Look, All this God Performs Twice or Thrice with a Man
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).
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 shall redeem (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 a man [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 a man (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 the man (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).