“Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi met Elijah at the opening of the cave of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai [cf. 1 Kings 19:8–9]. He asked him: ‘Do I have 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 [i.e., the Shekhinah (Rashi)].’ He then asked him, ‘When will the Messiah come?’ ‘Go and ask him himself,’ he replied. ‘Where is he sitting?’ He said, ‘At the portal of the city of Rome.’ ‘And by what sign may I recognize him?’ He said, ‘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,’ he replied. On his returning to Elijah, he asked, ‘What did he say to you?’ ‘Peace be upon you Son of Levi,’ he replied. [Elijah] said, ‘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.’ [Elijah] answered him, ‘This is what he said to you, Today, if you would only heed His voice!’ (Psalms 95:7)” (BT Sanhedrin 98a).
“The Rabbis said: [The Messiah,] his name is חִיוְורָא (ḥivvra), White, of the House of Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nasi], as is written, Indeed, he has borne our illness, and our sorrows he has carried. But we had reckoned him plagued, God-stricken and tormented (Isaiah 53:4) [i.e., the Messiah is as הַמְּצֹרָע (ha-metsora), the one afflicted with skin blanch—he is called unclean and dwells outside the camp (Rashi)]” (BT Sanhedrin 98b).
And the person afflicted with skin blanch, in whom the affliction is, his clothes shall be torn and his hair disheveled, and his moustache he shall cover, and he shall call out, “Unclean! Unclean!” All the days that the affliction is on him he shall remain unclean. He is unclean. He shall dwell apart. Outside the camp shall his dwelling be (Leviticus 13:45–46).
Indeed, he has borne our illness, and our sorrows he has carried. But we had reckoned him plagued, God-stricken and tormented. Yet he was wounded for our crimes, crushed for our transgressions. The chastisement that restored our well-being he bore, and through his bruising we were healed (Isaiah 53:4–5).
“This shall be the teaching concerning הַמְּצֹרָע (ha-metsora), the one afflicted with skin blanch—הַמוֹצִיא רָע (ha-motsi ra), the one who utters evil. Rabbi Ḥiyya said, ‘If anyone produces evil speech, all his limbs are defiled and he deserves to be confined, for that evil word rises and arouses an impure spirit upon him, defiling him” (Zohar 3:53a).
“Yet he who [continually] declares [others] unclean is [himself] unclean and never speaks in praise [of people]. And Shemu’el said: With his own blemish he stigmatizes [others] as unclean” (BT Qiddushin 70a).
“When [the souls in the Garden of Eden below roam on every new moon and Sabbath] they tell the Messiah about the suffering of Israel in exile and about the wicked among them who do not seek to know their Lord, he weeps aloud over the wicked, as is written: But he was wounded for our sins, crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5). Those souls return and stand in their places.
In the Garden of Eden there is one chamber called the Chamber of the Ill. The Messiah then enters that chamber and calls for all the illnesses, all the pains, and all the sufferings of Israel to come upon him, and they all do so. And if he did not ease them off of Israel, taking them upon himself, no one could endure the sufferings of Israel from the punishments of Torah, as is written: Yet it was our sickness that he was bearing (Isaiah 53:4). Similarly, Rabbi El’azar on earth [see BT Bava Metsi’a 83b–84b].
For innumerable are the sufferings looming over a person every day, all of which descended into the world at the time when Torah was given. When the people of Israel were in the Holy Land, they eliminated all those illnesses and sufferings from the world through rituals and sacrifices. Now, the Messiah removes them from inhabitants of the world, until a person departs from this world and receives punishment, as has been said. Except for the extremely wicked, who are sent deep within Hell, into those other compartments, where they are punished severely for the extreme filth of the soul; then intense fire is kindled to consume that filth. Woe to the soul who suffers that punishment! Furthermore, angels of destruction harass them with rods of fire to shake out that filth. Woe to the soul who suffers that punishment! Happy are those who keep the commandments of Torah!” (Zohar 2:212a, cf. Zohar Ḥadash 56c).
For this command which I charge you today is not too wondrous for you nor is it distant. It is not in the heavens, to say, “Who will go up for us to the heavens and take it for us and let us hear it, that we may do it?” And it is not beyond the sea, to say, “Who will cross over for us beyond the sea and take it for us and let us hear it, that we may do it?” But the word is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it (Deuteronomy 30:11–14).
You are good and do good. Teach me Your statutes. The arrogant plaster me with lies—I with whole heart keep Your decrees. Their heart grows dull like fat—as for me, in Your teaching I delight. It was good for me that I was afflicted, so that I might learn Your statutes. Better for me Your mouth’s teaching than thousands of pieces of silver and gold (Psalms 119:68–72).
“Rabbi Abba said, ‘Yose, my son, I will tell you what happened to me with the Holy Lamp [Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai]. One day we were walking in the valley of Ono, delving into Torah that whole day. Due to the intensity of the sun, we sat ourselves down in the cleft of a certain rock [this recalls the cleft of the rock where God revealed His back to Moses (Exodus 33:22–23). Similarly, here, a profound mystery is revealed: the suffering of the righteous]. I said to him, ‘How is it that whenever the wicked proliferate in the world, the righteous among them are smitten on their account? For we have learned as follows: ‘For a generation’s חוֹבָא (ḥova), sin [lit., liability, debt], the righteous are seized.’ Why? If because they do not reprimand the world for their deeds, well, there are many who do reprimand but are not heeded, and the righteous are overwhelmed by them. And if it is so that there will be no one to protect the world, then let them not die and not be seized for the sins [of the world], since the righteous find joy in the destruction [of the wicked].’
He replied, ‘For a generation’s sin, the righteous are surely seized, and we have established these matters. But when the righteous are seized with illness or afflictions, it is in order to atone for the world; then all sins of the generation are purged. How do we know this? From all members of the body. When all the members are in distress—grave illness prevailing over them—one member must suffer so that all of them may be healed. Which one is it? The arm. The arm is struck and blood is drawn from it, and then all members of the body are healed.
Similarly, inhabitants of the world are bodily members, interlinked. When the blessed Holy One wishes to grant healing to the world, He strikes one righteous person among them, and through him provides healing to all. How do we know this? As is written: But he was wounded for our sins, crushed for our iniquities, and by his wound we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). And by his wound—bloodletting, like someone letting blood from his arm. By that wound we are healed—healing comes to us, to all members of the body.
Never is a righteous person smitten except to provide healing to the generation and to atone for them. This is the mystery of ‘a righteous one who suffers,’ for the Other Side prefers most of all that Judgment should overwhelm a righteous one—for then he does not care about the whole world and ignores them because of the joy of dominating him [cf. Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 1a–b]. Yet that righteous person attains supreme dominion in this world and in the world that is coming. As for ‘a righteous one who prospers,’ this is because the blessed Holy One does not care to atone for the world’” (Zohar 3:217b–18b).
“I am the first and I am the last; and besides Me there is no god (Isaiah 44:6). I am the first—I do not have a father; I am the last—I do not have a brother; and besides Me there is no god—I do not have a son” (Shemot Rabbah 29:4).
“And God said, ‘Let us make a human’ (Genesis 1:26). It is not written הָאָדָם (ha-adam), the human, but rather אָדָם (adam), a human, indefinite—excluding the one above [namely, אָדָם הַקַדְמוֹן (adam ha-qadmon), the Primordial Human], who was made with a complete name [i.e., יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים (YHVH Elohim) (Genesis 2:7)]” (Zohar 2:178a, cf. ibid. 2:70a–b).
אֶדַּמֶּה לְעֶלְיוֹן (Edammeh le-Elyon), I will be compared to the Supernal (Isaiah 14:14)
“And אֱלֹהִים (Elohim) said, ‘Let us make a human’ (Genesis 1:26). The secret of יְהוָה (YHVH) is for those who fear Him (Psalms 25:14).
The Elder of Elders opened, saying, ‘Shim’on, Shim’on, who is He who said, ‘Let us make a human’—who is this Elohim? Meanwhile, the Elder of Elders vanished. When Rabbi Shim’on heard that he called him Shim’on and not Rabbi Shim’on, he said to the Companions: This is indeed the blessed Holy One of whom is said, And the Ancient of Days took His seat (Daniel 7:9). Now is the time to reveal this secret which was previously forbidden, and permission has now been given to reveal it.
He opened, saying: A king had many buildings to build and he had an אֻמָּן (umman), artisan. That artisan did not do anything without the permission of the king, as is written, I was by Him, an אָמוֹן (amon), intimate (Proverbs 8:30) [cf. Bahir §5; Guide of the Perplexed 2:4]. The king is most certainly supernal Ḥokhmah above, and the middle pillar is the king below. Elohim, the artisan above is supernal Mother. Elohim, the artisan below, is Shekhinah.
A wife is not permitted to do anything without the permission of her husband. Of all the structures [that emerged] by way of emanation Father would say to Mother, ‘Let there be’ such and such and so it was, immediately. As is written: And said, ‘Elohim let there be light’ and there was light (Genesis 1:3). And said—spoken to Elohim—‘Let there be light.’ So Father uttered the words and immediately the artisan, Mother, faithfully performed the task. And this was the same with every structure by way of emanation—Father, would say, ‘Let there be a firmament’ or ‘Let there be lights,’ and all was performed immediately.
When the world of separation came, which is the world of those divided [see Zohar 1:158a], the artisan said to the architect, ‘Let us make a human in our image, by our likeness’ (Genesis 1:26). The architect said, ‘It is indeed good that man be made, but he will offend before you, because he is foolish, as is written, A wise son gladdens his father, but a foolish son is his mother’s sorrow (Proverbs 10:1).’
She said, ‘Because his crimes depend on Mother, and not Father, I wish to create him in My own image,’ as is written, And Elohim created the human in His image (Genesis 1:27). She did not want Father, to have any share [although often called Mother, Binah is also ‘World of the Male,’ encompassing the entire configuration of the sefirot from Ḥesed through Yesod. Together they constitute a masculine entity ready to join Shekhinah, see Zohar 1:147a, 149a, 96a, 160b, 246a–247a, 248b; 2:127b; ZḤ 72b (ShS)].
What is written at the time of the sin? For your crimes, your mother was sent away (Isaiah 50:1). The King said to Mother, ‘Did I not tell you that he was destined to offend?’ [cf. BT Shabbat 55a–b; Zohar Ḥadash 18c]. It was then that he exiled him and exiled Mother with him. Therefore, it is written: A wise son gladdens his father, but a foolish son is his mother’s sorrow. A wise son—man of אֲצִילוּת (atsilut), Emanation. A foolish son—man of בְּרִיָּה (beri’ah), Creation.
All the Companions rose and said ‘Rabbi! Rabbi! could there be such separation between Father and Mother, [so much so that] from the side of Father he is by way of Atsilut, but from the side of Mother by [way of] Beri’ah?! He said to them, ‘Companions, Companions, it is not so, because man of Atsilut is male and female, from the aspect of Father and from Mother. This is why Elohim said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light. ‘Let there be light’—from the side of Father; and there was light—from the side of Mother. So man had דוּ פַּרְצוּפִין (du partsufin), two faces [see BT Eruvin 18a].
But to him [of Beri’ah] there is neither image nor likeness [of Father or Mother]. Supernal Mother has but one epithet: Light and… Darkness (Isaiah 45:7), which amounts to eighty-six: Elohim [כִּנּוּי (kinnui), epithet, אֱלֹהִים (Elohim), and הַטֶבַע (ha-teva), Nature, are each numerically equivalent to eighty-six, cf. Rabbi Avraham Abulafia, Get ha-Shemot, 101b (MS Oxford, 1682)]. And that epithet is Light and Darkness [אוֹר וּחֹשֶׁךְ (or u-ḥoshek), Light and Darkness, is numerically equivalent to יִשְׂרָאֵל (yisra’el), Israel]. And because of that epithet of darkness, Father said that man of Beri’ah [Adam Rishon (First Man)], was destined to offend because he is light of the supernal garment.
Light—which the blessed Holy One created on the first day, hiding it away for the righteous alone [see BT Ḥagigah 12a; Bereshit Rabbah 3:6; Vayiqra Rabbah 11:7; Zohar 1:30b–31b; ZḤ 15b (MhN)]. Darkness—created on the first day for the wicked: And the wicked in darkness turn dumb (1 Samuel 2:9). On account of darkness, which would cause light to offend, Father did not wish to partake in his creation. Therefore, Mother said, ‘Let us make a human in our image, by our likeness. In our image—light. By our likeness—darkness which is a garment for light, just as the body is a garment for the soul, as is written: With skin and flesh You clothed me (Job 10:11). They all rejoiced, saying, ‘How happy is our share that we had the privilege to hear words that were not to be heard until now.’
Rabbi Shim’on delved further, saying, See now that I, I am He, and no אֱלֹהִים (elohim), god, is by My side (Deuteronomy 32:39). Companions, listen to ancient words I wish to reveal since permission from above has been granted. Who is He who said, See now that I, I am He?’ He replied: The עִלַּת עַל כָּל עִלָּאִין (illat al kal illa’in), Cause above all Causes. He that is called עִלַּת הָעִלּוֹת (illat ha-illot), the Cause of Causes, is not high above all the supernal beings, but rather, is a cause among all the rest. Accordingly, every single one of these causes cannot act unless permission comes down from the cause above him, as I said before with, Let us make a human.
Let us make—two rungs, and each lower rung said to the one above him, Let us make a human. The lower rung cannot act without permission from the one over him and the one over him cannot act until counsel comes down from the one over him. But He who is called עִלַּת עַל כָּל עִלּוֹת (illat al kal illot), Cause above all Causes, has no equal above nor below, as is written: To whom then will you liken Me, or shall I be equal? says the Holy One (Isaiah 40:25). He said, ‘See now that I, I am He, and no אֱלֹהִים (elohim), god, is by My side’—from whom to take counsel, unlike him of whom is written: And Elohim said, ‘Let us make a human.’
All the Companions rose and said, ‘Rabbi grant us permission to speak. Did you not already say that the Cause of Causes, said to Keter, ‘Let us make a human.’ He said to them: ‘Let your ears hear what your mouth speaks! Have I not just told you that He who is called the Cause of Causes is not He who is called the Cause above all Causes, for the Cause above all Causes has no second from whom He can take counsel. He is Singular, prior to all, and He has no partner [cf. Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles of Jewish Faith].
Accordingly, He said, ‘See now that I, I am He, and no god is by My side’ (Deuteronomy 32:39), from whom to take counsel [cf. BT Sanhedrin 38b; Bereshit Rabbah 8:8]; for He has no second, no partner, and no reckoning. [However,] there is a [certain] oneness in partnership in the manner of male and female, of whom it is said, [Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who spawned you.] כִּי אֶחָד קְרָאתִיו (Ki eḥad qerativ), for one I called him (Isaiah 51:2). But He is one without reckoning and without partnership, thus, He says, no god is by My side.’ They all rose, bowed before him and said, ‘Happy is the man whose Master gives him consent to reveal hidden mysteries that were not even revealed to the holy angels.’
He said to them, ‘Companions, we should complete this verse because it contains many mysteries. I put to death and give life (Deuteronomy 32:39)—I put to death and give life by the sefirot. From the right-side life, and from the left-side death. But if both do not agree by mediation of the middle pillar—unless all three settle together—Judgment cannot endure.
At times, all three agree to execute Judgement. Then appears an outstretched יַ״ד (yad), hand, receiving those who return. It is the הֲוָיָה (havayah), Being: יוד הא ואו הא (Yod He Vav He). This is Shekhinah, the right hand from the side of Ḥesed and the left hand from the the side of Gevurah. It is the Hand of YHVH from the aspect of the middle pillar. When a person repents, this יַ״ד (yad), hand, saves him from Judgement. However, when Judgment of the Cause above all Causes: [I smash and I also heal and] none rescues from My hand (Deuteronomy 32:39).
Furthermore, three times it has been said, אֲנִי אֲנִי אֲנִי (ani, ani, ani), I, I, I. [Three iterations of] א (alef) [at its beginning, and three iterations of] י (yod) [at its ending]. Here is the hint: יוד הי ואו הי (Yod He Vav He); יוד הא ואו הא (Yod He Vav He). [The verse also employs] three וָוִין (vavin), ands: וַאֲחַיֶּה (va-aḥayeh), and I give life... וַאֲנִי (va-ani), and I… וְאֵין (ve-ayin), and none… They are also hinted at by these [two] names.
Despite all this the Companions have explained it concerning other אֱלֹהִים (elohim), gods, as is written: See now that I, I am He—the blessed Holy One and His Shekhinah. Of His Female is said, אֲנִי (ani), I am, הוּא (hu), He. And no god is by My side—[neither] Samael nor the serpent. I put to death and give life—I put to death with My Shekhinah whoever is guilty and give life with Her to whoever is righteous. And none rescues from My hand—the יָד (yad), hand, of יהוה (YHVH) [numerically equivalent to י״ד (fourteen)]. יוד הא ואו הא (Yod He Vav He); and it is כוזו במוכסז כוזו (KWZW, BMWKSZ, KWZW) [permutations of the Name]. All these explanations are true. But what we said before is that He is the Cause of Causes—the Cause above all others. And this mystery was not revealed to every sage and prophet [but only the select few among them].
Come and see: How many hidden causes are clothed and conveyed by the sefirot! The sefirot are but chariots to them, for they are concealed from human thought. Of them is written: For he who is high has a higher one watching him, and still higher ones over them (Ecclesiastes 5:7)—glaring white lights, these above those, but those that are receptacles are darkness compared to the others above them. And their is no light that can exist before עִלַּת הָעִלּוֹת (illat ha-illot), the Cause of Causes, all lights are darkened before Him.
Another explanation of the Companions: Let us make a human in our image, by our likeness—the ministering angels spoke this. He [Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai] said to them: Since the angels already know the past and future, they already knew that he was destined to offend. Why would they want to make him? [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 8:6].
Not only that, but Aza and Aza’el also opposed [see Bereshit Rabbati, (Albeck) 29:14–31:8]. When Shekhinah said to the blessed Holy One, Let us make a human, they protested: What is a human creature that You should know him, [the son of man, that You pay him mind?] (Psalms 144:3). Why do You wish to create man when You know that he is destined to offend before You, with her who is darkness, since light is male and darkness female—left, darkness of Creation [see Bahir §13]. At that moment, Shekhinah said to them: You will fall by the same reasoning that you denounce! [cf. BT Qiddushin 70a: ‘And he who declares unfit is unfit and never speaks in praise. And Shemu’el said: With his own blemish he stigmatizes as unfit’]. As is written: The sons of God saw that the daughters of men were comely, and they took themselves wives whomsoever they chose (Genesis 6:2), so they went astray after them. Fittingly Shekhinah caused them to fall from their holiness.
The Companions said, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi, Aza and Aza’el did not lie! For man was certainly destined to offend with the female.’ He replied: This is what Shekhinah said, ‘You have made accusations before me that go beyond those of all the hosts above. If you were better than humans in your actions, you would have had a right to accuse him, but man will offend with only one woman, while you [are destined to offend] with many women. Therefore, your offences surpass those of man, as is written: The sons of God saw that the daughters of men were comely, and they took themselves wives whomsoever they chose (Genesis 6:2). It is not written: the daughter of men, but rather the daughters of men. If man is liable, I have prepared תְּשׁוּבָה (teshuvah), repentance, for him to repair the offence.’
The Companions asked, ‘If so, why all this?’ Rabbi Shim’on replied: If the blessed Holy One had not created [the] good and evil [impulses], which are light and darkness, there would not have been any merit or liability for the man of Beri’ah. So man was created with both, as is written: See, I have set before you today life and good and death and evil, that I charge you today to love YHVH your God, to go in His ways and to keep His commands and His statutes and His Laws (Deuteronomy 30:15). They asked him [yet again]: Why all this? Better had He not created darkness. Then man would have no reward and no punishment [cf. Zohar 3:159a].
He said to them: It was right to create him in this way because Torah was created for his sake, since it contains punishments for the wicked and rewards for the righteous. Thus, there can be no reward for the righteous nor punishment for the wicked without the man of Beri’ah: Not for nothing did He create it, to dwell there He fashioned it (Isaiah 45:18). They said, ‘Indeed, now we have certainly heard what we had never heard before. It is now clear that the blessed Holy One did not create anything that was unnecessary’ [cf. M Avot 4:3].
Furthermore, Torah of Beri’ah is the garment of Shekhinah. If man had not been created, She would have remained without clothing, just like a pauper. Therefore, whoever offends strips Shekhinah of Her garments [cf. Leviticus 18:7]. This is the punishment for man. And whoever performs decrees of Torah clothes Shekhinah in Her garments. Accordingly, about the garments of tsitsit and tefillin it says, For it is his sole covering, it is his cloak for his skin—in what can he lie? (Exodus 22:26). This applies during exile when Shekhinah is stripped of Her garments.
Come and see: Darkness is black [fire, or ink] of Torah. Light is the white [fire, or negative space] of Torah [see Zohar 2:84a, 226b]” (Zohar 1:22a–23a, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar).
And Moses, YHWH’s servant, died there in the land of Moab by the word of YHWH. And he was buried in the glen in the land of Moab opposite Beth-Peor, and no man has known his burial place to this day. And Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died. His eyes had not grown bleary and his sap had not fled. And the Israelites keened for Moses in the steppes of Moab thirty days, and the days of keening in mourning for Moses came to an end (Deuteronomy 34:5–8).
“He opened, saying, ‘Benayahu son of Yehoyada (2 Samuel 23:20)….
He went down and smote the lion (ibid.)…. When sins prevailed, He descended to the rungs below, and He killed that lion, no longer willing to provide its prey.… On a snowy day—a day when sins prevailed, and judgment was decreed above by the celestial court…. Until here, mystery of the verse. What is written next? He slew an Egyptian, a man of good appearance (2 Samuel, 23:21)…. He slew an Egyptian man…. Who is it? Moses, as is written: They said, ‘An Egyptian man rescued us’ (Exodus 2:19).… The Egyptian had a spear in his hand (2 Samuel, ibid.)…. as is said: with the staff of God in my hand (Exodus 17:9)…. With this he sinned at the rock, as is said: He struck the rock with his staff twice (Numbers 20:11). The blessed Holy One said to him, ‘Moses, I did not give you My staff for this. By your life! [on the righteous being judged most strictly, see BT Ta’anit 8a]. From now on, it will no longer be in your hand.’ Immediately He went down to him with a club (2 Samuel, ibid.)—with severe judgment. And wrenched the spear from out of the Egyptian’s hand, for from that moment it was withheld from him and was never again in his hand. And killed him with his own spear. Because of the sin of striking with that staff, he died and did not enter the Holy Land, and this light was withheld from Israel” (Zohar 1:6b).
“In the future the blessed Holy One will return what was stolen from you—that staff—as is written, [And he struck down an Egyptian man, a man of daunting appearance, a spear was in the hand of the Egyptian. And he went down to him with a staff] and stole the spear from the hand of the Egyptian [and he killed him with his own spear] (2 Samuel 23:21) for it was you of whom is said an Egyptian man. And in your exile and your cycling, He will set aside for you towns of asylum to save yourself from your endless pursuers” (Zohar 2:114b, Ra’aya Meheimna Mishpatim).