Falling into the Hands of the Nations and being Ruled by Them
“’What is the meaning of the verse Through you all families of the earth will be blessed (Genesis 12:3)?… Even the other families who live on the earth are blessed solely on account of Israel… even the ships that go from Gaul to Spain are blessed solely on account of Israel.’… Rabbi El’azar son of Avina said, ‘Punishment comes into the world solely on account of Israel, as is said, I wiped out nations, their corner towers are desolate; I have made their streets waste (Zephaniah 3:6): and it is written [after]: I said, Surely she [Israel] will fear Me, would receive instruction (ibid., 7)” (BT Yevamot 63a).
“בְּרֵאשִׁית (Bereshit), In the beginning (Genesis 1:1)—first saying of all, it includes the Ten Utterances, and it is the בְּרִית אֵשׁ (berit esh), covenant of fire. From the left side it was given—Gevurah, red fire. Therefore it says, in a flame of fire (Exodus 3:2). And Moses was from the side of Levi [i.e., the left side].
Why was it made known from the bush (Exodus 3:2)? To teach She is caught between the thorns but not consumed because the roses, which are Her children [the Assembly of Israel], in the future would be exiled among the nations which are thorns [cf. Rashi, ad loc.]. This is the secret of For I will make a complete end of all the nations where I have driven you: but I will not make a complete end of you (Jeremiah 46:28)” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 27a).
Many are the wicked’s pains, but he who trusts in YHWH kindness surrounds him (Psalms 32:10).
“Rabbi Abba said, ‘What is the meaning of the verse Is YHWH among us or אָיִן (ayin), not? (Exodus 17:7). Now, were the Israelites stupid, not knowing this? They saw Shekhinah in front of them, and clouds of glory above, surrounding them—and yet they said, Is YHWH among us or not? People who saw the radiant glory of their King at the sea—and we have learned: A maidservant at the sea saw what the eyes of the prophet Ezekiel never saw—would they be so stupid as to say, Is YHWH among us or not?‘
Rather, Rabbi Shim’on said as follows: They wanted to discern between the Ancient One—concealed of all concealed, called אָיִן (Ayin), Nothingness—and the Short-Tempered One. Therefore it it is not written Is YHWH among us or לֹא (lo), not?—corresponding to what is written: whether they will follow My teaching or לֹא (lo), not (Exodus 16:4)—but rather, Is YHWH among us or אָיִן (Ayin), Nothingness?
If so, why were they punished? Well, because they caused a separation and acted by testing, as is written: and for their testing YHWH (Exodus 17:7). They said, ‘If it is this, we will ask in one way; if it is that, we will ask in another way.’ Immediately, Amalek came… (ibid., 8)'” (Zohar 2:64b).
“Amalek came [and did battle with Israel at Rephidim] (Exodus 17:8)—Rabbi Yehoshua and Rabbi El’azar Ḥisma say: this verse is to be explained according to Job: Will papyrus sprout with no marsh, reeds grow grand without water? (Job 8:11). Is it possible for papyrus to grow with no marsh, or is it possible for the reeds to exist without water? So also is it impossible for Israel to exist unless they busy themselves with the words of Torah. And because they separated themselves from Torah the enemy came upon them. For the enemy comes only because of sin and offence. In this sense it is said: And Amalek came [עֲמָלֵק (Amalek) and סָפֵק (safeq), doubt, are numerically equivalent; סִיטְרָא אַחְרָא (Sitra Aḥra), the Other Side, is numerically equivalent to עֲמָלֵקִי (Amaleqi), Amalekite, in its full spelling (עין מם למד קוף יוד)]….
Others say: רְפִידִים (Rephidim) means only רִפיוֹן יָדַיִם (riphyon yadaim), feebleness of hands [cf. 2 Samuel 17:2; רְפִידִים (Rephidim) and שְׁמָד (shemad), annihilation, are numerically equivalent]—because Israel relaxed their hold on words of Torah the enemy came upon them. For the enemy comes only because of feebleness of hands in upholding Torah, as it is said: And it came to pass, when Rehoboam had established the kingdom, and had strengthened himself, he forsook the law of YHWH, and all Israel with him (2 Chronicles 12:1). And what was the punishment for this thing? And it happened in the fifth year of Rehoboam’s reign that Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem. And he took the treasures of the house of YHWH and the treasures of the house of the king, and everything did he take, and he took all the gold bucklers that Solomon made (1 Kings 14:25–26)” (Mekhilta de-Rabbi Yishma’el, Amaleq 1).
“Come and see: When the truly virtuous engage in Torah, all those potencies of other nations and all their forces are overturned and no longer rule the world…. But if not, the donkey causes Israel to go into exile, falling into the hands of the nations and being ruled by them” (Zohar 1:243a, cf. BT Ketubbot 66b).