalms 1:1).”

Queen Helene asked the sages: “What he says, is it in your teaching?” They replied: “It is in our teaching, but it is not applicable to him, for it is in Scripture: But the prophet who willfully speaks a word in My name, which I have not charged him to speak in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die (Deuteronomy 18:20). He has not fulfilled the signs and conditions of the Messiah.”

Jesus spoke up: “Madam, I am the Messiah and I revive the dead.” A dead body was brought in; he pronounced the letters of the Ineffable Name and the corpse came to life. The Queen was greatly moved and said: “This is a true sign.” She reprimanded the sages and sent them humiliated from her presence. Jesus’ dissident followers increased and there was controversy in Israel.

Jesus went to Upper Galilee. The sages came before the Queen, complaining that Jesus practiced sorcery and was leading everyone astray. Therefore she sent Annanui and Ahaziah to fetch him.

They found him in Upper Galilee, proclaiming himself the Son of God. When they tried to take him there was a struggle, but Jesus said to the men of Upper Galilee: “Wage no battle.” He would prove himself by the power which came to him from his Father in Heaven. He spoke the Ineffable Name over the birds of clay and they flew into the air. He spoke the same letters over a millstone that had been placed upon the waters. He sat in it and it floated like a boat. When they saw this the people marveled. At the behest of Jesus, the emissaries departed and reported these wonders to the Queen. She trembled with astonishment.

Then the sages selected a man named Yehudah Isqarioto and brought him to the Sanctuary where he learned the letters of the Ineffable Name as Jesus had done.

When Jesus was summoned before the queen, this time there were present also the sages and Yehudah Isqarioto. Jesus said: “It is spoken of me, I will ascend into the heavens (Isaiah 14:13).” He lifted his arms like the wings of an eagle and he flew between the heavens and earth, to the amazement of everyone.

The elders asked Isqarioto to do likewise. He did, and flew toward heaven. Isqarioto attempted to force Jesus down to earth but neither one of the two could prevail against the other for both had the use of the Ineffable Name. However, Isqarioto defiled Jesus, so that they both lost their power and fell down to the earth, and in their condition of defilement the letters of the Ineffable Name escaped from them [according to an Italian manuscript (Leipzig BH 17 1–18): … he performed anal sex on him. Once he soiled him, and his seed went out from him (Leviticus 15:32), both of them fell to the ground. And all of the sages of the nations knew this secret and hid it, and cursed and banned Yehudah Isqarioto. And when they have a quarrel with another person, they say to him, “May what Yehudah Isqarioto did to Jesus be done to you!”]. Because of this deed of Yehudah they weep on the eve of the birth of Jesus [the Ninth of Tevet (December 24th C.E.)].

Jesus was seized. His head was covered with a garment and he was smitten with pomegranate twigs; but he could do nothing, for he no longer had the Ineffable Name.

Jesus was taken prisoner to the synagogue of Tiberias, and they bound him to a pillar. To allay his thirst they gave him vinegar to drink. On his head they set a crown of thorns. There was strife and wrangling between the elders and the unrestrained followers of Jesus, as a result of which the followers escaped with Jesus to the region of Antioch [alt., Egypt]; there Jesus remained until the eve of the Passover.

Jesus then resolved to go the Temple to acquire again the secret of the Name. That year the Passover came on a Sabbath day. On the eve of the Passover, Jesus, accompanied by his disciples, came to Jerusalem riding upon an donkey. Many bowed down before him. He entered the Temple with his three hundred and ten followers. One of them, Yehudah Isqarioto apprised the sages that Jesus was to be found in the Temple, that the disciples had taken a vow by the Ten Commandments not to reveal his identity but that he would point him out by bowing to him. So it was done and Jesus was seized. Asked his name, he replied to the question by several times giving the names Mattai, Nakki, Buni, Netzer, each time with a verse quoted by him and a counter-verse by the sages.

Jesus was put to death on the sixth hour on the eve of the Passover and of the Sabbath. When they tried to hang him on a tree it broke, for when he had possessed the power he had pronounced by the Ineffable Name that no tree should hold him. He had failed to pronounce the prohibition over the cabbage stalk [alt., carob stalk], for it was a plant more than a tree, and on it he was hanged until the hour for afternoon prayer, for it is written in Scripture, [And should there be against a man a death-sentence offense and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree,you shall not let his corpse stay the night on the tree [but you shall surely bury it on that day, for a hanged man is God’s curse…] (Deuteronomy 21:23). They buried him outside the city.

On the first day of the week his bold followers came to Queen Helene with the report that he who was slain was truly the Messiah and that he was not in his grave; he had ascended to heaven as he prophesied. Diligent search was made and he was not found in the grave where he had been buried. A gardener had taken him from the grave and had brought him into his garden and buried him in the sand over which the waters flowed into the garden.

Queen Helene demanded, on threat of a severe penalty, that the body of Jesus be shown to her within a period of three days. There was a great distress. When the keeper of the garden saw Rabbi Tanḥuma walking in the field and lamenting over the ultimatum of the Queen, the gardener related what he had done, in order that Jesus’ followers should not steal the body and then claim that he had ascended into heaven. The sages removed the body, tied it to the tail of a horse and transported it to the Queen, with the words, “This is Jesus who is said to have ascended to heaven.” Realizing that Jesus was a false prophet who enticed the people and led them astray, she mocked the followers but praised the sages.

The disciples went out among the nations—three went to the mountains of Ararat, three to Armenia, three to Rome and three to the kingdoms buy the sea, they deluded the people, but ultimately they were slain.

The erring followers amongst Israel said: “You have slain the Messiah of the Lord.” The Israelites answered: “You have believed in a false prophet.” There was endless strife and discord for thirty years.

The sages desired to separate from Israel those who continued to claim Jesus as the Messiah, and they called upon a greatly learned man, Shim’on Kefa, for help. Shim’on went to Antioch, main city of the Nazarenes and proclaimed to them: “I am the disciple of Jesus. He has sent me to show you the way. I will give you a sign as Jesus has done.”

Shim’on, having gained the secret of the Ineffable Name, healed one afflicted with skin blanch and a lame man by means of it and thus found acceptance as a true disciple. He told them that Jesus was in heaven, at the right hand of his Father, in fulfillment of YHWH’s utterance to my master: “Sit at My right hand till I make your enemies a stool for your feet” (Psalm 110:1). He added that Jesus desired that they separate themselves from the Jews and no longer follow their practices, as Isaiah had said, Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates: [they are a trouble unto me; I am weary of bearing them] (Isaiah 1:14). They were now to observe the first day of the week instead of the seventh, the Resurrection instead of the Passover, the Ascension into Heaven instead of the Feast of Weeks, the finding of the Cross instead of Rosh Hashanah, the Feast of the Circumcision instead of the Yom Kippur, the New Year instead of Ḥanukkah; they were to be indifferent with regard to circumcision and the dietary laws. Also they were to follow the teaching of turning the right if smitten on the left and the meek acceptance of suffering. All these new ordinances which Shim’on Kefa (or Paul, as he was known to the Nazarenes [cf. Acts 5:34, 22:3]) taught them were really meant to separate these Nazarenes from the people of Israel and to bring the internal strife to an end.

From the North Gold Flows

IMG_0953Silver has a crucible and gold a kiln, and YHWH tries hearts (Proverbs 17:3).

“Rabbi Yonatan said, ‘A potter does not test a weak vessel, for if he hits it just once, he will break it….’ Rabbi Yose son of Ḥaninah said, ‘When a flax maker knows that the flax is in good shape, then the more he beats it, the more it will improve and glisten’” (Bereshit Rabbah 55:1).

“This world is like a mustard seed in a ring. Why? Because of the [encircling] wind that beats it and sustains it. If this wind were to stop, the world would wither in an instant” (Bahir §179).

“Rav Ḥanan son of Abba has said in the name of Rav: Four winds blow every day and the north wind with all of them, for without this the world could not endure a single moment. The south wind is the most harsh, and were it not that the [angel] Son of Hawk stays it with his wings it would destroy the world, as it says, The hawk wing opens by Your understanding, spreads his wings toward the south (Job 39:26)—no; what it means is that it is the תְּדִירָה תְּדִירָה (tedirah tedirah), constant abode, of Shekhinah [שְׁכִינָה (shekhinah), Divine Presence, from לְשַׁכֵּן (le-shaken), ‘to dwell.’ She is also called דַּר (dar), Dweller]. For so said Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi: Let us be grateful to our ancestors for showing us the place of prayer, as is written, the heaven of heavens, with all their armies bow down to You (Nehemiah 9:6).

Rav Aḥa son of Ya’aqov protested: Perhaps, [the sun and moon bow down to the east], like a servant who has received a reward from his master and retires backwards, bowing as he goes [i.e., the verse refers to the sun and moon at their setting and not at their rising, and hence the Shekhinah is in the east]. This [indeed] is a difficulty. Rabbi Oshaya expressed the opinion that the Shekhinah is בְּכָל מָקוֹם (ba-khol maqom), everywhere. For Rabbi Oshaya said: What is the meaning of the verse, You, even You, are YHWH alone; You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, [with all their armies, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and You enliven them all] (ibid.). Your messengers are not like the messengers of flesh and blood. Messengers of flesh and blood return to the place from which they have been sent, but Your messengers return [and report on] their mission from the [very same] place which they have been sent, as it says, You send lighting bolts on their way, and they say to You, ‘Here we are!’ (Job 38:35). It does not say, they will come and say, but rather, on their way and they say, which shows that Shekhinah is everywhere.

Rabbi Yishma’el also holds that Shekhinah is everywhere, since the academy of Rabbi Yishma’el taught: From where do we know that Shekhinah is everywhere? Because it says, And, behold, the messenger that talked with me went forth, and another messenger went out to meet him (Zechariah 2:7). It does not say, went out after him, but went out to meet him. This shows that Shekhinah is everywhere. Rav Sheshet [the blind] also held Shekhinah is everywhere, because [when desiring to pray] he used to say to his attendant: Set me facing any way except the east. And this was not because Shekhinah is not there, but because the sectarians advise turning to the east. Rabbi Abbahu, however, said that Shekhinah is in the west; for so said Rabbi Abbahu: What is אוֹרִיָּה (oriyyah) [a Persian word meaning ‘evening,’ and by extension ‘west’]? It is equivalent to אֲוִיר יָהּ (avir Yah), divine air.

Rav Yehudah said: What is, Let my teaching יַעֲרֹף (ya’arof), drop, like rain (Deuteronomy 32:2)?—the west wind which comes מֵעָרפּוֹ (me-arpo), from the back, of the world [i.e., the sea, which is at the western side of the land of Israel]. My saying תִּזַּל (tizzal), flow, like dew (ibid.): this is the north wind which מַזָּלֶת אֶת הַזָּהָב (mazzelet et ha-zahav), makes gold flow, and so it says: הַזָּלִים זָהָב (Ha-zalim zahav), who pours gold, from the purse (Isaiah 46:6). Like שְׂעִירִם (se’irim), showers, on the green (Deuternomy ibid.): this is the east wind which rages through the world like a שָׂעִיר (sa’ir), goat-demon. And like cloudbursts on the grass (ibid.): this is the south wind which brings up showers and causes the grass to grow.

It has been taught: Rabbi Eli’ezer says that the world is like a veranda, and the north side is not enclosed, and so when the sun reaches the north-west corner, it swings round and returns [to the east] above the firmament. Rabbi Yehoshu’a, however, says that the world is like a tent, and the north side is enclosed [cf. Genesis 4:7: at the tent flap sin crouches], and when the sun reaches the north-west corner it circles and goes back behind the dome [till it reaches the east], as it says, [The sun rises and the sun sets, and to its place it glides, there it rises.It goes to the south and swings round to the north (Ecclesiastes 1:5–6): it goes to the south—by day, and swings round to the north—by night. Round and round goes the wind, and on its rounds the wind returns (ibid.): this refers to the eastern and western sides of the heavens, of which the sun sometimes goes round them and sometimes traverses [i.e., it goes round them in winter when it is below the horizon, and it traverses them in summer when it is above the horizon].

He [Rabbi Yehoshu’a] used to say: We have arrived at the view of Rabbi Eli’ezer, [since we have learnt]: From the sky-chamber comes the tempest (Job 37:9): this is the south wind; and from the wind’s dispersal the cold (ibid.): this is the north wind [which is open, and from which a cold wind comes]. From the breath of אֵל (El) the ice is made (ibid., 10): this is the west wind: and wide waters turn solid (ibid.): this is the east wind.’ But doesn’t the Master say that it is the south wind which brings showers and makes the grass grow?—there is no contradiction; when the rain falls gently [it is from the south], and when it falls heavily [it is from the east].

Rav Ḥisda said: What is meant by the verse, From the north gold comes (Job 37:22)? This refers to the north wind which makes gold flow; and so it says: Who pours gold from the purse (Isaiah 46:6).

Rafram son of Papa said in the name of Rav Ḥisda: Since the day when the Temple was destroyed the south wind has not brought rain, as it says, And he decreed on the right hand, and there was hunger; and he devoured on the left hand, and they were not satisfied: [they shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm] (Isaiah 9:19); and it is written, The north and the south, You created them (Psalms 89:13).

Rafram son of Papa also said in the name of Rav Ḥisda: Since the day when the Temple was destroyed, rain no longer comes down from the ‘good treasury,’ as it says, YHWH will open for you His goodly treasure (Deuteronomy 28:12): When Israel act according to the will of the Omnipresent and are settled in their own land, then rain comes down from a ‘good treasury,’ but when Israel are not settled on their own land, then the rain does not come down from a ‘good treasury’ [cf. Bahir §155; Zohar 2:161b; Rashi on BT Yevamot 62a].

Rabbi Yitsḥaq said: He who desires to become wise should turn to the south [when praying], and he who desires to become rich should turn to the north. And your mnemonic is that the table [in the Tabernacle] was to the north of the altar and the candlestick to the south [the table being the symbol of plenty, and the candlestick of knowledge]. Rabbi Yehoshu’a son Levi, however, said that he should always turn to the south, because through obtaining wisdom he will obtain wealth, as it says, length of days are in her right hand, in her left hand wealth and honor (Proverbs 3:16). But was it not Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi who said that Shekhinah is in the west?—[he means that] one should turn aside [slightly] to the south. Rabbi Ḥanina said to Rav Ashi [of Babylon]: Those like you who live to the north of the land of Israel should turn to the south. How do we know that Babylon is to the north of the land of Israel?—as is written [in a prophecy concerning the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians:] From the north, evil will be let loose on the inhabitants of the land (Jeremiah 1:14)” (BT Bava Batra 25a–b).

“They asked [Rabbi Akiva]: ‘Why is ח (ḥet) open? And why is its vowel a small pataḥ?’ He said: ‘Because all the רוּחוֹת (ruḥot), winds [or: directions], are closed up, except for the north, which is open for good and for evil.’ They said: ‘How can you say that it is for good? Is it not written, And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire engulfing itself (Ezekiel 1:4). Fire—nothing other than flaring anger, as is written, And fire came out from before YHWH and consumed them (Leviticus 10:2).’ He said: ‘There is no difficulty. One speaks of when Israel does the will of the Omnipresent, while the other speaks of when they do not do His will. When Israel does not do His will, then the fire draws near. But when they do His will, then the quality of Compassion encompasses and surrounds, as is written, Who pardons offences, and passes over rebellion (Micah 7:18).’

A parable: To what can the matter be compared? A king wanted to punish and whip his servants. One hegemon stood up and asked the reason for this punishment. When the king described the offence he said, ‘Your servants never did such a thing. I will be their bondsman until you investigate it more thoroughly.’ In the meantime, the king’s anger was calmed” (Bahir §34–§35).

From the north, evil will be תִּפָּתַח (tipataḥ), let loose, on the inhabitants of the land (Jeremiah 1:14).

“What is פַּתַח‬ (pataḥ)? It is an פֶּתַח (petaḥ), opening. Which opening? The north wind, open to all the world. It is the gate from which good and evil emerge. And what is good? [Rabbi Akiva] mocked them, saying: ‘Did I not tell you that it is a small pataḥ?’ They said: ‘We have forgotten, teach us a second time.’ He reviewed, saying: ‘A parable: A king had a throne. Sometimes he carried it on his arm, and sometimes on his head.’ ‘Why?’ they asked. ‘Because it was beautiful and he was hesitant to sit on it.’ They asked: ‘And where did he place it on his head?’ He replied: ‘In the open מ (mem), as is written, Truth from the earth will spring up, as justice from the heavens looks down (Psalms 85:12).’

Rabbi Amorai sat and expounded: What is the meaning of YHWH loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob (Psalms 87:2)? The gates of Zion, are the פִּתְחֵי עוֹלָם (pitḥei olam), portals of the world (Psalms 24:7). Now a gate is nothing other than an portal. Therefore we say, ‘Open the gates of Mercy for us.’ YHWH said: I love the gates of Zion when they are open. Why? Because they are on the side of evil. But when Israel does good before YHWH and are worthy that good be opened for them, then He loves them—more than all the dwellings of Jacob. They are all peace, as is written, Jacob was a simple man, a dweller in tents [cf. Zohar 1:167b: ‘a consummate man’] (Genesis 25:27).

This is like two men, one who is driven to do evil but does good, and the other who is driven to do good but does evil. Who is more praiseworthy? The one who is driven to do evil and does good, for he may do good again. It is therefore written: YHWH loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. They are all peace, as is written, Jacob was a simple man, a dweller in tents” (Bahir §37–§39).

“The blessed Holy One has a quality whose name is רָעָה (ra’ah), Evil. It is to the north of the blessed Holy One, as is written: From the north, evil will be let loose on all the inhabitants of the land (Jeremiah 1:14)—any evil that comes to all inhabitants of earth comes from the north.

What is this quality? It is the likeness of a hand. It has many messengers [i.e., fingers], and the name of them all is Evil. Some of them are big and some are small, but they all bring guilt to the world. This is because תֹהוּ (tohu), Chaos, is toward the north. Tohu is nothing other than רָעָה (ra’ah), Evil. It תָּהָא (taha), confounds, the world and causes people to offend. Every evil impulse that exists in man comes from there. And why is it placed to the left? Because it does not have any authority nor any place in the world except in the north [which is to one’s left when facing the rising sun in the east]. It is not accustomed to be anywhere except in the north. It does not want to be any place but in the north. If it remained in the south until it learned the manner of the south, how could it lead others astray? It would have to stay there days until it learned, and then it could not cause people to offend. It therefore is always in the north, to the left. This is the meaning of For the devisings of the human heart are evil from youth (Genesis 8:21). It is evil from his youth, and it does not incline other than to the left, for it is already accustomed to being there. It is regarding this that the blessed Holy One said to Israel If you really heed the voice of YHWH your God, and do what is right in His eyes, and hearken to His commands (Exodus 15:26)—not to the commands of the evil impulse. And keep all His statutes (ibid.)—not the statutes of the evil impulse [all the sickness that I put upon Egypt I will not put upon you,for I am YHWH your healer (ibid).

What does the evil impulse gain? What is this like? A king appointed clerks over the provinces of his kingdom, over his work and over his goods. Everything had its clerk. There was one clerk in charge of the storehouse containing fine food. Another was in charge of the storehouse containing stones. Everyone came to the storehouse containing fine food. The clerk in charge of the storehouse of stones came and saw that people were only buying from the other clerk. What did he do? He sent his messengers to raze the weak house. However, to the strong ones they could not do so. He said, ‘In the time that it takes to raze one of the strong, you can raze ten of the weak. People will then all come and buy stones from me, and I will not be inferior to the other.’ Therefore it is written, From the north, evil will be let loose on all the inhabitants of the land (Jeremiah 1:14). It then continues, For, I will call all the families of the kingdoms of the north, says YHWH; and they shall come, and they shall set everyone his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem (ibid., 15). Evil will be their trade, and the evil impulse will also constantly strive. הַשָׂטָן (Ha-satan), the adversary, turns aside, since he weighs down the whole world on the scale of liability. How do we know? As is written, and he turned aside to her (Genesis 38:16), and the Targum renders this וּסְטָא (u-seta), and he turned aside. It is likewise written שְׂטֵה (seteh), turn away, from it and pass on (Proverbs 4:15)” (Bahir §162–§164).

“And what is from there is the Shepherd, Israel’s Stone (Genesis 49:24)? That from There Israel’s Stone is sustained. What is it by name? Indeed, say: Supernal Justice [Binah]. What is it? The great צָפוּן (tsafun), hidden, light, called סֹחָרֶת (soḥaret), Dark. And the stone below is called דַּר (dar), Mother-of-Pearl” (Bahir §193).

“As for [Binah] being called צְפוֹנִית (tsefonit), north, this is because She is supernally concealed, and from Her side issues north and judgments are aroused from Her side—even though She is compassion and joy, as we have already established. When She emerges, north emerges within Her, included and connected with דָרוֹם (darom), south” (Zohar 3:120a).