Look, All this God Performs Twice or Thrice with a Man
“י ה ו (Yod, he, vav)—Look, all this God performs twice or thrice with a גָּבֶר (gever), man [to bring back his being from the Pit, to glow in the light of life] (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 אֵלֶּה (Elleh), These, are your gods, O Israel (Exodus 32:4), and about them it is said: Thus says YHWH; For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment (Amos 2:6). After they have corrupted themselves three times and they have not merited י ה ו (yod, he, vav), about which it is said: The place where the tree falls, יְהוּא (yehu), there it will lie (Ecclesiastes 11:3). But for the fourth I will not turn away his punishment (Amos 2:6)—it will be judged in Hell by destruction, anger, and wrath.
And the garments of these three letters [י ה ו (yod, he, vav)] are known from the rainbow, namely white, red, and green. A person 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 ‘tree,’ he is, in this mystery a tree planted in a place where it does not bear fruit [cf. Psalms 1:3]. What can one do about it? One removes it and replants it elsewhere. This is why the Masters of the 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 a person who goes through many lifetimes. 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, a wicked person is not allowed more than three. 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). This is because the wicked person is afflicted and has but a bad woman—that is, the evil impulse, about which we have learnt that ‘a bad woman is like skin blanch to her husband’ (BT Yevamot 63b). What remedy does the wicked person have? Let him divorce her and be healed. For she was the cause of: וַיְגָרֶשׁ אֶת-הָאָדָם (va-yigash et ha-adam), And He drove out the human (Genesis 3:24). הָאָדָם (Ha-adam), the human—נִשְׁמְתָא (nishmeta), soul. אֶת (Et)—mate of the human: Like a bird wandering from its nest is a man wandering from his place (Proverbs 27:8)” (Zohar 3:216a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).