The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: אוֹי

Do Not Make the Fence Excessive Lest it Collapse and Severe the Saplings

IMG_1063

“The Men of the Great Assembly said three things: Be careful in judgment; raise up many disciples; and make a fence for the Torah” (M Avot 1:1).

“Rabbi Akiva said: Mocking and frivolity lead to immorality. The oral tradition is a fence for Torah; tithes are a fence for wealth; vows are a fence for abstinence. The fence for wisdom is silence” (M Avot 3:17).

“‘Make a fence for the Torah.’ And make a fence for your words, in the way that the blessed Holy One made a fence for His words, and the first human made a fence for his words. Torah made a fence for her words. Moses made a fence for his words. So too, Job as well as the Prophets, the Writings, and the sages—all of them made a fence for their words [on Job’s ‘fence,’ see Job 31:1]” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan A, 1).

He who breaches a fence, a snake will bite him (Ecclesiastes 10:8).

Now the serpent was most cunning (Genesis 3:1).

For in much wisdom is much worry, and he who adds wisdom adds pain (Ecclesiastes 1:18): Because man increases his wisdom he increases worry against himself, and because he increases his knowledge he adds to his pain. Solomon said: Because I increased my wisdom I increased my worry, and because I increased my knowledge I increased my pain. Did you ever hear anybody say: ‘This donkey went out and caught the sun, or caught a fever? And where is suffering prevalent? With human beings. Rabbi said: A תַּלְמִיד חָכָם (talmid ḥakham), disciple of the wise, does not require a warning [cf. BT Sanhedrin 8b]. Rabbi Yoḥanan said: It is like the fine linen garments which come from Bet Shean: if they are even slightly blackened they are ruined; but as for the [coarse] linen garments which come from Arbel, what is their value altogether?

Rabbi Yishma’el taught: According to the camel so is its load. It often happens that two people enter a tavern; one orders, ‘Bring me roast meat, white bread, and good wine,’ while the other orders, ‘Bring me bread and beets’: the former eats and suffers afterwards, while the latter eats and does not suffer. Thus human ills weigh heavily upon the one but not upon the other.

It was taught in Rabbi Me’ir’s name: According to the greatness of the serpent so was his downfall: because he was most cunning, he was [most] cursed of all (Genesis 3:14). Now the serpent was most cunning of all the beasts of the field. Rabbi Hoshaya the Elder said: He stood out distinguished like a reed, and he had feet. Rabbi Yirmeyah son of El’azar said: He was an אֶפִּיקוֹרֶס (epiqores), unbeliever. Rabbi Shim’on son of El’azar said: He was like a camel. He deprived the world of much good, for had this not happened, one could have sent goods through him, and he would have gone and returned [cf. BT Sanhedrin 59b]….

But from the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden God has said, “You shall not eat from it and you shall not touch it, lest you die” (Genesis 3:3). Thus it is written, Add nothing to His words, lest He rebuke you and you be given the lie (Proverbs 30:6) [cf. Deuteronomy 4:2: You shall not add… neither shall you take away from it]. Rabbi Ḥiyya taught: Do not make the fence excessive [lit., more than the main thing], lest it collapse and יִקְצֹץ הַנְּטִיעוֹת (yiqtsots ha-neti’ot), severe the saplings. Thus, the blessed Holy One had said, For on the day you eat from it, you are doomed to die (Genesis 2:17); whereas she did not say so, but rather, God has said, “You shall not eat from it and you shall not touch it, lest you die”; when he [the serpent] saw her lying so, he took and thrust her against it. ‘Have you then died?’ he said to her; ‘just as you were not stricken through touching it, so will you not die when you eat it, For God knows that on the day you eat of it [your eyes will be opened and you will become as gods knowing good and evil] (ibid., 5).

Rabbi Tanḥuma said: I was asked this question in Antioch. I answered: It is not written, יוֹדְעִים אֱלֹהִים (yod’im elohim), knowing gods, but rather, יֹדֵעַ אֱלֹהִים (yode’a Elohim), God knows. Rabbi Yehoshu’a of Sikhnin said in Rabbi Levi’s name: He [the serpent] began speaking לָשׁוֹן הָרַע (lashon ha-ra), slander, of his Creator, saying, ‘Of this tree did He eat and then create the world; hence He orders you, You shall not eat from it, so that you may not create other worlds, for every person hates his fellow craftsmen.’ Rabbi Yehudah son of Rabbi Simon said: He argued: ‘Whatever was created after its companion dominates it. Thus: the heavens were created on the first day and the firmament on the second: does it not bear its weight? The firmament was created on the second and herbs on the third: do they not interrupt its waters? Herbs were created on the third day and the luminaries on the fourth [and through the heat of the sun plant life matures and ripens]; the luminaries on the fourth and the birds on the fifth. Rabbi Yehudah son of Rabbi Simon said: The זִיז (ziz) is a clean bird, and when it flies it obscures the orb of the sun [thus it dominates the sun, as it were]. Now you were created after everything in order to rule over everything; make haste and eat before He creates other worlds which will rule over you. Hence it is written, And the woman saw that the tree was good [for eating and that it was lust to the eyes and the tree was lovely to look at, and she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave to her man, and he ate…] (Genesis 3:6): she saw [how plausible were] the words of the serpent” (Bereshit Rabbah 19:1, 3–4).

“Rabbi Shemu’el son of Naḥman said, ‘The serpent was asked, Why are you generally to be found among fences?’ He replied, ‘Because I made a breach in the fence of the world.’ Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai taught: The serpent was the first to make a breach in the world’s fence, and so he has become the executioner of all who make breaches in fences” (Vayiqra Rabbah 26:2).

“Rabbi Levitas the visionary opened, ‘Enmity I will set between you and the woman, between your seed and hers (Genesis 3:15)—abundant hatred from the day the world was created, on account of the incitement of the serpent. From the moment it was cursed, driven out from the gate of the King, it lies in ambush constantly amid fences in the world, amid those fences of the Torah, biting all who trample those fences underfoot [see BT Avodah Zarah 18a (in the name of Rabbi Shim’on son of Laqish); Tanḥuma, Eqev 1; Zohar 1:198a–b]. Woe to one who is caught! Woe to one who is bitten! Woe for the persistence of the vile enmity, for the snake’s wicked hatred for Her, the one called woman of valor (Proverbs 31:10). Malevolent animus it nursed for Her from the day the world was created until it ravaged Her, pulverizing Her until She lay in the dust (Zohar Ḥadash 91c [MhN]).

“Four died through the incitement of the serpent, namely: Benjamin the son of Jacob, Amram the father of Moses, Jesse the father of David, and Chileab the son of David” (BT Shabbat 55b).

“On the eve of the Passover Jesus the Nazarene was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, ‘He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and incited [or: enticed] Israel. Any one who can say anything in his favor, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.’ But since nothing was brought forward in his favor he was hanged on the eve of the Passover!—Ulla said: ‘Do you suppose that he was one for whom a defense could be made? Was he not an enticer concerning whom Scripture says, you shall not pity him and shall not shield him (Deuteronomy 13:9)? With Jesus however it was different, for he was connected with the government‘” (BT Sanhedrin 43a).

“What is different about an inciter [that the court does not seek to deem him innocent]? Rabbi Ḥama son of Ḥaninah says: I heard at the lecture of Rabbi Ḥiyya son of Abba: An inciter is different, as the Compassionate One says, [Should your brother, your mother’s son… incite you in secret, saying, ‘Let us go and worship other gods’ that you did not know, neither you nor your fathers…] you shall not spare him and you shall not pity him and shall not shield him. [But you shall surely kill him] (Deuteronomy 13:7–10).

Rabbi Shemu’el son of Naḥman said in Rabbi Yonatan’s name: Whence do we know that we do not plead on behalf of a inciter? From the primordial serpent. For Rabbi Simlai said: The serpent had many pleas to put forward but did not do so. Then why did the blessed Holy One not plead on its behalf? Because it offered none itself. What could it have said? ‘The words of the master or those of the disciple, whose words should be listened to? Surely the master’s!’

Ḥizqiyyah said: How do we know that whoever increases, decreases? From, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it and you shall not touch it [lest you die’] (Genesis 3:3).

Rav Mesharshiyya said: From: אַמָּתַיִם (ammatayim), two, and a half cubits its length (Exodus 25:10) [if אַמָּתַיִם (ammatayim), two, were spelled without א (alef) it would read מָתַיִם (matayim), two hundred. Thus by adding א (alef) the number is reduced]. Rav Ashi said: From: עַשְׁתֵּי עֶשְׂרֵה (ashtei esreh), eleven, curtains (ibid. 26:7) [if עַשְׁתֵּי עֶשְׂרֵה (ashtei esreh), eleven, were spelled without ע (ayin) it would read שְׁתֵּי עֶשְׂרֵה (shetei esreh)twelve. Thus by adding ע (ayin) the number is reduced]” (BT Sanhedrin 29a, cf. Zohar 2:233b).

“נִשְׁמַת נְקֵבָה (Nishmat neqevah), female inspiration, is from the Female, and נִשְׁמַת זָכָר (nishmat zakhar), male inspiration, is from the Male. This is the reason the serpent followed Eve [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 20:11]. He said, ‘Her inspiration is drawn from the north, and so I will soon seduce her.’ And how did he seduce her? By mounting her.

The wicked Samael conspired with the entire army on high against his Master. This was because the blessed Holy One said, To hold sway over the fish of the sea and the winged creature of the heavens (Genesis 1:26) [cf. Deuteronomy 14:20]. He said, ‘How can we cause him to offend and be driven from before His presence?’ He descended with all his army, and sought a suitable mate on earth. At last he found the serpent, which looked like a camel, and he rode on it [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 19:1; Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 13; Zohar 1:228a]. He then went to the woman and said to her, ‘Though God said, you shall not eat from any tree of the garden…(Genesis 3:1)—I, however, will seek more, I will add in order that she detract [see BT Sanhedrin 29a: ‘Whoever increases, decreases’].’ She replied, ‘From the fruit of the garden’s trees we may eat. He did not prevent us, other than: the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden God has said, You shall not eat from it and you shall not touch it, lest you die‘ (Genesis 3:2).

She added two things: the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden—He only said, From the tree (Genesis 2:17); and you shall not touch it, lest you die [while He only spoke of eating]. What did Samael do? He went and touched the tree. The tree cried out and said, ‘Wicked one, do not touch me!’ Therefore it is written: Let no haughty foot overtake me, nor the hand of the wicked repel me. There did the doers of mischief fall. They were toppled and could not rise (Psalms 36:12–13).’

He then said to the woman, ‘See, I touched the tree and did not die. You too can touch and not die.’ The woman went and touched the tree. She saw the Angel of Death approaching her and said, ‘Woe! Now I will die and the blessed Holy One will make another woman and give her to Adam. I will therefore cause him to eat with me. If we die, we will both die, and if we live, we will both live.’ She took the fruit of the tree and ate it, and she also gave to her husband. Their eyes opened and their teeth were set on edge. He said, ‘What is this that you have given me to eat? Just as my teeth were set on edge, so will the teeth of all generations be set on edge’ [cf. Jeremiah 31:29: The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children’s teeth are set on edge].

He sat in true judgement, as is written, For You upheld my justice, my right, You sat on the throne of the righteous judge (Psalm 9:5). He called to Adam, and said ‘Why do you hide from Me?’ He replied, ‘I heard Your sound in the garden (Genesis 3:10). I heard Your sound in the garden—and my bones trembled. And I was afraid, for I was naked, and I hid—I was naked of works, I was naked of mitsvot, and I was naked of actions.’ Therefore it is written: and I was afraid, for I was naked, and I hid.

What was Adam’s clothing? A skin of nail [cf. Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 14]. However, when he ate of the fruits of the tree, his skin of nail was stripped from him, and he saw himself naked, as is written, Who told you that you were naked? (Genesis 3:11). Adam said before the blessed Holy One, ‘Master of the World: When I was alone did I offend You? But the woman that You gave me, she drove me from your words,’ as is written, The woman whom you gave me, [she gave me from the tree, and I ate] (Genesis 3:12). The blessed Holy One said to her, ‘Was it not enough for you to offend, but you also caused Adam to offend?’ She said before Him, ‘Master of the World: The serpent [beguiled me so] that I offend You.’ He summoned all three and sentenced upon them nine curses and death and cast down the wicked Samael and his band from their holy place in the heavens. He cut off the feet of the serpent and cursed it more than any living creature and more than any beast, decreeing that it be stripped of its skin every seven years in great pain [see BT Bekhorot 8a].

Let me hear gladness and joy, [let the bones that You crushed exult] (Psalms 51:10″ (Bahir §§199–200).

Bitter Almonds: One Can Sweeten Them in the Fire!

IMG_0977

“Why are large [bitter] almonds fit for [tithing]? Rabbi Yoḥanan said: Because one can sweeten them in the fire!” (BT Ḥullin 25b).

You are stationed here today [all of you before YHWH your God, your heads, your tribes, your elders, and your overseers, every man of Israel] (Deuteronomy 29:9:) This is what is said in the verse: הָפוֹךְ (Hafokh), overturn, the wicked and they are gone, but the house of the righteous will stand (Proverbs 12:7)—every time that the blessed Holy One looks at the works of the wicked and מְהַפֵּךְ (mehapek), turns [them] over, they do not remain standing [cf. Zohar 3:136a (IR): ‘Scrutinizing providence, not revealed except when the wicked must be called to account and their deeds examined’]. He looked over the works of the generation of the Flood, and there was no withstanding [it] for them, as is said: And He wiped out all existing things [from the face of the earth, from humans to cattle to crawling things to the fowl of the heavens, they were wiped out from the earth] (Genesis 7:23).

He looked over the works of the Sodomites, and there was no withstanding [it] for them, as is said: And He overthrew all those cities [and all the plain and all the inhabitants of the cities and what grew in the soil] (ibid. 19:25).

He looked over the works of the Egyptians, and there was no withstanding [it] for them, as said, not a single one of them remained (Exodus 14:28).

He looked over the works of Babylon, and there was no withstanding [it] for them, as is said: [And I will rise against them, says YHWH of Armies,] and I will cut off from Babylon name and remnant, kith and kin (Isaiah 14:22).

Of them all David said, There did the doers of mischief fall. They were toppled and could not rise (Psalms 36:13). But Israel falls and stands, as is said: Rejoice not, O my enemy. Though I fall, I will arise. [Though I sit in darkness, YHWH is a light for me] (Micah 7:8)—For I am YHWH, I have not changed [and you, sons of Jacob, have not come to an end] (Malachi 3:6).

Rabbi Ḥanina son of Pappa said: The blessed Holy One said, ‘I have never struck a people repeatedly [i.e., never have a people fallen and risen again], but you, sons of Jacob, have not כְלִיתֶם (kelitem), come to an end, as is said: [I will sweep down evils upon them,] My arrows אֲכַלֶּה (akhalleh), spending, against them [wasted with famine, withered by blight and bitter scourge, and the fang of beasts will I send against them, with the venom of creepers in the dust] (Deuteronomy 32:23–24). My arrows כָּלִין (kalin), are spent, yet [Israel] does not כָּלִים (kalim), come to an end. And so Assembly of Israel said: He bent His bow and stood me up as a target for the arrow. [He drove into my innards the shafts of His quiver] (Lamentations 3:12–13).

A parable: To what can the matter be compared? A man who stood a beam up and shot his arrows at it. The arrows are spent, but the beam stands. Thus with Israel: any time that sufferings overtook them the sufferings ended, and they were [left] standing in their place. As is said, Overturn the wicked and they are gone, [but the house of the righteous will stand].

Hezekiah the son of Rabbi Ḥiyya said, ‘Why is this portion [Nitsavim (Deuteronomy 29:9–30:20)] next to the portion about curses [i.e., Ki Tavo (ibid. 27:11–28:69)]? Because Israel heard a hundred curses less two in this portion, apart from the forty-nine which are mentioned in the priestly Torah [Leviticus]. Immediately their faces turned pale and they said, ‘Who is able to withstand these [curses]?’ Immediately Moses called to them and pacified them: What is written above? And Moses called to all Israel [and said to them, ‘You have seen all that YHWH did before your own eyes in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land….] The great trials [that your own eyes have seen, those great signs and portents….] And you came to this place, [and Sihon king of Heshbon and Og king of the Bashan sallied forth to meet us in battle, and we struck them down] (Deuteronomy 29:1–2, 6). And you did not heed My voice, and you spoke words before Me for which you deserved destruction. Still I did not wreak destruction upon you, when it is said: Our fathers in Egypt did not grasp Your wonders. [They did not call to mind Your many kindnesses and rebelled by the sea, at the Sea of Reeds] (Psalms 106:7). And not only that, but they said of the calf, These are your gods, O Israel, [who brought you up from the land of Egypt] (Exodus 32:4).

Now if you should say, ‘Why did the nations deserve destruction, while we remain standing?’ Because when sufferings overtake them, they thwart them and do not recall the name of the blessed Holy One, as is said, Pour out Your wrath on the nations that did not know You [and on the kingdoms that did not call on Your name] (Psalms 79:6). But Israel, when sufferings overtake them, surrender and מִתְפַּלְּלִין (mitpallelin), they pray [lit., make themselves the object of divine intervention], as is said, [The cords of death encircled me— and the straits of Sheol found me]—distress and sorrow did I find. And in the name of YHWH I called. [YHWH, pray, save my life] (ibid. 116:3–4) [cf. Bereishit Rabbah 92:1: ‘Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi said: All sufferings that overcome a man and prevent him from words of Torah are sufferings of rebuke, but sufferings that overcome a man and do not prevent him from words of Torah are sufferings of love. As is written: For whom YHWH loves He rebukes, [and like a father his son, regards him kindly] (Proverbs 3:12)’].

Therefore the blessed Holy One said, ‘Even though these curses overtake you, they stand you up [or: they are your endurance].’ And so He said: [Who feeds you manna in the wilderness, which your fathers did not know,] in order to afflict you and in order to try you, [to make it go well with you in your later time?] (Deuteronomy 8:16). So Moses said to Israel: Even though sufferings overtake you, you have the עֲמִידָה (amidah), Standing Prayer. As is said, You are stationed here today all of you [before YHWH your God] (ibid. 29:9)….

Another interpretation: You are stationed here today—why the day sometimes darkens and sometimes lightens, so it is with you. Although you have darkness, the blessed Holy One is going to shine on you with everlasting light, as said, [No more shall the sun be your light by day, nor the moon’s radiance shine for you,] but YHWH shall be your everlasting light [and your God become your splendor] (Isaiah 60:19). When? When you all become a single אֲגֻדָּה (aguddah), band [or: faction, bunch, bundle], as said, [But you, the ones clinging to YHWH your God,] are all of you alive today (Deuteronomy 4:4). According to the way of the world, if a person takes aguddah, a bunch, of reeds, will he be able to break them in a single stroke? But if he takes them one by one, even a child can break them! And so you find that Israel was not redeemed until they became one bunch, as is said, [In those days and in that time, said YHWH, the Israelites and the Judahites shall come together, [weeping as they walk shall they go, and YHWH their God they shall seek] (Jeremiah 50:4)—when they are united they welcome the face of Shekhinah” (Tanuma, Nitsavim 1).

You shall not תִתְגֹּדְדוּ (titgodedu), gash yourselves (Deuteronomy 14:1)—do not form אֲגֻדּוֹת (aguddot), factions. Rather, be a single אֲגֻדָּה (aguddah), band. And, similarly, He says: He has founded אֲגֻדָּתוֹ (aguddato), His vault, upon earth (Amos 9:6)” (SifreDevarim 96).

“And it shall be, if you do not heed the voice of YHWH your God to keep to do all His commands and His statutes that I charge you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you… 

Inasmuch as you will not have served YHWH your God in joy and with a good heart out of an abundance of all things, you will serve your enemies whom YHWH will send against you in hunger and in thirst and in nakedness and in the lack of all things, and he will put an iron yoke on your neck until you are destroyed…

And YHWH will bring you back to Egypt in ships, on the way that I said to you, ‘You shall not see it again,’ and you will put yourselves up for sale there to your enemies as male slaves and slavegirls, and there will be no buyer” (Deuteronomy 28:15, 47–48, 68).

Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai fled to the wilderness of Lydda and hid in a cave—he and his son, Rabbi El’azar. A miracle occurred for them—a carob tree sprouted and a spring of water gushed forth. They ate from the carob tree and drank from the waters. Elijah, of blessed memory, visited them twice daily and taught them, without anyone knowing about it.

One day, the sages were in the beit midrash, questioning and debating: ‘The curses of Leviticus allude to the First Temple, while the curses of Deuteronomy allude to the Second Temple. The curses of Leviticus contain promises and the blessed Holy One’s affection for Israel, as is written: I will remember My covenant with Jacob (Leviticus 26:42), and Yet even this, too—when they are in the land of their enemies, [I will not reject them] (ibid., 44). The curses of Deuteronomy contain no promises nor any consolation at all such as are found in the first curses.’ And none of them could explain it.

Rabbi Yehudah son of Il’ai rose, saying, ‘Woe for the absence of Son of Yoḥai! No on knows his whereabouts; and even if they did, they could not divulge.’

Rabbi Yose son of Rabbi Yehudah arose one morning and saw birds flying—a turtledove trailing them. He stood up, saying, ‘Turtledove! Faithful Turtledove! Since the days of the flood, the form of the holy people has suited you and graced you [because the dove is distinctive among birds in that it does not mate with another bird, should its mate disappear during the season, cf. BT Berakhot 53b]. Go, serve as my messenger to Son of Yoḥai, wherever he is.’ The dove circled around and came before him. He wrote a note, recording what he had said. The dove arose and took it in its mouth, traveling to Rabbi Shim’on, carrying it under her wing [cf. Zohar 1:11b].

Rabbi Shim’on looked at the note and cried—he along with his son Rabbi El’azar. He said, ‘I weep because of our separation from the Companions; and I weep regarding these matters that have not been revealed to them! What will later generations do when they consider this!

Just then, Elijah, of blessed memory, arrived. He saw him weeping, and said, ‘I was ready for a different mission, but the blessed Holy One dispatched me to dry your tears. Oh, Rabbi, Rabbi! Now was not the time to reveal these matters to the righteous, but here is what the blessed Holy One explained. The first curses contain thirty-two verses, all corresponding to the paths of Torah. The latter curses contain fifty-three verses, corresponding to the parashot and routes of the Torah. In the first exile, from the First Temple, Israel passed along those concealed, secret paths. Their sins were revealed and their end was revealed, along with consolation and promises for them. In the latter exile—after the Second Temple—the people of Israel transgressed against fifty-three portions, revealed paths. Their sins were concealed and their ends were concealed—neither promises nor consolation were written [cf. BT Yoma  9b].’

Just then, a wind gusted by, separating them, sweeping Elijah up in a wheel of fire. Rabbi Shim’on remained, weeping. He fell asleep at the opening of the cave. Suddenly Elijah, of blessed memory, came saying, ‘Arise, Rabbi Shim’on! Wake up from your slumber. Happy is your portion, for the blessed Holy One is concerned for your honor! All the promises and consolations of Israel are written in these curses.

Go, see how a king loves his son, and even though he curses and lashes him, his deep love endures. When he displays severe wrath, his compassion for him prevails. Similarly, with the blessed Holy One—even though He curses, His words come from love. In their revealed form they appear to be curses, but they are great boons, because the curses came from love. This contrasts with the first ones, which all derived from harsh judgment. In these there is judgment and love—like a father who loves his son while gripping in his hand a switch for flogging. The child shrieks mightily, creating a din; but the lashes are lessened with love [cf. BT Berakhot 5a].

Most severe of all these curses—What’s more, every illness and every plague that is not mentioned in this Scroll of Torah YHWH will hide from you, that would have caused you to be wiped out (Deuteronomy 28:61). Here are promises of great love from father to son! It is not written יַעֲלֶה (ya’aleh), will bring [upon you], but rather יַעְלֵם (ya’lem), will hide [from you]. He will subdue them and nullify them in a pit—their place—so that they cannot venture forth; rather, they will be subdued and covered in their pit.

Until you are wiped out (ibid.)—which will never, ever happen, for the blessed Holy One took an oath that He would never destroy Israel, and that their memory will endure forever. This is as is written: so shall your seed and your name stand (Isaiah 66:22), and As I live, if the heavens above could be measured… (Jeremiah 31:37). Since it has been sworn by oath that Israel will never, ever be wiped out, it is fitting that plagues and illnesses should be concealed and covered, never emerging to harm them to the extent of annihilation—that will never, ever happen.

The end and conclusion of them all is YHWH will bring you back to Egypt in ships, by a route that I told you, ‘You shall not see it again.’ There you shall offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male slaves and slavegirls, but there will be no buyer (Deuteronomy 28:68)—promises and consolations that the blessed Holy One provides to Israel at the end of days! YHWH will bring you back to Egypt in ships—a promise to return them, and to perform miracles and signs that the blessed Holy One had enacted in Egypt in days of yore. This is as is said: As in the days of your coming out of the land of Egypt, I will show him wonders (Micah 7:15).

בָּאֳנִיּוֹת (Bo-oniyyot), In ships—but here its meaning is as you have said, expounding it as בַּעֲנִיּוּת (ba-aniyyut), in poverty, without a coin in one’s purse [cf. BT Sanhedrin 97a: ‘The (Messiah,) son of David, will not come until… the (last) coin has gone from the purse’]. Everyone in the world is poised to pounce upon Israel, aboard seafaring vessels, intending to annihilate them, but they will all drown in the sea just as was done in olden days, and joy abounded. Here it is written בָּאֳנִיּוֹת רִנָּתָם (bo-oniyyot rinnatam), raising their voice in ships (Isaiah 43:14)—just as joy is there, so is there joy here [cf. Ester Rabbah, Petiḥta 3].

By a route which I told you—since the day that the world was created the might of the blessed Holy One has not been seen in the world, nor the time of favor, other than on that route. For as you see the Egyptians today (Exodus 14:13)—on that same route, in that very manner, so shall He do for you.

Further, they will gather afterward from all sides against Israel, and the people of Israel will think then that they will be eliminated—sold to their foes—as is written: There you shall offer yourselves for sale. It is not written you shall be sold, but rather you shall offer yourselves for sale—in your hearts you will imagine that you have been sold. But this will not occur—it is written: none will buy. And there will be none who shall rule over them.

All this will occur at the end of days; and it is all dependent upon teshuvah. But it is all concealed, as is written: in order that you may prosper in all that you do (Deuteronomy 29:8)—one who has a heart should contemplate and will know to return to his Lord [on teshuvah as a prerequisite for redemption, see JT Ta’anit 1:1, 63d; BT Sanhedrin 97b; Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 43; Tanḥuma, Beḥuqqotai 3; Tanḥuma (Buber), Beḥuqqotai 5; Zohar 1:117b; 2:188b–189a; ZḤ 8a, 23c (both MhN)].

Rabbi Shim’on asked, ‘Where is Israel’s redemption revealed among these curses?’

Elijah replied, ‘Examine carefully and see the most horrific instance of them all—that is where it appears.’ He examined carefully, and found the verse Your life will dangle before you, and you will be terrified night and day and will have no faith in your life (Deuteronomy 28:66). Even though there are those who know that time, life dangles before them, and they are uncertain—even though this is the essence, and the words endure.

In the evening, Rabbi Shim’on wrote a note and placed it in the mouth of the turtledove, which journeyed back to Rabbi Yose—who had stayed put, his eyes expectant. Upon spotting [the dove], he said, ‘Turtledove, Turtledove, you are the most faithful bird in the skies!’ He proclaimed of it: the dove came back to him at eventide; and look, a plucked off olive leaf was in its bill (Genesis 8:11). He took the note and went to the Companions. He showed it to them, and they were astonished.

Rabbi Yehudah wept, saying, ‘Alas! Even though we do not know his whereabouts, the place where the tree falls, there it will be (Ecclesiastes 11:3) [cf. BT Bekhorot 57b; Eikhah Rabbah 1:37]. Where Son of Yoḥai is found, his companions are there with him, awakened by him, learning from him. Happy is the soul of Son of Yoḥai, for the blessed Holy One has performed miracles with him; he has decreed, and the blessed Holy One has fulfilled! [cf. BT Mo’ed Qatan 16b; Zohar 3:15a]. In the future, he will be the head of the righteous ones who sit in the Garden of Eden; he will receive the face of the Shekhinah and will see the blessed Holy One. Delighting with the righteous ones, he will call to them: Come, let us bow down kneel; let us bend the knee before YHWH our Maker (Psalms 95:6)” (Zohar Ḥadash 59c–60a).

And She Took of Its Fruit: A Decree was Ordained Beforehand

20140711-121156-43916671.jpg

“‘[Rabbi El’azar son of ha-Qappar said:] Envy, lust, and seeking honor, drive a man out of the world’ (M Avot 4:21).

The ministering angels said before the blessed Holy One, ‘Master of all Worlds: What is a human creature that You should know him? (Psalms 144:3). The human is like unto breath (ibid., 4)—אֵין עַל עָפָר מָשְׁלוֹ (ein al afar mashlo), he has no match on earth [alt., his rule is not over dust] (Job 41:25).’ He said to them, ‘Just as you praise Me above, he shall proclaim My unity below. And moreover, are you able to stand up and give names to all the creatures?’ They stood up but could not. Immediately Adam stood up and gave names to all the creatures, as is said, And the human called names to all the cattle… (Genesis 2:20).

When the ministering angels saw, they said, ‘If we do not come upon Adam with counsel that he might offend before his Creator, we cannot overcome him.’ Now Samael was the great prince in Heaven—the living beings have four wings and the seraphs have six wings, while Samael has twelve wings. He took his band and descended and saw all the creatures which the blessed Holy One had created in His world, and he found among them none so skilled to do evil as the serpent, as is said, Now the serpent was most cunning of all the beasts of the field that YHWH God had made (Genesis 3:1). And his look was like that of a camel, and he mounted and rode upon him. The Torah cried out, saying, ‘Samael, just now the world was created, is it the time to rebel against the Omnipresent? Is it the time to lift yourself on high? The Master of Worlds scoffs at the horse and its rider (Job 39:18).’

A parable: to what can the matter be compared? A man who has an evil spirit within him. And all the deeds that he does, from his own mind does he do them? And all of the words that he speaks, from his own mind does he speak? Is it not that he only does [them] from the mind of the evil spirit which is upon him? So [was it with] the serpent: all the deeds that he performed and all the words that he spoke, he only spoke and only did them by the will of Samael. And of him it says, in his evil the wicked is driven off (Proverbs 14:32).

A parable. To what can the matter be compared? To a king who married a woman and made her supreme over all that he had—precious stones and pearls. He said to her: All that I have shall be in your hands, except this cask, which is full of scorpions. A certain old man visited her; he asks, for instance, for vinegar. He said to her: Will you argue that he deals kindly with you? ‘He deals with me (thus): over all that he possesses has he made me supreme. Thus he said to her: Behold, all that I have is given into your hands except this cask, which is full of scorpions. [The old man] said to her: Is not all the jewelry of the king indeed in this cask? But he wishes to marry another woman, and to give them to her—the king is the first man [Adam], the woman is Eve, and the one who asked for vinegar is the serpent; of them is said, There did the doers of mischief fall. They were toppled and could not rise (Psalms 36:13).

The serpent argued with himself, saying: If I go and speak to Adam, I know that he will not listen to me, for a man is always hard, as is said, [the woman had a good mind and lovely looks,but the man was hard and evil in deeds (1 Samuel 25:3) [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 17:8]; and, look, I will speak to Eve, for I know that she will listen to me; for women listen to all creatures, as is said, [The foolish woman bustles about.Gullibility!—and she knows nothing of it (Proverbs 9:13). The serpent went and spoke to the woman: Is it [true that] you also have been commanded concerning the fruit of the tree? She said: Yes, as is said, [“From the fruit of the garden’s trees we may eat,but from the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden [Elohim has said, ‘You shall not eat from it and you shall not touch it, lest you die’”] (Genesis 3:3). And when the serpent heard the words of Eve, he found an opening through which he could enter, so he said to her: This command is nothing else except the evil eye, for in the hour when you eat, you will be like אֱלֹהִים (Elohim), gods—a Creator. Just as He creates worlds and destroys worlds, so will you be able to create worlds and to destroy worlds. Just as He kills and brings to life, so also will you be able to kill and to bring to life, as is said, For God knows that on the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened [and you will become as gods knowing good and evil] (ibid., 5).

The serpent went and touched the tree, which commenced to cry out, saying: Wicked One! do not touch me! as it is said, Let no haughty foot overtake me, nor the hand of the wicked repel me. There did the doers of mischief fall. [They were toppled and could not rise] (Ps. 36:11–13). The serpent went and said to the woman: Behold, I touched it, but I did not die; you too may touch it, and you will not die. The woman went and touched the tree, and she saw the angel of death coming towards her; she said: Woe is me! I will die now, and the blessed Holy One will make another woman and give her to Adam, but behold I will cause him to eat with me; if we die, we will both die, and if we live, we will both live. And she took of the fruits of the tree, and ate, and also gave to her husband, so that he should eat with her, as is said, “and she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave to her man, [and he ate] (Genesis 3:6). When Adam had eaten of the fruit of the tree, he saw that he was naked, and his eyes were opened, and his teeth were blunted. He said to her: What is this that you have given me to eat, that my eyes should be opened and my teeth blunted? Just as my teeth were blunted, so shall the teeth of all generations be blunted [cf. Jeremiah 31:29: The fathers ate unripe fruit and the sons’ teeth were blunted]….

He sat in judgment and He judged with judgment. He said to him: Why did you flee before Me? He answered Him: I heard Your sound and my bones trembled,’ as is said, I heard Your sound in the garden and I was afraid, for I was naked, and I hid (Genesis 3:10).

What was the garment of the first man? A skin of nail and a cloud of glory covered him. But when he ate of the fruits of the tree, his skin of nail was stripped off him and he saw himself naked, and the cloud of glory departed from him, as is said, And He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? From the tree I commanded you not to eat have you eaten?’ (ibid., 11). Man said before the blessed Holy One: Master of all Worlds! When I was alone, I did not offend against You. But the woman whom You have brought to me enticed me away from Your words, as is said, The woman whom you gave by me, [she gave me from the tree, and I ate] (ibid., 12).

The blessed Holy One called to Eve, and said to her: Was it not enough for you that you yourself offended? But [also] that you should make Adam offend? She said before Him: Master of all Worlds! The serpent enticed my mind to offend before You, as is said, The serpent beguiled me and I ate (ibid., 13).

He brought the three of them and passed sentence of judgment upon them, consisting of nine curses and death. He cast down Samael and his band from their holy place in the heavens, and cut off the feet of the serpent. And He cursed him more than all living beasts and all cattle, and decreed that he should shed his skin and suffer pain once in seven years in great pain, and cursed him that he should drag himself by his belly, and his food is turned in his innards into dust and viper’s bile (Job 20:14), and death is in his mouth, and He put hatred between him and the children of the woman, so that they should bruise his head, and after all these death.

He gave the woman nine curses and death [see BT Eruvin 100b]: the afflictions arising from menstruation and the tokens of virginity; the affliction of conception in the womb; and the affliction of childbirth; and the affliction of bringing up children; and her head is covered like a mourner, and it is not shaved except on account of immorality, and her ear is pierced like perpetual slaves; and like a slavegirl she waits upon her husband; and she is not believed in [a matter of] testimony; and after all these death [see BT Sotah 12a].

He extended retribution to Adam [as to a part of the] nine curses and death. He reduced his power, and He reduced his stature because of the impurity connected with issues and with pollution; as well as the [ritual] impurity arising from sexual intercourse; he was to sow wheat and to reap thistles, and his food was to be the grass of the earth, like that of the beast; and [he was to earn] his bread in anxiety, and his food by the sweat [of his brow]; and after all these death.

He extended pardon to Adam [as to a part of the] nine curses and death. He reduced his power and He reduced his stature because of the impurity of issues and of pollution [see BT Sanhedrin 38b]; as well as the impurity arising from sexual intercourse; he was to sow wheat and to reap thistles, and his food was to be the grass of the earth, like that of the beast; and [he was to earn] his bread in anxiety, and his food by the sweat [of his brow]; and after all these: death. If Adam offended, what was the offence of the earth, that it should be cursed? Because it did not speak against the [evil] deed [see Targum Yerushalmi (fag.) on Genesis 3:17], therefore it was cursed; for in the hour when the sons of man miss the mark in graver transgressions He sends a plague to the sons of man; and in the hour when the sons of man miss the mark in less vital transgressions, He smites the fruits of the earth, because of [the offenses of] the sons of man, as is said, Cursed be the soil for your sake, [with pangs shall you eat from it all the days of your life] (ibid., 17)” (Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 13–14).

“נִשְׁמַת נְקֵבָה (Nishmat neqevah), female inspiration, is from the Female, and נִשְׁמַת זָכָר (nishmat zakhar), male inspiration, is from the Male. This is the reason the serpent went after Eve [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 20:11]. He said, ‘Her soul comes from the north, and so I will soon seduce her.’ And how did he seduce her? By mounting her.

His disciples asked: Tell us how this happened? He replied: The wicked Samael conspired with the entire army on high against his Master, since the blessed Holy One said To hold sway over the fish of the sea and the winged creature of the heavens (Genesis 1:26) [cf. Deuteronomy 14:20]. He said: How can we cause him to offend and be driven from before His presence? He descended with all his army, and sought a suitable companion on earth. At last he found the serpent, which looked like a camel, and he rode on him [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 19:1; Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 13; Zohar 1:228a]. He then went to the woman, saying to her: Though Elohim said, you shall not eat from any tree of the garden… (ibid. 3:1)—however, I will seek more, I will add in order that she detract. She replied: From the fruit of the garden’s trees we may eat (ibid., 2)—He did not prevent us, except for the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden Elohim has said, “You shall not eat from it and you shall not touch it lest you die” (ibid., 2–3). She added two things: the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden—He only said, from the tree (ibid. 2:17); and you shall not touch it, lest you die. What did Samael do? He went and touched the tree. The tree cried out, saying, “Wicked one! Do not touch me!” Therefore, it is written: Let no haughty foot overtake me, nor the hand of the wicked repel me. There did the doers of mischief fall. They were toppled and could not rise (Psalms 36:12–13).

He then said to the woman: See, I touched the tree and did not die. You too can touch and not die. The woman went and touched the tree. She saw the Angel of Death approaching her and said: ‘Oy! Now I will die and the blessed Holy One will make another woman and give her to Adam! I will therefore cause him to eat with me. If we die, we will both die, and if we live, we will both live. She took the fruit of the tree and ate it, and she also gave to her husband. Their eyes opened, their teeth were blunted (Jeremiah 31:29). He said: What is this that you have given me to eat? Just as my teeth were blunted, so will the teeth of all generations be blunted. He sat in true judgment, as is written, For You upheld my justice, my right, You sat on the throne of the righteous judge (Psalms 9:5). He called to Adam, saying: Why do you hide from Me? He replied: I heard Your sound in the garden (Genesis 3:10). I heard Your sound in the garden—and my bones trembled; And I was afraid, for I was naked, and I hid. I was naked—of works; I was naked—of mitsvot; and I was naked—of actions. Therefore, it is written: and I was afraid, for I was naked, and I hid.

What was Adam’s clothing? A skin of nail. However, when he ate of the fruits of the tree, his skin of nail was stripped from him and he saw himself naked, as is written, Who told you that you were naked? (ibid., 11). Adam said before the blessed Holy One: Master of the World: When I was alone did I offend You? But the woman whom You gave me, she drove me away from Your words, as is written, The woman whom You gave me, [she gave me from the tree, and I ate] (ibid., 12). The blessed Holy One said to her: Was it not enough for you to offend, but you also caused Adam to offend? She said before Him: Master of the World: The serpent [beguiled me so] that I offend You. He summoned all three of them and sentenced nine curses upon them and death, and cast down the wicked Samael and his band from their holy place in the heavens. He severed the serpent’s feet and cursed him more than any living creature, more than any beast, and decreed that he be stripped of his skin every seven years, in great pain [see BT Bekhorot 8a]. 

Therefore, Let me hear gladness and joy, [let the bones that You crushed exult] (Psalms 51:10)” (Bahir §§199–200).

“The letter מ (mem) was the original sign for Adam, establishing death upon the world, because this letter was flying over Adam’s head when, as is written: She took מִפִּרְיוֹ (mi-piryo), of its fruit (Genesis 3:6)—מ פִּרְיוֹ (mem, piryo)—and it was waiting for ו ת (vavtav). When, as is written, וַתֹּאכַל וַתִּתֵּן (va-tokhal va-titten), and she ate, and she gave, וַתִּפָּקַחְנָה (va-tippaqaḥnah), And [the eyes of the two] were opened (ibid., 6–7), then מָוֶת (mavet), death, was established upon the world” (Zohar 3:237a, cf. ibid. 1:12b).

“Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘A decree was ordained beforehand that Adam should die since he was taken from the ground. As implied by what is written: on the day you eat from it [you will surely die] (Genesis 2:17)—teaching that had he not sinned, he would have had a long life [cf. BT Shabbat 55a–b]. As soon as he sinned, the punishment was that his days be shortened—and that he die on that very day. After he repented, the blessed Holy One granted him His day—which is one thousand years [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 8:2].

This proves that the decree that he die was prior. For were it not so, when he repented He should have rescinded the decree!

Rabbi Shim’on explained, ‘He repented and He rescinded the decree ordained for him—on the day you eat from it (ibid.); He lengthened his days, granting him His day” (Zohar Ḥadash 18c).

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).