The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Like a Rose Among Thorns

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Like a rose among the thorns so is my friend among the young women (Song of Songs 2:2)…. Rabbi Azariah in the name of Rabbi Yehudah son of Rabbi Simon said, ‘A parable: A king had פַּרְדֵּס (pardes), an orchard. He planted a row of fig trees and a row of vines and a row of pomegranates and a row of apples. He handed it over לְאָרִיס (le-aris), to a land tenant, a tiller of the soil, and went from him. After [some] days the king came and peeped at the orchard to know what he did, and he found it full of thorns and thistles. [So] he brought wood-cutters to cut it down. Now, he saw in the orchard a single rose blossom, and he took her, וְהֵרִיחַ בָּהּ וְשָׁבַת נַפְשׁוֹ עָלָיו (ve-heriaḥ bah ve-shavat nafsho ‘alav), and smelled her and his very self was restored to him [or: and his soul rested, i.e., and he was calmed; alt., and he came to his senses]. The king said, ‘For the sake of this rose the orchard will be rescued.

Thus the entire world was created only for the sake of Torah. After twenty-six generations the blessed Holy One peeped at His world to know what it had done, and He found it was full of water with water [cf. BT Sanhedrin 108b; Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 23 on Genesis 7:19]. The generation of Enosh—water with water. The generation of the Flood—water with water. The generation of the Dispersion—water with water. [So] he brought wood-cutters to cut it down, as is said, YHWH יָשָׁב (yashav), was enthroned, at the flood [וַיֵּשֶׁב יְהוָה (va-yeshev Adonai), and YHWH is enthroned, as king for all time] (Psalms 29:10). He saw in it a single rose blossom—Israel—and he took her and smelled her at the time when Israel was given the Ten Utterances, and his very self was restored to him when they said, we will do and we will heed (Exodus 24:7). The blessed Holy One said, ‘For the sake of this rose, the orchard will be rescued; for the merit of Torah and Israel [who study her] the world will be rescued!” (Vayiqra Rabbah 23:3).

“Rabbi Ḥizkiyah opened, ‘Like a rose among thorns, so is my beloved among the maidens’ (Song of Songs 2:2). Who is a rose? Assembly of Israel. For there is a rose, and then there is a rose! Just as a rose among thorns is colored red and white, so Assembly of Israel includes judgment and compassion. Just as a rose has thirteen petals, so Assembly of Israel has thirteen qualities of compassion surrounding Her on every side [see Exodus 34:6–7]. Similarly, from the moment אֱלֹהִים (Elohim) is mentioned, it generates thirteen words to surround Assembly of Israel and protect Her; then it is mentioned again. Why again? To produce five sturdy leaves surrounding the rose. These five are called Salvation; they are five gates. Concerning this mystery it is written: I raise the cup of salvation (Psalms 116:13). This is the cup of blessing, which should rest on five fingers—and no more—like the rose, sitting on five sturdy leaves, paradigm of five fingers. This rose is the cup of blessing. From the second אֱלֹהִים (Elohim) till the third, five words appear. From here on: light—created, concealed, contained in the covenant, entering the rose, emitting seed into Her. This is the tree bearing fruit with its seed in it (Genesis 1:12)” (Zohar 1:1a).

“He opened, saying, Like a rose among thorns, so is my beloved among the maidens (Song of Songs 1:2). The blessed Holy One wished to fashion Israel according to the supernal pattern, to be one rose on earth corresponding to what is above. A rose emitting fragrance, choicest of all roses in the world, is solely one rising among thorns—this one wafts fittingly. Therefore He sowed seventy couples, who were seventy souls, and inserted them among thorns. As soon as those couples were there, the thorns sprouted branches and leaves, ruling over the world; and then the rose bloomed among them.

Once the blessed Holy One sought to pluck the rose, picking it from among them, the thorns withered and were thrown away, destroyed, and considered worthless. When He went to pick the rose, to bring out His firstborn son, the King proceeded—among many hosts, princes, and chieftains with banners flying. He delivered His firstborn son with many mighty deeds, and brought him to His palace, where he dwelled for long.

When he sinned, as before, and rebelled against his Father, He expelled him from His house. What did Israel do? Seeing that they had been scattered to Babylon, they mingled among the nations, married foreign women, and engendered children with them. Even so, Holy Mother was their guardian.

Because they had acted so, the blessed Holy One said, ‘Since it is a disgrace, let My son come by himself; because he has defiled My honor, it is unseemly for Me to go there and bring him out, performing miracles and mighty deeds as before.’ So they returned without the assistance befitting them, without wonders and miracles; rather, all dispersed, all weary in poverty, returning to the King’s palace in shame, with Holy Mother responsible for them.

They sinned as before. What did the blessed Holy One do? He expelled this son from His palace and his Mother with him, saying, ‘From here on, mother and son, you will suffer much evil together’—as is written: For your crimes, your mother was sent away (Isaiah 50:1). Of this is written When you are in distress and all these things find you בְּאַחֲרִית הַיָּמִים (be-aḥarit ha-yamim), with the end of days (Deuteronomy 4:30). What is with the end of days? Well, this is Holy Mother, who is the end of days, and with Her they suffered all that they suffered in exile. And if they engage in תְשׁוּבָה (teshuvah), repentance, even one evil or one affliction will be considered equivalent to their having suffered everything, and as if the evil extremity had been terminated with all its generations—as the Holy Lamp said, for it is written: irreversibly to its buyer throughout his generations (Leviticus 25:30). All this depends on teshuvah.

Rabbi Ḥiyya said, ‘Certainly so! And therefore exile persists” (Zohar 2:189b).

I am the lily of Sharon (Song of Songs 2:1)—Assembly of Israel who is called lily, planted in radiant beauty in the Garden. שָּׁרוֹן (Sharon)—for She שַׁרַה (sharah), sings, and offers praise to the supernal King. Alternatively, I am the lily of Sharon—for She desires to be saturated by the flow of the deep stream, bubbling stream of rivers, as is said: Sharon shall become a pond of water [a conflation of verses from Isaiah].

A rose of הַעֲמַקִּים (ha-amaqqim), the valleys—abiding in עֲמִיקְתָא (amiqta), the depth, of all. A rose of ha-amaqqim, the valleys—who are those amaqqim, valleys? As is said: מִמַּעֲמַקִּים (Mi-ma’amaqqim), from the depths, I call You, YHWH (Psalms 130:1).

A lily of Sharon—from that place where the saturating flow of streams issues, never ceasing. A rose of ha-amaqqim, the valleys—a rose from that place called עֲמִיקָא (Amiqa), Depth, of All, sealed on all sides.

Come and see: At first, greenish—green like a lily with green leaves. Afterward, a red rose, colored white and red. שׁוֹשַׁנַּת (Shoshannat), A Rose—with שִׁית (shit), six, leaves. A rose—for שַׁנִיאַת (shaniyat), She varies, Her colors, וְאִשׁתֶּנִיאָת (ve-ishteni’at), and changes, from color to color.

A rose—first a lily; when She seeks to couple with the King She is called a lily. After She unites with the King, by those kisses, She is called a rose—for it is written His lips are like roses (Song of Songs 5:13).

A rose of the valleys—for She varies and changes, Her colors: sometimes for good, sometimes for evil; sometimes for Judgment, sometimes for Compassion” (Zohar 3:107a).

“Behold, Shekhinah is shut to Him during the weekdays, like a sealed rose” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 22a, cf. Zohar 1:75b on Ezekiel 46:1).

“Similarly with Israel. As long as they are hard-hearted, not opening with תְשׁוּבָה (teshuvah), they do not emit fragrance; and He does not deliver them from among the thorns—among other nations. When they open with teshuvah, they immediately emit fragrance, and He delivers them from among the thorns, and Assembly of Israel delights in them. As is written: Open to me, my sister, my love (Song of Songs 5:2)—for as long as the rose is closed, it has no fragrance and cannot rise from amid the thorns, but dwells among them, as has been said. And the blessed Holy One sent us to walk this path only for this: to learn these matters!

So it is with Israel. As long as they are hard-hearted and do not initiate תְשׁוּבָה (teshuvah), returning, they do not emit fragrance, and there is none to remove them from among the thorns (Song of Songs 2:2). But when they open their hearts in teshuvah they immediately emit fragrance, and He removes them from among the thorns. And Assembly of Israel [Shekhinah] benefits from them, as is written, Open to me, my sister, my beloved (Song of Songs 5:2). For as long as the rose is closed, it emits no fragrance and does not rise above the thorns but sits among them, as they have said. And the only reason the blessed Holy One sent us along this path was that we should illuminate these matters” (Zohar 3:233a).

Return to Me, and I will return to you, says YHWH of armies (Malachi 3:7).

A Worm Whose Only Power and Strength Lies in its Mouth

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“Do not fear, O worm Jacob, men of Israel. I am helping you,” says YHWH, and your Redeemer, Israel’s Holy One (Isaiah 41:14).

Do not fear, O worm Jacob! Why is Israel compared to a worm? Just as a worm strikes the cedars only with its mouth—though soft, it strikes the hard—so Israel possesses only prayer, for the idolatrous nations are compared to cedars” (Tanḥuma, Beshallaḥ 9).

“Come and see: All nations of the world have been rendered to certain ruling archons, as has been said, and they follow their false gods, as is written: [For all the nations] will walk each in the name of its god (Micah 4:5)—all shedding blood, waging war, stealing, robbing, fornicating, mingling with numerous evildoings. They intensify their power to harass, while Israel has no power to overcome them except through its mouth—like a worm whose only power and strength lies in its mouth, by its mouth penetrating all. So Israel is called worm” (Zohar 1:178a).

Daughter of the Eye

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“Please, mighty One, guard like the pupil of an eye those who seek your unity” (Anna be-Koaḥ).

“[It was said in the name of Shemu’el the Small:] This world resembles a human eyeball. The white in it [i.e., the sclera] is the ocean, surrounding the whole world. The black in it [i.e., the iris] is the [inhabited] world. The pit in the black [i.e., the pupil] is Jerusalem. The visage in the pit [i.e., the reflection of one’s own ‘face’ seen in the pupil of another person’s eye] is the Temple, may it be rebuilt speedily in our days and in the days of all Israel. Amen” (Derekh Erets Zuta 9:13).

“For within the eye of a human being appears a vision of the world, in all its revolving colors. The white in it is the vast ocean surrounding the world on all sides. Another color is dry land, encircled by water; as dry land stands in the midst of water, so does this color. Another, third color is in the middle; this is Jerusalem, center of the world. The fourth color is vision of the whole eye, called בַּת עֵינָא (bat eina), ‘pupil of the eye’ [lit., daughter of the eye], in which a visage appears—most glorious vision of all. This is Zion, central point of all, in which a vision of the whole world appears; there dwells Shekhinah—beauty of all, vision of all. The eye is inheritance of the world, so this one leaves it and that one acquires it and inherits it” (Zohar 1:226a).

“She appears like this ·☽, like a crescent moon, with a point in the center, that point absorbing light from the Sun to illuminate the entire body.

This is the mystery of the point that inheres in part of the eye—everything exists in the point located in the center, for it absorbs all the light to illuminate the whole eye. Similarly, Moon is illuminated only from one point that abides and is concealed in the center, even though it cannot be seen in Moon.

Come and see: Every circle in the world is formed from the midst of the single point standing in its center. Consequently, the circle of the Moon is from a single point concealed within Her in the center, fashioning all. The point located in the center absorbs all light, shining upon Her body, illuminating all” (Zohar Ḥadash 5b, Sitrei Otiyyot).

Israel: Heart of the Whole World

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“And look, it is well known that all members of the body absorb everything, while the heart cannot absorb even a thread of a strand of hair!” (Zohar 2:108a).

“There are three rulers above, through whom the blessed Holy One is known, and they are His precious mystery: מוֹחָא (moḥa), the brain, לִבָּא (libba), the heart, and כַבְדָּא (khavdda), the liver [—מֶלֶך (melekh), King]. They act the opposite of this world. Above, the brain receives first, and then gives to the heart; the heart receives and gives to the liver, and then the liver gives a portion to all those sources below, every single one fittingly. Below, the liver receives first, and then brings all near the heart, and the heart receives. Once it has received and been invigorated, from the very vigor and delight that it received, it gives to the brain, stimulating it. Then, the liver resumes distributing to all sources of the body” (Zohar 2:152b–153a, cf. ibid. 1:139a [MhN]).

“If Assembly of Israel did not initiate arousal, the one above would not be aroused toward Her. By desire below, all is consummated” (Zohar 1:35a).

“[Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi said:] Scripture says: [Away, away, flee from the land of the north, said YHWH,] for like the four winds of the heavens did I spread you out, said YHWH (Zechariah 2:10). What did He say to them? Should you say that the blessed Holy One said to Israel as follows: I have spread you out to the four winds [i.e., directions] of the world, if so, why did He say like the four [winds]? He should have said to the four [winds]! Rather, this is what He meant: Just as the world cannot endure without winds, so too the world cannot exist without Israel” (BT Ta’anit 3b, cf. Zohar 2:5b [MhN]).

“Surely we are closer to the supernal King than all other nations! Surely it is so, for the blessed Holy One made Israel the heart of the whole world. So is Israel among the other nations: the heart among the limbs of the body. All inhabitants of the world are the limbs, while Israel is the heart in their midst; and if Israel did not exist in the world, no nations could endure for even a moment—like limbs without a heart. Therefore they are in the middle of the whole world—the heart within the limbs.

Israel conducts herself among the other nations like the heart among the limbs. The heart is tender and weak, yet it is the vitality of all the limbs. None of the limbs knows pain, distress, and agony at all, only the heart, containing vitality and intelligence. [Pain] comes nowhere near the other limbs, since they have no vitality and know nothing. None of the other limbs come near the king—who is intelligence and wisdom located in the brain—only the heart. The other limbs are far from him and know nothing about him. Similarly, Israel is close to the Holy King, whereas the other nations are far from Him [cf. Kuzari 2:25–44; Tanḥuma, Qedoshim 10]….

Israel eats no animal that has not been slaughtered properly or is diseased or defective, or the dirty filth of detestable and creeping things, as do other nations…. For, in fact, the heart—which is tender and weak, yet king and vitality of all the other limbs—takes for its nourishment only the purest and clearest of all blood, so its food is cleanest and most refined of all, whereas the remaining refuse it leaves for all the other limbs. These other limbs do not care about this; rather, they take the refuse and the worst and most foul of all—and they are fittingly strong [cf. Kuzari 2:41].

Consequently, among the other limbs there are blisters, inflammation, rash, and scaly affliction; whereas for the heart, none of these at all. Rather, it is cleanest and purest of all, with no blemish whatsoever. Concerning this it is written: You are wholly beautiful, my love; there is no blemish in you (Song of Songs 4:7).

Rabbi Yose came and kissed his hands. He said, ‘If I have come into the world just to hear this, it is enough!'” (Zohar 3:221a–b, cf. BT Yoma 39a; Zohar 2:125b; 3:41b–42a, 75b).

“The Faithful Shepherd said, ‘Holy Lamp [Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai], it is certain that אִצְטוֹמְכָא (itstomkha), the rumen [or: אִסְטוֹמְכָא (istomkha), see BT Ḥullin 50b], takes everything up to six hours and bakes [cf. Zohar 2:125b]. For the rumen is a baker. And the lung is a cupbearer. The heart is king, and these two are certainly the baker and the cupbearer who give to the king of the choicest of food and drinks, for he is the head of them all and the choicest of them all. And this is the meaning of what is written: I have gathered my myrrh with my perfume, I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey, I have drunk my wine with my milk (Song of Songs 5:1). Eat, friends, and drink, be drunk with loving (ibid.)—the other parts of the body [i.e., the Companions], the armies and camps of the king who distribute food to them by means of the chief baker while drink is by means of the chief cupbearer [i.e., the lung. On the chief baker and the chief cupbearer see Genesis 40, cf. Zohar 1:192a]….

And in the primary composition of the first part [Zohar 3:235b], the Faithful Shepherd [Moses] opened, saying, ‘Woe to those people whose hearts are closed and whose eyes are unseeing, who do not know the organs of their own body and according to what they are arranged. For the trachea is composed of three forces: הֶבֶל (hevel), vapor, לַהַב אֵשׁ (lahav esh), a flash of fire—issuing from the heart and split into seven vapors as said by Qohelet [there are seven iterations of הֶבֶל (hevel) in Ecclesiastes 1:2, see BT Bava Batra 100b]—and air, entering from outside. Water of the lobes of the lung which are attached to the trachea. And from these three—water, air, and fire—Voice is assisted, and each one is split into seven, and they are seven flashes, seven climates, and seven streams [see Zohar 2:30b; 3:10a].

And when the flashes of the heart meet with the rain clouds, which are the wings of the lung, by way of the trachea of the lung, the result is: And His might’s thunder who can grasp? (Job 26:14). For therein the heart understands with Binah, which is in the heart on the left, Gevurah. And Ḥesed is to the right, the water of the wings of the lung, and Ḥokhmah, which is brain, is there [Ḥesed and Gevurah ascend becoming Ḥokhmah and Binah (Sullam)]. And from it comes a garden spring, a garden of fresh water and streams from לְבָנוֹן (Levanon), Lebanon (Song of Songs 4:15)—לִּבּוּנָא (libbuna), whiteness, of the brain that trickles through the trachea of the lung, after the clouds of Binah have ascended to the brain [cf. Zohar 3:135b (IR)].

And the mystery of the matter is in: Who is this coming up from the desert like a pillar of smoke [perfumed with myrrh and frankincense from all the merchant’s powders?] (Song of Songs 3:6). For this is smoke of the arrangement on the altar that rises from the heart to the brain, which cannot be moved from its place by all the breaths of the world. חָכְמָה (Ḥokhmah), Wisdom—כֹּחַ (koaḥ), power, [of] מ״ה (forty-five) [i.e., יוד הא ואו הא (YHWH) numerically equivalent to forty-five]: כֹּחַ (koaḥ), power, in the heart and מָה (mah), What, in the brain. The trachea is Tif’eret and incorporates six sefirot which are the six rungs to the Throne, Mother, so that Ḥokhmah from the brain will rest on the heart, for with it the heart understands. For this reason: קְנֵה חָכְמָה קְנֵה בִינָה (Qeneh Ḥokhmah, qeneh Vinah), Get wisdom, get understanding (Proverbs 4:5). Father descends with Her; Father ascends with Her. And this is a ladder on which two ascend and two descend” (Zohar 3:234b–235a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

Pearls, Drop by Drop, All Linking as One

“Come and see: There are three souls, ascending by certain rungs, and as for their being three, they are four. One: transcendent soul that cannot be grasped. The supreme royal treasurer is unaware of it, let alone the lower one. This is soul of all souls, concealed, eternally unrevealed, unknowable—and all of them depend upon it. This envelops itself in a wrapping of crystal radiance within radiancy, and drips pearls, drop by drop, all linking as one, like joints of limbs of one body—one. It enters them, displaying through them its activity; this and they are one, inseparable. This supernal soul is hidden to all. Another soul: female concealing herself within her forces. She is their soul, and out of them a body is woven, to display activity through them to the whole world—like the body, which is an instrument for the soul to convey action. These correspond to those hidden joints above” (Zohar 1:245b).

“This Holy Spirit becomes like a body so that another spirit may be continued within it—supernal, subtle, luminous. So all is embraced and contained, one in another, entering one another, until finally embraced within this world, the last external shell. The hard shell is within the shell of this world—like a nut, whose outer shell is not hard but whose inner shell is. So too above: the hard shell is the other spirit ruling the body; within it is a thin shell, and within that the kernel” (Zohar 2:141a).

“Three courts are four; four courts above, four below, as is written: You shall not commit perversion in justicein measure, in weight, or in capacity (Leviticus 19:35). Harsh judgment, judgment that is not harsh; balanced judgment, judgement that is not balanced; mild judgement, judgment not even this or that” (Zohar 2:179a, Sifra di-Tsni’uta).

Come and see: How many hidden causes are clothed and conveyed by the sefirot! The sefirot are but chariots to them, for they are concealed from human thought. Of them is written: [If you see the oppression of the poor and the perversion of justice and right in the province, be not amazed at the matter,for he who is high has a higher one watching him, and still higher ones over them (Ecclesiastes 5:7)—נְהוֹרִין מְצוּחְצָחִין (nehorin metsuḥtsaḥin), glaring white lights, these above those, but those that are receptacles are darkness compared to the others above them. And their is no light that can exist before the עִלַּת הָעִלּוֹת (illat ha-illot), Cause of Causes, all lights are darkened before Him” (Zohar 1:23a, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar).

“The Holy Ancient One, concealed of all concealed. Separate, separated from all, yet not separate; for all are joined to it, and it is joined to all. It itself is all!” (Zohar 3:288a, Idra Zuta).

The Nut Garden

walnuts-cracked“When King Solomon descended to the depth of the nut, as is written: I descended to the nut garden (Song of Songs 6:11), he took the קְלִפָּה (qelipah), shell, of the אֱגוֹז (egoz), nut, contemplated all those shells, and realized that all the joy and delight of those spirits—shells of the nut—consists solely in clinging to human beings and leading them astray, as is written: The delights of the sons of men: demon after demon (Ecclesiastes 2:8)…. The blessed Holy One had to create everything in the world, arraying the world. All consists of a kernel within, with several shells covering the kernel. The entire world is like this, above and below, from the head of the mystery of the primordial point to the end of all rungs: all is this within that, that within this, so that one is the shell of another, which itself is the shell of another” (Zohar 1:19b–20a).