The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Ripples

IMG_1217“Ten sefirot of emptiness—bridle, your mouth from speaking, bridle your heart from conceiving. And if your heart races return to the Place, as is written, Racing back and forth [like the appearance of sparks (or: lightening)] (Ezekiel 1:14)—concerning this a pact was sealed” (Sefer Yetsirah §5).

“But sometimes truth flashes out to us so that we think that it is day, and then matter and habit in their various forms conceal it so that we find ourselves again in an obscure night, almost as we were at first. We are like someone in a very dark night over whom the lightning flashes time and time again” (Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed 4b, cf. BT Sanhedrin 98b).

“Like pondering a thought: the light of that thought suddenly darkens, vanishes; then it returns and shines—and vanishes again. No one can understand the content of that light. It is like the light that appears when water ripples in a bowl: shining here, suddenly disappearing—then reappearing somewhere else. You think that you have grasped the light, when suddenly it escapes, radiating elsewhere. You pursue it, hoping to catch it—but you cannot. Yet you cannot bring yourself to leave. You keep pursuing it” (Rabbi Moshe de León, Sheqel ha-Qodesh 113 translated in Matt, The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism, p. 114).

“[In the center of the fire the likeness of the חַשְׁמַל (ḥashmal), amber (Ezekiel 1:4)]. It has been established that חֵיוָן אֶשָּׁא מְמַלְּלָן (ḥeivan esha memall’lan), fiery beings speaking, are the splendor that shines, it goes up and down, the fire that is burning. It exists and does not exist, for there is no one who can understand it in one place. No eyes or vision can master it. It is and it is not, in one place and then in another place. It goes up and down. In this appearance is hidden that which is hidden and that which is concealed. This is the mystery called חַשְׁמַל (ḥashmal), amber. Prophets must see, know, and contemplate within this with the vision of the heart and eye more than anything else.… All that they contemplate to see and to know is the speculum that does not shine. No prophet merited to contemplate the speculum that shines but Moses, the faithful prophet, for all the keys of the house were placed in his hand. When all the other prophets reached this amber to contemplate with their eyes, their thoughts were confused and the heart was not settled, and because of it they abandoned all corporeal images. Consequently, they saw within what they saw in silence” (Zohar Ḥadash 38b, adapted from Wolfson, Through a Speculum that Shines: Vision and Imagination in Medieval Jewish Mysticism, cf. Zohar 2:82a).

“In a barraita it is taught: [חַשְׁמַל (Ḥashmal)] עִתִּים חֲשׁוֹת עִתִּים מְמַלְּלוֹת (ittim ḥashot ittim mimallot), at times they are silent, at times they speak—when the utterance emanates from the mouth of the blessed Holy One they are silent, and when the utterance does not emanates from the mouth of the blessed Holy One they speak” (BT Ḥagigah 13b).

She Reveals Herself to No One but Her Lover

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“A bride who lives in the house of her father. So long as her eyes are beautiful her body needs no examination” (BT Ta’anit 24a).

She says: We are a bride adorned and crowned, and all the mitsvot are included within [us]. She is Treasury of the Torah and the betrothed of the blessed Holy One, as is written, ‘Torah did Moses charge us, a heritage for Jacob’s assembly! (Deuteronomy 33:4). Do not read מוֹרָשָׁה (morashah), a heritage, but rather מְאוֹרָסָה (me’orasah), the betrothed‘ (BT Berakhot 57a; Pesaḥim 49b) [cf. M Avot 2:17; Bemidbar Rabbah 8:2]. How is this so? When the people of Israel study Torah for her own sake, then she is the betrothed of the blessed Holy One, then she is the heritage of Israel. How is this so? When Israel engages in Torah for Her own sake, then She is the betrothed of the blessed Holy One, then She is the heritage of Israel” (Bahir §196).

“Who is a beautiful maiden without eyes, her body concealed and revealed, she emerges in the morning and is concealed by day, adorning herself with adornments which are not?… Torah [who] emerges from her sheath, is seen for a moment, then quickly hides away—certainly so, but when she reveals herself from her sheath and quickly hides, she does so only for those who know her and recognize her. This may be compared to a beloved, beautiful in form and appearance, concealed secretly in her palace. She has a single lover unknown to anyone—except to her, concealedly. Out of the love that he feels for her, this lover passes by her gate constantly, lifting his eyes to every side. Knowing that her lover hovers about her gate constantly, what does she do? She opens a little window in her hidden palace, revealing her face to her lover, then swiftly withdraws, concealing herself. No one near him sees or reflects, only the lover, and his heart and his soul and everything within him flow out to her. He knows that out of love for him she revealed herself for that one moment to awaken love in him. So it is with a word of Torah: she reveals herself to no one but her lover” (Zohar 2:94b–95a, 99a, cf. Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed 4b; Rabbi Moshe de Léon, Sheqel ha-Qodesh 113).

“He מְסַפֵּר (mesaper), ‘relates,’ with me neither at the beginning nor at the end of the night, but at midnight; and when he ‘converses,’ he uncovers a hand breadth and covers a hand breadth, and is as though he were compelled by a שֵׁד (shed), demon [alt., שָׁד (shad), breast]” (BT Nedarim 20b).

Emerging it Emerges like a King with His Soldiers

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“This letter [י (yod)] is small, fullness of all. This letter is enclosed on all sides. Emerging, it emerges like a king with his soldiers. Returning afterward, י (yod) alone—within it something is concealed; within, emerging; closed and open” (Zohar 3:92a).

“ו (Vav), embracing all, revealing all. For whatever is concealed reveals everything concealed; one who is revealed does not come and reveal what is concealed” (Zohar 1:117b).

“When it arose in thought before the Creator to create this world with this Name, to extend a cord (Isaiah 44:13), and stand Mount Moriah by His qualities—the mountain God desired for His dwelling (Psalms 68:17). He stood the table at the north with all sorts of food, created orbs to praise His Name, and servants performing His pleasure (ibid. 103:21). And with this Name, hung the world over its position. He built the Temple such that through windows this very light, without end and without limit, might dwell and illuminate. From this Name pillars of understanding were rooted, walls of wisdom, and windows of light. With this Name the Temple was filled with illustrious זוֹהַר (zohar), radiance” (Berit Menuḥa, Haqdmah).

The Secret of Torah Must Be Closed Up and Sealed

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YHWH’s secret is for those who fear Him (Psalms 25:14).

“As the thigh is concealed, so are the words of Torah concealed” (BT Mo’ed Qatan 16a–b).

“What is meant by [But her trade and her whore’s pay shall be consecrated to YHWH. It shall not be stocked and shall not be stored, but her trade shall be for those dwelling before YHWH, eating their fill, and] לִמְכַסֶּה עָתִיק (limkhasseh athiq), for covering themselves in rich attire (Isaiah 23:18)? This refers to one who מְכַסֶּה (mekhasseh), conceals, things that עָתִּיק (Attiq), the Ancient of, Days concealed. What are those? Secrets of Torah. And some say: This refers to one who reveals things that the Ancient of Days concealed. What are those? Reasons of Torah [lit., Flavors of Torah]” (BT Pesaḥim 119a).

“May your feet run to hear the words of the Ancient of Days” (BT Berakhot 17a).

“Rav Huna in the name of Son of Qappara opened: Let lying lips תֵּאָלַמְנָה (te’alamnah), be silent (Psalms 31:19)—let them be bound, made dumb, and silenced. ‘Let them be bound’—as in the verse, And, look, we were מְאַלְּמִים אֲלֻמִּים (me’allemim alummim), binding sheaves, in the field, and, look my sheaf rose (Genesis 37:7); ‘Made dumb’—as you read, Or who makes him אִלֵּם (illem), mute, or deaf, or sighted or blind? Is it not I, YHVH (Exodus 4:11); ‘and silenced’—as understood. That speak עָתָק (ataq), haughty, against the just in arrogance and contempt (Psalms ibid.)—against the Righteous One, חַי הָעוֹלָמִים (ḥai ha-olamim), Vitality of the Worlds, on matters which הֶעְתִּיק (he’ettiq), which He has covered, from His creatures. In arrogance—in order to be arrogant and say, ‘I expound on the Account of Creation.’ And contempt—to hold My glory in contempt! For Rabbi Yose son of Ḥanina said: Whoever honors himself by disgracing his fellow has no share in the World to Come. How much more so the Omnipresent’s glory! And what is written after it? How great Your goodness that You hid for those who fear You (ibid., 20)—Rav said: Let him have nothing of Your great goodness. When a king of flesh and blood builds palaces on a site of sewers, dunghills, and garbage, if one says, ‘This palace is built on a place of sewers, on a place of dunghills, and on a place of decay does he not disgrace it? Thus, whoever comes to say that this world was created out of welter and waste, does he not disgrace [Omnipresent’s glory]! Rav Huna said in Son of Qappara’s name: If the matter were not written, it would be impossible to say it: In the beginning Elohim created (Genesis 1:1); out of what? And the earth was תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ (tohu va-vohu), welter and waste (ibid., 2)” (Bereshit Rabbah 1:5).

Wine that gladdens the heart of man (Psalms 104:15). This is the wine of Torah, for יַיִן (yayin), wine, is numerically equivalent to סוֹד (sod), secret [cf. BT Sanhedrin 38a]. Just as wine has to be kept sealed so that it should not be used in a libation for idol worship, so also must the secret of Torah be closed up and sealed, and not be disclosed other than to those who fear Him. And it is not for nothing that several decrees are performed בַּיַיִן (ba-yayin), with wine, and blessings to the blessed Holy One are said with it. Wine comes in ב״ (two) colors: white and red, which are Judgment and Compassion. And this is why we have the added ב (bet) in בַּיַיִן (ba-yayin), with wine [ב (bet) is numerically equivalent to two and alludes to the two qualities of Judgment and Compassion]. It is like the rose which has in it both white and red, white from the right side, and red from the left side.

Why does it say לְבַב (le-vav), the heart, of man? It should have said לֵב (lev), heart? There is one heart [Binah] hidden within another heart [Shekhinah]. They are ל״ב (thirty-two) [iterations of] אֱלֹהִים (Elohim) in the Work of Creation. And the ב (bet) of בְּרֵאשִׁית (bereshit), in the beginning (Genesis 1:1), and the ל (lamed) of לְעֵינֵי כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל (le-einei kal yisra’el), before the eyes of all Israel (Deuteronomy 34:12) [i.e., the first verse and the last verse of the Five Books of Moses]. Twice לֵב (lev), heart, is sixty-four, which is eight less than seventy-two; [seventy-two is numerically equivalent to:] וַיְכֻלּוּ (va-yekhulu), and were completed (Genesis 2:1). These are the seven days of Creation. What of the eighth [to complete the seventy-two]? The seven days of Creation together with This is the book of the lineage of Adam (Genesis 5:1) [which is also considered to be a day of Creation]. And this seventy-two is also the sum of בַּיַיִן (ba-yayin), ‘with wine’” (Zohar 3:215b, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas, cf. Zohar 2:124b).