The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: הַעוֹלָם הַבָּא

The World that is Coming, Never Ceasing

“It has been taught in the name of Rabbi Me’ir: Man enters the world with clenched hands saying, ‘The whole world is mine; I shall inherit it!’ But when man leaves the world his hands are open, saying, ‘I have not taken anything from [this] world’” (Qohelet Rabbah 5:14).

“A fox came to a vineyard that was fenced in on all sides. He tried to get in through a hole in the fence, but it was too small. So what did he do? He fasted for three days until he became thin and weak and could fit through the hole. He entered the vineyard and ate until he was full and fat. He then tried to get out, but could not fit through the hole. He fasted for another three days until he was thin and svelte again, and could finally get out.

When he was on the outside, he went back to the vineyard, looked at it and said, ‘O vineyard! How good you are and how good are your fruits! Everything you have is good and praiseworthy. Nevertheless, what is the benefit we can reap from you? As one enters, so shall one leave’” (Qohelet Rabbah 5:20).

“A pearl in the mouth of Rav, ‘In the world that is coming, there is no eating or drinking or procreation or business or jealousy or hatred or conflict; rather, the righteous sit with their crowns on their heads, basking in the radiance of the Shekhinah, as is said, [But against the elect of the Israelites He did not send forth His hand,] and they beheld אֶת הָאֱלֹהִים (et-ha-Elohim), God, and ate and drank (Exodus 24:11)….

May you see your world in your lifetime, and may your latter end be for the world that is coming and your hope for many generations; may your heart utter discernment, your mouth speak wisdom and your tongue be astir with glad songs [cf. Psalms 45:2; Proverbs 11:10]; may your gaze be straight before you [cf. Proverbs 4:25], may your eyes be enlightened by the light of Torah and your face shine like the radiance of the firmament (Daniel 12:3) [cf. Ecclesiastes 8:1: a man’s wisdom lights up his face]; may your lips utter knowledge [cf. Job 33:3], your inward parts [lit., kidneys—the seat of conscience] exult… uprightness (Proverbs 23:16), and your steps run to hear the words of the Ancient of Days (Daniel 7:13)” (BT Berakhot 17a).

“The wise call it הַעוֹלָם הַבָּא (ha-Olam Haba), the World to Come, not because it does not exist now, but for us today in this world it is still to come” (Tanḥuma, Vayiqra 8).

“Rabbi Berekhiah sat and expounded: Each day we speak of הַעוֹלָם הַבּא (ha-olam ha-ba). Do we then understand what we are saying? The Targum renders this as עָלְמָא דְאָתֵי (alma de-atei), the World to Come. But what is it? This teaches that before the world was created, it arose in thought to create a great light for illumination. A great light was created which no creature could wield [see Tanḥuma, Shemini, 9]. The blessed Holy One foresaw that none could bear it so He took one-seventh and gave it to them in its place. The rest He treasured away for the righteous in the time to come, saying, ‘If they prove worthy of this seventh and guard it, I will give them the rest in the other world.’ It is therefore called the עוֹלָם הַבּא (olam ha-ba), World that is Coming, since it already came [before] the six days of Creation. Regarding this it is written, How great Your goodness that You hid for those who fear You (Psalms 31:20)” (Bahir §160).

“All of Israel have a share in the world that is coming, as is said: Your people, all of them righteous, will inherit the land לְעוֹלָם (le-olam), forever—sprout of My planting, work of My hands, that I may be glorified (Psalms 37:29)” (M Sanhedrin 10:1).

“What does לְעוֹלָם (le-olam), forever, mean? [Binah.] As we have established in our Mishnah” (Zohar 1:93a).

“The world that is coming, constantly coming, never ceasing” (Zohar 3:290b, Idra Zuta).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hear O Israel!

And you shall love YHWH your God (Deuteronomy 6:5). It has been taught: Rabbi Eli’ezer says: If it says with all your being, why should it also say, with all your might? And if it says with all your might, why should it also say with all your being? Should there be a man who values his life more than his money, for him it says; with all your being; and should there be a man who values his money more than his life, for him it says, with all your might. Rabbi Akiva says: With all your being—even if He plucks your being.

Our Rabbis taught: Once the wicked Government issued a decree forbidding the Jews to study and practice Torah. Pappus ben Judah came and found Rabbi Akiva publicly bringing gatherings together and occupying himself with Torah. He said to him: Akiva, are you not afraid of the Government? He replied: I will explain to you with a parable. A fox was once walking alongside of a river, and he saw fishes going in swarms from one place to another. He said to them: From what are you fleeing? They replied: From the nets cast for us by men. He said to them: Would you like to come up on to the dry land so that you and I can live together in the way that my ancestors lived with your ancestors? They replied: Are you the one that they call the cleverest of animals? You are not clever but foolish. If we are afraid in the element in which we live, how much more in the element in which we would die! So it is with us. If such is our condition when we sit and study Torah, of which it is written, your life and your length of days (Deuteronomy 30:20), if we go and neglect it how much worse off we shall be!

It is related that soon afterwards Rabbi Akiva was arrested and thrown into prison, and Pappus son of Yehudah was also arrested and imprisoned next to him. He said to him: Pappus, who brought you here? He replied: Happy are you, Rabbi Akiva, that you have been seized for busying yourself Torah! Alas for Pappus who has been seized for busying himself with idle things! When Rabbi Akiva was taken out for execution, it was the hour for the recital of שֵׁמַע (Shema), and while they combed his flesh with iron combs, he was accepting upon himself the kingship of heaven. His disciples said to him: Our teacher, even to this point? He said to them: All my days I have been troubled by this verse, with all your being, [which I interpret,] ‘even if He plucks your being.’ I said: When shall it come to my hands? Now that I have the opportunity shall I not fulfill it?

He prolonged the word אֶחָד (eḥad), one, until he expired while saying it. An echo went forth and proclaimed: Happy are you, Akiva, that your being has departed with the word eḥad, one! The ministering angels said before the blessed Holy One: Such Torah, and such a reward? [He should have been] by Your hand, from men, from those fleeting of portion in life (Psalms 17:14). He replied to them: Their portion is in life. An echo went forth and proclaimed, Happy are you, Akiva, that you are destined for the life of the World that is Coming!” (BT Berakhot 61b).

“Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav, When Moses ascended on high he found the blessed Holy One engaged in binding כֶּתֶרִים (keterim), crownlets, to the letters. Moses said, ‘Master of the Universe, Who stays Your hand’ [i.e., is there anything wanting in the Torah that these additions are necessary]? He answered, ‘There will arise a man, at the end of many generations, Akiva son of Yosef by name, who will expound upon each tittle mounds and mounds of halakhot.’ He said, ‘Master of the Universe, permit me to see him.’ He replied, ‘Turn around.’ Moses went and sat down behind eight rows [of Rabbi Akiva’s disciples and listened to the discourses upon the halakhah] yet he did not know what they were saying, and his power began to dwindle. But when they came to a certain subject and his disciples said, ‘Rabbi where do you derive [this from]?’ And he replied, ‘This is halakhah [given] to Moses at Sinai,’ and this put his mind at ease. [Moses] returned to the blessed Holy One and said, ‘Master of the Universe, You have such a man yet You give Torah by me!’ He replied, ‘Silence! Thus it arose in thought.’ Then Moses said, ‘Master of the Universe, You have shown me his Torah, show me his reward.’ ‘Turn around,’ He said; and Moses turned round and saw them weighing out his flesh at the market-stalls. ‘Master of the Universe, such Torah, and such a reward!’ He replied, ‘Silence! Thus it arose in thought’” (BT Menaḥot 29b).

“The third commandment: to realize that God exists—vast and controlling the world—and to unify Him fittingly each day in those six supernal directions, unifying them through the six words of שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל (Shema Yisra’el), Hear, O Israel! (Deuteronomy 6:4), directing one’s desire above along with them.

So one should prolong אֶחָד (eḥad), one, to the length of six words, as is written: Let the waters under heaven be gathered to one place (Genesis 1:9)—let the rungs beneath heaven be gathered together to unite with it, to be fittingly complete in six directions. Yet, with that unity one should bind awe, prolonging the ד (dalet) of אֶחָד (eḥad), one, since the dalet of eḥad, one, is large, as is written: Let the dry land appear (ibid.)—let dalet, who is dry land, appear and be bound in that union. After She is bound there above, one should bind Her below with Her forces, in six other directions below: בָּרוּךְ שֵׁם כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד (Barukh shem kevod Malkhuto le-olam va-ed), Blessed be the name of His glorious kingdom forever and ever, comprising six other words of unification. Then, what was dry land is transformed into earth, generating fruit, verdure, planting trees. This corresponds to what is written: God called the dry land Earth (ibid. 10)—through that unification below, אַרְעָא (ar’a), Earth, fittingly consummates רַעֲוָא (ra’ava) desire. So, it was good, it was good (ibid. 1:10, 12), twice: one for the unification above, one for the unification below. Once it was unified in both aspects, from then on: Let the earth sprout vegetation (ibid., 11)—arrayed to generate fruit and verdure fittingly” (Zohar 1:12a).

“Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai opened, saying, ‘שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָד (Shema Yisra’el Adonai Eloheinu Adonai eḥad), Hear, O Israel! YHWH our God, YHWH is one (Deuteronomy 6:4). A large ע (ayin) and similarly ד (dalet); the mnemonic is עֵד (ed), witness, corresponding to what is written: YHWH is edwitness, against you (1 Samuel 12:5). The letters ש מ (shinmem) remain, with an open מ (mem). Why? Closed ם (mem) is upper King; open mem is lower King. Other letters remain: א ח (alefḥet); God’s honor is to conceal a matter (Proverbs 25:2).

Rav Hamnuna Sava said: Whoever performs this unification every day encounters joy from above, through the mystery of these letters: shinmem from this side, alefḥet from that side. He permutes the letters, beginning in reverse and ending forward; your mnemonic is אֶשְׂמַח (esmaḥ), as is written, As for me, esmaḥ, I will rejoice, in YHWH (Psalms 104:34)—in YHWH, precisely! This is the holy unification, and it is fine. So, too, in the Book of Enoch, which says similarly that whoever performs the unification every day encounters joy from above.

Furthermore, it includes: Shinmem, comprising a large ayin—ע״ (seventy) names of mystery of the holy Patriarchs. יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה (Yisra’el Adonai Eloheinu Adonai), O Israel! YHWH our God, YHWH—four compartments of tefillin, held by א ח (alefḥet), the one who said, Open to me, אֲחֹתִי (aḥoti), my sister, my love (Song of Songs 5:2). Dalet is the knot of tefillin, who is connected to them. A mystery for the wise, not to be revealed.

Rabbi Shim’on fell silent. He wept—and laughed. He said, ‘I shall speak, for favor is found—and there will be no generation such as this until King Messiah comes, when they will be permitted to reveal” (Zohar 3:236b).

Sheol

Who knows whether man’s spirit goes upward and the beast’s spirit down to the earth (Ecclesiastes 3:21).

All that your hand manages to do with your strength, do, for there is no doing nor reckoning nor knowledge nor wisdom in Sheol where you are going (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

The small and the great are there (Job 3:19).

“See how great is the compassion of the blessed Holy One for His creatures! For even if he is extremely wicked, and contemplates teshuvah but cannot do it and dies, he surely receives punishment for having left without teshuvah, but afterwards that desire he felt to perform teshuvah does not depart from the presence of the supernal King, and the blessed Holy One prepares a place for that wicked one in the abode of Sheol, and there he chirps teshuvah. For that desire descends from before the blessed Holy One and breaks all the beams of the gates of the divisions of Hell and reaches the place where that wicked one lies. It knocks him, arousing in him that desire as before, and then that soul twitters and rises from the abode of Sheol” (Zohar 2:150b).

“In truth, to some of them it was a פַּרדֵס (pardes), paradise, and to others it was שְׁמָד (shemad), annihilation. And the mystery depends upon the secret of the שֵׁם ד״ (shem dalet), Four Letter Name [of God]” (Rabbi Yosef Gikatilla, Perush ha-Niqqud).

Better this World, the Work of Our Hands

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“[Rabbi Ya’aqov] used to say: Better one hour of repentance and good deeds in this world than all the life in the world to come. Better one hour of bliss in the world to come than the whole life of this world” (M Avot 4:22).

May the sweetness of the Master our God be upon us and the work of our hands firmly found for us, and the work of our hands firmly found! (Psalms 90:17).

“May you see your world in your lifetime” (BT Berakhot 17a).

“A person should not embolden himself to say: ‘The blessed Holy One will save me,’ or ‘He will do this for me.’ Rather, he should place his strength in the blessed Holy One, to help him fulfill the commandments of Torah and walk in the way of truth, for as soon as one comes to purify himself, he is certainly assisted [cf. BT Shabbat 104a]. So should one fortify himself in the blessed Holy One—in order that He may help him—holding fast to Him, not placing his strength in another. So, whose strength is in You (Psalms 84:5)” (Zohar 1:142a).

Go to the ant, you sluggard, see its ways and get wisdom. For she has no foreman, no taskmaster nor ruler. She readies her bread in summer, stores up her food at the harvest. How long, O sluggard, will you lie there. When will you rise from your sleep? A bit more sleep, a bit more slumber, a bit more lying with folded arms, and your privation will come like a wayfarer, your want like a shield-bearing man (Proverbs 6:6–11).

“Our Rabbis taught: And you shall gather in your grain (Deuteronomy 11:14). What is to be learnt from these words? Since it says, This book of teaching shall not depart from your mouth, [and you shall murmur it day and night, so that you may keep to do according to all that is written in it; then you will make your ways succeed and then you will prosper] (Joshua 1:8)—I might think that these matters are as they are written [i.e., to be taken literally]. Therefore it says, And you shall gather in your grain—the usual way of the land. This is the view of Rabbi Yishma’el.

Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai says: Is that possible? If a man ploughs in the ploughing season, and sows in the sowing season, and reaps in the reaping season, and threshes in the threshing season, and winnows in the season of wind, what is to become of Torah? No. Rather when Israel performs the will of the Omnipresent, their work is performed by others, as is said, And foreigners shall stand and tend your flocks [and strangers be your farmers and keepers of your vineyards] (Isaiah 61:5), and when Israel does not perform the will of the Omnipresent their work is carried out by themselves, as is said, And you shall gather in your grain. And not only that but the work of others also is done by them, as is said, 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] (Deuteronomy 28:48).

Abayye: Many have done as Rabbi Yishma’el, and it has worked well; others have acted like Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai and it has not been successful. Rava said to the Rabbis: I beg you during [the months of] Nisan and Tishrei [the crucial agricultural periods] do not to appear before me. [Engage in your agricultural work then] so that you not be preoccupied [or: anxious] about your sustenance all year [on Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai’s extreme outlook, see BT Shabbat 33b].

Rabba son of Son of Ḥana said: Rabbi Yoḥanan said in the name of Rabbi Yehudah son of Rabbi El’ai: Come and see: the latter generations are not like the earlier generations. The earlier generations made their Torah permanent and their work occasional—this and that were successful for them. The latter generations who made their work permanent and their Torah occasional, neither this nor that was successful for them” (BT Berakhot 35b, cf. Decline of the Generations).