The Spirit within Me Seeks You at Dawn
“Rabbi Shim’on was walking on the way together with his son Rabbi El’azar, Rabbi Abba, and Rabbi Yehudah. As they were walking, Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘I am amazed how people of the world do not care to know the words of Torah and the foundation of their existence!
He opened, saying, ‘My soul desires You in the night, the spirit within me seeks You at dawn’ (Isaiah 26:9). They have established this verse and so have we, but come and see: When a person climbs into bed, his soul leaves him and ascends on high. Now, if you say that they all ascend, not everyone sees the face of the King. Rather, the soul departs, and in the body remains nothing but a trace of a pint of the heart’s vitality. The soul proceeds, seeking to ascend, countless rungs upon rungs to climb. Flying, she encounters those hooded, hunchbacked, dazzling demons of defilement. If she is pure, not having been defiled during the day, she ascends; if not, she is defiled among them, clings to them, ascends no higher. There they divulge information to her, and she grasps what is imminent [since demons possess limited foreknowledge. See Naḥmanides on Leviticus 17:7; Zohar 1:130a, 200a; 2:251b (Heikh)]. Sometimes they toy with her, disseminating deceptions [see BT Berakhot 55b; Zohar 1:183a]. She drifts this way all night long until the person awakes and she returns to her place. Woe to those sinners of the world who defile themselves and their souls!
Come and see: When those who have not defiled themselves climb into bed, the soul ascends, first entering all those rungs, ascending, not climbing to them. Then she moves on, soaring above on her own path. The soul worthy of ascending appears before the Countenance of Days, cleaving to the desire to appear in sublime longing, to gaze upon the loveliness of the King and contemplate in His palace [see Psalms 27:4]. Such a person shares constantly in the world that is coming. Such a soul yearns constantly for the blessed Holy One, yearns for Him while ascending; she does not cling to those other species of dazzling demons, but pursues the holy species—the realm from which she issued. So it is written: My soul desires You in the night, pursuing You, not being seduced by another, alien species” (Zohar 1:183a, cf. Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 34; Midrash Tehillim 11:6; Zohar 1:83a, 92a, 121b, 130a, 200a; 3:121b).