The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: גּוֹיִם

All the Time, Constantly, Chastening Them Little by Little

Hen“Rava said: What is written, אִם בְּפִידוֹ לָהֶן שִׁוֵּ֑עַ (Im befido lahen shivea’), but one would not reach out against a heap of ruins if in his disaster he screamed (Job 30:24)?—the blessed Holy One said to Israel, ‘When I judge Israel, I do not judge them as I do the nations, as is written, I will overturn, overturn, overturn it (Ezekiel 21:32) but I only exact payment from them as the hen does her כְּפִיד (kefid), picking’ [playing on בְּפִידוֹ (befido), in his disaster].

Another interpretation: Even if Israel does before Me but few mitsvot, like hens picking in a rubbish heap, I will make it accumulate לְחֶשְׁבּוֹן (le-ḥeshbon), to a (large) sum, as is said, If כְּפִידוּ (kefidu), they pick, לָהֶן שׁוּעַ (lahen shu’a), they are rescued (Job 30:24)” (BT Avodah Zarah 4a).

“Rabbi Eli’ezer said: It is like a king who became angry at his son, and who had in his hand a sword. The king swore he would pass the sword on his son because he angered him. But later the king said, If I do so, my son will no longer live. But also, he could not nullify the royal decree. What did the king do? He placed the sword into its sheath and passed the sword on his son’s head.

Rabbi Ḥanina said: It is like a king who became angry with his son. He had in front of him a boulder and swore that he would heave it at him. But later the king said: If I heave it at him he will no longer live. What did he do? He crushed the boulder into pebbles and tossed them at his son one at a time. It turned out that he neither hurt his son nor nullified his royal decree” (Midrash Tehillim 6:3).

“Rav Hamnuna the First, ‘Distress and affliction of Israel bring them many benefits and advantages. The ease of other nations brings them many evils. דְּחִיקוּ (Deḥiqu), distress, and affliction of Israel brings them benefit and advantage. What is that? כָּלָּה (Kallah), Bride—כֹּלָּא דָּחִיק (kolla daḥiq), all pointed [i.e., vocalized]. רִפְיוֹן (Rifyon), ease, of the other nations brings them rifyon, weakness, and evil. What is that? כָלָה (Khalah), complete destruction (Jeremiah 46:28). This is just what they deserve, for all the rifyon, ease—without deḥiqu, distress—that they had in this world causes them rifyon, weakness, afterward, without deḥiqu, pointing: כָלָה (khalah), complete destruction; For כָלָה וְנֶחֱרָצָה (khalah ve-neḥeratsah), a decreed destruction, I have heard (Isaiah 28:22); For I will make כָלָה (khalah), a complete destruction, all in rifyon, weakness. But for Israel, who had deḥiqu, distress, and affliction—כַּלָּה (Kallah), A bride, will adorn herself with her ornaments (ibid. 61:10). Who are her ornaments? Israel, who are the ornaments of this Bride.

For Israel, who endured distress and affliction, I will raise the fallen booth of David (Amos 9:11)—the booth of peace. For the other nations, who had rifyon, ease—torment, trouble and torment (Isaiah 30:6); כָלָה (khalah)complete destruction, in rifyon, weakness, as they had before. So, For I will make כָלָה (khalah)an end, of all the nations… but of you I will not make khalah, an end—since you were already deḥiqu, distressed, and כַּלָּה (Kallah), the Bride, will be deḥiqu, pointed [cf. BT Berakhot 6b, in the name of Abbaye; Zohar 3:239a (RM); TZ 12, 27a; ZḤ 118c (Tiq)].

I will chasten you לַמִּשְׁפָּט (la-mishpat), for justice (Jeremiah 46:28). This verse should be read I will chasten you בַמִּשְׁפָּט (va-mishpat), in justice—for when are chastenings? At the time of judgment. Yet here, not so; rather I will chasten you la-mishpat, for justice. However, it is written: YHWH will enter בְּמִשְׁפָּט (be-mishpat), into judgment, against the elders of His people (Isaiah 3:14). On that day, the blessed Holy One will provide a remedy for Israel in advance, before they appear for judgment, so that they will be able to endure. What is that? All the time, constantly, He chastens them little by little, so that when they appear for judgment, it will not prevail over them.

And I will surely not leave you unpunished (Jeremiah 46:28). What is meant by that? Well, when the people of Israel are by themselves—not appearing for judgment with the other nations—the blessed Holy One deals with them beyond the line of strict justice, atoning for them. When they appear for judgment among the other nations, what does He do? The blessed Holy One knows that Samael, the guardian [of the other nations], will come to call attention to Israel’s sins, all of which he has accumulated for himself for the Day of Judgment. So He provides a remedy for them in advance, and for every single sin He strikes them with chastening little by little. When they appear for judgment, Samael comes with many lists against them. The blessed Holy One takes out lists of the chastenings that Israel has endured for every single sin, and all the sins are expunged—without His showing them any leniency at all. Then [Samael’s] power and strength fade, and he cannot prevail against them” (Zohar 3:199a–b).

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Land of the Living

IsraelA land that YHWH your God seeks out perpetually, the eyes of YHWH your God are upon it from the year’s beginning to the year’s end (Deuteronomy 11:12).

“The blessed Holy One rolled up the whole land of Israel and placed it beneath our father Jacob, so that it would be easily conquered by his descendants” (BT Ḥullin 91b).

I am YHWH, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie, [to you will I give it and to your seed] (Genesis 28:13)—we have learned: ‘This implies that the land of Israel was rolled up for him.’ Now, the land of Israel is four hundred parasangs by four hundred parasangs—how was it uprooted from its place and set beneath him?

Well, the blessed Holy One has another holy supernal land, called ‘the land of Israel,’ which is beneath the rung of Jacob, who stands upon it. He bestowed it to Israel out of His love for them, to abide with them, lead them, and protect them from all. It is called Land of the Living” (Zohar 3:84b, cf. Bereshit Rabbah 69:4; Zohar 1:72a, 156a; ZḤ 28d).

Who Causes the Tail to Rise Above, Dominate, and Strike?

Snake & his TailAnd now, if you will truly heed My voice and keep My covenant, you will become for Me a treasure among all the peoples, for Mine is all the earth. And as for you, you will become for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:5).

And it shall be, if you do not heed the voice of YHWH your God to keep and to do all His commands and His statutes that I charge you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you… The sojourner who is in your midst will rise up high above you and you will go down far below. He will put you in debt and you will not put him in debt. He will become the head and you will become the tail. And all these curses will come upon you and pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed. For you will not have heeded the voice of YHWH your God to keep His command and His statutes which He charged you (Deuteronomy 28:43–45, cf. Zohar Ḥadash, 59b–60a).

“How fortunate are you, O Israel. When you act according to the will of YHWH no nation or tongue can dominate you. But when you do not act in accordance with the will of YHWH you are delivered into the hands of a lowly people, and not only a lowly people but into the power of the beasts of a lowly people” (BT Ketubbot 66b).

“Rabbi El’azar wept. He opened, saying, ‘Her sound will move like a snake… (Jeremiah 46:22). Now that Israel is in exile, She surely moves like a snake. When a snake bends its head to the dust and raises its tail, the tail dominates and strikes anyone in front of it. Who causes the tail to rise above, dominate, and strike? The head, which is bent low. Nevertheless, who controls the tail, and who propels its movements? The head—although it is bent to the dust, it conducts [the tail’s] movements. Therefore, now the other nations—who are attached to the tail—rise above, dominate, and strike, while the head is bent to the dust, as is said: Fallen, not to rise again, [is Virgin Israel] (Amos 5:2) [cf. BT Berakhot 4b]. Nevertheless, this head controls the tail and preserves it, as is said: They made me keeper of the vineyards (Song of Songs 1:6)—the other nations, who are the tail.

Rabbi Yehudah came and kissed his hands, and said, ‘If I had asked nothing in the world except for this, and gained it, it would be enough for me! For now I know how the other nations and their dominion are controlled. Happy is the share of Israel, of whom is written For Yah has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel as His treasure (Psalms 135:4)’” (Zohar 3:119b).

“Rabbi Yitsḥaq said, ‘All the princes of the nations ascend or descend because of this one [Metatron]. When he ascends, the princes of the nations descend. When he descends, they ascend. All depends on the children of Jacob!’

Rabbi Yehudah son of Shalom said, ‘Good or evil comes to the world solely on account of the children of Jacob!’

A certain [Roman] hegmon came to Rabbi Abbahu and said, ‘The entire world should assemble against you as against this locust—to obliterate you from the world in a single instant! For if this nation does not worship its Lord, it is written: He will shut the heavens so that there will be no rain, and the earth will not yield her fruit (Deuteronomy 11:17). If she strays, the entire world is destroyed on her account!’

He replied, ‘But it is you who cause her to stray and not to follow the proper path!’ He said to him, ‘It is your sins that rouse us!’ Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘The hegmon spoke well'” (Zohar Ḥadash 28c, cf. BT Berakhot 17a).

Israel’s Light Increases Little by Little

IMG_1037“Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi asked: ‘What is the meaning of: And this is the Torah which Moses שָׂם (sam), set, before the children of Israel (Deuteronomy 4:44)?’ If he is meritorious it becomes for him סַם (sam), medicine, of life, if not, a סַם (sam), poison, of death” (BT Yoma 72b, cf. BT Ta’anit 7a).

“What was the beginning of Rabbi Akiva? They say that he was forty years old and had not learned a thing. Once, he was standing at the mouth of a well. He said, ‘Who carved this stone?’ They said to him, ‘The water that drips on it every day. Akiva, did you not read Water wears away stones (Job 14:19)?’ Immediately Akiva reasoned, ‘Just as the soft sculpts the hard, all the more so words of Torah, which are as hard as iron, can penetrate my heart, which is but flesh and blood! Immediately he returned to learn Torah.

He then went together with his son and they appeared before an elementary teacher. Akiva said to him: ‘Master, teach me Torah.’ Akiva took one end of the tablet, and his son the other end of the tablet. The teacher wrote down the alef-bet for him and he learned it; alef tav, and he learned it; the book of Leviticus, and he learned it. He went on studying until he learned the whole Torah. Then he went and appeared before Rabbi Eli’ezer and Rabbi Yehoshu’a. He said to them, ‘My masters, reveal the justification of Mishnah to me.’ When they told him one halakhah he went off to be by himself. He said, ‘This alef, why was it written? This bet, why was it written? This thing, why was it said?’ He came back and asked them, and reduced them to silence [cf. M Avot 3:17]….

Rabbi Tarfon said to him: ‘Akiva, of you it says The wellsprings of rivers he blocked. What was hidden he brought out to light (Job 28:11).’ What was hidden—from men, you Rabbi Akiva brought out to light” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, A6).

“Rabba expounded in the name of Rabbi Sehora who had it from Rabbi Huna: What is: Wealth can be less than הֶבֶל (hevel), mere breath, but who gathers bit by bit makes it grow (Proverbs 13:11)? [cf. Ecclesiastes 1:2: הֲבֵל הֲבָלִים (havel havalim), merest breath]. If a man makes his Torah חֲבִילוֹת חֲבִילוֹת (ḥavilot ḥavilot), bundles of bundles, his learning decreases, and if he does not do so but gathers bit by bit he makes it grow. Rabba remarked: The Rabbis are well aware of this matter and yet disregard it. Rabbi Naḥman son of Yistḥaq said: I acted on this advice and my study remained with me” (BT Eruvin 54b, cf. BT Avodah Zarah 19a).

If you find honey, eat just what you need, lest you have your fill of it and throw it up (Proverbs 25:16).

“[Torah]—the light in her reforms” (JT Ḥagigah 5:7, 80a).

He said, ‘Let me go, for dawn has risen! (Genesis 32:27). Rabbi Yehudah opened, Who is this looking forth like the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun…? (Song of Songs 6:10). This verse has been established and explained, but Who is this looking forth?—Israel, when the blessed Holy One will raise them, bringing them out of exile. He will then open for them a tiny crack of light, then another opening, wider, until the blessed Holy One opens for them supernal gates facing four directions of the world. So with all the blessed Holy One does for Israel and for the righteous among them—always so, never all at once. This can be compared to a person thrown into darkness, dwelling in darkness constantly. When they want to illumine him, they must open the light to him like the eye of a needle, then wider, always gradually, until he is illumined with all the light fittingly. Similarly with Israel, as is said: little by little I will drive them out before you (Exodus 23:30). And so with one who is being cured: not all at once, but little by little until he is fortified.

But with Esau, not so! Rather, he is illumined all at once and deprived little by little, until Israel are fortified and eliminate him entirely from this world and from the world that is coming. Since he blazed all at once, he is annihilated completely, whereas Israel’s light increases little by little until they are invigorated and the blessed Holy One illumines them forever. Everyone asks, Who is this looking forth like the dawn?—at first a subtle glow; then fair as the moon, then bright as the sun, then awesome as bannered hosts (Song of Songs, ibid.)—Beaming powerfully, intensely, fittingly” (Zohar 1:170a).

“Come and see! This is the way of Torah: At first, when she begins to reveal herself to a person, she beckons him momentarily with a hint. If he perceives, good; if not, she sends for him, calling him ‘simple’: ‘Tell that simple one to come closer, so I can talk with him.’ As is written: Whoever is simple, let him turn here, he who lacks understanding (Proverbs 9:4). As he approaches, she begins to speak with him from behind a curtain she has drawn, words suitable for him, until he reflects little by little. This is derasha [homiletical interpretation]. Then, she converses with him from behind a delicate sheet, words of riddle, and this is haggadah [allegorical tales].

Once he has grown accustomed to her, she reveals herself to him face-to-face, and tells him all her hidden secrets and all the hidden ways, concealed in her heart since primordial days. Then he is a complete man, husband of Torah, master of the house, for all her secrets she has revealed to him, concealing nothing” (Zohar 2:99a–b).

The path of the righteous is like light’s radiance, ever brighter till day has come. The way of the wicked is like darkness. They know not on what they stumble (Proverbs 4:18).

The Blessed Holy One Invited the other Nations to Receive the Torah

O YHWH, when You came forth from Seir… (Judges 5:4)—what did He seek in Seir, and what did He seek in Mount Paran? [cf. Deuteronomy 33:2: YHWH from Sinai came and from Seir He dawned upon them, He shone from Mount Paran…]—Rabbi Yoḥanan says: This teaches us that the blessed Holy One, offered the Torah to every nation and every tongue, but none accepted it, until He came to Israel who received it. [The nations] will say: ‘Did we accept it and fail to observe it? But surely: ‘Then why did you not accept it?’—the nations will then say, ‘Master of the Universe, did You suspend the mountain over us like a cask as You have done to Israel and did we still decline to accept it?’ For Rabbi Dimi son of Ḥama said: And they stood under the mountain (Exodus 19:17)—this teaches us that the blessed Holy One suspended the mountain over Israel like a cask, saying to them: ‘If you accept the Torah, it will be well with you, but if not, there will you find your grave.’ Thereupon the blessed Holy One will say to them: ‘Let us then consider the happenings of old,’ as is said, Who among them can declare this, and show us former things (Isaiah 43:9), ‘There are seven commandments which you did accept, did you observe them?’ [How do we know that they did not observe them?]—for Rabbi Yosef learned: He stood, and shook the earth: He beheld, וַיַּתֵּר (va-yater), and caused to tremble, the nations (Habakkuk 3:6) [cf. BT Bava Qamma 38a]: what did He see? He saw that the nations did not keep even the seven commandments which the sons of Noah had taken upon themselves, and seeing that they did not keep them, He stood up and released them [וַיַּתֵּר (va-yater) also means, ‘he releases,’ cf. מוּתָר (mutar), permitted]. Then they benefited by it; according to this it pays to be a sinner!

The release from those commandments only means that even if they kept them they would not be rewarded. But why should they not? Is it not taught: Rabbi Meir would say: How do we know that even a heathen who engages in Torah study is like the high priest? From the verse And you shall keep My statutes and My laws which a person shall do and live through them (Leviticus 18:5). It does not say If a Priest, Levite, or Israelite do, and live through them, but a person; here, then, you can learn that even a heathen who studies Torah is equal to a High Priest!—what is meant, then, is that they are rewarded not as greatly as one who does a thing which he is commanded to do, but as one who does a thing uncommanded. For, Rabbi Ḥanina said: He who is commanded and does, stands higher then he who is not commanded and does.

The nations will then say, ‘Master of the Universe, has Israel, who accepted the Torah, kept it? The blessed Holy One will reply, ‘I can give evidence that they kept the Torah.’ They said ‘O Master of the Universe can a father give evidence in favor of his son? For it is written, My son, My firstborn, is Israel (Exodus 4:22). Then will the blessed Holy One say: ‘Heaven and earth can bear witness that Israel has fulfilled the entire Torah.’ But they will [object], saying: ‘Master of the Universe, heaven and earth are partial witnesses, for it is said, If not for My covenant with day and with night, I should not have appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth’ (Jeremiah 33:25). [And Rabbi Shim’on son of Laqish further said:] What is conveyed by the phrase, And it was evening and it was morning, the sixth day? (Genesis 1:31). It teaches us that God made a condition with the works of creation, saying: ‘If Israel accept My Torah it will be well, but if not, I shall reduce you to welter;’ which accords with the comment of Rabbi Ḥizqiyah on the verse, From the heavens You made judgment heard, the earth was afraid and fell silent (Psalms 76:9). If the earth trembled, how could it be still, and if it was still, how could it tremble? But at first it trembled, and then it became still.

The blessed Holy One will then say, ‘Some of yourselves shall testify that Israel kept the entire Torah. Let Nimrod come and testify that Abraham did not [consent to] worship idols; let Laban come and testify that Jacob could not be suspected of theft [cf. Genesis 31:37]; let Potiphar’s wife testify that Joseph was above suspicion of immorality; let Nebuchadnezzar come and testify that Ḥanania, Mishael and Azariyah did not bow down to an image; let Darius come and testify that Daniel never neglected the prayers [his windows were open in his upper chamber towards Jerusalem, and he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before God, see Daniel 6:11, the earliest record of the practice]; let Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Na’amathite, and Eliphaz the Temanite [and Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite (see Job 32:2; cf. BT Bava Batra 15b)] testify that Israel has kept the whole Torah; as  is said, Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: who among them can declare this, and show us former things? let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified: or let them hear, and say, It is truth (Isaiah 43:9).

The nations will then plead. ‘Offer us the Torah anew and we shall obey it.’ But the blessed Holy One will say to them, ‘You foolish ones among peoples, he who took trouble [to prepare] on the eve of the Sabbath can eat on the Sabbath, but he who has not troubled on the eve of the Sabbath, what shall he eat on the Sabbath? Nevertheless, I have an easy command which is called סֻּכֹּת (sukkot), Huts (Leviticus 23:42); go and carry it out.’ [But how can you say so:] does not Rabbi Yehoshua son of Levi say: What is, And you shall keep what is commanded and the statutes and the laws that I charge you today to do (Deuteronomy 7:11)? It is that only this day is the time to do them,’ they cannot be done tomorrow [cf. Bahir §81: ‘Each day has its own power’]; this day is the time in which to do them, but not in which to be rewarded for them. [Why then should they be offered this observance in the days of the Messiah?]—because the blessed Holy One does not deal imperiously with His creatures. And why does He call it an easy command?—because it does not affect one’s purse. Immediately every one of them will take himself and go and make a hut on the top of his roof; but the blessed Holy One will cause the sun to blaze forth over them as at the cycle of Tammuz [i.e., summer solstice] and every one of them will trample down his hut and go away, as is said, Let us tear off their fetters, let us fling away their bonds! (Psalms 2:3). [But you have just said] ‘The blessed Holy One does not deal imperiously with His creatures?—true! but with the Israelites, too, it occasionally happens that the cycle of Tammuz extends till the Festival [Sukkoth] and they are vexed [by the heat, the test is therefore not exceptional or harsh]. But does not Rava say: He who is vexed thereby is freed from dwelling in the סוּכָּה (sukkah), hut? (BT Sukkah 26a)—granted, they would [in such circumstances] be freed, but would Israelites contemptuously trample it down? Thereupon the blessed Holy One will laugh at them, as is said, He who dwells in the heavens will laugh [the Master derides them] (Psalms 2:4). Rabbi said Yitsḥaq: ‘Only on that day is there laughter for the blessed Holy One!’

Some connected that comment of Rabbi Yitsḥaq with the following teaching: Rabbi Yose says, ‘In time to come the nations will come and offer themselves as converts.’ But will such be accepted? Has it not been taught that in the days of the Messiah converts will not be accepted [see BT Yevamot 24a]; likewise none were accepted in the days of David or of Solomon?—well, they will be self-made converts [lit., ‘dragged-in converts’ a class of converts who judaize en masse under the impulsion of fear], and will place tefillin on their foreheads and on their arms, fringes in their garments, and a mezuzah on their doorposts, but when the battle of Gog and Magog will come about [see Ezekiel 39:12] they will be asked, ‘For what purpose have you come?’ and they will answer: ‘Against God and His Messiah,’ as is said, Why are the nations aroused, and the people’s murmur vain things? (Psalms 2:1). Then each of the converts will throw aside his religious token and get away, as is said, Let us break their bands asunder (ibid.), and the blessed Holy One will sit and laugh, as is said: He who dwells in the heavens will laugh (Psalms 2:4).

[It was on this that] Rabbi Yitsḥaq remarked that there is no laughter for the blessed Holy One except on that day. But is there not, indeed? Yet Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav: ‘The day consists of twelve hours; during the first three hours the blessed Holy One is occupying Himself with the Torah, during the second three He sits in judgment on the whole world, and when He sees that the world is so guilty as to deserve destruction, He transfers Himself from the seat of Justice to the seat of Mercy; during the third quarter, He is feeding the whole world, from the horned buffalo to the brood of vermin [cf. BT Shabbat 107b]; during the fourth quarter He is sporting with the Leviathan, as is said, There the ships go, this Leviathan You fashioned to play with’? (Psalms 104:26). Rabbi Naḥman son of Yitsḥaq said: Yes, He sports with His creatures, but does not laugh at His creatures except on that day” (BT Avodah Zarah 2b–3b, cf. Zohar 3:20a, 192a–193a).

The Mixed Multitude; The Motley Throng

j9lfegYour destroyers and they that made you waste shall go forth from you (Isaiah 49:17).

“May it be Your will, YHWH my God and God of my fathers, that You break and destroy the yoke of the evil impulse from our heart. For You created us to do Your will, and we must do Your will; You desire it and we desire it. So who prevents it? The leaven in the dough [i.e., the עֵרֶב רַב (erev rav), mixed multitude, motley throng, cf. BT Qiddushin 71b: ‘Rabbi El’azar said: Ezra did not go up from Babylon (to the land of Israel) until he made it like pure sifted flour: then he went up’]” (JT Berakhot 4:2, 7d).

“Come and see! It is written: The people saw that Moses lagged [in coming down from the mountain, and the people assembled against Aaron and said to him, ‘Rise up, make us gods that will go before us, for this man Moses who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what happened to him] (Exodus 32:1). Who are the people? The עֵרֶב רַב (erev rav), mixed multitude [see Exodus 12:38; 32:7]. Who are the עֵרֶב רַב (erev rav), mixed multitude? Were they Lydians, Ethiopians, Cretans or Togarmans, that they are called עֵרֶב רַב (erev rav), ‘mixed multitude’? Were they not Egyptians, journeying from Egypt? If they were a mixture of many nations, it should have been written A mixed multitude ּעַלו (alu), went up, with them, corresponding to their mixture. Rather, A mixed multitude עָלָה (alah), went up, with them [written with a collective singular verb] (Exodus 12:38)—they were one nation, with one language, but consisting of all the sorcerers of Egypt and all its soothsayers, of whom is written and they too, the soothsayers of Egypt, did [thus with their spells] (Exodus 7:11), wanting to confront the wonders of the blessed Holy One. Once they saw the miracles and wonders that Moses performed in Egypt, they returned to Moses. The blessed Holy One said to Moses, ‘Do not accept them!’

Moses said, ‘Master of the Universe! Now that they have seen Your power, they want to convert. Let them see Your power every day and they will know that there is no God but You.’ And Moses accepted them” (Zohar 2:191a, cf. ibid. 2:45b, 191a, 195a).

“Israel is recognized in these qualities to be the children of the blessed Holy One and His Shekhinah; that is, that there should be among them worthy men, as in the verse: A worthy woman is her husband’s crown [but like rot in his bones a shameful wife] (Proverbs 12:4), for they are bestowed with loving-kindness, such as those who fear God. Truthful men (Exodus 18:21)—and not men of falsehood, for the remnant of Israel shall do no offence, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth (Zephaniah 3:13). Haters of bribes (Exodus 18:21)as a man who rejoices in his portion [see M Avot 4:1]. And they are not as a motley throng [or: mixed multitude], the children of the wicked slavegirl [Lilit] who are as a serpent before whom is the whole land, as it is written: and dust shall be the serpent’s food (Isaiah 65:25)—he fears eating the dust until he is full, for he is afraid that there will not be enough for him. This is how it is with men of unjust gain, for even if they had all the money in the world, it would never be enough for them” (Zohar 3:229b, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

“And since the עֵרֶב רַב (erev rav), mixed multitude [or: motley throng], are the leaven in the dough [which עַרֵב (erev), mix, with Israel] and the nations of the world are like chaff, the mixed multitude detains Israel in exile more than the idolaters do, as the rabbis taught. But what prevents us? The mixed multitude [which] stick to Israel as does the leaven to the dough, but the nations of the world are no more than chaff that the wind drives away (Psalms 1:4)….

Furthermore, when the mixed multitude were intermingled with Israel, what is written? Her adversaries have become the chief (Lamentations 1:5)…. And not only that, but when the children of Israel are in exile it is said about them: What prevents [their redemption]? The yeast in the dough, for the Masters of Mishnah have taught: When the mixed multitude are the chiefs over Israel it is as though the rule of the blessed Holy One is removed and they come under the rule of the jurisdiction of the stars and planets. This is why they cry out, saying, O YHWH our God, other lords besides You have had dominion over us: but by You only will we make mention of Your Name (Isaiah 26:13)” (Zohar 3:232a, 237b, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

Primordial Kings were Destroyed: Would you ever Imagine that they were Nullified?

“‘The world was created through ten sayings’ (M Avot 5:1)…. And in three are these [sayings] included: YHWH through Wisdom founded earth, set heavens firm through Discernment. Through His Knowledge the deeps burst open (Proverbs 3:19–20)” (Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 17–18).

“The disciples asked [Mar Raḥmai son of Bibi]: ‘What is ד (dalet)?’ He replied: ‘A parable: In a certain place there were ten kings. All of them were wealthy, but one was not as wealthy as the rest. Even though he is still very wealthy, he is called דָּל (dal), poor, with regard to the wealthy ones.’ 

What are the ten kings? They are seven voices and three sayings. But what sayings? And YHWH has proclaimed you today… (Deuteronomy 26:18–19). But what three? The beginning of wisdom is—get חָכְמָה (ḥokhmah), wisdom, and in all that you get, get בִינָה (binah), discernment (Proverbs 4:7), as is written, Shaddai’s breath grants insight (Job 32:8)—Shaddai’s breath is תְּבִינֵם (tevinem), insight. What is third? As the old man said to the child, ‘Seek not things that are too hard for you, and search not things that are hidden from you. Reflect on the things that have been permitted you; you have no business with mysteries’ (BT Ḥagigah 13a)” (Bahir §27, §49).

“It has been taught: The Book of Concealment, a book on scales. For until there was a balance, they did not gaze face-to-face, and the primordial kings died and their weapons vanished and the earth was nullified. Until the head of Desire of all Desires arranged and bestowed garments of glory” (Zohar 2:176b, Sifra di-Tsni’uta).

“When Rabbi Shim’on opened, the earth quaked and the Companions trembled. He revealed in mystery, and opened, saying, ‘These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before a king reigned over the Children of Israel (Genesis 36:31). Happy are you, O righteous ones, to whom are revealed mysteries of mysteries of Torah, which have not been revealed to holy ones of the Highest. Who will examine this? Who will be worthy of this? It is testimony to faith of total faith. May the prayer be accepted, that it may not be considered a sin to reveal this.

‘And what will the Companions say? For this verse is difficult, since it should not have been written so, because we see that there were numerous kings before the Children of Israel appeared and before they had a king; so what is intended here? Well, it is mystery of mysteries, which humans cannot know or perceive or arouse in their minds.

‘It has been taught: Before the Ancient of Ancients, Concealed of the Concealed, had prepared adornments of the King and crowns of crowns, there was neither beginning nor end. He engraved and gauged within Himself, and spread before Himself one curtain, in which He engraved and gauged kings, but His adornments did not endure. As is written: These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before a king reigned—Primordial King—over the Children of Israel, the Primordial One (Genesis 36:31). All those who had been engraved were called by name, but they did not endure, so He eventually put them aside and concealed them. Afterward, He ascended in that curtain and was arrayed perfectly” (Zohar 3:128a, Idra Rabba).

“Until He Himself was arrayed in His enhancements, all those that He intended to arrange did not endure, and all those worlds were destroyed…. Would you ever imagine that they were nullified? Look, they are all included in [Primordial] Adam! Rather, they were nullified and removed from that arrangement, until the image of Adam appeared. When this image appeared they were all engraved and transformed into another existence. Some of them became fragrantly firm, some of them not entirely so, and some of them not at all.

Now, you might say, ‘But it is written He died… he died (Genesis 36:33–39)—implying that they were nullified completely.’ Not so! Rather, anyone who descends from his original rung of existence is said to have died, as is written: The King of Egypt died (Exodus 2:23)—meaning that he descended from the rung that he occupied. Once Adam was arrayed, they were called by different names and became fragrantly firm existing in Him, enduring in their places… transformed into another existence, settling securely” (Zohar 3:135b, Idra Rabba).

“Before the world was created, they did not gaze face-to-face, and therefore primordial worlds were destroyed, and primordial worlds were fashioned in disarray. That which is disarrayed is called ‘flashing sparks’—like a blacksmith pounding an iron tool, scattering sparks in every direction; and those flying forth flash and scintillate and are immediately extinguished. These are called Primordial Worlds. Thus they were destroyed and did not endure, until the Holy Ancient One was arrayed and the Artisan proceeded to His artistry” (Zohar 3:292b, Idra Zuta).

“Nothing in the world, be it ever so small, lacks a place in which to be hidden and absorbed; it is never lost” (Zohar 2:99b).

“Israel is the kernel of the world; Israel arose in thought. Other nations, who are the shell preceded, as is written: אֵלֶּה (elleh), these, are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned over the Children of Israel (Genesis 36:31). Yet the blessed Holy One intends to initiate the kernel without the shell, as is written: Holy is Israel to YHWH, the first fruits of His harvest (Jeremiah 2:3)—the kernel preceding the shell. Although the kernel will arise without a shell, who would dare to extend his hand to eat of it? All who eat of it will be held guilty; evil will befall them—declares YHWH (ibid.)” (Zohar 2:108b, Sava de-Mishpatim).

“אֵלֶּה (Elleh), these, are the generations of the heavens and the earth (Genesis 2:4). It has been established: ‘Wherever אֵלֶּה (elleh), these, is written it nullifies the preceding’ (Bereshit Rabbah 30:3). And these are the generations of תֹּהוּ (tohu) hinted at in the second verse: The earth then was תֹּהוּ (tohu), welter (Genesis 1:2). Regarding those it is said the blessed Holy One created worlds and destroyed them [see Bereshit Rabbah 3:7, cf. Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 23a]. Thus, it is written: The earth then was welter and waste (Genesis 1:2). Why did the blessed Holy One create worlds to destroy them? It would have been better had He not created them at all! But this is certainly a great mystery. What is ‘and destroyed them’? It cannot be that the blessed Holy One eradicated the makings of His own hands. Furthermore, these are the heavens of which is said, for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, [but the earth shall grow old like a garment, and they that dwell in it shall die in like manner: but My redemption shall be forever, and My righteousness shall not be abolished] (Isaiah 51:6) [cf. Psalms 102:26–27]. If so, does the blessed Holy One [create] and shatter?

The mystery is that the blessed Holy One created the world by Torah, as is written: בְּרֵאשִׁית (Bereshit), with beginning (Genesis 1:1), about which is written: YHWH created me at the רֵאשִׁית (reshit), outset, of His way, [before His works of old] (Proverbs 8:22). And by this רֵאשִׁית (reshit), beginning, He created the [supernal] heavens and the earth [i.e., the six sefirot whose creation are hinted at by the permutation of בְּרֵאשִׁית (bereshit): בָּרָא שִׁית (bara shit), created six]. He sustained them with the covenant which is in בְּרֵאשִׁית (bereshit) [i.e., בְּרִית אֵשׁ (berit esh), covenant of fire], as is written: Were it not for בְרִיתִי (veriti), My covenant, day and night, I would not have established the laws of the heavens and earth (Jeremiah 33:25). These are: The heavens are the heavens of YHWH (Psalms 115:16). And the land of the living comprises seven zones [lit., lands, see Zohar 3:10a], about which King David wrote, I will walk before YHWH in the lands of the living (Psalms 116:9).

Afterwards He created the heavens and the earth upon תֹּהוּ (tohu), welter, without any foundation—the covenant—to support them [cf. Job 26:7]. Because of this the blessed Holy One, wanted to give Torah—the covenant circumcision—to the nations of the world but because they did not want to receive it the land remained parched and dry [see BT Avodah Zarah 2b–3b; Sifre Deuteronomy 33:2]. Thus: Let the waters under heaven be gathered together to one place, and let the dry land appear (Genesis 1:9). Waters—Torah. To one place—Israel, because the souls of Israel come from that Place, about which is written: Blessed be the glory of YHWH from His place (Ezekiel 3:12). The glory of YHWH—lower Shekhinah; from His place—upper Shekhinah. And since their souls come from there then certainly יהוה (YHWH) rests on them. Of them is written: Yes, YHWH’s portion is His people (Deuteronomy 32:9).

Torah designates the civilized world. The nations of the world who did not accept it have remained wasted and dry. This is [the meaning of] ‘The blessed Holy One created worlds and destroyed them,’ those who did not keep the decrees of Torah. It does not mean He eradicated His own makings as people may think [cf. BT Sanhedrin 103a in the name of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai: ‘The blessed Holy One wished to hurl the world back into welter and waste on account of Jehoiakim, but that He gazed at (the rest of) his generation, and His mind was appeased’]. Why should He eradicate His own children?! Of whom is written: ‘בְּהִבָּרְאָם, (Be-hibbare’am), when they were created (Genesis 2:4). Do not read בְּהִבָּרְאָם (be-hibbare’am), when they were created, but rather בְּה״ בְּרָאָם (be-he bera’am), with ה (heHe created them’ (BT Menaḥot 29b) [cf. ZḤ 2d]. Because of those converts from among the nations of the world the small ה (he) of אַבְרָהָם (Avraham), Abraham, fell during the Fifth Millennium [on the especially small ה (he) of Genesis 2:4, see Bereshit Rabbah 12:9; Zohar 1:91b, 93a, 105b, 128b, 154b, 230b; 3:117a]. [And the river was wasted and dried up (Isaiah 19:5):] Wasted—the First Temple; dried up—the Second Temple.

Moses wanted to bring them [i.e., the motley throng, the mixed multitude] under the wings of the Shekhinah and thought that they too were drawn down from ה (he). Thus he caused the fall of ה (he) of אַבְרָהָם (Avraham), Abraham. This brought upon him descent, as is written: Go, get you down, for your people… have become corrupt (Exodus 32:7). They did not receive the small ה (he) with awe of י (yod) and with the love of [first] ה (he). So he fell from his rung, which is ו (vav)” (Zohar 1:24b–25a, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar).