The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: חַי

A Man’s Table Atones for Him

“As long as the Temple stood, the altar atoned for Israel; now a man’s table atones for him” (BT Berakhot 55a; Menaḥot 97a).

“Faithful Shepherd, prepare a table for your Master, for Him and His Matronita, with all sorts of delicacies, to fulfill in it: This is the table that is before YHWH (Ezekiel 41:22) [cf. Zohar 2:153b–155a]. For until now, everyone was enjoying from the King’s table, as it says: Come, partake of my bread, [and drink the wine I have mixed] (Proverbs 9:5). Bread—Written Torah [Ze’eir Anpin]. Wine—Oral Torah [Malkhut], in which there are many savories, flavors of Torah, from all the adornments and delicacies in the world and of the King.

The Faithful Shepherd rose and began to speak: Aaron the priest, rise from your sleep to slaughter oxen and sheep and goats and lambs and fowl, and all varieties needed for the King’s feast. לֶחֶם הַפָּנִים (Leḥem ha-panim), bread of the Presence (Exodus 25:30), corresponding to the two tablets of Torah, written on both their sides [lit., מִזֶּה וּמִזֶּה הֵם כְּתֻבִים (mizeh u-mizeh hem ketuvim), from this and from this they were written] (Exodus 32:15). זֶּה (Zeh), this—twelve faces, which are [the twelve letters of יהוה (YHWH) written three times]: יְבָרֶכְךָ יְהוָה (yivarekha Adonai), YHWH bless you… יָאֵר יְהוָה (ya’er Adonai), YHWH light up… יִשָּׂא יְהוָה (yisa Adonai), YHWH lift up (Numbers 6:24–25). The second זֶּה (zeh), this, is: אֲדֹנָי (Adonai), אֲדֹנָי (Adonai), אֲדֹנָי (Adonai)—twelve living beings, of which it says, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and the four had the face of an ox on the left side; the four also had the face of an eagle (Ezekiel 1:10). And it says of them: And each one had four faces (ibid., 6). That is, in each of the three beings there are four faces: lion, ox, eagle, and man, and three times four amounts to twelve living beings. That is the meaning of, And זֶה אֶל זֶה (zeh el zeh), one unto another, cried and said, [Holy, holy, holy, is YHWH of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory] (Isaiah 6:3). They also correspond to the twenty-four books of Torah. And this is: זֶה (zeh), This, is the table, that is before YHWH (Ezekiel 41:22). Utensils on the King’s table are Masters of Mishnah—masters of prayer arranged to correspond to the sacrifices.

He opened and said: and you shall make a table of acacia wood (Exodus 25:23). Come and see: those present at the King’s meal had goodly and fine customs to show they were members of the King’s table. First the eldest would wash his hands. When they entered to sit for the meal, the oldest would sit at the head of the table. The second would be below him, and the third below the second. These are called the ‘three beds,’ corresponding to the three Patriarchs, and to the priests, the Levites and Israel. From here on, they had no order, rather whoever came first was seated.

Second, the master of the house breaks bread so that he may apportion it generously [lit., with a good eye]. He first completes [the blessing] and then breaks it. The Rabbis of the Mishnah have arranged it so that none of those reclining at the feast table are permitted to taste until the giver of the blessing has tasted first. The one who apportions is not permitted to taste until all present have finished saying ‘amen.’ And if he wishes to delegate honor [by inviting another to break bread] he may do so. In addition, it is said that the guest blessed [the meal after it was eaten] so that he bless the master of the house [see BT Berakhot 58a]. And the mystery of the matter: The master of the house breaks—the middle pillar, קָו הָאֶמְצָעִי (qav ha-emtsa’i), the middle cord. And on the Sabbath, he must break from two cuts: הה (he, he). The master of the house is ו (vav) in the middle. In order not to appear a glutton, he may apportion to each one a piece the size of an egg. What is the size of an egg? It is י (yod) and י (yod) which are the vocalizations of the Holy Name [יְאֲהדֹוָנָהִי (YAHDWNWY)] called ‘crumbs the size of an olive’ [see M Berakhot 7:1–2; Kil’ayim 8:5; Terumot 7:3; Ḥallah 1:2; Shabbat 10:5]. These correspond to drops of seed. And whoever disparages these crumbs, throwing them out in an inappropriate place, poverty chases him and he will constantly wander [cf. BT Pesaḥim 111b; Ḥullin 105b], as is written, he wanders for bread—where is it? (Job 15:23). Bread—Torah; he cries out, looking for someone who will have compassion on him, but will find no one.

Crumbs the size of an olive belong to the Righteous One [Yesod], who presses these olives [Netsaḥ and Hod. Cf. BT Berakhot 52b; Zohar 1:14b]. The אוֹרֵחַ (oreaḥ), guest, blesses, as is written: But אֹרַח (oraḥ), the path, of the righteous is like light’s radiance (Proverbs 4:18). Blessings on the righteous man’s head (Proverbs 10:6)—Vitality of the Worlds [Yesod]. Therefore, the guest makes the blessing.

As he was speaking, the Holy Lamp came to him, and said: Faithful Shepherd, one day I went along with the Companions to an inn. There was a child there who rose and by himself prepared for us a lamp and a table, as if he were twenty years old. Yet he was only a five year old boy. He set that table with different dishes and drinks and said, ‘The Rabbis have decreed that the master of the house breaks bread and the guest makes the blessing. Yet, I am young in years, and you are aged. Therefore was I awed and feared to speak my mind to you (Job 32:6) until I obtain permission from you.’ They said to him: Speak up my son, angel of God [for more on this יַנוּקָא (yanuqa), child, a wunderkind-and-enfant-terrible who amazes and teases, challenges and stumps the rabbis, see Zohar 3:186a–192a, cf. M Avot 5:26–27: ‘Rabbi Yose son of Yehudah of Bavli village said: When you learn from the young, what is it like? Like eating unripe grapes or drinking wine straight from the vat. When you learn from the old, what is it like? Like eating ripe grapes and drinking old wine. Rabbi Me’ir said: Do not look at the flask but at what it contains, for a new flask may contain old wine, and an old flask may not contain anything, even new wine’].

He said to us: ‘Do you desire indulgences without battle, or bread of battle?’ [the child may be playing on לֶחֶם (leḥem), bread, and לָחֶם (laḥem), war (see Judges 5:8); cf. Zohar 3:188b: ‘Whoever wants bread, let him eat by the mouth of the sword’; Proverbs 13:25: The righteous man eats for the sating of his gullet, but the belly of the wicked will want]. The Rabbis of the Mishnah decreed that mealtime is a time of war. If you desire to battle over it let no one eat and he who has won the battle shall eat first and apportion to the rest. The Companions said to him: You are still small, my son, and you have yet to learn how mighty men wage battle with sword, in waving the sword, with lance, with bow and arrows, and with slingstones.

He said to us: Let not the buckler of armor boast like the unfastner (1 Kings 20:11) [one shouldn’t boast of his prowess before the battle, but only after winning]. It has been explained that whoever reads the recitation of Shema at his bedside is as if he holds a double-edged sword, as is written: Exultations of God in their throat and a double-edged sword [lit., a sword of mouths] in their hand (Psalms 149:6) [cf. BT Berakhot 5a; Song of Songs 3:7–8 (included in the recitation of Shema): Look, Solomon’s bed—sixty warriors round it of the warriors of Israel. All of them wielding the sword trained in battle, each with his sword on his thigh out of terror in the nights]. The waving of the sword must be done in the six directions, as was explained, in order to make Him reign over the heavens, the earth, and the four corners of the world. ו (Vav)—body of the sword; י (yod)—head of the sword; הה (he, he)—two edges [lit., mouths]; אֲדֹנָי (Adonai)—sheath of the sword [cf. Leviticus 26:33; Tiqqnuei ha-Zohar 8b].

The רֹמַח (romaḥ), lance, is the 248 words in the recitation of Shema, and together with the six words in the unification [בָּרוּךְ שֵׁם כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד (Barukh shem kevod malkhuto le-olam va-ed), Blessed be the name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever], they total רוֹמַח (romaḥ), lance [spelled fully with ו (vav), numerically equivalent to 254]. The מָגֵן (magen), shield, is with sword: מִיכָאֵל גַּבְרִיאֵל נוּרִיאֵל (Mikhael, Gavriel, Nuriel), Michael, Gabriel and Nuriel. They serve the three Patriarchs [Ḥesed, Gevurah and Tif’eret]. The bow [Yesod] shoots arrows, but ‘Any seed that does not shoot forth like an arrow does not beget offspring’ (BT Ḥagigah 15a; Niddah 43a). The sling is the recitation of Shema Yisra’el, and the five slingstones—שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה (Shema Yisra’el Adonai Elohenu Adonai), Hear, O Israel, YHWH our God, YHWH (Deuteronomy 6:4) [Ḥesed, Gevurah, Tif’eret, Netsaḥ, Hod]—correspond to David [Malkhut]: and he chose five smooth stones from the creek [and put them in the shepherd’s pouch he had, in the satchel, and his slingshot was in his hand, and he came forward toward the Philistine] (1 Samuel 17:40). When he placed them into the sling, the lip, Shekhinah, all five turned into one stone and killed the Philistine [שָׂפָה (safah), lip, and שְׁכִינָה (Shekhinah) are numerically equivalent].

And until now, I have been זָרִיקְנָא (zariqna), throwing, the stone at Samael, a stone of siege [alluding to the musical intonation זַרְקָא (zarqa), thrown. On the image of prayer shot from a sling, see Bahir §89–§91, §178; Zohar 1:23a–24b (TZ); cf. Judges 20:16]. I have ruined his siege and lowered him down. Therefore, I said to you, Let not the buckler of armor boast like the unfastner. Now it is clear to you that, indeed, I do know how mighty men wage battle with swords, with lances, with bows and with slings. We were astonished and could not speak before him. He said to us: Rabbis let us now see who will get נַהֲמָא (nahama), bread, the לֶחֶם הַמּוֹצִיא (leḥem ha-motsi), bread of ‘[Who] brings forth’ (Grace after Meals).

He opened, saying: When it happens that you eat of the bread of the land, you shall תָּרִימוּ (tarimu), present, a donation to YHWH (Numbers 15:19). How is the Shekhinah אַתְרִימָת (atrimat), raised, who is the ה (he) of ‘הַמּוֹצִיא (ha-motsi),’ regarding which the Masters of Mishnah have decreed that whoever breaks the bread of הַמּוֹצִיא (ha-motsi) must be precise in pronouncing the ה (he)? [cf. BT Berakhot 38b; ZḤ 87b]. Surely it has been decreed by the Masters of Mishnah that, ‘Chaff and straw are exempt from tithing’ [see, Zohar 2:120b (RM), cf. ibid. 2:272a; TZ 17, 31a; 69, 114a; TZḤ 113c]. When She is in the chaff and straw She is in prison, and the ה (he) does not have permission to rise to the מ (mem) [Ze’eir Anpin] to become, with it, מַה (Mah), What [numerically equivalent to the full spelling of יהוה (YHWH): יוד הא ואו הא (Yod, He, Vav, He)]. This is the meaning of תְרוּמָה (terumah), raise, which is the ה״ (five) of the five books of Torah, in which it says: and Moses was on the mountain forty days… (Exodus 24:18) [תְרוּמָה (terumah) can be read as: תּוֹרָה מ״ (Torah arba’im), Law forty].

Our Rabbis referred to the chaff and straw of the wheat, when they said that the tree of which Adam ate was wheat [see BT Berakhot 40a]. For by eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, he drew ח״ט (ḥet, tet), chaff and straw [alluding to חֵטְא (ḥet), offence], near the ה (he) [Shekhinah]. י״ (Ten) was gone from it, its tithing, therefore, when She is in straw and chaff which correspond to the removal of the foreskin and the uncovering of the male organ it is exempt from tithing [two layers of skin cover the penis, one of which is cut off and the other is cut open in פּרִיעָה (peri’ah), uncovering, at a ritual circumcision]. For י (yod) has no permission to join ה (he), which are man and woman. And this is the mystery of י (yod) in אִישׁ וְאִשָּׁה (ish ve-ishah), man and woman [cf. BT Sotah 17a]. Therefore, whoever breaks the bread must be precise pronouncing ה (he) and must break the bread where it is nicely baked, because ripening is the completion of fruit.

Ten things one should perform for the meal: first is washing hands; second is preparation of the two loaves for Sabbath [see BT Berakhot 39b; Shabbat 117b]; third is to eat of three meals and add from weekdays to holiness; fourth is to light a candle on the table, as was explained, that a table should be to the north side, and the candle on the south, and to recline, as was explained that if they recline together, one makes the blessing for everyone.

And with Sabbath, one should add from the secular to the holy in everything he does, with his food and drink, his clothing and his reclining [cf. Mekhilta, Baḥodesh 7; JT Berakhot 4:1, 7c, 13d; BT Berakhot 27a. Cf. Bereshit Rabbah 11:7; Zohar 2:47b]. He must prepare a fine sofa with many pillows and embroidered cushions from all that he has in his house, as when preparing the marriage canopy for the bride, because Sabbath is both a queen and a bride. And for this reason the Masters of Mishnah used to hasten to come out on Sabbath eve to welcome Her on the way. And they used to say: ‘בֹּאִי כַּלָּה בֹּאִי כַּלָּה (Boi kalah, Boi kalah), Come, O bride! Come, O bride!’ [see BT Shabbat 119a: ‘Rabbi Ḥanina robed himself and stood at sunset of Sabbath eve (and) exclaimed, Come and let us go forth to welcome the queen Sabbath. Rabbi Yannai donned his robes, on Sabbath eve and exclaimed, Come, O bride, Come, O bride!’]. Thus, one should arouse song and gladness for Her on that table.

There is yet another secret: just as one should receive a lady by lighting many lamps [so too] for the Sabbath, and with many delights, fine clothes, a house arrayed with many adornments, and with a beautiful sofa arranged for everyone. For gladness and preparation cause the evil slavegirl to remain in the dark in hunger, in weeping, in mourning, and in black dress like a widow. When this one is filled, this one is parched.

The good impulse is the Holy Matronita. The holy מַלְכוּת (Malkhut), Kingdom, that descends on Sabbath, comprised of ten sefirot. She is decorated with seven names that are not erased, with many chariots of living beings, and with many armies and camps. The King goes out to Her with many camps, and the evil impulse, which is the [wicked] slavegirl remains in the dark, like a widow without her husband, without [any] chariots.

It was said of those who sacrifice and burn incense to the queen of the heavens and the constellations, which I did not command (Deuteronomy 17:3), worship the slavegirl that rules on the eve of Sabbath and the eve of the fourth day. What do they do? They wear black clothes, extinguish their lights, and lament on Sabbath nights to join with her, because One against the other God has set (Ecclesiastes 7:14) [cf. Zohar 2:275a; Ibn Ezra, Perush ha-Torah on Exodus 20:14; Idel, Saturn’s Jews, p. 31–2, n. 120].

After Israel sinned and the Temple was destroyed, it is said regarding the Shekhinah, Holy Mother: How does the city sit solitary, that was full of people! How has she become like a widow! (Lamentations 1:1). People extinguish lamps and candles on the ninth of Av, and sit like mourners to join in the sorrow of the Shekhinah, because they caused Her all this calamity [but not on the Sabbath].

Fifth is the כּוֹס (kos), cup, for saying, וַיְכֻלּוּ (vayekhullu), then they were completed (Genesis 2:1). Sixth is to speak words of Torah at the table. Seventh is to extend the meal and allow the poor to come to the table. Eighth is washing hands with finger bowl water. Ninth is the blessing after the meal. Tenth is the cup for the blessing [after the meal]. It is necessary to repeat [these ten things] and to order them in accordance with the holy mystery, for She is comprised of ten sefirot. She is the table of the blessed Holy One from the side of Gevurah. Hence, the Rabbis have explained that the table should face the north [see Exodus 26:35, 40:22; BT Yoma 21b, 33b].

First, washing of hands: the Rabbis of the Mishnah explained ‘Filthy hands are unfit for blessing, because they are twice removed from uncleanness’ (BT Berakhot 53b). Unclean hands are the cause of defilement, being once removed from uncleanness. Clean hands are twice removed from uncleanness and are fit to bless, because blessing rests only on purity, since blessing rests on a priest, who is a pure man, a man of Ḥesed. This is: Like goodly oil on the head (Psalms 133:2). Therefore, Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, ‘Thus shall you bless the Israelites’ (Numbers 6:23). It was explained that every priest who blesses is blessed, and if he does not bless he is not blessed. The Masters of Mishnah have further explained that any blessing that does not have a recitation of the Name and Malkhut, is not considered a blessing, since Malkhut is Adonai.

In addition, hands should be washed up to the joint because it was decreed [to wash] י״ד (fourteen) joints. At that time, the יַד (yad), hand, of YHWH rests on him. It is the hand of blessing from the side of Ḥesed, wherein Ḥokhmah lies in the right hand. It is the hand of holiness from the side of Gevurah that prevails in Judgment. It is also the hand of unification from the aspect of Tif’eret. This rests on the fourteen joints of the body, because there are twelve joints in the two arms and in the two legs, three joints in each for a sum of six and together they are twelve. Together with the two in the body and the genital organ, they amount to fourteen.

Three times fourteen equals forty-two; ייי (yod, yod, yod) of יַד (yad), יַד (yad), יַד (yad), alludes to יְבָרֶכְךָ (yivarekha), bless you… יָאֵר (ya’er), light up… יִשָּׂא (yisa), lift up (Numbers 6:24–25) from יְהוָה יְהוָה יְהוָה (YHWH, YHWH, YHWH). דדד (Dalet, dalet, dalet) of יַד (yad), יַד (yad), יַד (yad) are implied in אֲדֹנָי (Adonai), אֲדֹנָי (Adonai), אֲדֹנָי (Adonai). Of them the prophet said: The temple of YHWH, the temple of YHWH, the temple of YHWH, are these (Jeremiah 7:4) [הֵיכַל (heikhal), temple, is numerically equivalent to אֲדֹנָי (Adonai)]. Thus is established the washing of hands [comprised of י״ד (fourteen) joints].

Every side is comprised of three faces of the living beings which are יְהוָה יְהוָה יְהוָה (YHWH, YHWH, YHWH), and the three wings of the living beings are דדד (dalet, dalet, dalet). They must all derive from the power of man: יוֹד וָאו דָּלֶת הֵא אָלֶף וָאו אָלֶף וָאו הֵא אָלֶף (Yod, Vav, Dalet, He, Alef, Vav, Alef, Vav, He, Alef) [כֹּחַ (koaḥ), power, is numerically equivalent to twenty-eight, the number of letters in this doubly full spelling of יהוה (YHWH), and the number of joints in the human hands. Furthermore, אָדָם (adam), human, corresponds to the simple full spelling of יהוה (YHWH): יוד הא ואו הא (Yod, He, Vav, He), since each are numerically equivalent to forty-five]. The Matronita does not dwell in his power until all the filth of the wicked, unfit slavegirl, wife to the unfit, is removed. Therefore, the Masters of Mishnah explained that ‘Filthy hands are unfit to make a blessing’ (BT Berakhot 53b).

This water is for cleansing the hand upon which the hand of YHWH rests. The hand of YHWH is water of Torah. The ignorant people are considered like unclean reptiles [see BT Pesaḥim 49b]. What good will immersing in water do them, holding in their hand that reptile, which is the wicked slavegirl, stolen goods in their possession, the stolen blessings they stole from the blessed Holy One. They do not know what a blessing is, or what filth is.

Immediately after the Companions and I heard these words, we could not bear to wait for him to finish each of these ten matters of blessings. We bowed before him, saying ‘Certainly, there is no one who could speak these matters except for you, since you are comparable to the four divisions of the Garden of Eden [see Genesis 2:10]. If a person enters the children’s section, he becomes a child; in the youth’s section he becomes a youth; in the young men’s section, he becomes a young man, and in the elder’s section, he becomes an elder. Therefore, it is written of you: מִמְּכוֹן שִׁבְתּוֹ הִשְׁגִּיחַ אֶל כָּל יֹשְׁבֵי הָאָרֶץ (mimkhon shivto hishegiḥa el kal yoshvei ha-arets), from his firm throne he surveyed all who dwell on the earth (Psalms 33:14). Also, it is about you that it says: for he is but flesh. [Let his days be a hundred and twenty years] (Genesis 6:3) [בְּשַׁגַּם (beshagam), for, in as much, is numerically equivalent to מֹשֶׁה (Moshe), Moses, see BT Ḥullin 139b]. For you were present in the generation of the dispersion, and in every generation [you return] by rolling like a wheel that turns round in many ways, yet you revealed yourself only at that generation when Torah was given at your hands [cf. BT Yoma 38b; BT Ḥagigah 13b–14a; Bahir §195].

As soon as you departed from the world you became like the sun that shines in every generation [cf. Zohar 1:147a]. Even when the sun is gathered at night, it illuminates the moon and 600,000 stars [cf. BT Bava Batra 75a: ‘The face of Moses was like that of the sun, the face of Joshua like that of the moon;’ BT Pesaḥim 94a–b]. So are you who shine on the 600,000 people in each and every generation. That is what Qohelet indicated in the verse: A generation goes and a generation comes (Ecclesiastes 1:4). The Rabbis have explained that a generation does not consist of less than 600,000 people [cf. Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah 4:2]. He [namely, Rabbi Akiva] also explained the generation that passes away is the one that comes [see Bahir §121–§122]. This fulfills: מַה שֶּׁהָיָה הוּא שֶׁיִּהְיֶה (mah shehayah hu sheyihyeh), that which was is that, which will be [and that which was done is that which will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun] (Ecclesiastes 1:9) [מֹשֶׁה (Moshe), Moses]. From here on, complete the ten matters of the Sabbath table openly. The Faithful Shepherd said: ‘Holy Lamp, blessed is your lot that the blessed Holy One revealed to you what He has not revealed to any prophet or seer’ [cf. BT Bava Batra 12a].

Second is to break bread over two loaves of bread on Sabbath, which are alluded to in the two tablets of Torah that were given on the Sabbath in pairs. On the third day they descended [from the Heavens, i.e., Tif’eret], on which it was said טוֹב (tov), good, twice [since it comprises right and left]. On the Sabbath Torah was given, in which there are two females, which correspond to twice טוֹב (tov), good. Though it was explained that demons are assigned to [harm] pairs as has been explained [one must not eat] two eggs or two nuts, yet if this is so, why are two loaves of bread used on Sabbath, seeing they are a pair? [see BT Pesaḥim 110b]. He responds, it is a halakhah from Moses at Sinai that those sent on pious missions will meet no evil [see BT Qiddushin 39b; cf. Pesaḥim 8a; Yoma 11a].

You may wonder why we learned that one should not begin anything on the second day or finish on the fourth day because they are pairs, which applies to matters of decrees as well, even though those sent on pious missions meet no evil. [He answers,] this is when with the motley throng, who are never sent on pious missions, because they have not converted for Heaven’s sake. [Then it is] forbidden to begin on the second day or the fourth day. However, the righteous, who have no connection with the motley throng may start on the second day and the fourth day for the sake of performing a decree, because those sent on a pious mission shall come to no harm. Therefore, after they were gone from the world [i.e., after the sin of the golden calf] the blessed Holy One commanded to take two stone tablets like the first ones (Exodus 34:1), saying: and I shall write on the tablets the words which were on the first tablets (ibid.) [and He did not mind the pairs].

Two loaves of bread on Sabbath indicate the יוֹדִין (yodin), two yods [in] יְאֲהדֹוָנָהִי (YAHDWNHY). For אֲדֹנָי (Adonai) [Malkhut] is alone without Her husband during the six weekdays. On Sabbath He descends to אֲדֹנָי (Adonai) and the combination יְאֲהדֹוָנָהִי (YAHDWNHY) is formed. Hence, all nishmatin, ruaḥin, and nafshin leave and come down in pairs on Sabbath, and no adversary or harmer, has power on the Sabbath day. Even Hell has no power and does not burn on the Sabbath. Therefore, you shall not kindle a fire in all your dwelling places on the sabbath day (Exodus 35:3). That refers to strange fire, but the fire of sacrifice is a fire of holiness. There is no need to speak at length on their apportioning as it was already explained.

Third is to eat three meals on Sabbath, as was explained by the Masters of Mishnah. One of them [Rabbi Yose] said: ‘May my portion be of those who eat three meals on the Sabbath’ (BT Shabbat 118b) [cf. BT Gittin 7a; Bava Batra 10a; Bava Metsi’a 85a; Nedarim 40a; Berakhot 15b; Pesaḥim 118a; Shabbat 118a], which complete the seven blessings in the Amidah by bringing them to a total of ten. The secret of עֹנֶג (oneg), delight, is: וְנָהָר יֹצֵא מֵעֵדֶן לְהַשְׁקוֹת אֶת הַגָּן (ve-nahar ma-eden le-hashqot et ha-gan), now a river runs out of Eden to water the garden (Genesis 2:10). Whoever can but does not observe them, for him the עֹנֶג (oneg), delight, turns into scaly נֶגַע (nega), affliction. In order that he should not come to this, the blessed Holy One says: Borrow on Me and I will pay, Then shall תִּתְעַנַּג (tit’annag), you delight yourself, upon YHWH (Isaiah 58:14).

Fourth is to light the table with a candelabra, as was decreed by the ancients, that a table should be at the north and the candelabra at the south, for the table of the blessed Holy One [Malkhut], should be set in this manner. Fifth is the wine cup of וַיְכֻלּוּ (vayekhullu), then they were completed (Genesis 2:1). The sum of כּוֹס (kos), cup, is that of אֱלֹהִים (Elohim). וַיְכֻלּוּ (Vayekhullu)—[numerically equivalent to] seventy-two which the Holy Bride comprises [i.e., the number of words said over the cup at the sanctification of the Sabbath is likewise seventy-two, as is the numerical value of מְלֹא (melo), fullness]. The כּוֹס (kos), cup, is filled with the wine of Torah which must bear testimony to the Work of Creation.

Sixth is to have words of Torah at one’s table, because that is how the Masters of Mishnah decreed ‘Three who eat at one table, and do not speak words of Torah, [they are as if they had eaten of sacrifices of dead idols]’ (M Avot 3:4). The secret is that they have decreed that the table should be to the north and that Torah was given from the right. In order to join the right, which is Compassion, with the left, which is Judgment. Torah is YHWH [Ze’eir Anpin] which was given from the right, and the table is אֲדֹנָי (Adonai) [Malkhut] which is from the left [i.e., north]. One must join them, since that table is at the left side, the Masters of Mishnah have explained that a person’s sustenance is as difficult to obtain as the splitting of the Reed Sea [see BT Pesaḥim 118b (in the name of Rabbi El’azar son of Azariyah); Bereshit Rabbah 97:3 (in the name of Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi); Zohar 1:207b; 2:52b, 170a; 3:292b (IZ); ZḤ 86d (MhN, Rut)]. Therefore, one should invite for himself a Torah scholar, who will study Torah.

Seventh is to stay a long time at the table for the lowly. Whoever stays long at the table will have his days and years extended. For that reason: righteousness saves from death (Proverbs 10:2). Since a poor man is like a dead man whom he revives the blessed Holy One also revives him [BT Berakhot 54b–55a: ‘Rav Yehudah said, There are three matters which, if one prolongs their duration, extend a person’s days and years: … one who prolongs his mealtime…. Regarding prolonging one’s mealtime, perhaps a poor person will come and he will give him’; ZḤ 86d].

Furthermore, a secret explanation: All the poor originate from the aspect of ד (dalet), about which it is said: דַּלּוֹתִי (Dalloti), I plunged down, but He did rescue me (Psalms 116:6). The pronunciation of ד (dalet) in אֶחָד (eḥad), one (Deuteronomy 6:4), should be prolonged. That is meant by the verse: in order that he may long endure in his kingship (Deuteronomy 17:20). Therefore, it is incumbent on one to stay long at the table, which is ד (dalet), because it has ד״ (four) legs. In honor of ד (dalet), one should stay long at the table for the sake of the lowly.

In relation to it the Rabbis explained that the blessed Holy One sought a beautiful quality for Israel, and found only the quality of דַלּוּת (dallut), poverty [see Tanna devei Eliyyahu Zuta 5]. A difficulty was raised here, since the ancients explained that the number of different deaths is equivalent to the sum of תֹּצָאוֹת (totsaot), ways out (Psalms 68:21), and that an empty pocket is the most difficult. How could it be said He found no better quality for Israel than poverty?

It is only because about each people and tongue, [And they shall pass through it, hardpressed and hungry:] and it shall come to pass, that when they shall be hungry, they shall be enraged, and curse their king and their god, and look upward (Isaiah 8:21). However, the children of Israel are in a covenant with the blessed Holy One, also with this quality [poverty] and do not deny His existence. Hence they shall be redeemed by this quality. This is: a lowly people You rescue (2 Samuel 22:28). עָנִי (Ani), lowly, is derived from עִנּוּי (innui), suffering, since even when one has wealth but suffers from illnesses and afflictions, he is considered lowly. Or he is distressed [due to his wealth] and is afflicted every day. This is surely true for one who is lowlier than him, and must wander from place to place.

Another [kind of] עָנִי (ani), lowly one, who lost his mind like Job, about whom, it is said: Job speaks without דַעַת (da’at), knowledge (Job 34:35). So too is ד (dalet), which is the Shekhinah. When א״ח (alef, ḥet) [of אֶחָד (eḥad), one] were gone from Her, which is the middle pillar called דַּעַת (Da’at), Knowledge. And one [who is without knowledge] does not incur guilt with [improper] speech. Furthermore, א״ח (alef, ḥet) is Torah which is comprised of the 613 decrees. This is the meaning of: That is My name forever and thus am I invoked in all ages (Exodus 3:15). שְּׁמִי (Shemi), My name, plus יָהּ (Yah) is 365, and זִכְרִי (Zikhri), am I invoked, plus ו״ה (vav, he) is 248. Therefore it has been explained that one is lowly only in Torah and mitsvot. This is because the other lowly people suffer [but are not poor]. ד (Dalet) of אֲדֹנָי (Adonai), is also lowly without יְהֹוָה (YHWH).

Eighth is the finger bowl water that was instituted due to the salt of Sodom that is blinding to the eyes [see BT Ḥullin 105b: ‘Rabbi Yehudah son of Rabbi Ḥiyya said: Why did they say that it is obligatory to wash the hands after the meal? Because of a certain salt of Sodom which makes the eyes blind’]. Why is it considered obligatory? According to the mystery of the matter, deadly poison rests on filthy hands, with which one makes a blessing, and on a cup, over which one makes a blessing without cleanliness, and it is considered defiled. Just as a cup from which people drank is considered unclean for a blessing until it is cleansed by rinsing it inside and out, the hands all the more so. Hence finger bowl water is obligatory. The mystery is: And you shall sanctify yourselves (Leviticus 20:7)—washing of hands before the meal. And you shall become holy (ibid.)—finger bowl water. For I am Holy—fragrant ointment. [These three things] correspond to Holy, holy, holy (Isaiah 6:3). And you shall sanctify yourselves—so that it shall be known that you are children of the blessed Holy One. That is what is meant by: You are children to YHWH your God (Deuteronomy 14:1).

Ninth is the cup of blessing. As has been explained by the Masters of Mishnah, ten things were said about this cup of blessing, which are: decorating, wrapping, washing, rinsing, unmixed wine, full cup, receiving it with both hands and leaving it with the right, raising it from the surface a handbreadth, looking at it, and sending it as a gift to the members of his household [cf. BT Berakhot 51a; Zohar 1:1a, 156a (ST), 240a, 250a; 2:138b, 143b, 157b; 3:245a–b (RM)]. Now we have only four, which are washing, rinsing, unmixed wine, and a full cup. Some say the wine should be taken unmixed from the cask, and water may be added to it in the cup. Some say that unmixed wine means the cup should be whole [i.e., undiluted] because its breaking is its death [on mixed and unmixed wine, see Isaiah 1:22; 65:11; Proverbs 9:2, 5; 23:30–32; BT Berakhot 50b; Sanhedrin 70a; 2 Maccabees 15:39].

כּוֹס (Kos), cup, according to the way of wisdom: אֱלֹהִים (Elohim) is מָלֵּא (malle), full, with יָהּ (Yah) [Malkhut is אִלֵּם (illem), mute, when in a state of קַטנוּת (qatnut), constriction, empty of יָהּ (Yah), cf. BT Gittin 56b; Ginnat Egoz 11c; 13d; Zohar 1:36b; 3:221a (RM)], and they are whole. However, כּוֹס (kos), cup, without ו (vav) is כֵּס (kes), throne, instead of כִּסֵּא (kisse), throne, deficient and lacking without א (alef). It is lacking without ו (vav), and is deficient. הַכִּסֵּא (Ha-kisse), the Throne, is numerically equivalent to כּוֹס (kos), cup.

כּוֹס (Kos), cup, is ה״ (five) [reckoned according to its reduced numerical value] and ten things are needed, parallel to י (yod) [in order to draw the fifty gates of Binah, see BT Rosh ha-Shanah 21b; Nedarim 38a: ‘Fifty gates of Binah were created in the world, and all were given to Moses save one, as it says, And You made him little less than אֱלֹהִים (Elohim) (Psalms 8:6)’], and they are: crowning—סוֹד הָעַטָרָה (sod ha-atarah), secret of the corona, the עֲטֶרֶת תִּפְאֶרֶת (ateret tif’eret), Diadem of Beauty [Malkhut of יְסוֹד (Yesod)]. And this is the mystery of coronation with which our patriarchs, of blessed memory, would crown disciples, and She is the עֲטֶרֶת הַבְּרִית (ateret ha-berit), Diadem of the Covenant [i.e., the covenant of circumcision]. עִטּוּף (Ittuf), wrapping: A prayer for the lowly when יַעֲטֹף (ya’atof), he covers (Psalms 102:1)—all of these blessings and prayers are covered together until the prayer of the lowly rises.

Washing and rinsing, these are like: and cleanse it and consecrate it (Leviticus 16:19). Cleansing is from the right—Ḥesed. Consecrating is from the left—Gevurah. The cup of blessing [Malkhut] is from the aspect of Binah called אֱלֹהִים (Elohim). עֲטָרָה (Atarah), corona, is from the aspect of כֶּתֶר (keter), Crown. חַי (Ḥai), unmixed, is from the aspect of Yesod [חֵי עָלְמִין (ḥei almin), Vitality of Worlds], called Peace, as is written: neither shall the covenant of My peace be removed, says YHWH that has mercy on you (Isaiah 54:10) [rather, it will live forever, and thus Malkhut is called חַי (Ḥai), Living, from this aspect]. Full is from the aspect of Tif’eret. Receiving with two hands is הה (he, he) [of יהוה (YHWH)].

Leaving is with the right hand. Upper ה (he)—Ḥesed; lower ה (he)—Gevurah. Lifting off the surface a handbreadth is the mystery of י (yod), since ה (he) is raised by י (yod) [meaning that one should raise the five sefirot of Malkhut from Her place, which is the mystery of the surface, multiply Her by י״ (ten), and meditate on Her receiving the fifty gates of Binah]. Looking with the eyes is the mystery of יְאֲהדֹוָנָהִי (YAHDWNHY) since יהוה (YHWH) shines in the pupil of the eye [אֲדֹנָי (Adonai)]. יהוה (YHWH) is white, red and green, [Ḥesed, Gevurah and Tif’eret of Ze’eir Anpin (Sullam)]. Adonai shines in the two eyelids, as well as the two pupils [of the eye and hair of the eyelashes (ibid.)]. Sending a gift to the members of the household is Binah, of which is written: ‘Let Moses rejoice in the gift of his portion’ (Sabbath Morning Liturgy) [since Moses merited Binah and one must attach the cup, which is Malkhut, to the lights of Binah (ibid.)].

Tenth is blessing after the meal. It was explained by the Rabbis: with three כּוֹס (kos), a cup, is needed [at the dining table, i.e., God, must be present when three, or more, people eat together at one table, see M Avot 3:4; כּוֹס (kos), cup, and אֱלֹהִים (Elohim), God, are numerically equivalent]. And the mystery of the matter: אַהֲבַת כְּלוּלֹתָיִךְ (ahavat kelulotayikh), the love of your betrothals (Jeremiah 2:2)—[read: לְאַבוֹתָיִךְ הַכֹּל (le-avotayikh ha-kol), to your fathers: all] the Patriarchs: בַּכֹּל (bakol), in all (Genesis 24:1), מִכֹּל (mikol), of all (ibid. 27:33, cf. ibid. 25:5), כֹל (khol), all (ibid. 33:11). But we should not speak at length of it.

How do we know that grace after meals is from the Torah? Because it is written: And you will eat and be sated and bless YHWH your God [on the goodly land He has given you] (Deuteronomy 8:10). And we learned in a barraita: and blessfeeds. YHWH your Godgrace after meals. On the land—blessing on the land. The goodly—builds Jerusalem. Thus, it says, this goodly high country, and the Lebanon (Deuteronomy 3:25). But this is only after [the meal], where is [proof of the requirement to recite a blessing] before [the meal]? It is said: He has given you—from the time it is given to you [i.e., even before eating] you must bless Him [cf. JT Berakhot 7:1, 5a–b; BT Berakhot 35a].

The sages, of blessed memory, have interpreted that Moses instituted for the Israelites the blessing ‘[who] feeds’ when manna descended on them. Joshua instituted for them blessing the land in the time of the rallying for the land. David and Solomon instituted the blessing for the building of Jerusalem. Moreover, an allusion to grace after meals is found in the portion Manna, in the manna itself: ‘In the morning you shall have your fill of bread, and you shall know that I am YHWH your God’ (Exodus 16:12).

Rabbi Shim’on said: The mystery of these seven זַיְינִין (zayinin) that are inscribed on the tefillin, is that the ז (zayin) in the ש (shin) allude to the seven lobes in man’s lung, by which he draws air and exhales with it a fiery spark from his mouth [since a breath is composed of fire, water, and air, see Sefer Yetsirah §10–§14]. They also allude to the seven days and the weeks from Passover to Shavuot. Also, they allude to the seven branches of the candelabra, on which there are seven holy lamps. They also allude to the seven stars that shine in the firmament and they allude to the seven rungs by which the world is maintained, which are the foundation, root and essence of everything [i.e., the seven planets and seven lower sefirot]. The Companions said about these that whoever wishes to put on the head tefillin has to examine these two שִׁינִין (shinin) hinted in the seven זַיְינִין (zayinin), for hinted in them are hidden mysteries and deep allusions” (Zohar 3:272a–74b, Ra’aya Meheimna Eqev [for various additional customs pertaining to the Sabbath, see Zohar 2:206b–209a; 3:244b (RM)]).

The Great Chain of Being and the Desire to Receive

Ba'al ha-Sullam Portrait

Introduction to the Book of Zohar (33–42), by Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag (Ba’al ha-Sullam).

It is very perplexing that for man—whose worth is but a wisp compared to the reality before us in this world, much less compared to the supernal spiritual worlds—the Creator would go to all the trouble of creating everything for him. And even more perplexing: what does man need all these vast spiritual worlds for?

And you must know that any contentment of our Maker from giving abundantly to His creatures depends on the extent that the creatures sense Him—that He is the giver, and that He is the One who delights them. For then He takes great pleasure in them, as a father playing with his beloved son, to the extent that the son feels and recognizes the greatness and exaltedness of his father, and his father shows him all the treasures he has prepared for him, as is written: ‘Is Ephraim My precious son? Is he a child of delights? For since I spoke against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore My insides yearn for him; I will surely have compassion upon him,’ says YHWH (Jeremiah 31:19) [cf. Tanuma, Tetsaveh 1 ad loc.].

Ponder these words and you may come to know the great delights of the Name, may He be blessed, with those perfect ones that have been granted sensing Him and recognizing His greatness in all those manners He has prepared for them, until they are like a father with his precious son, the delight of his parents. And we need not continue on that, for it is enough for us to know that for this contentment and delight in those perfect ones, it was worth His while to create all the worlds, above and below alike.

To prepare His creatures to attain this exalted rung, the blessed Holy One wished to act on them in a sequence of four rungs, one הַמִתְפַּתֵחַוֹת (hamitpateḥot), evolving, from the other, called: דוֹמֵם צוֹמֵחַ חַי מִדָּבָר (domem, tsomeaḥ, ḥai, midavar), mineral, vegetable, animal, human [lit., mute, growing, living, speaking]. These are, in fact, the four phases of the רָצוֹן לְקַבֵּל (ratson le-qabbel), desire to receive, by which the supernal worlds are categorized. For although the majority of the desire is in the fourth phase of the desire to receive, it is impossible for the fourth phase to appear instantly, but only by its preceding three phases, in which, and through which, it gradually מִתְפַּתֵחַת (mitpateḥat), unfurls, and appears, until it is fully completed in the form of the fourth phase [cf. Rabbi Yosef Albo, Sefer ha-Iqqarim 3:1–6].

In the first phase of the desire to receive, called דוֹמֵם (domem), mineral, the initial manifestation of the desire to receive, in this material world, there was but a general capacity for movement for the whole of the mineral category. But no motion is apparent in its particular elements. This is because the desire to receive, generates needs, and the needs generate movements sufficient to satisfy the needs. And since there is but a minimal desire to receive its effect is only apparent, since it causes general movement, but its effect over the particular elements is indistinguishable.

The צוֹמֵחַ (tsomeaḥ), vegetable, was added to it, which is the second phase of the desire to receive. Its capacity is greater than in the mineral and its desire to receive dominates each and every element because each element has its own potential for movement, expanding through its length and breadth, and moving towards the sun. The matter of eating, drinking, and secretion of waste is apparent in each element too. However, the sensation of freedom and individuality is still absent in them.

Atop this the חַי (ḥai), animal, category was added, which is the third phase of the desire to receive. Its potential is already complete to a great extent, for this desire to receive already generates in each element a sensation of freedom and individuality, which is the life that is unique to each particular element, yet, they still lack the sensation of others; they have no sense of their companion’s distress or happiness and so forth.

Above all the אָדָם (adam), human, was added, the fourth phase of the desire to receive. It is the complete and final measure, and its desire to receive includes the sensation of others as well. And if you wish to know the precise difference between the third phase of the desire to receive, which is in the animal, and the fourth phase of the desire to receive, in the human, I shall tell you that it is like the worth of a single creature compared to the whole of reality.

This is because the desire to receive in the animal, which lacks the sensation of others, can only generate needs and desires to the extent that they are embedded in that creature alone. But man, who can sense others, becomes needy of everything and is thus filled with jealousy to acquire everything that others have too. When he has a hundred, he wants two hundred, and so his needs forever multiply until he wishes to devour the whole world.

Now we have shown that the Creator’s desired goal for all of creation is to benefit His creatures, so they know His truthfulness and greatness, and receive all the delight and pleasure He has prepared for them, in the measure described in the verse: ‘Is Ephraim My precious son? Is he a child of delights?’ (Jeremiah 31:19). Thus, you clearly find that this purpose does not apply to the mineral and the great spheres, such as the earth, the moon, or the sun, however luminous they may be, and not to the vegetable or animal, for they lack the sensation of others, even from among their own species. Therefore, how can the sensation of the Divine and His bestowal apply to them?

Humanity alone, having been prepared with the sensation of others of the same species, who are similar to them, after delving in Torah and mitsvot, when they invert their desire to receive, to a רָצוֹן לְהַשְׁפִּיעַ (ratson le-hashpi’a), desire to give, and come to equivalence of form with their Maker, they receive all the rungs that have been prepared for them in the supernal worlds, called nefesh, ruaḥ, neshamah, ḥaya, yeḥida (being, spirit, soul, living, unique). By that they become qualified to receive the purpose of the Thought of Creation. After all, the purpose of creation of all the worlds was for humanity alone.

And I know that this is totally unaccepted in the eyes of some philosophers. They cannot agree that man, which they think of as low and worthless, is the center of the magnificent Creation. But they are like a worm that is born inside a radish. It lives there and thinks that the world of the Creator is as bitter, as dark, and small as the radish it was born in. But as soon as it breaks the skin of the radish and peeps out, it claims in bewilderment: “I thought the whole world was the size of the radish I was born in, but now I see a grand, beautiful, and wondrous world before me!”

So too are those who are immersed in the shell of the desire to receive they were born with and did not try to take the unique antidote [lit., spice], which is practical Torah and mitsvot, which can break this hard shell and turn it into a desire to give contentment to their Maker. It is certain that they must determine their worthlessness and emptiness, as they truly are, and cannot comprehend that this magnificent reality has been created only for them.

Indeed, had they delved in Torah and mitsvot to give contentment to their Maker, with all the required purity, and would try to break the shell of the desire to receive, they were born with and assume the desire to give, their eyes would immediately open to see and attain for themselves all the rungs of wisdom, intelligence and a clear mind, that have been prepared for them in the spiritual worlds. Then they would themselves say what our Sages said, “What does a good guest say? ‘Everything the host has done, he has done for me alone’” (BT Berakhot 58a).

Yet there still remains to clarify why man would need all the supernal worlds the Creator had created for him? What use has he of them? Bear in mind that the reality of all the worlds is generally divided into five worlds, called: Adam Qadmon (Primordial Man), Atsilut (Emanation), Beri’ah (Creation), Yetsirah (Formation), and Assiyah (Actualization). In each of them are innumerable elements, which are the five sefirot KḤBTM (Keter, Ḥokhmah, Binah, Tif’eret, and Malkhut). The world of Primordial Man is Keter; the world of Emanation is Ḥokhmah; the world of Creation is Binah; the world of Formation is Tif’eret; and the world Actualization is Malkhut.

And the lights clothed in those five worlds are called YḤNRN. The light of yeḥidah shines in the world of Primordial Man; the light of ḥaya in the world of Emanation; the light of neshamah in the world of Creation; the light of ruaḥ in the world of Formation; and the light of nefesh in the world of Actualization.

All these worlds and everything in them are included in the Holy Name, YHWH, and the apex of י (yod). We have no perception in the first world, Primordial Man. Hence, it is only implied in the apex of י (yod) of the Name. This is why we do not speak of it and always mention only the four worlds ABiYA. י (Yod)—the world of Emanation; ה (he)—the world of Creation; ו (vav)—the world of Formation; the final ה (he)—the world of Actualization.

We have now explained the five worlds that include the entire spiritual reality that extends from Infinity to this world. However, they are included in one another, and in each of the worlds there are the five worlds, the five sefirot KḤBTM, in which the five lights, nefesh, ruaḥ, neshamah, ḥaya, yeḥida, are enclothed, corresponding to the five worlds.

And besides the five sefirot, KḤBTM in each world, there are the four spiritual categories—mineral, vegetable, animal, and human. In it, man’s soul is regarded as the human, the animal is regarded as the angels in that world, the vegetable category is called לְבוּשׁים (levushim), garments, and the mineral category is called הֵיכָלוֹת (heikhalot), halls. And they all enclothe one another: the human category, the souls of people, enclothes the five sefirot KḤBTM, which is the godliness in that world. The animal category, which are the angels, enclothes the souls; the vegetable, the garments, enclothe the angels; and the mineral, which are halls, revolve around them all.

The enclothing means that they serve one another and evolve from one another, as we have clarified with the material mineral, vegetable, animal, and human in this world: the three categories—mineral, vegetable, and animal—did not extend for themselves, but only so the fourth category, which is the human, might develop and rise by them. Therefore, their role is only to serve man and be useful to him.

So it is in all the spiritual worlds. The three categories—mineral, vegetable, and animal—appeared there only to serve and be useful to the human category, which is man’s soul. Therefore, it is considered that they all enclothe man’s soul, meaning serve him.

“The theory of evolution accords with the secrets of Kabbalah better than any other theory. Evolution follows a path of ascent and thus provides the world with a basis for optimism. How can one despair, seeing that everything evolves and ascends? When we penetrate the inner nature of evolution, we find divinity illuminated in perfect clarity. Ein Sof generates, actualizes potential infinity” (Rabbi Avraham Kook, Orot ha-Qodesh, 2:537, translated in Matt, The Essential Kabalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism, p. 31).