The Nut Garden

Gleanings of Zohar

The Pledge by Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag (Ba’al ha-Sullam)

Ba'al ha-Sullam PortraitAll of Israel are responsible for one another

And once the whole nation unanimously agreed and said, We will do and we will heed (Exodus 24:7), each member of Israel became responsible that nothing shall be missing from any other member of the nation. Only then did they become worthy of receiving the Torah, and not before. Because the Torah was not given to them before each and every one of Israel was asked if he agreed to take upon himself the mitsvah of loving others in the full measure, expressed with the words: love your fellow as yourself (Leviticus 19:18). This means that each and every one of Israel would take it upon himself to care and work for each member of the nation, and to satisfy their every need, no less than the measure embedded in him to care for his own needs.

With this collective responsibility, each member of the nation was liberated from worrying about the needs of his own body and was able to keep love your fellow as yourself in the fullest measure, and give all that he had to any needy person, since he no longer cared for the existence of his own body, as he knew for certain that he was surrounded by 600,000 loyal companions, who were standing by ready to provide for him.

For this reason, they were not ready to receive the Torah in the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but only when they came out of Egypt and became a whole nation. Only then was there the possibility to guarantee everyone’s needs without care or concern.

However, while they were still mingled with the Egyptians, a portion of their needs was necessarily given into the hands of these savages permeated with self-love. Thus, the measure that is given into the hands of foreigners will not be secured for any person of Israel because he will not be able to provide for those needs, as they will not be in possession of them. Consequently, as long as the individual is troubled with concerns for himself, he is unfit to even begin to keep love your fellow as yourself.

And evidently you discover that the giving of the Torah had to be delayed until they came out of Egypt and became a nation of their own, so that all their needs were provided for by themselves, without dependence on others. This qualifies them to receive the aforementioned עַרְבוּת (arvut), pledge, only then were they given the Torah [alternate vocalization: עֲרֵבוּת (arevut). Cf. Genesis 43:9: I will be אֶעֶרְבֶנּוּ (e’ervennu), his pledge, from my hand you may seek him; BT Sanhedrin 27b; Shevu’ot 39a: “All of Israel are עֲבִירוּת (avirut), responsible, for one another”]. It turns out that even after receiving the Torah, if a handful of Israel betray and return to the filth of self-love, without concern for others, that same amount of need that is put in the hands of those few would burden Israel with the need to provide for it themselves.

This is because those few would not pity them at all; hence, the fulfillment of love your fellow as yourself would be withheld from the whole of Israel. Thus, these rebels would those who keep the Torah to remain in their filth of self-love, for they would be prevented from engaging in love your fellow as yourself and fulfilling their love for others without their help.

As a result, “All of Israel are responsible for one another,” both on the positive side and on the negative side. On the positive side, if they keep the pledge until each cares and satisfies the needs of his fellows, they can fully keep the Torah and mitsvot, meaning bring contentment to their Maker. And on the negative side, if a part of the nation does not want to keep the pledge, but rather chooses to wallow in self-love, they cause the rest of the nation to remain immersed in their filth and lowliness without ever finding a way out of their filth.

Therefore, the Tanna described the pledge as two people on a boat, when one of them began to drill a hole in the boat. His friend asked, “Why are you drilling?” He replied, “What business is it of yours? I am drilling under me, not under you.” So he replied, “Fool! We will both drown together!” [see Vayiqra Rabbah 4:6, cf. Zohar 3:122a].

From this we learn that since those rebels wallow in self-love, through their deeds they erect an iron wall preventing the keepers of Torah from even beginning to keep the Torah and mitsvot to the full degree of love your fellow as yourself, which is the ladder for reaching cleaving with Him. And how right were the words of the proverb that said, “Fool, we shall both drown together!”

Rabbi El’azar son of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai, extends the pledge even further. It is not enough for him that all of Israel be responsible for one another, but the whole world is included in that pledge. Indeed, there is no dispute here, but everyone admits that to begin with, it is enough to start with one nation for the observance of the Torah for the beginning of the correction of the world. It was impossible to begin with all the nations at once, as they said that the blessed Holy One went with the Torah to all the peoples and tongue, but they did not want to receive it [see BT Avodah Zarah 2b-3a]. In other words, they were immersed in the filth of self-love up to their necks, some with adultery, some with robbery and murder and so on, until it was impossible to conceive, in those days, of even asking if they agreed to retire from self-love.

Therefore, the blessed Holy One did not find a people or a tongue capable of receiving the Torah, except for the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, whose ancestral merit reflected upon them, as our sages said, “The Patriarchs kept the whole Torah even before it was given” (M Qiddushin 4:14 on Genesis 26:5) [cf. Vayiqra Rabbah 2:10; Bahir §192; Zohar 3:277a (RM)]. This means that because of the exaltedness of their souls, they had the ability to attain all the ways of the blessed Holy One with respect to the spirituality of the Torah, which stems from their cleaving, without first needing the ladder of the practical part of Torah, which they had no possibility of observing at all, as is written in Matan Torah.

Undoubtedly, both the physical purity and the mental exaltedness of our holy Patriarchs greatly influenced their sons and their sons’ sons, and their righteousness reflected upon that generation, whose members all assumed the sublime service, and each and every one said clearly, We will do and we will heed. Because of this, we were chosen, out of necessity, to be a chosen people from among all the peoples. Hence, only the members of Israel were admitted into the required pledge, and not the nations of the world at all, because they did not participate in it. This is simply the reality, and how could Rabbi El’azar disagree with it?

But the end of the correction of the world will only be by bringing all the people in the world under His service, as is written, And YHWH shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one YHWH, and His name One (Zechariah 14:9). In that day—and not before. And there are several more verses, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of YHWH, [as the waters cover the sea] (Isaiah 11:9); [And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of YHWH’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills;] and all nations shall flow unto it (ibid., 2:2).

But the role of Israel towards the rest of the world resembles the role of our holy Patriarchs towards the nation of Israel: just as the righteousness of our Patriarchs helped us develop and purify until we became worthy of receiving the Torah, were it not for our Patriarchs, who kept the whole Torah before it was given, we would certainly not be any better than the rest of the nations.

Also, it is upon the nation of Israel to qualify [or: enable, prepare] itself and all the people of the world through Torah and mitsvot, to develop until they take upon themselves the sublime service, the love of others, which is the ladder to the purpose of creation: cleaving with Him.

Thus, each and every mitsvah that each man of Israel performs in order to bring contentment to his Maker, and not for any self satisfaction, helps, to some extent, with the development of all the peoples of the world. This is because it is not performed all at once, but rather by slow, gradual development, until it increases to such a degree that it can bring all the people in the world to the desired purity. And this is what our sages call “weighting down the scale of merit,” meaning that the necessary weight of merit has been reached. And they compare it to weighing on a scale, where the shifting of the balance is the attainment of the desired weight [see BT Qiddushin 40b, cf. BT Sotah 3b; Midrash Tehillim 30:4; Zohar 3:111a (RM)].

These are the words of Rabbi El’azar son of Rabbi Shim’on who said that the world is judged by its majority. He was referring to the role of the nation of Israel to accredit the world with a certain measure of merit, until they are worthy of taking upon themselves His service, no less than Israel were worthy at the time they received the Torah. In the words of our sages, it is regarded as if they had accrued enough merit to overcome the scale of liability, which is filthy self-love.

Of course, if the scale of merit, which is the sublime attainment of the benefit of loving others, overcomes the filthy scale of liability, they become qualified for the decision and the agreement to say, We will do and we shall heed, as Israel said. But before that, before they obtain sufficient merit, self-love certainly prevails and the sentence is their refusal to assume his burden.

Our sages said, “If he performs one mitsvah, happy is he for turning the scale both of himself and of the whole world on the side of merit.” This means that an member of Israel finally adds his own part to the final reckoning, as one who weighs sesame seeds and adds them one by one to the scale, until the balance tips. Certainly, everyone takes part in this tipping, and without him, the sentencing would never be completed. Similarly, it is said about the acts of a member of Israel that he sentences the whole world to a scale of merit. This is because when the matter ends and the whole world has been sentenced to a scale of merit, each and every one will have a share in this tipping, for were it not for his deeds, the tipping would have been deficient.

Thus you find that Rabbi El’azar son of Rabbi Shim’on, does not dispute the words of our sages that all of Israel is responsible for one another. Rather, Rabbi El’azar son of Rabbi Shim’on, speaks of the restoration of the whole world at the time of the end of correction, whereas our sages speak of the present, when only Israel has assumed the Torah.

And this is what Rabbi El’azar son of Rabbi Shim’on quotes from the Writings: yet a single offender destroys much good (Ecclesiastes 9:18). This is because it has already been explained that the impression that comes to a person when engaging in mitsvot between man and Omnipresent is completely the same as the impression he gets when engaging in mitsvot between man and man. He is obliged to perform all the mitsvot for its own sake, without any hope for self-interest, meaning that no light or hope returns to him through his trouble in the form of reward or honor, and so forth. Here, in this exalted point, the love of the Omnipresent and the love of his fellow unite and actually become one.

Thus he affects a certain measure of advancement on the ladder of love for others in all the people of the world in general. This is because that rung, which this individual caused by his deeds, whether large or small, ultimately joins the future in tipping the world to a scale of merit, since his share has been added and joins the tipping.

And one who commits one offence, meaning he cannot overcome and conquer his filthy self-love, and thus steals or something of the sort, weighs himself and the whole world down in the scale of liability. This is because with the revelation of the filth of self-love, the lowly nature of creation is bolstered. Thus, he withdraws a certain amount from the scale of merit. This is similar to a person removing from the scale a single sesame seed his fellow had placed there.

Thus, to that extent, he slightly tips the scale of liability. It turns out that he devalues the world, as they said, a single offender destroys much good. Because he could not overcome his petty lust, he thrust the spirituality of the whole world backwards.

With these words, we clearly understand what we said above, about the Torah being given specifically to the nation of Israel, because it is certain and unequivocal, that the purpose of creation lies on the shoulders of the whole of the human race, black, white or yellow, without any essential difference.

However, because of the descent of human nature to the lowest rung, which is the self-love that rules over all of humanity without restraint, there was no way to negotiate with them and persuade them to agree to take upon themselves, even as an empty promise, to leave their narrow world for the expansiveness of the love of others. The exception was the nation of Israel because they were enslaved in the savage kingdom of Egypt four hundred years in horrible torment.

Our sages said, “As salt sweetens meat… so does suffering wash away all the iniquity of man” (BT Berakhot 5a). Meaning they bring great purification to the body [which constitutes all of humanity]. And in addition, the purification of their holy Patriarchs assisted them, which is the most important, as some verses of Torah attest to.

Owing to the experiences [of themselves and their ancestors] they were qualified for it [cf. Nietzsche, Daybreak, 205]. And this is why the text refers to them in singular form, as is written, and Israel camped there over against the mountain (Exodus 19:2), and our sages interpret “as one man with one heart” [see Rashi: “And Israel camped there (Exodus 19:2). וַיִחַן (Va-yiḥan), and he camped [third-person masculine singular]—as one man with one heart.” See Mekhilta de-Rabbi Yishma’el ad loc].

This is because each and every member of the nation completely detached himself from self-love, and desired only to benefit his fellow, as we have demonstrated already regarding the meaning of love your fellow as yourself. It turns out that all the members of the nation came together, becoming as one heart and one man, for only then were they qualified to receive the Torah.

Thus, because of the above necessity, the Torah was given specifically to the nation of Israel, solely to the descendents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, for it was inconceivable that any stranger would take part in it. Because of that, the nation of Israel had been established as a kind of gateway by which the sparks of merit would shine upon the whole of the human race the world over.

And these sparks multiply daily, like one who gives to a treasurer, until they are filled sufficiently, that is, until they develop to such an extent that they can understand the pleasantness and tranquility that are found in the kernel of love of others. For then they will know how to tip the balance to the right, and will place themselves under His burden, and the scale of liability will be eradicated from the world.

Now there remains to complete what we have said above about the reason why the Torah was not given to our fathers, because love your fellow as yourself is the axis of the whole Torah and around which all the mitsvot revolve, so as to clarify and interpret, it cannot be observed by an individual, but only through the consent of an entire nation.

And this is why it took until they came out of Egypt, when they became worthy of observing it. And then each and every one of the nation was first asked if they agreed to take that mitsvah upon himself. And once they agreed to it, they were given the Torah. However, there still remains to clarify where we find in the Torah that the children of Israel were asked that question, and that they all agreed to it prior to receiving the Torah.

Bear in mind that these things are evident to every educated person in the invitation that the blessed Holy One had sent to Israel through Moses, prior to receiving the Torah. As is written “And now, if you will truly heed My voice and keep My covenant, you will become for Me a treasure among all the peoples, for Mine is all the earth. And as for you, you will become for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.” And Moses came and he called to the elders of the people, and he set before them all these words that YHWH had charged him. And all the people answered together and said, “Everything that YHWH has spoken we shall do.” And Moses brought back the people’s words to YHWH (Exodus 19:5-8).

These words do not seem to fit since common sense dictates that if one offers one’s fellow to do some labor, and he wants him to agree, he should give him an example of the nature of that labor and its reward. Only then can he examine whether to decline or to accept.

But here, in these two verses, we seem to find neither an example of the labor nor its reward, because he says, And now, if you will truly heed My voice and keep My covenant and he does not interpret the voice or the covenant and what they apply to. And then he says, you will become for Me a treasure among all the peoples, for Mine is all the earth.

It is not clear whether He commands us to labor to be a treasure among all the peoples, or whether this is a promise of good to us.

We must also understand the connection to the end of the verse, כִּי (ki),  for, Mine is all the earth. All three translators—Onqelos, Yonatan ben Uziel, and the Jerusalem Talmud—and all the commentators—Rashi, Naḥmanidies, etc.—try to emend its literal meaning. Ibn Ezra says, in the name of Rabbi Marinus [Rabbi Yonah ibn Yanaḥ], that כִּי (ki) means אַף עַל פִּי (af al pi), although, and he translates: you will become for Me a treasure among all the peoples, although Mine is all the earth. Ibn Ezra himself tends to agree, but this interpretation is not employed by our sages, who said that ki serves four meanings: “אוֹ (O), if [or: either], דִּלְמָא (dilema), perhaps [or: lest], אֶלָּא (ella), but [or: rather] דְּהָא (deha), because [or: that]” (BT Gittin 90a).

And he even adds a fifth meaning: אַף עַל פִּי כֵן (af al pi khen), even so. Afterwards the verse ends: and as for you, you will become for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. But here, too, it is not self-evident if this is a mitsvah and one must delve into it, or a promise of good. Also, the words, a kingdom of priests are not repeated nor explained anywhere in the Bible.

The main thing here is we must discern between a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. For according to the ordinary meaning of priesthood, it is one aspect of holiness, and it is therefore obvious that a kingdom entirely of priests must be a holy nation, so a holy nation seems redundant.

However, according to all that we have explained from the beginning of the essay until now, we learn the true meaning of the words, to resemble a negotiation of offer and agreement. This means that with these words, He really does offer them the whole form and content of the labor in Torah and mitsvot, and its worthwhile reward.

The labor in Torah and mitsvot is expressed in the words, you will become for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. A kingdom of priests—all of you, from youngest to oldest, will be like priests. Just as priests have no land or any corporeal possessions because the Name is their domain, so will the entire nation be organized so that the whole earth and everything in it will only be dedicated to the Name, may He be blessed. And no person should have any other involvement in it except to keep the mitsvot of the Name, may He be blessed, and to satisfy the needs of his fellow. Thus he will lack none of his wishes, so that no person will need to have any worry about himself.

This way, even secular tasks such as harvesting, sowing, and so forth are regarded precisely as the service of the sacrifices performed by priests in the Temple. How is it different if I keep the mitsvah of making sacrifices to the Name, which is a positive mitsvah, or if I can keep the positive mitsvah, love your fellow as yourself? It turns out that he who harvests his field in order to feed his fellow is the same as he who sacrifices to the Name. Moreover, it seems that love your fellow as yourself, is more important than he who makes the sacrifice, as we have already shown.

Indeed, this is not yet the end of it, since the whole of the Torah and mitsvot were given for the sole purpose of purifying Israel, which is cleansing of the body, after which he will be granted the true reward: cleaving with Him, the purpose of creation. And that reward is expressed in the words a holy nation. Through the cleaving with Him, we become holy, as is written, You shall be holy, for I YHWH your God am holy (Leviticus 19:2).

And you see that the words a kingdom of priests express the entire form of the service on the axis of love your fellow as yourself, meaning a kingdom entirely of priests, that the Name is their inheritance, and they have no material personal property. And we must admit that this is the only definition by which we can understand the words, a kingdom of priests. For you cannot interpret it with regard to the sacrifices on the altar, for that could not have been said of the whole nation, for who would be making the sacrifices?

Also, with regard to taking the gifts of the priesthood, who would be the givers? And also, to interpret the holiness of the priests, it has already been said, a holy nation. Therefore, this must certainly mean that it is only that the Name is their domain, that they lack any material possession for themselves, meaning love your fellow as yourself to the utmost degree, which encompasses the whole of Torah. And the words a holy nation express the entire form of the reward, which is the cleaving.

Now we understand fully the aforementioned words And now, if you will truly heed My voice and keep My covenant—to make a covenant on what I am telling you here—you will become for Me a treasure among all the peoples. You will be My treasure, and sparks of purification and cleansing of the body shall pass through you onto all the peoples and the nations of the world, for the nations of the world are not yet ready for it. And at any rate, now I need one nation to begin with, so it will be as a remedy for all the nations. And therefore He ends, for Mine is all the earth; all the peoples of the earth belong to Me, as do you, and are destined to cleave to Me.

But now, while they are still incapable of performing that task, I need a treasured people. And if you agree to be the treasure of all the nations, I command you to become for Me a kingdom of priests, which is the love of others in its ultimate form: love your fellow as yourself. This is the axis of all the Torah and mitsvot. And a holy nation is the reward in its ultimate form of cleaving with Him, which encompasses all the rewards that can ever be imagined.

These are the words of our sages in clarifying the ending, these are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites. They were precise regarding “These are the words—do not add and do not subtract” (Mekhilta de-Rabbi Yishma’el, Baḥodesh 2) [cf. Rashi]. This is perplexing: How can you say that Moses would add or subtract from the words of the Name to the point that the Name, may He be blessed, had to warn him about it? And we find none like him in the entire Torah. On the contrary, the Torah says about him: In all My house he is trusted (Numbers 12:7).

And now we can fully understand that concerning the service in its final form, as understood by a kingdom of priests, the ultimate definition of love your fellow as yourself, it was indeed conceivable for Moses to delay and refrain from revealing the outline of the service all at once, lest Israel not want to detach themselves from all material possessions and give all their wealth and property to the Name, as taught by a kingdom of priests.

Similarly Maimonides writes, that women and children must not be told of the pure service, which must not be in order to be rewarded, and wait until they grow, become wise, and have the courage to execute it [see Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Teshuvah 10:5]. Therefore, the Name, may He be blessed, gave him the aforementioned warning, “do not add,” but presented them with the true nature of the service, in all its sublimity, expressed in the words a kingdom of priests.

And regarding the reward that is understood in the words a holy nation, it was possible for Moses to contemplate interpreting and elaborating further about the pleasantness and the sublime subtleness that come with cleaving with Him, to persuade them to accept this extreme, to completely detach themselves from any worldly possessions, as do priests. Hence, he was warned, “do not add,” but be vague and do not elaborate about the entire reward included in a holy nation.

The reason for it is, had he told them about the wondrous things in the essence of the reward, they would necessarily use and assume His service in order to obtain that wonderful reward for themselves. This would be considered serving themselves, for self-interest. That, in turn, would falsify the whole purpose.

Thus we see that regarding the nature of the service expressed in the words a kingdom of priests, he was told, “do not subtract.” And about the undetermined extent of the reward, expressed by the words a holy nation, he was told, “do not add.”

Chosen to Become for Him a Treasured People: Why was the Torah Given to Israel?

“A Tanna taught in the name of Rabbi Meir: Why was the Torah given to Israel? Because they are עֹזִין (ozin), impudent [like עִזִּין (izzin), she-goats]. The academy of Rabbi Yishma’el taught: [YHWH from Sinai came and from Seir He dawned upon them, He shone from Mount Paran and appeared from Ribeboth-Kodesh,from His right hand was a fiery law for them (Deuteronomy 33:2); the blessed Holy One said: These are worthy to be given a law of fire [cf. Exodus 32:9: And YHWH said to Moses, ‘I see this people and, look, it is a stiff-necked people’]. Some say: The laws of these are like fire, for had not Torah been given to Israel no people or tongue could withstand them. And this is what Rabbi Shim’on son of Laqish said: There are three impudent ones: Israel among the peoples, the dog among animals, [and] the cock among birds. Some say: Also the goat among small cattle. And some say: Also the caper-bush among trees [because of its rapid growing, for as soon as it is plucked it grows again, see BT Shabbat 30b]” (BT Beitsah 25b).

“כִּי יַעֲקֹב בָּחַר לוֹ יָהּ יִשְׂרָאֵל לִסְגֻלָּתוֹ (Ki Ya’aqov baḥar lo Yah, Yisra’el lisgullato), For Jacob, chose for himself Yah, Israel as his own treasure (Psalms 135:4).

Come and see: Ki Ya’aqov baḥar lo Yah, For Jacob, chose for himself Yah. So far, we don’t know who chose whom: if the blessed Holy One chose Jacob, or Jacob chose the blessed Holy One! However, from what a verse reveals, we know that the blessed Holy selected Jacob for His share, as is written: for YHWH’s share is His people, Jacob His allotted inheritance (Deuteronomy 32:9). Come and see: Similarly, Jacob selected his allotted portion as his share, ascending above all rungs” (Zohar 1:161b, cf. Sifrei Devarim 312).

“Rabbi Ḥiyya opened, ‘For Yah has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel as His own treasure (Psalms 135:4). How beloved are Israel to the blessed Holy One, who desires them and wants to cleave to them and be joined with them! He made them a unique nation in the world, as is written Who is like Your people Israel, a nation unique on earth? (2 Samuel 7:23). And they desired Him and linked themselves with Him as is written: For Jacob has chosen Yah for himself. And it is written: For YHWH’s share is His people (Deuteronomy 32:9)—He entrusted other nations to princely rulers appointed over them, while for His own share He took Israel (Zohar 2:126a-b).

“Rabbi Yoḥanan said, ‘Why are the people of the princes protected, while the people of the blessed Holy One are not?’ Rabbi Yitsḥaq replied, ‘The poor man is not like the wealthy man. The poor man must guard what is his; the wealthy man does not guard what is his! All the more so since Israel hail from a King who loves truth and justice, and the first judgment He renders is on the members of His household, for He wishes them to be protected from sin more than anyone else, as is written: You alone have I known of all the families of the earth—that is why I call you to account for all your iniquities (Amos 3:2)” (Zohar 2:17b [MhN]).

“The blessed Holy One invited the other nations to receive the Torah. Now, was it not revealed before Him that they did not want it? However, so that they would have no excuse: if only He had given them the Torah, they would have kept it” (Zohar 3:20a).

“Rabbi Ḥiyya opened, ‘YHWH, when You came forth from Seir, when You strode from the field of Edom, the earth trembled, the heavens poured… (Judges 5:4). Come and see: Happy are Israel in this world and in the world that is coming, for the blessed Holy One delights in them and they cleave to Him and are called holy, Nation of YHWH. He has even elevated them to a supernal rung called Holiness, as is written: Holiness is Israel to YHWH (Jeremiah 2:3), as we have established. For from the eighth day the people of Israel cleave to His Name and are His, inscribed with His Name below, as is written: Who is like your people Israel, a unique nation on earth? (1 Chronicles 17:21). All the other nations do not cleave to Him nor follow His laws, and the holy insignia is lacking from them, so they cleave to the unholy Other Side.

Come and see: When the blessed Holy One wished to give the Torah to Israel, He summoned the people of Esau and said to them, ‘Do you want to receive the Torah? At that moment, the Holy Land quaked and sought to enter the Hollow of the Great Abyss. She said before Him, ‘Joyous splendor, two thousand years before the world was created—will I be snatched away to the uncircumcised who are not inscribed with Your covenant?’

The blessed Holy One replied, ‘O throne, throne, may a thousand such nations perish, yet the covenant of holy Torah will not be presented to them!’ As is written: YHWH, when You came forth from Seir, when You strode from the field of Edom, the earth trembled—surely, for Torah, who is the holy covenant, is given only to one who bears the holy covenant. And whoever conveys Torah and the covenant of Righteous One and Assembly of Israel, for Torah is given to this place and to no other.’

Rabbi Abba said, ‘He betrays three supernal places—betraying Torah, betraying the Prophets, and betraying the Writings. He betrays Torah, as is written: This is the Torah that Moses set before the Children of Israel (Deuteronomy 4:44). He betrays the Prophets, as is written: All your sons are disciples of YHWH (Isaiah 54:13)—they are disciples of YHWH, not others. And it is written: Seal Torah among My disciples (ibid., 8:16)—among them, not among others. He betrays the Writings, as is written: He established a testimony in Jacob, and ordained a teaching in Israel, which He commanded to our fathers to make them known to their children (Psalms 78:5). And it is written: Surely the righteous will acclaim Your name (ibid., 140:14). Who are the righteous? Righteous One and Assembly of Israel. For whoever is not circumcised and has not entered their covenant must not acclaim His Holy Name, which is Torah [cf. Deuteronomy 30:6: And YHWH your God shall circumcise your heart].

Rabbi Ḥiyya said, ‘Once the blessed Holy One revealed Himself on Mount Sinai to give Torah to Israel, the earth turned calm and tranquil again, as is written: The earth feared, and was still (Psalms 76:9)” (Zohar 3:91a-b).

“Come and see: It is written O YHWH, when You came forth from Seir, when You strode from the field of Edom, the earth trembled, the very heavens dripped, the clouds, O they dripped water (Judges 5:4). When the blessed Holy One wished to give the Torah to Israel, He went and invited the children of Esau, and they did not accept it—as is said: YHWH from Sinai came and He shone from Seir upon them (Deuteronomy 33:2), and they refused to accept it. He went to the children of Ishmael, and they refused to accept it, as is written: He radiated from Mount Paran (ibid.). Since they refused, He returned to Israel; so we have learned.

Now a question should be raised—and we have already learned that it is no sin when a person scrutinizes the details of Torah and asks his questions to elucidate its words. This verse is unsettled, and one should ask: When the blessed Holy one came to Seir, to which of their prophets did He appear? If you say that He revealed Himself to all of their people, we never find this except for Israel alone and through Moses. And, as has already been said, the verse should read as follows: YHWH to Sinai came and He shone to Seir upon them; He radiated to Mount Paran. Why from Seir upon them, and why from Mount Paran? All must be known and examined. I have already asked and have not heard and do not know.

When Rabbi Shim’on came, [Rabbi Yose] approached and asked about the matter as before. He replied, ‘This question has already been discussed. YHWH from Sinai came—as is said: Look, I am coming to you in the utmost cloud (Exodus 19:9), and from Sinai He came and revealed Himself to them. And He shone from Seir upon them—from what the children of Seir said, refusing to accept it; from this He illumined Israel, lavishing them with light and great love. Similarly, He radiated and illuminated from Mount Paran—from what the children of Paran said, refusing to accept it. From this, Israel gained greater love and radiance fittingly.

As for your asking ‘Through whom did He reveal Himself to them?’—come and see: it is a sublime mystery, and through you the matter is revealed. Torah issued from the supernal mystery of the head of the concealed King. When it reached the left arm, the blessed Holy One saw bad blood accumulating in that arm. He said, ‘I must purge and cleanse this arm; if that bad blood does not diminish, it will damage all. Surely, every defect must be eliminated from here.’

What did He do? He summoned Samael, who then came before Him. He said to him, ‘Do you want My Torah?’ He asked, ‘What’s written in it?’ He replied, ‘You shall not murder (Exodus 20:13).’ The blessed Holy One skipped to the necessary place. He said, ‘Heaven forbid! This Torah is Yours, and Yours it will remain. I don’t want this Torah.’

He went on pleading before Him, saying, ‘Master of the Universe, if You give it to me, my whole dominion will vanish, for look, my dominion is over killing—and there will be no wars—and my dominion is over the planet Mars. If so, all this will be abolished from the world! Master of the Universe, take Your Torah, and let me have no share or portion in it! But, if it pleases You, here is the people descended from Jacob—for them it is fitting.’ And he thought he was uttering slander against them.

This is He shone from Seir upon themfrom Seir, precisely, light radiated to Israel. Samael thought, ‘Surely, if Jacob’s children accept this, they will vanish from the world and never gain dominion! [Samael] responded to Him several times similarly. [The blessed Holy One] said to him, ‘You are the firstborn, and for you it is fitting.’ He replied, ‘Look, my birthright is his! It was sold to him, and I consented [see Genesis 25:29-34].’ He said to him, ‘Since you want no share in it, remove yourself from it entirely’ [even from the seven Noahide commandments, see BT Bava Qamma 38a, Avodah Zarah 2b-3a]. He replied, ‘Fine.’ He said to him, ‘Since it is so, give Me advice about what I should do, so that Jacob’s children will accept it, as you say.’ He replied, ‘Master of the Universe, they must be bribed. Take some light from the radiance of the powers of heaven and bestow it upon them, and thereby they will accept it—and here, mine will be first.’

He stripped off the radiance covering him and gave it to Him to give to Israel, as is written: He shone מִשֵּׂעִיר (mi-se’ir), from Seir, upon themfrom Seir, precisely, namely Samael, as is written: הַשָּׂעִיר (Ha-sa’ir), The goat, shall bear upon it [all their iniquities] (Leviticus 16:22). Upon them—upon Israel. Once He eliminated this, removing the bad blood from the left arm, He turned to the right arm and saw that it was similar. He said, ‘This arm, too, must be cleansed of bad blood.’ He summoned Rahab, and said to him, ‘Do you want My Torah?’ [Rahab, the sea monster, is sometimes used as a poetic epithet for Egypt (see Psalms 87:4), and here the prince of Ishmael, cf. Zohar 2:170b; 3:246b (RM); ZḤ 30d]. He replied, ‘What’s written in it?’ He skipped ahead and said, ‘You shall not commit adultery (Exodus 20:13).’ He replied, ‘Woe, if the blessed Holy One transmits this legacy to me—an evil legacy, which will eliminate my whole dominion; for I have obtained a blessing of waters, a blessing of the fish of the sea, as is written: פְּרוּ וּרְבוּ (Peru urvu), Be fruitful and multiply [and fill the water in the seas] (Genesis 1:22), and similarly: He will be פֶּרֶא (pere), a wild ass, of a man (ibid., 16:12).’

He began to plead before Him, saying, ‘Master of the Universe, we issued as two sons from Abraham! Here are the children of Isaac; give it to them, for whom it is fitting.’ He replied, ‘I cannot, for you are the first born, and for you it is fitting.’ He began to plead, saying, ‘Master of the Universe, my birthright will be his; and this light that I have thereby inherited, take and give to them.’ And so He did, as is written: הוֹפִיעַ (Hofi’a), He radiated, from Mount Paran.

Why is it written concerning Samael, וְזָרַח (Ve-zaraḥ), and He shone, whereas concerning Rahab it is written differently: Hofi’aHe appeared? Well, with the light that Samael stripped from himself, He took the sword and the killing [cf. Genesis 27:40: By your sword shall you live]—to kill by judicial sentencing, to kill properly—as is written: your triumphant sword (Deuteronomy 33:29) [cf. ZḤ 14a (MhN)], although it was not yours. And with the blessing that Rahab stripped from himself, He took a little, like someone to whom a little of his blessing appears, to enable [Israel] to be fruitful and multiply. Thus, hofi’aHe appeared, from Mount Paran, and it is not written ve-zaraḥ, and He shone. Once He had obtained these gifts for Israel from those ruling princes, He came and summoned all the myriads of holy ones (Deuteronomy 33:2), appointed over the other nations. They replied to Him similarly, and from all of them He received and obtained gifts to bestow upon Israel.

This may be compared to a doctor who had one vial full of vivifying drug, which he kept for his son. He wanted to give his son that vivifying ointment. The doctor was wise, and he said, ‘There are bad servants in my house. If they know that I am giving this present to my son, it will be evil in their eyes, and they will seek to kill him.’ What did he do? He took a little bit of deadly poison and put it on the opening of the vial. Then he called his servants and said to them, You are faithful to me; would you like this drug?

They said, Let’s see what it is. They took a bit to taste, and before even smelling it, they felt that they were about to die. They said to themselves, If he gives this drug to his son, he will die, and we will inherit our master. They said to him, Our master, this drug is fitting only for your son. Here are the wages of our labor; we leave them for you—give them to him as a bribe so that he will take this drug.

Similarly, the blessed Holy One is a wise doctor. He knew that if He gave the Torah to Israel before informing [the heavenly princes], they would pursue Israel every day on account of it and kill them. But He did this, and they gave Him gifts and presents so that [Israel] would accept it. All of these Moses received to give to Israel, as is written: You ascended the heights, you seized captives, you took gifts for humans (Psalms 68:19). Consequently, Israel inherited the Torah without any challenge or any accusation at all. Blessed is He and blessed is His name forever and forever!” (Zohar 3:192a-193a).

You Created My Innermost Parts

timeline_computers_1986.ibmpcrt.jpgFrom behind and in front You shaped me, and You set your palm upon me… For You created my innermost parts… My frame was not hidden from You… גָּלְמִי (galmi), My unformed shape, Your eyes did see, and in Your book all was written down… As for me, how weighty are Your thoughts, O God, how numerous their sum. Should I count them, they would be more than the sand. I awake, and am still with You (Psalms 139:5; 13-18).

“Rabbi Yoḥanan son of Ḥanina said: The day consisted of twelve hours. In the first hour, his dust was gathered; in the second, it was made into גּוֹלֶם (golem), a lifeless clump. In the third, his limbs were extended; in the fourth, a נְשָׁמָה (neshamah), soul, was cast into him; in the fifth, he rose and stood on his feet; in the sixth, he gave [the animals] their names; in the seventh, Eve became his mate; in the eighth, they ascended to bed as two and descended as four [i.e., Cain and his twin sister were born]; in the ninth, he was commanded not to eat of the tree, in the tenth, he sinned; in the eleventh, he was tried, and in the twelfth he was expelled and departed, as is written, Man will not rest in splendor (Psalms 49:13)” (BT Sanhedrin 38b).

“Rabbi El’azar said in the name of Rabbi Yose son of Zimra, ‘If all the nations assembled to create a single mosquito, they could not cast a soul into it!” (Bereshit Rabbah 39:14).

“Rava said: If the righteous desired it, they could create a world, as is written, But your iniquities have separated [between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear] (Isaiah 59:2). Rava created a man and sent him to Rav Zeira [cf. Zohar 1:7b; 2:179b]. He spoke to him, but he would not answer. He said to him: ‘You of the חַבְרַיָּא (ḥavrayya), Companions [or: magicians], return to your dust!’

Rav Ḥanina and Rav Oshaya would sit every Sabbath eve and engage in the סֵפֶר יְצִירָה (sefer yetsirah), Book of Formation, and make for themselves a third-grown calf and eat it [i.e., a calf that has reached one third of its full growth; or: in its third year; third born, fat]” (BT Sanhedrin 65b).

“What [magic] is entirely permitted? Like Rav Ḥanina and Rav Oshaya, who would sit every Sabbath eve and engage in the הֲלָכוֹת יְצִירָה (halakhot yetsirah), laws of formation, and make for themselves a third-grown calf and eat it” (BT Sanhedrin 67b, cf. Rabbi Avraham Abulafia, Ner Elohim, 10, 172b).

“’Rava said: If the righteous desired it, they could create a world, as is written, But your iniquities have separated (Isaiah 59:2)’ (BT Sanhedrin 65b). If not for your sins, there would not be any separation between you and Him. We thus see that Rava created a גֶּבֶר (gever), man, and sent it to Rav Zeira. He spoke to him but he did not answer. But if not for his sins, he would have answered. And from what would it have answered? His soul. But does a human being have a soul to place in him? Yes, as is written, [YHWH Elohim fashioned the human, humus from the soil,] and He blew into his nostrils the נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים (nishmat ḥayyim), breath of life (Genesis 2:7)—thus a human being has the נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים (nishmat ḥayyim)soul of life [with which he might confer language], were it not for sins, through which the soul ceases to be pure. This is the difference between you and Him, as is written, And You made him little less than אֱלֹהִים (Elohim) (Psalms 8:6). Why a little less? Since he sins, while the blessed Holy One does not. Blessed be He and blessed be His Name forever and ever; He has no sins” (Bahir §196).

And You made him little less than אֱלֹהִים (Elohim) (Psalms 8:6)—this is Jacob, as is said, [And Jacob took himself moist rods of poplar and almond and plane-tree, and peeled white strips in them, laying bare the white on the rods. And he stood the rods he had peeled in the troughs, in the water channels from which the flocks came to drink—opposite the flocks… when they came to drink.] And the flocks went into heat at the rods (Genesis 30:39). Rabbi Hoshaya: He would carve a form, and just as he carved, the water became seed within them and thus they gave birth. This teaches that he lacked only [the power] to give them נֶפֶשׁוֹת (nefeshot), life-breath” (Bereshit Rabbati, Va-Yetse 129, cf. BT Avodah Zarah 24a; Zohar 1:161a-b).

“The prophet Jeremiah was engaging with the Book of Formation alone when a heavenly voice went forth and said: Take a companion [cf. M Ḥagigah 2a]. He went to his son Sira, and they studied the book together for three years. Afterward, they set about combining the alphabets in accordance with the laws of combination, grouping, and word formation, and a man was created to them, on whose forehead stood the letters, יהוה אלהים אמת (Adonai Elohim Emet), YHWH God is Truth [cf. BT Shabbat 55a]. But this newly created man had a knife in his hand, with which he erased the letter א (alef) from the word אֶמֶת (emet), truth; there remained the word מֵת (met), dead.

Jeremiah tore his garments [in mourning over the blasphemy now implied in the inscription], and said: Why have you erased the א (alef) from אֶמֶת (emet), truth? He replied: I will tell you a parable. An architect built many houses, cities, and squares, but no one could copy his art and compete with him in knowledge and skill until two men persuaded him to teach them the secret of the art [cf. BT Sanhedrin 37a]. When they had learned how to do everything in the right way, they began to anger him with words. Finally, they broke with him and became architects on their own, except that what he charged a dollar for, they did for pennies. When people noticed this, they ceased to honor the artisan and came to them and honored them and gave them commissions when they required to have something built.

So God has made you in His image and in His shape and form. But now that you have created a man like Him, people will say: There is no God in the world beside these two! Then Jeremiah said: What solution is there? He said: Write the alphabets backward on the earth you have scattered with intense concentration. Only do not meditate in the sense of building up, as you did before, but the other way around. So they did, and the man became dust and ashes before their eyes. Jeremiah said: Truly, one should study these matters only in order to know the power and omnipotence of the Creator of this world, but not to in order to practice them” (Attributed to Yehudah ben Batira, MS Halberstam 444, 7b).

“Among the Polish Jews the golem does all kinds of housework” (Christoph Arnold, Sota hoc est Liber Mischnicus de uxore adulterii suspecta, p. 1198-99 [Altdorf, 1674]).

“[Son of Zoma said:] What labours the first man had to carry out before he obtained bread to eat! He ploughed, he sowed, he reaped, he bound [the sheaves], he threshed and winnowed and selected the ears, he ground [them], and sifted [the flour], he kneaded and baked, and then at last he ate; whereas I get up, and find all these things done for me. And how many labours the first man had to carry out before he obtained a garment to wear! He had to shear, wash [the wool], comb it, spin it and weave it, and then at last he obtained a garment to wear; whereas I get up and find all these things done for me. All kinds of people come early to the door of my house, and I rise in the morning and find all these before me” (BT Berakhot 58a).

The Spirit within Me Seeks You at Dawn

1487086622788-SnoringWhileSingle.jpeg“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. Is 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).

It is as Difficult to Match them as the Splitting of the Reed Sea

old-couples-having-fun-13__605.jpg“Our Rabbis taught: Has built a new house… has planted a vineyard… has betrothed a woman (Deuteronomy 20:5). The Torah has taught worldly advice: that a man should build a house, plant a vineyard, and then marry a wife” (BT Sotah 44a).

“Rav Shemu’el son of Rav Yitsḥaq said, When Resh Lakish began to teach about the unfaithful wife, he would say as follows: ‘A man is paired with a woman only according to his deeds; as is said: For the rod of wickedness will not rest on the portion of the righteous (Psalms 125:3). Rabbah son of Son of Ḥana said in the name of Rabbi Yoḥanan: It is as difficult to match them as the splitting of the Reed Sea; as is said: אֱלֹהִים (Elohim) brings the lonely back to their homes, sets free captives in jubilation (Psalms 68:7) [the verse is interpreted as comparing matchmaking to the release of prisoners, thus, the two are declared identical as regards difficulty, cf. Exodus 20:2: I am YHWH your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slaves]. But is that really so? After all, Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav, ‘Forty days before the formation of an embryo, a heavenly echo issues and proclaims, Daughter of so-and-so is for so-and-so! The house of so-and-so is for so-and-so! The field of so-and-so is for so-and-so!—there is no contradiction. The latter [their proclamation above] refers to the original couple [who are predestined for one another]; the former [that their union depends on good deeds], to a later couple [a second marriage]” (BT Sotah 2a, cf. BT Sanhedrin 22a).

“Rabbi Yehudah [son of Simon] opened: אֱלֹהִים (Elohim) brings the lonely back to their homes, sets free captives in jubilation (Psalms 68:7). A matron asked Rabbi Yose [son of Ḥalafta]: ‘In how many days did the blessed Holy One create His world?’ He replied, ‘In six days.’ ‘Since then what has he been doing?’ He replied, ‘He sits and matches couples: this man for that woman, this woman for that man.’ She said, ‘If that seems difficult, I can do it!’ She went and matched [her slaves], giving this woman to that man, and this man to that woman. After a while, those who had been matched started beating one another. This woman said, ‘I don’t want that man!’ This man said, ‘I don’t want that woman!’ He [Rabbi Yose] said to her [the matron], ‘If it seems easy to you, it is as difficult before the blessed Holy One as splitting the Reed Sea!’” (Bereshit Rabbah 68:4, cf. Vayikra Rabbah 8:1; Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana 2:4).

“Come and see: All those images of souls destined for the world stand before Him in couples. Later, when they arrive in this world, the blessed Holy One matches couples.

Rabbi Yossi said, ‘The blessed Holy One matches couples, proclaiming: The daughter of so-and-so for so-so!’ Rabbi Yose said, ‘How can you make such an assertion? Look at what is written: There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9)!’

Rabbi Yehudah replied, ‘The verse reads: under the sun. It is different above!’ Rabbi Yose said, ‘Why a proclamation here? Didn’t Rabbi Ḥizkiyah say in the name of Rabbi Ḥiyya: ‘At the very moment a human being issues into the world, his mate is destined for him’?

Rabbi Abba said, ‘Happy are the righteous whose souls are hidden away with the Holy King before they come into the world! For so we have learned: At the moment the blessed Holy One brings forth souls into the world, all those spirits and souls comprise male and female joined as one. They are transmitted into the hands of the emissary appointed over human conception [this angel is named לַיְלָה (Lailah), Night, see BT Niddah 16b in the name of Rabbi Ḥanina son of Papa. Cf. Job 3:3; Zohar 2:11a-b]. As they descend and are entrusted to him, they separate—sometimes one preceding the other—and he deposits them in human beings. When the time of their coupling arrives, the blessed Holy One, who know those spirits and souls, unites them as at first and issues a proclamation. When they unite they become a single body, a single soul, right and left, fittingly. So, There is nothing new under the sun.

Now, you might say ‘But we have learned: Coupling accords only with a person’s conduct. So it is! For if he is virtuous and his actions seemly, then he attains his—uniting as when issuing.

Rabbi Ḥiyya said, ‘Where should one whose acts are seemly search for his mate?’ He replied, ‘We have learned; A man should always sell everything he owns and marry the daughter of a scholar,’ for in the hands of a scholar are deposited treasures of his Lord [cf. BT Pesaḥim 49a].’

It has been taught in the mystery of the Mishnah: ‘All those arriving through cycling souls can anticipate their mates by supplication.’ Concerning this our Companions aroused: Lest another anticipate him by supplication [see BT Mo’ed Qatan 18b]’

Well spoken: ‘another,’ precisely! So coupling is difficult for the blessed Holy One [since the recycled soul replaces the originally intended husband. In order to reunite the latter with his soul mate, God has to eliminate the interloper. See Zohar 1:73b], but still, the ways of YHWH are right… (Hosea 14:10).

Rabbi Yehudah sent a question to Rabbi El’azar: ‘I know the mystery of the matter, but those who arrive through cycling souls—where do they find their mates? He sent back to him: ‘It is written: How can we provide wives for those who remain? (Judges 21:7). And then: Seize for yourselves… (ibid., 21). The episode of the Benjaminites demonstrates this. Therefore we have learned: lest another anticipate him by supplication.’

Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘Now truly, coupling is difficult for the blessed Holy One! Happy is the share of Israel, whom Torah teaches the ways of the blessed Holy One and all the treasures hidden away with Him! Truly it is written: The Torah of YHWH is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of YHWH are sure, making wise the simple… (Psalms 19:8). Happy is the share of one who engages in Torah, not parting from her, for whoever parts from Torah for a moment is like one who parts from eternal life, as is written: She is your life and the length of your days (Deuteronomy 30:20), and similarly: They will bestow on you length of days, years of life and peace (Proverbs 3:2)” (Zohar 1:91b).

“When men become worthy, they are given a wife according to their deeds. All is revealed before the blessed Holy One, and according to virtuous deeds He matches couples. Sometimes they balanced on scales, but if that man perverts his way, his mate is transferred to another until he rectifies his deeds. When he rectifies his deeds, or when his time arrives, one man is thrust out in favor of another, and this one comes to obtain what is his. This is the most difficult of all for the blessed Holy One: to thrust out a person in favor of another.

Therefore, it is the blessed Holy One who gives a man his wife, and from him couplings come. So, [House and wealth are inherited from fathers, butan insightful wife is from YHWH (Proverbs 19:14). The blessed Holy One provides a person with everything.

Now, you might say ‘An insightful wife, but not any other.’ Come and see: Even though the blessed Holy One prepares goodness to give to a person, if he deviates from the blessed Holy One toward the Other Side, then from that Other Side to which he clings comes one who brings all sorts of accusations and ills. These do not come to him from the blessed Holy One, but rather from that evil side to which he clung through those bad deeds he committed. Therefore, of a wife who is not insightful, Solomon exclaimed I find the woman more bitter than death (Ecclesiastes 7:26)—for through his sins a man draws this upon himself, through those deeds he has committed. Consequently, when the blessed Holy One delights in a man because of his worthy deeds, He designates for him a woman who is insightful and redeems him from the Other Side (Zohar 1:229a).

”Couplings are as difficult before the blessed Holy One as splitting the Reed Sea. Just as splitting the Reed Sea killed those on that side and saved these on this side, so too of couplings is written He lead out captives בַּכּוֹשָׁרוֹת (ba-kosharot), in jubilation (Psalms 68:7), and we have learned: בְּכִי וְשִׁירוֹת (bekhi ve-shirot), weeping and singing—one dies and He gives his wife to another, who is wicked and yet ends up with a fine wife. This is not just! But it is entirely concealed mysteries and all is just, and what the Companions have educed is certainly so” (Zohar 2:170b).

If he was husband to a wife (Exodus 21:3), having married and endeavored with his wife but unsuccessfully, such a man is not banished like the other [who did not even marry a wife]: he does not enter alone and does not leave alone. Rather, if he was husband to a wife, the blessed Holy One does not withhold the reward of any creature, even if they failed. What is written? His wife shall go out with him (ibid.)—both of them transmigrate, succeeding in joining as one, as before [in general, a woman soul does not undergo transmigration, see Zohar 3:216a (RM) on Job 33:29]. This man does not marry a divorcée, but rather the one with whom he endeavored at first and failed. Now they will succeed together, if they refine their deeds. Thus, his wife shall go out with him

Gives him a wife (Exodus 21:4)—from here we learn that it is not in one’s power to take a wife; rather, all is to be weighed on scales (Psalms 62:10). Gives him a wife—for it does not lie in his power. And who is she? One who is not his and was not intended for for him. Who is she? One who was designated for another, yet this man anticipates him by supplication and marries her [cf. BT Mo’ed Qatan 18b]. This one, whom he did not deserve, is given to him. The blessed Holy One sees from afar and foresees that this woman is ready to generate offspring in the world. This man anticipates by supplication, and she is given to him; and he generates fruit and sows seed in a garden not his. Therefore, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself (Exodus 21:4). O poor unfortunate one! How he exerted himself in vain, toiling and striving to bring forth fruit in a garden not his and emerging empty-handed!” (Zohar 2:106a-109a, Sava de-Mishpatim).

How Many Wicked there are in the World who Engender more Virtuous Children than the Righteous!

“[David said:] There are three signs by which this people [Israel are recognized]: [They are] compassionate, bashful, and generous. ‘Compassionate,’ as is written, And give you compassion, and be compassionate to you and make you multiply… (Deuteronomy 13:18). ‘Bashful [or: shamefaced],’ as is written, That His fear be upon your faces, [so that you do not offend] (Exodus 20:20). ‘Generous [lit., render kindnesses],’ as is written, That he will charge his sons and his household after him [to keep the way of YHWH to do righteousness and justice…] (Genesis 18:19). Anyone with these three signs is worthy of cleaving to this people” (BT Yevamot 79a, cf. BT Pesaḥim 113b: “Three the blessed Holy One loves: he who does not get angry, he who does not get drunk, and he who does not insist on his rights”).

“Ten different genealogical classes went up from Babylon [to the Land of Israel in the days of Ezra]: Priests, Levites, Israelites, [priests who became] profaned, converts, the emancipated, bastards, Gibeonites, children of unknown paternity, and foundlings. Priests, Levites and Israelites may intermarry with one another. Levites, Israelites, [priests who became] profaned, converts and emancipated slaves may intermarry with one another. Converts, the emancipated, bastards, Gibeonites, children of unknown paternity, and foundlings are permitted to intermarry with one another. That daughters of priests, however, [may be married to priests who became] profaned was not mentioned [therefore, apparently they are forbidden to each other]” (BT Yevamot 85a, cf. M Qiddushin 4:1; BT Qiddushin 69a).

“A priest takes precedence over a Levite, a Levite over an Israelite, an Israelite over a bastard, a bastard over a descendant of Gibeonites, a descendant of Gibeonites over a convert, and a convert over an emancipated slave. When is this so? When they are all equal. However, if the bastard is a scholar and the High Priest an ignoramus—the bastard scholar takes precedence over the ignorant High Priest” (M Horayot 3:8).

“[‘Ten different genealogical classes went up from Babylon: Priests, Levites…’ (M Qiddushin 4:1)] Why is it particularly taught: Went up from Babylon; let him teach, migrated to the Land of Israel? He teaches us a matter in passing, as it was taught: [Should the matter be beyond you to judge, between blood and blood, between case and case, and between injury and injury, affairs of grievances within your gates,] you shall arise and go up to the place that YHWH your God chooses, [and you shall come to the levitical priests and to the judge who will be in those days, and you shall inquire and they will tell you the matter of the judgment] (Deuteronomy 17:8): this teaches that the Temple is higher than the rest of the Land of Israel, and the Land of Israel is higher than all [other] lands. As for the Temple being higher than the rest of the Land of Israel, it is well: even as is written [Should the matter be beyond you to judge…] affairs of grievances within your gates, you shall arise and go up. But how do we know that the Land of Israel is higher than all [other] lands?—because it is written: Therefore, behold, the days come, says YHWH, that they shall no more say, YHWH lives, who brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; But, YHWH lives, who brought up and who led the descendants of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries where I had driven them; [and they shall dwell in their own land] (Jeremiah 23:7–8).

Then why particularly teach, Went up from Babylon: let him teach, went up to the Land of Israel?—this supports Rabbi El’azar. For Rabbi El’azar said: Ezra did not go up from Babylon until he made it like pure sifted flour: then he went up [he intentionally took those of inferior rank so that they should not remain in Babylon, where, owing to the absence of leaders, they might mingle with the rest of the nation. Therefore the Tanna states: went up from Babylon, intimating that in that itself he had a purpose, apart from the rebuilding of the Land of Israel, in other words, to purge the Jews in Babylon]. Abayye said: We learnt: ‘they went up’ (M Qiddushin 4:1) voluntarily; Rava said: We learnt: He [Ezra] brought them up [against their will]. And they differ over Rabbi El’azar [and his statement,] namely: Ezra did not go up from Babylon until he made it like pure sifted flour: then he went up. Abayye rejects it, Rava accepts it [for such purging could only be effected by compulsion]. Alternatively, all accept Rabbi El’azar’s statement, but they differ in this: One Master [Abayye] holds that he [merely] separated them, whereupon they voluntarily ascended [to the Land of Israel in order to become assimilated with the others]: the other Master holds that [even so] he led them up against their will.

Now, on the view that they went up [voluntarily], it is well: thus Rav Yehudah said in Shemue’l’s name: All lands are as עִיסָה (issah), dough, in comparison with the Land of Israel [dough is a mixture of flour and water, i.e., the Jews there have not such a pure descent as those in the Land of Israel], and the Land of Israel is as dough compared to Babylon [perhaps this was due to the incessant wars with the Greeks, when many Jews and Jewesses were taken captive by the enemy, and the general weakening of Jewish observance during the Hellenizing period and later when the Sadducees ruled the country. The Jews in Babylon, however, were free from all this]. But on the view that he [forcibly] led them up, they were indeed known? [In the Land of Israel too, and restrained from intermarrying, so that the Land of Israel remained just as pure as Babylon]—granted that they were known to that generation, they were not known to another generation. On the view that they went up, it is well: hence it is written: And I gathered them together to the river that runs to Ahava (Ezra 8:15); and there we camped in tents three days: and I viewed the people, and the priests, and found there none of the sons of Levi (ibid.) [He had to scrutinize them, since those of inferior descent voluntarily joined them]. But on the view that he brought them up—surely he was most careful with them!—granted that he had been careful with the unfit [of low descent], yet he had not been careful with the fit [since he knew who they were; why scrutinize them?].

‘Priests, Levites, and Israelites’ (M Qiddushin 4:1). How do we know that they had come up?—because it is written, So the priests, and the Levites, and some of the people, and the singers, and the gatekeepers, and the Nethinim, dwelt in their towns, and all Israel in their towns (Ezra 2:70).

Ḥalalim, Converts, and the Emancipated’ (M Qiddushin 4:1). How do we know ḥalalim? For it was taught: Rabbi Yose said: A חָזָקָה (ḥazaqah), presumptive right, is powerful, as is said: And of the children of the priests: the children of Habaiah, the children of Hakkoz, the children of Barzillai; who took a wife of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and was called after their name: These sought their listing among those that were reckoned by genealogy, but they were not found: therefore were they, as defiled, excluded from the priesthood. And the Tirshata [according to tradition it was Nehemiah] said to them, that they should not eat of the most holy things, till a priest could consult with Urim and with Thummim (Ezra 2:61–63) [so to speak, ‘never’ since there was no Urim and Thummim in the second Temple, see BT Sotah 48a]. Now [Ezra] said to them, You remain in your presumptive rights: of what did you partake in Exile? of the sacred food [eaten] in the country [Gevul country, a technical term denoting any part of the Land of Israel outside the Temple and Jerusalem. The reference is to תְּרוּמָה‎ (terumah), donation]. So now too [you may partake] of the sacred food [consumed] in the country [but not sacrifices. This shows that ‘they were deemed polluted’ means that they were accounted ḥalalim, who may not partake of sacrifices]. But on the view that we promote from terumah to family purity [if a priest is seen eating terumah in his town, where he is known, we assume that he is of pure descent, and permit another priest to marry his daughter], those who ate terumah, they would come to elevate them?—there it was different, because their presumptive status was weakened [when it was seen that other priests ate sacrifices and they did not, it would be known that their genealogy was suspect (Rashi). Tosafot: their status was weakened because they had failed to prove their pure descent]. Then what is meant by ‘Great is a presumptive right?’ [the phrase implies that it leads to some extraordinary concession. But since there was no reason to fear that continuance in their right would lead to error, Rabbi Yose should simply have stated that a presumptive right in the past gives a claim for the future]—because originally they ate terumah by rabbinic law, and now they were to eat terumah by Biblical law [outside the Land of Israel terumah is required by rabbinic law only]. Alternatively, after all they would now too eat only terumah by rabbinic law [terumah on fruit and vegetables, which even in the Land of Israel is only rabbinic], not Biblical; for when do we elevate from terumah to family purity? [Only when it is terumah] by Biblical law, but we do not elevate [when it is terumah] by rabbinic law. If so, why [state], ‘Great is a presumptive right?’—because formerly there was no cause to forbid it on account of terumah by Biblical law [since outside the Land of Israel there was none available],’ but now [lit., at the end], though it might have been forbidden on account of terumah by Biblical law [on their return to the Land of Israel. If they were permitted to eat rabbinically, they might come to eat Biblical terumah], they [nevertheless] ate of rabbinical, but not of Biblical [terumah]. But it is written: And the Tirshata said to them, that they should not eat of the most holy things (Ezra 2:63): thus, only of the most holy things might they not eat [which implies sacrifices of the higher sanctity], but everything else they might eat?—this is what he said: [They were to eat] neither what is called קוֹדֶשׁ (qodesh), holy, nor what is called הַקֳּדָשִׁים (ha-qadashim), holies. ‘Neither what is called qodesh,’ as is written: And no outsider shall eat a sacred donation (Leviticus 22:10); ‘nor what is called ha-qadashim,’ as is written: And should a priest’s daughter be married to an outsider, she shall not eat of the levy of the sacred donations (ibid., 12), and a Master said [explaining this:] the priestly dues [lit., ‘that which was separated’, namely, the breast and shoulder] of sacrifices she shall not eat.

[70a] Converts and the Emancipated. How do we know it?—Rav Ḥisda said, as the verse says, [And the children of Israel, who had come again out of captivity,] and all such as had separated themselves unto them from the filthiness of the nations of the land, [to seek YHWH God of Israel…] (Ezra 6:21).

‘Bastards’ (M Qiddushin 4:1). How do we know it?—because it is written: But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the slave, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, [they laughed at us, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that you do? will you rebel against the king?] (Nehemiah 2:19): and it is [also] written, [Moreover in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters to Tobiah, and the letters of Tobiah came to them.] For there were many in Judah sworn to him, because he was the son-in-law of Shecaniah the son of Arah; and his son Jehohanan had taken the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah as wife (ibid., 6:18). Now he [the Tanna of our Mishnah] holds that if a gentile or a slave has intercourse with the daughter of an Israelite, the offspring is bastard [and we have a case of such intercourse in the verses quoted]. That is well on the view that the offspring is a bastard; but on the view that it is fit, what can be said? Moreover, how do you know that they had sons [namely Tobiah and his own son, by these Jewesses]: perhaps they did not have sons? Again, how do you know that they were [originally] here [in Babylon] and then migrated; perhaps they were there [in the Land of Israel from the beginning]?—but [it is learnt] from this: And these were they who went up also from Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addon, and Immer: but they could not prove their father’s house, nor their descendants, whether they were of Israel (ibid., 7:61). Now תֵּל מֶלַח (tel melaḥ), Tel-melah [lit., saltheap], refers to those people whose deeds were like those of Sodom, which was turned into a heap of salt [cf. Genesis 19:26]: תֵּל חַרְשָׁא (tel ḥarsha), Tel-harsha [lit., heap of silence], to those who cry out ‘Father,’ and their mothers silence them [because they do not know their fathers—they are called שִׁיתוּקִי (shetuqi) in the Mishnah]; but they could not show their fathers’ houses, nor their seed [i.e., their mothers], whether they were of Israel—this refers to foundlings, gathered in from the streets. Cherub, אַדּוֹן וְאִמֵּר (addon ve-immer), Addon and Immer: Rabbi Abbahu said: אַדּוֹן אָמָר (addon amar), The Lord said: ‘I said that Israel should be as precious to Me as the cherub, whereas they made themselves like the leopard [which is not particular to copulate with its own mate. So Israel, thereby producing illegitimate offspring. The allusion to the deeds of Sodom is similar].’ Others say, Rabbi Abbahu said: The Lord said: ‘Though they have made themselves like the leopard, yet they are as precious to me as a cherub.’ Rabbah son of Son of Ḥana said: He who takes a wife who is not fitting for him [i.e., of an unfit stock], the verse stigmatizes him as though he had ploughed the whole world and sown it with salt, as is said: And these were they who went up also from Tel-melah, Tel-harsha [deriving חַרְשָׁא (ḥarsha), Harsha, from לַחֲרָשׁ (la-ḥarash), to plough. Because ‘they could not show’ etc., i.e., they were ashamed of their unseemly marriages and strove to conceal them, they turned the world into a ploughed heap sown with salt].

Rabbah son of Rav Adda said in Rav’s name: He who takes a wife for the sake of money will have unworthy children, as is said: They have dealt treacherously against YHWH: for they have begotten foreign children (Hosea 5:7). And should you think, their money is saved [to them]—therefore it is stated: Now a new moon shall devour them with their heritage (ibid.). And should you say, his portion, but not hers [because she did nothing wrong]: therefore it is said: their heritage. And should you say [only] after a long time—therefore it is said: a new moon. What does this imply?—Rav Naḥman son of Yitsḥaq said: A month comes and a month goes and their money is lost.

Rabbah son of Rav Adda also said—others say, Rabbi Salla said in Rav Hamnuna’s name: He who marries a wife who is not fit for him, Elijah binds him and the blessed Holy One whips him. And a Tanna taught: Concerning all these [Priests, Levites, and Israelites who marry a wife that is of unfit stock] Elijah writes and the blessed Holy One, attests: ‘Woe to him who disqualifies his seed, taints his family and him who takes to wife one who is not fit for him.’ And anyone who [continually] declares [others] unfit is [himself] unfit and never speaks in praise [of people]. And Shemu’el said: With his own blemish [he stigmatizes others as] unfit.

A certain man from Neharde’a entered a butcher’s shop in Pumbedita and demanded, ‘Give me meat!’ ‘Wait until Rav Yehudah son of Yeḥezqel’s attendant takes his, and then we will serve you,’ was the answer. ‘Who is Yehudah son of Shevisqe’el to take precedence over me and be served before me!’ When they went and told Rav Yehudah, he excommunicated him. They said to him, ‘He is in the habit of calling people slaves,’ whereupon he had him proclaimed a slave. Thereupon that man went and summoned him to a lawsuit before Rav Naḥman. When the summons was brought, he [Rav Yehudah] went before Rav Huna [and] asked him, ‘Shall I go or not?’ [His eminent position entitled him to refuse to recognise Rav Naḥman’s jurisdiction over himself]. ‘Actually, you need not go, being a great man; yet in honor of the Nasi’s house, arise and go’ he replied [Rav Naḥman was the son-in-law of the Resh Galuta, the official head of Babylonian Jewry. Rav Huna refers to the latter as Nasi, which strictly speaking was the corresponding title of the head of Jewry of the Land of Israel; cf. BT Ḥulin 124a]. On his arrival there he found him making a railing [to the roof of his house, in accordance with Deuteronomy 22:8]. He said to him, Do you not accept [what] Rav Huna son Idi’s [said] in Shemu’el’s name, Once a man is appointed head of a community, he may not do [manual] labour in the presence of three? [in order to preserve the dignity of his position]—‘I am [merely] making a small portion of a גונדריתא (gundrita), fence,’ he replied. ‘Is not מַעֲקֶה (ma’aqeh), fence [the Hebrew for the same], as written in the Torah, or מְחִצָה (meḥitsah), partition, as used by the rabbis, good enough?’ he replied [lit., ‘is it hateful?’—why such extravagant language?]. He said to him, ‘Sit you down on a קרפיטא (qarpita), seat, bench.’ ‘Is not סַפְסָל (safsal), as used by the rabbis, or איצטבא (itsteva), as [common] people say, good enough?’ he asked. He said, ‘Will you partake of a אֶתרוֹנגָּא (etronga), citron,’ This what Shemu’el said,’ was his reply: ‘he who says etronga, is a third [puffed up] with arrogance: either etrog, as it is called by the rabbis, or etroga, as [common] people say.’ ‘Will you drink a cup of אנבגא (anbaga), wine?’ he asked him. He answered, ‘Is the term איספרגוס (ispargus), as it is called by the rabbis, or אנפק (anpaq), as [common] people say distasteful to you?’ ‘Let [my daughter] Donag come and serve drink,’ he proposed. He replied, This is what Shemu’el says: ‘One must not make use of a woman.’ ‘[But] she is only a child!’—‘Shemu’el distinctly said: One must make no use at all of a woman, whether adult or child.’ ‘Will you send a greeting to [my wife] Yalta,’ he suggested. ‘This is what Shemu’el said,’ he replied, [To listen to] a woman’s voice is indecent.’ ‘It is possible through a messenger?’ He replied, This is what Shemu’el said: ‘One must not enquire after a woman’s welfare.’ ‘Then by her husband!’ He said, This is what Shemu’el said: ‘One must not enquire after a woman’s welfare at all.’ His wife sent [word] to him, ‘Settle his case for him, lest he make you like any ignoramus!’ ‘Why are you here?’ he asked him. ‘You sent me a summons,’ he replied. ‘Seeing that I do not even know your way of speech,’ he exclaimed: ‘would I send you a summons!’ Thereupon he drew out the summons from his bosom and showed [it] to him: ‘Behold the man and behold the summons!’ he said. ‘Yet since you have come here,’ he said: ‘let us discuss the matter, that it may not be said that the rabbis show flatter each other.’ Then he asked him, ‘Why did you excommunicate that man?’ ‘Because he abused the rabbis’ messenger.’ ‘Then you should have punished him [by flogging], for Rav punished [by flogging] him who abused a messenger of the rabbis.’—‘I dealt with him more severely’ [Tosafot in Yevamot 52a suggests that the reason was because he had insulted the Rabbi himself]. ‘Why did you have it proclaimed that he is a slave?’ He answered: ‘Because he was in the habit of calling [other] people slaves, and he who declares [others] unfit is [himself] unfit, and never speaks good [of anyone, cf. M Nega’im 2:5: ‘All the afflictions man sees, outside his own affliction’]; and Shemu’el said: With his own blemish he [stigmatizes others as] unfit.’ ‘But how did Shemu’el say this: only that one must suspect; yet did he say that he is to be proclaimed [so]?’ Meanwhile, his opponent said to Rav Yehudah, ‘You call me a slave,—I who am descended from the royal house of the Hasmoneans!’—‘This is what Shemu’el said,’ he replied: ‘Whoever says: “I am descended from the house of the Hasmoneans is a slave’ [because the dynasty was wiped out by Herod, who, in spite of ascending the throne, was always regarded by the Jew’s as an Idumean slave. He, to exalt his children, called them Hasmoneans, see BT Bava Batra 3b]. [Rav Naḥman, who heard this exchange] said to him, ‘Do you not agree with what was said by Rabbi Abba in the name of Rav Huna in Rav’s name: Every scholar who proceeds to give a ruling [in his teacher’s name]: if he has stated it before the event, he is heeded; if not, he is not heeded?’ [i.e., when he gives a traditional ruling bearing on his own case, he is believed only if he had stated it before the same arose]—‘But there is Rav Mattanah who supports me,’ he replied. Now, Rav Mattanah had not seen Neharde’a for thirteen years, but on that day he visited it. He said to him [Rav Yehudah], ‘Do you remember what Shemu’el said when he stood with one foot on the bank and one foot on the ferry?’—‘Thus said Shemu’el’, he replied: ‘He who claims, I am descended from the royal house of the Hasmoneans, is a slave, because there remained of them only one young girl who ascended a roof, lifted up her voice and cried out, Whoever says I am descended from the house of the Hasmoneans is a slave;’ then she fell from the roof and died.’ So he [Rav Yehudah’s litigant] was proclaimed a slave. On that day many ketubbot were torn up in Neharde’a [of women who belonged to that family, and accordingly bore the status of slaves, so that their marriage was invalid]. When he [Rav Yehudah] was leaving, they came out after him to stone him [for revealing their inferiority]. [But] he threatened them, ‘If you will be silent, be silent; if not, I will disclose against you what Shemu’el said: There are two families in Neharde’a, one called The House of Dove and the other, The House of Raven; and your mnemonic is, Unclean is unclean and the clean clean’ [the dove is a clean bird (i.e., fit for food); the raven is unclean. The House of Jonah is of pure descent; the other is not. Descendants of the two families were probably widespread in Neharde’a, but their origin was forgotten: hence the threat]. They threw away the stones out of their hands, which created a dam in the royal canal [so many were there].

[At that time] Rav Yehudah announced in Pumbedita: Adda and Yonathan are slaves; Yehudah son of Papa is a bastard: Bati son of Tuviyyah in his arrogance refused to accept a bill of emancipation. Rava proclaimed in Meḥoza: Balla’ai, Danna’ai, Talla’ai, Malla’ai, Zagga’ai [these are either places or family names. Probably they are contemptuous nicknames, which may mean, old rags, barrels, patches, stuffings and grape skins]—all these are unfit.

Rav Yehudah said: The Gova’ai are Gibeonites; Dorenunita is a village of Nethinim [Gibeonites]. Rav Yosef said: This Bei Kuvei of Pumbedita [in the vicinity] of Pumbedita consists entirely of slaves [who had intermingled with the populace, though they had never been formally emancipated]. Rav Yehudah said in Shemue’l’s name: Pashḥur son of Immer [a priestly contemporary of Jeremiah who had him put in the stocks because of his dire prophecies of national disaster] had four hundred slaves—others say, four thousand slaves—and all became mixed up in the priesthood, and every priest who displays impudence is [descended] from none but them. Abayye said: And they all sit in the Wall [i.e., the rows of honor] of Neharde’a. Now he [Rav Yehudah] differs from Rabbi El’azar. For Rabbi El’azar said: If you see a priest with brazen forehead, have no suspicions of him, for it is said: [Yet let no man strive, nor reprove another:] for your people are as they that strive with the priest (Hosea 4:4).

Rabbi Avin son of Rav Adda said in Rav’s name: Whoever takes a wife who is not fit for him [i.e., of an unfit stock], when the blessed Holy One causes His Divine Presence to rest [on Israel], He testifies with regard to all the tribes [that they are His people], but does not testify with regard to him, for it is said: The tribes go up, the Tribes of Yah. An ordinance it is for Israel (Psalms 122:4–5): when is it an ordinance… for Israel? When the tribes are Tribes of Yah [but not when their lineage is flawed]. Rabbi Ḥama son of Rabbi Ḥanina said: When the blessed Holy One causes His Divine Presence to rest, it is only upon families of pure birth in Israel, for it is said: At the same time, says YHWH, will I be the God of all the clans of Israel, and they shall be My people (Jeremiah 30:25)—not to all Israel, but to all the clans of Israel, is said [thus the limitation must exclude those of questionable birth]—and they shall be My people. Rabbah son of Rav Huna said: This is a higher standard between Israel and converts. For in respect to Israel it is written, I will be their God, and they shall be My people (Ezekiel 37:27); whereas of converts it is written, For who is this that devoted his heart to approach Me? says YHWH. And you shall be My people, and I will be your God (Jeremiah 30:21–22).

Rabbi Ḥelbo said: Converts are as injurious to Israel as a scab, for it is said: And the strangers shall be joined with them, וְנִסְפְּחוּ (ve-nispeḥu), and they shall cling, to the house of Jacob (Isaiah 14:1). Here it is written: ve-nispeḥu; whilst elsewhere it is written. [This is the teaching for every affliction of skin blanch…] and for inflammation and for a סַּפַּחַת (sapaḥat), scab (Leviticus 14:56).

Rabbi Ḥama son of Ḥanina said: When the blessed Holy One purifies the tribes, He will first purify the tribe of Levi, for it is said: And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to YHWH an offering in righteousness (Malachi 3:3). Rabbi Yehoshua son of Levi said: Money purifies bastards, for it is said, And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver [by means of their wealth they intermarry with Israel, and having thus mingled, they will not be separated in the future]. What is meant by, that they may offer to YHWH an offering in צְדָקָה (tsedaqah), righteousness?—Rabbi Yitzḥaq says: The blessed Holy One showed צְדָקָה (tsedaqah), charity, to Israel, in that a family once נִטְמְעָה (nitme’ah), mixed up [i.e., assimilated with illegitimate elements], remains so [and no attempt is to be made to excise it].

The [above] text [states]: Rav Yehudah said in Shemue’l’s name: All lands are as dough in comparison with the Land of Israel, and the Land of Israel is as dough compared to Babylon. In the days of Rabbi [circa 135-220 C.E.] it was desired to render Babylon as dough regarding the Land of Israel [to declare the families of the Land of Israel of purer birth, so that if a Babylonian desired to marry into a families of the Land of Israel he would have to prove the purity of his own descent—it was thought that by now the families of the Land of Israel were pure, and so it was due to the honour of the Land of Israel to make this change]. He said to them, You are putting thorns between my eyes! [Rabbi was a descendant of Hillel, a Babylonian, and so this would cast a stigma upon his birth]. If you wish, Rabbi Ḥanina son of Ḥama will join with you. So Rabbi Ḥanina son of Ḥama joined with them and said to them, ‘I have this tradition from Rabbi Yishma’el son of Rabbi Yose who said on his father’s authority: All lands are as dough in comparison with the Land of Israel, and the Land of Israel is as dough compared to Babylon’ [i.e., a mere declaration cannot change an historical fact].

In the days of Rabbi Pinḥas it was desired to declare Babylon as dough with regard to the Land of Israel. He said to his slaves, ‘When I have made two statements in the academy, pick me up on a stretcher and flee.’ When he entered he said to them, ‘A fowl does not require slaughter by Biblical law.’ While they were sitting and scrutinizing this, he said to them, ‘All lands are as dough in comparison with the Land of Israel, and the Land of Israel is as dough compared to Babylon.’ They picked him up on a stretcher and fled. They chased him, but could not overtake him. Then they sat and examined [their genealogies], until they came to danger; so they refrained [to accuse influential families of flaws due to their power].

Rabbi Yoḥanan said: By the Temple! It is in our power; but what shall I do, seeing that the greatest men of our time are mixed up into it? [Thus] he holds with Rabbi Yitsḥaq, who said: Once a family becomes mixed up [i.e., assimilated], it remains so. Abayye said: We have learnt likewise: There was a family, Beit ha-Tserifa, in Transjordan, which Son of Tsiyyon [a  person of great importance and power] forcibly expelled. There was another, which Son of Tsiyyon forcibly brought near. Such as these, Elijah will come to declare impure or pure, to distance or draw near [cf. the rabbinic saying: תִּשְׁבִּי יְתָרֵץ קֻשְׁיוֹת וְאִבַּעְיוֹת (Tishbi yetarets qushyot ve-iba’eyot), the Tishbite (i.e., Elijah) will resolve difficult questions and problems]. [Hence, only] such as these, who are known; but once a family becomes mixed up, it remains so [not even Elijah will publicize its flaw]. It was taught: There was yet another, which the sages declined to reveal, but the sages confided it to their children and disciples once every seven years—others say, twice every seven years. Rav Naḥman son of Yitsḥaq: Reason supports the view that it was once every seven years. Even as it was taught [in a baraita (Tosefta, Nazir 1:2)]: [If one vows,] ‘Behold, I will be a nazirite if I do not reveal the families [which are impure],’ he must be a nazirite, and not reveal the families [this shows how inadvisable and dangerous such action might be; hence once every seven years would have been enough].

Rabba son of Son of Ḥana said in Rabbi Yoḥanan’s name: The [pronunciation of the Divine] Name of four letters the sages confide to their disciples once a every seven years—others state, twice every seven years. Rav Naḥman son of Yitsḥaq said: Reason supports the view that it was once every seven years, for it is written, this is my name for ever [le’olam]22 which is written le’allem (Exodus 3:15).23 Rava thought to lecture upon it at the public sessions. A certain old man said to him, It is written, le’allem [to be kept secret].

Rabbi Avina opposed [two verses]: It is written: ‘this is my mame’; but it is also written: ‘and this is my memorial’?24—the blessed Holy One said: I am not called as I am written: I am written with yod he, but I am read, alef daleth.25

Our rabbis taught: At first [God’s] twelve-lettered Name 26 used to be entrusted to all people. When unruly men increased,27 it was confided to the pious of the priesthood,28 and these ‘swallowed it’ 29 during the chanting of their brother priests.30 It was taught: Rabbi Tarfon said: ‘I once ascended the dais 31 after my mother’s brother, and inclined my ear to the High Priest, and heard him swallowing the Name during the chanting of his brother priests.

Rav Yehudah said in Rav’s name: The forty-two lettered Name 32 is entrusted only to him who is pious,33 meek, middle-aged,34 free from bad temper, sober,35 and not insistent on his rights. And he who knows it, is careful with it,36 and guards it in purity, is beloved above and treasured below, feared by man,37 and inherits two worlds, this world and the world that is coming.38

Shemu’el said on the authority of an old man: Babylon stands in the presumption of being fit, until you know how it became unfit [i.e., a Babylonian Jew is presumed to be of pure descent and fit to marry into any Jewish family, unless we definitely know the contrary]; other lands are presumed to be unfit, until you know how they are fit [as stated on 76a; the four preceding generations must be examined]. As for the Land of Israel, he who has the presumption of unfitness is unfit; he who has the presumption of fitness is fit. But this is self contradictory: you say, he who has the presumption of unfitness is unfit—hence, when undetermined [i.e., there is no presumption at all about him], he is fit; then you teach, he who has the presumption of fitness is fit hence, when undetermined, he is unfit?—Rav Huna son of Taḥalifa said in Rav’s name: There is no difficulty: here it is to permit him to take a wife; there it is to take the wife from him [i.e., to order him to divorce her. When one wishes to marry a woman of proved pure descent, he must prove his own fitness, if he lacks the established presumption. On the other hand, if he is married to such, he is not compelled to divorce her unless his own unfitness is established]. Rav Yosef said: He whose speech is Babylonian [i.e., anyone who speaks the Babylonian language with a Babylonian accent] is permitted to take a wife [of superior birth]. But nowadays, when there are swindlers, we fear [them].

Ze’iri was evading Rabbi Yoḥanan, who was urging him, ‘Marry my daughter’ [however, Ze’iri being a Babylonian, and Rabbi Yoḥanan being of the Land of Israel, he did not wish to marry his daughter, since the Babylonians are of purer birth]. One day they were winding down the road, when they came to a pool of water. He lifted Rabbi Yoḥanan on his shoulders and carried him across. He said to him: ‘Our teaching is fit but our daughters are not fit? What is your opinion? If we say the reason is because we learned, ‘Ten different genealogical classes went up from Babylon: Priests, Levites…’ (M Qiddushin 4:1)? Is that to say all of the priests, Levites and Israelites went up? Just as some of these were left, so were some of those left [in Babylon, so that both are equal].’ [However, Rabbi Yoḥanan] overlooked what Rabbi El’azar said: Ezra did not go up from Babylon until he made it like pure sifted flour: then he went up [accordingly, the people who remained in Babylon were all of untainted lineage].

‘Ulla visited Rav Yehudah in Pumbedita. Seeing that Rav Yitsḥaq, the son of Rav Yehudah, was grown up, yet unmarried, he asked him, ‘Why have you not taken a wife for your son?’ ‘Do I know where to take one?’ he replied [i.e., ‘I desire a wife for my son with untainted lineage’]. He said, ‘What do we know? Perhaps [we are] from those of whom is written: They ravished the women in Zion, and the young women in the cities of Judah (Lamentations 5:11). And should you answer: If a heathen or slave has intercourse with the daughter of an Israelite, the issue is fit—then perhaps [we are descended] from those of whom is written, [youthat lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch yourselves upon your couches (Amos 6:4). Now, Rabbi Yose son of Rabbi Ḥanina said: This refers to people who urinate before their beds naked [since they are bereft of any sense of modesty]. But Rabbi Abbahu ridiculed this: If so, see what is written: Therefore now shall they go captive with the first that go captive, [and the banquet of them that stretched themselves shall be removed] (ibid., 7)—because they urinate before their beds naked they shall go captive with the first that go captive! Rabbi Abbahu said, But this refers to people who eat and drink together, join their beds, exchange their wives and make their beds foul with semen that is not theirs.’ Rav Yehudah said, ‘What shall we do [i.e., how can I discern which families are of untainted lineage]?’ ‘Go after the silence,’ [Ulla] replied. As the children of the West [in the Land of Israel] make a test: When two quarrel with each other, they see which becomes silent first, and say: This one is of superior birth [cf. M Avot 3:17: ‘Rabbi Akiva said: silence is a fence for wisdom’].

Rav said: Silence in Babylon, is [the sign of] pure birth. But is it so? For Rav visited the house of a vinegar strainer and examined them; surely that means as to their genealogy?—no, by silence. He said this to them: Examine whether they become silent or not. Rav Yehudah said in Rav’s name: If you see two families [continually] feuding, there is a blemish of unfitness in one of them, and they are prevented [by Heaven] from cleaving to each other.

… Our Rabbis taught: Bastards and Gibeonites will become pure in the future: this is Rabbi Yose’s view. Rabbi Meir said: They will not become pure. Rabbi Yose said to him: But was it not already stated: Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean (Ezekiel 36:25)? Rabbi Meir replied, When it says further, from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you (ibid.) [it implies] but not from bastard status. Rabbi Yose said to him: When it is said, Then will I sprinkle clean water… you must say: From bastard status too” (BT Qiddushin 71b-72b).

“Rabbah son of Son of Ḥana said in the name of Rabbi Yoḥanan: All agree that where a slave or a heathen had intercourse with a daughter of an Israelite the child is a bastard. Who is meant by ‘All agree’?—Shim’on the Temanite. For although Shim’on the Temanite said that the offspring of forbidden intercourse under the penalty of flogging is not a bastard, his statement applies only to the offspring of forbidden intercourse under the penalty of flogging, since the betrothal in such a case is valid [cf. BT Yevamot 23a] but here, in the case of a heathen and a slave, since betrothal in their case is invalid [see BT Qiddushin 68b], they are like those whose intercourse is subject to the penalty of כָּרֵת (karet), excommunication [lit., cutting off].

An objection was raised: If a slave or a heathen had intercourse with the daughter of an Israelite the child is a bastard. Rabbi Shim’on son of Yehudah said: A bastard is only he who [is the offspring of intercourse which] is forbidden as incest and is punishable by excommunication [now this Tanna, whose view is exactly the same as that of Shim’on the Temanite, indicates quite clearly that the offspring of intercourse with a heathen or slave is not a bastard!]—rather, Rabbi Yosef said, who [is referred to by] ‘All agree’? It is Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nasi]. Although Rabbi said, ‘[Cohabitation with a deceased brother’s wife after חֲלִיצָה (ḥalitsah), Loosening, with her rival has not the force of marriage and no divorce is required. The child from such intercourse would consequently be deemed a bastard] these words are applicable only according to the view of Rabbi Akiva who regards a חֲלוּצָה (ḥalutsah), released woman, as a forbidden relative’ [see BT Yevamot 52b], while he himself does not share the same view [but maintains that the child of such intercourse is no bastard], he agrees [with Rabbi Akiva; and the child is consequently a bastard] in the case of a heathen and a slave. For when Rav Dimi came [from the Land of Israel to Babylon] he said in the name of Rav Yitsḥaq son of Avudimi in the name of our Master, ‘If a heathen or a slave had intercourse with the daughter of an Israelite the child [born from such intercourse] is a bastard.’

Rabbi Aḥa, the officer of the city, and Rabbi Tanḥum son of Rabbi Ḥiyya of Acco village once redeemed some captives who were brought from Armon to Tiberias, [among these] was one who had become pregnant from a heathen. When they came before Rabbi Ammi he told them: It was Rabbi Yoḥanan and Rabbi El’azar and Rabbi Ḥanina who stated that if a heathen or a slave had intercourse with the daughter of an Israelite the child born is a bastard.

Rabbi Yosef said: Is it a great thing to enumerate men? [i.e., just as a string of names could be quoted in support of the view that the child is a bastard, an equally imposing number could be quoted in opposition]. Surely it was Rav and Shemu’el in Babylon and Rabbi Yehoshua son of Levi and Son of Qappara in the Land of Israel—and some say to remove Son of Qappara and insert the Elders of the South—who said that if a heathen or a slave had intercourse with a daughter of an Israelite, the child born is fit!—rather, Rabbi Yosef said, it is [the opinion of] Rabbi [and it is Rabbi’s fame and position, and not the number of comparatively minor authorities that imparted the force of law to this view]. For when Rav Dimi came he said in the name of Rav Yitsḥaq son of Avudimi that it was reported in the name of our Masters that if a heathen or a slave had intercourse with the daughter of an Israelite the child [born from such intercourse] is a bastard.

Rabbi Yehoshua son of Levi said: The child is tainted. In respect of what? If it be suggested in respect of entry into the community, surely Rabbi Yehoshua son of Levi said that the child was fit! Then it must be in respect of the priesthood; for all Amoraim who declare the child fit admit that he is ineligible for the priesthood. This is inferred by deduction from the case of a widow a fortiori. If in the case of a widow who was married to a High priest, whose prohibition is not equally applicable to all, her son is tainted, how much more should the son of this woman be tainted whose prohibition is equally applicable to all [since the daughters of priests, of Levites and of Israelites are all equally forbidden to marry a heathen or a slave]. The case of a widow who was married to a High Priest may be different, since she herself becomes profaned!—Here also, as soon as cohabitation occurred the woman is disqualified; for Rabbi Yoḥanan stated in the name of Rabbi Shim’on [alt., Rabbi Yishma’el]: From where is it inferred that if a heathen or a slave had intercourse with the daughter of a priest, of a Levite or of an Israelite, he disqualified her? [From eating sacred donations if she is the daughter of a priest. If the daughter of a Levite or an Israelite who was married to a priest and left with children after her husband’s death, she loses her right to the eating of sacred donations (to which she was entitled by virtue of her children) and, of course, becomes ineligible to marry a priest, as soon as intercourse with the heathen or slave had taken place]. It was stated And should a priest’s daughter be married to an outsider, [she shall not eat of the levy of the sacred donations] (Leviticus 22:13); Only in the case of a man in relation to whom widowhood or divorce is applicable; a heathen and a slave are consequently excluded since in relation to them no widowhood or divorce is applicable.

Abayye said to him: What reason do you see for relying upon Rav Dimi? Rely rather on Ravin! For when Ravin came [from the Land of Israel to Babylon] he reported that Rabbi Natan and Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nasi ruled that such a child is fit; and Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nasi is, of course, Rabbi!

And Rav also ruled that the child is legitimate. For once a man appeared before Rav and asked him, ‘A heathen or a slave had intercourse with the daughter of an Israelite—what is he?’ He said: ‘The child is fit.’ He said, ‘[Then] give me your daughter.’ ‘I will not give [her] to you.’ Shimi son of Ḥiyya said to Rav, ‘People say that in Media [i.e., in foreign lands where wonders occur,] a camel can dance on a [mere] qav; here is the qav, here is the camel and here is Media, but there is no dancing!’ [i.e., Rav had displayed originality and marvelous courage by his ruling, and yet stops short of carrying it into practice]. ‘Had he been equal to Joshua son of Nun I would not have given him my daughter,’ the Master replied. He said, ‘Had he been like Joshua son of Nun others would have given him their daughters, if the Master had not given him his; but with this man, if the Master will not give him, others also will not give him’ [since they would regard the Master’s refusal as an indication that the man is actually unfit]. He would not go away, [thus Rav] fixed his eyes upon him and he died” (BT Yevamot 44b-45b).

“Our Rabbis taught: Let a man always sell all he has and marry the daughter of a disciple of a sage. If he does not find the daughter of a disciple of a sage, let him marry the daughter of [one of] the great men of the generation. If he does not find the daughter of [one of] the great men of the generation, let him marry the daughter of the head of the congregation. If he does not find the daughter of the head of congregation, let him marry the daughter of a charity treasurer. If he does not find the daughter of a charity treasurer, let him marry the daughter of a schoolteacher, but let him not marry the daughter of עַם הָאָרֶץ (‘am ha-arets), people of the land [i.e., ignorant country folk], because they are detestable and their wives are vermin, and of their daughters it is said, Cursed be he who lies with any beast (Deuteronomy 27:21)…

Rabbi El’azar said [of the] ignorant country folk: It is permitted to stab him [even] on the Day of Atonement which falls on the Sabbath. His disciples said to him, Master, say to slaughter him [ritually]? He replied: This [ritual slaughter] requires a blessing, whereas that [stabbing] does not require a blessing. Rabbi El’azar said: One must not join company with ignorant country folk on the road, because it is said, for it [Torah] is your life and your length of days (Deuteronomy 30:20): [seeing that] he has no care for his own life [in that he forsakes Torah], how much the more for the life of his companions! Rabbi Shemu’el son of Naḥmani said in Rabbi Yoḥanan’s name: One may tear ignorant country folk like a fish! Said Rabbi Shemu’el son of Yitsḥaq: And [this means] along his back.

It was taught, Rabbi Akiva said: When I was of the ignorant country folk I said: If I only had a disciple of a sage [before me], and I would maul him like a donkey. His disciples said to him, Rabbi, say like a dog! The former bites and breaks the bones, while the latter bites but does not break the bones, he answered them.

It was taught, Rabbi Meir used to say: Whoever marries his daughter to ignorant country folk, is as though he bound and laid her before a lion: just as a lion tears [his prey] and devours it and has no shame, so ignorant country folk strike and cohabit and have no shame.

It was taught, Rabbi Eli’ezer said: Only that we are necessary to them for trade, [otherwise] they would kill us! Rabbi Ḥiyya taught: Whoever delves in Torah in front of ignorant country folk, is as though he coupled with his betrothed in his presence [so great is the affront which they feel when Torah is studied in their presence (Rashi)], for it is said, A teaching did Moses charge us, a heritage for Jacob’s assembly! (Deuteronomy 33:4): do not read מוֹרָשָׁה (morashah), heritage, but מְאוֹרָסָה (me’orasah), the betrothed.

Greater is the hatred of ignorant country folk for the disciples of the sages than the hatred of heathens for Israel, and their wives [hate even] more than they. It was taught: He who has studied and then abandoned [Torah] [hates the disciples of the sages] more than all of them. Our Rabbis taught: Six things were said of ignorant country folk: We do not commit testimony to them; we do not accept testimony from them; we do not reveal a secret to them; we do not appoint them as guardians for orphans; we do not appoint them stewards over charity funds; and we must not join their company on the road. Some say, We do not announce their lost articles [he who finds lost property is obligated to announce it; if the owner is of the ignorant country folk, he is not obligated to announce it]. But the first Tanna [why does he omit this]?—virtuous seed may sometimes issue from him, and they will enjoy it, as is said, What the wicked will prepare, the righteous will wear (Job 27:17)” (BT Pesaḥim 49b).

“For Rabbi Abba has said, ‘How many wicked there are in the world who engender more virtuous children than the righteous!’” (Zohar 2:12b).

Do not plant Asherah or any-tree-like object beside the altar that you make for YHWH your God

“Come and see: When a woman is joined with her husband, she is called by his name: אִישׁ אִשָּׁה (ish ishah), man, woman; צַדִּיק צֶדֶק (tsaddiq tsedeq), righteous, righteousness [cf. Zohar 1:132b]. He is עוֹפֶר (ofer), fawn, and she is עָפָר (afar), dust. Then he is צְבִי (tsevi), hart, and she is צְבִיָּה (tseviyyah), doe; צְבִי (tsevi), fairest, of all lands (Ezekiel 20:6).

It is written: Do not plant אֲשֵׁרָה (asherahor any-tree-like object beside the altar that you make for YHWH your God (Deuteronomy 16:21). Beside the altar—Is it permitted above the altar or anywhere else? Rather, we have established: אֲשֶׁר (Asher) is her husband, and she is named after him: אֲשֵׁרָה (Asherah). So it is written: For Baal and Asherah (2 Kings 23:4). So, Do not plant אֲשֵׁרָה (asherah)… beside the altar that you make for YHWH your God—over against the altar of YHWH, for the altar of YHWH is based on this, so do not plant another Asherah over against Her. 

Come and see: All those sun-worshippers are always called worshippers of Baal, and those who worship the moon are called worshippers of Asherah, so for Baal and Asherah, Asherah being named after her husband, Asher. If so, why was this name displaced? Because Asherah derives from the verse בְּאָשְׁרִי (Be-oshri), Happy am I! For daughters will deem me happy (Genesis 30:13), while the other nations did not deem Her happy, substituting another in Her place. Further it is written: All who honored her despise her (Lamentations 1:8). So this name was displaced in order that those worshipped by other nations not be empowered. We call Her altar made of earth, as is written: altar of earth… (Exodus 20:22). So, dust of the earth” (Zohar 1:49a).