Holding in Their Hand that Reptile
“Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘Woe to human beings who do not know, consider, or see! They are all obtuse, unaware how full the world is of strange, invisible creatures, of hidden things. If the eye were empowered to see, humans would be amazed how they themselves can endure. Come and see: This Na’amah was mother of demons. From her side issue all those inflamed by human beings, absorbing their spirit of lust, titillating them, turning them into casualties of ejaculation. Since such a casualty derives from the side of impure spirit, he must bathe to purify himself, as established by the Companions” (Zohar 1:55a, cf. Deuteronomy 23:11; BT Berakhot 6a).
“Come and see: All generations in the days of Noah exposed their sins to the world brazenly, in sight of all. One day Rabbi Shim’on was walking through the gates of Tiberias when he saw some men drawing the bow taut with the shaft of a centaur. He exclaimed, ‘What! Such brazen sin, provoking their Lord?’ He cast his eyes upon them; they were hurled into the sea and drowned” (Zohar 1:58a).
“Rabbi Yitsḥak was in the presence of Rabbi Shim’on. He asked him: This verse, And the earth was corrupt before God (Genesis 6:11)—given that humans sinned, but how did the earth [do so]? He replied: Since it is written, for all flesh had corrupted their way [upon earth] (ibid., 12), as has been said. Similarly, The earth was defiled, and I inflicted her punishment upon her (Leviticus 18:25). It was human beings who sinned. But if you ask, ‘How did earth [sin]?’ the answer is: Human beings constitute the essence of earth—they ruin earth, and it is ruined. The verse proves it, as is written: God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth (Genesis, ibid.).
Come and see: All sins of a human being are entirely his ruination, yet are susceptible to return [i.e., may be atoned by repentance]; but the sin of spilling seed, wasting his way, emitting seed upon earth, ruining both himself and the earth—of this is written: stained is your iniquity before Me (Jeremiah 2:22). Similarly, You are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil cannot abide with you (Psalms 5:5), except through great returning. Similarly, Er, firstborn of Judah, was evil in the eyes of YHWH; and YHWH slew him (Genesis 38:7). This has already been explained.
Rabbi Yehudah asked: Why did the blessed Holy One punish the world with water, and not with fire or some other element? He [Rabbi Shim’on] replied: It is a mystery! For they wasted their ways, so that the upper waters and lower waters failed to unite fittingly; so did they ruin their ways, male and female waters. So they were punished by water, just like they sinned. The water was boiling, peeling off their skin, just as they wasted their ways with boiling water [cf. BT Sanhderin 108b]. A fitting punishment, as is written: All the springs of the great abyss burst forth (ibid. 8:2)—lower waters; and the sluices of heaven opened (ibid.)—upper waters. Upper and lower waters” (Zohar 1:61b–62a).
“What he did was evil in the eyes of YHWH (Genesis 38:10). Rabbi Ḥiyya opened, In the morning sow your seed… (Ecclesiastes 11:6). Come and see how greatly a person should beware his sins and be heedful in his actions before the blessed Holy One! For numerous messengers and officials populate the world, roaming around, observing human actions and testifying about them, all recorded in a book [see M Avot 2:1].
Come and see: Of all the sins by which a person is defiled in this world, this is the sin by which he is defiled both in this world and the world that is coming: spilling one’s seed fruitlessly [cf. BT Niddah 13a–b]—emitting seed in vain by hand or foot, and becoming defiled, as is written: For You are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil cannot abide with You (Psalms 5:5). He does not enter the curtain nor gaze upon the Countenance of Days, as we have learned, for it is written: Evil cannot abide with You, and similarly: Er, Judah’s firstborn, was evil (Genesis 38:7). Therefore, Your hands are full of blood (Isaiah 1:15). Happy is the share of a person in awe of his Lord, guarded from the evil path, purifying himself to persevere in the awe of his Lord!
Come and see: In the morning sow your seed. This verse has been established: in the morning—when a man is in his prime, in his youth; then he should strive to engender children, as is written: sow your seed. Then is the time, as is written: Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth (Psalms 127:4), since he can teach them the ways of the blessed Holy One and obtain a fine reward in the world that is coming, as is written: Happy is the man who fills his quiver with them; they will not be put to shame… (ibid., 5)—in that world, when masters of judgment come to accuse him; for you cannot find a better reward in that world than one who has taught his child the awe of his Lord and the ways of Torah.
Come and see from Abraham, of whom is written For I have known him, so that he will instruct his children… (Genesis 18:19). So the merit stands him well in that world against all masters of judgment; therefore, In the morning sow your seed. And at evening—even in old age, a time when a person wanes, what is written? Do not hold back your hand—one should not forsake engendering in this world. Why? For you do not know which will prosper… (Ecclesiastes, ibid.), so that they can stand up for him in that world. Therefore, Children are the heritage of YHWH (Psalms 127:3). Who is heritage of YHWH? Bundle of the soul [Shekhinah], aspect of the world that is coming. As for this heritage, who entitles one to enter the heritage of YHWH? Children—those children entitle him to the heritage of YHWH. So, happy is the person who attains them and teaches them the ways of Torah, as has been said” (Zohar 1:188a).
“Whoever emits his seed fruitlessly is called evil and does not see the face of Shekhinah, as is written: You are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil cannot abide with You (Psalms 5:5), and similarly: Er, firstborn of Judah, was evil in the eyes of YHWH (Genesis 38:7). Here too, Woe to the wicked! Evil!—woe to that wicked one, who is evil, who made himself evil. For what his hands have perpetrated will be requited to him—to include one who fornicates with his hands, emitting seed fruitlessly; this one is tormented in that world more than all.
Come and see! For it is written: Woe to the wicked! Evil! Since it is written Woe to the wicked, why evil? But as I have said: He made himself evil. And it is written: Evil cannot abide with You. All of them ascend, whereas this one does not. Now, you might ask, ‘What about other sinners who have killed people? Come and see: All of them ascend, but he does not. Why? Because they have killed other human beings, whereas he has killed his children—his very own children!—spilling much blood.
Come and see: Of other sinners of the world is not written It was evil in the eyes of YHWH, where as here is written What he did was evil in the eyes of YHWH (ibid., 10). Why? Because he wasted on the ground (ibid., 9).
We have learned: Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘There is nothing in the world for which one cannot repent, except for this [cf. Zohar 1:61b–62a]. There is no sinner who cannot see the face of Shekhinah, except for this one, as is written: Evil cannot abide with You—at all!” (Zohar 1:219b).
“Woe to him for that punishment, woe to him for tainting the sign of the holy covenant! Woe to him for that shame, for eternal vengeance will be wreaked upon him—vengeance of this world and vengeance for that taint. This is the mystery of what is written: For the rod of wickedness shall not rest on the portion of the righteous (Psalms 125:3)… This pertains if one has not turned back completely in repentance, a turning capable of covering his deeds” (Zohar 2:214b).
“And we have learned: A man is forbidden to gaze at the beauty of a woman, so that he not have evil fantasies and be uprooted to something else. This is how Rabbi Shim’on acted when he was walking through town, followed by the Companions, and they saw beautiful women. He would lower his eyes and say to the Companions, ‘Do not turn to idols (Leviticus 19:4).’ For whoever gazes at a woman’s beauty during the day will have fantasies at night; and if they overwhelm him, he transgresses Do not make molten gods for yourselves (ibid.). Furthermore, if he has intercourse with his wife while those evil imaginings arise within him, the children they engender are called molten gods. Do not turn to idols. Rabbi Abba said, ‘A person is forbidden to look at idols of the nations or to derive benefit from them—all the more so, to look at a place that should not be seen” (Zohar 3:83b–84a).
“You shall show them no grace. [You shall not intermarry with them. You shall not give your daughter to his son, nor shall you take his daughter for your son. For he will make your son swerve from following Me…] (Deuteronomy 7:2–4). For Rav said: One is forbidden to say, ‘How beautiful is this idolatress!’ The following objection was raised: It happened that Rabban Shim’on son of Gamaliel, while standing on a step on the Temple-mount, saw a heathen woman who was particularly beautiful, and he exclaimed: ‘How great are Your works, O YHWH!’ (Psalms 104:24). Likewise, when Rabbi Akiva saw the wife of the wicked Tyranus Rufus [Governor of Judea], he spat, then laughed, and then wept. ‘Spat’—because of her originating only from a fetid drop [see M Avot 3:1]; ‘laughed’—because he foresaw that she would become a convert and that he would take her to wife; ‘wept,’ that such beauty should [ultimately] decay in the dust.
What then about Rav’s ruling? [who holds that one must not admire the beauty of a genitle woman]. [He might say that] each of these rabbis merely offered thanksgiving. For a Master has said: He who beholds goodly creatures should say, ‘Blessed be He who has created such in His world’ [cf. BT Berakhot 58b]. But is even mere looking permitted? The following can surely be raised as an objection: [When you sally forth in a camp against your enemy,] you shall keep yourself from every evil thing (Deuteronomy 23:10), that one should not look intently at a beautiful woman, even if she be unmarried, or at a married woman even if she be ugly, nor at a woman’s attractive dress, nor at male and female donkeys, or a pig and a sow, or at fowls when they are mating; even if one is all eyes like the Angel of Death!
It has been said of the Angel of Death that he is completely full of eyes. When a sick person is about to die, he stands above the head of the bed. In his hand is a drawn sword with a bitter drop suspended. When the sick person sees him, he is terrified and opens his mouth. The angel flings the drop inside [cf. Job 20:14: vipers’ bile in his gut]. From this drop he dies; from this drop he turns putrid; from this drop his face turns green [therefore the Angel of Death is called סָמָאֵל (sama’el), the Venom of God].
[What may have happened in the aforementioned case of Rabban Shim’on son of Gamaliel was that] the woman turned round a corner [and her face thus met his eyes unexpectedly]” (BT Avodah Zarah 20a).
“Our Rabbis taught: If a man counts out money from his hand into the hand of a woman so as to have the opportunity of gazing at her, even if he can vie in Torah and good deeds like Moses our teacher, he shall not escape the punishment of Hell, as it says, Hand to hand the evil will not go scot-free (Proverbs 11:21), he shall not escape from the punishment of Hell” (BT Berakhot 61a).
“Rabbi Meir used to mock עוֹבְרֵי עֲבֵירָה (overei aveirah), transgressors. One day Satan appeared to him in the guise of a woman on the opposite bank of the river. As there was no ferry, he seized the ‘rope’ and עֶבֶר (ever), crossed. When he had reached half way along the ‘rope,’ he let him go saying: ‘Had they not proclaimed in Heaven, ‘Take heed of Rabbi Meir and his learning,’ I would have valued your blood [i.e., life] at two ma’ahs.’ Rabbi Akiva used to mock transgressors. One day Satan appeared to him as a woman on the top of a palm tree. Grasping the tree, he went climbing up: but when he reached half-way up the tree he let him go, saying: ‘Had they not proclaimed in Heaven, ‘Take heed of Rabbi Akiva and his learning,’ I would have valued your blood at two ma’ahs.’
Peleimo used to say every day, ‘An arrow in the adversary’s eyes!’ One day—it was the eve of Yom Kippur—he disguised himself as a poor man and went and called out at his door; so bread was taken out to him. He said, ‘On such a day, when everyone is within, shall I be without?’ He was taken in and bread was offered him. He said, ‘On a day like this, when everyone sits at the table, shall I sit alone!’ He was led and sat down at the table. As he sat, his body was covered with sores and puss, and he was behaving repulsively. ‘Sit properly,’ he rebuked him. He said, ‘Give me a cup,’ and one was given him. He coughed and spat his phlegm into it. They scolded him, he fainted and died. Then they [the household] heard people crying out, ‘Peleimo has killed a man, Peleimo has killed a man!’ Fleeing, he hid in a toilet; he followed him, and he fell before him. Seeing how he was suffering, he disclosed his identity and said to him, why have you spoken this way [provoking me by saying: An arrow in the adversary’s eyes]? What then should I say? You should say: ‘The Compassionate rebuke Satan’ [cf. Zechariah 3:2: YHWH rebuke you, the adversary]” (BT Qiddushin 81a–b).
“Rav Yoḥanan said: Man has a small member—when he starves it, it is satisfied, and when he satisfies it, it is starving” (BT Sukkot 52b).
And I saw among the dupes, discerned among the young men a witless lad, passing through the streets, by the corner, on the way to her house he strides, at twilight, as evening descends, in pitch-black night and darkness. And, look, a woman to meet him, whore’s attire and hidden intent. Bustling she is and wayward, in her house her feet do not stay. Now outside, now in the square, and by every corner she lurks.
She seizes him and kisses him, impudently says to him: “I had to make well-being offerings, today I’ve fulfilled my vows. And so I’ve come out to meet you, to seek you, and I’ve found you. With coverlets I’ve spread my couch, dyed cloths of Egyptian linen. I’ve sprinkled my bed with myrrh, with aloes and cinnamon. Come, let us drink deep of loving till morn, let us revel in love’s delights….” She sways him with all her talk, with her smooth speech she leads him astray. He goes after her in a trice, as an ox goes off to the slaughter, as a stag prances into a halter. Till an arrow pierces his liver, as a bird hastens to the snare, not knowing the cost is his life.
And now, sons, listen to me, and attend to my mouth’s sayings. Let your heart not veer to her ways, and do not go astray on her paths. For many the victims she has felled, innumerable all whom she has killed. Through her house are the ways to Sheol, going down to the chambers of Death (Proverbs 7:7–18, 21–27).
“The secret of secrets: From the strength of the noon-flame of Isaac, from the dregs of wine, a naked shoot came forth, comprising together male and female, red like a lily, and they spread out on several sides, down several paths. The male is called Samael and his female is always included with him. Just as on the side of holiness there are male and female, so on the other side there are male and female, included one with the other. The female of Samael is called ‘serpent,’ ‘a wife of harlotry,’ ‘the end of all flesh,’ ‘the end of days.’
Two evil spirits are attached to one another. The male spirit is fine, the female spirit spreads out down several ways and paths, and is attached to the male spirit. She dresses herself in finery like an abominable harlot and stands at the corners of streets and highways in order to attract men. When a fool approaches her, she embraces him and kisses him, and mixes her dregs of wine with snake poison for him. Once he has drunk, אַסְטֵי (astei), he turns aside, after her. When she sees that he has turned aside after her from the way of truth, she takes off all the finery that she had put on for the sake of this fool [cf. Bahir §164: ‘הַשָּׂטָן (Ha-satan), the adversary, turns aside, since he weighs down the whole world on the scale of liability. How do we know? As is written, וַיֵּט (va-yet), and he turned aside, to her (Genesis 38:16), and the Targum renders this וּסְטָא (u-seta). It is likewise written שְׂטֵה (seteh), turn away, from it and pass on (Proverbs 4:15)’].
This is the finery that she uses to seduce mankind: her hair is long, red like a lily; her face is white and pink; six pendants hang at her ears; her bed is made of Egyptian flax; all the ornaments of the East encircle her neck; her mouth is shaped like a tiny door, beautified with cosmetic; her tongue is sharp like a sword; her words smooth as oil; her lips beautiful, red as a lily, sweetened with all the sweetnesses in the world; she is dressed in purple, and attired in thirty-nine items of finery. This fool turns aside after her, and drinks from the cup of wine, and commits harlotry with her, completely enamored of her. What does she do? She leaves him asleep on the bed and ascends to the realms above, accuses him, obtains authority, and descends. The fool wakes up, thinking to sport with her as before, but she takes off her finery, and turns into a fierce warrior, facing him in a garment of flaming fire, a vision of dread, terrifying both body and soul, full of horrific eyes, a sharpened sword in his hand with drops of poison suspended and dripping from it. He kills the fool, and throws him into Hell” (Zohar 1:148a–b, Sitrei Torah, cf. Zohar 1:190a–b; 2:163a–b; 3:19a, 76b–77a).
“The Queen does not dwell in one’s כֹּחַ (koaḥ), power, [namely] the כ״ח (twenty-eight) finger joints, until all the filth of the wicked, unfit slavegirl, wife to the unfit, is removed. Therefore, the Masters of Mishnah explained that ‘filthy hands are unfit to make a blessing’ (BT Berakhot 53b). This water is for cleansing the hand upon which the hand of YHWH rests. The hand of YHWH is the water of Torah. The ignorant people are considered as unclean reptiles [see BT Pesaḥim 49b]. What good will immersing in water do them, holding in their hand that reptile, which is the wicked slavegirl, stolen goods in their possession, the stolen blessings they stole from the blessed Holy One. They do not know what a blessing is, or what filth is” (Zohar 3:273b, Ra’aya Meheimna Eqev).