The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Whoever the Man Desiring Life Keep Your Tongue from Evil and Your Lips from Speaking Deceit

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A lying tongue hates those it crushes, and a smooth mouth pushes one down (Proverbs 26:28).

“Did David know the exact time of midnight [as tradition has it]? Even our teacher Moses did not know! As is written: [And Moses said, ‘Thus said YHWH:“Around midnight I am going out in the midst of Egypt”’ (Exodus 11:4). Why around midnight? If we say that the blessed Holy One said to him: Around midnight, is there doubt before Heaven? Rather He told him at midnight, and he came and said: Around midnight. [Apparently] he was in doubt….

Rabbi Zera said: Moses certainly knew…. Since Moses knew, why did he say around midnight? Lest the astrologers of Pharaoh err [in their calculations] and say Moses was a liar. The Master said: Teach your tongue to say, ‘I don’t know,’ lest you be caught in a lie” (BT Berakhot 4a).

“Rabbi Yoḥanan said in the name of Rabbi Yose son of Zimra: What is: What can it give you, what can it add, a tongue of deceit? (Psalms 120:3). The blessed Holy One said to the tongue: All members of the human body are standing, you are lying; all members of the human body are outside, you are guarded inside; not only that, but I surrounded you with two walls, one of bone and one of flesh; What can it give you, what can it add, a tongue of deceit! And Rabbi Yoḥanan said in the name of Rabbi Yose son of Zimra: One who bears evil tales almost denies the Root, as is said: Those who said, ‘Let us make our tongue great, our own lips are with us—who is master to us?’ Further did Rabbi Yoḥanan say in the name of Rabbi Yose son of Zimra: Any one who bears evil tales will be visited by the plague of skin blanch, as is said: Who defames in secret his fellow, him אַצְמִית (atsmit), shall I destroy (Psalms 101:5). And there it is said: לַצְּמִיתֻת (La-tsemitut), irreversibly (Leviticus 25:30) which we translate as: לַחֲלוּטִין (la-ḥalutin), absolutely, and we learnt: one afflicted with skin blanch that is shut up differs from one afflicted with skin blanch that is certified unclean only in respect of unkempt hair and torn garments [cf. BT Megillah 8b]. Resh Laqish said: What is the meaning of: This shall be the teaching concerning הַמְּצֹרָע (ha-metsora), the one struck with skin blanch (Leviticus 14:2)? This shall be the teaching concerning מּוֹצִיא שֵׁם רַע (motsi shem ra), one who brings out an evil name. Resh Laqish said further: What is the meaning of: If a snake bites with no snake-charm, there is no advantage for the expert of incantations (Ecclesiastes 10:11)? At some future time all the animals will assemble and come to the serpent and say: The lion attacks and devours; the wolf tears and consumes; but what profit do you have? And he will answer: What benefit has he who uses his tongue? Resh Laqish said further: Whoever speaks with an evil tongue, his guilt reaches the heavens, as is said: They put their mouth up to the heavens, and their tongue goes over the earth (Psalms 73:9).

Rav Ḥisda said in the name of Mar ‘Uqba: One who speaks with an evil tongue deserves to be stoned with stones. It is written here: Him אַצְמִית (atsmit), shall I destroy (Psalms 101:5), and it is written there: צָמְתוּ (Tsametu) They have cut off, my life in the dungeon, and cast stones upon me (Lamentations 3:53). Rav Ḥisda said further in the name of Mar ‘Uqba: Of him who speaks with an evil tongue, the blessed Holy One says: He and I cannot live together in the world, as is said: Who defames in secret his fellow, him shall I destroy. The haughty of eyes and the proud of heart, him shall I not suffer (Psalms 101:5). Do not read: אֹתוֹ (otho), [himshall I not suffer, but אִתּוֹ (itto) [with him] can I not suffer. Some refer this to the arrogant.

Rav Ḥisda said further in the name of Mar ‘Uqba: One who speaks with an evil tongue, the blessed Holy One says to the prince of Hell: I will be against him from above, you be against him from below, and we will condemn him, as is said: A warrior’s honed arrows with broom-wood coals (ibid. 120:4). Arrows means nothing else but the evil tongue, as is said: Their tongue is a sharpened arrow; it speaks deceit: [one speaks peaceably to his neighbor with his mouth, but in his heart he lies in wait] (Jeremiah 9:7); and warrior means only the blessed Holy One, as is said: YHWH shall go forth as a mighty man (Isaiah 42:13); and broom-wood coals is Hell. Rabbi Ḥama son of Ḥanina said: What is the remedy for those who speak with an evil tongue? If he be a disciple of the wise, let him engage in Torah, as is said: Healing speech is a tree of life (Proverbs 15:4), and לָשׁוֹן (lashon), speech, here means לָשׁוֹן הָרַע (lashon ha-ra), the evil tongue, as is said: Their tongue is a sharpened חֵץ (ḥets), arrow (Jeremiah 9:7), and עֵץ (ets), tree, means only Torah, as is said: עֵץ חַיִּים (ets ḥayyim), a tree of life, is she to those who grasp her, [and those who hold her are deemed happy—מְאֻשָּׁר (me’ushar), happy, is numerically equivalent to יִשְׂרָאֵל (yisra’el), Israel (Rabbi Avraham Abulafia, Ḥayyei ha-Olam ha-Ba, 6b)] (Proverbs 3:18)—but if he be an ignorant person, let him become humble, as is said: But perverse speech breaks the spirit (Proverbs 15:4). Rabbi Aḥa son of Rabbi Ḥanina said: If he has slandered already, there is no remedy for him, for King David, in his holy spirit, has cut him off already, as is said: YHWH will cut off all smooth-talking lips, the tongue that speaks of big things (Psalms 12:4). Nevertheless, what shall be his remedy so that he may not come to [use] an evil tongue? If he be a disciple of the wise, let him engage in Torah, and if he be an ignorant person, let him humble himself, as is said: But perverse speech breaks the spirit.

The academy of Rabbi Yishma’el taught: Whoever speaks with an evil tongue increases his guilt even up to [the degree of] the three [cardinal] transgressions: idolatry, incest [including adultery], and the shedding of blood. It is said here: the tongue that speaks of גְּדֹלוֹת (gidolot), big things (Psalms 12:4), and it is written of idolatry: This people has committed a גְדֹלָה (gedolah), great, offense [they have made themselves gods of gold] (Exodus 32:31). Of incest is written: How could I do this great evil? (Genesis 39:9). And of the shedding of blood it is written: My punishment is too great to bear (ibid. 4:13). Perhaps גְּדֹלוֹת (gidolot), big things, refers to two [transgression of the three]? Which of them would you exclude?

In the West [i.e., the Land of Israel] they say: Talk about third [persons] kills three: him who tells [the slander], him who accepts it, and him about whom it is told. Rabbi Ḥama son of Ḥanina said: What is the meaning of: Death and life are in the hand of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21)? Has the tongue ‘a hand’? It tells you that just as the hand can kill, so can the tongue. One might say that just as the hand can kill only one near it, thus also the tongue can kill only one near it, therefore it says: Their tongue is a sharpened arrow (Jeremiah 19:7). Then one might assume that just as an arrow kills only within forty or fifty cubits, thus also the tongue kills only up to forty or fifty cubits, therefore it says: They put their mouth up to the heavens, and their tongue goes over the earth (Psalms 73:9). But since it is written already: They put their mouth up to the heavens, why was it necessary to say also: Their tongue is a sharpened arrow? This is what we are informed: That [the tongue] kills as an arrow. But once it is written: Their tongue is a sharpened arrow, why was it necessary to state: Death and life are in the hand of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21)? It is in accord with Rava; for Rava said: He who wants to live [can find life] through the tongue [by murmuring Torah (Rashi)]; he who wants to die [can find death] through the tongue. What constitutes an evil tongue? Rabbah said: For example [to say] there is fire in the house of So-and-so. Abayye said: What did he do? He just gave information? Rather, when he utters that in slanderous fashion: ‘Where else should there be fire if not in the house of So-and-so? [It implies] there is always meat and fish [available].’ Rabbah said: Whatsoever is said in the presence of the person concerned is not considered an evil tongue. Abayye said to him: But then all the more so it is impudence and an evil tongue! He replied: I hold with Rabbi Yose, for Rabbi Yose said: I have never said a word and looked behind my back.

Rabbah son of Rav Ḥuna said: Whatsoever is said before three is not considered an evil tongue. Why? Your friend has a friend, and your friend’s friend has a friend [i.e., making his statement before three he expects their spreading it in his name, as something that will become known]. When Rav Dimi came [from the Land of Israel] he said: What is the meaning of: Who greets [lit., blesses], his neighbor in a loud voice first thing in the morning, it is reckoned to him a curse (Proverbs 27:14). It refers, for example, to the case of one who happened to stay in a house where they laboured much on his behalf, and next morning he goes out into the street and says: May the Compassionate bless So-and-so, who laboured so much on my behalf. Whereupon people will hear it and come and plunder him.

Rav Dimi, brother of Rav Safra, learnt: Let no man ever talk in praise of his fellow, for through [talking in] his praise he will come to disparage him [i.e., he will say: ‘He is a mensch with the exception of this or that bad habit’]. Some there are who say: Rav Dimi, brother of Rav Safra, was ill. Rav Safra entered to inquire about his state of health. He said, May it come [home] to me that I have kept whatever the Rabbis have enjoined. He said to him: Have you also kept [their command]: Let no man ever talk in praise of his fellow, for through talking in his praise he will come to disparage him? He answered: I have not heard it, for had I heard it, would have kept it” (BT Arakhin 15b).

Place, O YHWH, a watch on my mouth, a guard at the door of my lips (Psalms 141:3).

“Rabbi Ḥiyya opened with the following verse: You shall not curse the deaf… (Leviticus 19:14)—according to its literal meaning, but from this entire portion we learn other matters, and all are interdependent. Come and see: Whoever curses his fellow in his presence, humiliating him, is as though he spills blood, as we have established [see BT Bava Metsi’a 58b]. This verse, however, refers to when one’s fellow is not with him and he curses him—that word ascends. ‘There is not a single word issuing from one’s mouth that lacks a voice. This voice ascends and is joined by many quaestors, until it rises and arouses the place of the Great Abyss, as has been established. How many are roused against this person!

Woe to one from whose mouth issues an evil word, as has been established. Before the blind you shall not put a stumbling block (ibid.)—according to its literal meaning; and they have established it as referring to one who causes another to sin [see BT Pesaḥim 22b], and also to one who strikes his grown son [see BT Mo’ed Qatan 17a]. Before the blind you shall not put a stumbling block—referring to one who has not attained the qualification to render legal decisions and yet does so, as we have learned [see BT Sotah 22a, cf. Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Talmud Torah 5:4], for it is written for many the victims she has felled… (Proverbs 7:26). This one transgresses and before the blind you shall not put a stumbling block, for he causes his fellow to stumble in the world that is coming [cf. BT Gittin 43a: ‘This stumbling block is in your hands (Isaiah 3:6). One does not understand words of Torah unless one has stumbled over them’]” (Zohar 3:84b–85b).

Whoever the man desiring life, who loves long days to see good, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit (Psalms 34:13–14, cf. BT Avodah Zarah 19b).

“Do not read You are עַמִּי (ammi), My people (Jeremiah 30:3), but rather You are עִמִּי (immi), with Me, becoming My partner! Just as I made heaven and earth by speaking, as is said: By the word of YHWH, the heavens were made (Psalms 33:6), so do you. Happy are those engaged in Torah!” (Zohar 1:5a).

Speaking Deceit

IMG_1041And he shall call, “Unclean! Unclean!” (Leviticus 13:45).

“All the afflictions man sees, outside his own affliction” (M Nega’im 2:5).

“He who declares ‘unfit’ is unfit and never speaks in praise. And Shemu’el said: With his own blemish he [stigmatizes others as] unfit” (BT Qiddushin 70a).

“It has been taught: The people of Israel are called holiness, and since they are holiness, one is forbidden to call his fellow a shameful name or to invent a nickname for him [see BT Bava Metsi’a 58b–59a]. The punishment for this is severe, all the more for other words. It has been taught: It is written, Keep your tongue from evil… [and your lips from speaking deceit] (Psalms 34:14). What does מֵרָע (me-ra), from evil, mean? That because of evil speech, מַרְעִין (mar’in), disease, descends to the world. Rabbi Yose said, ‘Whoever calls his fellow something he is not, or insults him, will be punished for something he did not do. For Rabbi Ḥiyya said in the name of Rabbi Ḥizqiyah, ‘Whoever calls his fellow wicked is cast down into Hell and struck on his jaws—except for those who are impudent toward Torah, whom one is permitted to call wicked.’

A certain man cursed his fellow. Rabbi Yeisa passed by and said to him, ‘You have acted like the wicked!’ [The man] brought him before Rabbi Yehudah. [Rabbi Yeisa] said to him, ‘I didn’t say ‘wicked,’ but ‘like the wicked,’ exhibiting behavior like the wicked; but I didn’t say that he was wicked! Rabbi Yehudah came and put the case before Rabbi El’azar, who said, ‘Surely, he is not guilty! How do we know? As is written: YHWH was like an enemy (Lamentations 2:5)—like an enemy, and not an enemy. For otherwise, not a stump of Israel would have remained in the world. Similarly, She has become like a widow (ibid. 1:1)—and not a widow; like a widow, [like a woman] whose husband has journeyed across the ocean and she waits for him. Rabbi Ḥiyya said, ‘From here it is proven—the essence of all—as is written: upon the image of the throne, an image like the appearance of a human (Ezekiel 1:26)—like the appearance of a human, and not the appearance of a human.’ Rabbi Yitsḥaq said, ‘It is written: Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men (Song of Songs 2:3)—like an apple, and not an apple; like an apple, variegated in its colors, and in colors unified.’ Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘If I have come here just to hear these words, it is enough for me!” (Zohar 2:122a, cf. ibid. 3:84b–85b).

He Traced a Circle on the Face of the Deep

IMG_0951The carpenter stretches a line, marks the outline with a stylus, he makes it with a plane, marks the outline with a compass, and makes it in the form of man, human splendor to set in a temple (Isaiah 44:13).

When He traced a circle on the face of the deep… when He set to the sea its limit (Proverbs 8:27–9).

“Come and see: Every circle in the world is formed from the midst of the single point standing in its center” (Zohar Ḥadash 5b, Sitrei Otiyyot).

“From a single point you can extend the dimensions of all things. Similarly, when the concealed arouses itself to exist, at first it brings into being something the size of the point of a needle, from there it generates everything” (Rabbi Moshe de León, Sheqel ha-Qodesh, 23–26, translated in Matt, The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism, p. 69).

“When enclosed and hidden within itself, within the supernal point above, She [Binah] assumes the form of the letter ס (samekh), enclosed within and hidden, ascending above. And when She returns and sits רְבִיעָא (revi’a), crouching, over children below to suckle them, She assumes the form of the letter ם (mem), רְבִיעָא (revi’a), quadrilateral, enclosed in four directions of the world [the first appearance of the letter ס (samekh) in the Torah is in the word הַסֹּבֵב (ha-sovev), surrounds (Genesis 2:11), and its second appearance is in the word וַיִּסְגֹּר (va-yisgor), closed (ibid., 21), see Bereshit Rabbah 17:6]” (Zohar 2:127a).

The World He Made is like a Ball Thrown from Hand to Hand

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He stretches Zaphon over the void, hangs earth over emptiness (Job 26:7).

“It is taught: Rabbi Yose says: Woe to creatures who see but know not what they see, who stand but know not on what they stand. What does the earth stand on? On the pillars, for it is said: He makes the earth shake in its setting, and its pillars shutter (Job 9:6). The pillars upon the waters, for it is said: Who stamps firm the earth on the waters (Psalms 136:6). The waters upon the mountains, for it is said: over mountains the waters stood (ibid. 104:6). The mountains on the wind, for it is said: He that forms the mountains, and creates the wind (Amos 4:13). The wind upon the storm, for it is said: Stormwind that performs His command (Psalms 148:8). Storm is תְּלוּיָה (teluyah), suspended, on the arm of the blessed Holy One for it is said: [A refuge, the God of old,] from beneath the arms of the world (Deuteronomy 33:27). But the Sages say: [The world] stands on twelve pillars, for it is said: He set out the boundaries of peoples, by the number of the sons of Israel (ibid. 32:8). And some say seven pillars, for it is said: Wisdom has built her house, she has her pillars, seven (Proverbs 9:1). Rabbi El’azar son of Shammua’ says: [It stands] on one pillar, and its name is ‘Righteous,’ for it is said: The Righteous One is the foundation of the world (Proverbs 10:25)” (BT Ḥagigah 12b).

“Rabbi Yehudah opened, God said, ‘Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters…’ (Genesis 1:6). Come and see: When the blessed Holy One created the world, He created seven רְקִיעִים (reqi’im), heavens, above; He created seven earths; He created seven seas; He created seven rivers; He created seven days; He created seven weeks; He created seven years seven times, seven thousand years that the world exists. The blessed Holy One is in the seventh of all [cf. Sefer Yetsirah §39, §42].

Seven שְׁחָקִים (sheaqim), heavens, above, and in each and every one: ministers, stars, and constellations, serving in each and every firmament—all dwelling one above the other, to receive the yoke of their Master’s kingdom. In all of those firmaments are various chariots and ministers, one upon another—some with six wings, some with four wings; some with four faces; some with two faces, some with one; some flaming fire, some water, some wind, as is written: He makes His angels winds, His ministers flaming fire (Psalms 104:4).

All those רְקִיעִין (reqi’in), firmaments, one upon the other, are like skins of an onion, some below and some above. Every firmament moves and trembles from fear of their Master; at His command they move, and at His command they stand still. And above them all, the blessed Holy One, conveying all by His power and might.

Correspondingly, seven earths below, all in the inhabited realm, although some are higher and some are lower, and the land of Israel is highest of all, and Jerusalem is highest of habitation [cf. Ibn Ezra on Genesis 1:2: ‘As to the Midrash that there are seven earths it means that the realm inhabited by human beings is divided into seven zones (or climates);’ Zohar 1:177a; 2:30b].

[Yet] our Companions who dwell in the south have seen in the books of the ancients and in the Book of Adam that those earths are divided as follows: they exist below corresponding to those firmaments above, one upon another, one upon another, and between each earth and the next is a firmament separating one from another. So all those earths are distinguished by names, and in each of them is a Garden of Eden and a Hell. In them are creatures, differing from one another, corresponding to the pattern above: some with two faces, some with four, some with one, and the appearance of these is unlike those.

Now you might say, ‘But all inhabitants of the world issued from Adam! How did Adam descend to all those earths and engender children? And how many wives did he have? Well, Adam existed only in the highest world of all called תֵּבֵל (Tevel), Firm Land, as is said: He commanded לְתֵבֵל אַרְצוֹ (le-Tevel Artso), His earth Firm Land [cf. Proverbs 8:31: Playing בְּתֵבֵל אַרְצוֹ (be-Tevel Artso), with His inhabited world]. This תֵּבֵל (Tevel), Firm Land, is linked with the firmament above and joined with the supernal Name, as is written: He judges תֵּבֵל (Tevel), the Firm Land, with righteousness (Psalms 9:9)—with righteousness [i.e., Shekhinah], surely! So the children of Adam exist in this highest one called תֵּבֵל (Tevel), Firm Land, and they are superior to all, corresponding to the pattern above.

How so? Just as above there are firmaments, with one firmament highest of all, above which is the throne of the blessed Holy One, as is said: like the appearance of sapphire, image of a throne. And upon the image of a throne, an image like the appearance of a human being upon it above (Ezekiel 1:26)—so here too in this תֵּבֵל (Tevel), Firm Land, is a king of all. And who is that? The human being, who is not to be found among all those lower ones.

And those lower ones, where did they come from? Well, from residual vapors of the earth, assisted by the firmament above, issue creatures differing from one another, some clothed in shells, like those worms found in the earth—some of them red, black, or white shells, some any color. All the creatures are like that, and they endure for only ten years or so.

[Yet] in the book of Hamnuna Sava it is explained further that all the inhabited world מִתְגַּלְגְּלָא בְּעִגּוּלָא כַּכַּדּוּר (mitgalgela be-iggula ka-kadur), revolves in a circle like a ball, some below and some above. All those creatures differ in their appearance, due to the difference of the atmosphere in every place, and they remain in existence like human beings. Consequently, there is a place in the inhabited world where day shines for some, while for others it is dark—for these it is day, while for those it is night. And there is a place where it is entirely day, and night exists for only a brief time [cf. Plato, Timaeus 62d–63a].

And that which is said in the books of the ancients and in the Book of Adam is correct, for it is written: I praise You, for awesomely and wondrously am I made, wondrous are Your works, and my soul deeply knows it (Psalms 139:14), and it is written: How many are Your works, O YHWH! All of them You made in wisdom; the earth is filled with Your creatures (ibid. 104:24). So all is fine [since these and those are the words of the Living God]. This mystery has been transmitted to the masters of wisdom and not to markers of boundaries, for it is a deep mystery of Torah.

Similarly, in the sea, which has numerous creatures differing from one another, as is written: This sea, vast and broad of reach, [gliding creatures there beyond number, living beings small and great]. There ships go, [Leviathan whom You fashioned to play with] (Psalms 104:25–26). All interdependent, all interlinked, and all corresponding to the pattern above. And in all those worlds, none rules but the human being, with the blessed Holy One over him.

Rabbi Nehorai Sava sailed on the Great Sea, and the sea grew stormy and all those aboard the ship perished. A miracle happened to him and he descended through certain pathways in the heart of the sea and emerged beneath the sea into an inhabited land. He saw some of those creatures—all of them small—and they were praying, but he did not know what they were saying. A miracle happened to him and he ascended. He said, ‘Happy are the righteous, who engage in Torah and know concealed mysteries above and below! Woe to those who dispute their words and do not believe!

From that day on, when he came to the house of study and they were uttering a word of Torah, he would weep. They asked him, ‘Why are you weeping?’ He replied, ‘Because I transgressed believing in the Rabbis, and I fear the judgment of that world” (Zohar 3:10a, cf. ZḤ 15a [MhN]; Scholem, “Parashah Ḥadashah,” 441–42).

One silver bowl (Numbers 7:13)—the world He made is כַּכַּדּוּר (ka-kadur), like a ball, thrown from hand to hand” (Bemidbar Rabbah 13:14).

“It has been taught: There are ten גַלגַלִים (galgalim), [nested] spheres, and ten מַאֲמָרוֹת (ma’amarot), commands. Each and every sphere has its command—not that it is surrounded by it, but rather it turns it. This world is [like] a mustard seed in a ring. Why? Because of the breath that blows upon it and sustains it. If this breath were to be interrupted, the world would wither in an instant” (Bahir §179, cf. Maimonides, Mishneh TorahHilkhot Yesodei ha-Torah 1:5).

“Sound of a גַּלְגַּלָּא מִתְגַּלְגְּלָא (galgalla mitgalgela), sphere revolving, from below to above; her braided chariots whirling, a sweet sound ascending and descending, drifting through the world. Sound of a shofar drawn out in depths of rungs, turning the sphere. Around her lie two מַגְרוֹפִין (magrofyan), spades [or: shovels, ladles, hydraulica, see BT Arakhin 10b–11a], on the right and on the left, in two colors intermingling—this one white, that one red—both turning the sphere above. When turning to the right, white ascends; when turning to the left, red descends. The sphere turns constantly, never subsiding. Two birds ascend chirping, one to the south, one to the north, soaring through the air. The chirping and the sweet sound of the sphere join as one, the A psalm, a song for the Sabbath day (Psalms 92:1), and all blessings flow whisperingly in this sweetness through the passionate sound of the shofar” (Zohar 1:233b, cf. BT Yoma 20b; Guide of the Perplexed 2:8; Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 75–76, 27b).