הֶבֶל (Hevel), mere breath, all humankind (Psalms 39:12).
“Come and see: When actions prove worthy below, and a person contemplates the service of the Holy King, the act he performs turns into a breath above. And there is no breath without a voice—rising, crowned above, becoming an advocate before the blessed Holy One. Every action in which a person engages that is not in the service of the blessed Holy One turns into breath that goes drifting through the world. And when the person’s soul departs, that breath whirls through the world like a stone in a sling, as is written: The soul of your enemies He will sling from the hollow of a sling (1 Samuel 25:29). Who will sling? That breath conducting it around the world. So, everything done under the sun that is not in the service of the blessed Holy One turns into a breath—but it is breaking of spirit, for it breaks the spirit, rising and falling in the world, as is written: breath and shattering of spirit (Ecclesiastes 1:14)” (Zohar 2:59a).
“A spirit leaving this world who has not grown or spread in this world undergoes rolling and finds no rest, comes revolving into the world like a stone in a sling until it finds a redeemer to redeem it…. The spirit that he left, adhering to that vessel, is not lost—for nothing in the world, be it ever so small, lacks a place in which to be hidden and absorbed; it is never lost” (Zohar 2:99b).
“Should brothers dwell together and one of them die and have no son…her brother-in-law shall come to bed with her and take her to him as wife (Deuteronomy 25:5). This decree is to marry one’s brother’s widow, since a brother’s widow is the ד (dalet) in אֶחָד (eḥad), one, and together with אָח (aḥ), brother, of [the word] אֶחָד (eḥad) it is one. And if, perish the thought, he does not with a [whole] heart wish to bring his אָח (aḥ), brother, to ד (dalet), being the wife and mate of his [deceased] brother [but focuses on his own pleasure] he creates a separation and brings Samael, another god, in between. It says of him, he would waste his seed on the ground (Genesis 38:9). [Consequently] the tip vanishes from the letter ד (dalet), of אֶחָד (eḥad) [becoming] ר (resh); [thus] אֶחָד (eḥad), one, [becomes] אַחֵר (aḥer), other [cf. BT Sotah 20a]. This is why when he would come to bed with his brother’s wife he would waste his seed on the ground so to give no seed to his brother (ibid.). Spilling seed in vain withholds many blessings from one, and [causes] separation. This is why, Er, Judah’s firstborn, was evil in the eyes of YHWH, and YHWH put him to death (ibid., 7).
Uniting the אָח (aḥ), brother, with ד (dalet) is done by means of the righteous, like בֹּעַז (Boaz), Boaz, who over came his impulse—בּוֹ עוֹז (bo oz), strength in him, namely, he has a strong impulse…. And thus it was in former times in Israel concerning redemption and concerning exchange to fulfill every condition: a man would remove his sandal and give it to his fellow man(Ruth 4:7).
This alludes to changing the Name, which here is מצפץ (MTsPTs) [a permutation of the Name יהוה (YHWH) according to the method of atbash]. אֶהְיֶה (Eheyeh), I-Will-Be [Who-I-Will-Be] (Exodus 3:14)—’אַיֵּה (Ayyeh), where, is the place of His glory to adore Him?’ (Keter Yitenu Lekha) [a piyut (liturgical hymn) used for Qedushah le-Musaf on Sabbaths and Festivals according to Sephardic custom. Cf. Rabbi Leone Modena, MS A 36a, 21–22]. יהו (YHW) is אֶהְיֶה (eheyeh), I will be—a change of place. אֲדֹנָי (Adonai) is א (alef), and אֶהְיֶה (eheyeh)—a change in deed; י (yod) is יֱהֹוִה (YHWH), and both change with אֲדֹנָי (Adonai) [on a change of name etc., see BT Rosh ha-Shanah 16b: ‘Rabbi Yitsḥaq said, ‘Four things tear up a person’s verdict: charity, crying out, a change of name, and change of deeds… and some say a change of place’].
וְזֹאת (Ve-zot), And this, was הַתְּעוּדָה (ha-te’udah), the practice, in Israel (Ruth 4:7) [one of the many appellations of Shekhinah is זֶה (zeh), ‘this’ (feminine pronoun), or זֹאת (zot), ‘this’ (masculine pronoun), perhaps because as the Divine Presence She is constantly right here, see Zohar 1:49b; 2:11b–12a; 3:8b]. הַתְּעוּדָה (Ha-te’udah), the testimony, is supernal Mother: Bind up the תְּעוּדָה (te’udah), testimony, seal Torah among My disciples (Isaiah 8:16) [צוֹר (Tsor), bind, is Binah, and since it is written bind up the testimony we derive from this that תְּעוּדָה (te’udah), testimony, is Binah (Sullam), cf. Zohar 1:4b; 3:35a], which is the חוֹתָם (ḥotam), seal, of the world, namely the seal of the Heavens and Earth [Ze’eir Anpin and Malkhut]. תְּמוּרָה (Temurah), exchanging [alluding to letter permutation]—lower Shekhinah [associated with speech and language, since שְׁכִינָה (Shekhinah) and שָׂפָה (safah), language (lit., lip), are numerically equivalent. Cf. Zohar 1:36b, 74b, 246a; 3:221a, 228a (both RM)]. Where did She hide? In her עוּלֵימָא (uleima), lad, Metatron, and יִשְׁנֶה (yishnah), he changed Her [cf. Zohar 3:277b (RM): ‘The נַעַר (na’ar), lad, youth, is called נַעֲרָה (na’arah), young woman’; Zohar 1:232a: ‘This angel is sometimes male and sometimes female. When providing blessings, it is male and called Male—like a male providing blessings for a female, so He provides blessings for the world. And when it stands in judgment over the world, it is called Female—like a female who is pregnant, so She is filled with judgment and is then called Female… all one mystery…. Correspondingly, it is written: flame of the whirling sword (Genesis 3:24)’]. There She is מְשַׁנָּה (mishnah), Mishnah. And of man, of whom it says, According to the תִפְאֶרֶת אָדָם (tif’eret adam), beauty of a man; that he may remain in the house (Isaiah 44:13)—You change his face and send him away (Job 14:20).
This is why the Masters of Mishnah have explained that ‘The way I am spelled is not the way I am pronounced in this world’; spelled יֱהֹוִה (YHWH), but pronounced אֲדֹנָי (Adonai) [see BT Qiddushin 71a: ‘Rabbi Avina raised a contradiction: It is written: That is My name; but it is also written: and thus am I invoked?—the blessed Holy One said: I am not called as I am written: I am written with יוֹד הֵא (yod, he), but I am read, אָלְף דָּלֶת (alef, dalet)’]. Yet it is written, I am YHWH, I do not change (Malachi 3:6)! He is not changed in spelling but is changed in pronunciation since writing [indicates] He does not change in His place, but in reading [which is the rung of Malkhut, called דִבּוּר (dibbur), Speech (Sullam)], when He is outside His place, He does change. Watch yourself with him and heed his voice, do not defy him… for My name is within him (Exodus 23:21)—since the female slave’s name is Adonai, her name is like the name מַטְרוֹנִיתָא (Matronita) [i.e., מְטַטְרוֹן (Metatron)]. And the blessed Holy One is changed in him, because he is a youth. In him is the mystery of, he’d return to the days of his youth (Job 33:25).
But the Shekhinah, when with the blessed Holy One does not change, nor does the blessed Holy One change when with Her. This is the meaning of, I am YHWH, I do not change. I—Shekhinah; יהוה (YHWH)—the middle pillar;[And thus it was in former times in Israel concerning redemption and concerning exchange to fulfill every condition:] a man would remove נַעֲלוֹ (na’alo), his shoe [and give it to his fellow man. And this was the practice in Israel. And the redeemer said, ‘You—acquire it,’ and he removed his shoe] (Ruth 4:7)—סַנְדַּלְפוֹן (Sandalfon), who is a סַנְדָּל (sandal), sandal, for the blessed Holy One and a נַעַל (na’al), shoe, for the Shekhinah [on performing ḥalitsah with a shoe or sandal, see BT Yevamot 102a]. But Tif’eret, who includes six sefirot, is a body for the Name יְהֹוָה (YHWH), and Malkhut is a body for the Shekhinah that is אֲדֹנָי (Adonai).
[And the elders of his town shall call to and speak to him, and if he stands and says, ‘I do not want to wed her,’] his sister in law shall approach before the eyes of the elders and slip his sandal from his foot and spit in his face and speak out and say, ‘So shall be done to the man who will not build his brothers house’ (Deuteronomy 25:8–9). It is a decree to perform חֲלִיצָה (ḥalitsah), Loosening, of the spirit from that body to which [the dead man’s soul] must join as a brother; he releases him from the brother’s bond [and the widow requires him no longer].
That spirit goes away and wanders until it is redeemed. This is what is meant by: Or his uncle or his cousin may redeem him or any of his own close kin from his clan may redeem him (Leviticus 25:49). However, if his hand [does not] attain the means [to be] redeemed (ibid.), he is like a guest going from place to place or like a slave walking with a chain around his neck until he achieves redemption from his Master from his iniquities. Woe to him who did not leave a son who will redeem him.
Elijah and heads of the Academy: It is indicated here that a prisoner cannot release himself from prison. For He is tied by the knot of the hand tefillin and bound by the head tefillin, when He has no son who will redeem him, from the aspect of בֶּן יָהּ (ben Yah), Son of God. With that knot the blessed Holy One, is a tied and bound אָח (aḥ), brother, who has no permission to redeem himself, he is ד (dalet), which is עַצְמוֹ (atsmo), itself, the אָח (aḥ), brother, called עֶצֶם מֵעֲצָמַי (etsem me-atsamai), bone of my bones (Genesis 2:23), in the skull where the head tefillin is put, and called it flesh of my flesh (ibid.), from the side of the heart” (Zohar 3:281a, Ra’aya Meheimna Ki Tetse, cf. ZḤ 38d).
“And there is a further secret, he will later come back in a גִלְגּוּלָא, (gilggula), [life] cycle, and be renewed as formerly, as is written: [And should a priest’s daughter] become a widow or divorced (Leviticus 22:13), as [his soul] being driven out of the Garden of Eden. Hence she is called גְרוּשָׁה (gerushah), divorcee, as in: וַיְגָרֶשׁ (va-yegaresh), and he drove out, the human (Genesis 3:24). And what is the reason for this? It is because she [the soul] having no seed [has] come back to her father’s house as in her youth (ibid.), that is, returns to this world, to the son of the Levirate Marriage…. And after she has been privileged to have offspring, of her father’s bread she may eat, but no outsider shall eat of it (ibid.). [This is what is written:] the wife of the dead man shall not become wife outside to a stranger (Deuteronomy 25:5)” (Zohar 3:244b, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).
“Rabbi Shesheth stated in the name of Rabbi El’azar who stated it in the name of Rabbi El’azar son of Azariyah: From where is it proved that a sister-in-law, who falls to the lot of one afflicted with boils, is not muzzled? You shall not muzzle an ox when it threshes (Deuteronomy 25:4)” (BT Yevamot 4a).
For I am YHWH, your God, Israel’s Holy One, your Rescuer. I have made Egypt your ransom, Nubia and Saba in your stead. As you are precious in My eyes, you are honored, and I love you. And I put people in your stead and nations instead of your life (Isaiah 43:3–4).
אֱלֹהִים (Elohim) will ransom my life, from the grip of Sheol He will take me. selah (Psalms 49:16).
“Every womb-breach for all flesh… and the firstborn of unclean beasts you shallredeem (Numbers 18:15). This decree is to redeem the firstborn of a donkey, to redeem for the world that is coming. If prior to going to that world he does not redeem his nafsha and ruḥa and nishmeta, with Torah, he is destined to return to this world as before: he’d return to the days of his youth (Job 33:25), and receive nafsha and ruḥa and nishmeta [on a person’s donkey-like behavior, see BT Pesaḥim 49b in the name of Rabbi Akiva, cf. Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 30a–31a].
It is written: Look, all this God performs twice or thrice with aman [to bring back his being from the Pit, to glow in the light of life] (Job 33:29)—Israel. Because ransom was taken without [merit accrued from] Torah, which is hidden silver [Ḥesed] of the World that is Coming [Binah], they returned to exile three times. [However, since they are destined to be] released [from the prison of exile] through Torah they will never return to exile for ever [cf. Tiqqunie ha-Zohar 22b]. The Rabbis came and gave him their blessings, saying, ‘Faithful Shepherd, the blessed Holy One will redeem you, and He will redeem all of Israel through your hand, and you will be renewed with them and they with you….
[Shekhinah’s] ransom is dependent on the blessed Holy One which Israel accrue to Her by the knot of the tefillin, with the sign of the Sabbath, with the marking of the festival days, with the mark of circumcision, with Torah, and with many פִּקוּדִין (piqudin), decrees [alluding to פִּיקָדוֹנוֹת (piqadonot), deposits, installments]. Since Her ransom is dependent on the blessed Holy One this is what it says, but I acted for My Name’s sake [that She should not be polluted before the nations, among whom they were, in whose sight I made Myself known to them, in bringing them forth out of the land of Egypt] (Ezekiel 20:9), and for Her: Yet even זֹאת (zot), this, [too—when they are in the land of their enemies I will not reject them…] (Leviticus 26:44) [on Shekhinah as zot, see Zohar 1:49b, 72a, 93b, 176b, 200b, 228a; 2:12a, 37b, 39b, 50b–51a, 54b, 57a, 126b; 3:31a, 41a, 179b]. In this manner, people perform many decrees in order to receive reward. Each decree has a [certain] value in that world. However, the punishment for someone who transgresses them has no value [itself]” (Zohar 3:178a–b, Ra’aya Meheimna Qoraḥ).
“יְהוּ (Yod, he, vav): Look, all this God performs twice or thrice with aman (Job 33:29). Regarding the wicked, it is said: And so I have seen the wicked brought to the grave, and from a holy place they went forth (Ecclesiastes 8:10). Causing These are your gods, O Israel (Exodus 32:4), and of them is said: Thus says YHWH; For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away his punishment (Amos 2:6). After they have corrupted themselves three times and they have not merited יהו (yod, he, vav), of which is said: The place where the tree falls, יְהוּא (yehu), there it will lie (Ecclesiastes 11:3). And for four, I will not turn away his punishment—he will be judged in Hell by destruction, anger, and wrath.
And the garments of these three letters [יהו (yod, he, vav)] are known from the rainbow, namely white, red, and green. One in his first time is white [Ḥesed]; in the second he is red [Gevurah]; and in the third he is green [Tif’eret]. And since these letters are included in Jacob, and the tree takes root, grows, and gives good fruits: Jacob shall not now be ashamed, neither shall his face now wax pale (Isaiah 29:22). So that his chariot should not journey with the evil impulse, which is the serpent, nor with any other type of evil beasts. For this reason: And he strove with an angel, and prevailed (Hosea 12:5), and because man is called אִילָנָא (ilana), Tree, he is, in this mystery, a tree planted in a place where he does not bear fruit [cf. Psalms 1:3]. What can he do about it? He removes him and replants him elsewhere. This is why the Masters of Mishnah taught that one is not considered barren until he be replanted in the land of Israel and tries to make a woman conceive there [see BT Yevamot 65b–66a].
So also, a righteous man who wanders from place to place, from house to house, is like one who goes through many [life] cycles. That is what is meant by And doing kindness to the thousandth generation for those who love Me, and for those who keep My commands (Exodus 20:6), until he achieves perfection in the world that is coming. But the guilty are not allowed more than three times. If he repents, however, we have learnt that ‘Exile atones for transgression’ (BT Sanhedrin 37b). This is why the Masters of Mishnah taught: ‘The righteous do not return to their dust’ (BT Sanhedrin 92a).
But [concerning the wicked] it says: And different earth shall be taken and the house plastered (Leviticus 14:42); Man to the dust would return (Job 34:15); And dust returns to the earth as it was [and the life-breath returns to God who gave it] (Ecclesiastes 12:7). Since he who is afflicted has but a bad wife—the evil impulse—of which we have learned, ‘A bad woman is like skin blanch to her husband’ (BT Yevamot 63b). What remedy does he have? ‘Let him divorce her and be healed’ (ibid.). For she was the cause of: וַיְגָרֶשׁ אֶת הָאָדָם (va-yigaresh et ha-adam), And He drove out theman (Genesis 3:24). הָאָדָם (Ha-adam), the man—nishmeta. אֶת (Et)—mate of the man: Like a bird wandering from its nest is a man wandering from his place (Proverbs 27:8) [the souls of women do not generally undergo new life-cycles, as is written, Look, all this God performs twice or thrice with a גָּבֶר (gaver), man (Job 33:29)—one who fails to become a אִישׁ (ish), husband, to a wife and father to children. Cf.Zohar 2:106a–109a (SdM)].
And that is why: Even the bird has found a home (Psalms 84:4)—the deceased brother’s wife. And the swallow a nest for herself (ibid.)—the redeemer [who marries the deceased brother’s widow and finds himself a nest in her]. Where she puts her fledglings (ibid.)—[they beget] a son and a daughter. Happy is he who makes a nest, And redeem what his brother sold (Leviticus 25:25)—[for she] is considered as though sold to him, for she is not his” (Zohar 3:216a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).
And the human knew Eve his woman and she conceived and bore קַיִן (qayin),Cain, and she said, “I have got me, a man with YHWH.” And she bore as well his brother הֶבֶל (hevel), Abel, and Abel became a herder of sheep while Cain was a tiller of the soil. And it happened in the course of time that Cain brought from the fruit of the soil an offering to YHWH. And Able too had brought from the choice firstlings of his flock, and YHWH regarded Abel and his offering but He did not regard Cain and his offering, and Cain was very incensed, and his face fell…. And Cain said to Abel his brother, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field Cain rose against Abel his brother and killed him. And YHWH said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said,“I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” And He said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cry out to me from the soil. And so, cursed shall you be by the soil that gaped with its mouth to take your brother’s blood from your hand.” And Cain said to YHWH, “My punishment is too great to bear” (Genesis 4:1–11).
“And Cain said to Abel his brother, ‘Let us go out to the field’ (Genesis 4:8). And it was when the two of them had gone out to the field, Cain said to Abel, ‘There is no judgment, and there is no judge, and there is no other world, and there is no gift of good reward for the righteous, and there is no punishment for the wicked. And the world was not created in compassion and it is not governed with compassion. For what reason was your offering accepted from you with favor, but from me it was not accepted with favor?!’ Abel said to him, ‘There is judgment and there is a Judge and there is another world, and there is a gift of good reward for the righteous, and punishment for the wicked. The world was created in compassion and it is governed with compassion. Because the fruits of [my] good deeds were better than yours, my offering was accepted from me with favor but from you it was not accepted with favor.’ And the two of them were arguing in the field and Cainrose againstAbel his brother and killed him (ibid.)” (Fragment Targum).
“From the filth [injected into Eve by the primordial serpent] Cain came forth and killed Abel the shepherd, of whom it is written: For he is but flesh (Genesis 6:3). בְּשַׁגַּם (Beshagam), for (ibid.), is Abel, and he killed him, as is known. However, בְּשַׁגַּם (beshagam), for, [he is but flesh. Let his days be a hundred and twenty years] is certainly [a hint to] Moses and he was firstborn of the [primordial] human [בְּשַׁגַּם (beshagam), for, is numerically equivalent to מֹשֶׁה (moshe), Moses, see BT Ḥullin 139b].
And with all this, for the sake of covering the nakedness of his father, Moses took the daughter of Jethro to be his wife. Of Jethro, it is written: And the sons of the Kenite, the father-in-law of Moses (Judges 1:16)—this has already been explained [see Sifrei Bemidbar, Be-Ha’alotekha, 78; Shemot Rabbah 27:7; Mekhilta Yitro, Amaleq, 1; Tanḥuma, Shemot, 11; cf. BT Bava Batra 109b; Zohar 3:215b (RM)]. Why was Jethro called Kenite? Because he detached himself from Cain, as is written: And Heber הַקֵּינִי (ha-qeni), the Kenite, had separated from קַיִן (qayin), Cain (Judges 4:11) [on Jethro’s seven names, see Mekhilta de-Rabbi Yishma’el, Amaleq, 3]” (Zohar 1:28b, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar).
“And they taught about Jethro: Why is his name called ‘Kenite?’ Because הַקֵּינִי (ha-qeni), the Kenite, had separated from קַיִן (qayin), Cain (Judges 4:11). The Holy Lamp [Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai] rose and said: Therefore it is said: קָנִיתִי (Qaniti), I have got me, a man with YHWH (Genesis 4:1), for [Eve] saw through the Holy Spirit that in the future [Jethro’s] sons would sit in the Chamber of Hewn Stone [meeting place of the Sanhedrin, see BT Sotah 11a]” (Zohar 3:215b, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).
“He who sheds human blood by humans [his blood will be shed] (Genesis 9:6)—that very man himself. The one slain will kill the one who killed him, according to ‘Because you drowned [them], they drowned you…’ (M Avot 2:7). Thus Abel killed Cain in the days of Moses, and the death of Korah by swallowing, measure for measure, is known. Like Korah, test and demand with warp and woof and you will find a wondrous secret [i.e., comb the fabric of the text (Numbers 16:1) lengthwise and breadthwise. Cf. M Kil’ayim 9:8; BT Sanhedrin 110a]” (Rabbi Menaḥem Tsiyyoni, Sefer Tsiyyoni, Qoraḥ, 82):
וַיִּקַּח קֹרַח בֶּן יִצְהָר בֶּן קְהָת בֶּן לֵוִי (Va-yiqaḥ qoraḥ ben yitshar ben qehat ben levi), and Korah son of Izhar son of Kohath son of Levi, and Datham and Abiram sons of Eliab and On son of Peleth sons of Reuben, took up, and they rose before Moses, and two hundred fifty men of the Israelites, community chieftains, persons called up to meeting, men of renown. And they assembled against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, “You have too much! For all the community, they are all holy, and in their midst is YHWH, and why should you raise yourselves up over YHWH’s assembly?” And Moses heard andfell on his face…. The ground that was under them split apart, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households and every human being that was Korah’s, and all his possessions (Numbers 16:1–4, 32)—קַיִן (qayin), Cain; הֶבֶל (hevel), Abel.
“‘Rabbi Akiva said: The company of Korah has no share in the world that is coming. Rabbi Eli’ezer said: YHWH kills and gives life, brings down to Sheol and raises up (1 Samuel 2:6)’ (M Sanhedrin 10:3). Our Rabbis taught: for it is said, And the earth covered over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly (Numbers 16:33)—this is Rabbi Akiva’s view. Rabbi Yehudah son of Batira said: They are as a lost article, which is sought, for it is said, I have wandered like a lost sheep. Seek Your servant, for Your commands I did not forget (Psalms 119:176).
Korah took (Numbers 16:1). Resh Laqish said: He took a bad bargain [or: purchase] for himself, being plucked out of Israel [קֵרֵחַ (qereaḥ), baldness, puns on קֹרַח (qoraḥ), Korah]. Son of יִצְהָר (yitshar), Izhar (ibid.)—a son who incensed the whole world with himself as the [heat of] צֹהַרִים (tsoharim), noon. Son of קְהָת (qehat), Kohath (ibid.)—a son who קֵהֶה (qeheh), set on edge, the teeth of his progenitors [i.e., who disgraced his parents]. Son of לֵוִי (levi), Levi (ibid.)—a son who joined the לְוָיָה (levayah), retinue, of Hell. Then why not say too ‘son of יַעֲקֹב (ya’aqov), Jacob,’ [implying] a son who עַקָב (eqev), marched, himself into Hell?—Rabbi Shemu’el son of Rabbi Yitsḥaq answered: Jacob supplicated for himself [not to be counted amongst Korah’s ancestors], as is written, In their council let me never set foot, their assembly my presence shun (Genesis 49:6): In their council let me never set foot—the spies [in no case is the genealogy of the spies traced to Jacob (Rashi)]; their assembly my presence shun—to the company of Korah. דָתָן (Datan), Datham [Korah’s ally], (ibid.)—stepped over the דָת (dat), law, of God; אֲבִירָם (Aviram), Abiram (ibid.)—stoutly refused to repent; אוֹן (on), On(ibid.)—he sat in אֹנינוֹת (oninot), lamentations; פֶּלֶת (pelet), Peleth (ibid.)—פֶּלֶאוֹת (pele’ot), wonders, were done for him [since he abandoned the conspiracy, and was miraculously saved from its fate]; son of רְאוּבֵן (reuven), Reuben—a son who רֵאָה (re’ah), saw, and הַבִין (havin), understood.
Rav said: On son of Peleth was saved by his wife. She said to him, ‘What does it matter to you? Whether the one [Moses] remains master or the other [Korah] becomes master, you are but a disciple.’ He replied, ‘But what can I do? I have taken part in their counsel, and they have sworn me [to be] with them.’ She said, ‘I know that they are all a holy community, as is written, For all the community, they are all holy (Numbers 16:3). Sit here, and I will save you.’ She gave him wine to drink, intoxicated him and laid him down within [the tent]. Then she sat down there at the entrance and loosened her hair. Whoever came [to summon him] saw her and retreated.
Meanwhile, Korah’s wife joined [the rebels] and said to him [Korah], ‘See what Moses has done. He himself has become king; his brother he appointed High Priest; his brother’s sons he has made the vice High Priests. If terumah is brought, he decrees, Let it be for the priest; if the tithe is brought, which belongs to you [being a Levite], he orders, Give a tenth part thereof to the priest. Moreover, he has had your hair cut off [in accordance with the purification rites of the Levites (see Numbers 8:7)], and makes sport of you as though you were dirt; for he cast his eyes on your hair [i.e., he is envious].’
He said to her, ‘But he has done likewise!’ She replied, ‘Since all the greatness was his, he said also, Let me die with the Philistines! (Judges 16:30) [this was used proverbially to denote readiness to suffer, so that others might suffer too—Moses, retaining all the greatness himself, did not mind shaving his own hair off, seeing that he had caused all the rest to do so, thus depriving them of their beauty]. Moreover, he has commanded you, Set [fringes] of indigo wool [in the corners of your garments (see Numbers 15:38)]; but if there is virtue in indigo wool, then bring forth indigo wool, and clothe your entire academy with it.’
Thus is written, Every wise woman has built her house (Proverbs 14:1)—wife of On son of Peleth; and Folly with her own hands destroys it (ibid.)—Korah’s wife” (BT Sanhedrin 109b–110a).
“Come and see: The Levites, who come from the side of Judgment, are not purified until their hair is removed, as is written: Thus you shall do to them to purify them: sprinkle on them expiation water and have them pass a razor over all their flesh (Numbers 8:7). And in order for them to be further assuaged, the priest, who comes from the side of Ḥesed, must elevate them, as is written: Aaron shall make of the Levites an elevation offering before YHWH (ibid., 11)….
Rabbi Yitsḥaq said, ‘The greatest of all Levites was Korah, whom the blessed holy One made below corresponding to the pattern above, calling him קֹרַח (qoraḥ), Korah…. He is קֵרֵחַ (qereaḥ), bald (Leviticus 13:40). When Korah saw his head hairless and saw Aaron bedecked with royal adornments, he felt belittled and was jealous of Aaron [cf. Tanḥuma, Qoraḥ 3; Tanḥuma (Buber), Qoraḥ 6; Bemibar Rabbah 18:4]. The blessed Holy One said to him, ‘I made you corresponding to the pattern above. You do not wish to ascend among those above? Go down and be among those below!—as is written: and they go down alive to Sheol (Numbers 16:30). What is Sheol? Hell, where the wicked cry out and no one has compassion on them. Yet they are destined to ascend and be revived when the blessed Holy One awakens His people and revives them, as is written: YHWH kills and gives life, brings down to Sheol and raises up (1 Samuel 2:6)” (Zohar 3:49a).
“Every conflict that is for the sake of heaven is destined to endure, while any conflict not for the sake of heaven is not destined to endure. Which conflict is for the sake of heaven? The conflict between Hillel and Shammai. Which conflict is not for the sake of heaven? The conflict of Korah and his entire band” (M Avot 5:17, cf. Liqqutei Moharan 64:4).
“Rabbi Abba said in the name of Shemu’el: For three years there was a conflict between the House of Shammai and the House of Hillel. These said, ‘The Halakhah accords with us.’ And the those said, ‘The Halakhah accords with us.’ Then an echo went forth announcing, ‘Both are the words of אֱלֹהִים חַיִּים (Elohim ḥayyim), the living God, but the Halakhah is in accord with the rulings of the House of Hillel.’ Since, however, both are the words of the living God, what was it that entitled the House of Hillel to have the Halakhah fixed in accord with their rulings? Because they were kindly and modest, they studied their own rulings and those of the House of Shammai [see for example BT Berakhot 10b], and were even so [humble] as to mention the words of the House of Shammai before theirs” (BT Eruvin 13b).
“[Rabbi Shim’on ha-Amsoni said:] Just as I received reward for the exposition, so I will receive reward for the retraction [to be defeated by the truth is a defeat which is also a victory]” (BT Pesaḥim 22b).
“Doubts make sages of men” (Midrash Shemu’el on M Avot 5:27).
“In the act of Creation a conflict arose between left and right, and in that conflict aroused by the left, Hell emerged, clinging there. The central pillar, who is the third day, entered between them, mediating the conflict, reconciling the two sides. Hell descended, left merged in right, and peace prevailed over all [cf. Zohar 1:87a].
Similarly the conflict between Korah and Aaron was left against right. Moses, contemplating the act of Creation, said, ‘It is fitting that I mediate the conflict between left and right.’ He endeavored to reconcile them, but the left was unwilling, and Korah stiffened his resistance. He [Moses] said, ‘Hell must certainly join in the heat of the conflict of the left. Since he does not want to join above, merging in the right, he will certainly descend below by the intensity of his rage.’ Korah did not want this conflict to be harmonized by Moses because it was not for the sake of heaven; he cared nothing about the supernal glory and denied the act of Creation. As soon as Moses saw that he had denied the act of Creation and been thrust outside, Moses became very angry (Numbers 16:5). Moses became very angry because they had denied the act of Creation. Korah denied everything above and below, as is written: who strove against Moses and Aaron as part of Korah’s band when they strove against YHWH (ibid. 26:9), below and above. So he joined what befitted him [i.e., Hell, Sheol].
A conflict arrayed as above, ascending, not descending, established rightly, is the conflict of Hillel and Shammai. The blessed holy One mediated between them, harmonizing them. This was a conflict for the sake of heaven, so Heaven [Tif’eret] mediated the conflict, and upon this conflict the world was established. This resembled the act of Creation, whereas Korah totally denied the act of Creation, disputing heaven, seeking to deny the words of Torah. He certainly adhered to Hell, so there he clung. This secret appears in The Book of Adam. When darkness aroused, it aroused intensely, thereby creating Hell, clinging to it in that conflict. As seething fury subsided, conflict of a different type arose: a conflict of love. There were two conflicts: one, beginning; one, ending. This is the way of the righteous: beginning harshly, ending gently [cf. BT Qiddushin 30b]. Korah was the beginning of the conflict: seething in wrath, he was compelled to cling to Hell. Shammai was the end of the conflict, when wrath subsides and one must arouse the conflict of love and be reconciled by heaven” (Zohar 1:17a–b).
“Rabbi Berekhiyah said: What is The words of the wise are כַּדָּרְבֹנוֹת (ka-darvonot), like goads… [given from one shepherd] (Ecclesiastes 12:11)? כַּדוּר שֶׁל בָּנוֹת (Kadur shel banot), a girls’ ball—one tosses it here, and the other tosses it there. So too the Sages, who delve into Talmud and engage in Torah: one gives his reasoning and the other his, one puts forward one account and the other another, but the words of all are from Moses, the shepherd, who received from the Singular One of the world. Since one gives one account and the other another, perhaps their words merely fly about. Therefore it is written, like nails driven in (ibid.)” (Pesiqta Rabbati 3:1).
“Composers of collections (Ecclesiastes 12:11)—those who enter and sit assembled in assemblies, declaring what is impure [to be] impure, and what is pure [to be] pure; what is impure in its place, and what is pure in its place.
Should a man think to himself, ‘Since the House of Shammai declare impure and the House of Hillel declare pure, so-and-so forbids, and so-and-so permits, how then shall I learn Torah? Therefore it says [And God spoke] all these words (Exodus 20:1).
Given from one shepherd (Ecclesiastes 12:11)—one God created them. One Leader gave them. The blessed Master of Deeds spoke them. Therefore make of your heart chambers and chambers and bring into it the words of the House of Shammai and the words of the House of Hillel, the words of those who declare impure and the words of those who declare pure” (ToseftaSotah 7:12, cf. Job 22:22; BT Ḥagigah 3b; Bemidbar Rabbah 14:4).
“One who sees a crowd says, ‘Blessed is He who knows secrets. Just as their faces are different one from the other, so are their opinions different one from the other” (JT Berakhot 9:1, 13b).
“Within Torah is power of the right, as is said: from His right hand, a fiery law for them (Deuteronomy 33:2), and left is included in right. Whoever makes right left, and left right, is as if he destroys the world.
Come and see: Aaron is right; Levites are left. Korah sought to change right into left, so he was punished. Furthermore, he possessed the לָשׁוֹן הָרַע (lashon ha-ra), evil tongue, and he was punished entirely.
Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘Left is always included in right. Korah sought to change the arrangement of above and below, so he was eliminated from above and below.
Korah took (Numbers 16:1). What is meant by took? He took evil counsel for himself. If anyone chases after something that is not his, it escapes him; and what is more, he loses what he has. Korah pursued that which was not his; he lost his own without attaining the other [cf. Tosefta Sotah 4:19; BT Sotah 9b; Bereshit Rabbah 20:5; Mishnat Rabbi Eli’ezer 18, p. 334].
Come and see: The world exists only by peace. When the blessed Holy One created the world, it could not endure until peace came and settled upon all. What is it? Sabbath, which is peace of those above and below. Then the world endured. And whoever quarrels with it will be eliminated from the world [cf. M Avot 1:18]” (Zohar 3:176a).