The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: זְעֵיר זְעֵיר

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)….

Rabbi Abbahu praised Rav Safra to the sectarians as a learned man, and he was exempted by them from paying taxes for thirteen years. One day, on coming across him, they said to him: It is written Only with you was I intimate of all the clans of the earth. Therefore will I make a reckoning with you for all your crimes (Amos 3:2)—if one is in anger does he vent it on his friend? But [Rav Safra] was silent and did not reply, so they wound a scarf round his neck and tormented him. When Rabbi Abbahu came and found him he said to them: Why do you torment him? They said: Have you not told us that he is a great man? he cannot explain to us the meaning of this verse! He said: I told you that [with regards to the Oral Law and the teachings of the] Tanna’im; did I tell you [he was learned] in Scripture? They said: How is it then that you know it? He said: We who are among you, set ourselves the task of studying it thoroughly, but those [of Babylonia] do not study it as thoroughly. They said: Will you then tell us the meaning? He said: I will explain it with a parable. To what may the matter be compared? A man who is the creditor of two people, one of them a friend, the other an enemy; of his friend he will accept payment little by little, whereas of his enemy he will exact payment in one sum!” (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).

Truth from the Earth Will Spring Up

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“Rabbi Shim’on said: When the blessed Holy One came to create the human, the ministering angels formed themselves into groups and parties, some of them saying, ‘Let him be created,’ whilst others urged, ‘Let him not be created.’ As is written, Kindness and truth have met, justice and peace have kissed (Psalms 85:10). Kindness said, ‘Let him be created, because he will render acts of kindness’; Truth said, ‘Let him not be created, because he is compounded of falsehood’; Justice said, ‘Let him be created, because he will perform just deeds’; Peace said, ‘Let him not be created, because he is full of strife.’ What did the blessed Holy One do? He took Truth and cast it to the earth. The ministering angels said before the blessed Holy One ‘Master of the Universe! Why do You despise Your seal [cf. BT Shabbat 55a: ‘Truth is the seal of the blessed Holy One’]? Let Truth arise from the earth!’ As is written, Truth from the earth תִּצְמָח (titsemaḥ), will spring up (Psalms 85:12)” (Bereshit Rabbah 8:6).

Behold the man whose name is צֶמַח (tsemaḥ), Shoot; and יִצְמָח (yitsemaḥ), he shall shoot up, in his place, and he shall build the temple of YHWH (Zechariah 6:12).

“The Sages said, ‘If the King Messiah comes from among the living, David will be his name; if he comes from among the dead, it will be David himself.’ Rabbi Tanḥuma said, ‘I say that the basis for this teaching is, And keeping faith with His anointed, to David [and his seed forever] (Psalms 18:51).’

Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi said, ‘צֶמַח (tsemaḥ), Shoot, is his name.’ Rabbi Yudan son of Rabbi Ayybo said, ‘מְנַחֵם (menaḥem), Comforter, is his name.’ Ḥananiah son of Rabbi Abahu said, ‘They do not disagree. The numerical value of the letters of one name equals the numerical value of the other—צֶמַח (Tsemaḥ) is equal to מְנַחֵם (Menaḥem)’ [cf. Zohar 3:16a].

And this supports the view of Rabbi Yudan son of Rabbi Ayybo. Once a Jew was plowing and his ox snorted once before him. An Arab who was passing and heard the sound said to him, ‘O son of Judah, O son of Judah. Loosen your ox, and loosen your plow. For today your Temple was destroyed.’ The ox snorted again. He said to him, ‘O son of Judah, O son of Judah. Bind your ox, and bind your plow. For today the King Messiah was born.’ He said to him, ‘What is his name?’ [The Arab replied,] ‘Menaḥem.’ He said to him, ‘And what is his father’s name?’ He said to him, ‘Ḥizqiyah.’ He said to him, ‘Where is he from?’ He said to him, ‘From the royal capital of Bethlehem in Judea.’ He went and sold his ox and sold his plow. And he became a peddler of infants’ clothes. And he went from place to place until he came to that very city. All of the women bought from him. But Menaḥem’s mother did not buy from him. He heard the women saying, ‘O Mother of Menaḥem, O Mother of Menaḥem, come buy for your child.’ She said, ‘I want to choke this enemy of Israel. For on the day he was born the Temple was destroyed.’ He said to her, ‘We are sure that on this day it was destroyed, and on this day it will be rebuilt.’ She said to him, ‘I have no money.’ He said to her, ‘It is of no matter to me. Come and buy for him and if you have no money, pay me when I return.’ After a while he returned. He went up to that place. He said to her, ‘What happened to the infant?’ She said to him, ‘Since the time you saw him a wind came and whisked him away from me.’

Rabbi Bun said, ‘Why must we learn this from an Arab? Do we not have evidence for it? And Lebanon with its mighty shall fall (Isaiah 10:34). And what follows this? And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1)’” (JT Berakhot 2:3, 5a, cf. Eikhah Rabbah 1:51; Zohar 1:82b).

“Rav [Yehudah ha-Nasi, a descendant of David] said: The world was created only on David’s account. Shemu’el [of the tribe of Levi] said: On Moses’ account; Rabbi Yoḥanan said: For the sake of the Messiah. What is his name? The House of Rabbi Shila said: His name is Shiloh, for it is written, until שִׁילֹה (Shiloh) comes (Genesis 49:10). The House of Rabbi Yannai said: His name is Yinnon for it is written, May his name be forever. As long as the sun may his name יִנּוֹן (yinnon), bear seed (Psalms 72:17) [cf. Bahir §61, §86]. The House of Rabbi Ḥaninah said: His name is Ḥaninah, as is written, [Therefore will I cast you out of this land into a land that you know not, neither you nor your fathers; and there shall you serve other gods day and night;where I will not show you חֲנִינָה (ḥaninah), favor (Jeremiah 16:13). Others say: His name is Menaḥem son of Ḥizqiyah, as is written, Because the מְנַחֵם (menaem), comforter, that would relieve my life is far from me (Lamentations 1:16) [the initial letters of these names are an acronym for מָשִׁיחַ (mashiaḥ), Messiah, see Abarbanel, Yeshu’ot Meshiḥo, 2:3].

The Rabbis said: His name is חִיוְורָא (ḥivvra), White, of the House of Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nasi], as is written, Yet it was our sickness that he was bearing, our pains that he endured—though we considered him plagued, stricken by God and afflicted (Isaiah 53:4) [i.e., a מְצוֹרָע (metsora), skin blanched one (Rashi), see Leviticus 13:45–6; BT Qiddushin 70a]. Rav Naḥman said: If he is of those living [to day], he might be one like myself, as is written, And their nobles shall be from themselves, and their governor shall proceed from the midst of them (Jeremiah 30:21) [this description fits Rav Naḥman, who, as the son-in-law of the Resh Galuta, enjoyed great power and prestige]. Rav said: If he is of the living, it would be our holy Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nasi]; if of the dead, it would have been Daniel the most beloved man. Rav Yehudah said in Rav’s name: The blessed Holy One will raise up another David for them, as is written, But they shall serve YHWH their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up for them (ibid., 9): not הַקִים (haqim), I raised up, but אָקִים (aqim), I will raise up, is said. Rav Papa said to Abbaye: But it is written, And my servant David shall be their נָשִׂיא (nasi), prince, for ever (Ezekiel 37:25) [and prince is a lower title than king!]—such as caesar and little caesar [i.e., the second David will be the king, and the former David will be his viceroy]” (BT Sanhedrin 98b).

Until שִׁילֹה (Shiloh) comes (Genesis 49:10)—until שַׁי לוֹ (shai lo), tribute to him, come, as is written: All round Him to bring שַׁי (shai), tribute, to the Fearsome One (Psalms 76:12) [cf. Isaiah 18:7]” (Rashi).

“שִׂיחַ (Shiaḥ), plant, of the field (Genesis 2:5)—the first מָשִׁיחַ (mashiaḥ), Messiah, who was not yet on earth. Shrub, of the field (ibid.)—the second Messiah. Why were they not on the earth? Because Moses was not there with them to serve the Shekhinah [called Earth]. Of him, it is written: And there was no human to till the soil (ibid.). The secret is given in: The scepter shall not pass from Judah (Genesis 49:10)—Messiah son of David; Nor the mace from between his legs (ibid.)—Messiah son of Joseph. Until Shiloh comes (ibid.)—Moses, since מֹשֶׁה (Moshe), Moses, is numerically equivalent to שִׁילֹה (Shiloh), Shiloh. וְלוֹ יִקְהַת (Ve-lo yiqehat), and to him the submission, of peoples (ibid.)—the letters [of]: וְלֵוִי קְהָת (ve-Levi qehat), and Levi Kohath [i.e., reaching from Moses, to Kohath and Levi, his ancestors]” (Zohar 1:25b, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar).

“Rabbi Yoḥanan said in the name of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai: If Israel kept two Sabbaths according to her halakhot, they would be redeemed immediately [מִיָד (miyad), ‘immediately’ can be read as an acrostic: מָשִׁיחַ (mashiaḥ), Messiah, or: מֹשֶׁה (Moshe), Moses, and יוֹסֵף (Yosef), Joseph, and דָוִד (David), David], as is said, Thus says YHWH of the eunuch that keep My Sabbaths (Isaiah 56:4), which is followed by, even them will I bring to My holy mountain (ibid., 7)” (BT Shabbat 118b, cf. JT Ta’anit 1:1; 64:1).

“[Rabbi Yoḥanan son of Zakkai used to say,] ‘If you have a sapling in your hand, and it is said to you, ‘Behold, there is the Messiah’—go on with your planting, and afterward go out and receive him” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan B, 31).

The Footsteps of Messiah

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“[Rabbi Yoḥanan son of Zakkai used to say,] ‘If you have a sapling in your hand, and it is said to you, ‘Behold, there is the Messiah’—go on with your planting, and afterward go out and receive him” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan B, 31).

“Rabbi Naḥman said to Rabbi Yitsḥaq: ‘Have you heard when Bar Nafli will come?’ ‘Who is Bar Nafli?’ he asked. ‘Messiah,’ he replied. ‘Do you call Messiah Bar Nafli?’ [בַּר נַפְלֵי (bar nafli), Stillborn (lit., Son of the Fallen), is numerically equivalent to בֵּן יִשָׁי (ben yishai), Son of Jesse, cf. BT Shabbat, 55a; Zohar 3:215a (RM)].

He said, ‘Even so, as is written, On that day I will raise up הַנֹּפֶלֶת (ha-nofelet), the fallen, shelter of David (Amos 9:11). He replied, ‘Thus Rabbi Yoḥanan said: In the generation when the Son of David will come, disciples of the Sages will be few in number, and as for the rest, their eyes will fail through sorrow and grief. Multitudes of trouble and evil decrees will be promulgated anew, each new evil coming with haste before the other has ended.’

Our Rabbis taught: The seventh [שְׁמִטָה (shemittah), year of release] at the end of which the Son of David comes—in the first year, this verse will be fulfilled: And I rained on one town but on another town did not rain (Amos 4:7); in the second, arrows of hunger will be sent forth; in the third, a great famine, in the course of which men, women, and children, devout men, and men on whose behalf miracles occur, will die, and Torah will be forgotten by her disciples; in the fourth, plenty and no plenty; in the fifth, great plenty, when men will eat, drink and rejoice, and Torah will return to her disciples; in the sixth, קוֹלוֹת (qolot), sounds [either heavenly voices announcing the advent of Messiah, or the blasts of the great shofar, see Isaiah 27:13]; in the seventh, wars; and at the conclusion of the seventh Son of David will come. Rabbi Yosef said: But so many sevenths have passed, yet he has not come! Abbaye said: Were there then sounds in the sixth and wars in the seventh? Moreover, have they transpired in this order?

As Your enemies reviled Your anointed one’s footsteps (Psalms 89:52). It has been taught, Rabbi Yehudah said: In the generation when the Son of David comes, the house of assembly will be for whores, Galilee in ruins, Gavlan [i.e., Bashan] lie desolate, the border inhabitants wander about from city to city, receiving no hospitality, the wisdom of scribes will stink, sin-fearing men despised, the face of the generation will be like the face of a dog, and truth entirely lacking, as is written, And truth is not to be found, who turns from evil is despoiled (Isaiah 59:15). What is And truth נֶעְדֶּרֶת (ne’ederet), is not to be found? The academy of Rav said: This teaches that it will be like עֳדָרִים (adarim), flocks, and depart. What is who turns from evil מִשְׁתּוֹלֵל (mishtolel), is despoiled? The academy of Rav Shila said: He who turns aside from evil will be מִשְׁתּוֹלֵל (mishtolel), made barefoot, by the people [i.e., deemed insane, cf. Micah 1:8: For this would I lament and would wail, I would go שׁוֹלָל (sholal), naked, and bare. I would raise a lament like the jackals and mourning like the ostriches].

Rava said: At first I would say that there is no truth in the world. Whereupon one of the Rabbis, Rav Tavut is his name—others say, Rav Tavyomei—who, even if he were given all the treasures of the world, would not lie, told me that he once came to a place called קוּשְׁטָא (qushta), Truth, in which no one ever told lies, and where no man ever died before his time. Now, he married one of their women, by whom he had two sons. One day his wife was sitting and washing her hair, when a neighbor came and knocked at the door. Thinking to himself that it would not be proper [to tell the neighbor that his wife was washing herself], he called out, ‘She is not here.’ [As a punishment for this] his two sons died. Then people of that town came to him and questioned him, ‘What is the cause of this?’ So he told them what had happened. They said to him, ‘Leave, pray, this town, and do not incite Death against these men [i.e., us].’

It has been taught: Rabbi Nehorai said: In the generation when Messiah comes, young men will insult the old, and old men will stand before the young; daughters will rise up against their mothers, and daughters-in-law against their mothers-in-law. The face of the generation will be like the face of a dog, and a son will not be humble in his father’s presence.

It has been taught, Rabbi Neḥemiah said: In the generation of Messiah’s coming impudence will increase, and the cost [of living] will corrupt, the vine will yield its fruit, yet wine will be costly [i.e., everyone will be drunk, so that in spite of the abundant yield, there will be a scarcity], and the Kingdom will be converted to the heresy with none to rebuke them [a prediction of the conversion of Rome to Christianity under Constantine the Great in 313 C.E.]. This supports Rabbi Yitsḥaq, who said: Son of David will not come until the whole world is converted to heresy. Rava said: What is the verse? If the skin blanch has covered his whole body, he shall declare the affliction clean (Leviticus 13:13) [when all are heretics, it is a sign that the world is about to be made clean by the advent of Messiah].

Our Rabbis taught: Yes, YHWH champions His people, for His servants He shows change of heart when He sees that power is gone, no ruler or helper remains (Deuteronomy 32:36):  Son of David will not come until traitors are in abundance [Israel will be at the mercy of traitors]. Another interpretation: Until disciples of the Sages are few. Another interpretation: until the [last] perutah has gone from the purse. Another interpretation: Until the redemption is despaired of, as is written, no ruler or helper remains, as—were it possible [to say so]—Israel had neither Supporter nor Helper. Even as Rabbi Zera, who, whenever he happened upon rabbis engaging [in calculating the time of the Messiah’s coming], would say to them: I beg of you, do not postpone it, for it has been taught: Three come unawares: Messiah, a found article, and a scorpion.

Rav Qattina said: A world is six thousand years, and one is desolate, as is written, And YHWH alone shall be raised high on that day (Isaiah 2:11). Abbaye said: It is desolate two, 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) [see Rabbi David ben Yehudah he-Ḥasid, Sefer Mar’ot Ha-Zove’ot, 106:13].

It has been taught in accordance with Rav Qattina: Just as the seventh year is one year of release in seven, so is a world: one thousand years out of seven shall be fallow, as is written, And YHWH alone shall be raised high on that day, and it is further said, A psalm, a song for the Sabbath day (Psalms 92:1)—the day that is altogether Sabbath. It is also said, For a thousand years in Your eyes are like yesterday gone (Psalms 90:4).

The Tanna debe Eliyyahu teaches: A world is six thousand years: two thousand תֹּהוּ (tohu), chaos; two thousand תּוֹרָה (torah), Law; two thousand years the days of Messiah.

Elijah said to Rav Yehudah, the brother of Rav Sala the Devout: ‘The world is not less than eighty-five jubilees, and in the last jubilee the Son of David will come.’ He asked him, ‘At the beginning or at the end?’ He replied, ‘I do not know.’ ‘Shall this [period] be completed or not?’ ‘I do not know,’ he answered. Rav Ashi said: He said this to him, ‘Before that, do not lookout for him; afterwards lookout for him.’

Rav Ḥanan son of Taḥlifa sent [word] to Rabbi Yosef: I once met a man who possessed a scroll written in Hebrew in Assyrian characters. I said to him: ‘How did this come to you?’ He replied, ‘I hired myself as a mercenary in the Roman army, and found it amongst the Roman archives. In it is stated that 4,291 years after Creation the world will be orphaned. [As to the years following,] some of them will be spent in the war of the great sea monsters, and some in the war of Gog and Magog, and the remaining [period] will be the era of Messiah, whilst the blessed Holy One, will renew His world only after seven thousand years.’ Rabbi Abba the son of Rabba said: The statement was after five thousand years.

It has been taught: Rabbi Natan said: This verse pierces and descends to the very abyss: For there is yet a vision for the appointed time and a witness for the end who is not false (Habakkuk 2:3). Not as our Rabbis, who interpreted, for a season, a season, and a half-season (Daniel 7:25) [i.e., two and a half years]; nor as Rabbi Simlai who expounded, You fed them bread of tears and made them drink triple measure of tears (Psalms 80:6); nor as Rabbi Akiva who expounded, Soon I will shake the heavens and the earth [and the sea and the dry land] (Haggai 2:6): but the first dynasty [namely, the Hasmonean] shall last seventy years, the second [the Herodian], fifty two, and the reign of Bar Koziva two and a half years [the verses cited from Daniel, Psalms, and Haggai were interpreted so as to give a definite date for the advent of the Messiah. Rabbi Natan however, on the authority of Habakkuk 2:3, asserts that all such calculations are false. The three verses refer to the Hasmonean, Herodian, and Bar Koziba’s reign, but the advent of Messiah is unknowable (Rashi)].

What is [For there is yet a vision for the appointed time] וְיָפֵחַ (ve-yafe’aḥ), and a witness, for the end who is not false (Habakkuk 2:3)? Rabbi Shemu’el son of Naḥmani said in the name of Rabbi Yonatan: תִּיפָּח (Tippaḥ), blasted, be the bones of those who calculate the end [cf. Rabbi Hillel Rivlin of Shklov in the name of the Gaon of Vilna, Qol ha-Tor 4:2]. For they would say, since the predetermined time has arrived, and yet he has not come, he will never come. But [even so], wait for him, as is written, Though he tarries, wait for him (ibid.). Should you say, ‘We await [his coming] but He does not [come]’: therefore Scripture says, And therefore YHWH shall wait to grant you grace, and therefore He shall rise to show you mercy, [for a God of justice is YHWH] (Isaiah 30:18). But since we look forward to it, as does He, what delays [his coming]? The quality of Justice delays it [because we are not yet worthy]. But since the quality of Justice delays it, why do we await it? To be rewarded [for hoping], as is written, Happy all who wait for Him (Isaiah 30:18)

Abbaye said: The world must contain not less than thirty-six righteous men in each generation who receive the Shekhinah’s countenance, as is written, Happy all who wait for Him; לוֹ (lo), for Him, is numerically equivalent to thirty-six. But that is not so, for did not Rava say: The row [of righteous men immediately] before the blessed Holy One consists of eighteen thousand parasangs, as is written, All around it is eighteen thousand [cubits] (Ezekiel 48:35)? That is no difficulty: the former number [of thirty-six] refers to those who see Him through a speculum that shines, the latter to those who contemplate him through a speculum that does not shine [cf. BT Yevamot 49b; Zohar 1:33b, 49b, 183a; 2:23b]. But are there that many? Did not Ḥizkiyyah say in the name of Rabbi Yirmeyah on the authority of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai: I have seen the supernal sons, and they are but few. If there are a thousand, I and my son are included; if a hundred, I and my son are included; and if only two, they are myself and my son?—there is no difficulty: the former number [of thirty-six] refers to those who enter [within to see the Shekhinah] with permission; the latter [uncertain number] to those who may enter without permission.

Rav said: All the ends [i.e., predestined dates for redemption] have passed, and the matter [now] depends only on repentance and good deeds. But Shemu’el said: It is sufficient for a mourner to keep his mourning [Israel’s sufferings in the exile in themselves sufficiently warrant their redemption, regardless of repentance]. This matter is disputed by Tanna’im: Rabbi Eli’ezer said: If Israel repent, they will be redeemed; if not, they will not be redeemed. Rabbi Yehoshu’a said to him, If they do not repent, will they [still] not be redeemed?! But the blessed Holy One will set up a king over them, whose decrees shall be as cruel as Haman’s, whereby Israel shall engage in repentance, and He will thus bring them back to the right [path]. Another [baraita] taught: Rabbi Eli’ezer said: If Israel repent, they will be redeemed, as is written, Turn back, rebellious children—I will heal your rebellion (Jeremiah 3:22) [cf. Zohar 1:178a]. Rabbi Yehoshu’a said to him: But is it not written, For nothing were you sold and for no silver shall you be redeemed (Isaiah 52:3)? For nothing were you sold—for idolatry; and for no silver shall you be redeemed—without repentance and good deeds. Rabbi Eli’ezer said to Rabbi Yehoshu’a, But is it not written, Turn back to Me, that I may turn back to you (Malachi 3:7). Rabbi Yehoshu’a said: But is it not written, [Turn back, rebellious sons, said YHWH,] for I have claimed possession of you and have taken you, one from a town and two from a clan, and brought you to Zion (Jeremiah 3:14)? Rabbi Eli’ezer replied, But it is written, In quite and stillness you shall be rescued (Isaiah 30:15). Rabbi Yehoshu’a replied, But is it not written, Thus said YHWH, Israel’s Redeemer, its Holy One, to the despised one, reviled by nations, to the slave of rulers. Kings shall see and rise, princes, and bow down, [for the sake of YHWH, who is faithful, Israel’s Holy One who has chosen you] (ibid. 49:7)? Rabbi Eli’ezer said, But is it not written, If you turn back, Israel, said YHWH, to Me you shall turn back (Jeremiah 4:1)? Rabbi Yehoshu’a answered, But is it not written, [Until when is the wondrous end?] And I heard the man dressed in linen, who was over the water of the river, and he raised his right hand, and his left was toward the heavens, and he swore by the One who lives forever that at the appointed time of times and a half and at the end of the shattering of the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished (Daniel 12:7)? At this Rabbi Eli’ezer remained silent.

Rabbi Abba also said: You have no more explicit [sign of] end than this, as is written, And you, O mountains of Israel, you shall put forth your branches, and bear your fruit for My people Israel, [for soon shall they come] (Ezekiel 36:8). Rabbi El’azar said: Than this too, as is written, For before these days the wages of man was naught and the wages of beast was nothing, and for him coming and going there was no peace from the foe, [and I set each man against his fellow] (Zechariah 8:9) [cf. Psalms 118:5].  What is, and for him coming and going there was no peace from the foe? Rav said: Even for disciples of the Sages, concerning whom peace is written: Great well-being to the lovers of Your teaching (Psalms 119:165), ‘There will be no peace on account of the foe.’ Shemu’el said, ‘Until all הַשַׁעַרִים (ha-sha’arim), prices, are equal [(Rashi), cf. Maharsha who reads and for him coming and going there was no peace (Zechariah 8:10), with who enters through the northern שַׁעַר (sha’ar), gate, to bow down shall go out through the southern gate… and he shall not go back through the gate by which he entered (Ezekiel 46:9)—until all gates are alike, i.e., all people, whether entering or leaving the Temple—an idiom denoting ‘without exception’—will suffer].’

Rabbi Ḥanina said: Son of David will not come until a fish is sought for an invalid and cannot be procured, as is written, Then will I sink their waters and lead their rivers like oil (Ezekiel 32:14), whilst it is written, On that day I will make a horn sprout for the house of Israel, [and to you I will give freedom to speak in their midst, and they shall know that I am YHWH] (ibid. 29:21).

Rabbi Ḥama son of Ḥanina said: Son of David will not come until even the הַזָלָה (hazalah), pettiest, kingdom ceases from Israel, as is written, [For before the harvest, when the blossom is is gone, and the berry has ripened, becomes the bloom,] He shall cut away הַזַּלְזַלִּים (ha-zalzallim), twigs, with pruning hooks, lop off, take away the slack branches (Isaiah 18:5); and this is followed by, All that time tribute shall be brought to YHWH of Armies from a rangy and smooth-skinned people [from beyond, a gibberish nation, and sowing defeat…] (ibid., 7).

Ze’iri said in Rabbi Ḥanina’s name: Son of David will not come until there are no proud men in Israel, as is written, For then will I remove from you midst those merry with your pride, [and no longer shall you be haughty on My holy mountain] (Zephaniah 3:11), which is followed by, And I will leave in your midst a poor and lonely people, and they shall shelter in YHWH ‘s name (ibid., 12).

Rabbi Simlai said in the name of Rabbi El’azar, son of Rabbi Shim’on: Son of David will not come until all judges and officers are gone from Israel, as is written, And bring My hand back upon you and take away all your dross and bring back your judges as before your councillors as long ago. [Then shall you be called town of righteousness, faithful city] (Isaiah 1:25–26).

‘Ulla said: Jerusalem shall be redeemed only by צְדָקָה (tsedaqah), charity, as is written, Zion shall be redeemed through justice, and those who turn back in her, through tsedaqah, righteousness (ibid., 27).

Rav Papa said: When the haughty cease to exist [in Israel] the magi shall cease [among the Persians]; when the judges cease to exist [in Israel], the royal officers shall likewise cease. ‘When the haughty cease to exist, the magi shall also cease,’ as is written, And bring My hand back upon you and take away all your dross. ‘When the judges cease to exist, the royal officials shall likewise cease,’ as is written, YHWH has set aside your judgments, removed your enemy (Zephaniah 3:15).

Rabbi Yoḥanan said: When you see a generation ever dwindling, lookout for him, as is written, A lowly people You rescue (2 Samuel 22:28). Rabbi Yoḥanan said: When you see a generation overwhelmed by many troubles as by a river, lookout him, as is written, [And they shall fear from the west YHWH’s name, and from the sun’s rising His glory.] For He shall come like a pent-up river, for YHWH’s breath drives it on (Isaiah 59:19); which is followed by, And a redeemer shall come to Zion (ibid., 20).

Rabbi Yoḥanan also said: Son of David will come only in a generation that is either altogether righteous or altogether wicked. ‘In a generation that is altogether righteous,’ as is written, And Your people, all of them righteous, shall forever possess the land, [the shoot I have planted, My handiwork in which to glory] (Isaiah 60:21). ‘Or altogether wicked,’ as is written, And He saw that there was no man, and He was appalled, for none intervened (ibid. 59:16); and it is [elsewhere] written, For My sake, for My sake, I do it, [for how could I be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another] (ibid. 48:11).

Rabbi Alexandri said: Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi pointed out a contradiction. It is written, In his due time (Isaiah 60:22), while it is also written, I will hasten him (ibid.). I will hasten him—if they are worthy: if not, In his due time [cf. Zohar 1:116b ad loc.]. Rabbi Alexandri said: Rabbi Yehoshu’a opposed two verses: It is written, And, look, with the clouds of the heavens one like a human being [was coming] (Daniel 7:13) while [elsewhere] it is written, [Look, your king shall come to you…] a lowly man riding on an ass (Zechariah 9:9)—if they are worthy, [he shall come] with the clouds of the heavens [i.e., swiftly (Rashi)]; if not, a lowly man riding on an ass. King Shapur said to Shemu’el, ‘You say Messiah shall come on an ass: I will rather send him a white horse of mine.’ He replied, ‘Do you have a multi-colored one? [since the ass of King Messiah will be miraculous].’

Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi met Elijah at the opening of the cave of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai. He asked him: ‘Do I have a portion in the world to come?’ He said, ‘If this lord desires.’ Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi said, ‘I saw two, but heard the voice of a third [namely, the Shekhinah (Rashi)].’ He then asked him, ‘When will the Messiah come?’ ‘Go and ask him himself,’ he replied. ‘Where is he sitting?’ ‘At the portal of the city [of Rome (Gra)].’ And by what sign may I recognize him?’ ‘He is sitting among the ill, poor, and suffering: everyone of them untie all at once and rebandage them together, whereas he unties and rebandages each separately [before treating the next], thinking, should I be wanted, I must not be delayed [by having to bandage a number of sores].’ So he went to him and greeted him, saying, ‘Peace be upon you, Rabbi and Teacher.’ ‘Peace be upon you son of Levi,’ he replied. He asked, ‘When will you come Master?’ ‘Today,’ he said. On his returning to Elijah, he asked, ‘What did he say to you?’ ‘Peace be upon you son of Levi,’ he answered. Thereupon he [Elijah] said, ‘He thereby assured you and your father of [a portion in] the world to come.’ ‘He spoke a lie to me, saying that he would come today, but has not.’ [Elijah] answered him, ‘This is what he said to you, “Today,” if you would only heed His voice!’ (Psalms 95:7).

The disciples of Rabbi Yose son of Qisma asked him, ‘When will Messiah come?’ He answered, ‘I fear lest you demand a sign of me.’ They assured him, ‘We will not demand a sign of you.’ So he answered them, ‘When this gate falls down, is rebuilt, falls again, and is again rebuilt, and then falls a third time, before it can be rebuilt Son of David will come’ [the gate of Caesarea Philippi, the home of Rabbi Yose. Its fall would be a symbol of the destruction of the Roman power by the Parthians]. They said to him, ‘Rabbi, give us a sign.’ He protested, ‘Did you not assure me that you would not demand a sign?’ They replied, ‘Nevertheless.’ He said to them, ‘If so, let the waters of the cave of Paneas turn into blood;’ and they turned into blood. When he lay dying he said to them, ‘Place my coffin deep down, for there is not one palm-tree in Babylon to which a Persian horse will not be tethered, nor one coffin in the land of Israel out of which a Median horse will not eat straw’ [this was a forecast of the future. Babylon and the land of Israel would be overrun with Persians, Medes and Parthians and their horses would dig up the dead, whose coffins would serve as cribs].

Rav said: Son of David will not come until the [Roman] kingdom spreads over Israel for nine months, as is written, Therefore shall He give them over till the time the woman in labor bears her child, and the rest of his brothers shall come back with the Children of Israel (Micah 5:2).

‘Ulla said: Let him come, but let me not see him. Rabbah said likewise: Let him come, but let me not see him. Rav Yosef said: Let him come, and may I be worthy of sitting in the shadow of his donkey’s dung. Abbaye enquired of Rabbah: ‘What is your reason? Shall we say, because of the birth pangs of Messiah? But it has been taught, Rabbi El’azar’s disciples asked him: ‘What must a man do to be spared the pangs of the Messiah?’ ‘Let him engage in Torah and rendering kindness; and you Master do both.’ He replied: ‘Lest an offence cause it, in accordance with [the teaching of] Rabbi Ya’aqov son of Idi, who raised a difficulty: And, look, I am with you and I will guard you wherever you go (Genesis 28:15): but it is written, And Jacob was greatly afraid, and he was distressed (ibid. 32:7)—he was afraid lest an offence might cause [the nullification of the promise]. Even as it was taught, Till Your people crossed over, O YHWH (Exodus 15:16). This refers to the first entry [into the land of Israel]; till the people you made Yours crossed over (ibid.)—their second entry. Hence you may reason: The Children of Israel were as worthy of a miracle being performed for them at the second entry as at the first, but that offence caused it [not to happen].

Rabbi Yoḥanan said likewise: Let him come, and let me not see him. Resh Laqish said to him: Why? Shall we say, because it is written, As a man flees from a lion and a bear blocks his way, and he enters the house and leans his hand on the wall, and a snake bites him (Amos 5:19)? But come, and I will show you its like even in this world. When one goes out into the field and meets a bailiff, it is as though he had met a lion. When he enters the town, and is accosted by a tax-collector, it is as though he had met a bear. On entering his house and finding his sons and daughters in the throes of hunger, it is as though he were bitten by a snake!—but it is because it is written, Ask, pray, and see, if כָל גֶּבֶר (khal gever), a male, is giving birth. Why do I see every man, his hands on his loins like a woman in labor and every face turned sickly green? (Jeremiah 30:6). What is see a male? Rava son of Yitsḥaq said in Rav’s name: It refers to Him whom כֹּל גְּבוּרָה (kol gevurah), all might, belongs. And what is and every face turned sickly green? Rabbi Yoḥanan said: The familia on high and the familia below [i.e., Israel,] when the blessed Holy One says, These [the Gentiles] are My handiwork, and so are these [the Jews]; how shall I destroy the former on account of the latter? Rav Papa said: Thus men say, ‘When the ox runs and falls, the horse is put into his stall’ [since the horse is made to replace it, but when the ox recovers, it is difficult to remove the horse. So the Children of Israel, having fallen, were replaced in power by the Gentiles: but on their recovery, it will be difficult to remove the Gentiles from their position without inflicting much suffering].

Rav Giddal said in Rav’s name: The Jews are destined to eat [their fill] in the years of Messiah. Rav Yosef said: Is this not obvious; who else then should eat—Ḥillaq and Billaq? [i.e., shall these years of plenty be enjoyed indiscriminately by anyone?]—this was said in opposition to Rabbi Hillel, who maintained that there will be no Messiah for Israel, since they already consumed him during the reign of Hezekiah.

Rav [Yehudah ha-Nasi, a descendant of David] said: The world was created only on David’s account. Shemu’el [of the tribe of Levi] said: On Moses’ account; Rabbi Yoḥanan said: For the sake of the Messiah. What is his name? The House of Rabbi Shila said: His name is Shiloh, as is written, Until שִׁילֹה (Shiloh) comes (Genesis 49:10). The House of Rabbi Yannai said: His name is Yinnon, as is written, May his name be forever. As long as the sun may his name יִנּוֹן (yinnon), bear seed (Psalms 72:17) [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 1:4; Bahir §61, §86]. The House of Rabbi Ḥaninah said: His name is Ḥaninah, as is written, [And I will cast you from this land to a land you do not know, neither you nor your fathers, and you shall serve there other gods day and night,as I will show you no חֲנִינָה (ḥaninah), mercy (Jeremiah 16:13). Others say: His name is Menaḥem the son of Ḥizqiyah, as is written, For the מְנַחֵם (menaem), consoler, is far from me, the reviver of my failing life (Lamentations 1:16) [cf. Abarbanel, Yeshu’ot Meshio, 2:3: the initial letters of the aforementioned names spell מָשִׁיחַ (mashiaḥ), Messiah].

The Rabbis said: His name is חִיוְורָא (ḥivvra), White, of the House of Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nasi], as is written, Indeed, he has borne our illness, and our sorrows he has carried. But we had reckoned him plagued, God-stricken and tormented (Isaiah 53:4) [i.e., מְצוֹרָע (metsora), skin blanched one (Rashi), see Leviticus 13:45–6; BT Qiddushin 70a]. Rav Naḥman said: If he is of those living [to day], he might be one like myself, as is written, And his leader shall be from within him (Jeremiah 30:21) [this description fits Rav Naḥman, who, as the son-in-law of the Resh Galuta, enjoyed great power and prestige]. Rav said: If he is of the living, it would be our holy Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nasi]; if of the dead, it would have been Daniel the most beloved man. Rav Yehudah said in Rav’s name: The blessed Holy One will raise up another David for them, as is written, But they shall serve YHWH their God and David their king whom I will raise up for them (ibid., 9): not הַקִים (haqim), I raised up, but אָקִים (aqim), I will raise up, is said. Rav Papa said to Abbaye: But it is written, And My servant David shall be נָשִׂיא (nasi), prince, over them evermore (Ezekiel 37:25) [and prince is a lower title than king!]—such as caesar and little caesar [i.e., the second David will be king, and the former David will be his viceroy].

Rabbi Simlai expounded: What is Woe, who long for the day of YHWH! Why should you need the day of YHWH? It is darkness and not light (Amos 5:18)? This may be compared to a rooster and a bat who were awaiting the light [of dawn]. The rooster said to the bat, ‘I look forward to the light, because I have sight; but of what use is the light to you?’

And thus a sectarian said to Rabbi Abbahu: ‘When will Messiah come?’ He replied, ‘When darkness covers those people.’ He said, ‘You curse me?’ He replied, ‘It is but a verse: For, look, darkness covers the earth, and thick mist, the peoples, but YHWH shall shine upon you, and His glory shall be seen upon you. [But nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your dawning radiance] (Isaiah 60:2).

It has been taught: Rabbi Eli’ezer said: The days of the Messiah will last forty years, as is written, Forty years I loathed a generation (Psalms 95:10). Rabbi El’azar son Azariyah said: Seventy years, as is written, And it shall happen on that day that Tyre shall be forgotten for seventy years, like the the days of a single king (Isaiah 23:15). Now, who is the single king? Messiah, of course. Rabbi said: Three generations; as is written, May they fear You as long as the sun and as long as the moon, generations untold (Psalms 72:5).

Rabbi Hillel [a brother of Yehudah II] said: There shall be no Messiah for Israel, because they already consumed him in the days of Hezekiah. Rav Yosef said: May the Master forgive him! Now, when did Hezekiah flourish? During the First Temple. Yet Zechariah, prophesying in the days of the Second Temple, proclaimed, Greatly exult, Zion’s Daughter, shout for joy, Jerusalem’s daughter. Look, your king shall come to you, victor and triumphant is he, a lowly man riding on an ass, on a donkey, the foal of a she-ass (Zechariah (9:9).

Another [baraita] taught: Rabbi Eli’ezer said: The days of Messiah will be forty years, as is written, And He afflicted you and made you hunger and fed you the manna (Deuteronomy 8:3); and it is written, Give us joy as the days You afflicted us (Psalms 90:15). Rav Dosa said: Four hundred years. It is here written, Enslaved and afflicted four hundred years (Genesis 15:13); and it is written, Give us joy as the days You afflicted us. Rabbi said: Three hundred and sixty-five years, even as the days of the solar year, as is written, For it is vengeance day in My heart and My vindication’s year has come (Isaiah 63:4). What is For it is vengeance day in My heart? Rabbi Yoḥanan said: I have [so to speak] revealed it to My heart, but not to My limbs. Avimi son of Rabbi Abbahu learned: The days of the Messiah for Israel will be seven thousand years, as is written, And a bridegroom’s rejoicing over the bride shall your God rejoice over you (Isaiah 62:5) [the bridegroom’s rejoicing is seven days, and God’s day is a thousand years. Cf. Psalms 90:4: For a thousand years in Your eyes as like yesterday gone]. Rav Yehudah said in Shemu’el’s name: The days of Messiah shall endure as long as from the creation of the world until now, as is written, [So that your days be many, and the days of your sons, on the soil that YHWH swore to your fathers to give them,] as the days of the heavens over the earth (Deuteronomy 11:21). Rav Naḥman son of Yitsḥaq said: As long as from Noah’s days until our own, as is written, For as Noah’s waters is this to Me, as I vowed (Isaiah 54:9).

Rabbi Ḥiyya son of Abba said in Rabbi Yoḥanan’s name: All the prophets prophesied [all the good things] only in respect of the days of Messiah; but as for the world that is coming [They never had seen, they never gave ear,] no eye has seen a God besides You. He acts for those who wait for Him (Isaiah 64:3). Now, he disagrees with Shemu’el, who said: This world differs from the days of Messiah only in servitude to [foreign] kingdoms” (BT Sanhedrin 96b–99a).

“Rabbi El’azar son of Rabbi Avina said: When you see the powers fighting each other, look for the footsteps of the King Messiah. The proof is that in the days of Abraham, because these powers fought against each other, greatness came to Abraham” (Bereshit Rabbah 42:4).

“Rabbi Yannai said: If you see one generation after another cursing [those engaged in Torah and mitsvot] and blaspheming [saying ‘Since the predetermined time has arrived, and yet he has not come, he will never come’ (BT Sanhedrin 97b)], look out for the coming of the Messiah, as it says, Your enemies reviled Your anointed one’s עִקְּבוֹת (iqqvot), steps (Psalms 89:52)” (Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah 2:13, 4).

“In the עִקְּבוֹת מְשִׁיחָא (iqqvot meshiḥa), heels of Messiah, impudence [or: brazenness] will increase; prices will rise; grapes will be abundant but wine will be costly; the government will turn into heresy; and there will be no reproach. The meeting place [of scholars] will become a bordello; the Galilee will be destroyed; the highland will lie desolate; the border people will wander from city to city and none will show them compassion; the wisdom of scribes will stink; sin‑fearing people will be detested; truth will be missing; young men will humiliate the elderly; the elderly will stand while the young sit; sons will revile their fathers; daughters will strike their mothers, brides will strike their mothers‑in‑law; and a man’s enemies will take over his house. The face of the generation is like the face of a dog! Sons have no shame in front of their fathers; and on whom can one depend? Only upon our Father in Heaven” (BT Sotah 49b)—like the dead skin of a ticklish heel, so too our generation is insensitive to suffering while the most frivolous matters delight us, cf. BT Shabbat 13b: “The dead flesh in a living person does not feel the scalpel.”

“Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai recounts: Rabbi Akiva would expound דָּרַךְ כּוֹכָב (darakh kokhav), a star steps forth, out of Jacob (Numbers 24:17): דָּרַךְ בָּר כּוֹכבָא (darakh bar kokhva), Bar Kokhba steps forth, out of Jacob. When Akiva would see this בַּר כָּזָב (bar kazav), son of a lie, he would say: ‘This is the King Messiah.’ Rabbi Yoḥanan son of Torta would tell him: ‘Akiva, grass shall grow from your jaws before he will appear’” (JT Ta’anit 4:8, 68d).

“About Israel, it is written, And they mingled with the nations and learned their deeds (Psalms 106:35)—until they are trampled under their feet in the exile, they can not be sorted out from them. About them, David of blessed memory said, Why should I fear in evil days, when crime comes round me at עֲקֵבַי (aqevai), my heels? (Psalms 49:6). About them Solomon said, Loveliest of women, if you lose your way, follow in the עִקְבֵי (iqvei), tracks, of the sheep (Song of Songs 1:8)—of יַעֲקֹב (Ya’aqov), Jacob. About him is written concerning the primordial serpent who seduced Eve, He will boot your head and you will bite his עָקֵב (aqev)heel (Genesis 3:15). [But] after leaving exile, they are compared to apples and all matters of fragrance, as when they departed Egypt, as it says, Under the apple tree I awakened you (Song of Songs 8:5)” (Zohar 2:120b, Ra’aya Meheimna Mishpatim).

Israel’s Light Increases Little by Little

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“Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi asked: ‘What is: And this is the Torah which Moses שָׂם (sam), set, before the children of Israel (Deuteronomy 4:44)?’ If he is worthy it becomes סַם (sam), medicine, of life, for him, 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 entire 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).

“Rabbah expounded in the name of Rabbi Sehora who had it from Rav 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. Rabbah 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).

“Rabbi Levi said in the name of Rabbi Yose son of Ila’i, ‘It is natural that the great should calculate by the great, and the small by the small. Esau calculates by the sun, which is large, and Jacob by the moon, which is small.’ Rabbi Naḥman said, ‘That is a happy presage. Esau calculates by the sun, which is large: just as the sun rules by day but not by night, so does Esau have a share in this world, but has no share in the world to come. Jacob calculates by the moon, which is small: just as the moon rules by day and by night, so Jacob has a share in this world and in the world to come!’” (Bereshit Rabbah 6:3).

“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).

I will Hasten it in its Time

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“Rabbi Yoḥanan said: ‘What is the meaning of He who tends a fig tree will eat its fruit? (Proverbs 27:18). Why is the Torah compared to a fruit tree?’ Figs on a tree do not ripen all at once, but a little each day. Therefore, the longer one searches in the tree, the more figs he finds. So too with Torah: The more one studies, the more knowledge and wisdom one finds” (BT Eruvin 54a).

Noah, a man of the soil, was the first to plant a vineyard (Genesis 9:20). Rabbi Yehudah and Rabbi Yose. One said, ‘It was banished from the Garden of Eden, and he planted it here.’ The other said, ‘It was in the earth and he uprooted it, then transplanted it. That same day it yielded fruit, blossoming into grapes; he squeezed them, drank of the wine and became drunk [he should have waited for the grapes to ripen].’

Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘There is a mystery here in this verse. When he sought to probe the sin probed by Adamnot to cling but to know, to mend the worldhe was incapable. He squeezed grapes to probe that vineyard [Shekinah], but as soon as he arrived, he became drunk and exposed himself (ibid., 21), and was powerless to rise. So, he exposed himself, exposing the breach of the world that had been closed [when, after his sin, Adam returned to God]. Inside אָהֳלֹה (ahaloh), his tent (ibid.)spelled with a ה (he) [rather than the normal masculine possessive suffix ו (vav), thus we read]: Inside אֹהֱלָה (ohelah)her tent, the tent of that vineyard” (Zohar 1:73a).

I make you swear, O daughters of Jerusalem by the deer or the gazelles of the field, that you shall not rouse not stir love until it is ripe (Song of Songs 2:7; 3:5). For although Solomon in his great wisdom understood how to vocalize יהוה (YHWH), he swore in the name of all the holy people not to ponder it until the day God bestows compassion on His people and their Land, and opens the gates of light before them. And now the gates of wisdom have begun to open, therefore, one may study and gain great wisdom” (Berit Menuḥa, The Second Way: The Way of Love, Ninth Vowel).

“Rabbi Alexandri said: Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi pointed out a contradiction. It is written, In his time (Isaiah 60:22), while it is also written, I, YHWH, will hasten it (ibid.). I will hasten it—if they are worthy; if not, In its time. Rabbi Alexandri said: Rabbi Yehoshu’a opposed two verses: it is written, And, look, with the clouds of the heavens one like a human being [was coming] (Daniel 7:13) while [elsewhere] it is written, [Look, your King comes to you…lowly, and riding upon a donkey (Zechariah 9:9)—if they are worthy, [he will come] with the clouds of the heavens [i.e., swiftly (Rashi)]; if not, lowly, and riding upon a donkey. King Shapur said to Shemu’el, ‘You say Messiah will come upon a donkey: I will rather send him a white horse of mine’ [perhaps an overt invitation to the Jews to help Shapur in his struggle with the Romans]. He replied, ‘Do you have a multi-colored one? [since King Messiah’s donkey will be miraculous]’” (BT Sanhedrin 98a).

“In the six hundredth year of the sixth [millennium], springs of wisdom will open above, springs of wisdom below, and the whole world will prepare to enter the seventh [millennium], just like a person preparing on the sixth day, as the sun is about to set, to enter Sabbath. Your mnemonic: In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life… all the springs of the great abyss burst and the sluices of heaven were opened (Genesis 7:11).’… [Yet] the blessed Holy One makes everything depend upon returning—if they prove worthy or not—as that verse has been explained: I, YHWH, will hasten it in its time (Isaiah 60:22)—if they are worthy, I will hasten; if not, in its time [see BT Sanhedrin 98a]…. Rabbi Shim’on said to them, ‘The blessed Holy One does not want this to be revealed openly to the world. But verging on the days of the Messiah, even children of the world are destined to find hidden treasures of wisdom, thereby discovering calculations of the end. At that time it will be revealed to all, as is written: For then (Zephaniah 3:9). What does then mean? When Assembly of Israel rises from the dust, raised by the blessed Holy One. Then I will transform the language of the peoples into a pure one, so they may all call upon the name of YHWH and serve Him shoulder to shoulder (ibid.)” (Zohar 1:116a–118b).

Acacia

0049744.002I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the cypress tree, and the pine, and the box tree together (Isaiah 41:19).

And it shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth from the house of YHWH, and shall water the Valley of Acacias (Joel 4:18, cf. Ezekiel 47:1–12).

“Jacob our father planted at the time he descended to Egypt. He said, ‘My sons, eventually you will be redeemed from this place, and the blessed Holy One will say to you: ‘You will be redeemed,’ so that you may build a sanctuary for Him. Therefore, go plant acacia trees now so that when He commands you to erect a sanctuary for Him, beams of acacia will be available. Immediately they arose and planted as he had commanded them to do” (Tanḥuma, Terumah 9, cf. Bereshit Rabbah 94:4; Ibn Ezra on Exodus 25:5).

For a tree has hope: though cut down, it can still be removed, and it’s shoots will not cease (Job 14:7).