The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: אַהֲבָה

More than the Calf Wants to Suck the Cow Wants to Suckle: The Pleasure from Him Accepting a Gift

“Our Rabbis have taught: Always let the left hand push away and the right hand draw near” (BT Sotah 47a).

And he raised his eyes and saw, and, look, three men were standing before him. He saw, and he ran toward them from the tent flap and bowed to the ground. And he said, “אֲדֹנָי (Adonai)My lords, if I have found favor in your eyes, please do not go on past your servant. Let a little water be fetched and bathe your feet and stretch out under the tree, and let me fetch a morsel of bread, and refresh yourselves. Then you may go on, for have you not come by your servant?” (Genesis 18:2–5, cf. Naḥmanides on ibid.).

“Rav Yehudah said in Rav’s name: Hospitality to wayfarers is greater than welcoming the Shekhinah, for it is written, And he said, אֲדֹנָי (Adonai), My Lord, if I have found favor in your eyes, please do not go on past‘ [Abraham thus left the Divine Presence, as it were, to attend to the wants of the three wayfarers, cf. BT Shevu’ot 35a]” (BT Shabbat 127a).

Rabbi Yoḥanan said: What is: And so, when Moses would raise his hand, Israel prevailed, and when he would put down his hand, Amalek prevailed (Exodus 17:11)? This is to teach that the world exists because of lifting of the hands in prayer, in the priest’s benediction. Why? Because of that power which was given to our father Jacob, whose name is Israel. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were given powers, one to each of them, according to his character. Abraham renders kindness בָּעוֹלָם (ba-olam), forever, for he used to invite everyone in the עוֹלָם (olam), world, and all the wayfarers, provide them with food and run to welcome them, as is written, and he ran toward them (Genesis 18:2), and it is written: and bowed to the ground (ibid.). This was a perfect act of kindness [cf. BT Shevu’ot 35a; Shabbat 127a], and the blessed Holy One bestowed upon him according to his measure and gave him the quality of חֶסֶד (ḥesed), kindness, as is written, You give truth to Jacob, and kindness to Abraham, which you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old (Micah 7:20).

What is from the days of old? This is to teach that if Abraham had not performed acts of kindness and been worthy of the quality of חֶסֶד (ḥesed), Kindness, Jacob would not have been worthy of the quality of אֱמֶת (emet), Truth, for it is because Abraham was worthy of the quality of Kindness that Isaac was worthy of the quality of פַּחַד (paḥad), Terror, as is written, And Jacob swore בְּפַחַד (be-faḥad), by the Terror, of his father Isaac (Genesis 31:53) [cf. BT Shabbat 89b]. Is there a man who would swear in this way, by trust in the Terror of his father? But Jacob had not yet received his own power, so he swore by the power which was given to his father, as is said: And Jacob swore by the Terror of his father Isaac.

And what is it? תֹּהוּ (Tohu), chaos, from which the evil emanates that מְתָּהָה (metahah), confounds, sons of man. And what is it? It is that of which is written: And YHVH’s fire came down and consumed the offering and the wood and the dirt, and the water that was in the trench it licked up (I Kings 18:38). It is also written: For YHVH your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God (Deuteronomy 4:24). And what is Ḥesed? It is Torah, as is written, Woe, everyone that thirsts, come to the waters, and he that has no silver (Isaiah 55:1). And to him who does not have silver, it is silver, as is written, come, buy, and eat; come, buy wine and milk without silver and without price (ibid.). He will feed you and teach you Torah for you already have become worthy of it because of the merit of Abraham who used to perform acts of kindness. Without silver—he would feed others; without price—he would give them wine and milk.

What are wine and milk? And what is the connection between them? To teach that wine is paḥad, Terror; milk is Ḥesed, kindness. Why did he mention wine first? Because it is nearer to us. Do you actually think they are wine and milk? But it is the image, likeness, idea, of wine and milk” (Bahir §§135–136).

“More than the calf wants to suck the cow wants to suckle” (BT Pesaḥim 112a).

“[What is the ruling in the case of a woman who says to a man] ‘Here are one hundred dinars and I will become betrothed to you?’ Mar Zutra ruled in Rav Papa’s name: She is betrothed…. Here the reference is [only] to an important man: in return for the pleasure from him accepting a gift from her she completely מַקְנְיָא לֵיהּ נַפְשָׁהּ (maqeneya leih nafshah), cedes herself [though normally the man must give the money, see BT Qiddushin 5b, yet if he is eminent his receiving gives satisfaction, which in turn is considered of financial value]” (BT Qiddushin 7a, cf. Ba’al ha-Sullam, Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag, Haqdamah le-Sefer ha-Zohar 11).

All the Commandments of the Blessed Holy One: You Shall Love Your Fellow as Yourself

“Our Rabbis taught: A man should always be lenient like Hillel, not strict like Shammai. It once happened that two men made a bet with each other, saying, He who goes and provokes Hillel will receive four hundred zuz. One said, ‘I will go and provoke him.’ That day was the Sabbath eve, and Hillel was washing his head. He went, passed by the door of his house, and called out, ‘Who here is Hillel, who here is Hillel?’ He robed and went out to him, saying, ‘My son, what do you need?’ ‘I have a question to ask.’ He said. ‘Ask, my son.’ ‘Why are the skulls of the Babylonians oval? ‘My son, you have asked a great question [Hillel was himself a Babylonian], because they have no skillful midwives.’ He departed, waited an hour, returned, and called out, ‘Who here is Hillel, who here is Hillel?’ He robed and went out to him, saying, ‘My son, what do you need?’ ‘I have a question to ask,’ he said. ‘Ask, my son.’ He asked: ‘Why are the eyes of the residents of Tadmor bleary?’ ‘My son, you have asked a great question: because they live among the sands.’ He departed,waited an hour, returned, and called out, ‘Who here is Hillel, who here is Hillel?’ He robed and went out to him, saying, ‘My son, what do you need?’ ‘I have a question to ask,’ he said. ‘Ask, my son.’ ‘Why are the feet of the Africans wide?’ ‘My son, you have asked a great question: because they live in watery marshes.’ ‘I have many questions to ask but fear that you may become angry.’ He then robed, sat before him and said, ‘Ask all the questions you have to ask.’ ‘Are you the Hillel who is called Prince of Israel?’ ‘Yes,’ he replied. ‘If that is you may there not be many like you in Israel.’ ‘Why, my son?’ he asked. ‘Since I have lost four hundred zuz because of you.’ ‘Be careful of your spirit, Hillel is worth it that you should lose four hundred zuz and yet another four hundred zuz on his account, yet Hillel shall not be strict.’

Our Rabbis taught: A certain stranger once came before Shammai and asked him, ‘How many teachings do you have?’ He said, ‘Two, the Written Torah and the Oral Torah.’ ‘I trust you with respect to the Written Torah, but with respect to the Oral Torah I do not trust you; make me a convert on condition that you teach me the Written Torah [only]. He scolded and drove him out in rebuke. When he went before Hillel, [who accepted him as] a convert. On the first day, he taught him, Alef, bet, gimmel, dalet; the following day he reversed [them] for him. ‘But yesterday you did not tell me that.’ ‘Did you not rely on me? Then trust me with respect to the Oral [Torah] too [since there must be a certain reliance on authority before anything can be learnt at all].’

On another occasion it happened that a certain stranger came before Shammai and said to him, ‘Make me a convert, on condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot.’ He shoved him with the builder’s cubit in his hand [בֶּאֱמֶת (be’emet), builder’s cubit, perhaps plays on אֶמֶת (emet), truth, i.e., Shammai’s approach was built on the basis of absolute truth]. When he went before Hillel, he said to him, ‘What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: that is the whole Torah and the rest is its commentary. Go and learn’” (BT Shabbat 30b–31a).

“Son of Azzai said: This is the book of the descendants of Adam: [On the day God created the human, in the image of God] (Genesis 5:1) is a great principle of Torah. Rabbi Akiva said: and love your fellow as yourself (Leviticus 19:18) is a great principle, so that you must not say, ‘Since I have been put to shame, let my fellow be put to shame, since I have been cursed, let my fellow be cursed.’ Rabbi Tanḥuma said: If you do so, know whom you put to shame, for God created the human in His image (Genesis 1:27)” (Bereshit Rabbah 24:7, cf. Sifra Qedoshim 4:12).

“[Rabbi Ḥiyya son of Abba said:] Even father and son, master and disciple, who are engaged in Torah at the same gate become each other’s אֹיְבִים (oivim), enemies. Yet, they do not move from there until they are made אֹהֲבִים (ohavim), friends, [again], as is said: אֶת וָהֵב בְּסוּפָה (et vahev be-sufah), Waheb in a whirlwind (Numbers 21:14)—do not read בְּסוּפָה (be-sufah), in a whirlwind, but rather [אַהֲבָה (ahavah), love] בְּסוֹפָהּ (be-sofah), at its end” (BT Qiddushin 30b, cf. Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 6a).

“All Companions who do not love each other divert themselves from the straight path” (Zohar 2:190b).

Look, how good and how pleasant is the dwelling of brothers גַּם יָחַד (gam yaḥad), also together! (Psalms 133:1)—those Companions, when they sit as one, not separating from each other. At first they appear as men waging war, seeking to kill one another; afterward, they appear in love, in brotherhood. What does the blessed Holy One say? Look, how good and how pleasant is the dwelling of brothers gam yaḥad, also together!gam, also, including Shekhinah with them. Furthermore, the blessed Holy One listens to their utterances and is pleased and delights with them, as is written: Then those who revere YHWH spoke with one another; and YHWH listened attentively, and it was written in a book of remembrance before Him… (Malachi 3:16) [see M Avot 3:2 ad loc.; cf. BT Shabbat 63a].

And you, Companions who are here, just as you have been previously, so from now on: do not part from one another until the blessed Holy One delights with you and proclaims peace upon you—and for your sake, peace will prevail in the world, as is written: For the sake of my brothers and my companions (Psalms 122:8)” (Zohar 3:59b).

They helped everyone his fellow; and everyone said to his brother, “Be strong” (Isaiah 41:6).

A song of ascents for David. Look, how good and pleasant is the dwelling of brothers together (Psalms 133:1, cf. Zohar 3:59b).

“Rabbi Ḥiyya opened, ‘When your enemy falls, do not be glad; when he stumbles, let not your heart rejoice‘ (Proverbs 24:17)…. Come and see: Why did Joseph—who was granted dominion by the blessed Holy One—spin schemes around his brothers when they fell into his hands? After all, he knew the Torah that his father taught him! But perish the thought that Joseph spun those schemes to take revenge upon them! Rather, he did all this only to bring his brother Benjamin for whom he yearned. He did not let his brothers fall, for look what is written: Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain… (Genesis 42:25)—all this so they would not fall” (Zohar 1:199a).

“Just as water covers the nakedness of the sea, as it says, [They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of YHWH,] as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9), so too Torah [and mitsvot] cover the nakedness of Israel, as it says, [Hatred foments strife, but] אַהֲבָה (ahava), love, covers up all misdeeds (Proverbs 10:12) [on a garment being woven out of one’s virtuous days see e.g., Zohar 1:224a–b; cf. BT Menaḥot 43b]” (Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah, 1:2).

“It is written, You shall not take vengeance, and you shall not harbor a grudge against any of the children of your people (Leviticus 19:18). How does this apply? If someone is chopping meat, and the clever cuts his hand, will he in return cut the [other] hand? But love your fellow as yourself (ibid.)” (JT Nedarim 9:4, 41c).

“It has been taught in the Concealment of the Book: In every manner חֶסֶד (ḥesed), love [or: kindness], must be increased and fashioned, not cut or eliminated from the world” (Zohar 3:133b, Idra Rabba).

“Don’t the inhabitants of the world realise that I based the world solely on love? As is written, כִּי אָמַרְתִּי עוֹלָם חֶסֶד יִבָּנֶה (ki-amarti olam ḥesed yibaneh), I said, ‘The world shall be built on love’ (Psalms 89:3). By this the world endures” (Zohar 1:10b).

“Come and see: All is called Love, and for the sake of love all exists, as is written: Many waters cannot quench love (Song of Songs 8:7). All endures by love, for the Holy Name is found to be so, as has been established. י (Yod)—the upper tip is never separated from י (yod), since it settles upon it, never parting” (Zohar 3:267b).

Who Renews in His Goodness Every Day Continually the Act of Creation

“Rabban Gamaliel says: Just as the first days of months are renewed and made holy in this world, so will Israel be renewed and made holy in the world to come, as is said, Speak to all the community of Israelites, and you shall say to them: ‘You shall be holy, for I YHWH your God am holy’ (Leviticus 19:2). And the Sages say: The heavens and the earth are destined to pass away and to be renewed. What is written of them? [All the heavens’ array shall molder,] and like a scroll the heavens roll up, [and all their array shall wither as the leaf withers on the vine and the withered fruit on the fig tree] (Isaiah 34:4)—like a man [who] reads in Torah and he rolls it up, and he returns and he opens [it] and he rolls it up, thus the blessed Holy One is destined to roll up the heavens, as is said, and like a scroll the heavens roll up; and the earth worn out like a garment (ibid. 51:6)—like a man who spreads out his [prayer] shawl and folds it up, and he returns and he puts it on, and renews it in its place, as is said, and the earth worn out like a garment.

And all dwellers of the earth will taste the taste of death [for] two days—not a breath of man or beast upon the earth, as is said, and its dwellers like gnats die out (ibid.). And on the third day He renews all, reviving the dead, and raising [the house of Israel] before Him, as is said, He will revive us after two days, on the third day raise us up, that we may live in His presence (Hosea 6:2). 

Rabbi Eli’ezer says: All the array of the heavens are destined to pass away and to be renewed. What is written of this? And all their array [shall wither] as the leaf withers on the vine (Isaiah 34:4)—how a vine or fig tree withers and [remains] standing like a parched fire, yet returns, blossoming, glistening, and bringing forth fresh new leaves. Thus all the array of the heavens are destined to wither, return, and be renewed, to make known before Him that there is wearing out, but He is not worn out. And no longer hunger, nor evil, nor scourge, and no longer troubles, as is said, For I am about to create new heavens [and a new earth, and the former things shall not be recalled and shall not come to mind] (ibid. 65:17) [cf. Zohar 1:262b].     

Rabbi Yannai says: All the array of the heavens pass away and are renewed with each day. And what are the array of the heavens? The sun, moon, stars, and constellations. Know for yourself that it is so. Come and see: As when the sun stretches out to the west and bathes his lamp in the midst of the waters—from waters of the ocean the flames of the sun are put out, and he has no radiance. And there is no flame of the sun illuminating all the night in the world until he comes to the east. And when he comes to the east he bathes in a river of fire, like a man who kindles his lamp in the midst of the fire, thus the sun kindles his lamp and dons his flame, and rises to shine upon the earth, renewing with each day the act of Creation [lit., the act of ‘in the beginning’], thus until the evening comes. And at eventide the moon, stars, and constellations, bathe in a river of hail and rise to shine upon the earth. In the time yet to come the blessed Holy One will renew them and add to their light—light of the seven [primordial] days, as is said, And the light of the moon shall be like the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold like the light of the seven days on the day YHWH binds up the breaking of His people and heals its smashing blow. On the day—this day comes on the day of redemption of Israel, as is said, on the day YHWH binds up the breaking of His people” (Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 51).

As the new heavens and the new earth that I am making endure before Me…. (Isaiah 66:22). The verse does not read: I have made, but rather I am making, for He makes them continually out of those innovations and mysteries of Torah” (Zohar 1:5a).

“[YHWH founded the earth by wisdom;] He establishes the heavens by understanding (Proverbs 3:19). Why establishes [written in the future-tense and not past-tense like the verb founded]? Because He establishes, every single day ceaselessly. They were not arranged one at a time; rather, every day He arranges them. This corresponds to the mystery that is written: The heavens are not pure in His eyes (Job 15:15). Now, would you imagine that this indicates a defect in the heavens? Rather, their significance, because of the intense love and desire that the blessed Holy One feels toward them and His fondness for them. For even though He arrays them every single day, in His eyes they do not seem fittingly arrayed, because of His love for them and His desire to shine upon them constantly, ceaselessly; for the world that is coming radiates scintillating lights everyday continually, incessantly, illumining them. So, they are not pure in His eyes. It is not written merely they are not pure, but rather, they are not pure in His eyes. Therefore, He establishes the heavens by understanding” (Zohar 1:207a).

She Reveals Herself to No One but Her Lover

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“A bride who lives in the house of her father. So long as her eyes are beautiful her body needs no examination” (BT Ta’anit 24a).

She says: We are a bride adorned and crowned, and all the mitsvot are included within [us]. She is Treasury of the Torah and the betrothed of the blessed Holy One, as is written, ‘Torah did Moses charge us, a heritage for Jacob’s assembly! (Deuteronomy 33:4). Do not read מוֹרָשָׁה (morashah), a heritage, but rather מְאוֹרָסָה (me’orasah), the betrothed‘ (BT Berakhot 57a; Pesaḥim 49b) [cf. M Avot 2:17; Bemidbar Rabbah 8:2]. How is this so? When the people of Israel study Torah for her own sake, then she is the betrothed of the blessed Holy One, then she is the heritage of Israel. How is this so? When Israel engages in Torah for Her own sake, then She is the betrothed of the blessed Holy One, then She is the heritage of Israel” (Bahir §196).

“Who is a beautiful maiden without eyes, her body concealed and revealed, she emerges in the morning and is concealed by day, adorning herself with adornments which are not?… Torah [who] emerges from her sheath, is seen for a moment, then quickly hides away—certainly so, but when she reveals herself from her sheath and quickly hides, she does so only for those who know her and recognize her. This may be compared to a beloved, beautiful in form and appearance, concealed secretly in her palace. She has a single lover unknown to anyone—except to her, concealedly. Out of the love that he feels for her, this lover passes by her gate constantly, lifting his eyes to every side. Knowing that her lover hovers about her gate constantly, what does she do? She opens a little window in her hidden palace, revealing her face to her lover, then swiftly withdraws, concealing herself. No one near him sees or reflects, only the lover, and his heart and his soul and everything within him flow out to her. He knows that out of love for him she revealed herself for that one moment to awaken love in him. So it is with a word of Torah: she reveals herself to no one but her lover” (Zohar 2:94b–95a, 99a, cf. Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed 4b; Rabbi Moshe de Léon, Sheqel ha-Qodesh 113).

“He מְסַפֵּר (mesaper), ‘relates,’ with me neither at the beginning nor at the end of the night, but at midnight; and when he ‘converses,’ he uncovers a hand breadth and covers a hand breadth, and is as though he were compelled by a שֵׁד (shed), demon [alt., שָׁד (shad), breast]” (BT Nedarim 20b).