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

image

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

“[Suffering] came to Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nasi] because of an incident. What was it? A calf was being lead to slaughter, [when] he went and hung his head on the corner of the Rabbi [‘s garment], and moaned. He said to him, ‘Go, you were made for this!’ They said [in the heavenly court], ‘Since he has no mercy, let suffering overtake him.’

And [suffering] departed because of [another] incident. How so? One day Rabbi’s maidservant was sweeping the house. [Seeing] some young weasels lying there, she went to sweep them away. He said to her, ‘Let them be. It is written, His mercy is over all His works (Psalms 145:9).’ They said, ‘Since he has mercy, let us be merciful to him’” (BT Bava Metsi’a 85a, cf. Ḥakham Yosef Ḥayyim of Baghdad, Ben Yehoyada).

“Let me give you a great key. Why did God, may He be blessed, see fit to issue a commandment in the Torah to slaughter animals for man’s food? Is it not written, YHWH is good to all and His mercy is over all His works (Psalms 145:9). If He is indeed merciful, how could He command to slaughter this animal for man’s food? Where is His mercy? But the mystery of this verse comes in its first clause, which says, YHWH is good to all—good, indeed, and therefore, His mercy is over all His works. This is the explanation: In the Workings of Creation, it was predetermined that this particular animal was to be slaughtered and the animal said ‘good.’ What is the reason for this? The animal does not have a supernal נְשָׁמָה (neshamah), soul [but only a נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh), life-breath, see Genesis 1:24, cf. Leviticus 17:11] that could grasp God and His mighty works.

So God decreed during the creation of the world that all of the animals should be brought before Him, and He said, ‘Do you wish to be slaughtered and eaten by man so that you will rise from the rung of an animal, knowing nothing, to the rung of a human who knows and recognizes YHWH, may He be blessed?’ And the animals responded, ‘Good, and mercy will be upon us.’ For when man eats from a part of the animal, he becomes a part of man. Thus, animal becomes human and his slaughter is merciful, for he has left the rung of animal and entered the rung of human. In this way, a man’s death is life for him, for he ascends to the rung of the angels. And this is the mystery of YHWH saves man and beast (Psalms 36:7). If this is so, understand the essence of slaughtering animals, as it is all from His abundant mercy and graciousness upon all His creatures. For this reason, consider that which the Rabbis said: ‘An ignoramus is forbidden to eat meat [for it is said, This is the תּוֹרַת (torat), teaching, about beast and bird (Leviticus 11:46)]’ (BT Pesaḥim 49b) [cf. Sefer ha-Qanah 120r], since He commanded in the Torah that only he who knows the teaching concerning domesticated beasts, wild animals, and fowl may slaughter [animals]. He who is engaged in Torah is permitted to eat meat and he who is not engaged in Torah is forbidden to eat meat. Therefore, an ignoramus may not eat meat for he is like an animal, without a neshamah, soul, and He did not command that an animal should be slaughtered to be eaten by another animal” (Rabbi Yosef GikatillaSha’arei Orah, Sha’ar ha-Shishi, Sefirah ha-Ḥamishit).

“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 in the name of Rav Yehudah).

“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).

“And the reason for Split hooves… bringing up the cud (Leviticus 11:3) is according to the plain sense. These signs are the reason for [them being] clean or unclean [or: pure or impure]…. And there are [those among] the latest kabbalists [such as Rabbi ‘Yosef who came from the city of Shushan’ (i.e., from Hamadan in Persia)] who believe in גִּלְגּוּל הַבְּהֵמוֹת (gilggul ha-behemot), ‘the rolling of beasts.’ And they say that if a man committed a certain heinous transgression beyond [what] his merits [can protect him from, his nefesh, life-breath] will roll into an unclean beast, this is as is said, And they do not bring up the cud, they are unclean for you (ibid., 26)—he who has no ‘cud,’ beyond his merits. And if he [does] ‘bring up the cud,’ over his merits [i.e., preserves his merits and pays the price of punishment] he will roll into a clean beast. Only, if the offence [be] idolatry, forbidden sexual relations, [or] spilling blood, with these three even if ‘he brings up the cud’ he will roll into uncleanness—if he does not return in repentance. This is the mystery of hare, camel, pig:

The mystery of שָׁפָן (shafan), hare, is ‘שֶׁפָּנָה (she-panah), that he turned’—to idolatry. גָּמָל (Gamal), camel, comes regarding forbidden sexual relations, as is said, חָסֶד (Ḥased), a vile, man, גֹּמֵל (gomel), does for, himself, [and a cruel man blights his own flesh] (Proverbs 11:17). And of forbidden sexual relations, is written, [And a man who takes his sister…] it is חֶסֶד (ḥesed), vileness, and they shall be cut off (Leviticus 20:17) [the incest laws are found together with prohibitions on homosexuality, bestiality, and child sacrifice, see Leviticus 18]. Of the mystery of חֲזִיר (ḥazir), pig, is said, חֲזִיר (Ḥazir), the boar, from the forest has gnawed it, [and the swarm of the field fed upon it] (Psalms 80:14)—הַמַּחֲזִיר (ha-maḥazir), the one who ‘returns [i.e., spills], blood,’ on the ground [cf. BT Niddah 13a–b; Zohar 1:188a, 219b]. With these three even if his merits are greater than his crimes, which are ‘brought up cud,’ with more mitsvot than transgressions, or they are in between—mystery of מַפְרִיסֵי פַּרְסָה (mafrisei parsah), split hoof (Leviticus 11:4), from the expression פְּרָס (peras), reward, they roll into uncleanness. Recall what is said: But this you shall not eat from those that bring up the cud or have hooves (Leviticus 11:4) [see BT Bekhorot 6a–b ad loc.]. And therefore they said of the Torah [prohibitions] that any food from them is as if [derived from] the flesh of his companion who was defiled by transgressions, blessed is he who knows truth [cf. Rabbi Yosef Hamadan, Sefer Tashak, 92]. And already you know what our Rabbis, of blessed memory, expounded: ‘Why did he call its name חֲזִיר (ḥazir), pig? Because the blessed Holy One is destined לְהַחֲזִירוֹ (le-haḥaziro), to return it, to us’ [see Rabbi Yom Tov ben Avraham Ishbili on BT Qiddushin 49b; cf. Midrash Tehillim 146:4]” (Rabbi Menaḥem Recanati, Perush al ha-Torah, Parashat Shemini, cf. Sa’adia GaonKitāb al-Amanāt wal-I‘Tiqadāt, 6:8).

“It was said that fish and locusts do not require slaughter, but rather, their gathering makes them permitted [and fit to eat, see BT Ḥullin 27b]. Such are Masters of Mishnah, they do not need slaughter, but rather, it is said of them, And was gathered to his kinfolk (Genesis 49:33). Fish of the sea live in the sea. Disciples of the Sages and Masters of Mishnah live in Torah. And if they are separated from her they die immediately” (Zohar 3:278b, Ra’aya Meheimna Ki Tetse, cf. TZ 21, 59a).

אָנֹכִי (Anokhi)

“Rabbi Yoḥanan said: אָנֹכִי (Anokhi), I [am YHWH your God] (Exodus 20:2)—this is an acronym: אֲנָא נַפְשִׁי כְּתִיבַתְּ יְהָבִית (ana nafshi ketivat yehavit), 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 yehibbah), Sweet speech, a writing, a gift. Others say, אָנֹכִי (anokhi), I, reversed is: יָהִיבַּה כְּתִיבָה נֶאֱמָנִין אֲמָרֵיהָ (yahibbah 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).