The Nut Garden

Gleanings of Zohar

The Locks of Your Head are Purple

Tefillin3.jpg“Rabbi Avin son of Rabbi Adda said in the name of Rabbi Yitsḥaq, ‘How do we know that the blessed Holy One puts on tefillin? For it is said: YHWH has sworn by His right hand and by the arm of His strength (Isaiah 62:8). By His right hand—this is Torah, as is said: From His right hand was a fiery law for them (Deuteronomy 33:2). And by the arm of His strength—this is tefillin, as is said: YHWH will give strength unto His people (Psalms 29:11). How do we know that tefillin are a strength to Israel? For it is written: And all the peoples of the earth will see that the name of YHWH is called over you and they will fear you (Deuteronomy 28:10), and it has been taught: Rabbi Eli’ezer the Great says, ‘This refers to tefillin of the head.’ Rabbi Naḥman son of Yitsḥaq asked Rabbi Ḥiyya son of Avin, ‘These tefillin of the Master of the World—what is written in them? He replied, ‘Who is like Your people Israel, a unique nation on earth’ (1 Chronicles 17:2)” (BT Berakhot 6a).

I will take away My palm and you will see My back (Exodus 33:23). Rav Ḥana son of Bizna said in the name of Rabbi Shim’on the Ḥasid, ‘This teaches us that the blessed Holy One showed Moses the knot of tefillin [at the back of God’s head]’” (BT Berakhot 7a).

“[Shekhinah] Her hair, called ‘stars of a scepter,’ precisely: masters of measure, masters of balance, masters of severity, masters of reaping—all called ‘purple hair’” (Zohar 1:223b, cf. Otsar ha-Midrashim, Olam Qatan, 406).

“בְּרֵאשִׁית (Bereshit), In the beginning (Genesis 1:1)—אַשְׁרֵי (Ashrei). This is אַשְׁרֵי (ashrei), happy, the man (Psalms 1:1); and אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה (Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh), I-Will-Be-What-I-Will-Be (Exodus 3:14)—Head of all heads [Keter], about it is said Your head upon you like כַּרְמֶל (Karmel), Carmel (Song of Songs 7:6)—tefillin of the head; and the locks of your head are אַרְגָּמָן (argaman), purple (ibid.)—tefillin of the hand, and through it they praise the בַּת (Bat), Daughter  [Shekhinah], with this אַשְׁרֵי (Ashrei) [prayer], as is written, And בְּאָשְׁרִי (be-ashri), what good fortune! For girls have acclaimed me fortunate (Genesis 30:13)” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 27a-b).

“בְּרֵאשִׁית (Bereshit)—בַּת רָאשֵׁי (Bat Rashei), First Daughter: אֵלֶּה (Elleh), these, are the רָאשֵׁי (rashei), first, of their fathers’ houses (Exodus 6:14). Concerning a daughter the Masters of Mishnah have said: ‘[If a] daughter [is born] first—a good sign’ (BT Bava Batra 141a). She is the י (yod) of the Name אֲדֹנָי (Adonai), a precious stone which includes all the colors [on אֵלֶה (elleh), these, as an appellation of Shekhinah, see Zohar 1:9a-10a. On רָאשֵׁי (rashei) as ‘first,’ and ‘heads,’ see Zohar 3:248a: ‘On the רָאשֵׁי (rashei), heads, of your new moon (Numbers 28:11). Now, how many heads does the moon have?…’]” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 10a).

“Therefore the blessed Holy One is the King bound in bonds. He is bound with them through the tefillin of the head, which is beauty of the head, because tefillin of the head are in the place of the bond of the brain. This is: [A king is] caught in the tangle (Song of Songs 7:6)—He is bound to them through the tefillin of the hand in the knot of the hand. This is as written, Bind the turban of your head upon you (Ezekiel 24:17). Because He is bound to them in the exile it says, ‘A prisoner cannot free himself from jail’ (BT Berakhot 5b). The Shekhinah is His jail—because of Her love He is bound to Her—and the mystery of the matter: A sachet of myrrh is my lover to me, all night between my breasts (Song of Songs 1:13)” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 21b).

Whoever Goes to that World without this Knowledge, Even if He has Many Good Deeds, He will be Ejected from All Its Gates

ello-b484c786-ffb8-4fa9-b913-5241ad85bb79Tell me, whom I love so, where you pasture your flock at noon, lest I go straying after the flocks of your companions—If you do not know, O fairest of women, go out in the tracks of the sheep (Song of Songs 1:7-8).

“Happy are those engaged with Torah in order to learn the wisdom of their Master, knowing and contemplating transcendent secrets! For when a person departs this world, that lore causes all forms of judgments against him to vanish. Not only this, but thirteen gates of mysteries of pure balsam, from which the Supernal Wisdom is suspended, are opened for him. Not only this, but the blessed Holy One delights with him in the Garden of Eden, and he inherits two worlds: this world and the world that is coming.

The wisdom one must know: First, to learn how to complete the mystery of his Master.

Second, to understand his body, to become aware of who he is. How was he created? Where did he come from? Where is he headed? Perfection of the body—how is that achieved? How will he be summoned to judgment before the Sovereign of All?

Third, to know and contemplate mysteries of his soul. What is it, this soul within him? Where did it come from? Why did it enter this body—fetid drop!—here today, tomorrow in the grave?

Fourth, to contemplate this world in which he finds himself. How can it be perfected? Afterward, with supernal mysteries from the world above, to know his Master. All this, one should contemplate within mysteries of Torah.

Come and see: whoever goes to that world without this knowledge, even if he has many good deeds, he will be ejected from all its gates. Go out, look at what is written here: ‘Tell me (Song of Songs 1:7)—speak to me of mysteries of wisdom! How do you pasture and conduct that world? Teach me mysteries of wisdom, of that supernal Wisdom, those that I have neither known nor contemplated before, so that I will not be disgraced among those upper rungs that I shall enter. For until now, I have not contemplated them.’

Come and see what is written: If you do not know (ibid. 8). If you arrive without knowledge, without having contemplated wisdom before entering here, and you do not know mysteries of the upper world, go forth (ibid.)! You are unworthy to enter here without knowledge. Gain awareness בְּעִקְבֵי (be-iqvei), in the tracks of, the sheep (ibid.), among those people who are trampled בְּעָקֵב (be-eqev), underfoot. They know supreme mysteries of their Master, and from them you will learn how to perceive” (Zohar Ḥadash 70d, cf. BT Ḥagigah 27a).

Happy are You, Land, Whose King is a Noble

Judgment_of_Solomon_(by_Lee_Lawrie).jpg“May You give Your servant an understanding heart to discern between good and evil, for who can judge this vast people of Yours?” And the thing was good in the eyes of YHWH that Solomon had asked for this thing. And God said to him, “In as much as you have asked for this thing and you did not ask for long life for yourself and did not ask wealth for yourself and did not ask for the life of your enemies, but you asked to discern and understand justice, look, I am doing according to your words. Look, I give you a wise and discerning heart, so that your like there will not have been before you, and after you none like you shall arise…

Then two whore-women did come to the king and stood in his presence. And the one woman said, “I beseech you, my lord. I and this woman live in a single house, and I gave birth alongside her in the house. And it happened on the third day after I gave birth that this woman, too, gave birth, and we were together, no stranger was with us in the house, just the two of us in the house. And this woman’s son died during the night, as she had lain upon him. And she rose in the middle of the night and took my son from by me, your servant being asleep, and she laid him in her lap, and her dead son she laid in my lap. And I rose in the morning to nurse my son, and, look, he was dead, and when I examined him in the morning, look, he was not my son whom I had borne.” And the other woman said, “No, for my son is the living one and your son is dead.” And the other said, “No, for your son is dead and my son is the living one.” And they spoke before the king. And the king said, “This one says, ‘This is my live son and your son is dead,’ and this one says, ‘No, for your son is dead and my son is the living one.’” And the king said, “Fetch me a sword.” And they brought a sword before the king. And the king said, “Cut the living child in two, and give half to one and half to the other.” And the woman whose son was alive said to the king, for her compassion welled up for her son, and she said, “I beseech you, my lord, give her the living newborn but absolutely do not put him to death.” And the other was saying, “Neither mine nor yours shall he be. Cut him apart!” And the king spoke up and said, “Give her the living newborn, and absolutely do not put him to death. She is his mother.” And all Israel heard of the judgment that the king had judged, and they held the king in awe, for they saw that God’s wisdom was within him to do justice (1 Kings 3:9-12, 16-28, on King Solomon’s use of physiognomy, see Abarbanel ad loc.; Rabbi David ibn Zimra, Responsa of the Radbaz, № 634).

The look on their countenance does witness against them (Isaiah 3:9).

Woe to you, land, whose king is a youth, and your princes dine in the morning (Ecclesiastes 10:16). It is written, then two whore-women did come (1 Kings 3:16). Who were they? Rabbi Meir says: They were female spirits; the Rabbis say: They were yevamot [the widows of men with no male heir, see Deuteronomy 25:5-6]; Rabbi Simon says in the name of Rabbi Yehoshua: They were really whores, and Solomon gave his verdict without hearing witnesses and without giving warning [to the litigants, against the seriousness of perjury].

And the one woman said, ‘I beseech you, my lord… And it happened on the third day after I gave birth… And this woman’s son died during the night’ (ibid. 17)—because she slipped and fell on him. And she rose in the middle of the night… And I rose in the morning to nurse my son… And the other woman said, ‘No, for my son is the living one… And the king said, ‘This one says…’ (ibid. 20).

Rabbi Pinḥas and Rabbi Yirmeyahu said in the name of Rabbi Ḥiyya son of Abba and Rav Bibi, and the tradition goes back to the name of Rav Pedat: The procedure of judging a case is as follows: The judge sits and those to be judged stand; the plaintiff states his claim, the defendant replies, and the judge decides between them. Rabbi Simon said: From here we learn that it is necessary for the judge to repeat their pleas. From these verses: And the king said, ‘This one says, “This is my live son and your son is dead,” and this one says, “No, for your son is dead and my son is the living one.”’ And the king said, ‘Fetch me a sword.’… And the woman whose son was alive… (ibid. 24).

Rabbi Yehudah said in the name of Rabbi Ilai: If I had been there I would have wound a rope of wool around his neck, and when he said, ‘Fetch me a sword,’ had she not been filled with compassion for the babe he would already have been strangled; and concerning that time it says, Woe to you, land, whose king is a youth. Then [Solomon] in his wisdom began a concluding argument and said, ‘Was it for nothing that the blessed Holy One created for man two eyes, two ears, two legs, and two hands? The blessed Holy One foresaw that this case was to happen’ [i.e., that the child might be cut in two and a half given to each woman]. So he did not tarry [in keeping the real mother in suspense] but [immediately] said, Give her the living newborn, and absolutely do not put him to death (ibid. 27). Concerning that time it says, Happy are you, land, whose king is a noble, and your princes dine in fit time (Ecclesiastes 10:17)—in the time of the World that is Coming, not in שְּׁתִי (sheti), drunkenness (ibid.): in his strength, and not in תְשִׁישׁוּ (teshishu), his weakness. And the king spoke up and said, ‘Give her the living newborn, and absolutely do not put him to death’; and the Holy Spirit cried out, saying, ‘She is his mother, certainly’” (Qohelet Rabbah 10:15-18).

In the image of God (Genesis 5:1)—in that exact form, as our Master [Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai] has established. Further, This is the book of the generations of Adam (ibid.)—for features, in the mysteries of human features, to recognize those generations of a human being. The mysterious features of a human: in hair, in forehead, in eyes, in face, in lips, in ears, in lines of the hands. By these seven, humans are recognized…

Even so, Moses did not need this; rather, what is written? Moses chose men of caliber from all Israel (Exodus 18:25)—because Holy Spirit came to him, through whom he saw all. How do we know? As is written: When they have some matter, he comes to me (Exodus 18:16). It is not written they come to me, but rather he comes—Holy Spirit who came to him, through whom he knew, so he did not need all this examining and inspecting; rather, Moses knew instantly.

Similarly, King Solomon, by the throne—even though the Holy Spirit rested upon him. For whoever approached the throne was overcome with fear and awe, and thereby he judged cases without witnesses—because there were images on the throne, and if anyone approached with a lie, that image would vibrate and Solomon would know he was coming with a lie. So, fear of that throne fell upon all, and they all became virtuous in his presence.

King Messiah, by smell, as is written: His scenting will be by awe of YHWH: not by sight of eyes will he judge… (Isaiah 11:3). These three judged the world without witnesses or warning; the rest of the inhabitants of the world, by word of witnesses, by command of Torah. The wise who recognize those features, providing remedy for people and healing their souls—happy are they in this world and happy are they in the world that is coming!” (Zohar 2:70b; 78a, cf. BT Rosh ha-Shanah 21b).

π: A Line of Thirty Cubits Going all Around

hiram_allas_salomon_temppeli_brazen_sea_574Whatsoever has a circumference of three handbreadths is one handbreadth in diameter (Mishnah). Is it so?—Rabbi Yoḥanan replied: Scripture stated: And he made the cast metal sea ten cubits from edge to edge, circular all around, and five cubits in height and a line of thirty cubits going all around (1 Kings 7:23). But surely there was its brim?—Rav Papa replied: Of its brim, it is written in Scripture: [a mere] blossom of a lily; as is written: its thickness was a handspan, and its rim like the design of a cup’s rim, blossom and lily, two thousand bats did it hold (ibid. 26) [the bat is a relatively large unit of liquid measure, but the precise quantity is uncertain]. But there was [still] a fraction at least?—when it was reckoned it was that of the inner circumference [this is the only instance where a doubt is raised in the Talmud in connection with a mathematical statement, proving that the rabbis were well aware of the more exact ratio between the diameter and circumference and that the ratio of 1:3 was accepted by them simply as a workable number for religious purposes, cf. BT Eruvin 76a; Sukkah 7b]” (BT Eruvin 14a).

“Rabbi Abba opened, saying, ‘He made the sea [cast metal] (1 Kings 7:23), and it is written: Standing upon twelve oxen: three facing north, three facing west, three facing south, and three facing east, with the sea set upon them above… (ibid., 25), and it is written: the twelve oxen underneath the sea (ibid., 44). Standing upon twelve oxen—certainly so! For this sea [Shekhinah] is arrayed by twelve in two worlds: by twelve above, appointed by chariots; by twelve below, twelve tribes” (Zohar 1:241a).

Sometimes in those Empty Ones You May Discover Bells of Gold!

vishniac-beggars.pngA teaching did Moses charge us, a heritage for Jacob’s assembly! (Deuteronomy 33:4).

“Rabbi Parnak said in Rabbi Yoḥanan’s name: He who is himself a scholar, and his son is a scholar, and his son’s son too, Torah will nevermore cease from his seed, as is written, As for me, this is My covenant with them, says YHWH; My spirit that is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, nor out of the mouth of your descendants, nor out of the mouth of your descendant’s descendants, says YHWH, from this time forth and forever (Isaiah 59:21). What is meant by says YHWH?—the blessed Holy One, said, ‘I am surety for you in this matter.’ What is the meaning of from this time forth and forever?—Rabbi Yirmeyahu said: ‘From now on Torah seeks its home [i.e., it becomes hereditary in that family]” (BT Baba Metsi’a 85a).

“Rabbi Yose said: Let the property of your fellow be as precious to you as your own. Prepare yourself to study Torah, for it does not come to you as an inheritance. And let all your deeds be for the sake of heaven” (M Avot 2:17).

“If one wants to become a priest or a Levite he cannot because his father was not a priest or a Levite. However, if one wants to become righteous even if he is a gentile he can do so because it is not a family trait, as it says: bless YHWH, those who fear YHWH, bless YHWH (Psalms 135:20)—it does not say the house of those who fear YHWH but those who fear YHWH. It is not a family trait, rather, on their own they chose to fear and love the blessed Holy One. Therefore, the blessed Holy One loves them” (Bemidbar Rabbah 8:2).

“Be heedful of the children of the poor, for from them Torah goes forth, as is written, Water drips מִדָּלְיָו (midalyav), from his branch, [and his root in abundant waters] (Numbers 24:7)—[מִדַּלִּים (mi-dallim), from the poor,] goes forth Torah [likened to water]. And why is it not usual for scholars to give birth to sons who are scholars?—Rabbi Yosef said, ‘That they not say, The Torah is their legacy’ [i.e., others should not complain that it is useless for them to study, or that they themselves should not think study unnecessary]. Rav Sheshet, the son of Rav Idi, said: ‘That they should not be arrogant towards the public.’ Mar Zutra said: ‘Because they act high-handedly against the public.’ Rav Ashi said: ‘Because they call people donkeys.’ Ravina said: Because they do not first utter a blessing over the Torah [as required]. For Rav Yehudah said in Rav’s name: ‘What is meant by, Who is the wise man, that may understand this? [… for why is the land perished and is burned up like a wilderness, that none passes through?] (Jeremiah 9:11). Now, this question was put to the sages and prophets but they could not answer it until the blessed Holy One Himself did so, as is written, And YHWH says, Because they have forsaken My law which I set before them, and have not obeyed My voice, neither walked in it (ibid. 12): but is not have not obeyed My voice identical with, neither walked in it?—Rav Yehudah said in Rav’s name: ‘[It means] that they did not first recite a blessing over Torah'” (BT Nedarim 81a).

Like a slice of pomegranate רַקָּתֵךְ (raqatekh), your forehead (Song of Songs 4:3)… Even רֵיקַנִין (reiqanin), the empty ones, among you are as full of mitsvot as a pomegranate [is full of seeds]” (BT Berakhot 57a).

“That donkey-driver, is he here? For sometimes in those empty ones, you may discover bells of gold! [In rabbinic literature the bell appears as a symbol of revelation and inspiration, see BT Sotah 9b, in the name of Rabbi Neḥemiah: ‘Shekhinah was ringing before him like a bell’]” (Zohar 2:95a).

“Sometimes in a poor man’s undergarment you’ll find a pearl” (Zohar 3:157b, cf. M Avot 4:1).

“Rabbi Yose son of Yehudah of Kefar Bavli said: When you learn from the young, what is it like? Like eating unripe grapes or drinking wine straight from the vat. When you learn from the old, what is it like? Like eating ripe grapes and drinking old wine.

Rabbi Meir said: Do not look at the flask but at what it contains, for a new flask may contain old wine, and an old flask may not contain anything, even new wine” (M Avot 5:26-27).

Let Us Build Us a City and a Tower

tower-of-babel.jpgAnd all the earth was one language, one set of words. And it happened as they journeyed from the east that they found a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to each other, “Come, let us bake bricks and burn them hard.” And the brick served them as stone, and bitumen served them as mortar. And they said, “Come, let us build us a city and a tower with its top in the heavens that we may make us a name, lest we be scattered over all the earth.” And YHWH came down to see the city and the tower that the human creatures had built. And YHWH said, “As one people with one language for all, if this is what they have begun to do, now nothing they plot to do will elude them. Come, let us go down and baffle their language there so that they will not understand each other’s language.” And YHWH scattered them from there over all the earth and they left off building the city. Therefore it is called Babel, for there YHWH made the language of all the earth babble. And from there YHWH scattered them over all the earth (Genesis 11:1-9).

“The generation of the Dispersion have no portion in the world that is coming. What did they do?—the scholars of Rav Shila taught: They said, ‘Let us build a tower, ascend to heaven, and cleave it with axes, that its waters might gush forth.’ In the West [the land of Israel] they laughed at this: If so, they should have built it on a mountain [and not in a valley]!

Rabbi Yirmiyah son of El’azar said: They split up into three parties. One said, ‘Let us ascend and dwell there;’ the second, ‘Let us ascend and serve the stars;’ and the third said, ‘Let us ascend and wage war.’ The party which proposed, ‘Let us ascend, and dwell there’—YHWH scattered them: the one that said, ‘Let us ascend and wage war’ were turned to apes, spirits, devils, and night-demons; whilst as for the party which said, ‘Let us ascend and serve the stars’—for there YHWH made the language of all the earth babble.

It has been taught Rabbi Natan said: They were all bent on serving the stars. [For] here it is written, that we may make us a name; whilst elsewhere it is written, and the name of other gods you shall not invoke (Exodus 23:13): just as there idolatry is meant, so here too. Rabbi Yonatan said: A third of the tower was burnt, a third sunk, and a third is still standing. Rav said: The atmosphere of the tower causes forgetfulness. Rav Yosef said: Babylon and Borsif are evil omens for Torah. What is the meaning of בורסיף (Borsif)?—Rav Assi said: An שֹׁאֲפִי (shafi), empty, בּוֹר (bor), pit” (BT Sanhedrin 109a). 

“The generation of the Flood said, Who is Shaddai that we should serve Him? (Job 21:15), whereas the generation of the Dispersion said: ‘It does not rest with Him to choose the celestial spheres for Himself and assign the terrestrial world to us. Come, rather, and let us build a tower at the top of which we will set an idol holding a sword, that it may appear to wage war with Him.’ Yet of the former not a remnant was left, whereas of the latter a remnant was left! But because the generation of the Flood was steeped in robbery, as is written, They set aside boundary-stones, a flock they steal and pasture it (ibid. 24:2), therefore not a remnant of them was left. And since the latter, on the other hand, loved each other, as is written, And all the earth was one language, therefore a remnant of them was left. Rabbi said: Great is peace, for even if Israel practise idolatry but maintain peace amongst themselves, the blessed Holy One says, as it were, ‘I have no dominion over them’; for it is said, Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone (Hosea 4:17). But when their hearts are divided, what is written? Their heart is divided; now shall they be found guilty: [He shall break down their altars, He shall ruin their images] (ibid. 10:2)…

Come, let us bake bricks and burn them hard—this people is destined to be burnt out of the world.

And the brick served them as stone. Rabbi Huna said: Their work prospered: a man came to lay one [stone] and he laid two; he came to plaster one [row] and plastered two [the work seemed to grow of itself]. And they said: Come, let us build us a city and a tower. Rabbi Yudan said: The tower they built, but they did not build the city. An objection is raised: But it is written, And YHWH came down to see the city and the tower? Read what follows, he replied: And they left off building the city, the tower, however, not being mentioned. Rabbi Ḥiyya son of Abba said: A third of this tower which they built sank, a third was burnt, while a third is still standing. And should you think that it is small—Rabbi Huna said in Rabbi Idi’s name: When one ascends to the top, he sees the palm trees below him like grasshoppers [cf. Isaiah 40:22]” (Bereshit Rabbah 38:6, 8).

“There are five types in the עֵרֶב רַב (erev rav), motely throng: נְּפִלִים (Nefilim), גִּבֹּרִים (Gibborim), עֲנָקִים (Anaqim), רְפָאִים (Refaim), and עֲמָלֵקִים (Amaleqim), Amalakites [an נֶגַע רַע (nega ra), evil affliction, which plagues Israel until this day]. Because of them, the small ה (he) [Malkhut] fell from Her place. Balaam and Balak were from the side of עֲמָלֵק (Amaleq), Amalek. Take עָם (am) from בִּלְעָם (Bilam), Balaam, and לָק (laq) from בָּלָק (Balaq), Balak, and you are left with בָּבֶל (Bavel), Babel: for there YHWH made the language of all the earth בָּלַל (balal), babel (Genesis 11:9).

These are the ones who remained of those for whom it was said at the time of the Flood, And He wiped out all existing things (Genesis 7:23). Those who survived from the time of the fourth exile [of Edom] became the heads of the world. They became a weapon [lit., a tool of חָמָס (ḥamas), violence] over the children of Israel and of them is written: for the earth is filled with חָמָס (ḥamas), outrage, by them (Genesis 6:13)—Amalekites.

Of נְּפִלִים (Nefilim) is written: That the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were comely (Genesis 6:2). These are the second type, נְּפִלִים (nefilim), fallen ones, from above. When the blessed Holy One made the human He said, Let us make a human in our image (Genesis 1:26). He wished to make him head over all above, so that he might govern all and they be under his rule, just as with Joseph: appoint overseers for the land (Genesis 41:34).

They wanted to denounce him, asking What is man that You should note him (Psalms 8:5), for he is bound to offend before You? The blessed Holy One replied, ‘If you were down below like he, you would offend more than he does.’ Immediately, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man… they were filled with lust for them, so the blessed Holy One cast them down in chains.

These are Aza and Azael, from whom descended the souls of the motley throng, which are the Nephilim. They caused themselves to fall, fornicating with women who were comely. Because of this, the blessed Holy One also eliminated them from the world that is coming, that they not have a portion there. And He gave them their reward in this world, as is written: But He pays back those who hate Him to their face to make them perish (Deuteronomy 7:10).

Of the third type, גִּבֹּרִים (Gibborim), is written: they are the גִּבֹּרִים (gibborim), heroes, of yore, the men of הַשֵּׁם (ha-shem), renown (Genesis 6:4). These descend from the side of those, of whom is written: let us build us a city and a tower… that we may make us a name (Genesis 11:4). They build synagogues and academies. [They are like a] scroll of Torah, with a crown upon רֵישׁוֹי (reshoi), its head [corresponding to: and a tower with its רֹאשׁוֹ (rosho), top, in the heavens (ibid.)]. Not in the שֵׁם (shem), name, of the blessed Holy One, but rather, to make themselves a name, as is written: that we may make us a name. From the Other Side, they overcome Israel, who are like the dust of the earth [see Genesis 13:16: And I will make your seed like the dust of the earthcould a man count the dust of the earth, so too, your seed might be counted]. They rob them, shattering and wasting their work. Of them, is written: and the waters surged and multiplied mightily over the earth (Genesis 7:19).

רְפָאִים (Refaim), the fourth type. If they foresee distress for Israel, they abandon them. Even if they have the power to save them they do not want to do so. They abandon Torah and those who study it. Instead, they do favors for those who serve the stars. Of them, is written: רְפָאִים (refaim), ghosts, they shall not rise [at the revival of the dead (Sullam)] (Isaiah 26:14). When Israel are visited, it is written of them: and made all their memory to perish (Isaiah 26:14).

עֲנָקִים (Anaqim), the fifth type. They belittle the value of those, of whom is written: and a עֲנָקִים (anaqim), necklace, round your throat (Proverbs 1:9) [namely, Israel]. Of them, is written: The Rephaim, they, too are accounted as עֲנָקִים (anaqim), giants (Deuteronomy 2:11), so they amount to each other—they return the world to welter and waste. And the mystery of the matter: the destruction of the Temple. And the earth then was welter and waste (Genesis 1:2), since [the Temple] is the basis of the world and the settling thereof. When the light, which is the blessed Holy One, appears immediately they will be wiped out of the world and destroyed. Nevertheless, redemption does not depend on their destruction, but on Amalek, that is, until he who was referred to in the oath is destroyed, which has already been explained [see Exodus 17:16: For hand upon Yah’s throne: War for YHWH against Amalek for all time]” (Zohar 1:25a, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar).

There is No Flux of Destiny to Israel

csm_beit_alpha_israel_synagogue_zodiac_557286d76d“And why was Torah given [in Sivan] and not in the rest of the moons [i.e., months]? What is this matter like? A king who was arranging the festivities for his daughter’s wedding. And a man, one of the royal dignitaries, said: ‘It would be seemly for the princess, after she is seated in the palanquin, to have her ride on an elephant and so raise her among all the nobles of the kingdom.’ Another answered and said: ‘An elephant stands high, but is without splendor as well as beauty [alt., stands high, and so the princess will not appear impressive]. And since the princess is lovely, it would be more seemly to have her mount a horse and thus show her loveliness among all the nobles of the kingdom.’ Then a man spoke up and said: ‘An elephant stands high, and a horse is comely; but neither has a mouth to speak with, hands to clap together, nor feet to dance with. Hence it is fitting for me to extol the princess, for I have a mouth to speak with, hands to clap together, and feet to dance with; and so I would have her mount on my shoulders to display her loveliness.’ Even so the blessed Holy One, did not give the Torah in Nisan nor in Iyyar, because the מַּזַּל (mazal), constellation, of Nisan is Aries, and the constellation of Iyyar is Taurus, and it is not fitting for them to extol and praise [the Torah]. Hence the blessed Holy One gave the Torah in Sivan, because the constellation of Sivan is תְּאוֹמִים (Te’omim), Gemini, and Twins are human, and being human have mouths to speak with, and hands to clap together, and feet to dance with.

… Why did the blessed Holy One create His world in Nisan and not create it in Iyyar [cf. BT Rosh ha-Shanah 10b–11a; Rabbenu Tam, Tosafot Rosh ha-Shanah 27a]? Because at the time that the blessed Holy One wished to create His world He said to the prince of darkness: ‘Leave My presence, for I desire the world’s creation to begin with light,’ the prince of darkness being as black as a bull. At once the prince of darkness replied to the blessed Holy One: ‘Why do You wish to put something ahead of me in the creation? [i.e., Aries, a white lamb (Nisan) before a black bull, Taurus (Iyyar)]. The blessed Holy One said to the prince of darkness: ‘Leave My presence. If you will not leave My presence, I will rebuke you—I desire to begin creating the world with light.’ ‘And after the darkness, what will You create?’ ‘תְּאוֹמִים (Te’omim), Gemeni.’ ‘And why will you create תְּאוֹמִים (te’omim), twins?’ ‘Because the human will be able to see both in daylight and in darkness—מַּזַּל תְּאוֹמִים (mazal Te’omim), constellation of Gemini [Sivan].’ ‘And after that what will You create?’ ‘סַרְטָן (Sartan), Cancer [Tammuz]: Because like a crab man scrabbles together his possessions out of holes and cracks.’ ‘And after that what will You create?’ ‘אַרְיֵה (Aryeh), Leo [Av].’ ‘Since after man in crab-fashion scrabbles together his possessions out of holes and cracks, he then thinks he is as strong as a lion.’ ‘And after that what will You create?’ ‘בְּתוּלָה (Betulah), Virgo [Elul]. For man is meant to rejoice in a virgin [alt., to grow as plump as a virgin].’ ‘And after that what will You create?’ ‘מֹאזְנַיִם (Moznayim), Libra [Tishrei], for man’s deeds will be weighed in the balance.’ ‘And after that what will You create?’ ‘עַקְרָב (Aqrav), Scorpio [Marḥeshvan]. When a man is weighed and crimes discovered in him, he is made to go down to Hell.’ ‘And after that what will You create?’ ‘קַשָּׁת (Qashat), Sagittarius [Kislev]. Perhaps you will say that once a man is plunged into Hell, there will be no coming up for him. When mercy is besought in his behalf, however, he is shot up from Hell as an arrow from the קַשָּׁת (qashat), bow.’ ‘And after that what will You create? ‘גְּדִי (Gedi), Capricorn [Tevet]. You might think that when man comes up out of Hell, his countenance will be gloomy. The truth is that as he comes up, he will romp like a גְּדִי (gedi), kid.’ ‘And after that what will You create?’ ‘דְּלִי (Deli), Aquarius [Shevat], the pitcher from which I splash pure water on man to purify him of his sins.’ ‘And after that what will You create?’ ‘דָּגִים (Dagim), Pisces [Adar]. Because Israel are exempt from the forces that rule the world, and the [evil] eye or מַּזַּל גּוֹרֵם (mazal gorem), planetary influence, can no more prevail over them [than it can over דָּגִים (dagim), fish, under water, cf. BT Berakhot 20a; Bereshit Rabbah 97:2]: only the [planet of the] hour [at birth] influences [cf. Pirqei de-Rabbi-Eli’ezer, 6].’

And why did the blessed Holy One in the beginning create the sun as the only source of light?’ Because the world, all of it, was intended to be lighted by one luminary, the same by night as by day. And after the creation of the sun, [the prince of darkness asked], ‘what will You create?’ ‘כּוֹכָב (Kokhav), Mercury, and נוֹגַה (Nogah), Venus [two-in-one, i.e., a hermaphroditic planet].’ But because the blessed Holy One foresaw the generation of the flood take to whoring, He—just as soon as He foresaw that—made Mercury and Venus dwell apart from each other. Nevertheless, the generation of the flood rose up and confounded one sex with the other.

Mercury is אִישׁ (ish), man, and Venus אִשּׁה (ishah), woman [cf. BT Sotah 17a]. Now why create Mercury at all? Because Mercury—the male principal—represents our father Abraham who in wisdom gives guidance to all the world, every part of it.’

‘And after that what will You create?’ ‘The לְבָנָה (Levanah), Moon—for the children of Israel, every one of them, are destined to reflect the light of Abraham as the moon reflects the light of the sun.’ ‘And after that what will You create?’ ‘שַׁבְתַאִי (Shabbtai), Saturn—for the peoples of the world will rule over Israel.’ ‘And after that what will You create?’ ‘צֶדֶק (Tsedeq), Jupiter—for the blessed Holy One לְהַצְדִּיק (le-ha-tsadiq), will deal justly, with them. And you may mistakenly think that the peoples will be saved from the judgment. But the blessed Holy One created מַאְדִים (Ma’adim), Mars, [אָדוֹם (adom), red]—Hell into which they will fall” (Pesiqta Rabbati 20:1-2).

“[Length of] life, sons, and sustenance depend not on merit but on מַזָּל (mazal), flux of destiny” (BT Mo’ed Qatan 28a).

“It was recorded in Rabbi Yehoshua son of Levi’s notebook: He who [is born] on the first day of the week [Sunday] shall be a man without one in him—what does ‘without one in him’ mean? Shall we say, without one good quality? Surely Rabbi Ashi said: I was born on the first day of the week! So it must be, ‘Without one bad quality.’ But didn’t Rabbi Ashi said: I and Dimi son of Qaquzeta were born on the first day of the week: I am king [head of the academy] and he is a captain of thieves!—rather it means either all good or all bad. What is the reason? Because light and darkness were created on that day. He who is born on the second day of the week will be contentious—what is the reason? Because the waters were divided thereon. He who is born on the third day of the week will be wealthy and promiscuous. What is the reason? Because herbs were created that day. He who is born on the fourth day of the week will be wise and radiant [cf. Ecclesiastes 8:1: a man’s wisdom lights up his face]. What is the reason? Because the luminaries were hung [on that day]—he who is born on the fifth day of the week will render kindnesses. What is the reason? Because the fishes and birds were created that day. He who is born on the eve of the Sabbath will be a חַזְרָן (ḥazran), seeker. Rav Naḥman son of Yitsḥaq commented: חַזְרָן (ḥazran), assiduous, in mitsvot. He who is born on the Sabbath will die on the Sabbath, because the great day of the Sabbath was desecrated on his account. Rava son of Rav Shila observed: But he shall be called great and holy.

Rabbi Ḥanina said to [his disciples]: Go and tell the son of Levi, it is not the מַזָּל (mazal), constellation, of the day that is the influence but the constellation of the hour that is the influence [cf. BT Shabbat 129b: ‘the planet Mars rules at even-numbered hours of the day’; Pirqe de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 5]. He who is born under the sun will be a man outstanding [lit., of radiant appearance]: he will eat and drink of his own but his secrets will be revealed; if a thief, he will not succeed. He who is born under Venus will be a wealthy and promiscuous man. What is the reason? Because fire burns in it. He who is born under Mercury will be radiant and wise. What is the reason? Because it is the sun’s scribe. He who is born under the Moon will be a man to suffer evil, he will build and raze, raze and build, eating and drinking what is not his but his secrets will remain concealed: if a thief, he will be successful. He who is born under Saturn will be a man whose plans will be frustrated [since שַׁבְתַאִי (Shabbtai), Saturn, alludes to שׁבָּת (shabbat), cessation]. Others say: All designs against him will be frustrated. He who is born under צֶדֶק (Tsedeq), Jupiter, will be a man צַדְקָן (tsadqan), who does justly. Rav Naḥman son of Yitsḥaq observed: who does righteousness in mitsvot. He who is born under Mars will be a man who spills blood. Rabbi Ashi said: Either a surgeon, a thief, a [ritual] slaughterer, or a circumciser. Rabbah said: I was born under Mars [yet am none of these]. Abayye said: The master has also punished and killed [see BT Megillah 7b: ‘Rabbah and Rabbi Zera joined together in a Purim feast. They became drunk, and Rabbah arose and cut Rabbi Zera’s throat. On the next day he prayed on his behalf and revived him. Next year he said, Will your honor come and we will have the Purim feast together? He replied: A miracle does not take place on every occasion’].

It was stated. Rabbi Ḥanina says: The מַזָּל (mazal), constellation, gives wisdom, the constellation gives wealth, and there is a מַזָּל (mazal), flux of destiny, to Israel. Rabbi Yoḥanan says: There is no flux of destiny to Israel. Now, Rabbi Yoḥanan is consistent with his view, for Rabbi Yoḥanan said: How do we know that there is no flux of destiny to Israel? Because it is said, Thus says YHWH, Learn not the way of the nations, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the nations are dismayed at them (Jeremiah 10:2). They are dismayed but not Israel. Rav too holds that there is no flux of destiny to Israel. For Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav: How do we know that there is no flux of destiny to Israel? Because it is said, וַיּוֹצֵא (Va-yotse)And He took [him] outside (Genesis 15:5). Abraham said before the blessed Holy One ‘Master of the Universe! [Look, to me you have given no seed, and] a member of my household is to be my heir (ibid. 3).’ He said to him: ‘Not so, [This one will not be your heir,] but he who issues from your loins will be your heir’ (ibid. 4). He said before Him, ‘I have gazed at my horoscope, and I am not fated to engender a son.’ ‘צֶא (Tse), Leave, your astrological speculations! For there is no מַזָּל (mazal), constellation, to Israel. What do you suppose? Since צֶדֶק (Tsedeq), Jupiter, stands in the West I will turn it back and place it in the East’ [cf. Job 37:12; Zohar 1:110a; Bereshit Rabbah 44:10]. As it is written, Who raised up צֶדֶק (Tsedeq), Jupiter, from the east, He has summoned it for his sake (Isaiah 41:2). From Samuel too [we learn] that there is no מַזָּל (mazal), constellation, to Israel. For Samuel and Avlet were sitting, while certain people were going to a lake [to cut reeds]. Avlet said to Samuel: ‘That man is going but will not return, [for] a snake will bite him and he will die.’ Samuel said, ‘If he is an son of Israel he will go and return.’ While they were sitting he went and returned. [Thereupon] Avlet arose and threw off [the man’s] knapsack [of reeds], [and] found a snake in it cut up and lying in two pieces—Samuel said to him, ‘What did you do?’ ‘Every day we pooled our bread and ate it; but today one of us had no bread, and he was ashamed. I said to them, I will go and collect [the bread]. When I came to him, I pretended to take from him, so that he should not be ashamed.’ ‘You have done a מִצְוָה (mitsvah), commandment’ he said to him [cf. JT Orlah 1:5, 61b: ‘One who eats from his friend’s food is ashamed to look at him’]. Then Samuel went out and expounded: but righteousness saves from death (Proverbs 10:2); and [this does not mean] from an unnatural death, but from death itself.

From Rabbi Akiva too [we learn that] there is no מַזָּל (mazal), flux of destiny, to Israel. For Rabbi Akiva had a daughter. Now, Chaldeans told him, On the day she enters her bridal chamber a snake will bite her and she will die. He was very worried about this. On that day [of her marriage] she took a brooch [and] stuck it into the wall and it penetrated the eye of a snake. The following morning, when she took it out, the snake came trailing after it. ‘What did you do?’ her father asked her. She said to him ‘A poor man came to our door in the evening and everybody was busy at the banquet, and there was none to attend to him. So I took the portion which was given to me and gave it to him.’ ‘You have done a מִצְוָה (mitsvah), commandment’ he said to her. Then Rabbi Akiva went out and expounded: but righteousness saves from death: and not [merely] from an unnatural death, but from death itself. From Rav Naḥman son of Yitsḥaq too [we learn that] there is no מַזָּל (mazal), flux of destiny, to Israel. The mother of Rav Naḥman son of Yitsḥaq was told by Chaldeans, ‘Your son will be a thief.’ [Thus] she did not let him [go] bareheaded, saying to him, ‘Cover your head so that the fear of heaven may be upon you, and pray’—now, he did not know why she spoke that to him. One day he was sitting and studying under a palm tree, the evil impulse overcame him, he climbed up and bit off a cluster with his teeth” (BT Shabbat 156a-b).

“Just as there are twelve constellations from the side of good so there are twelve constellations from the side of evil. This is what is meant by, [These are the sons of Ishmael and these are their names in their habitations and their encampments,] twelve chieftains according to their tribes (Genesis 25:16), since, [On the day of good luck, enjoy the good, and on the day of evil, see:] one against the other God has set (Ecclesiastes 7:14)” (Zohar 3:283a, Ra’aya Meheimna Ki Tetze).