Like a Rose Among Thorns
“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).