The Nut Garden

Gleanings of Zohar

The Footsteps of Messiah

follow-in-his-footsteps-38691“Rabbi Yannai said: If you see one generation after another cursing [those engaged in Torah and mitsvot] and blaspheming [saying ‘since the predetermined time has arrived, and yet he has not come, he will never come’ (BT Sanhedrin 97b)], look out for the coming of the Messiah, as it says, Your enemies reviled Your anointed one’s עִקְּבוֹת (iqvot), steps [lit., heels] (Psalms 89:52)” (Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah 2:13, 4).

“In the עִקְּבוֹת מְשִׁיחַ (iqvot Mashiaḥ), footsteps of Messiah, impudence will increase; prices will rise; grapes will be abundant but wine will be costly; the government will turn into heresy; and there will be no reproach. The meeting place [of scholars] will become a bordello; the Galilee will be destroyed; the highland will lie desolate; the border people will wander from city to city and none will show them compassion; the wisdom of scribes will stink; sin‑fearing people will be detested; truth will be missing; young men will humiliate the elderly; the elderly will stand while the young sit; sons will revile their fathers; daughters will strike their mothers, brides will strike their mothers‑in‑law; and a man’s enemies will take over his house. The face of the generation is like the face of a dog [which is impervious to shame]! Sons have no shame in front of their fathers; and on whom can one depend? Only upon our Father in Heaven” (BT Sotah 49b)—like the dead skin of a ticklish heel, so too the final generation is insensitive to suffering while the most frivolous matters delight them.

“Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai recounts: Rabbi Akiva would expound דָּרַךְ כּוֹכָבא (darakh kokhva), a star steps forth, out of Jacob (Numbers 24:17): [do not read] דָּרַךְ כּוֹכָבא (darakh kokhva), a star steps forth, out of Jacob but דָּרַךְ בָּר-כּוֹכבָא (darakh Bar Kokhva), Bar Kokhba steps forth, out of Jacob. When Akiva would see this בַּר כָּזָב Son of Kozav [lit., ‘son of a lie’] he would say: ‘This is the King Messiah.’ Rabbi Yoḥanan son of Torta would tell him: ‘Akiva, grass shall grow from your jaws before he will appear’” (JT Ta’anit 4:8, 68d).

“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 [lit., heels] 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)” (Ra’aya Meheimna Mishpatim).

The Bird has Found a Home, and the Swallow a Nest for Itself

ad68b51709542856c238222f560acefb“Rabbi Shim’on said to his son, Rabbi El’azar, ‘El’azar, when King Messiah arouses, countless other signs, and miracles will arise in the whole world. Come and see: In the Garden of Eden below, there is a single place hidden, concealed, unknown—embroidered with many colors; within are hidden a thousand palaces of yearning. No one enters them except Messiah, who abides constantly in the Garden of Eden.

The entire Garden is encompassed by many crowns of the righteous, and Messiah stands over countless forces and camps of souls of the righteous. On festivals and Sabbaths, Messiah enters that place and delights in all those palaces.

Within, within those palaces is another place—concealed and hidden, completely unknown, called Eden. No one is capable of knowing it. Messiah is hidden outside, around that place, until a place called קַן צִפּוֹר (Qav Tsipor), Bird’s Nest, is revealed to him—a place proclaimed by that bird who arouses in the Garden every day.

In that place are embroidered images of all other nations who have gathered against Israel to harm them. He enters that place, raises his eyes, and sees the patriarchs entering the ruins of the House of God, until he sees Rachel, tears on her face, and the blessed Holy One comforting her—but she does not want to be comforted, as is said: She refuses to be comforted for her children (Jeremiah 31:15). Then Messiah raises his voice and weeps, and the whole Garden of Eden trembles and all those righteous ones there scream and weep. He screams and weeps a second time, and the heavens above the Garden tremble, along with 1,500 myriads of supernal camps, until reaching the supernal Throne. Then the blessed Holy One beckons to that bird, who enters her nest and sits by Messiah, crying what she cries, arousing what is aroused.

From within the holy Throne, that Bird’s Nest and Messiah are summoned. All elevate them above, and the blessed Holy One swears to them to eliminate the wicked kingdom from the world by the hand of Messiah and to avenge Israel—and all the goodness that the blessed Holy One intends to do for His people. Then the Bird’s Nest, with Messiah in it, returns to its place, Messiah slipping into its hiding place as before…

A voice will burst in the branches of the trees of the Garden, calling potently: ‘Awaken, high holy ones! Rise before the Messiah! Behold, the time has come for the Doe to unite with Her Husband. And Her Husband wishes to avenge Her in the world and raise Her from the dust.’

Then they will all rise and gird him with his weapons as before, Abraham on his right, Isaac on his left, Jacob in front of him, Moses the Faithful Shepherd above all the righteous, dancing along in the Garden.

Once the Messiah is arrayed by the righteous in the Garden of Eden, he will enter that place called Bird’s Nest, as previously, and see the image of the destruction of the Temple and the many righteous who were killed there. Then he takes from there ten garments, called ‘garments of zeal,’ and hides himself there for forty days, totally unrevealed.

At the end of forty days a single voice arouses, and from the supernal Throne the Bird’s Nest is summoned along with the King Messiah hidden within. Then he is raised above, and when the blessed Holy One sees King Messiah dressed in garments of vengeance, girded with his weapons, He takes him and kisses him on the head…

He enters into one palace there and sees all the supernal angels called Mourners of Zion—those who weep over the destruction of the Temple, weeping constantly—and they give him a purple robe to wreak vengeance. Then the blessed Holy One hides him away [cf. Rut Rabbah 5:6] in the Bird’s Nest, where he is concealed for thirty days. After ward, within that bird’s nest, he will descend from above to below, arrayed in all those adornments, surrounded by countless holy camps. The whole world will see a radiance hovering between heaven and earth, persisting for seven days, and all inhabitants of the world will be astonished and confounded, totally unable to comprehend—except for the wise, who know these mysteries; happy is their share!

… On that day the whole world will tremble as before, from one end of heaven to the other, and then the whole world will know that King Messiah has been revealed in the land of Galilee. All those who study Torah assiduously will gather round him—though they are few in the world [see BT Sanhedrin 97a]—and through the merit of schoolchildren his strength will be vitalized, overpowering. This is the mystery of fledglings (Deuteronomy 22:6). And if these are not to be found, then infants sitting in their mother’s potent bosom, suckling, as is said: [Whom will he teach knowledge? To whom will he explain a message?] Those weaned from milk, taken from the breast (Isaiah 28:9)—namely, or eggs (Deuteronomy ibid.)—because for their sake Shekhinah dwells with Israel in exile, since as for the wise, few will be found at that time. Thus, and the mother crouching over עַל (al), for the sake of, the fledglings or for the sake of the eggs (ibid.).

Do not take the mother together with the children (ibid.). For the matter does not depend on him—to deliver Her from exile—but rather on the supernal King. Once these children and sucklings empower King Messiah, then supernal Mother, crouching over them, arouses toward Her Husband. For twelve more months, it will be delayed; then Her Husband will come and raise Her from the dust, as is said: I will raise the fallen booth of David (Amos 9:11)” (Zohar 2:8a-9a).

“The Faithful Shepherd said: How obscure these matters are for one who does not know them, and how transparent for one who does! Certainly that bird is the Shekhinah and Her nest is the Temple. And Israel are the fledglings, upon whom the mother [Shekhinah] sits. And the mother is crouched over the fledglings (Deuteronomy 22:6)—the sages of Mishnah, who fly in Her precepts. Or eggs (ibid.)—the sages of reading [Scripture].

But when Israel sinned, and the Temple was destroyed, what is written? You shall surely send off the mother (ibid. 7). This is as it is written: And for your transgressions is your mother put away (Isaiah 50:1). And about the sages of the six orders of Mishnah, it is written: And the children [lit., sons] you may take for yourself (ibid.)—the six [orders], from the side of the six sons [the six lower sefirot], which are under upper Mother [Binah], and which are alluded to in the six words of Shema Yisra’el, or in the six orders of Mishnah. It is all the same, whether [one offers] much or little, if only he directs his mind towards Heaven [Tif’eret], and binds it with the knot of the tefillin on the head and on the arm.

And for this reason, fledglings are from the side of ו which includes the six orders of Mishnah [the six lower sefirot]. Or eggs—the sages of reading [Scripture]. And it is said about them: At ה״ (he), five, years old, one is fit for the study of Scripture, and this is Malkhut, [which is] ה. Sons—the side of the Son of יָהּ (Yah), God, and these are the sages of Kabbalah, about whom it is said: You shall not take the mother together with the sons (Deuteronomy 22:6)” (Ra’aya Meheimna Pinḥas).

Even the bird has found a home, and the swallow a nest for itself, that puts its fledglings by Your altars, YHWH of armies, my king and my God (Proverbs 84:4).

Wherever the Preparation of the Incense is Uttered with Intention and Heartfelt Devotion No One can be Harmed

Jerusalem-Incense“Rabbi Zutra son of Tobiah said in the name of Rav: From where do we learn that a blessing should be said over sweet aromas? Because it says, Let all that has breath praise Yah (Psalms 150:6). What is that which gives enjoyment to the soul and not to the body?—You must say that this is fragrance” (BT Berakhot 43b).

“Three things restore a man’s good spirits: [beautiful] sounds, sights, and smells” (BT Berakhot 57b).

“Whoever smelled the smoke, as a column rose from the smoke-raiser [in the Temple], became cleansed of heart, refined in radiant joy to serve his Lord. The filth of the evil impulse disappeared from him, leaving him with only one heart toward his Father in heaven [cf. M Berakhot 9:5]; for incense actually disintegrates the evil impulse in all aspects… nothing in the world breaks the Other Side except incense.

Come and see what is written: Take the fire-pan and place fire upon it from the altar and put in incense. Why? For the fury has gone forth from before YHWH, the plague has begun! (Numbers 17:11). For look, nothing breaks that side except incense, since nothing is as beloved to the blessed Holy One as incense! Consequently, it can eliminate sorcery and evil elements from the home. If the fragrance and smoke of incense prepared by people for that purpose has the power to eliminate, All the more so [holy] incense.

This matter is an established decree before the blessed Holy One: Whoever contemplates and reads every day פִּטּוּם הַקְּטֹרֶת (Pitum ha-Qetoret), Preparation of the Incense, will be saved from all elements of sorcery in the world, from all mishaps, evil fantasies, and pestilence. He will not be harmed that entire day, for the Other Side has no power over him—but he must focus his intention on it.

Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘If human beings knew how exalted the Preparation of the Incense was in the eyes of the blessed Holy One, they would take every single word and raise it as a crown upon their heads, like a crown of gold. Whoever engages in the Preparation of the Incense and concentrates upon it every day has a share in this world and in the world that is coming. Pestilence will disappear from him and from the world, and he will be delivered from all judgments and all evil aspects of this world, from the judgment of the alien kingdom, and even from the judgment of Hell…

The Preparation of the Incense is more beloved than all rituals and devotions in the world. Even though prayer is most exalted of all [the commandments], the Preparation of the Incense is precious and beloved to the blessed Holy One.

Come and see: What is the difference between prayer and the Preparation of the Incense? Prayer was instituted to replace the sacrifices that Israel used to offer [in the time when the Temple stood], and none of those sacrifices that they offered was as important as the incense. Furthermore, what is the difference between this and that? Well, prayer is restoration, restoring as needed. Incense does more: restoring, forging links, and producing radiance greater than all. What is that? Removing filth and purifying the Dwelling—all is illumined, restored, and linked as one. Therefore we must remove filth from the world, thereby restoring all, every single day—like that beloved offering, in which the blessed Holy One delighted” (Zohar 2:218b-19a).

And YHWH said to Moses, “Take you the סַמִּים (samim), fragrances, balsam and onycha and galbanum, fragrances, and clear frankincense, equal part for part shall it be. And you shall make of it incense, a perfume compound, perfumer’s work, tinctured with salt, pure, sacred. And you shall pound it to fine powder and place some of it before the Ark of the Covenant in the Tent of Meeting where I shall meet you. Holy of holies it shall be to you (Exodus 30:34-38).

And Aaron shall burn upon it the aromatic incense morning after morning, when he tends the lamps he shall burn it. And when Aaron lights the lamps at twilight he shall burn it, a perpetual incense before YHWH for your generations. You shall not offer up on it strange incense (Exodus 30:7-8).

“The rabbis taught: How was the incense prepared? It weighed 368 manehs, 365 corresponding to the number of days in a solar year, a maneh for each day, half to be offered in the morning and half in the afternoon, and three additional manehs from which the High Priest took handfuls on Yom Kippur. These were put back into the mortar on the day before Yom Kippur and ground again very thoroughly so as to be extremely fine. The incense contained eleven kinds of spices [אֲדֹנָי (Adonai), Lord, times eleven equals הַקְטֹרֶת (ha-qetoret), the incense]: balsam, onycha, galbanum and frankincense, each weighing seventy manehs; myrrh, cassia, spikenard and saffron, each weighing sixteen manehs; twelve manehs of costus, three of aromatic bark; nine of cinnamon; nine kabs of Carsina lye; three seahs and three kabs of Cyprus wine. If Cyprus wine was not available, old white wine might be used. A quarter of a kab of Sodom salt, and a minute amount of smoke-raising herb. Rabbi Nathan the Babylonian says: also a minute amount of Jordan amber. If one added honey to the mixture, he rendered it unfit for sacred use. If he omitted any one of its ingredients, he is guilty of a capital offence.

Rabban Shim’on son of Gamliel says: ‘Balsam’ refers to the sap that drips from the balsam tree. The Carsina lye was used for bleaching the onycha to improve it. The Cyprus wine was used to soak the onycha in it to make it pungent. Though urine is suitable for this purpose, it is not brought into the Temple out of respect.

It was taught, Rabbi Nathan says: While it was being ground, another would say הָדֵק הֵיטֵב הֵיטֵב הָדֵק (hadeq heitev, heitev hadeq), ‘Grind well, well grind,’ because the [rhythmic] sound is good for [those who grind] spices. If it was mixed in half-quantities, it is fit for use, but we have not heard whether this applies to a third or a quarter. Rabbi Yehudah said: The general rule is that if it was made in the correct proportions, it is fit for use even if made in half-quantity, but if he omitted any one of its ingredients, he is guilty of a capital offence (BT Kareitot 6a).

“It was taught, Bar Kappara says: Once every sixty or seventy years, the accumulated surpluses amounted to half the yearly quantity. Bar Kappara also taught: If a minute quantity of honey had been mixed into the incense, no one could have resisted the scent. Why did they not put honey into it? Because Torah says, For you shall not turn to smoke any leaven nor any honey from it as a fire offering to YHWH (Leviticus 2:11)” (JT Yoma 4:5).

And Moses said to Aaron, “Take the fire-pan and place fire upon it from the altar and put in incense and carry it quickly to the community and atone for them, for the furry has gone out from before YHWH, the scourge has begun.” And Aaron took as Moses had spoken, and he ran into the midst of the assembly, and, look, the scourge had begun against the people, and he put in incense and atoned for the people. And he stood between the dead and the living, and the scourge was held back (Numbers 17:11-13).

“The Angel of Death confided his secret to him [Moses], for it is said, and he put in incense and atoned for the people (Numbers 17:11); and it is said, And he stood between the dead and the living, [and the scourge was held back] (ibid. 13). Had he not told it to him, where had he known it ? [Since this act of intervention to save the people is not dictated by God but is a device Moses on his own initiative orders Aaron to implement]” (BT Shabbat 89a, cf. Ibn Ezra: Take the fire-pan… and put in incense. [Because of the definite article] the reference is to a specific fire-pan. [However,] it does not say and put in the incense. The intelligent will understand—Ibn Ezra seems to be hinting that the burning of incense was a sanitary technique done to drive off the plague).

“What atonement is there which obtains evenly for oneself, his household, his brethren, the priests, and the whole assembly of the house of Israel? It is the smoking of the incense. But does the incense obtain atonement?—Indeed, for Rabbi Ḥananiah cited: We learn that the incense obtains atonement for what was said: And he put in incense and atoned for the people (Numbers 17:12). And the school of Rabbi Ishmael taught: Why does incense obtain atonement for evil speech? Let that which is in secret [i.e. since none but the high priest may enter the Holy of Holies] come and obtain atonement for what is committed in secret!” (BT Yoma 44a).

“Rabbi Aḥa went to כְפַר טַרְשָׁא (Kefar Tarsha), Clod Village, where he stayed at an inn. The people of that village whispered about him, saying, ‘A great man has arrived here; let us go to him.’ They said to him, ‘Do you not have compassion on us because of the plague?’ He said to them, ‘What plague?’ They replied, ‘A plague struck the village seven days ago. And every day that passes, it becomes worse.’

He responded, ‘Let us go to the house of assembly and plead for compassion before the blessed Holy One.’ As they were on their way, people came up to them and told them the names of people who had died or were about to die. Rabbi Aḥa said to them, ‘This is not the time to stand around talking, time presses. Choose forty men from the worthiest among you and divide them into four groups. I shall be among you. Let ten men go to each of the four corners of the city. There, you shall recite, with the might of your souls, the phrases of the incense offering, which the blessed Holy One handed over to Moses [cf. BT Shabbat 89a]. And you should also recite the phrases of the sacrificial offerings.’

And so they recited those phrases three times in each of the four corners of the city [cf. Zohar 2:219a: It is forbidden to burn incense anywhere else except in the fire-pan (of the Temple)]. He then told them, ‘Let us visit those who are about to die. Choose from among you and to their houses [go] and recite. When they finish, say these verses, And Moses said to Aaron, ‘Take the fire-pan…’ And Aaron took… And he stood between the dead [and the living, and the scourge was held back] (Numbers 17:11-13). They followed these instructions, and it ceased.

They heard a voice that said, ‘Secrets of Secrets have been sweetened above; for the Judgment of heaven does not apply here, because people know how to nullify!’ Rabbi Aḥa’s heart became faint, and he fell asleep. He heard them say to him, ‘As you have done this, go and tell them to repent, because they have sinned before Me! He woke up and made them repent and atone completely for their deeds. And they took it upon themselves never to cease studying Torah. And they changed the name of the village to מָאתָא מַחְסֵיָא (Mata Maḥseya), Village of Mercy.

Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘It is not enough for the righteous to nullify the decree, they must bless them as well.’ And you should know that it is indeed so! Because the soul says to the body, Hurry! Knead three seahs of choice semolina flour (Genesis 18:6) and other phrases. And so it nullifies the Judgment. And what is then written? And he said, I will surely return to you at this very season (ibid. 10). Behold, this is the blessing.

Now what do the angels do after seeing that this person has taken good advice upon himself? They go to the wicked and examine their cases, in order to judge them, as is written, And the men arose from there and looked out over Sodom (Genesis 18:16) to the place of the wicked, in order to sentence them.

Rabbi Yehudah continued, ‘This is the way of the righteous. As soon as he realizes that the angels are examining his case, he immediately repents, prays, and offers his fat and blood [i.e. fasts] as a sacrifice before his Maker until judgments have vanished!” (Zohar 1:100b-101a Midrash ha-Ne’elam).

May my prayer stand as incense before You (Psalms 141:2).

“Come and see: Incense binds bonds, spreading joy from above and below. This eliminates death, accusation, and wrath, which cannot prevail in the world” (Zohar 1:230a, cf. Bahir §109).

“And when the highest point and the world that is coming ascend, they know only the aroma, as one inhaling an aroma is sweetened” (Zohar 3:26b).

Knowledge will be Increased

image“In the six hundredth year of the sixth, springs of wisdom will open above, springs of wisdom below, and the whole world will prepare to enter the seventh, just like a person preparing on the sixth day, as the sun is about to set, to enter Sabbath. Your mnemonic: In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life… all the springs of the great abyss burst and the sluices of heaven were opened [Genesis 7:11].’ Rabbi Yose said to him, ‘All this is longer than the Companions have established, namely, one day of exile for Assembly of Israel, no more, as is written: He has made me desolate, faint all the day [Lamentations 1:13].’ He replied, ‘So I learned from father in the mysteries of letters of the Holy Name, the duration of the world and the days of Creation—all a single mystery” (Zohar 1:117a).

Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased (Daniel 12:4).

We Eat anything We Want and We are Strong and Healthy and Our Limbs are Fit

image“Rabbi Pinḥas son of Ya’ir said: Zeal leads to cleanliness, cleanliness leads to purify, purity leads to restraint, restraint leads to holiness, holiness leads to humility, humility leads to fear of sin, fear of sin leads to ḥasidut (‘love, devotion’), ḥasidut leads to Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit leads to revival of the dead, revival of the dead comes through Elijah, remembered for good” (M Sotah 9:15, cf. BT Avodah Zara 20b).

“Resh Lakish said: ‘… If one comes to defile himself, the door is opened to him; if one comes to purify himself, he is assisted.’ … It was taught in the school of Rabbi Yishma’el: ‘Sin dulls [or: obstructs] a person’s לֵב [lev], heart, as is said: Do not become impure with them, וְנִטְמֵתֶם (ve-nitmetem), becoming impure, through them (Leviticus 11:43). Do not read וְנִטְמֵתֶם (ve-nitmetem), becoming impure, but rather וְנִטַּמְתֶּם (ve-nitamtem), becoming dulled [or: obstructed]'” (BT Yoma 38b).

“It is written: You shall sanctify yourselves and be holy… (Leviticus 11:44). If one comes to defile himself, he is surely defiled. And it is written: וְנִטְמֵתֶם (ve-nitmetem), becoming impure, through them (ibid., 43)—[spelled unconventionally] without an א: totally obstructed impurity, which cannot be purified as can other types of impurity. Furthermore, he is terrified of dangerous beasts, for in their eyes he appears as a kid and he is vulnerable, being divested of the human image [cf. BT Shabbat 151b; Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah on 3:7]. Rabbi Yeisa permitted the eating of chicken with dairy cheese [cf. BT Shabbat 130a]. Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘This is surely forbidden to you! One should not provide an opening for evil species. ‘Go, O Nazarite,’ one says, ‘around; do not approach the vineyard!’ This is surely forbidden to you, since it entails the same stricture as cattle. What is written of one who permits this? You gave the Nazarites wine to drink (Amos 2:12)—permitting this is like permitting that. And it is written: You shall not eat any abhorrent thing (Deuteronomy 14:3)—any includes everything” (Zohar 2:125b).

“Now, you might say, ‘What about the goat, upon which settles an impure spirit? Not so! For if an impure spirit settled upon it, we would be forbidden to eat it. Rather, they pass through them and manifest in front of them, yet do not settle within them; for as they settle, another spirit passes over them and they disengage from their bodies. So they appear in front of them and harass within them, yet do not possess their bodies—which we are therefore permitted to eat. Whether cattle, beasts, birds, or fish of the sea—among all of them appear right and left, Compassion and Judgment. Whatever comes from the side of the right, the side of Compassion, we are permitted to eat; and all those coming from the side of the left, the side of Judgment, we are forbidden to eat [forbidden animals are predators, scavengers, and bottom feeders not worthy of emulation]—for all their bodies are impure and they all defile; an impure spirit settles within them, dwelling in them. Therefore, the holy spirit of Israel must not mingle with them nor be defiled by them, so that they may remain holy and be recognized above and below. Happy is their share, for the Holy King delights in them and seeks to purify and sanctify them above all, for they are linked to Him!

… Whoever eats of those forbidden foods clings to the Other Side and makes his soul and his body loathsome. An impure spirit settles upon him, and he demonstrates that he has no share in the supernal King and does not come from His side nor cleave to Him. If he departs like this from the world, he is seized by all those linked to the side of impurity, who defile him—punishing him as a person loathed by his Lord, loathed in this world and loathed in the world that is coming. Of this is written וְנִטְמֵתֶם (ve-nitmetem), becoming impure, through them (Leviticus 11:43)—without an א, for there is no remedy for his loathsomeness, and he never emerges from impurity. Woe to them, woe to their souls, for they will never cling to the Bundle of Life because they have been defiled! Woe to their bodies, of which is written For their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be a horror to all flesh (Isaiah 66:24). What is a horror? A stench. Who causes this? That side to which they clung” (Zohar 3:41b).

“Rabbi Abba said: I have remembered a certain matter I heard from the Holy Lamp [Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai] who heard it in the name of Rabbi Eli’ezer. One day a clever gentile came and said to him: Old man, old man… you say that you are closer to the divine King than all other peoples. Whoever is close to the King is forever rejoicing, without pain, without fear, without troubles. But you are perpetually in pain, trouble and agony, more than anyone else. Look at us—no pain, trouble nor agony approaches us at all, from whence it follows that we are close to the divine King and you are far from Him, and this is why you have pain and trouble and sorrow and agony, which we do not have. Further: You do not eat of an animal found dead nor one not ritually slaughtered so that you will be healthy and your body healthy. We eat anything we want and we are physically strong and healthy and all our limbs are fit. You do not eat and all are sick with bad illnesses and broken more than all other peoples. You are a people whom YHWH hates above all. Old man, old man, do not say anything to me because I shall not listen to you, nor accept it from you. Rabbi Eli’ezer lifted up his eyes, looked at him, and turned him into a heap of bones [cf. Proverbs 18:2: A fool does not care for discerning but for exposing his inner thoughts; ibid., 26:4-5: Do not answer a dolt by his folly, lest you, too, be like him. Answer the dolt by his folly, lest he seem wise in his own eyes]. When his anger had subsided, he looked back, cried, and said: YHWH, our Master, how majestic Your name in all the earth! (Psalms 8:2). How strong is the power of the holy and mighty name in all the earth, and how beloved are words of Torah, for nothing is so minor that it will not be found in Torah, and even the smallest thing in Torah issued from the mouth of the blessed Holy One.

Those matters that that wicked one asked, I too, once asked of Elijah, and he replied that in the academy of the firmament [these very matters] were laid out before the blessed Holy One, as follows… Israel do not partake of animals found dead or those not ritually slaughtered, nor of filth and dirt of reptiles and insects as do other peoples, [but are nevertheless weaker than they are]. This is so. For the לֵב [lev], heart, which is soft and weak and is the king and the sustenance of the other limbs, does not take for its nourishment other than from the clearest and purest of all the blood, and its food is clean and clear and is softer and weaker than all the rest. And it leaves the remaining waste matter for the other limbs, and the other limbs are not concerned, but take all that waste, even the worst, and they are strong as befits them. This is why all the other limbs have skin eruptions and scabs, bright spots and leprous boils, and the heart has none of them, for it is clean and clear, and has no blemish whatsoever. Thus the blessed Holy One, took Israel, who is clean, clear, and without blemish, for Himself, as it says: You are entirely beautiful, my love, and there is no flaw in you [Song of Songs 4:7]. Rabbi Yose came, kissed his hands, and said: If I had come into the world just to hear this, it would have been sufficient” (Zohar Pinḥas).

Like a Woman who Mixes Her Dough with Water and Separates a Portion from the very Centre

Sesame Challah_1“Rabbi Yoḥanan son of Ḥanina said: The day consisted of twelve hours. In the first hour, his dust was gathered; in the second, it was kneaded into a shapeless mass. In the third, his limbs were shaped; in the fourth, a soul was infused into him; in the fifth, he arose and stood on his feet; in the sixth, he gave [the animals] their names; in the seventh, Eve became his mate; in the eighth, they ascended to bed as two and descended as four; in the ninth, he was commanded not to eat of the tree, in the tenth, he sinned; in the eleventh, he was tried, and in the twelfth he was expelled and departed, for it is written, A man will not rest in splendor (Psalms 49:13)” (BT Sanhedrin 38a, cf. M Avot 1:1). 

[A king makes a land stand firm through justice.] But a deceitful man [lit., a man of תְּרוּמוֹת (terumot), donationsdestroys it (Proverbs 29:4)—Adam, who was the completion of the world, and ḥallah is designated a תְּרוּמָה (terumah), donation… Rabbi Yose son of Keṣarta said: Like a woman who mixes her dough with water and separates ḥallah from the very centre [cf. Rabbi Ḥayyim Vital, Liqqutim Ḥadashim, 17-23 ], even so, at first, and wetness would well from the earth to water all the surface of the soil, then YHWH God fashioned the human, humus from the soil (Genesis 2:6)” (Bereshit Rabbah 14:1, cf. JT Shabbat 2:6 [5a]).

בְּרֵאשִׁית (Bereshit), In the beginning, this is ḥallah as it is written, רֵאשִׁית (reshit), the first, yield of your kneading troughs, חַלָּה (ḥallah), a round loaf, you shall present in donation (Numbers 15:20), as we have said, ‘Adam was חַלָּה (ḥallah) of the world…’ What is ḥallah? It is these seven species: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olive oil of the land, and honey, which is honey of dates. חִטָה (Ḥitah), Wheat, is the tree from which the first man ate, and since he did not separate ḥallah, [holiness] did not descend upon ה, but dwelled upon ח and ט [which together with ה spell, חִטָה (ḥitah), wheat, and also allude to חֵטְא (ḥet), sin], causing death [cf. BT Berakhot 40a].

And the ḥallah is the Shekhinah, it includes these seven species [which hint at the lower seven sefirot]. In this was the sin of the first man; the drop, which is the י. Dough must have ḥallah taken from it. Immediately they fell upon that drop, and he gave seed that was included with both which is the ו and the mystery of the matter, הֵא, here, is seed for you, [and sow the land] (Genesis 47:23).

Because of this ḥallah is certainly a commandment given to the wife, because of her Adam who was the ḥallah of the world died. She needs to separate ḥallah, and to take it from her dough, which is her drop, to return it to man” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 31a).

A Jealous Fire: One Who Writes Down Halakhot is as One Who Burns the Torah

burnttorah“Rabbi El’azar said,… ‘You, cleaving to YHWH your God, are alive everyone of you today [Deuteronomy 4:4]. Now is it possible to cleave to Shekhinah, of whom it is written: YHWH your God is a devouring fire [ibid. 24]? Rather the meaning is: whoever marries his daughter to a disciple of the wise, conducts business on their behalf, or benefits them from his assets is regarded by scripture as if he cleaves to Shekhinah” (BT Ketubbot 111b, cf. BT Sotah 14a, where Rabbi Ḥama son of Ḥanina explains that one can approach and withstand the consuming fire of Shekhinah by imitating the divine, e.g., by clothing the naked, visiting the sick, comforting mourners, and burying the dead).

“Rabbi Huna son of Rabbi Joshua would not walk four cubits bareheaded, saying: The שְׁכִינָה [Shekhinah] Divine Presence, is above my head” (BT Qiddushin 31b).

“The General Agrippa asked Rabban Gamaliel, ‘It is written in your Torah, For YHWH your God is a devouring אֵשׁ [esh] fire, a קַנָּא [qana] jealous, God [Deuteronomy 4:24]. Is a wise man jealous of any but a wise man, a warrior of any but a warrior, a rich man of any but a rich man?’ He replied, ‘I will give you a parable: To what is the matter like? To a man who marries an additional wife. If the second wife is her superior, the first will not be jealous of her, but if she is her inferior, the first wife will be jealous of her’” (BT Avodah Zarah 55a).

“Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘A word lingers here with us.’ He opened, saying, ‘Two verses are written: YHWH your God is a devouring fire [Deuteronomy 4:24], and You, cleaving to YHWH your God, are alive every one of you today [ibid., 4]. We have established these verses in various places, and the Companions have been aroused by them.

Come and see: For YHWH your God is a devouring fire. The word has been discussed among the Companions: There is a fire devouring fire, devouring and consuming it, for there is fire fiercer than fire, as they have established [see BT Yoma 21b]. But come and see: Whoever desires to penetrate the wisdom of holy unification should contemplate the flame ascending from a glowing ember or a burning candle. For flame ascends only when grasped by course substance” (Zohar 1:50b-51a).

“The blue [light of a flame] is the Shekhinah, the Judgment that devours sacrifices and burnt offerings. If She finds men to be as dry wood, like dry wicks without oil, which is Torah and Compassion, [She] is a fire to them and burns them” (Ra’aya Meheimna Tzav, cf. Zohar 2:166a).

“Rabbi Abba son of Rabbi Ḥiyya son of Abba said in the name of Rabbi Yoḥanan [son of Nappaha]: One who writes down halakhot is as one who burns the Torah, and he who learns from them does not receive reward… Rabbi Yehudah the son of Nahum, the declaimer of Resh Lakish expounded: One may not recite oral teachings from a written document and one may not recite written teachings from memory. The school of Rabbi Ishmael taught: ‘Write for yourself these words’ [Exodus 34:27]. These words [i.e. the Written Torah] you may write, but you may not write halakhot” (BT Temurah 14b, cf. Gittin 60a-b; Guide of the Perplexed, 1:71).

“The Companions saw the face of Shekhinah and were encompassed by fire. Rabbi Abba’s face blazed in fire from rapture of Torah. It has been taught: All that day, none of them left the house, and the house was swathed in smoke. Words among them were fresh and ecstatic as if they were receiving Torah that very day from Mount Sinai! When they departed they did not know if it was day or night” (Zohar 1:94b, cf. Vayiqra Rabbah 16:4; Avot de-Rabbi Natan B, 13).

“As to what the rabbis have said: ‘Now is it possible for one to cleave to Shekhinah?—it certainly is!… Know and believe that there is a special quality to the essence of the purity of limbs that allows for man to hold fast to the Shekhinah even if She is a consuming fire” (Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla, Sha’arei Orah, 166).

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