The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: אֵשֶׁת-חַיִל

And She Shall Count for Herself Seven Days

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“Rabbi Abba and Rabbi Ḥiyya were walking along the way. Rabbi Ḥiyya said, ‘It is written: And you shall count you from the morrow of the sabbath, from the day you bring the elevation sheaf, [seven complete weeks shall they be] (Leviticus 23:15). What does this indicate?’

He replied, ‘The Companions have established this but come and see: When the people of Israel were in Egypt, they were under alien domination and were gripped by impurity, like a woman sitting in days of impurity. After they were circumcised, they entered the holy portion called Covenant. Once they were joined to this, their impurity ceased, as when a woman’s blood of impurity ceases. After [the blood] ceases, what is written? [When she becomes purified from her flux,] she shall count for herself seven days [and after shall be clean] (Leviticus 15:28). Similarly here, once they entered the holy portion, their impurity ceased, and the blessed Holy One said, ‘From now on, a counting for purity.’ You shall count for yourselvesyourselves, precisely, as said: She shall count for herself, for her own self. Here, too, for yourselves—for your own selves. Why? To be purified by supernal holy waters, and afterward to come join the King and receive His Torah.

It is written: She shall count for herself seven days (Leviticus 15:28); here, too, seven weeks. Why seven weeks? To attain being purified by waters of the flowing, gushing river, called ‘living waters’ [Binah]. From that river issue seven weeks—so seven weeks surely, to attain it.

‘Just as a woman’s purity takes effect at night [after immersing herself in a miqveh], to join conjugally with her husband, so it is written When the dew would descend on the camp at night (Numbers 11:9). It is written on the camp, and not, When the dew would descend at night. And when did this dew descend? When Israel approached Mount Sinai—then that dew descended perfectly and they were purified, their filth ceasing, and they joined the King and received the Torah and Assembly of Israel, as we have established. At that time surely, All the streams flow into the Sea (Ecclesiastes 1:7)—to be purified and washed—and all are sanctified and joined with the Holy King.’

‘Come and see: if anyone does not reckon this count—those seven weeks—to attain this purity, he is not called ‘pure’ and is not in the category of pure, nor is he worthy of having a share in Torah. But if one arrives pure on this day and has not lost count, when he reaches this night he should delve into Torah and join her, preserving the supernal purity that comes upon him on that night, purifying him” (Zohar 3:97a–b, cf. BT Menaot 65b–66a).

“Certainly, in your prayer and in your recital of the Shema, the Shekhinah is renewed before the blessed Holy One and this is why it is said: [Until the morrow of the seventh sabbath you shall count fifty days] and you shall bring forward a new grain offering to YHWH (Leviticus 23:16). By the prayers which are instead of the sacrifices. But in which sacrifices, [namely] prayers, is She renewed? In your Festival of Weeks (Numbers 28:26), namely Shavuoth, which is when Torah was given, and which is called fifty days of the counting of the Omer, and which comprises seven weeks, from the side of the one about whom it is said: Seven times daily I praise You (Psalms 119:164), which is Malkhut, who is כַּלָה (kalah), bride, and is composed of the seven sefirot and is composed of Binah; and it spreads out in five sefirot of fifty.

Yesod [which is called] כֹּל (Kol), All (1 Chronicles 29:11) is composed of these fifty, [namely Ḥesed, Gevurah, Tif’eret, Netsaḥ, and Hod, each of which is composed of ten. Malkhut is called כַּלָה (kalah), bride, [the letters of which can also be read]: כֹּל ה (kol he) [numerically equivalent to fifty and five, namely] five [sefirot] composed of fifty. Each of them is enclosed within the fifty. Ḥokhmah, which is upper י (yod) is enclosed within the fifty, for ה״ (five) times י״ (ten). ה (He) is Binah and י (yod) is Ḥokhmah, [and there are י (yod) and ה (he) in Ḥokhmah, which when multiplied by each other, make fifty, and there are י (yod) and ה (he) in Binah; and when] י״ (ten) is [multiplied] by ה״ (five), the result is fifty, and this is the sum of כֹּל (Kol), All, and the numerical value of יָם (Yam), Sea [for Binah is called Sea, whose sum is fifty]. And the reference is to the Sea of Torah [where from Binah, which is called ‘Sea,’ emerges Torah, which is Ze’eir Anpin]. Its origin is Keter, which is infinite. The remaining sefirot are named after it: Seven Seas. And Malkhut [is] the יָם סוּף (Yam Suf), Sea of Reeds, the סוֹף דְּכָל יָמִים (sof de-khal yamim), end of all seas.

And because [each one of the] the seven weeks is fifty: And their grain offering… three-tenths for the single bull, two-tenths for the single ram (Numbers 28:28), making altogether five [tenths] which are five times ten. And their grain offering mixed with oil, three-tenths for the single bull, two-tenths for the single ram. A tenth for every single lamb of the seven lambs (Numbers 29:9). Seven lambsseven whole Sabbaths shall they be (Leviticus 23:15) and each one has six days [sefirot] with it” (Zohar 3:255a–b, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

A Slanderer Separates an Intimate

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵא נְפָשׁוֹת רַבּוֹת עַל כָּל מַה שֶּׁבָּרָא חַי הָעוֹלָמִים Blessed are You, YHWH our God, King of the World, who creates many נְפָשׁוֹת (nefashot), forms of life. Over all He has created Vitality of the Worlds” (Bore Nefashot [Nusaḥ Baladi]).

“What is the reason we say, ‘over all He has created Vitality of the Worlds,’ and we do not say, ‘over all You have created’? Rather, we bless the blessed Holy One [for] He imbues Vitality of the Worlds [with] His wisdom, and He gives all. What is the reason we say, ‘Who made us holy through His mitsvot and commanded us,’ and we do we not say, ‘You made us holy through Your mitsvot, and You commanded us’? To teach that all the mitsvot are comprised in Vitality of the Worlds, and in His compassion for us He gave them to us in order to make us holy through them, that we [might] be worthy. What is the reason? For while we are in this world, we can merit the world to come. He is All, and in His hand is אוֹצָר כָּל הַנְּשָׁמוֹת (otsar kal ha-neshamot), the Treasury of Souls” (Bahir §§183–184).

“And what is The fullness of all the earth is His glory (Isaiah 6:3)? Only all the אָרֶץ (arets), earth, created on the first day, above, parallel to the אֶרֶץ (erets), land, of Israel [below], full of YHWH’s glory. And what is it? Ḥokhmah, Wisdom, as is written, The wise inherit glory (Proverbs 3:35), and it is said, Blessed be YHWH’s glory from His place (Ezekiel 3:12). What is YHWH’s glory? A parable: A king had a Matronita in his chamber, and all his mighty warriors delighted in her. She had children who came each day to see the face of the king and bow to him, asking, ‘Where is our mother?” ‘You cannot see her now,’ he replied. They said, ‘May she be blessed wherever she is!’ 

What is from His place? There is none who know His place. This is like a king’s daughter who came from afar, and nobody knew where she came from. When they saw that she was אֵשֶׁת חַיִל (eshet ḥayil), a mighty woman, lovely and honorable in all her deeds, they said, ‘Undoubtedly she was taken from the side of light, for her deeds give light to the world.’ Then they asked her, ‘Where are you from?’ ‘From my place,’ she replied. They said, ‘If so, the people of your place must be great. Blessed are you and blessed is your place.’ Is not this Glory [just] one among His [vast] armies, לֹא גָּרַע (lo gara), no less [and no more]? Why bless Her? [or: Is not this Glory one among His armies? לֹא גְּרַע (Lo gera), do not cut (Her) off! Why ‘bless’ Her? (i.e., why curse Her?)] A parable: To what can the matter be compared? A man had a lovely garden. Outside the garden, but near to it, there was a lovely piece of שָׂדֶה (sadeh), land [cf. Bahir §62]. He made a lovely garden in it. When he irrigates the garden, the water flows over the whole garden but does [not] reach that piece of land, which is [not] joined, even though all is one. Therefore, he opened a place [to her] and waters her separately.

Rav Raḥmai said: כָּבוֹד (Kavod), Glory, and לֵב (lev), Heart, are one—Glory is called a name corresponding to an action above, while Heart is called a name corresponding to an action below. However, they are one and the same—YHWH’s glory (Ezekiel 3:12) is the Heart of the heavens (Deuteronomy 4:11)” (Bahir §§130–134).

“He opened again, saying, ‘A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates an intimate‘ (Proverbs 16:28). A perverse man spreads—as we have said, the wicked cause a defect above. ‘And a slanderer אַלּוּף (aluf), separates, an intimate‘—he separates אַלּוּפוּ (Alufu), the Chief, of the world, namely the blessed Holy One.

Alternatively, A perverse man יְשַׁלַּח מָדוֹן (yishlaḥ madon), spreads strife. What is יְשַׁלַּח (yishlaḥ)? He drives away those plants. מָדוֹן (Madon)—for they imbibe from the side of דִינַא (Dina), Judgement.

And a slanderer separates an intimate‘—as we have said, they cause a defect above. Separates—for union no longer exists, he separates Matronita from the King, and the King from Matronita. So He is not called One, for He is called One only when they share one coupling. Woe to the wicked who perpetrate this! Happy are the masters of teshuvah who restore everything to its place!” (Zohar 3:16b).

“The sin of the primordial serpent: he joined below and it separated above. So he caused what he caused to the world. For one should separate below and join above… one should realize that יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים (YHWH Elohim) is entirely one, indivisible. יְהוָה (YHWH) is הָאֱלֹהִים (Ha-Elohim). Once one realizes all is one and does not impose division, even that Other Side will disappear from the world, not be drawn below” (Zohar 1:12b).

“One might ask: Why do we pray to the blessed Holy One on several rungs? Sometimes one prays through a certain sefirah or quality, sometimes one’s prayer is to the right, as it says, ‘He who desires to become wise should turn to the south’ (BT Bava Batra 25b). Sometimes to the left, ‘He who desires to become rich should turn to the north’ (ibid.). Sometimes to the middle pillar, sometimes to the Righteous One. Every prayer goes up to a certain rung but יהוה (YHWH) is truly in every sefirah” (Tiqqunei Zohar Ḥadash 109a).

“You might suggest that we have a problem here, since it is written that all the sacrifices are to יהוה (YHWH), and ask how, therefore, it can be said that there is a separation of the letters. This is said about those stages that were created and called by His name and not that they are He Himself, as is written: Everyone that is called by My name: for My glory I have created him, I have formed him; yea, I have made him (Isaiah 43:7). And there are the four letters of יהוה (YHWH) of אֲצִילוּת (Atsilut), Emanation, containing no separation nor cessation, for they are as fountains watering trees. And regarding those that were created they are likened, the י (yod) to a head, the ו (vav) to a body, while the ה ה (hehe) to ten fingers. But the Cause of Causes, Who is over everything is called יהוה (YHWH), of Him is said: To whom then will you liken Me, that I should be equal? says the Holy One (Isaiah 40:25). To whom then will you liken God or what likeness will you compare to Him? (Isaiah 40:18) For I am יְהוָה (YHWH) I do not change (Malachi 3:6). The sins of the creatures do not touch Him, nor separate in Him the י (yod) from the ה (he), nor the ו (vav) from the ה (he). For there is no separation in Him and it is said of Him: nor shall evil dwell with You (Psalms 5:5). He rules over all and there is none who rules over Him. He comprehends all and there is none who comprehends Him. And He is not called by יהוה (YHWH) nor by all the other names, but is known by His light that spreads over them. And when He departs from them, He has, of Himself, no name at all: deep deep, who can find Him? (Ecclesiastes 7:24)” (Zohar 3:224a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

“The Holy Ancient One, concealed of all concealed. Separate, separated from all, yet not separate; for all are joined to it, and it is joined to all. It itself is all! … The light of each and every spark, called Adornments of the King, Crowns of the King—each one shines into, joins onto the light within, within, no separating without. So all rises to one level, all is crowned with one word; no separating one from the other. It and Its name is one” (Zohar 3:288a, 296b Idra Zuta).

The Cave is Filled by the Sea, yet the Sea is not Diminished

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And the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting and the glory of YHWH filled the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:34).

“Rabbi Yehoshu’a of Sikhnin said in the name of Rabbi Levi: Why was the Tent of Meeting compared to a cave on the seashore? When the sea rises and floods it, the cave is filled by the sea, yet the sea is not diminished. So too, the Tent of Meeting was filled with the splendor of the Shekhinah, as is said, on [Israel’s] יוֹם כַּלֹּת (yom kallot), bridal day, Moses [set up the Tabernacle] (Numbers 7:1)” (Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana 1:2, cf. Tanḥuma, Vayakhel, 7; Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 19a).

As I beheld the living beings, behold, one wheel on the earth alongside the living beings (Ezekiel 1:15). Rabbi El’azar said, ‘This is a certain angel who stands on earth and whose head extends close to the living beings.’ In a matnita [tannaitic tradition] it is taught: His name is Sandalfon, who is taller than his companion by a journeying distance of five hundred years. He stands behind the Chariot, binding crowns for his Maker. But is it so? Behold it is written: Blessed be the glory of YHWH from His place (Ezekiel 3:12) accordingly, none knows His place!—he pronounces the Name over the crown, and it goes and rests on His head.

Rava said: All that Ezekiel saw Isaiah saw. What does Ezekiel resemble? A villager who saw the king [and prophesied from afar, i.e., exile]. And what does Isaiah [who said: The fullness of all the land is His glory (Isaiah 6:3)] resemble? A townsman who saw the king [and prophesied from within the land of Israel]” (BT Ḥagigah 13b).

“Rabbi Dosa says: Behold, it says, You shall not be able to see My face, for no human can see Me and live (Exodus 33:20). While they are living, they do not see, but in the hour of their death, they do see. Thus it says, Before Him will kneel all who go down to the dust whose life is undone (Psalms 22:30). Rabbi Akiva says: For no human can see Me and liveeven the living beings that carry the Throne cannot see the Glory! Son of Azzai said: I do not mean to repudiate my master’s words, but to add to his words: For no human can see Me and liveeven the ministering angels, whose life is the life of eternity, do not see the Glory!” (Sifra, Vayiqra, dibbura dindavah 2:12, 4a).

What is From His place (Ezekiel 3:12)? Because no one knows His place. This is like a king’s daughter who came from afar, and nobody knew where she came from. When they saw that she was אֵשֶׁת חַיִל (eshet ḥayil), a worthy woman, lovely and refined in all that she did, they said: ‘She undoubtedly was taken from the side of the light, for her deeds give light to the world.’ They then asked her: ‘Where are you from?’ She replied: ‘From my place.’ They said: ‘If so, the people of your place must be great! Blessed are you and blessed is your place!’” (Bahir §132).

His disciples said to him: From above to below we know. But from below to above we do not know. He replied: Is it not all one—below to above and above to below? They said: Our Rabbi, ascending is not like descending. One can run while descending, but it is not so while ascending. He replied: Go out and see.

He sat and expounded for them: ‘Shekhinah is below just as Shekhinah is above’ (Seder Rabba de-Vereshit) [see Wertheimer, Battey Midrashot 1:30]. And what is Shekhinah? Say that this is the light emanated from the primordial light, Ḥokhmah. It also surrounds everything, as is written: The fullness of all the land is His glory (Isaiah 6:3). What is its function here? A parable: A king had seven sons, and he assigned each one his place. He said to them, ‘Sit, this one on the back of that one.’ The lowest one said, ‘I will not dwell below! I will not be so far from you!’ He said to them, ‘I will hereby turn and see you all day long.’ This is The fullness of all the land is His glory. Why is He in their midst? To stand them up and make them endure” (Bahir §171).

“All beings above and below cannot grasp, till finally they declare: Blessed be the glory of YHWH from His place! (Ezekiel 3:12). Those below proclaim that He is above, as is written: Your glory is above the heavens (Psalms 113:4). Those above proclaim that He is below, as is written: Your glory is over all the earth (ibid. 57:12). Finally all of them, above and below, declare: Blessed be the glory of YHWH from His place! For He is unknowable; no one has ever been able to comprehend Him” (Zohar 1:103a).

His majesty covers the heavens, and His splendor fills the earth (Habakkuk 3:3).

“What is the difference between them [ס (samekh) and ם (mem)]? Well, when enclosed and hidden within itself, within the supernal point above, She [Binah] assumes the form of the letter ס (samekh), enclosed within and hidden, ascending above. And when She returns and sits רְבִיעָא (revi’a), crouching, over children below to suckle them, She assumes the form of the letter ם (mem) [which is] רְבִיעָא (revi’a), quadrilateral, enclosed in four directions of the world [the first appearance of the letter ס (samekh) in the Torah is in the word הַסֹּבֵב (ha-sovev), surrounds (Genesis 2:11), and its second appearance is in the word וַיִּסְגֹּר (va-yisggor), closed (ibid., 21), see Bereshit Rabbah 17:6]” (Zohar 2:127a, cf. BT Shabbat 104a).

“He surrounds all the worlds, and none but He surrounds them in any direction, up or down or to the four corners of the compass, and no one has escaped outside His realm, for He fills all the worlds and there is no other that fills them [cf. BT Berakhot 10a]. He grants life, and there is no other god above Him to give Him life, as is said: You enliven them all (Nehemiah 9:6), and for Him Daniel said: And all earth’s dwellers are counted as naught, and as He chooses He does with the array of the heavens and the earth’s dwellers, [and there is none who can protest against Him and say to Him, ‘What have You done?’] (Daniel 4:32). He binds and unites kind to its kind above and below, and the four elements would have no proximity except with the blessed Holy One in their midst” (Zohar 3:225a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).