The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: בָּבֶל

To Recover the Remnant of His People

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“The blessed Holy One scattered Israel among the peoples only so that they may accumulate converts, for it is said: And I will sow her for Me in the land and show mercy to Lo-Ruhamah, [and I will say to Lo-Ami, ‘You are My people,’ and he shall say, ‘You are my God!’] (Hosea 2:25)—surely, a man sows a se’ah in order to harvest many korin….

Rabbi Yoḥanan said: The ingathering of the exiles is as important as the day when the heavens and the earth were created, for it is said, And the people of Judah and the people of Israel shall gather together and set over them רֹאשׁ אֶחָד (rosh eḥad), a single chief, and they shall go up from the lands, for great is the day of Jezreel (Hosea 2:2); and it is written, And it was evening and it was morning, יוֹם אֶחָד (yom eḥad), first day (Genesis 1:5)” (BT Pesaḥim 87b–88a, cf. Zohar 1:244a).

“‘The ten tribes will not return, as is written, And flung them into another land as on this day (Deuteronomy 29:27)—just as the day goes and does not return, so they too went and will not return: the words of Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Eli’ezer said: As on this day—just as the day darkens and then becomes light again, so the Ten Tribes. Even as it went dark for them, so will it become light for them’ (M Sanhedrin 10:3).

Our Rabbis taught: The ten tribes have no portion in the world to come, as it says, And YHWH tore them from upon their soil in wrath and in anger and in great fury [and flung them into another land as on this day] (ibid.). And YHWH tore them from upon their soil—this world; and flung them into another land—the world to come: the words of Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Shim’on son of Yehudah, of the village of Akko, said in the name of Rabbi Shim’on: If their deeds are as this day’s, they will not return; otherwise they shall. Rabbi said: They will enter the world to come, as is said, [And it shall be] on that day a great ram’s horn shall sound, [and those lost in the land of Assyria shall come, and the dispersed in the land of Egypt and bow down to YHWH on the holy mountain, in Jerusalem] (Isaiah 27:13).

Rabbah son of Son of Ḥanah said in Rabbi Yoḥanan’s name: [Here] Rabbi Akiva abandoned His חֲסִידוּת (ḥasidut), kindness, as is written, Go and call out these words to the north and say, Turn back, Rebel Israel, said YHWH, and I will not set My face against you, for I am חָסִיד (ḥasid), faithful, said YHWH. I will not bear a grudge forever (Jeremiah 3:12).

Now, to what does ‘his kindness’ refer? As has been taught: The children of the wicked of Israel, [who died] in their minority, will not enter the world to come, as is written, For, look, the day is coming, burning like a kiln, when all the arrogant and all the evil doers shall be straw. And the day that is coming shall set them ablaze, said YHWH of Armies, shall not leave them root or branch (Malachi 3:19). Root—this world; branch—the world to come: the words of Rabban Gamaliel.

Rabbi Akiva said: They will enter the world to come, as is written, YHWH protects פְּתָאיִם (peta’im), the simple (Psalms 116:6), and in the island cities, a child is called פָּתִּיאָ (pattia); and it is said also, Cut down the tree and destroy it but leave one of its roots in the ground (Daniel 4:20). How then do I fulfill that shall not leave them root or branch? That He shall not leave them [unpunished the violation of] a single mitsvah nor the remnant of a mitsvah [i.e., even the most insignificant mitsvah]. Another interpretation: root—the נְשָׁמָה (neshamah), soul; branch—the body [but of the wicked themselves, not their children. Thus we see Rabbi Akiva, in his love for Israel, interpreting the verse as leniently as possible]. But as for young children of the wicked gentiles, all agree that they will not enter the world to come. And he  derives it from [The dead shall not live, nor shall the shades rise up. Therefore have] You singled them out and destroyed them and expunged all remembrance of them (Isaiah 26:14)” (BT Sanhedrin 110b, cf. Sifra, Be-Ḥukkotai, 8:1).

And it shall happen on that day, the Master shall pull in His hand once more to take back His people’s remnant that will remain from Assyria and Egypt and from Patros and from Cush and from Elam and from Shinar and from Hamath and from coastlands. And He shall raise a banner to the nations, and gather the banished of Israel and the dispersed of Judah He shall assemble from the four corners of the earth (Isaiah 11:11–12).

And Israel saw Joseph’s sons and he said, ‘Who are these?’ (Genesis 48:8).

Rabbi Abba opened, ‘It is said: And you shall say in your heart: ‘Who gave birth for me to these, [when I was bereaved and barren, exiled and cast aside, and these, why, who has raised?] (Isaiah 49:21). What does this mean? Israel below saw that the children of Israel will come before Him, when they will come from Elam and from Shinar and from Hamath and from coastlands (ibid. 11:11), and a vast flock will be established. The Shekhinah will say, Who are these? Are there not any who are unfit, of foreign children? They will say to Him, We are all Your children, there is no foreigner among us! For they will be severed the one from the other [i.e., the motley throng will be severed from the Assembly of Israel]. And they will be circumcised together and converted. The convert then will return together with Israel and they will be as one.

It was taught: ‘[Rabbi Ḥelbo said:] Converts are as tough for Israel as a סַּפַּחַת (sapaḥat), scab’ (BT Qiddushin 70b; Yevamot 47b; Niddah 13b; Zohar 3:206b), as is written, For YHWH shall have pity on Jacob and again shall choose Israel and set them down on their land, and the sojourner shall join them וְנִסְפְּחוּ (ve-nispeḥu), and they shall cling, to the house of Jacob (Isaiah 14:1). When the children will return to their land and there will be compassion among them, then YHWH shall be one and His name one (Zechariah 14:9). Then the convert will tag along with the people of Israel like a scab on their skin.’

Why? Come and hear: Rabbi Shim’on said it refers to the borders of the land, for every one will want to live in the land of Israel, and the inhabitants will be afraid. It is written, [Spread wide the place of your tent,] and let the curtains of your dwelling stretch out [—do not stint. Lengthen you cords and strengthen your tent pegs] (Isaiah 54:2). The curtains you once had, should be stretched and strengthened, as it were, more than those of the other peoples whom you saw strengthening them in your exile. [Indeed, a vast flock of converts] will be established” (Zohar 1:215a).

“Yehudah, an Ammonite convert, came before [the Rabbis] in the academy. He said to them: How can I enter the assembly [i.e., marry a Jewish woman]? Rabbi Yehoshu’a said to him: You are permitted to enter the assembly. Rabban Gamaliel said to him: Has it not already been said, No Ammonite nor Moabite shall come into YHWH’s assembly. [Even his tenth generation shall not come into YHWH’s assembly ever. Because they did not greet  you with bread and water on the way when you came out of Egypt, and for their hiring against you Balaam son of Beor from Aram Naharaim to curse you] (Deuteronomy 23:4–5)? Rabbi Yehoshu’a replied to him: Do Ammon and Moab still reside in their [original] place? Sennacherib king of Assyria long ago went up and בַּלבֵּל (balbel), baffled, all the nations, as it says, [For he has said: ‘Through the power of my hand I have done it, and through my wisdom, for I was discerning.] I have wiped out the borders of peoples and their riches plundered and brought down to the dust those who dwelled there (Isaiah 10:13); and whatever separates, separates from the greater part [and the assumption is that he is from the majority of nations whose members are permitted to enter the assembly, cf. BT Ketubbot 15a in the name of Rabbi Zeira]. Rabban Gamaliel said to him: But has it not been said: And afterward I will restore the fortunes of the Ammonites, said YHWH (Jeremiah 49:6) so that they have already returned? Rabbi Yehoshu’a replied: And has it not been said, And I will restore the fortunes of My people Israel, [and they shall rebuild desolate towns and dwell there and plant vineyards and drink their wine. And they shall make gardens and eat their fruit. And I will plant them on their soil, and they shall no more be uprooted from their soil that I have given them, said YHWH your God] (Amos 9:14), and they have not yet returned? Immediately they permitted him to enter the assembly” (BT Berakhot 28a).

On that day Israel shall be a third partner with Egypt and with Assyria, as a blessing in the midst of the earth. [Which YHWH of Armies conferred, saying, ‘Blessed are My people Egypt and My handiwork Assyria and Israel My estate] (Isaiah 19:24).

The seventy princes who govern the army on high are divided in their midst. One division is governed by the prince of Ishmael, called Egypt, and the other division is governed by the prince of Edom, called Assyria [cf. 2 Kings 16; Isaiah 7–9; 2 Chronicles 28]. Both divisions receive from Gevurah, at the left side of the Chariot, but as we said, Gevurah is divided in two: one aspect is harsh judgment and the other weak [cf. Zohar 2:178a, 187a]; the harsh is exceedingly hard and the weak is soft. However, one stately light expands from the way of Tif’eret engulfing these two qualities, covering and influencing them. And in the future yet to come, when these two princes behold this light, they will call it the Light of Blessing, as is written, On that day Israel shall be a third partner with Egypt and with Assyria, as a blessing in the midst of the earth. And look, truly some of the nations will be restored to the dominion of Israel” (Berit Menuḥa, Third Way: The Way of Peace, cf. Zohar 1:13a, 164a; 2:57b; 3:218a–b [RM], 227b).

And foreigners shall stand and tend your flocks and strangers be your farmers and keepers of your vineyards. As for you, YHWH’s priests you shall be called, our God’s ministrants it shall be said of you. The wealth of nations you shall enjoy and in their glory revel. Instead of the shame twice over and disgrace they shall exult in their lot. Therefore they shall possess their land twice over, everlasting joy shall be theirs (Isaiah 61:5–7, cf. Mekhilta, Shabbeta, Ki Tissa 1; BT Berakhot 35b; Zohar 1:143b).

“Rabbi Ḥiyya was traveling to visit Rabbi El’azar. He found him sitting next to Rabbi Shim’on son of Rabbi Yose, son of Lekonya, his father-in-law. As he raised his head, he saw Rabbi Ḥiyya. He said, In that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, a blessing on earth, whom YHVH of Hosts will bless, saying, ‘Blessed be My people Egypt, [My handiwork Assyria, and My heritage Israel]’ (Isaiah 19:24–25). How foolish are the inhabitants of the world, who do not know or consider the words of Torah!

Are then Ashur and Egypt close to the blessed Holy One? Rather, all those members of the exiles who will go up from Egypt and Ashur. But if we say that it is Egypt and Ashur [themselves] it refers to the pious among them who repent, and remain to serve Israel and King Messiah, as is written, and may all kings bow to him, and all nations serve him (Psalms 72:11), and, And kings shall be your attendants [and princesses your wet nurses. Face to the ground they shall bow to you and lick the dust of your feet. And you shall know that I am YHWH, all who hope for Me shall not be shamed] (Isaiah 49:23) [cf. BT Shevu’ot 47b: ‘In the academy of Rabbi Yishma’el it was taught: The servant of a king is like a king’]” (Zohar 2:57b).

“All things will be fittingly restored, and the impure aspect will be eliminated from the world. This has been affirmed, as is written: I will eliminate the spirit of impurity from earth (Isaiah 25:8). The blessed Holy One will then remain alone, as is written: Idols will utterly vanish (ibid. 2:18), and similarly: YHWH alone will be exalted on that day (ibid., 17)—He alone, as is written: No alien god with Him (Deuteronomy 32:12), for it will be eradicated from the world. Nothing will remain above or below except the blessed Holy One alone and Israel serving Him, a holy people—called ‘holy,’ as is written: Whoever is left in Zion, who remains in Jerusalem, will be called holy (Isaiah 4:3). Then there will be a single world above and below—a single above; a single world below, a single people serving Him, as is written: Who is like Your people Israel, a single nation on earth? (1 Chronicles 17:21) [Rabbi Moshe Cordovero maintains that other nations will be purified and integrated into Israel, see Or Yaqar]” (Zohar 1:164a).

Let Us Build Us a City and a Tower

tower-of-babel.jpgAnd all the earth was one language, one set of words. And it happened as they journeyed from the east that they found a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to each other, “Come, let us bake bricks and burn them hard.” And the brick served them as stone, and bitumen served them as mortar. And they said, “Come, let us build us a city and a tower with its top in the heavens that we may make us a name, lest we be scattered over all the earth.” And YHWH came down to see the city and the tower that the human creatures had built. And YHWH said, “As one people with one language for all, if this is what they have begun to do, now nothing they plot to do will elude them. Come, let us go down and baffle their language there so that they will not understand each other’s language.” And YHWH scattered them from there over all the earth and they left off building the city. Therefore it is called Babel, for there YHWH made the language of all the earth babble. And from there YHWH scattered them over all the earth (Genesis 11:1–9).

“The generation of the Dispersion have no portion in the world that is coming. What did they do?—the disciples of Rav Shila taught: They said, ‘Let us build a tower, ascend to heaven, and cleave it with axes, that its waters might gush forth.’ In the West [the land of Israel] they laughed at this: If so, they should have built it on a mountain [and not in a valley]!

Rabbi Yirmiyah son of El’azar said: They split up into three parties. One said, ‘Let us ascend and dwell there;’ the second, ‘Let us ascend and serve the stars;’ and the third said, ‘Let us ascend and wage war.’ The party which proposed, ‘Let us ascend, and dwell there’—YHWH scattered them: the one that said, ‘Let us ascend and wage war’ were turned to apes, spirits, devils, and night-demons; whilst as for the party which said, ‘Let us ascend and serve the stars’—for there YHWH made the language of all the earth babble.

It has been taught Rabbi Natan said: They were all bent on serving the stars. [For] here it is written, that we may make us a name; whilst elsewhere it is written, and the name of other gods you shall not invoke (Exodus 23:13): just as there idolatry is meant, so here too. Rabbi Yonatan said: A third of the tower was burnt, a third sunk, and a third is still standing. Rav said: The atmosphere of the tower causes forgetfulness. Rav Yosef said: Babylon and Borsif are evil omens for Torah. What is the meaning of בורסיף (Borsif)?—Rav Assi said: An שֹׁאֲפִי (shafi), empty, בּוֹר (bor), pit” (BT Sanhedrin 109a). 

“The generation of the Flood said, Who is Shaddai that we should serve Him? (Job 21:15), whereas the generation of the Dispersion said: ‘It does not rest with Him to choose the celestial spheres for Himself and assign the terrestrial world to us. Come, rather, and let us build a tower at the top of which we will set an idol holding a sword, that it may appear to wage war with Him.’ Yet of the former not a remnant was left, whereas of the latter a remnant was left! But because the generation of the Flood was steeped in robbery, as is written, They set aside boundary-stones, a flock they steal and pasture it (ibid. 24:2), therefore not a remnant of them was left. And since the latter, on the other hand, loved each other, as is written, And all the earth was one language, therefore a remnant of them was left [cf. Zohar 1:76b]. Rabbi said: Great is peace, for even if Israel practice idolatry but maintain peace among themselves, the blessed Holy One says, as it were, ‘I have no dominion over them’; for it is said, Ephraim is stuck fast to idols. Let him be! (Hosea 4:17). But when their hearts are divided, what is written? Their heart is divided—now they bear guilt (ibid. 10:2)….

Come, let us bake bricks and burn them hard—this people is destined to be burnt out of the world.

And the brick served them as stone. Rabbi Huna said: Their work prospered: a man came to lay one [stone] and he laid two; he came to plaster one [row] and plastered two [the work seemed to grow of itself]. And they said: Come, let us build us a city and a tower. Rabbi Yudan said: The tower they built, but they did not build the city. An objection is raised: But it is written, And YHWH came down to see the city and the tower? Read what follows, he replied: And they left off building the city, the tower, however, not being mentioned. Rabbi Ḥiyya son of Abba said: A third of this tower which they built sank, a third was burnt, while a third is still standing. And should you think that it is small—Rabbi Huna said in Rabbi Idi’s name: When one ascends to the top, he sees the palm trees below him like grasshoppers [cf. Isaiah 40:22]” (Bereshit Rabbah 38:6, 8).

“There are five types in the עֵרֶב רַב (erev rav), motley throng [or: mixed multitude, cf. Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Teshuvah 3:7]: נְּפִלִים (Nefilim), גִּבֹּרִים (Gibborim), עֲנָקִים (Anaqim), רְפָאִים (Refaim), and עֲמָלֵקִים (Amaleqim), Amalakites [an נֶגַע רַע (nega ra), evil affliction, which plagues Israel until this day]. Because of them, the small ה (he) [Malkhut] fell from Her place. Balaam and Balak were from the side of עֲמָלֵק (Amaleq), Amalek. Take עָם (am) from בִּלְעָם (Bilam), Balaam, and לָק (laq) from בָּלָק (Balaq), Balak, and you are left with בָּבֶל (Bavel), Babel: for there YHWH made the language of all the earth בָּלַל (balal), babel (Genesis 11:9) [for similar word play, see Zohar 3:199b].

These are the ones who remained of those for whom it was said at the time of the Flood, And He wiped out all existing things (Genesis 7:23). Those who survived from the time of the fourth exile [of Edom] became the heads of the world. They became a weapon [lit., a tool of חָמָס (ḥamas), violence] over the Children of Israel and of them is written: for the earth is filled with חָמָס (ḥamas), outrage, by them (Genesis 6:13)—Amalekites.

Of נְּפִלִים (Nefilim) is written: That the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were comely (Genesis 6:2). These are the second type, נְּפִלִים (nefilim), fallen ones, from above. When the blessed Holy One made the human He said, Let us make a human in our image (Genesis 1:26). He wished to make him head over all above, so that he might govern all and they be under his rule, just as with Joseph: appoint overseers for the land (Genesis 41:34).

They wanted to denounce him, asking What is man that You should note him (Psalms 8:5), for he is bound to offend before You? The blessed Holy One replied, ‘If you were down below like he, you would offend more than he does.’ Immediately, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man… they were filled with lust for them, so the blessed Holy One cast them down in chains.

These are Uzza and Aza’el, from whom descended the souls of the motley throng, which are the Nephilim. They caused themselves to fall, fornicating with women who were comely. Because of this, the blessed Holy One also eliminated them from the world that is coming, that they not have a portion there. And He gave them their reward in this world, as is written: But He pays back those who hate Him to their face to make them perish (Deuteronomy 7:10).

Of the third type, גִּבֹּרִים (Gibborim), is written: they are the גִּבֹּרִים (gibborim), heroes, of yore, the men of הַשֵּׁם (ha-shem), renown (Genesis 6:4). These descend from the side of those, of whom is written: let us build us a city and a tower… that we may make us a שֵׁם (shem), name (Genesis 11:4). They build synagogues and academies [cf. Zohar 3:23a]. [They are like a] Torah scroll with a crown upon רֵישׁוֹי (reshoi), its head [corresponding to: and a tower with its רֹאשׁוֹ (rosho), top, in the heavens (ibid.)]. Not in the שֵׁם (shem), name, of the blessed Holy One, but rather to make themselves a name, as is written: that we may make us a name. From the Other Side they overcome Israel, who are like the dust of the earth. They rob them, shattering and wasting their work. Of them, is written: and the waters surged and multiplied mightily over the earth (Genesis 7:19).

רְפָאִים (Refaim), the fourth type. If they foresee distress for Israel, they abandon them. Even if they have the power to save them they do not want to do so. They abandon Torah and those who study it. Instead, they do favors for gentiles. Of them, is written: רְפָאִים (refaim), ghosts, they shall not rise [at the revival of the dead (Sullam)] (Isaiah 26:14). When Israel are visited, it is written of them: and made all their memory to perish (Isaiah 26:14).

עֲנָקִים (Anaqim), the fifth type. They belittle the value of those, of whom is written: and a עֲנָקִים (anaqim), necklace, round your throat (Proverbs 1:9) [namely, Israel]. Of them, is written: The Rephaim, they, too are accounted as עֲנָקִים (anaqim), giants (Deuteronomy 2:11), so they amount to each other—they return the world to welter and waste. And the mystery of the matter: the destruction of the Temple. And the earth then was welter and waste (Genesis 1:2), since [the Temple] is the basis of the world and the settling thereof. When the light, which is the blessed Holy One, appears immediately they will be wiped out of the world and destroyed. Nevertheless, redemption does not depend on their destruction, but on Amalek, that is, until he who was referred to in the oath is destroyed, which has already been explained [see Exodus 17:16: For hand upon Yah’s throne: War for YHWH against Amalek for all time]” (Zohar 1:25a, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar).