Fools See Someone in a Good-Looking Garment and They Look No Further

by tillerofthesoil

image “Rabbi Akiva says: Torah speaks in the language of men” (Sifre, Numbers 112).

“These verses may be read literally, but words of Torah are sealed. How many words of wisdom are concealed in every single word of Torah! The pathways are known; for Torah does not consist of dreamy words, transmitted to whoever interprets them and conducted by the mouth—nevertheless, requiring appropriate treatment. Now, if this is so with dreams, how much more do words of Torah—delights of the Holy King—need to be followed according to the way of truth!” (Zohar 2:95a, Sava de-Mishpatim).

“Come and see: For a king of flesh and blood, it is undignified to engage in common talk, much less to write it down. Now, would you ever imagine that the supernal King, the blessed Holy One, had no holy words to write, with which to compose the Torah, so that he had to collect all of these words about commoners—such as words about Esau, about Hagar, about Laban with Jacob, about the donkey, Balaam, and Balak, about Zimri, and all the other stories that are written—and make a Torah out of them? If so, why is it called a Torah of truth (Malachi 2:6)—Torah of YHWH is perfect; the decree of YHWH is trustworthy; The precepts of YHWH are just; the command of YHWH is lucid; the awe of YHWH is pure? And it is written: more desirable than gold… (Psalms 19:8–11). These are words of Torah! But surely it is called Torah of YHWH, Perfect Torah, and every single word comes to demonstrate other, supernal matters. The wording of the story does not come to signify itself, but rather to signify something about the totality, as has been said….

Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘Woe to the person who says that Torah intended to present a mere story and ordinary words! For if so, we could compose a Torah right now with ordinary words, and more laudable than all of them. If to display matters of the world, even worldly potentates possess words more sublime. If so, let us follow them and make a Torah out of them! But all the words of Torah correspond to the following pattern.

Come and see: The world above and the world below are evenly balanced: Israel below, supernal angels above. Of the angels is written He makes His angels spirits… (Psalms 104:4). This pertains to the celestial realm. But when they descend below, although they descend, they don garments of this world. If they are not clothed in a garment befitting this world, they cannot not endure in this world, nor can the world endure them.

If this is so with angels, then concerning Torah—who created them and all the worlds, which exist for her sake—when she descends to this world, if she does not clothe herself in garments of this world, the world cannot endure. So this story of Torah is a garment of Torah. Whoever thinks that the garment is the real Torah and not something else, may his spirit expire! He will have no share in the world that is coming! Therefore David said: Uncover my eyes, so I can see wonders out of your Torah (Psalms 119:18)—what is beneath the garment of Torah [cf. Zohar 2:99b (SM): ‘The wise who are full of eyes—although that matter is concealed there in its garment—see it through the garment’].

Come and see: There is a garment visible to all. Those fools, when they see someone in a good-looking garment, look no further. Yet the significance of that garment is the body; the significance of the body is the soul. Corresponding to this pattern, Torah has a body—and words of Torah called ‘bodies of Torah.’ This body is clothed in a garment, namely stories of this world. Fools of the world look only at that garment, the story of Torah. Those who know more do not look at the garment, but rather at the body beneath that garment. The wise—servants of the supernal King, those who stood at Mount Sinai—look only at the soul, root of all, real Torah. And in the world that is coming, they are destined to gaze upon the soul of the soul of Torah…. Happy are the righteous who look at Torah properly! As wine must sit in a bottle, so Torah must sit in this garment. Therefore, concerning Torah, one should look only at what is beneath the garment. So all these words and all these stories are garments” (Zohar 3:149b–152a, cf. Rabbi Avraham Abulafia, Mafteaḥ ha-Ḥokhmot 44).

“Happy is the share of one who engages in Torah constantly! What is written of him? But the Torah of YHWH is his delight, and on His Torah he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree (Psalms 1:2–3). Why is this adjoined to that? Well, whoever engages in Torah day and night should not be a parched tree, but rather like what? Like a tree planted by streams of water. Just as a tree has roots, bark, pith, branches, leaves, flowers, and fruit—these seven types amounting to ten, and ten to seventy—so words of Torah have a simple sense, midrashic meaning, a hint alluding to wisdom, gimatriyya’ot, hidden mysteries, sealed mysteries, one above the other; unfit and fit, impure and pure, forbidden and permitted. From here on, branches spread out in every direction. He shall be like a tree, surely! And if not, he is not a master of wisdom” (Zohar 3:202a, cf. Rabbi Avraham Abulafia, Sheva Netivot ha-Torah translated in Idel, Language, Torah, and Hermeneutics in Abraham Abulafia, p. 82–109).