The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: אֲוִיר

ספר יצירה (Sefer Yetsirah), The Scroll of Formation, with Introduction

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These are the five scrolls and five chapters and five orders that Son of Sira revealed to Uziel his son and Yosef his grandson: Sefer Yetsirah, Sefer Tagi[n], Sefer Dikdukin, Sefer Pesiqta Batrei Apei Mishkan, Sefer Zerubbavel. Five chapters: Pereq Rabbi Shim’on bar Yoḥai, Pereq Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Pereq Otiyyot de-Rabbi Akiva, Pereq Ma’aseh Mishkan, Pereq Derekh Erets. Five orders: Seder Olam, Seder Tequfot, Seder Shaot, Seder Ibbur, Seder Halakhot [alt., Seder Heikhalot]. And when he had revealed all the mysteries the entire army on high shuddered. Now, the Holy Spirit issued, saying: Who revealed My secrets to the sons of man? Son of עצש״ט (‘ATsShT) stood up and said: I, Buzi son of Buzi [cf. Ezekiel 1:3]. The blessed Holy One said to him: [If you find honey, eat] just what you need, [lest you have your fill of it and throw it up] (Proverbs 25:16). Immediately Yosef sat down and wrote from ‘ATsShT those fifteen matters. He wrote five scrolls with a stylus—Sefer Yetsirah with which the blessed Holy One fashioned His world.

Who will utter YHWH’s mighty acts, will make heard all His praise? (Psalms 106:2)—none can utter His mighty acts or make heard all His praise. Even the ministering angels cannot recount מִקְצָת (miqtsat), some of [or: the best of those], mighty acts or expound on what צִפָּה (tsipah), He envisioned, created and actualized. For at the beginning when the blessed Holy One created the world, He was alone [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 1:4 on Isaiah 44:24]. It arose in His thought to create the world and He etched its foundations on the earth [cf. Isaiah 44:13; Proverbs 8:27], but they did not endure until He created with Torah Sefer Yetsirah—He gazed into it and understood in His wisdom. Thus He fashioned the world: His eyes gazing into Sefer Yetsirah, and His hands roaming and building the world [cf. 2 Chronicles 16:9].

To divide [between the holy and the profane]: Like a man who builds buildings and possesses a scroll and he looks at it, thus the blessed Holy One did. As soon as He fashioned His world and finished it, He placed it in Torah—treasured away at the start, preceding 974 generations before the creation of the world [cf. Proverbs 8:23; BT Ḥagigah 13b]. Now, when Abraham our father was born the ministering angels said before the blessed Holy One: Master of the World: There is one friend to You in this world yet from him something is concealed? Immediately the blessed Holy One said: Shall I conceal from Abraham [what I am about to do?] (Genesis 18:17). He sought the permission of Torah, saying: Come וּנַשִּׂיאךְ (u-nassik), and we shall marry you off, to Abraham My friend (Isaiah 41:8). She said before Him: Not until a humble man [Moses] will come and יִשָּׂא (yissa), lift up, [this] humble one. Immediately the blessed Holy One sought the permission of Sefer Yetsirah, and she said: Yes. He handed her on to Abraham.

Now, he sat alone and studied Sefer Yetsirah but he was unable to understand a thing until a heavenly echo issued saying to him: You seek to make yourself equal to Me? I am One and I created Sefer Yetsirah. I delved into it and I performed all that is written in it and you will not be able to understand a single [thing]. Draw a companion near to yourself and you will look into it and understand [cf. Ḥagigah 2:1]. Immediately Abraham went to Shem, his master, and sat with him three years and they looked into it and they knew how to fashion the world. And to this day, there is none who will understand it alone—only two sages [can], even they will not understand it in less than three years. Yet when they [do] understand it, they are able to perform anything their hearts desire. And when Abraham understood it, he added more wisdom to it and learned the entire Torah.

Rava, too, wanted to understand it alone. Rabbi Zera said: But it is written: A sword against הַבַּדִּים (ha-baddim), the soothsayers, exposed as fools (Jeremiah 50:36)—a sword against Israel’s enemies who sit בַּד בְּבַד (bad be-vad), apart, occupied with Torah [see BT Berakhot 63b ad loc.: ‘The Torah is only acquired in company’; cf. Ta’anit 7a; Makkot 10a]. If so, let us go and occupy ourselves with Sefer Yetsirah. And so they sat together and occupied themselves with it for three years and understood it. Once a calf was created for them and they slaughtered it and enjoyed it for the completion of the tractate [see BT Sanhedrin 65b]. But when they slaughtered it, they forgot it. They sat another three years and produced it again.

Son of Sira, too, wanted to understand it alone. A heavenly echo issued saying: Two are better than one, [for they get good reward for their toil] (Ecclesiastes 4:9). He went [and sat] next to Jeremiah and they occupied themselves with it for three years and understood it and an individual was created before them [בֶּן סִירַא (Ben Sira), Son of Sira, is numerically equivalent to יִרְמְיָהוּ (Yirmeyahu), Jeremiah, and אַבּוּ אַהֲרוֹן (Abu Aharon), i.e., Aharon ben Shemu’el ha-Nasi]. Written on his forehead was: וַיהוָה אֱלֹהִים אֱמֵת (va-Adonai Elohim Emet), but YHWH is the God of truth (Jeremiah 10:10). Now, in his hand was a knife and he was erasing א (alef) from אֱמֵת (emet), truth [leaving, מֵת (met), dead]. [Jeremiah rent his clothes (JTS MS 1887, fol. 129b)] he said: Why are you doing that? For it can’t possibly be true! He said to them: I will fashion a parable for you: What is this like? A man who is a builder and a sage. And when the sons of man saw him they made him king over them. Days later, others came and they learned the craft. They abandoned the first [king] and went after the others. Likewise, the blessed Holy One, exalted will be His name, gazes into Sefer Yetsirah and fashions the world, reigning over all His creations. And when you have come and done like Him, what will be the end of the matter? All will leave Him and go after you. What will become of He who fashioned you? They said to him: If so what will we do [now]? He said to them: Turn him back. And they made that man dust and ashes.

[§1] Yah YHWH of Armies, God of Israel, Living God, El Shaddai. Lofty and high One, who dwells forever and holy His Name (Isaiah 57:15) engraved thirty-two wondrous paths with wisdom [cf. Targum Yerushalmi on Genesis 1:1; TanḥumaBereshit 1; Zohar 1:15a; 3:82b, 257a (last two RM). Alt., “In thirty-two paths, wonders of wisdom, He engraved Yah YHWH of Armies…,” see Rabbi Asher ben David, Sefer ha-Yiḥud]. He created His world with three סֶפָרִים (sefarim), ciphers: ספר ספר ספר.

[§2] Ten סְפִירוֹת בְּלִימָה (sefiroth belimah), ciphers of emptiness [cf. Job 26:7: He hangs earth over בְּלִי מָה (beli-mah), emptiness; Avot 5:1], and twenty-two elemental letters—three mothers, seven doubles, and twelve simple ones.

[§3] Ten sefiroth belimah—like the number of the ten fingers, five opposite five and בְּרִית (berith), the covenant, of the singular One precisely in the middle in מִלַּת (millath), the word, of the tongue and millath, the circumcision, of the skin.

[§4] Ten sefiroth belimah—ten and not nine, ten and not eleven. Understand in wisdom, be wise in understanding. Probe them, from them explore. Establish a matter on its sound basis, and restore [יוֹצֵר [בְּרֵאשִׁית (yotser [bereshith]), the Fashioner [of the Beginning], to מְכוֹנוֹ (mekhon), His abode [cf. 1 Kings 8:43: You will hearken in the heavens, מְכוֹן שִׁבְתֶּךָ (mekhon shivtekha), the firm place of Your dwelling; Psalms 89:15: Justice and law are mekhon, the base, of Your throne].

[§5] Ten sefiroth בְּלִימָה (belimah)—בְּלֹם (belom), bridle, your mouth from speaking, bridle your heart from לְהַרְהֵר (le-harher), conceiving [cf. Psalms 32:9: Be not like a horse, like a mule, without sense, the bit and the reins his adornment—לִבְלוֹם (livlom), to keep, him from drawing near you; Daniel 4:2: I saw a dream and it frightened me, and הַרְהֹרִין (harhorin), thoughts, upon my couch and visions in my head panicked me]. And if your heart races return to the Place, as is written, Racing back and forth (Ezekiel 1:14)—concerning this a pact was sealed [cf. Rabbi Moshe de León, Sheqel ha-Qodesh 113].

[§6] Ten sefiroth belimah—their end is embedded in their beginning like a flame bound to a burning coal [cf. Isaiah 46:10; Ezekiel 1:13]. For the Lord is singular, He has none second to Him [cf. Ecclesiastes 4:8: There is one without a second, neither son nor brother he has]. Before one, what do you count?

[§7] Ten sefiroth belimah—their measure is ten yet they have no limit: depth of first and depth of last; depth of good and depth of evil; depth of over and depth of under; depth of east and depth of west; depth of north and depth of south. And a singular Lord—”אֵל מֶלֶךְ נֶאֱמָן (el melek ne’eman), God, steadfast King” (BT Shabbat 119b)—reigning over them all from His holy dwelling for ever and ever.

[§8] Ten sefiroth belimah—a vision of them is like the sight of lightening [or: sparks] (Ezekiel 1:14). וְתַכְלִיתָם אֵין לָהֶן קֵץ (We-thakhlitham ein la-hen qets), and their limit? They have no end [cf. Psalms 119:96: For each תִּכְלָה (tikhlah), finite thing, I saw קֵץ (qets), an end—but מִצְוָתְךָ (mitswathekha), Your command, is exceedingly broad]. And דְּבָרוֹ (devaro), His word, is in them racing back and forth (ibid.), and they pursue מַאֲמָרוֹ (ma’amaro), His command, like the storm [cf. BT Ḥagigah 12b], and before His Throne they bow down [cf. BT Bava Batra 25a; Avot de-Rabbi Natan A, 37].

[§9] Twenty-two elemental letters—three mothers, seven doubles, and twelve simple ones.

[§10] Ten sefiroth, that is to say: One—רוּחַ אֱלֹהִים חַיִּים (rhuaḥ Elohim ḥayyim), Breath of the Living God [cf. Genesis 1:2: … God’s breath hovering over the waters]. בָּרוּךְ וּמְבֹרָךְ (Barukh u-mevorakh), blessed and blessed, is the name of חֵי הַעוֹלָמִים (ḥei ha-olamim), the Vitality of Worlds. Voice, breath, word—רוּחַ הַקֹּדֶשׁ (rhuaḥ ha-qodesh), the Holy Breath [or: Spirit; cf. Zohar 1:246a].

[§12] Two—רוּחַ מֵרוּחַ (rhuaḥ me-rhuaḥ), wind from Breath: He engraved and hewed with it twenty-two elemental letters—three mothers, and seven doubles, and twelve simple ones, and breath is one of them [cf. Rabbi Shabbetai Donnolo, Sefer Hakhmoni].

[§13] Three—water from wind: He engraved and hewed with them תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ (thohu wa-vohu), welter and waste (Genesis 1:1), mud and clay (Isaiah 57:20). He engraved them like a sort of garden-bed. He stood them up like a sort of wall, and He thatched them like a sort of roof.

[§14] Four—fire from water: He engraved them and hewed with [fire] the Throne of Glory, וְאוֹפַנִּים וּשְׂרָפִים (ve-ofannim u-serafim), and whirlers and burners, holy living beings and ministering angels. And from the three of them He founded His dwelling, as is said: He makes His messengers the winds, His ministers, glowing fire (Psalms 104:4) [see Shemot Rabbah 15:22 ad loc.].

[§15] Five—He sealed above. He chose three simple [letters] and embedded them in His great Name. And He sealed with them six קְצָווֹת (qetsawoth), ends, and He turned upwards and sealed it [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 10:3 in the name of Rabbi Ḥama]. Six—He sealed below, and He turned downwards [in front] and sealed it. Seven—He sealed the east, and He turned downwards [in front] and sealed it. Eight—He sealed the west, and He turned behind and sealed it. Nine—He sealed the south, and He turned to His right and sealed it. Ten—He sealed the north, and He turned to His left and sealed it.

[§16] Ten sefiroth belimahרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים חַיִּים (rhuaḥ Elohim ḥayyim), Breath of the Living God; and rhuaḥwind, water, fire; up, down, east, west, north and south.

[§17a] Twenty-two letters—they are engraved by voice, hewn by breath, embedded in the mouth in five places: אח הע בו מף גי כק דט לנת זס שרץ (alef ḥeth he ‘ayin, beth waw mem peh, gimel yod khaf qof, daleth teth lamed nun taw, zayin samekh shin resh tsadhi) [קְדוּשָׁה (qedhushah), Holiness].

[§18] Twenty-two letters—their foundation is embedded <in the תְּלִי (Teli)> in the wheel with 231 gates [cf. Zohar 1:33b]. He rotates the wheel, turning it forward and backward [cf. BT Shabbat 151b; Zohar 1:110a on Job 37:12]. And this is the sign: if for good, upward—from עֹנֶג (‘oneg), pleasure; if for evil, downward—from נֶגַע (nega’), plague.

[§19a] Twenty-two letters—He engraved them, hewed them, weighed them, permuted them, and transposed them, fashioning with them the נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh), life-breath, of all that is fashioned, and the nefesh of all that is destined to be fashioned [cf. M Sanhedrin 4:5; Tanḥuma–Yelammedenu].

[§19b] How did He weigh and permute them? א (Alef) with them all, and all of them with alef; ב (beth) with them all, and all of them with beth. And they rotate in turn. Found through 231 gates, from which all was created—all speech and everything fashioned is found emerging from one name.

[§20 (MS S)] Out of תֹהוּ (thohu), nothing, He fashioned מַמָּשׁ (mammash), something, making what is not [into] what is. He hewed great big pillars out of אֲוִיר (awir), air, that cannot be grasped [cf. BT Ḥagigah 12b; Bereshit Rabbah 1:5]. And this is their mnemonic: קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ (qadosh, qadosh, qadosh), holy, holy, holy (Isaiah 6:3) [—numerically equivalent to 1230 and in its reduced value to six, which in turn is the reduced numerical value of the 231 gates].

[§21 (according to Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, Pardes Rimonim, 30:5)] 

אל בת גש דר הק וץ זף חע טס ין כם 

אב גת דש הר וק זץ חף חע יס כן לם 

אג דת הש ור זק חץ טף יע כס לן בם 

אד בג הת וש זר חק טץ יף כע לס מן 

אה בר ות זש חר טק ין כף לע מס גן 

או בה גד זת חש טג יק כץ לף מע נס 

אז בו גה חת טש יד כק לץ חף נע דס 

אח בז גו דה טת יש כר לק מץ נף סע 

אט בח גז דו ית כש לר מק נץ סף הע 

אי בט גח דז הו כת לש מר נק סץ עף 

אב בי גט דח הז לת מש נר סק עץ יף 

אל בך גי דט הח וז מת נש סר עק פץ 

אמ בל גס די הט זה צת סש ער פק זן 

אג בם גך דק הי וט זח סת עש פר צק 

אס בג גמ דל הס וי זט עת פש צר חק 

אע בס גנ דמ הל וכ זי חט פת צש קר 

אף בע גס דנ המ ול זכ חי צת קש טר 

אץ בף גע דס הג ומ זל חס טי קת רש 

אק בץ גף דע הס וג זם חל טב רת יש 

אר בק גץ דף הע וס זג חמ טל יב שת 

אש בר גק דן הף וע זס חג טמ יל כת 

את בש גר דק הץ וף זע חס טן ימ כל

[§22] He gazes and exchanges—making all that is fashioned and all speech one name. And a mnemonic for the matter: twenty-two חֲפָצִים (ḥafatsim), precious things, and one body [cf. Proverbs 8:11: For wisdom is better than rubies, all ḥafatsim, precious things, can’t match her worth].

[§23] Three mothers: א מ ש (alef, mem, shin)—their foundation is כַּף זְכוּת (kaf zekhuth), a scale [lit., palm] of merit, and כַּף חוֹבָה (kaf ḥovah), a scale of debt, and לְשׁוֹן חֹק (leshon ḥoq), a language [lit., tongue] of fixed law, holds the balance between them [cf. BT Qiddushin 40b; Midrash Tehillim 30:4].

[§24] Three mothers: alef, mem, shin—a great mystery, hidden and wondrous, sealed with six signets. And from it issues fire, water, and wind, and they divide into male and female [cf. Shemot Rabbah 15:22].

[§25] Three [fathers]—fire, water, and wind; fire above, water below, and wind between them. And this is a sign for the matter: fire lifts water [causing it to evaporate, cf. Isaiah 64:1: as fire makes water seethe].

[§26] Three mothers: alef, mem, shin—מֵם דּוֹמֶמֶת (mem domemeth), mem is mute; שִׁין שׁוֹרֶקֶת (shin shoreqeth), shin hisses [or: whistles; hushes, with שִׁנַּיִם (shinnaim), teeth]; and אָלֶף (alef), a fixed law, holds the balance between them.

[§27] Three mothers: alef, mem, shin—from them were born three fathers. From them all was created [cf. Zohar 2:23b–24a].

[§28] Three mothers: alef, mem, shin—in the world; [three fathers]—wind, water, fire. Heavens were created first from fire, and earth was created from water [cf. Tanḥuma (Buber), Bereshit 19], and אֲוִיר (awir), air [alt.,אוֹר (or), light,] was created from wind, holding the balance between them.

[§29] Three mothers: alef, mem, shin—in the year: fire, water, wind. Heat was created from fire, and cold was created from water, and humidity from wind holding the balance between them.

[§30] Three mothers: alef, mem, shin—in a nefesh, person. The head was created from fire, the belly from water, and the chest from rhuaḥ, breath [or: wind], holding the balance between them.

[§31] Three mothers: alef, mem, shin—He engraved them, hewed them, transposed them, fashioning with them the three mothers in the world, and the three mothers in the year, and the three mothers in a person—male and female.

[§32] He made alef king over wind, and bound to it a crown [cf. BT Menaḥot 29b], and transposed them, this with that, sealing with them אֲוִיר (awir), atmosphere, in the world, humidity in the year, and the chest in a person—male with alef, mem, shin, and female with shin, memalef.

[§33] He made מ (mem) king over מַיִם (mayim), water, and bound to it a crown, and sealed with it earth in the world, cold in the year, and the fruit of the belly in a person; male with mem, shinalef, and female with memalef, shin.

[§34] He made ש (shin) king over אֵשׁ (esh), fire, and bound to it a crown, and transposed them, this with that, sealing with it heavens in the world, heat in the year, and the head in a person, male with shin, memalef, and female with shinalef, mem.

[§35 (MS A)] How did He transpose them? אמש אשם מאש משא שמא שאם (Alef mem shin, alef shin mem, mem alef shin, mem shin alef, shin mem alef, shin alef mem)—heavens, fire; air, breath [or: wind]; earth, water. Man’s head: fire; his belly: water; his heart: breath.

[§36 (MS A)] Three mothers: alef, mem, shin. There was fashioned with alef: breath, air, humidity, chest, a fixed law, and a tongue. There was fashioned with mem: earth, cold, belly, and the scale of merit. There was fashioned with shin: heavens, heat, head, and the scale of debt. This is alef, mem, shin. The end.

[§37] Seven doubles: בגד כפרת (beth, gimel, daleth, kaf, peh, resh, taw)—they are pronounced with the tongue in two places. Their foundation is life and peace, wisdom and wealth, seed, favor, and mastery. They are pronounced with the tongue in two places: ב (beth, veth), ג (gimel, ghimel), ד (daleth, dhaleth), כ (kaf, khaf), פ (peh, feh), ר (resh, rhesh), ת (taw, thaw)—דָּגֵּשׁ (dagesh) and רְפֵי (rhefei), soft and hard, a paradigm of strong and weak. They are doubles because they are opposites. The opposite of life is death; the opposite of peace is war [lit., evil]; the opposite of wisdom is folly; the opposite of wealth is poverty; the opposite of seed is ruin; the opposite of favor is spurn; and the opposite of mastery is slavery.

[§38] Seven doubles: beth, gimel, daleth, kaf, peh, resh, taw—corresponding to seven קְצָווֹת (qetsawoth), ends [or: reaches, extremities, see Bahir §82]: a place of ends and a holy place; one—a place set within a place; two—the upper reaches; three—the lower reaches; four—the eastern reaches; five—the western reaches; six—the northern reaches; seven—the everlasting reaches, and the holy הֵיכָל (heikhal), Palace [or: Chamber, Hall, Temple], stands firm in the middle and it bears them all [cf. Bahir §154].

[§39] Seven doubles: beth, gimel, daleth, kaf, peh, resh, taw—He engraved and hewed them. He transposed them, fashioning with them the planets in the world, the days in the year, and the gates in a person by sevens.

[§40] How did He transpose them? Two stones build two houses; three build six houses; four build twenty-four houses; five build one hundred and twenty houses; six build seven hundred and twenty houses; seven build five thousand and forty [i.e., factorials]. From here on go out and tally what the mouth is unable to speak, and what the ear is unable to hear [cf. Isaiah 64:3: They never had seen, they never gave ear, no eye has seen God besides You; Sa’adia Gaon, Perush Sefer Yetsirah].

[§42] And with them were engraved seven firmaments, seven earths, seven hours and seven times. Therefore He loved the seventh under the heavens [cf. Ecclesiastes 3:1–8; Vayiqra Rabbah 29:11].

[§43a] These are the seven planets in the world: חַמָה (ḥamah), Sun, נוֹגַה (noghah), Venus, כּוֹכָב (kokhav), Mercury, לְבָנָה (levanah), Moon, שַׁבְּתַי (shabbethai), Saturn, צֶדֶק (tsedheq), Jupiter, מַאְדִים (ma’adhim), Mars. And days in the year: the seven days of Creation. And seven gates in a person: two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, and the mouth.

[§45] Twelve simple ones: הו זח טי לנ סע צק (he waw zayin ḥeth teth yod, lamed nun samekh ’ayin tsadhi qof)—their foundation is seeing, hearing, smelling, conversing, tasting, mating, doing, walking, impatience, laughing, fantasizing [lit., conceiving], sleeping.

[§47] Their measure is twelve גְבוּלֵי אֲלַכְסוֹן (gevulei alakhson), diagonal borders: a north-eastern border, a south-eastern border—an upper eastern border, a lower eastern border; a north-western border, a south-western border—an upper western border, a lower western border; an upper northern border, a lower northern border; an upper southern border, a lower southern border; deepening and expanding until evermore, זְרֹעֹת עוֹלָם (zero’oth olam), arms of the world (Deuteronomy 33:27) [cf. BT Ḥagigah 12b ad loc.; Bahir §95. On the various compound directions, see M Yoma 5:5; Zevaḥim 5:3; Zohar 1:120b; 3:118b, 120a].

[§48a] He made them a sort of מְרִיבָה (merivah), rivalry, arranging them in battle [array], One opposite the other God made them (Ecclesiastes 7:14).

[§48b] Three—each one stands alone; seven are at loggerheads—three against three, and one which holds the balance between them. Twelve stand in battle [array]: three love but three hate; three give life but three kill. God, a steadfast King, reigning over them all—one atop three, and three atop seven, and seven atop twelve. And they all hold fast to each other [cf. Bahir §118].

[§49a] Twelve simple letters: הו זח טי לנ סע צק (he waw zayin ḥeth teth yod, lamed nun samekh ’ayin tsadhi qof)—He engraved them and hewed them, He weighed them and permuted them, fashioning with them the twelve constellations in the world, twelve months in the year, and the twelve מַנְהִיגִים (manhigim), conductors, in a person [see Bahir §94].

These [§49b] are the twelve constellations in the world: טָלֶה (taleh), Aries, שׁוֹר (shor), Taurus, תְּאוֹמִים (te’omim), Gemini, סַרְטָן (sartan), Cancer, אַרְיֵה (arhyeh), Leo, בְּתוּלָה (bethulah), Virgo, מֹאזְנַיִם (moznayim), Libra, עַקְרָב (‘aqrhav), Scorpio, קַשָּׁת (qashath), Sagittarius, גְּדִי (gedhi), Capricorn, דְּלִי (deli), Aquarius, דָּגִים (daghim), Pisces. And these are the twelve months: נִיסָן (Nisan), אִייָר (Iyyar), סִיוָן (Siwan), תַמוּז (Thammuz), אָב (Av), אֱלוּל (Elul), תִּשְׁרֵי (Tishrhei), מַרְחֶשְׁוָן (Marḥeshwan), כִּסְלֵיו (Kislew), טֵבֵת (Teveth), שְׁבָט (Shevat), אֲדָר (Adhar). And these are the twelve manhigim, conductors, in a person: the right hand, the left hand, the right foot, the left foot, two kidneys, the liver, the gallbladder, the spleen, the gullet, the stomach, and the intestines. 

[§50] Three mothers, and seven doubles, and twelve simple ones.

[§56] These are twenty-two letters [engraved and hewed by] YahYHWH of Armies, God of Israel, Living God, lofty and high One, who dwells forever and holy His Name (Isaiah 57:15).

[§58] Three fathers and their generations, and seven כּוֹבְשִׁים (kovshim), conquerers, and their armies [cf. Numbers 32:22: The land נִכְבְּשָׁה (nikhbeshah), is conquered, before YHWH], and the twelve diagonal borders. And a proof for the matter, trusty witnesses (Isaiah 8:2): the world, the year, and a person.

[§59a] There is a fixed law of ten, three, seven, and twelve. They are overseers in Teli, Wheel, and Heart [cf. Bahir §95].

[§59b] The Teli in the world is like a king on his throne; the Wheel in the year is like a king in a province; the Heart in a person is like a king at war.

[§60b] One opposite the other God made them (Ecclesiastes 7:14)—good opposite evil; good from good and evil from evil. Good discerning evil and evil discerning good. Good is treasured away for the good and evil is kept for the evil.

[§61] When Abraham our father gazed—looking, seeing, probing, understanding, engraving, hewing, transposing, and fashioning—he succeeded. Immediately the Lord of All was revealed to him, making him sit in His lap, kissing him upon the head, and calling him His friend [see Isaiah 41:8], naming him His son, and sealing a pact with him and his seed forever. And he trusted in YHWH, and He reckoned it to his merit (Genesis 15:6). [And He invoked upon him the glory of YHWH, as is written, Before I fashioned you in the belly I knew you (Jeremiah 1:5) (MS A)]. Sealing a pact with him: between the ten toes of his feet—circumcision of the skin. Sealing a pact with him: between the ten fingers of his hands—covenant of the tongue. Binding twenty [-two] letters with his tongue [or: in his tongue], the Omnipresent revealing to him His secret. He drew them out with fire like water—burning them with fire, rattling them with wind [or: shaking them into wind]. He branded them in seven, leading them with twelve constellations.

[§62] (1) אֲוִיר וּרְוָיָה וּגְוִיָּה (Awir, u-rewayah u-gewiyyah), air, satiety, and chest [cf. Psalms 66:12: We came into fire and water—and You brought us out לָרְוָיָה (le-rewayah), to satiety; Ezekiel 1:11: two covered גְּוִיֹּתֵיהֶנָה (gewiyyotheihenah), their chests]; earth, cold and belly; heavens and heat and the head. This is א מ ש (alef, mem, shin).

(2) Saturn, Sabbath and the mouth; Jupiter, the first day of the week and the right eye; Mars, the second day of the week and the left eye; the Sun, the third day of the week and the right nostril; Venus, the fourth day of the week and the left nostril; Mercury, the fifth day of the week and the right ear; the Moon, the sixth day of the week and the left ear. This is בגד כפרת (beth, gimel, daleth, kaf, peh, resh, taw).

(3) Aries, Nisan, the liver; Taurus, Iyyar, the gallbladder; Gemini, Siwan, the spleen; Cancer, Thammuz, the gullet; Leo, Av, the right kidney; Virgo, Elul, the left kidney; Libra, Tishrhei, the intestines; Scorpio, Marḥeshwan, the stomach; Sagittarius, Kislew, the right hand; Capricorn, Teveth, the left hand; Aquarius, Shevat, the right foot; Pisces, Adhar, the left foot. This is הו זח טי לנ סע צק (hewawzayinḥeth, teth, yod, lamed, nun, samekh, ‘ayin, tsadhi, qof).

[§63] 1 Three hate and these are they: the tongue, the liver, and the gallbladder.

2 Three love: the heart, the ears, and the eyes.

3 Three give life: the two nostrils and the liver of the left side.

4 Three kill: the two lower orifices and the mouth.

5 Three are in man’s control: the feet, the hands, and the mouth.

6 Three are not in man’s control: his two eyes, his ears, and his nostrils [on the voluntary and involuntary organs, see Bereshit Rabbah 67:3].

7 Three are bad tidings for the ear: cursing, blasphemy, and an evil rumor [or: bad news, see Jeremiah 49:23; Psalms 112:7].

8 Three are good tidings for the ear: blessing, a good report [or: good news, see Proverbs 25:25], and praise.

9 Three sights are bad for the eye: adultery, an evil eye, and a deceptive look.

10 Three sights are good for the eye: modesty, a good eye, and a trustworthy look.

11 Three are bad for the tongue: He who speaks in the presence of the slanderer, he who speaks one thing with the mouth but another with the heart, and he who speaks more than enough.

12 Three are good for the tongue: silence, holding the tongue, and speaking truth [cf. Sefer Yetsirah §5; M Avot 1:17].

[§64] Whoever understands this scroll and keeps it has the assurance that he is a son of the world to come. This is the scroll of Abraham our father, peace be upon him, which is called The Scroll of Formation [or: The Scroll of Fashioning; Hilkhot Yetsirah (The Laws of Formation), see BT Sanhedrin 65b].

There is no measure to the wisdom of anyone who looks into it. And the mysteries of the upper and lower world will be revealed to anyone who occupies himself with it and studies it and knows its mysteries—he has the assurance that he is a son of the world to come. This scroll, which is called סוֹד הָעִבּוּר (sod ha-ibbur), The Secret of Intercalation [lit., ‘The Secret of Impregnation,’ a system of insertion of leap days, weeks, or years to keep the Jewish calendar synchronized with the moon’s phases, cf. BT Rosh ha-Shanah 20b. On the laws of intercalation, see for example M Sanhedrin 1:2; Arakhin 2:2. Cf. Pirqe de-Rabbi Eli’ezer, 8], on which the whole world depends, should not be handed on to anyone except he who turns away from evil and is in awe of אֱלֹהִים (Elohim), God, and waits and hopes for his Maker, as is said, Steadfast love surrounds him who trusts in YHWH (Psalms 32:10), and it says, Israel is victorious through YHWH, an everlasting victory. You shall not be shamed and shall not be disgraced forever more (Isaiah 45:17).

Fear of the King

509px-Chisinau_jew“The mother of Rav Naḥman son of Yitsḥaq was told by Chaldeans [i.e., astrologers], ‘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 for compassion’—now, he did not know why she spoke that to him. One day he was sitting and studying under a palm tree, the cloak fell off of his head, he lifted his eyes, and seeing the palm tree, climbed up and bit off a cluster with his teeth” (BT Shabbat 156b).

The wise has his eyes in his head, and the fool walks in darkness (Ecclesiastes 2:14). Now, where are a person’s eyes if not in his head? Perhaps in the trunk of his body or in his arms? Does this distinguish the wise one from all inhabitants of the world? Ah, but the verse surely means as follows. For we have learned: A person should not walk four cubits with his head uncovered. Why? Because Shekhinah rests upon his head. Every wise person has his eyes and his words בְּרֹאשׁוֹ (be-rosho), on his head—focused on the one who is resting and appearing on his head. When his eyes are there, he knows that the light kindled on his head needs oil. For the human body is a wick, and a light is kindled above, and King Solomon exclaimed: Let oil on your head not be lacking (Ecclesiastes 9:8); for the light on one’s head needs oil, namely good deeds. Thus, the wise one has his eyes on his head—and nowhere else!” (Zohar 3:187a).

Only בְּצֶלֶם (be-tselem), with an imagedoes a man goes about (Psalms 39:7) [cf. Zohar 1:218a; 3:43a–b]. Because [צֶלֶם (tselem), an image (i.e., Shekhinah)] is over a man’s head, man is prohibited to walk four cubits with his head uncovered. If She departs from over his head, his life is immediately gone” (Zohar 3:121b, Ra’aya Meheimna Naso).

“Because the Shekhinah is over his head the Masters of Mishnah taught: A scholar of the Law is forbidden to walk four cubits with his head uncovered [cf. BT Qiddushin 31a] because, the whole earth is full of His glory (Isaiah 6:3). And even more so to go with uncovered head during a blessing or the mention of the Holy Name! [And the reason for the prohibition of going with an uncovered head:] י (yod) of יהוה (YHWH) is enveloped in אוֹר (or), light, and becomes אֲוִיר (avir), atmosphere [lit., air], since י (yod), which is Ḥokhmah, is in the אֲוִיר (avir), atmosphere [cf. BT Bava Batra 158b; Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 5]. And this is the light with which He enveloped himself when He created the world, as is written: Wrapped in light like a cloak, stretching out heavens like a tent-cloth (Psalms 104:2). Thus Let there be אוֹר (or), light (Genesis 1:1) is, Let there be אֲוִיר (avir), atmosphere. And the Masters of the Secrets of Torah taught: Before anything else was formed, הָהַוָיוֹת (ha-havayot), the existences, were formed. Thus: Let there be light, and there was light—that had existed previously” (Zohar 3:245a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas, cf. Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 37b).

By what Way does the Light Fan Out?

image

By what way does the light fan out? (Job 38:24).

“House of Shammai are of the opinion that there is only one נְהוֹרָא (nehora), light, in a nehora, light, while House of Hillel are of the opinion that there are several. It has been taught to the same effect: House of Hillel said to House of Shammai: There are several מְאוֹרוֹת (me’orot), lights, in אוֹר (or), light” (BT Berakhot 52b).

“The universe diffracts into forty-five hues of colored light. Seven disperse into seven abysses, each one striking its own abyss, stones gyrating. The light penetrates those stones, piercing them, and water issues from them, each one sinking within an abyss, covering both sides. Water flows through those holes, light penetrates, striking all four sides of the abyss. Each light whirls around its partner, converging as one, splitting the water” (Zohar 1:51a–52a).

“In this quadrisected expanse, all colors are included, four colors seen within, engraved quadruply, higher and lower secrecies inscribed in four engravings. When the colors of these four scatter, they total twelve: green, red, white, and a color blended of all colors as is written: Like the appearance of the bow in the cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance—the appearance of the semblance of the glory of YHWH (Ezekiel 1:28)—appearance of the colors of all. So, I have set My bow in the cloud (Genesis 9:13)” (Zohar 1:71b).

“Come and see: There are four lights. Three of them are concealed, and one revealed. A shining light [Ḥesed]. A light of radiance [Gevurah], shining like the heavens in purity [Tif’eret]. A light of purple, absorbing all lights [Yesod]. A light that does not shine [Shekhinah] but gazes toward these, receiving them, and they appear in it as in a crystal facing the sun. These three that we have mentioned are concealed, and stand above this one, which is revealed… This is the mystery: Close your eye and turn your eyeball, and those shining, glowing colors are revealed. Permission to see is granted only with eyes shut and concealed, for they are supernally concealed, standing above those colors that are seen and do not glow” (Zohar 2:23b).

“This blue on the second day was tinged with other colors: red and black… This black is so dark that its color cannot be seen from within the darkness. The Holy Lamp [Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai] said as follows: ‘This dark black color, where was it imbued? Well, when that red was smelted within blue and colors intermingled, a smelting of filth melted into the depths, out of which formed mire and mud, as is said: Its waters cast up mire and mud (Isaiah 57:20). From that clay of the depths emerged the darkness that is black—and not black but utterly dark, as is written: and darkness over the face of the deep (Genesis 1:2). Why is it called darkness? Because its color is dark and it darkens the faces of creatures” (Zohar 2:149b).

“These colors, intermingle, merging with one another—each one lending some of its color to its fellow—except for white, in which all are absorbed when necessary, and which covers all [cf. Proverbs 10:12]. As for all colors below, inhabitants of the world cannot turn them—black, red, or green—into white. Yet here [on the rung of Ze’eir Anpin], with one gaze [toward Attiqa Qadisha], all of them are transformed, bathed in white” (Zohar 3:293b, Idra Zuta).

Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai! Oy for the Generation that will be Orphaned without You!

Rashbi

“Our Rabbis taught: When our Rabbis entered the vineyard at Yavneh, they said, ‘Torah is destined to be forgotten in Israel, as is said: Look, days are coming, said YHWH, when I will let loose famine in the land, not famine for bread and not thirst for water but for hearing the words of YHWH (Amos 8:10). And it is written: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north to the east they shall roam to seek YHWH’s word, but they shall not find it (ibid., 11).’ … Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai said, ‘Perish the thought that Torah will be forgotten in Israel, as is said: But it shall not be forgotten in the mouth of his seed (Deuteronomy 31:21)” (BT Shabbat 138b).

“כִּי לֹא תִשָּׁכַח מִפִּי זַרְעו But it shall not be forgotten in the mouth of his seedיוֹחַאי (Yoḥai)….

עִיר וְקַדִּישׁ מִן שְׁמַיָּא נָחִת A holy emissary came down from the heavens (Daniel 4:10)—שִׁמְעוֹן (Shim’on)” (Rabbi Naḥman of Bratslav, Liqqutei MoharanLekhu Ḥazu, cf. BT Bava Batra 21a; Zohar 2:149b; 3:58a).

“It was said that Rabbi Akiva had twelve thousand pairs of disciples, from Gevat to Antipatris; and all of them died at the same time because they did not honor each other. The world remained desolate until Rabbi Akiva came to our Rabbis in the South and taught them. These were Rabbi Me’ir, Rabbi Yehudah, Rabbi Yose, Rabbi Shim’on and Rabbi El’azar son of Shammu’a; and it was they who upheld Torah at that time” (BT Yevamot 62b).

“Whoever separates from Torah is like one who separates from life, and one who separates from Rabbi Shim’on is as if he separates from all…. Woe to the generation from which Rabbi Shim’on departs! For when we are in the presence of Rabbi Shim’on, springs of the heart are open in every direction and all is revealed, but when we separate from him we know nothing and all springs are stopped. Rabbi Ḥizkiyah said, ‘Corresponding to what is written: He held back some of the spirit that was upon him and put it upon the seventy men, the elders (Numbers 11:25)—like a lamp from which many lamps are lit, while retaining its vitality. Similarly, Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai, Master of Lamps, illumines all, yet light does not depart from him and he retains vitality’” (Zohar 2:86b).

“Rabbi Ḥiyya prostrated himself on the ground, kissing the dust and weeping. He cried out, ‘Dust, dust, how stubborn you are, how impudent! All delights of the eye decay in you. All pillars of light in the world you consume and pulverize. How insolent you are! The Holy Lamp who has illumined the world, majestic ruler, prince, whose merit sustains the world, decays in you. O Rabbi Shim’on, radiance of the lamp, radiance of the worlds, you decompose in the dust, yet you subsist and guide the world!’

For a moment he was shocked, and then exclaimed, ‘Dust, dust, do not boast! The pillars of the world will not be surrendered to you. Rabbi Shim’on has not decayed in you! [since the bodies of the righteous do not decay, see BT Bava Metsi’a 84b]” (Zohar 1:4b, cf. ibid. 3:70a–71b).

“One of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai’s disciples forgot what he had learned and went weeping to the cemetery. After this Rabbi Shim’on appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘When you throw three kernels at me I will come to you.’ The disciple went to a dream interpreter, who told him, ‘repeat your chapter three times and Rabbi Shim’on will come to you and you will no longer forget what you have learned’” (Qohelet Rabbah 10:10).

“Wherever son of Yoḥai is found, his companions are there with him, awakened by him, and learning from him” (Zohar Ḥadash 60a).

“The name of Messiah was contemplated [before the creation of the world], as is written, As long as the sun may his name bear seed (Psalms 72:17)” (Bereshit Rabbah 1:4).

“בְּרֵאשִׁית (Bereshit), In the beginning (Genesis 1:1)—an acronym: א״ת רשב״י (or torat Rashbi), the light of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai’s teaching” (Rabbi Naftali Bacharach, Emeq ha-Melekh 63a, cf. Yehudah Leibes, Studies in the Zohar, p. 239–40, n. 68).

“The blessed Holy One has engraved the image of Rabbi Shim’on high above, and his voice ascends on high and is adorned with a holy crown, until the blessed Holy One is crowned with him in all worlds, glorying in him. Of him is written He said to me, ‘You are My servant, Israel, in whom I glory (Isaiah 49:3)….

It has been taught: Before coming to the world, all the righteous of the world are arrayed with their names. And ever since the day that the blessed Holy One created the world, Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai had been poised before the blessed Holy One and present with Him. Happy is his share above and below! Of him is written Your father and your mother will rejoice (Proverbs 23:25)—your father is the blessed Holy One; and your mother is Assembly of Israel” (Zohar 3:61b).

“If the Torah had not been given on Mount Sinai, but instead the blessed Holy One had said, ‘Here, the son of Yoḥai is My Torah and My secrets!’ it would have sufficed for the world. Woe when you depart from the world! Who will illumine lamps of Torah? All will darken from that day on. For until King Messiah comes, there will be no generation such as this one, in whose midst Rabbi Shim’on dwells!” (Zohar 3:241b).

“Ḥizkiyah said in the name of Rabbi Yirmeyah: Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai said, ‘I am able לִפְטוֹר (liftor), to exempt, the whole world from judgment from the day that I was born until now, and were El’azar, my son, to be [reckoned] with me from the day of the creation of the world to the present time, and were Jotham son of Uzziah with us, from the creation of the world to its final end…. Ḥizkiyah further stated in the name of Rabbi Yirmeyah who said it in the name of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai, I have seen בְּנֵי עֲלִיָּיה (bnei aliyyah), the sons of ascension, and they are few. If there be a thousand, I and my son are among them; if a hundred, I and my son are among them; and if only two, they are I and my son [cf. Rabbi El’azar of Worms, Ḥokhmah ha-Nefesh, p. 59: ‘He has seen either through a dream question, or as Rabbi Neḥunia son of ha-Qannah (who performed the ancient practice of placing the head between the knees in order to attain a vision of the Chariot, see 1 Kings 18:42 (and Rabbi David Kimḥi, ad loc.); BT Berakhot 34b, Avodah Zarah 17a; Zohar 3:166b; Rav Ḥai Gaon, Otsar ha-Geonim on Ḥagigah 14b; Teshuvot 14–15)]’” (BT Sukkah 45b).

“Rabbi Ḥizkiyah said in Rabbi Yirmeyah’s name: Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai said: If Abraham is willing, he can effectively intercede for [all generations] from his days until mine, while I can intercede for [all generations] from my time until the advent of Messiah. While if he is not willing, let Ahijah the Shilonite unite with me, and we can intercede for all from the days of Abraham until those of Messiah. Rabbi Ḥizkiyah said in Rabbi Yirmeyah’s name: Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai said: The world is unable to endure without thirty [men] righteous like Abraham our father. If there are thirty, my son and I are two of them; if ten, my son and I are two of them; if five, my son and I are two of them; if two, they are my son and I; and but one, I am he” (Bereshit Rabbah 35:2, cf. JT Berakhot 9:2, 13d; BT Sanhedrin 97b; Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana 11:5).

“Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘When I am among those Companions of Babylonia, they gather around me and learn subjects openly, and then insert them beneath an impregnable seal of iron, shut tight on all sides. How often have I described to them the pathways of the garden of the Holy King and the supernal pathways! How often have I taught them all those rungs of the righteous in that world! They are called stammerers, like one who stammers with his mouth. But I judge them favorably because they are frightened, for holy air and holy spirit have been withdrawn from them and they suck air and spirit of an alien domain [cf. BT Bava Batra 158b]. Furthermore, a rainbow appears above them and they are unworthy; but to their benefit, I am present in the world, I am the sign of the world, for in my lifetime the world does not dwell in suffering and is not punished by judgment above. After me there will not rise a generation like this one. The world is destined to lack anyone who can protect it, and all kinds of impudent faces will haunt above and below—above, on account of sins of those below and their impudence” (Zohar 1:224b–225a, cf. BT Sotah 49b).

“A band of outlaws cannot abide in the world, for Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai has nullified them. Happy are you, Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai, for your Master delights in your glory above all inhabitants of the world! Of Moses is written Moses implored [the presence of YHWH his God] (Exodus 32:21)—implying that he was seized with gout. Whereas you, Rabbi Shim’on, decree and the blessed Holy One fulfills; He decrees and you abolish!” (Zohar 3:15a, cf. BT Mo’ed Qatan 16b).

“Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘All lamps—you Companions, who are in this holy ring—I call the highest heaven and the highest holy earth as witness that I see now what no human has seen since the day that Moses ascended Mount Sinai the second time. I see my face shining like the light of the powerful sun that is destined to radiate healing for the world, as is written: For you who revere My name the sun of righteousness will shine, with healing in its wings (Malachi 3:20). Furthermore, I know that my face is shining, where as Moses did not know or see, as is written: Moses did not know that the skin of his face was radiant (Exodus 34:29)” (Zohar 3:132b, Idra Rabba, cf. BT Bava Batra 12a).

“Now, why is [Rabbi Yehudah son of Rabbi Ila’i] called the first speaker on all occasions? For Rabbi Yehudah, Rabbi Yose, and Rabbi Shim’on were sitting, and Yehudah son of converts, was sitting near them. Rabbi Yehudah opened, saying, ‘How fine are the works of this people! They have made streets, they have built bridges, they have erected baths.’ Rabbi Yose was silent. Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai answered and said, ‘All that they made they made for themselves; they built marketplaces, to set prostitutes in them; baths, to rejuvenate themselves; bridges, to levy tolls for them [cf. BT Bava Batra 10b].’ Now, Yehudah son of converts went and related their talk, which reached the government. They decreed: Yehudah, who exalted [us], shall be exalted, Yose, who was silent, shall be exiled to Sepphoris; Shim’on, who denounced, let him be executed.

He and his son went and hid themselves in the house of study, [and] his wife brought him bread and a mug of water and they dined. [But] when the decree became more severe he said to his son, ‘Women are of unstable temperament: she may be tortured and expose us.’ So they went and hid in a cave [cf. 1 Kings 19]. A miracle occurred and a carob-tree and a spring of water were created for them. They would strip their garments and sit up to their necks in sand. The whole day they studied; when it was time for prayers they robed, covered themselves, prayed, and then removed their garments again, so that they should not wear out. Thus they dwelt twelve years in the cave. Then Elijah came and stood at the opening to the cave and said, ‘Who will inform the son of Yoḥai that the Caesar is dead and his decree annulled?’ So they emerged.

Seeing men ploughing and sowing, they exclaimed, ‘They forsake life eternal and engage in needs of the hour!’ [cf. BT Berakhot 35b]. Every place they gazed upon was immediately burnt up. A heavenly echo came forth and cried out, ‘Have you emerged to destroy My world? Return to your cave!’ So they returned and dwelt there twelve months, saying, ‘The punishment of the wicked in Hell is [limited to] twelve months.’ An echo then issued, saying, ‘Go out from your cave!’ They emerged, and wherever Rabbi El’azar wounded, Rabbi Shim’on healed. He said to him, ‘My son! You and I are sufficient for the world’ [cf. Zohar 3:144b (IR): ‘They rose (from the great assembly), and no place they looked at failed to exude fragrance. Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘From this you can infer that the world is blessed because of us’].

On the eve of the Sabbath before sunset they saw an old man holding two sprigs of myrtle and running at twilight. They asked him, ‘What are these for?’ ‘They are in honor of the Sabbath,’ he replied. ‘Isn’t one enough for you?’ ‘One [is] for Remember [the Sabbath day] (Exodus 20:8), and one for Keep [the Sabbath day] (Deuteronomy 5:12). He said to his son, ‘See how precious the mitsvot are to Israel.’ There minds were set at ease.

Rabbi Pinḥas son of Ya’ir his son-in-law heard and went out to meet him. He took him into the baths and massaged his flesh. Seeing the clefts in his body he wept and the tears streamed from his eyes. ‘Woe to me that I see you in such a state!’ he cried out. He said, ‘Happy are you that you see me so, for if you did not see me in such a state you would not find me so [learned. See the similar expression by Naḥum of Gamzu, see BT Ta’anit 21a]. For originally, when Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai raised a difficulty, Rabbi Pinḥas son of Ya’ir would give him thirteen answers, whereas subsequently when Rabbi Pinḥas son of Ya’ir raised a difficulty, Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai would give him twenty-four answers. He said, ‘Since a miracle has occurred let me go and amend something, for it is written, and Jacob came in שָׁלֵם (shalem), peace [(lit., whole) to the town of Shechem] (Genesis 33:18).’ Rav interpreted: whole in his body, whole financially, and whole in his learning. [וַיִּחַן (Va-yiḥan), and he camped, before the town (ibid.)—read instead:] And he was חַנוּן (ḥanoon), gracious, to the town. Rav said: He instituted coinage for them. Shemu’el said: He instituted markets for them; Rabbi Yoḥanan said: He instituted baths for them. [Rabbi Shim’on asked:] Is there anything to fix?” (BT Shabbat 33b).

“Rabbi Pinḥas used to frequent Rabbi Reḥumai by the shore of Lake Ginnosar [the Sea of Galilee, Lake Kinneret]. He was distinguished, advanced in years, and his eyes had transcended seeing. He said to Rabbi Pinḥas, ‘Truly I have heard that our Companion Yoḥai has a pearl, a precious stone. I gazed at the light of that pearl, issuing like the radiance of the sun from its sheath, illumining the entire world [alluding to Rabbi Shim’on’s emergence from the cave]. That light extends from heaven to earth, illumining the entire world until the Ancient of Days comes and sits fittingly upon the throne. That light is contained totally in your house [since according to the Zohar, Rabbi Shim’on is married to the daughter of Rabbi Pinḥas and thus contained in his house], and from the light contained in your house emanates a fine, threadlike ray, radiating, illumining the entire world [namely Rabbi El’azar son of Rabbi Shim’on]. Happy is your share! Go, my son, go out after that pearl illuminating the world, for the time is ripe.’

He left him and was about to board a boat along with two other men, when he saw two birds come flying over the lake. He shouted to them, ‘Birds, birds, flying over the lake! Have you seen the site of the son of Yoḥai?’ He paused a while, and then said, ‘Birds, birds, go and bring me a reply!’ They flew off.

They embarked, setting off across the lake. Before he had disembarked, those birds returned, and in the mouth of one of them was a note on which was written: ‘The son of Yoḥai has emerged from the cave along with his son Rabbi El’azar.’ He went to him and found him transfigured, his body full of moldy sores. He wept together with him and said, ‘Alas, that I see you so!’ He replied, ‘Happy is my share that you see me so, for had you not seen me so, I would not be so” (Zohar 1:11a–b, cf. ZḤ 59c–60a).

“Our Rabbis have taught: Once Rabbi Yoḥanan was travelling to see Rabbi Shim’on, and Rabbi Yose was walking with him. Rabbi Yose asked him, ‘Where are you going?’ He replied, ‘To see Rabbi Shim’on.’ He said, ‘You are going to see your master of dissension?!’ He replied, ‘Conclude from this that Rabbi Shim’on dissents for the sake of heaven! Since it is so, the love of my heart abides with him’ [cf. M Avot 5:17]” (Zohar Ḥadash 10a–b [MhN]).

“Rabbi Ḥiyya and Rabbi Yose came and prostrated themselves before [Rabbi Shim’on] and kissed his hands. They wept and said ‘Higher and lower engravings raise their heads because of you! The blessed Holy One made Jerusalem below corresponding to the pattern above. Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai made the walls of the city and its gates! Whoever enters does not enter until the gates are opened. Whoever ascends does not ascend until the steps of the walls are firm. It is written: All your males shall appear in the presence of the Lord YHWH (Exodus 34:23)—this is Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai! For whoever is male of males must appear before him’” (Zohar 2:38a).

“Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi met Elijah at the opening of the cave of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai. He asked him: ‘Have I a portion in the world to come?’ He said, ‘If this lord desires.’ Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi said, ‘I saw two, but heard the voice of a third [the Shekhinah (Rashi)].’ He then asked him, ‘When will the Messiah come?’—‘Go and ask him himself,’ was his reply. ‘Where is he sitting?’—‘At the portal of the city [of Rome (Gra)].’ And by what sign may I recognize him?’—‘He is sitting among the ill, poor, and suffering: everyone of them untie all at once and rebandage them together, whereas he unties and rebandages each separately [before treating the next], thinking, should I be wanted, I must not be delayed [by having to bandage a number of sores].’ So he went to him and greeted him, saying, ‘Peace be upon you, Rabbi and Teacher.’ ‘Peace be upon you son of Levi,’ he replied. ‘When will you come Master?’ he asked, ‘Today,’ was his answer. On his returning to Elijah, he asked, ‘What did he say to you?’—‘Peace be upon you son of Levi,’ he answered. Thereupon he [Elijah] observed, ‘He thereby assured you and your father of [a portion in] the world to come.’ ‘He spoke a lie to me, saying that he would come today, but has not.’ He [Elijah] answered him, ‘This is what he said to you, Today, if you would only heed His voice!’ (Psalms 95:7)” (BT Sanhedrin 98a).

“Even children in the generation of Rabbi Shim’on are worthy of wisdom! Happy are you, Rabbi Shim’on! Woe to the generation from whom you depart!” (Zohar 1:93a).

“Come and enter! Gather for the wedding celebration of Rabbi Shim’on. He shall enter into peace; they shall rest upon their couches (Isaiah 57:2). As he entered the cave [of his burial site], they heard a voice inside: ‘This is the man who shook the earth, who made kingdoms tremble. How many open mouths of accusation in heaven subside today because of you! This is Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai, in whom his Lord glories every day. Happy is his share above and below! How many supernal treasures are preserved for him! Of him is said As for you, go on till the end, and you will rest, and arise for your destiny at the end of days (Daniel 12:13)’” (Zohar 3:296b, Idra Zuta).

“Because [the people of] Israel are destined to taste of this Tree of Life, namely this סֵפֶר הַזֹּהַר (Sefer ha-Zohar), Book of Radiance, they will thereby come forth from exile through [divine] compassion” (Zohar 3:124b, Ra’aya Meheimna Naso).

A Spark of Impenetrable Darkness

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“At the head of potency of the King. He engraved engravings in luster on high. A spark of impenetrable darkness flashed within the concealed of the concealed, from the head of Infinity—a cluster of vapor forming in formlessness, thrust in a ring, not white, not black, not red, not green, no color at all. As a cord surveyed, it yielded radiant colors. Deep within the spark gushed a flow, splaying colors below, concealed within the concealed of the mystery of אֵין סוֹף (Ein Sof). It split and did not split its aura, was not known at all, until under the impact of splitting, a single, concealed, supernal point shone. Beyond that point, nothing is known, so it is called רֵאשִׁית (Reshit), Beginning, first command of all…. Zohar, Radiance! Sowing seed for its glory, like the seed of fine purple silk wrapping itself within, weaving itself a palace, constituting its praise, availing all.

With this beginning, the unknown concealed one created the palace. This palace is called אֱלֹהִים (Elohim). The secret is: בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים (Bereshit bara Elohim), With beginning, _____ created Elohim (Genesis 1:1) [cf. Bahir §10]” (Zohar 1:15a).

At the head of potency of the King… a spark of impenetrable darkness (Zohar 1:15a)when it surveyed its drawing out, there came forth from this point a hidden קָו (qav), cord. The thought was like so: ם (mem). First it was closed ם (mem). When the cord, ו (vav), extended from the מִדָּה (middah), measure, it opened and was made into ב (bet). This is בְּרֵאשִׁית (Bereshit), In the beginning (Genesis 1:1)—the רֵאשִׁית (Reshit), Beginning, in the בּ (bet). When it is closed mem, it is the great mem as in, לםרבה (le-marbeh), of the increase of, dominion (Isaiah 9:6) and it was made into a ring [cf. BT Shabbat 104a; ZḤ 72b–c]. Therefore, all say, ‘You are betrothed to me with this טַבַּעַת (taba’at), ring’—ם (mem). Of this it says a cluster of vapor forming in formlessness, thrust in a עִזְקָא (izqa), ring, not white, not black, not red, not green, no color at all (Zohar 1:15a).

When it extended to shine, a cord surveyed, it yielded radiant colors…. within (ibid.). And this is the secret of Wrapped in light like a cloak, [stretching out heavens like a tent-cloth] (Psalms 104:2). For this is the cloaked light that does not spread, hidden. The אֲוִיר (avir), atmosphere [lit., air], is called אוֹר (or), light, and with the addition of the י (yod), the point in the palace, for when one takes the yod out of avir, atmosphere, one reveals or, light. And this is And God said, Let there be light (Genesis 1:3)” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 4, 19a–20b).

“At the head of potency of the King… a spark of impenetrable darkness…. not white, not black, not red, not green, no color at all (Zohar 1:15a). This spark is the קָו מִדָּה (qav middah), cord of measure, which is clothed in the אֲוִיר (avir), atmosphere, and when it is in the atmosphere, it is closed and not seen at all. When it extends itself to be revealed, there comes out from this אֲוִיר (avir), intangible air, one point. What remains is light, the primordial light of the work of creation. As it says And God said, יְהִי אוֹר (Yehi or), ‘Let there be light’ (Genesis 1:2)—let there be י (yod) plus אֲוִיר (avir), atmosphere, and this secret is handed to the wise of heart.

This point, after it extends from that light is clothed in four colors from the upper palace, and this is called ב (bet) so it says Through wisdom a house is built (Proverbs 24:3) and this point measures out five colors, as it says Who measured at the rising of the water (Isaiah 40:12)” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 18, 37b).