Words of Torah Only Remain with Him Who Makes Himself Like One Who is as Nothing

by tillerofthesoil

Tisha bAv“[Alexander of Macedonia asked the Sages of the Negev:] What shall a man do to live? They replied: Let him kill himself. What should a man do to kill himself? They replied: Let him keep himself alive” (BT Tamid 32a).

“As for the mystery of equanimity, Rabbi Avner told me the following: ‘A lover of wisdom came to one who secluded himself in meditation and asked to be accepted as one of them. The master of meditation replied, ‘My son, may you be blessed from heaven, for your intention is good. But let me know: Have you attained equanimity or not?’ He responded, ‘Master, clarify your words.’ He explained, ‘My son if one person honors you and another humiliates you, are the two equal in your eyes or not?’ He answered, ‘By the life of your soul, my master! I do feel pleasure and satisfaction from the one who honors me and pain from the one who humiliates me—but I am not vengeful nor do I bear a grudge.’ The master said, ‘My son, go away in peace. For as long as you have not attained equanimity and still feel humiliation from something done to you, you are not ready for your thought to be linked on high. You are not ready to come and seclude yourself in meditation. But go and humble your heart further, genuinely, until you attain equanimity. Then you can experience aloneness” (Rabbi Yitsḥak of Akko, Me’irat Einayim, translated in Matt, The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism, p. 118).

“Rabbi Yose son of Rabbi Ḥanina said: Words of Torah only remain with him who renders himself naked on their behalf; as it is said: I, Wisdom, dwell in shrewdness [lit., nakedness] (Proverbs 8:12). Rabbi Yoḥanan said: Words of Torah only remain with him who makes himself like one who is as אַיִן (ayin), nothing, as it is said: מֵאַיִן (me-ayin), from nothing, comes Wisdom (Job 28:12)” (BT Sotah 21b).

“This is alluded to in that the letters of אֲנִי (Ani), I, are the same as אַיִן (ayin), nothing” (Rabbi Yosef Gikatilla, Sha’arei Orah).

“Rabbi El’azar opened, Lift your eyes on high and see: Who created these? (Isaiah 40:26). Lift your eyes on high. To which site? The site toward which all eyes gaze. Which is that? Opening of the eyes [Shekhinah] (Genesis 38:14) [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 85:7]. There you will discover that the concealed ancient one, susceptible to questioning, created these. Who is that? מִי (Mi), Who [Binah]. The one called End of Heaven above, whose domain extends over everything. Since it can be questioned, yet remains concealed and unrevealed, it is called Who. Beyond, there is no question.

This end of heaven is called Who. There is another below, called What [Shekhinah]. What distinguishes the two? The first, concealed one—called Who—can be questioned. Once a human being questions and searches [cf. Bahir §194], contemplating and knowing rung after rung to the very last rung—once one reaches there: What? What do you know? What have you contemplated? For what have you searched? All is concealed, as before…

Your ruin is as vast as the ocean (Lamentations 2:13). Yet if you say you cannot endure or be healed, then מִי (Mi), Who, will heal you (ibid.), really! That concealed, high rung in which all exists will heal you and raise you up” (Zohar 1:1b).

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