The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: זְכוּת

A Man Should Always Regard Himself as though He were Half Liable and Half Meritorious

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“Rabbi Akiva used to say: All is given on collateral, and a net is spread over all the living. The shop is open, the shopkeeper extends credit, the ledger is open, and the hand records. Whoever wishes to borrow may come and borrow. The collectors regularly make their daily rounds and collect payment from a person, whether he realizes it or not. They have [a record] on which they can rely; the judgment is just; and all is prepared for the banquet” (M Avot 3:20).

Our Rabbis taught: A man should always regard himself as though he were half liable and half meritorious: if he performs one mitsvah, happy is he for weighting himself down in the scale of merit; if he commits one offense woe to him for weighting himself down in the scale of liability, as is said, yet a single offender destroys much good (Ecclesiastes 9:18)—on account of a single offense which he commits much good is lost to him.

Rabbi El’azar son of Rabbi Shim’on said: Because the world is judged by its majority, and an individual [too] is judged by his majority, if he performs one mitsvah, happy is he for turning the scale both of himself and of the whole world on the side of merit; if he commits one offense, woe to him for weighting himself and the whole world in the scale of liability, as is said: yet a single offender—on account of the single offense which this man commits he and the whole world lose much good.

Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai said: Even if he is perfectly righteous all his life but rebels in the end, he destroys the former, as is said: The righteousness of the righteous shall not save him on the day of his trespass (Ezekiel 33:12) [cf. Numbers 20:24]. And even if one is completely wicked all his life but performs repentance in the end, he is not reminded of his wickedness, as is said, and in the wickedness of the wicked he shall not stumble on the day he turns back from his wickedness (ibid.). Yet, let it be regarded as half offenses and half merits! Resh Laqish said: [It means that] he regrets his past [in that case his righteous past is completely disregarded].

‘All who rehearse Scripture, and Mishnah, and [have] a worldly occupation [lit., דֶּרֶךְ אֶרֶץ (derekh erets), the way of the land], will not be quick to offend, as is said: And the triple cord will not quickly be snapped (Ecclesiastes 4:12). And all who do not יִשְׁנוּ (yishnu), rehearse, Scripture, nor Mishnah, nor [have] a worldly occupation, do not belong to יִשּׁוּב (yishuv), civilization’ (Mishnah).

Rabbi El’azar son of Rabbi Tsaddoq said: To what are the righteous compared in this world? To a tree standing entirely in a place of purity, but its branches overhang a place of impurity; when the branch is cut, it stands entirely in a place of purity. Thus the blessed Holy One brings suffering upon the righteous in this world, in order that they may inherit the world to come, as is said, Then your beginning would seem a trifle and your latter day very grand (Job 8:7).

And to what are the wicked compared in this world? To a tree standing entirely in a place of impurity, its branches overhang a place of purity: when the branch is cut, it stands entirely in a place of impurity. Thus the blessed Holy One bestows good upon them in this world, in order to drive them away and dispossess them to the lowest rung, as is said: There may be a straight way before a man, but its end is the ways of death (Proverbs 14:12)” (BT Qiddushin 40a–b).

“Rabbi Shemu’el son of Naḥmani said in the name of Rabbi Yonatan: ‘Whoever fulfills a single mitsvah in this world—it ushers him into the world that is coming… and whoever commits a single transgression in this world—it clasps him and ushers him into the day of Judgment” (BT Sotah 3b).

“According to his merits and liabilities. As we have explained, he who does one mitsvah is treated well. He who is average, is a person whose merits and liabilities are balanced, the half of merits is below and the half of liabilities below. This is the secret of What is your petition, and it shall be granted to you, and what is your request? Up to half the kingdom, and it shall be done! (Esther 5:6). In the case of a completely righteous man, all his merits are above and his liabilities below. For a completely wicked man, his liabilities are above and his merits are below” (Zohar 3:111a, Ra’aya Meheimna Behar).

“Rabbi Yosef, the son of Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi, became ill and fell into a coma. When he recovered, his father asked him, ‘What did you see?’ He replied, ‘I saw a upside-down world: the upper below and the lower above.’ He said to him, ‘My son, you saw a clear world. And how are we [situated] there?’ He replied, ‘Just as we are here, so are we there’” (BT Pesaḥim 50a).

“If his offenses are many and his mitsvot few, then he receives his reward in this world, [and this] is a wicked man who prospers…. The Masters of Mishnah taught: ‘Woe to him for whom the hour smiles’ [for he receives his reward during his lifetime] (BT Berakhot 7b)” (Zohar 3:230b, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

 “Rabbi El’azar said, ‘If the scale is evenly balanced—offenses on this side, merits on that—what does the blessed Holy One do? He tips it toward Kindness, as is said: Yours, Master, is kindness (Psalms 62:13).’ Rabbi Yose son of Rabbi Ḥanina said, ‘What does the blessed Holy One do? He snatches one writ of debt from the offenses, and immediately the merits tip the scales, as is said, He lifts iniquity and passes over transgression (Micah 7:18)’” (Midrash Tehillim 30:4).

“The son of David will not come until the [last] coin has gone from the purse [i.e., until all debts have been paid]” (BT Sanhedrin 97a).

Rabbi Shim’on replied: If the blessed Holy One had not created the evil impulse and the good impulse, which are light and darkness, there would not have been any merit or liability for the man of בְּרִיָּה (Beri’ah), Creation. So man was created with both, as it is written: See, I have set before you today life and good and death and evil, that I charge you today to love YHWH your God, to go in His ways and to keep His commands and His statutes and His Laws (Deuteronomy 30:15). They asked him: Why all this? Better He had not created darkness. Then man would have no reward or punishment as opposed to being created and having to offend, thereby causing much [damage].

He said to them: It was right to create him in this way because Torah was created for his sake, for it contains punishments for the offenders and rewards for the righteous. Thus, there can be no reward for the righteous or punishment for the offenders without the man of בְּרִיָּה (Beri’ah), Creation. He did not create it a wasteland. He formed it to be inhabited (Isaiah 45:18). They said, ‘Indeed, we have certainly now heard what we had never heard before. It is now clear that the blessed Holy One did not create anything that he did not require’” (Zohar 1:22a, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar).

“If a man strikes many coins from one stamp they all resemble one another, but the Supreme King of the Kings of Kings, the blessed Holy One, fashioned every man in the stamp of the first man, and yet not one of them resembles his fellow. Therefore every single person is obliged to say: ‘The world was created for my sake’” (BT Sanhedrin 37a).

More than the Calf Wants to Suck the Cow Wants to Suckle: The Pleasure from Him Accepting a Gift

“Our Rabbis have taught: Always let the left hand push away and the right hand draw near” (BT Sotah 47a).

And he raised his eyes and saw, and, look, three men were standing before him. He saw, and he ran toward them from the tent flap and bowed to the ground. And he said, “אֲדֹנָי (Adonai)My lords, if I have found favor in your eyes, please do not go on past your servant. Let a little water be fetched and bathe your feet and stretch out under the tree, and let me fetch a morsel of bread, and refresh yourselves. Then you may go on, for have you not come by your servant?” (Genesis 18:2–5, cf. Naḥmanides on ibid.).

“Rav Yehudah said in Rav’s name: Hospitality to wayfarers is greater than welcoming the Shekhinah, for it is written, And he said, אֲדֹנָי (Adonai), My Lord, if I have found favor in your eyes, please do not go on past‘ [Abraham thus left the Divine Presence, as it were, to attend to the wants of the three wayfarers, cf. BT Shevu’ot 35a]” (BT Shabbat 127a).

Rabbi Yoḥanan said: What is: And so, when Moses would raise his hand, Israel prevailed, and when he would put down his hand, Amalek prevailed (Exodus 17:11)? This is to teach that the world exists because of lifting of the hands in prayer, in the priest’s benediction. Why? Because of that power which was given to our father Jacob, whose name is Israel. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were given powers, one to each of them, according to his character. Abraham renders kindness בָּעוֹלָם (ba-olam), forever, for he used to invite everyone in the עוֹלָם (olam), world, and all the wayfarers, provide them with food and run to welcome them, as is written, and he ran toward them (Genesis 18:2), and it is written: and bowed to the ground (ibid.). This was a perfect act of kindness [cf. BT Shevu’ot 35a; Shabbat 127a], and the blessed Holy One bestowed upon him according to his measure and gave him the quality of חֶסֶד (ḥesed), kindness, as is written, You give truth to Jacob, and kindness to Abraham, which you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old (Micah 7:20).

What is from the days of old? This is to teach that if Abraham had not performed acts of kindness and been worthy of the quality of חֶסֶד (ḥesed), Kindness, Jacob would not have been worthy of the quality of אֱמֶת (emet), Truth, for it is because Abraham was worthy of the quality of Kindness that Isaac was worthy of the quality of פַּחַד (paḥad), Terror, as is written, And Jacob swore בְּפַחַד (be-faḥad), by the Terror, of his father Isaac (Genesis 31:53) [cf. BT Shabbat 89b]. Is there a man who would swear in this way, by trust in the Terror of his father? But Jacob had not yet received his own power, so he swore by the power which was given to his father, as is said: And Jacob swore by the Terror of his father Isaac.

And what is it? תֹּהוּ (Tohu), chaos, from which the evil emanates that מְתָּהָה (metahah), confounds, sons of man. And what is it? It is that of which is written: And YHVH’s fire came down and consumed the offering and the wood and the dirt, and the water that was in the trench it licked up (I Kings 18:38). It is also written: For YHVH your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God (Deuteronomy 4:24). And what is Ḥesed? It is Torah, as is written, Woe, everyone that thirsts, come to the waters, and he that has no silver (Isaiah 55:1). And to him who does not have silver, it is silver, as is written, come, buy, and eat; come, buy wine and milk without silver and without price (ibid.). He will feed you and teach you Torah for you already have become worthy of it because of the merit of Abraham who used to perform acts of kindness. Without silver—he would feed others; without price—he would give them wine and milk.

What are wine and milk? And what is the connection between them? To teach that wine is paḥad, Terror; milk is Ḥesed, kindness. Why did he mention wine first? Because it is nearer to us. Do you actually think they are wine and milk? But it is the image, likeness, idea, of wine and milk” (Bahir §§135–136).

“More than the calf wants to suck the cow wants to suckle” (BT Pesaḥim 112a).

“[What is the ruling in the case of a woman who says to a man] ‘Here are one hundred dinars and I will become betrothed to you?’ Mar Zutra ruled in Rav Papa’s name: She is betrothed…. Here the reference is [only] to an important man: in return for the pleasure from him accepting a gift from her she completely מַקְנְיָא לֵיהּ נַפְשָׁהּ (maqeneya leih nafshah), cedes herself [though normally the man must give the money, see BT Qiddushin 5b, yet if he is eminent his receiving gives satisfaction, which in turn is considered of financial value]” (BT Qiddushin 7a, cf. Ba’al ha-Sullam, Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag, Haqdamah le-Sefer ha-Zohar 11).