And my heart is pierced within me (Psalms 109:22)—in Yiddish: דאָס פּינטעלע ייִד (das pintele Yid), the little point of a Jew; in Hebrew: הַנִצוֹץ הַיְהוּדִי (ha-nitsots ha-Yehudi), the spark of a Jew (which may reside in anybody).
“In every man there is an unknown spark which seeks—indeed, demands—to unite with God. And occasionally he is aroused and craves to know God, or deny God which is the same thing” (Ba’al ha-Sullam, Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag, Writings for The Final Generation).
“The Hebrew word kabbalah means ‘reception,’ or ‘that which has been received.’ On the one hand Kabbalah refers to tradition, ancient wisdom received and treasured from the past. On the other hand, if one is truly receptive, wisdom appears spontaneously, unprecedented, taking you by surprise.
The Jewish Mystical tradition combines both of these elements. Its vocabulary teems with what the Zohar… calls ‘new ancient-words’” (Daniel Matt, The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of the Jewish Mystical Tradition, p. 1).
Cognate with קַבָּלָה (qabbalah), kabbalah, is: מַקְבִּילֹת (maqebilot), opposite, one another (Exodus 26:5), as is written, “Come and see: the world above and the world below are perfectly balanced” (Zohar 2:176b).
This blog functions as a kind of journal. I arrange different texts according to various themes in order to try and make meaning of them in light of each other, but the texts are cryptic. Therefore, one must have merit to succeed in their study, “Yehoshua son of Levi asked: ‘What is the meaning of: And this is the teaching which Moses שָׂם (sam), set, before the children of Israel (Deuteronomy 4:44)?’—if he has merit it becomes for him a סַם (sam), medicine, of life, if not, a סַם (sam), poison, of death” (BT Yoma 72b, cf. BT Ta’anit 7a).
“[However,] if a person desires to delve into Torah but cannot find anyone to teach him, and out of love for Torah he pours over her and stammers in her ignorantly, every single word ascends and the blessed Holy One delights in each one, receiving it and planting it around that stream” (Zohar 3:84b). “It is like a little baby who knows nothing and speaks half words with a stammering tongue, and his father and mother laugh with him and rejoice at his voice” (Rabbi Eli’ezer ben Yitsḥaq Papo, Pele Yo’ets).
Learning Torah is transformative:
A doctor who writes a book about the healing art does not intend that the book itself will be medicine; rather, he intends that the book should make known his thoughts or preferences on the subject of healing. Once the reader understands the principles of the healing art as written in the book, the book itself is of no intrinsic value. Thus, if the person studies the book for years on end but does not succeed in learning the principles set forth there in, his study has done nothing for him and his soul has not been improved at all, since he still does not understand the requirements of the art. In fact, his study has actually done him harm, since he has wasted time and effort without gaining understanding… [but] undoubtedly the words of Torah restore the נָפֶשׁ (nefesh), soul (Psalms 19:8). The proof is that the Halakhah obligates us to read the weekly Torah portion, twice in the original Hebrew and once in the Aramaic translation, and this includes even seemingly meaningless place names such as Atarot and Divon (Numbers 33:3). This teaches us the perfection of Torah: the very words and letters themselves have hidden inner meaning, spiritual power, and vitality [cf. Zohar 3:203b] (Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, Orchard of Pomegranates, Gate of the Letters, cf. Guide of the Perplexed 2:40).
Similarly, “Regardless of whether or not one understands what he reads in Zohar it nevertheless purifies his soul in the same way that a person who enters a perfumery leaves with the smell attached to him even if he does not buy any perfume” (Rabbi Moshe Ḥayyim Ephraim of Sudylkow, Degel Maḥaneh Efrayim, Liqqutim 5, cf. Zohar 2:128a).
This blog is also a celebration of Professor Daniel Matt’s magisterial The Zohar: Pritzker Edition. Passages from Midrash ha-Ne’lam (Zohar Ḥadash 2d-26b; Zohar 1:97b-102b, 104b-105a, 106a-107a, 109a-118a, 121a-130a, 135a-140a; Zohar Ḥadash 27a-28d; Zohar 2:4b-5b, 14a-22a; Zohar Ḥadash 59a-59c) are from the translation of Professor Nathan Wolski in The Zohar: Pritzker Edition (Volume Ten). Passages from Midrash ha-Ne’lam on Song of Songs (Zohar Ḥadash 60c-61d), Ruth (Zohar Ḥadash 46d-48a, 75a-91b), Lamentations (Zohar Ḥadash 91a-93d), Zohar on Song of Songs (Zohar Ḥadash 61d-74d), and Sitrei Torah (Zohar 1:74b-81b, 88a-90a, 97a-101b, 109b-111a; 2:146a-149b, 152a, 253b-254a, 156a-157b, 162a-b, 165a) are from the translation of Professor Joel Hecker in The Zohar: Pritzker Edition (Volume Eleven).
Passages from Bahir, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar and Ra’aya Meheimna, are adapted from the translations of Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan zt’l, Professors Isaiah Tishby zt’l, Elliot Wolfson, Pinchas Giller, and Michael Berg. Biblical quotations (except those embedded in The Zohar: Pritzker Edition) are from the translations of Professor Robert Alter and the King James Bible. Finally, the Soncino Babylonian Talmud is employed and adapted as well.
It is my hope that people not only read this blog, and navigate it using the extensive tag cloud, but share their thoughts. Best wishes בְּרָכָוֹת.