The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

The Active Intellect by Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag (Ba’al ha-Sullam)

Ba'al ha-Sullam PortraitIt is written, “Every man is obligated to grasp the root of his soul.” Meaning the ultimate desire and hope of those created is דְבֵקוּת (devequt), cleaving, to His qualities, may His great Name be exalted: “[Abba Shaul said:] Just as He is [gracious and] compassionate, so you [be gracious and compassionate]” (BT Shabbat 133b). And His qualities are the holy sefirot as is known, and this is the mystery of שֶׂכֶל הַפּוֹעֵל (sekhel ha-poel), the Active Intellect, that guides His world and gauges His effluence and goodness for them, blessed be He.

But we must understand why this is called, “cleaving to the Creator,” for behold: seemingly this is merely לִמּוּד (limmud), study. I shall explain by way of parable: Within any action in the world, the actor’s intellect inheres in that action. Just as in a table one can grasp a facet of the intellect of the carpenter, his dexterity and the deftness in his craft, whether great or small, since in the course of his work he assessed it in terms of the qualities of his intellect. And he who looks at the result, apprehending the intellect that is buried there, cleaves to that very intellect which acted upon it—they literally unite—because there is no distance or separation between הַרוּחָנִיּם (ha-ruḥanim), what is immaterial, even with separate bodies. But the intellect inhering there cannot be separated, for what knife can cut the immaterial off? Rather, the essential difference between immaterial things [or: spiritual matters] lies in their qualities, praiseworthy or blameworthy, but also in diversity. For the intellect reckoning astrology will not cleave to the natural sciences.

And even in science itself there is discovered great diversity. Since one [branch] rises over another even through a single science, and only through this does the immaterial separate. But when two sages contemplate a single science and bear the same stature of intellect, then they are united, literally, for what separates them?

And so when one is found contemplating another’s action, grasping the intellect of the sage who performed it, both are gauged by one power and intellect. Now they are actually united, like a man who bumps into his beloved friend in the market: he embraces him and kisses him, and it is impossible to severe the bond between them.

Hence, the general principal is that on the human [rung of existence], the power of the intellect is best suited to mediate between the Creator and His creatures. That is, He emanated a single spark from this [mediating] power. Through that spark, all returns to Him.

[How many are Your works, O YHWH!] All of them You made in wisdom; [the earth is filled with Your creatures] (Psalms 104:24)He created the whole world in His wisdom. Hence, he who is rewarded with attaining the אוֹפַנִּים (ofannim), circuits, by which He created the world and its order, behold: he cleaves to the Intellect that acts upon them, thus, he cleaves to the Creator. And this is the mystery of “the Torah is all names of the blessed Holy One,” which belong to the creatures. And through their merit, the creatures grasp the Intellect that acts upon all, since the Creator gazed upon the Torah when He created the world, as is known [see Zohar 2:161b]. He who attains enlightenment by way of Creation forever cleaves to that Intellect. Thus, he cleaves to the Creator, blessed be He.

In this sense the blessed Holy One has shown us His artisan’s tool—must we create worlds [however]? But from what has been said here, [we understand] the Creator has shown us His order that we may know how to cleave to Him, which is cleaving to His qualities.

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Look to the Rock from which You were Hewn: There is no Artist like our God!

IMG_1210“Rabbi Simlai expounded: What does an embryo resemble when it is in the belly of its mother? Folded writing tablets. Its hands rest on its two temples, its two elbows on its two legs and its two heels against its buttocks. Its head lies between its knees, its mouth is closed and its navel is open, and it eats what its mother eats and drinks what its mother drinks, but produces no excrement because otherwise it might kill its mother. However, as soon as it emerges into the atmosphere the closed organ opens and the open one closes, for if that had not happened the embryo could not live even one single hour.

A lamp burns above its head and it looks and sees from one end of the world to the other, as is said, when He shined His lamp over my head, by its light I walked in darkness (Job 29:3). And do not be astonished at this, for a person sleeping here [in Babylon] might see a dream in Spain. And you have no days in which a human dwells in more happiness than in these days, for it is said, Would that I were as in moons of yore, as the days when God watched over me (ibid. 29:2); now which are the days that have moons but do not have years? These are the moons of bearing [i.e., months of pregnancy].

It is also taught the entire Torah, for it is said, And he taught me and said to me: ‘Let your heart hold on to my words. Keep my commandments and live (Proverbs 4:4), and it is also said, [as I was in the days of my prime]—God an intimate of my tent (Job 29:4). Why the addition of ‘and it is also said?’—in case you might say that it was only the prophet who said that [so that it does not apply to other men], come and hear: God an intimate of my tent.

As soon as it emerges into the atmosphere an angel approaches, slaps it on its mouth and causes it to forget the entire Torah, as is said, at the tent flap sin crouches (Genesis 4:7) [cf. BT Sanhderin 91b; Zohar Ḥadash 46d–47b; Plato, Meno 80a–86c]. It does not emerge from there before it is made to take an oath, as is said, That unto Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear (Isaiah 45:23). That unto Me every knee shall bow—the day of dying of which it is said Before Him will kneel all who go down to the dust whose life is undone (Psalms 22:30); Every tongue shall swear—the day of birth of which it is said, the clean of hands and the pure of heart, who has given no oath in a lie and has sworn not in deceit (Psalms 24:4).

What is the nature of the oath that it is made to take? Be righteous, and never be wicked; and even if all the world tells you, ‘You are righteous,’ be in your eyes like a wicked person. Know that the blessed Holy One is pure, that His attendants are pure and that the נְשָׁמָה (neshamah), soul, He gave you is pure; if you preserve it in purity, well and good, but if not, I will take it away from you [cf. BT Berakhot 60b].

The academy of Rabbi Yishma’el taught: This may be compared to the case of a priest who handed over some תְּרוּמָה (terumah), donation, to an ignorant peasant and told him, ‘If you preserve it under conditions of cleanness, well and good, but if not, I will burn it in your presence.’

Rabbi El’azar observed: What is the Scriptural proof [that an oath is taken on the day of one’s birth]? From my mother’s womb גוֹזִי (gozi) (Psalms 71:6). What is the proof that גוֹזִי (gozi) implies swearing?—because it is written, גָּזִּי נִזְרֵךְ (Gazi Nizrekh), swear your naziriteship, and cast it away [lit., cut off your hair and cast it away] (Jeremiah 7:29)” (BT Niddah 30b–31a).

“Rav Shimi son of ‘Uqva (others say, Mar ‘Uqva) was often in the company of Rabbi Shim’on son of Pazzi, who used to arrange the aggadahs [and recite them] before Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi. He said to him: What is, ‘בָּרְכִי נַפְשִׁי (Barekhi nafshi), bless, O my being, YHWH, and all that is within me bless His holy name? He replied: Come and see how human nature differs from divine nature: A human being draws a figure on the wall but cannot cast into it breath and soul, bowels and intestines. But the blessed Holy One is not so. צָר צוּרָה בְּתוֹך צוּרָה (Tsar tsurah be-tokh tsurah), He designs a form within a form [the fetus within the womb], casting into it breath and soul, bowels and intestines. This is what Hannah said: There is no one holy like YHWH, for there is no one beside You, and there is no rock like our God (1 Samuel 2:2). What does this mean: there is no צוּר (tsur), rock, like our God? There is no צַיָּיר (tsayyar), artist, like our God!

What is For there is no one beside You? Rabbi Yehudah son of Menasya said: Read not, there is no one בִּלְתֶּךָ (biltekha), beside You, but, there is no one לְבַלּוֹתֶךָ (le-vallotekha), to outlive You. For the nature of flesh and blood is not like that of the blessed Holy One. It is human nature to be outlived by its works, but the blessed Holy One outlives His works. He said to him: What I meant to tell you is this: To whom did David refer in these five verses beginning with ‘בָּרְכִי נַפְשִׁי (Barekhi nafshi), bless, O my being, YHWH’? [see Psalms 103:1, 2, 22; 104:1, 35]. He was alluding only to the blessed Holy One and to the soul. Just as the blessed Holy One fills the whole world, so the soul fills the body. Just as the blessed Holy One, sees, but is not seen, so the soul sees but is not itself seen. Just as the blessed Holy One feeds the whole world, so the soul feeds the whole body. Just as the blessed Holy One is pure, so the soul is pure. Just as the blessed Holy One abides in the innermost chambers, so the soul abides in the innermost chambers. Let that which has these five things come and praise Him who has these five things [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 14:9]” (BT Berakhot 10a).

“The way of the blessed Holy One is not like the way of a human being. A human being cannot fashion a creature from water. However, it is not so with He who spoke, and the world came into being. Rather, He fashioned a creature from water, as is written, Let the waters swarm with the swarm of living creatures (Genesis 1:20).

Worker of wonders (Exodus 15:11)—for the way of the blessed Holy One is not like the way of a human being. A human being cannot fashion a creature in darkness. However, it is not so with the blessed Holy One. Rather, He fashioned a creature in darkness, as is written, When I was made in a secret place, knitted in the utmost depths (Psalms 139:15).

Another interpretation: Worker of wonders—for the way of the blessed Holy One is not like the way of a human being. When a human being fashions a form, he begins from its head, or its feet, or from one of its limbs. However, it is not so with the blessed Holy One. Rather, when He fashions a form, He fashions it [all] at once, as is written, He is יוֹצֵר (yotser), Former, of all things (Jeremiah 10:16). And it says, There is no צוּר (tsur), rock, like our God (1 Samuel 2:2)—there is no צַיָּיר (tsayyar), artist, like our God!

Another interpretation: Worker of wonders—for the way of the blessed Holy One is not like the way of a human being. A human being goes to a sculptor [and] says to him, ‘Make me a bust of [my] father!’ He says to him, ‘Bring me your father and stand him in front of me, or bring me his likeness, and I’ll make it for you according to its likeness!’ However, it is not so with He who spoke, and the world came into being. Rather, from [only one] drop, He gives someone a son who looks like the image of his father!” (Mekhilta de-Rabbi Yishma’el, Pisḥa, 8–11).

“Quarry of the Torah, treasury of Wisdom, quarry of רוּחַ אֱלֹהִים (ruaḥ Elohim), God’s breath, to teach that the blessed Holy One hewed out all the letters of Torah, engraving them with breath, and actualizing צוּרוֹתָיו (tsurotaiv), His forms, within, as is written: There is no צוּר (tsur), rock, like our God (1 Samuel 2:2)—‘there is no צַיָּיר (tsayyar), artist, like our God!’ (BT Berakhot 10a)” (Bahir §143, cf. Zohar 3:135b [IR]).

When a woman yields seed (Leviticus 12:1).

Rabbi Yehudah opened, ‘There is no one holy like YHWHfor there is no one beside Youand there is no rock like our God (1 Samuel 2:2). This verse is difficult: There is no one holy like YHWH implies that there is someone else holy, since it is written like YHWHAnd there is no צוּר (tsur), rock, like our God implies that there is another rock.

Well, surely, There is no one holy like YHWH, for there are various holy ones. Holy ones above, as is written: [This verdictby order of the holy ones (Daniel 4:14). Israel is holy, as is written: You shall be holy (Leviticus 19:2). All of them are holy, yet not holy like YHWH. Why? Because it is written for there is no one בִּלְתֶּךָ (biltekha), beside You. What does this mean? That the holiness of the blessed Holy One exists בִּלְתִּי (bilti), without, their holiness, since He does not need theirs; but they are not holy biltekhawithout You. This is for there is no one biltekha—their holiness does not exist without You.

And there is no צוּר (tsur), rocklike our God—as has been established, that the blessed Holy One צָר צוּרָה גוֹ צוּרָה (tsar tsurah go tsurah), designs a form within a form, perfecting it, blowing into it the spirit of life, bringing it forth into the world. 

Alternatively, And there is no rock like our God—there is that which is called rockLook to the rock from which you were hewn (Isaiah 51:1); You shall strike the rockLookI am about to stand before you there on the rock (Exodus 17:6). All of them are called rock, yet there is no rock like our God, who possesses power and dominion over all’” (Zohar 3:44a).

All the Time, Constantly, Chastening Them Little by Little

Hen“Rava said: What is written, אִם בְּפִידוֹ לָהֶן שִׁוֵּ֑עַ (Im befido lahen shivea’), but one would not reach out against a heap of ruins if in his disaster he screamed (Job 30:24)?—the blessed Holy One said to Israel, ‘When I judge Israel, I do not judge them as I do the nations, as is written, I will overturn, overturn, overturn it (Ezekiel 21:32) but I only exact payment from them as the hen does her כְּפִיד (kefid), picking’ [playing on בְּפִידוֹ (befido), in his disaster].

Another interpretation: Even if Israel does before Me but few mitsvot, like hens picking in a rubbish heap, I will make it accumulate לְחֶשְׁבּוֹן (le-ḥeshbon), to a (large) sum, as is said, If כְּפִידוּ (kefidu), they pick, לָהֶן שׁוּעַ (lahen shu’a), they are rescued (Job 30:24)” (BT Avodah Zarah 4a).

“Rabbi Eli’ezer said: It is like a king who became angry at his son, and who had in his hand a sword. The king swore he would pass the sword on his son because he angered him. But later the king said, If I do so, my son will no longer live. But also, he could not nullify the royal decree. What did the king do? He placed the sword into its sheath and passed the sword on his son’s head.

Rabbi Ḥanina said: It is like a king who became angry with his son. He had in front of him a boulder and swore that he would heave it at him. But later the king said: If I heave it at him he will no longer live. What did he do? He crushed the boulder into pebbles and tossed them at his son one at a time. It turned out that he neither hurt his son nor nullified his royal decree” (Midrash Tehillim 6:3).

“Rav Hamnuna the First, ‘Distress and affliction of Israel bring them many benefits and advantages. The ease of other nations brings them many evils. דְּחִיקוּ (Deḥiqu), distress, and affliction of Israel brings them benefit and advantage. What is that? כָּלָּה (Kallah), Bride—כֹּלָּא דָּחִיק (kolla daḥiq), all pointed [i.e., vocalized]. רִפְיוֹן (Rifyon), ease, of the other nations brings them rifyon, weakness, and evil. What is that? כָלָה (Khalah), complete destruction (Jeremiah 46:28). This is just what they deserve, for all the rifyon, ease—without deḥiqu, distress—that they had in this world causes them rifyon, weakness, afterward, without deḥiqu, pointing: כָלָה (khalah), complete destruction; For כָלָה וְנֶחֱרָצָה (khalah ve-neḥeratsah), a decreed destruction, I have heard (Isaiah 28:22); For I will make כָלָה (khalah), a complete destruction, all in rifyon, weakness. But for Israel, who had deḥiqu, distress, and affliction—כַּלָּה (Kallah), A bride, will adorn herself with her ornaments (ibid. 61:10). Who are her ornaments? Israel, who are the ornaments of this Bride.

For Israel, who endured distress and affliction, I will raise the fallen booth of David (Amos 9:11)—the booth of peace. For the other nations, who had rifyon, ease—torment, trouble and torment (Isaiah 30:6); כָלָה (khalah)complete destruction, in rifyon, weakness, as they had before. So, For I will make כָלָה (khalah)an end, of all the nations… but of you I will not make khalah, an end—since you were already deḥiqu, distressed, and כַּלָּה (Kallah), the Bride, will be deḥiqu, pointed [cf. BT Berakhot 6b, in the name of Abbaye; Zohar 3:239a (RM); TZ 12, 27a; ZḤ 118c (Tiq)].

I will chasten you לַמִּשְׁפָּט (la-mishpat), for justice (Jeremiah 46:28). This verse should be read I will chasten you בַמִּשְׁפָּט (va-mishpat), in justice—for when are chastenings? At the time of judgment. Yet here, not so; rather I will chasten you la-mishpat, for justice. However, it is written: YHWH will enter בְּמִשְׁפָּט (be-mishpat), into judgment, against the elders of His people (Isaiah 3:14). On that day, the blessed Holy One will provide a remedy for Israel in advance, before they appear for judgment, so that they will be able to endure. What is that? All the time, constantly, He chastens them little by little, so that when they appear for judgment, it will not prevail over them.

And I will surely not leave you unpunished (Jeremiah 46:28). What is meant by that? Well, when the people of Israel are by themselves—not appearing for judgment with the other nations—the blessed Holy One deals with them beyond the line of strict justice, atoning for them. When they appear for judgment among the other nations, what does He do? The blessed Holy One knows that Samael, the guardian [of the other nations], will come to call attention to Israel’s sins, all of which he has accumulated for himself for the Day of Judgment. So He provides a remedy for them in advance, and for every single sin He strikes them with chastening little by little. When they appear for judgment, Samael comes with many lists against them. The blessed Holy One takes out lists of the chastenings that Israel has endured for every single sin, and all the sins are expunged—without His showing them any leniency at all. Then [Samael’s] power and strength fade, and he cannot prevail against them” (Zohar 3:199a–b).

He Will Open for You His Goodly Treasure: The Twentieth Day of the Omer—an Opening of Hope

 

Ilan Sefirot - Kabbalistic Divinity map. Amsterdam, 18th century, NLI“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’” (BT Bava Batra 25b).

“Happy is one who succeeds in cleaving to the blessed Holy One fittingly! Happy is he in this world and in the world that is coming. [Seven days and seven days (1 Kings 8:65)—whoever joins these with these] the blessed Holy One opens for him holy treasure when his prayer needs to be received, as is written: YHWH will open for you His goodly treasurethe heavens (Deuteronomy 28:12). אֶת הַשָּׁמַיִם (Et ha-shamayim), The heavens—treasures above and below; seven days and seven days, all of them one, as is written: His goodly treasureHis treasure, singular, of et ha-shamayimthe heavensseven and seven channels (Zechariah 4:2), and they are one” (Zohar 1:204b).

Seven and seven (Zechariah 4:2)—all transcendent: one contained within its fellow. They are seven, each one contained within its companion. Now, you might say, ‘Six would have been better, so that each one can be combined within the other, because in this case one remains! With which shall it be combined?’ The answer is that when they all ascend, totaling twelve, the one positioned above them all, completing the number thirteen, is encompassed by the one standing above it. This last one is the lofty point from which all emerge….

When Solomon built the Temple and the lower world was in perfect accord with the upper world, Israel was entirely righteous, ascending numerous, lofty rungs. Then, Throne of Glory rose in rapture with abundant delight, with profuse exaltation. Then, Song of Songs of Solomon (Song of Songs 1:1), ascending in bliss, descending in bliss, joining in bliss—all worlds in bliss.

Song—for the blessed Holy One. Of Songs—for upper and lower realms. Which is Solomon’s—joining of all worlds in rapture, to the King who possesses peace completely.

Uttered by Elijah: ‘Song of Songs. It is written: YHWH will open for you His goodly treasure, the heavens (Deuteronomy 28:12). When the blessed Holy One created the world, He created sublime שִׁיתּין (shittin), channels—founts conducting rain of blessing and transcendent sanctifications from above. These drew first from the Fount of Life, from the supernal place from which they emerged [cf. BT Sukkah 49a]. 

In the beginning, before the world was created, a single desire called Hidden Thought arose and was revealed. Everything was set within that Hidden Thought, everything that existed, and that would come to exist. From that Thought arose the desire to create the world, and a subtle flow comprising hiddenness of Thought issued forth, inaudible, unrevealed. It can be perceived with wisdom that has been conferred—and not conferred—to the wise of heart, because it has not been revealed beyond.

From this flow five founts emerged, plus one that was sealed, and one absorbing all. These springs existed when the world was created, as is written: בְּרֵאשִׁית (Be-reshit), With beginning, ____ created אֱלֹהִים (Elohim), God (Genesis 1:1). בְּרֵאשִׁית (Be-reshit)—בָּרָא שִׁיתּ (bara shit), created a hollow. This hollow is a fount collecting all founts, nourishing worlds. The heavens (ibid.)—those six lofty springs, above all, conveying into this hollow. 

From the day the world was created until the Temple was built, they were sealed, entirely closed. If you say, ‘But Abraham [Ḥesed] was in the world’—behold it is written: And there was famine in the land (ibid. 12:10). Of Isaac [Gevurah]: And there was a famine in the land besides the former famine (ibid. 26:1). Similarly with Jacob [Tif’eret], it is written: And there was famine in all the lands (ibid. 41:54). Of Moses [Netsaḥ], it is written in several places: Who will feed us? (Numbers 11:4, 18); the people thirsted for water there (Exodus 17:3); there was no water for the community (ibid. 20:2). Of Joshua [Hod], despite their having entered the land, it is written: the manna ceased… and they ate of the produce of the land (Joshua 5:12). In the days of the Judges, it is written: In the days when the judges judgedthere was a famine in the land (Ruth 1:1) [cf. BT Bava Batra 14b: ‘Samuel wrote Judges and Ruth’]. Of David [Malkhut], it is written: There was a famine during the reign of David (2 Samuel 21:1) [on the Patriarchs etc., and their corresponding sefirot, see Bahir §135–§136Zohar 1:21b; 3:255b (RM)].

How can this all be explained? The explanation is that those channels had not opened, and the world was nourished only from a squeezed-out ooze, with no opening at all—aside from the resin exuded from a tree, dripping below, or from a rock. When Solomon [Yesod] came and the Temple was built, all the worlds were in a single balance, above and below. Then the hollow that receives and gathers from all lofty channels opened up. When did it open up? When those lofty channels opened up. Once that hollow opened up, blessings flowed to the world.

When did it open? When a crooked one that sat at its feet was removed. When that one was banished, שִׁיתּ (shit), hollow, became שִׁיר (shir), Song, and goodly treasure (Deuteronomy 28:12) opened up.

By whose strength? The heavens (ibid.). These are the rest of the שִׁיתּין (shittin), channels—that is, הַשִּׁירִים (ha-shirim), Songs—for they all opened up and were perfected to bestow nourishment for all the worlds. Then it is written: Judah and Israel dwelt in safetyeveryone under his own vine and under his own fig tree (1 Kings 5:5); and it is written: They ate and drank and rejoiced (ibid. 4:20)—for this שִׁיתּ (shit), hollow, and the שִׁיתּין (shittin), channels, had opened [cf. BT Sukkah 53a].

All sublime delicacies descended into all worlds. Then ardor was aroused from among them toward supernal King, all becoming one, with no division. In this way, praise transcending all praises ascends toward the King who possesses peace, fashioning total delight above and below.

It is written: שִׁיר (shir), A songto You is silent praise, [God in Zion; and to You a vow will be paid] (Psalms 65:1–2). King David knew by the holy spirit that this song was destined to be revealed in the world, and he said: Song—destined to be revealed. To You it is silent—hidden, for permission to reveal this homage is lacking. But this adulation and praise pertains to God in Zion—when the Temple is built, for it mirrors the supernal Temple. Then, a vow will be paid [on David’s vow, see Psalms 132:1–5. David longed to build the Temple, see 2 Samuel 7:2: Seepray, I dwell in a cedarwood house while the Ark of God dwells within curtains]” (Zohar Ḥadash, 62b, 62d–63a).

No Image did You See Except the Sound

“[Rabbi Akiva said:] All the people were seeing the thunderings (Exodus 20:15)…. They were seeing the fiery word issuing from the mouth of Power and being engraved on the tablets” (Mekhilta, Baḥodesh 9).

“[Rabbi Amorai] said: What is written: And all the people were seeing the thunderings, and the flashes (Exodus 20:15)—is thunder, visible? But and all the people were seeing אֶת הַקּוֹלֹת (et ha-qolot), the thunderings, are those קוֹלוֹת (qolot), voicesof which King David spoke:

YHWH’s voice is over the waters. The God of glory thunders (Psalms 29:3). 

YHWH’s voice in power (ibid., 4), and it says, By the power, of My hand I have done it (Isaiah 10:13); Indeed My hand also has laid the foundation of the earth, [and My right hand has spread out the heavens: when I call to them, they stand up together] (ibid. 48:13).

YHWH’s voice in majesty (Psalms 29:4); Glory and grandeur His acts and His bounty stands for all time (ibid. 111:3).

YHWH’s voice breaking cedars (ibid. 29:5)—the bow that breaks cypress trees and cedar trees.

YHWH’s voice hews flames of fire (ibid., 7)—making peace between water and fire, hewing the power of fire and preventing it from evaporating water. Preventing water from extinguishing fire.

YHWH’s voice makes the wilderness shake (ibid., 8), as is said, And doing kindness with His anointed, for David and his seed forever (ibid. 18:51)—more than in the wilderness [when the Israelites were miraculously fed manna].

YHWH’s voice brings on the birth-pangs of does and lays bare the forests. And in His Temple all says glory (Psalms 29:9), as is written, I make you swear, O daughters of Jerusalem by the deer or the gazelles of the field, [that you shall not rouse not stir love until it pleases] (Song of Songs 2:7). To teach you that with seven קוֹלוֹת (qolot), voices, Torah was given. With each of them the Master of the Universe revealed Himself over them, and they saw Him. Thus it is written, And all the people were seeing אֶת הַקּוֹלֹת (et ha-qolot), the sounds.

One verse says: He tilted the heavens, came down, dense mist beneath His feet (2 Samuel 22:10). Another verse says: And YHWH came down on Mount Sinai, to the mountaintop (Exodus 19:20). However, still another verse says, From the heavens I spoke with you (Exodus 20:22). How is this so? And on the earth His great fire (Deuteronomy 4:36)—one voice. The other voices were in the heavens, as is written, From the heavens He made you hear His voice to reprove you, and on the earth He showed you His great fire, and His words you heard, from the midst of the fire (ibid.). But what was it? Great fire. From where did דִבּוּר (dibbur), Speech, emanate? From fire, as is written, and His words you heard, from the midst of the fire

What is but no image did you see except the voice (Deuteronomy 4:12)? As Moses said to Israel: for you saw no whole image [on the day YHWH spoke to you from the midst of the fire, lest you act ruinously and make you a sculpted image of any likeness…] (Deuteronomy 4:15)—an image, but not כָּל תְּמוּנָה (kal temunah), a whole image [cf. Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed, 1:3].

A parable: A king stood over his slaves wrapped in a white covering—is this not enough to hold הַמַּלְכוּת (ha-malkhut), the kingship, in awe?—that they gaze upon his garment. Though the king was at a distance they heard his voice [see Exodus 20:19–20; Pirqei de-Eabbi Eli’ezer 41]. Were they able to see his throat? You must say not. This teaches that they saw an image, but not a whole image. Thus it is written, but no image did you see except the קוֹל (qol), sound [or: voice]. It is also written, קוֹל דְּבָרִים (Qol devarim), the sound of words, you did hear.

One verse says: And all the people were seeing אֶת הַקּוֹלֹת (et ha-qolot), the sounds (Exodus 20:15). However, another verse says: קוֹל דְּבָרִים (Qol devarim), the sound of words, you did hear (Deuteronomy 4:12). How? At first they saw the voices. What did they see? The seven voices spoken of by David. But in the end they heard דִבּוּר (dibbur), Speech, emanating from the midst of them all. But we have learned that there were ten. Our Rabbis taught that they were all uttered with a single word [see Tanḥuma, Yitro 11]. But we have said that there were seven. There were seven voices. Of three of them is written: The sound of words you did hear but no image did you see except the sound (Deuteronomy 4:12). To teach you that they were all uttered with a single word. This is so that Israel should not err and say, ‘Others helped Him. Perhaps one of the angels, since His voice alone could not be so powerful.’ Thus on their account He returned and included them [in a single word].

Another interpretation: It was so that the world should not say that since there were עֲשָׂרָה מַאֲמָרוֹת (asarah ma’amarot), ten sayings, for ten kings it might be that He could not speak for them all through one. He therefore said אָנֹכִי (Anokhi), I (Exodus 20:2), which included all ten. What are the ten kings? They are the שֶׁבַע קּוֹלֹת (sheva qolot), seven voices, and שְׁלֹשָׁה אֹמְרִים (sheloshah omrim), three sayings. But what sayings? And YHWH has proclaimed you today [to be to Him a treasured people, as He has spoken to you…] (Deuteronomy 26:18). But what are three? The beginning of wisdom is—get חָכְמָה (ḥokhmah), wisdom, and in all that you get, get בִינָה (binah), discernment (Proverbs 4:7) [cf. Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 17–18]. Therefore it is written [Yet it is a spirit in man,] and Shaddai’s breath that grants insight (Job 32:8)—Shaddai’s breath is תְּבִינֵם (tevinem), insight. What is third? As the old man said to the child, ‘Seek not things that are too hard for you, and search not things that are hidden from you. Reflect on the things that have been permitted you; you have no business with mysteries‘ (BT Ḥagigah 13a) [see Ben Sira 3:21–22]” (Bahir §45–§49).

“This is the mystery of All the people saw the sounds and the flashes, and the sound of the shofar (Exodus 20:15). The sounds—these are the other letters that emerged from those sounds (as we have said), appearing in the air before the eyes of all, as is written: the sounds. It is not written all the people saw הַקּוֹלֹת (ha-qolot), sounds, but rather אֶת הַקּוֹלֹת (et ha-qolot), the sounds, alluding to the [entire sequence of] letters [from א (alef) to ת (tav)] that issued from them” (Zohar Ḥadash 41c).

“[Rabbi Yoḥanan said:] The voice went forth and split into seven voices, and from seven voices into seventy languages, so that all the nations would hear. Each and every nation heard His voice in its own language [see Rabbi Avraham Abulafia, Or ha-Sekhel 7: ‘שִׁבעִים לָשׁוֹנוֹת (Shevi’im lashonot), seventy languages, is numerically equivalent to צֵירוּף הָאוֹתִיּוֹת (tseruf ha-otiyyot), permutation of the letters’]” (TanḥumaShemot 25).

There were thunderings and lighting (Exodus 19:16). Rabbi Abba said, ‘It is spelled קֹלֹת (qolot), thunderings, deficiently [i.e., spelled without a ו (vav)]—two קָלִין (qalin), voices, turning back into one, issuing from one another: air from water, and water from air. It has been taught: Two that are one; one, an entirety encompassing two.

Rabbi Yose said, ‘קֹלֹת (Qolot)—one that is great and mighty, never ceasing. For it has been taught: In four cycles in the year the voice ceases, and then judgments arouse in the world; but this voice, comprising other voices, never ceases and is never deprived of its full existence and potency. This voice is voice of voices, a voice containing other voices.’

Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘Voice issues only from the aspect of air and water, and voice generates voice, intermingling, and it is spelled קֹלֹת (qolot).’

And lighting (Exodus 19:16). Rabbi Yose said, ‘This corresponds to what is written: He makes lightning for the rain (Psalms 135:7)—a flame in diadems, cluster of compassion, in unsubsiding love. It has been taught: Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘Torah was given from the side of Gevurah. Rabbi Yose said, ‘If so, it is on the left side!’ He replied, ‘It returned to the right, as is written: From His right hand, a fiery law for them (Deuteronomy 33:2), and it is written Your right hand, O YHWH, glorious in power (Exodus 15:6). We find left turning into right, and right into left; thus Gevurah is on the left.’

And a heavy cloud on the mountain (Exodus 19:16)—a mighty cloud settling in its place, not moving. וְקֹל (Ve-qol), And the voice of, a shofar, very strong (ibid.)—out of this mighty cloud issues that voice, as is said: when you heard the voice from the midst of the darkness (Deuteronomy 5:20).

Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘There were three types of darkness, as is written: darkness, cloud, and dense fog (ibid. 4:11), and that voice issued as inmost of all.’ Rabbi Yose said, ‘Inmost of all, of which is written a mighty voice, unceasing (ibid. 5:19).

Rabbi Abba said, ‘It is written: All the people were seeing הַקּוֹלֹת (ha-qolot), the voices (Exodus 20:15). Were seeing—the verse should read were hearing. However, we have learned as follows: Those קָלִין (qalin), voices, were engraved in that darkness, cloud, and dense fog, and were visible in them as a body is visible, and they saw what they saw and heard what they heard from within that darkness, dense fog, and cloud. From within the vision they saw, they were illumined by the supernal radiance and knew what later generations coming after them would not know. They all saw face-to-face, as is written: Face-to-face YHWH spoke [with you]… (Deuteronomy 5:4).’

What did they see? Rabbi Yose taught, ‘Radiance of those voices—for there was not a single voice that did not shine radiantly, enabling them to gaze upon all hidden, concealed treasures and all generations that will appear until King Messiah. Therefore, All the people were seeing הַקּוֹלֹת (ha-qolot), the voices—actually seeing!” (Zohar 2:81a–b).

“When the blessed Holy One revealed Himself on Mount Sinai, when Torah was given to Israel in ten utterances, each and every utterance generated a voice, and that voice branched into seventy voices, all shining and sparkling before the eyes of all Israel, who saw eye-to-eye the splendor of His Glory, as is written: All the people were seeing הַקּוֹלֹת (ha-qolot), the voices (Exodus 20:15)—actually seeing!

That voice warned every single Israelite, saying to him, ‘Will you accept me upon yourselves with such-and-such commands of Torah?’ They replied, ‘Yes.’ It returned, circling round his head, and warned him, saying, ‘Will you accept me upon yourselves with such-and-such penalties of Torah?’ Each one said, ‘Yes.’ Afterward, that voice returned and kissed him on the mouth, as is written: O that he would kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! (Song of Songs 1:2)” (Zohar 2:146a).

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; Zohar 3:206b), 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? 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).

“Yehudah, an Ammonite convert, came before [the rabbis] in the academy. He said to them: How can I enter the assembly [i.e., marry a Jewish woman]? Rabbi Yehoshu’a said to him: You are permitted to enter the assembly. Rabban Gamaliel said to him: Has it not already been said, No Ammonite nor Moabite shall come into YHWH’s assembly. [Even his tenth generation shall not come into YHWH’s assembly ever. Because they did not greet  you with bread and water on the way when you came out of Egypt, and for their hiring against you Balaam son of Beor from Aram Naharaim to curse you] (Deuteronomy 23:4–5)? Rabbi Yehoshu’a replied to him: Do Ammon and Moab still reside in their [original] place? Sennacherib king of Assyria long ago went up and בַּלבֵּל (balbel), baffled, all the nations, as it says, [For He says, By the strength of My hand I have done it, and by My wisdom; for I am prudent: and] I have removed the borders of the people, and have robbed their treasures, and I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man (Isaiah 10:13); and whatever separates, separates from the greater part [and the assumption is that he is from the majority of nations whose members are permitted to enter the assembly, cf. BT Ketubbot 15a in the name of Rabbi Zeira]. Rabban Gamaliel said to him: But has it not been said: And afterward I will bring again the captivity of the children of Ammon, says YHWH (Jeremiah 49:6) so that they have already returned? Rabbi Yehoshu’a replied: And has it not been said, And I will bring again the captivity of My people of Israel, [and they shall rebuild the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink their wine; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them] (Amos 9:14), and they have not yet returned? Immediately they permitted him to enter the assembly” (BT Berakhot 28a).

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).