The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Soul Food

“You can mend the cosmos by anything you doeven eating…. So when you are about to eat bread, say הַמּוֹצִיא (ha-motsi), ‘who brings forth’: ‘Blessed are you, YHWH our God, sovereign of the world, who brings forth bread from the earth.’ Then by eating, you bring forth sparks that cleave to your soul” (Kavvanah, a spiritual “intention,” of Rabbi Yitsḥaq Luria, recorded by Rabbi Yosef Don Don, ca. 1570, translated in Matt, The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism, p. 149).

The righteous man eats for the sating of נַפְשׁוֹ (nafsho), his gullet [or: his soul], but the belly of the wicked will want (Proverbs 13:25).

“When a person eats he must direct his thought so that it roam (2 Chronicles 16:9) with the blessed Holy One over each and every bite, as is written, And they beheld God and ate and drank (Exodus 24:11)” (Rabbenu Baḥya ben Asher, Shulḥan shel Arba).

“Whoever wants bread, let him eat by the mouth of the sword” (Zohar 3:188b).

Evil Bread

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And He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? From the tree [I commanded you not to eat have you eaten?’] (Genesis 3:11). Rabbi Levi said: [A parable: To what can the matter be compared?] A woman borrowing חָמֵץ (ḥamets), yeast [alt., חֹמֶץ (ḥomets), vinegar], who went in to the wife of a snake-charmer and asked her, ‘How does your husband treat you?’ She said, ‘He treats me with every kindness, only he does not permit me to approach this jar which is full of serpents and scorpions. She said, ‘It contains all his finery. He wishes to marry another woman and give it to her.’ What did she do? She reached her hand into it, and they began biting her. When her husband came he heard her crying out. He said, ‘Have you touched that jar?’ Similarly, ‘From the tree I commanded you not to eat have you eaten?’” (Bereshit Rabbah 19:10).

“[Rabbi Tanḥum said:] May it be Your will, YHWH my God and God of my fathers, that You break and destroy the yoke of the evil impulse from our heart. For You created us to do Your will, and we must do Your will; You desire it and we desire it. So who prevents it? The leaven in the dough [i.e., the עֵרֶב רַב (erev rav), mixed multitude, motley throng, cf. BT Qiddushin 71b: ‘Rabbi El’azar said: Ezra did not go up from Babylon until he made it like pure sifted flour: then he went up (to the land of Israel)’]” (JT Berakhot 4:2, 7d).

“When Israel went out of Egypt, they left their domain—alien domain, the domain called חָמֵץ (ḥamets), evil bread. That is why idolatry is called so, and that is mystery of the evil impulse, alien worship, also called שְׂאוֹר (se’or), leaven. This is the evil impulse, for so it functions in the person, like leaven in dough: entering ones innards little by little and then increasing, until the whole body is permeated by it. This is idolatry, of which it is written there shall be no alien god in you (Psalms 81:10)—literally!” (Zohar 2:182a).

“Come and see: In Egypt [Lilit, that beast of the reed (Psalms 68:31)] reigned, and from her issued many kinds of dominion, all in the mystery of חָמֵץ (ḥamets), leavened stuff. Once the blessed Holy One broke her, He removed חָמֵץ (ḥamets) and brought in מַצָּה (matsah). How? By the thinnest thread of all, He broke the ח (ḥet) of this חַיָּה (ḥayyah), beast, and those letters turned into מַצָּה (matsah). Actually, He broke the ח (ḥet) of this חַיָּה (ḥayyah), beast, who is called חָמֵץ (ḥamets). So she is called חַיַּת (ḥayyat)beast, of the reed, for she is easy to break as a reed. How was she broken? By a thread as thin as a hair, He broke the ח (ḥet); it was displaced becoming מַצָּה (matsah). Thus it is written Rebuke חַיַּת (ḥayyat), the beast of, the reed—the blessed Holy One rebuked her, and the ח (ḥet) was broken, turning into ה (he)” (Zohar 3:252a).

YHWH Saves both Man and Beast

“Before Adam sinned, what was written? God said, ‘Look, I have given you every [seed-bearingplant…’ (Genesis 1:29), and to you it shall be for food (ibid.), but nothing more. After he sinned and the evil impulse had been absorbed into his body and that of his descendants, He executed judgment upon them.

Afterward, Noah came and perceived that the body was built upon the pervasive evil impulse. He offered a sacrifice just as Adam did. What is written? YHWH smelled the pleasing aroma… since the devisings of the human heart are evil from youth (Genesis 8:21). The blessed Holy One said, ‘From now on, since his body has been imbued with the evil impulse, let the body enjoy as much as a person sees fit—let him eat meat [cf. Deuteronomy 12:20: when your appetite craves eating meat, wherever your appetite’s craving may be, you shall eat meat].

Like the green plants, I have given all to you (ibid. 9:3). When he eats meat, his own flesh delights from that flesh, and they intermingle. His body swells as a result; and on account of the pleasure the body sins copiously. Thus, the blessed Holy One said, atonement for the body—with flesh. Meat that a person eats produces blood for the body. Blood remaining from that meat—drained—is designated for atonement for blood, manufactured from its own flesh. This is as is written: it is the blood that gains atonement through the soul (Leviticus 17:1)” (Zohar 1:89b, Sitrei Torah, cf. BT Sanhedrin 59b).

“[Suffering] came to Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nasi] through a certain incident. What was it?—a calf was being lead to the slaughter, when it broke away, hid his head under Rabbi’s coat tails, and lowed [in terror]. ‘Go,’ he said, ‘for this were you created.’ Thereupon they said [in the heavenly court], ‘Since he has no pity, let us bring suffering upon him.’

And [suffering] departed likewise. How so?—One day Rabbi’s maid servant was sweeping the house; [seeing] some young weasels lying there, she went to sweep them away. ‘Let them be,’ he said to her; ‘It is written, His mercy is over all His works (Psalms 145:9).’ They said, ‘Since he is compassionate, let us be compassionate to him.’ Whereupon suffering departed from him (BT Bava Metsi’a 85a).

“Why did God deem it necessary for man to slaughter animals for his food? Is it not written: YHWH is good to all and His mercy is over all His works (Psalms 145:9). And if He is merciful, how could He command that animals be slaughtered for food? Where is His mercy? The essence of the verse is contained in the first clause: YHWH is good to all—absolutely good! Therefore His Mercy is over all His works.

This is the interpretation: in the Work of Creation it is predetermined if a particular animal is destined to be slaughtered, and the animal says ‘good.’ What is the reason for this? The animal does not have a נְשָׁמָה (neshamah), soul [but only a נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh), life-breath, see Genesis 1:24, cf. Leviticus 17:11], with which to grasp the deeds and might of God, and so God says to them: ‘Do you wish to be slaughtered and eaten by man and by doing so ascend from the rung of an ignorant animal to the rung of a human who knows and recognizes YHWH, may He be blessed?’ The animals answered, ‘good, and mercy will be upon us.’ For when man eats from parts of an animal that animal in turn becomes part of man’s body, so the animal turns into man and it’s slaughter is an act of mercy, for it has left the reality of the animal and entered the reality of the human.

Thus the death of the human is life for the animal, for it ascends to the heights of angels and this is the essence of the verse YHWH saves man and beast (Psalms 36:8). If this is so, understand the essence of [ritual animal] slaughter: it is done as an act of His abundant mercy and compassion upon all His creatures, thus you should contemplate what the Sages have taught in Pesaḥim: ‘An ignoramus is forbidden to eat meat [for it is said, This is the תּוֹרַת (torat), teaching, about beast and bird (Leviticus 11:46); whoever engages in Torah may eat the flesh of beast and bird, but he who does not engage in Torah may not eat the flesh of beast and bird]’ (BT Pesaḥim 49b) [cf. Sefer ha-Qanah 120r]—slaughtering animals is only a commandment for those who know what the Law says regarding domesticated animals, wild animals, and foul.

All who are involved in Torah are permitted to eat meat, and all who are not are forbidden. Therefore a man unlettered is forbidden to eat meat, for he is like a domesticated animal without a נְשָׁמָה (neshamah), soul. He is not allowed to slaughter an animal for the benefit of another animal, unless it has already become unfit for [ritual] slaughter” (Rabbi Yosef Gikatilla, Sha’arei Orah, Sha’ar ha-Shishi, Sefirah ha-Ḥamishit).

“Flesh is garment of the human, as is written everywhere: flesh of a human (Exodus 30:32)—human, within; flesh, garment of the human, it’s body.

Specters below, melted in the smelting of this spirit, were figured into figures clothed in another garment, such as figures of pure animals: ox, sheep, goat, deer, gazelle, roebuck, wild goat, ibex, antelope, and mountain sheep (Deuteronomy 14:4–5), who desire to be interwoven in the garment of the human, flesh of the human” (Zohar 1:20b).

אָנֹכִי (Anokhi)

“Rabbi Yoḥanan said: אָנֹכִי (Anokhi), I [am YHWH your God] (Exodus 20:2)—this is an acronym: אֲנָא נַפְשִׁי כְּתִיבָת יְהָבִית (ana nafshi ketivat yehabit), I give Myself in writing [cf. Zohar 3:73a: ‘There are three rungs, interlinked—the blessed Holy One, Torah, and Israel.’].

The Rabbis interpreted: אֲמִירַה נָעִימָה כְּתִיבָה יֶהִיבַּה (amirah ne’imah ketivah yehibah), Sweet speech, a writing, a gift. Others say, אָנֹכִי (anokhi), I, reversed is: יָהִיבַּה כְּתִיבָה נֶאֱמָנִין אֲמָרֵיהָ (yahibah ketivah ne’emanin amareiah), Scripture was given, steadfast are its words” (BT Shabbat 105a).

“Rabbi Neḥemiah said: What is אָנֹכִי (Anokhi) (Exodus 20:2)? It is the Egyptian language. Why did He use such a word? Like a king of flesh and blood whose son was captured: imprisoned, he labored many days until the king emerged in vengeance to free his son. He brought him back, speaking with him in the captor’s language. So it was with the blessed Holy One; Israel labored all those years in Egypt where they learned the Egyptian language. When the blessed Holy One came to give them the Torah they could not understand. Thus the blessed Holy One spoke to them in the Egyptian language, saying: Behold, I am מָשִׁיחַ (mashiaḥ), He who draws out [cf. Genesis 37:28; Exodus 2:10].

אָנֹכִי (Anokhi), I—אֲנוֹךְ (anokh), ‘Who stand here’ [cf. Amos 7:7; Ibn Ezra on Exodus 3:11]. Thus the blessed Holy One opened with the expression ‘אָנֹכִי (anokhi), I, am YHWH your God….

Rabbi Ḥanina son of Papa said: The blessed Holy One appeared to Israel with an angry face, with an impartial face, with a welcoming face, with a playful face…. The blessed Holy One said to them: ‘Though you see Me in all these guises: אָנֹכִי (Anokhi), I, am YHWH your God [who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slaves] (Exodus 20:2). Rabbi Levi said: The blessed Holy One appeared to them like an icon with a face [that could be seen] from any angle—a thousand people gaze at Her and She gazes at all of them.…

David said: YHWH’s voice in power (Psalms 29:4). It is not written YHWH’s voice in His power, but rather YHWH’s voice in power—[according to the capacity] of each and every one. The blessed Holy One said: Even though you hear many voices, know that I am He: אָנֹכִי (Anokhi), I, am YHWH your God” (Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana 12:24–25).

“Rabbi Yose said, ‘אָנֹכִי (Anokhi), I, am YHWH your God (Exodus 20:2). I—Shekhinah, as is written: אָנֹכִי (Anokhi), I, Myself will go down with you to Egypt (Genesis 46:4)” (Zohar 2:85a).

“אָנֹכִי (Anokhi), I (Exodus 20:2)—Secret of secrets for those who know wisdom: The moment these letters came forth, secretly circling as one, a spark flashed out to engrave. A flowing measure extended ten cubits on this side, and out shot comets inside comets, seventy-one [the numbers correspond to the numerical value of אָנֹכִי (Anokhi), I]. Sparks burst out into flashes, up high, beyond, beyond. The flow measured out ten cubits on the other side, and comets shot out in colors as before. And so on every side.

The spark expanded, whirling round and round. Sparks burst into flashes and rose high above. The heavens blazed with all their powers; everything flashed, sparkled as one. Then the spark turned from the side of the south and outlined a curve from the side of the south and outlined a curve from there to the east and from east to north until it circled back to the south as before. Then the spark swirled, disappearing; comets and flashes dimmed” (Zohar Ḥadash 41b).

“אָנֹכִי (Anokhi), I—mystery of two thrones: אֲנִי (ani), כ (kaf) of another throne” (Zohar 2:91a).