“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 would praise Rav Safra to the sectarian heretics as a great man, and he was exempted by them from paying taxes for thirteen years. One day they found him and they said to him; ‘It is written: [Hear this word that YHWH has spoken concerning you, O Israelites, concerning the entire clan that I brought up from Egypt, saying:] 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 3:1–2). If one is in anger does one vent it on one’s friend?’ But he was silent and could give them no answer; 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? But he did not [even] know [how] to tell us the explanation of this verse!’ He said, ‘I told you [that he was learned] in 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 frequently with you, set ourselves the task of studying it thoroughly, but others do not study it as carefully.’ They said, ‘Will you then tell us the meaning?’ He said: ‘I will administer a parable: To what can the matter be compared? To a man who is lends money to 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 with vowels]. 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).
“Why are large [bitter] almonds fit for [tithing]? Rabbi Yoḥanan said: Because one can sweeten them in the fire!” (BT Ḥullin 25b).
“You are stationed here today [all of you before YHWH your God, your heads, your tribes, your elders, and your overseers, every man of Israel] (Deuteronomy 29:9:) This is what is said in the verse: הָפוֹךְ (Hafokh), overturn, the wicked and they are gone, but the house of the righteous will stand (Proverbs 12:7)—every time that the blessed Holy One looks at the works of the wicked and מְהַפֵּךְ (mehapek), turns [them] over, they do not remain standing [cf. Zohar 3:136a (IR): ‘Scrutinizing providence, not revealed except when the wicked must be called to account and their deeds examined’]. He looked over the works of the generation of the Flood, and there was no withstanding [it] for them, as is said: And He wiped out all existing things [from the face of the earth, from humans to cattle to crawling things to the fowl of the heavens, they were wiped out from the earth] (Genesis 7:23).
He looked over the works of the Sodomites, and there was no withstanding [it] for them, as is said: And He overthrew all those cities [and all the plain and all the inhabitants of the cities and what grew in the soil] (ibid. 19:25).
He looked over the works of the Egyptians, and there was no withstanding [it] for them, as said,not a single one of them remained (Exodus 14:28).
He looked over the works of Babylon, and there was no withstanding [it] for them, as is said: [And I will rise against them, says YHWH of Armies,] and I will cut off from Babylon name and remnant, kith and kin (Isaiah 14:22).
Of them all David said, There did the doers of mischief fall. They were toppled and could not rise (Psalms 36:13). But Israel falls and stands, as is said: Rejoice not, O my enemy. Though I fall, I will arise. [Though I sit in darkness, YHWH is a light for me] (Micah 7:8)—For I am YHWH, I have not changed [and you, sons of Jacob, have not come to an end] (Malachi 3:6).
Rabbi Ḥanina son of Pappa said: The blessed Holy One said, ‘I have never struck a people repeatedly [i.e., never have a people fallen and risen again], but you, sons of Jacob, have not כְלִיתֶם (kelitem), come to an end, as is said: [I will sweep down evils upon them,] My arrows אֲכַלֶּה (akhalleh), spending, against them [wasted with famine, withered by blight and bitter scourge, and the fang of beasts will I send against them, with the venom of creepers in the dust] (Deuteronomy 32:23–24). My arrows כָּלִין (kalin), are spent, yet [Israel] does not כָּלִים (kalim), come to an end. And so Assembly of Israel said: He bent His bow and stood me up as a target for the arrow. [He drove into my innards the shafts of His quiver] (Lamentations 3:12–13).
A parable: To what can the matter be compared? A man who stood a beam up and shot his arrows at it. The arrows are spent, but the beam stands. Thus with Israel: any time that sufferings overtook them the sufferings ended, and they were [left] standing in their place. As is said, Overturn the wicked and they are gone, [but the house of the righteous will stand].
Hezekiah the son of Rabbi Ḥiyya said, ‘Why is this portion [Nitsavim (Deuteronomy 29:9–30:20)] next to the portion about curses [i.e., Ki Tavo (ibid. 27:11–28:69)]? Because Israel heard a hundred curses less two in this portion, apart from the forty-nine which are mentioned in the priestly Torah [Leviticus]. Immediately their faces turned pale and they said, ‘Who is able to withstand these [curses]?’ Immediately Moses called to them and pacified them: What is written above? And Moses called to all Israel [and said to them, ‘You have seen all that YHWH did before your own eyes in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land….] The great trials [that your own eyes have seen, those great signs and portents….] And you came to this place, [and Sihon king of Heshbon and Og king of the Bashan sallied forth to meet us in battle, and we struck them down] (Deuteronomy 29:1–2, 6). And you did not heed My voice, and you spoke words before Me for which you deserved destruction. Still I did not wreak destruction upon you, when it is said: Our fathers in Egypt did not grasp Your wonders. [They did not call to mind Your many kindnesses and rebelled by the sea, at the Sea of Reeds] (Psalms 106:7). And not only that, but they said of the calf, These are your gods, O Israel, [who brought you up from the land of Egypt](Exodus 32:4).
Now if you should say, ‘Why did the nations deserve destruction, while we remain standing?’ Because when sufferings overtake them, they thwart them and do not recall the name of the blessed Holy One, as is said, Pour out Your wrath on the nations that did not know You [and on the kingdoms that did not call on Your name] (Psalms 79:6). But Israel, when sufferings overtake them, surrender and מִתְפַּלְּלִין (mitpallelin), they pray [lit., make themselves the object of divine intervention], as is said, [The cords of death encircled me— and the straits of Sheol found me]—distress and sorrow did I find. And in the name of YHWH I called. [YHWH, pray, save my life] (ibid. 116:3–4) [cf. Bereishit Rabbah 92:1: ‘Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi said: All sufferings that overcome a man and prevent him from words of Torah are sufferings of rebuke, but sufferings that overcome a man and do not prevent him from words of Torah are sufferings of love. As is written: For whom YHWH loves He rebukes, [and like a father his son, regards him kindly] (Proverbs 3:12)’].
Therefore the blessed Holy One said, ‘Even though these curses overtake you, they stand you up [or: they are your endurance].’ And so He said: [Who feeds you manna in the wilderness, which your fathers did not know,] in order to afflict you and in order to try you, [to make it go well with you in your later time?] (Deuteronomy 8:16). So Moses said to Israel: Even though sufferings overtake you, you have the עֲמִידָה (amidah), Standing Prayer. As is said, You are stationed here today all of you [before YHWH your God] (ibid. 29:9)….
Another interpretation: You are stationed here today—why the day sometimes darkens and sometimes lightens, so it is with you. Although you have darkness, the blessed Holy One is going to shine on you with everlasting light, as said, [No more shall the sun be your light by day, nor the moon’s radiance shine for you,] but YHWH shall be your everlasting light [and your God become your splendor] (Isaiah 60:19). When? When you all become a single אֲגֻדָּה (aguddah), band [or: faction, bunch, bundle], as said, [But you, the ones clinging to YHWH your God,] are all of you alive today (Deuteronomy 4:4). According to the way of the world, if a person takes aguddah, a bunch, of reeds, will he be able to break them in a single stroke? But if he takes them one by one, even a child can break them! And so you find that Israel was not redeemed until they became one bunch, as is said, [In those days and in that time, said YHWH, the Israelites and the Judahites shall come together, [weeping as they walk shall they go, and YHWH their God they shall seek] (Jeremiah 50:4)—when they are united they welcome the face of Shekhinah” (Tanḥuma, Nitsavim 1).
“You shall not תִתְגֹּדְדוּ (titgodedu), gash yourselves (Deuteronomy 14:1)—do not form אֲגֻדּוֹת (aguddot), factions. Rather, be a single אֲגֻדָּה (aguddah), band. And, similarly, He says: He has founded אֲגֻדָּתוֹ (aguddato), His vault, upon earth (Amos 9:6)” (Sifre, Devarim 96).
“And it shall be, if you do not heed the voice of YHWH your God to keep to do all His commands and His statutes that I charge you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you…
Inasmuch as you will not have served YHWH your God in joy and with a good heart out of an abundance of all things, you will serve your enemies whom YHWH will send against you in hunger and in thirst and in nakedness and in the lack of all things, and he will put an iron yoke on your neck until you are destroyed…
And YHWH will bring you back to Egypt in ships, on the way that I said to you, ‘You shall not see it again,’ and you will put yourselves up for sale there to your enemies as male slaves and slavegirls, and there will be no buyer”(Deuteronomy 28:15, 47–48, 68).
“Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai fled to the wilderness of Lydda and hid in a cave—he and his son, Rabbi El’azar. A miracle occurred for them—a carob tree sprouted and a spring of water gushed forth. They ate from the carob tree and drank from the waters. Elijah, of blessed memory, visited them twice daily and taught them, without anyone knowing about it.
One day, the sages were in the beit midrash, questioning and debating: ‘The curses of Leviticus allude to the First Temple, while the curses of Deuteronomy allude to the Second Temple. The curses of Leviticus contain promises and the blessed Holy One’s affection for Israel, as is written: I will remember My covenant with Jacob (Leviticus 26:42), and Yet even this, too—when they are in the land of their enemies, [I will not reject them] (ibid., 44). The curses of Deuteronomy contain no promises nor any consolation at all such as are found in the first curses.’ And none of them could explain it.
Rabbi Yehudah son of Il’ai rose, saying, ‘Woe for the absence of Son of Yoḥai! No on knows his whereabouts; and even if they did, they could not divulge.’
Rabbi Yose son of Rabbi Yehudah arose one morning and saw birds flying—a turtledove trailing them. He stood up, saying, ‘Turtledove! Faithful Turtledove! Since the days of the flood, the form of the holy people has suited you and graced you [because the dove is distinctive among birds in that it does not mate with another bird, should its mate disappear during the season, cf. BT Berakhot 53b]. Go, serve as my messenger to Son of Yoḥai, wherever he is.’ The dove circled around and came before him. He wrote a note, recording what he had said. The dove arose and took it in its mouth, traveling to Rabbi Shim’on, carrying it under her wing [cf. Zohar 1:11b].
Rabbi Shim’on looked at the note and cried—he along with his son Rabbi El’azar. He said, ‘I weep because of our separation from the Companions; and I weep regarding these matters that have not been revealed to them! What will later generations do when they consider this!
Just then, Elijah, of blessed memory, arrived. He saw him weeping, and said, ‘I was ready for a different mission, but the blessed Holy One dispatched me to dry your tears. Oh, Rabbi, Rabbi! Now was not the time to reveal these matters to the righteous, but here is what the blessed Holy One explained. The first curses contain thirty-two verses, all corresponding to the paths of Torah. The latter curses contain fifty-three verses, corresponding to the parashot and routes of the Torah. In the first exile, from the First Temple, Israel passed along those concealed, secret paths. Their sins were revealed and their end was revealed, along with consolation and promises for them. In the latter exile—after the Second Temple—the people of Israel transgressed against fifty-three portions, revealed paths. Their sins were concealed and their ends were concealed—neither promises nor consolation were written [cf. BT Yoma 9b].’
Just then, a wind gusted by, separating them, sweeping Elijah up in a wheel of fire. Rabbi Shim’on remained, weeping. He fell asleep at the opening of the cave. Suddenly Elijah, of blessed memory, came saying, ‘Arise, Rabbi Shim’on! Wake up from your slumber. Happy is your portion, for the blessed Holy One is concerned for your honor! All the promises and consolations of Israel are written in these curses.
Go, see how a king loves his son, and even though he curses and lashes him, his deep love endures. When he displays severe wrath, his compassion for him prevails. Similarly, with the blessed Holy One—even though He curses, His words come from love. In their revealed form they appear to be curses, but they are great boons, because the curses came from love. This contrasts with the first ones, which all derived from harsh judgment. In these there is judgment and love—like a father who loves his son while gripping in his hand a switch for flogging. The child shrieks mightily, creating a din; but the lashes are lessened with love [cf. BT Berakhot 5a].
Most severe of all these curses—What’s more, every illness and every plague that is not mentioned in this Scroll of Torah YHWH will hide from you, that would have caused you to be wiped out (Deuteronomy 28:61). Here are promises of great love from father to son! It is not written יַעֲלֶה (ya’aleh), will bring [upon you], but rather יַעְלֵם (ya’lem), will hide [from you]. He will subdue them and nullify them in a pit—their place—so that they cannot venture forth; rather, they will be subdued and covered in their pit.
Until you are wiped out (ibid.)—which will never, ever happen, for the blessed Holy One took an oath that He would never destroy Israel, and that their memory will endure forever. This is as is written: so shall your seed and your name stand (Isaiah 66:22), and As I live, if the heavens above could be measured… (Jeremiah 31:37). Since it has been sworn by oath that Israel will never, ever be wiped out, it is fitting that plagues and illnesses should be concealed and covered, never emerging to harm them to the extent of annihilation—that will never, ever happen.
The end and conclusion of them all is YHWH will bring you back to Egypt in ships, by a route that I told you, ‘You shall not see it again.’ There you shall offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male slaves and slavegirls, but there will be no buyer (Deuteronomy 28:68)—promises and consolations that the blessed Holy One provides to Israel at the end of days! YHWH will bring you back to Egypt in ships—a promise to return them, and to perform miracles and signs that the blessed Holy One had enacted in Egypt in days of yore. This is as is said: As in the days of your coming out of the land of Egypt, I will show him wonders (Micah 7:15).
בָּאֳנִיּוֹת (Bo-oniyyot), In ships—but here its meaning is as you have said, expounding it as בַּעֲנִיּוּת (ba-aniyyut), in poverty, without a coin in one’s purse [cf. BT Sanhedrin 97a: ‘The (Messiah,) son of David, will not come until… the (last) coin has gone from the purse’]. Everyone in the world is poised to pounce upon Israel, aboard seafaring vessels, intending to annihilate them, but they will all drown in the sea just as was done in olden days, and joy abounded. Here it is written בָּאֳנִיּוֹת רִנָּתָם (bo-oniyyot rinnatam), raising their voice in ships (Isaiah 43:14)—just as joy is there, so is there joy here [cf. Ester Rabbah, Petiḥta 3].
By a route which I told you—since the day that the world was created the might of the blessed Holy One has not been seen in the world, nor the time of favor, other than on that route. For as you see the Egyptians today (Exodus 14:13)—on that same route, in that very manner, so shall He do for you.
Further, they will gather afterward from all sides against Israel, and the people of Israel will think then that they will be eliminated—sold to their foes—as is written: There you shall offer yourselves for sale. It is not written you shall be sold, but rather you shall offer yourselves for sale—in your hearts you will imagine that you have been sold. But this will not occur—it is written: none will buy. And there will be none who shall rule over them.
All this will occur at the end of days; and it is all dependent upon teshuvah. But it is all concealed, as is written: in order that you may prosper in all that you do (Deuteronomy 29:8)—one who has a heart should contemplate and will know to return to his Lord [on teshuvah as a prerequisite for redemption, see JT Ta’anit 1:1, 63d; BT Sanhedrin 97b; Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 43; Tanḥuma, Beḥuqqotai 3; Tanḥuma (Buber), Beḥuqqotai 5; Zohar 1:117b; 2:188b–189a; ZḤ 8a, 23c (both MhN)].
Rabbi Shim’on asked, ‘Where is Israel’s redemption revealed among these curses?’
Elijah replied, ‘Examine carefully and see the most horrific instance of them all—that is where it appears.’ He examined carefully, and found the verse Your life will dangle before you, and you will be terrified night and day and will have no faith in your life (Deuteronomy 28:66). Even though there are those who know that time, life dangles before them, and they are uncertain—even though this is the essence, and the words endure.
In the evening, Rabbi Shim’on wrote a note and placed it in the mouth of the turtledove, which journeyed back to Rabbi Yose—who had stayed put, his eyes expectant. Upon spotting [the dove], he said, ‘Turtledove, Turtledove, you are the most faithful bird in the skies!’ He proclaimed of it: the dove came back to him at eventide; and look, a plucked off olive leaf was in its bill (Genesis 8:11). He took the note and went to the Companions. He showed it to them, and they were astonished.
Rabbi Yehudah wept, saying, ‘Alas! Even though we do not know his whereabouts, the place where the tree falls, there it will be (Ecclesiastes 11:3) [cf. BT Bekhorot 57b; Eikhah Rabbah 1:37]. Where Son of Yoḥai is found, his companions are there with him, awakened by him, learning from him. Happy is the soul of Son of Yoḥai, for the blessed Holy One has performed miracles with him; he has decreed, and the blessed Holy One has fulfilled! [cf. BT Mo’ed Qatan 16b; Zohar 3:15a]. In the future, he will be the head of the righteous ones who sit in the Garden of Eden; he will receive the face of the Shekhinah and will see the blessed Holy One. Delighting with the righteous ones, he will call to them: Come, let us bow down kneel; let us bend the knee before YHWH our Maker (Psalms 95:6)’” (Zohar Ḥadash 59c–60a).
“Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi met Elijah at the opening of the cave of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai [cf. 1 Kings 19:8–9]. 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 [i.e., the Shekhinah (Rashi)].’ He then asked him, ‘When will the Messiah come?’ ‘Go and ask him himself,’ he replied. ‘Where is he sitting?’ He said, ‘At the portal of the city of Rome.’ ‘And by what sign may I recognize him?’ He said, ‘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. ‘When will you come Master?’ he asked, ‘Today,’ he replied. On his returning to Elijah, he asked, ‘What did he say to you?’ ‘Peace be upon you Son of Levi,’ he replied. [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)” (BT Sanhedrin 98a).
“The Rabbis said: [The Messiah,] his name is חִיוָּורָא רַב (ḥivvara rav), Achingly White, as is written, [Despised and shunned by people, a man of sorrows and visited by illness. And like one from whom the gaze is averted, despised, and we reckoned him naught.] 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., the Messiah is as הַמְּצֹרָע (ha-metsora), the one afflicted with skin blanch—he is called unclean and dwells outside the camp (Rashi)]” (BT Sanhedrin 98b).
And the person afflicted with skin blanch, in whom the affliction is, his clothes shall be torn and his hair disheveled, and his moustache he shall cover, and he shall call out, “Unclean! Unclean!” All the days that the affliction is on him he shall remain unclean. He is unclean. He shall dwell apart. Outside the camp shall his dwelling be(Leviticus 13:45–46).
Indeed, he has borne our illness, and our sorrows he has carried. But we had reckoned him plagued, God-stricken and tormented. Yet he was wounded for our crimes, crushed for our transgressions. The chastisement that restored our well-being he bore, and through his bruising we were healed(Isaiah 53:4–5).
“This shall be the teaching concerning הַמְּצֹרָע (ha-metsora), the one afflicted with skin blanch—הַמוֹצִיא רָע (ha-motsi ra), the one who utters evil. Rabbi Ḥiyya said, ‘If anyone produces evil speech, all his limbs are defiled and he deserves to be confined, for that evil word rises and arouses an impure spirit upon him, defiling him” (Zohar 3:53a).
“Yet he who [continually] declares [others] unclean is [himself] unclean and never speaks in praise [of people]. And Shemu’el said: With his own blemish he stigmatizes [others] as unclean” (BT Qiddushin 70a).
“When [the souls in the Garden of Eden below roam on every new moon and Sabbath] they tell the Messiah about the suffering of Israel in exile and about the wicked among them who do not seek to know their Lord, he weeps aloud over the wicked, as is written: But he was wounded for our sins, crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5). Those souls return and stand in their places.
In the Garden of Eden there is one chamber called the Chamber of the Ill. The Messiah then enters that chamber and calls for all the illnesses, all the pains, and all the sufferings of Israel to come upon him, and they all do so. And if he did not ease them off of Israel, taking them upon himself, no one could endure the sufferings of Israel from the punishments of Torah, as is written: Yet it was our sickness that he was bearing (Isaiah 53:4). Similarly, Rabbi El’azar on earth [see BT Bava Metsi’a 83b–84b].
For innumerable are the sufferings looming over a person every day, all of which descended into the world at the time when Torah was given. When the people of Israel were in the Holy Land, they eliminated all those illnesses and sufferings from the world through rituals and sacrifices. Now, the Messiah removes them from inhabitants of the world, until a person departs from this world and receives punishment, as has been said. Except for the extremely wicked, who are sent deep within Hell, into those other compartments, where they are punished severely for the extreme filth of the soul; then intense fire is kindled to consume that filth. Woe to the soul who suffers that punishment! Furthermore, angels of destruction harass them with rods of fire to shake out that filth. Woe to the soul who suffers that punishment! Happy are those who keep the commandments of Torah!” (Zohar 2:212a, cf. Zohar Ḥadash 56c).
For this command which I charge you today is not too wondrous for you nor is it distant. It is not in the heavens, to say, “Who will go up for us to the heavens and take it for us and let us hear it, that we may do it?” And it is not beyond the sea, to say, “Who will cross over for us beyond the sea and take it for us and let us hear it, that we may do it?” But the word is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it (Deuteronomy 30:11–14).
You are good and do good. Teach me Your statutes. The arrogant plaster me with lies—I with whole heart keep Your decrees. Their heart grows dull like fat—as for me, in Your teaching I delight. It was good for me that I was afflicted, so that I might learn Your statutes. Better for me Your mouth’s teaching than thousands of pieces of silver and gold (Psalms 119:68–72).
“Rabbi Abba said, ‘Yose, my son, I will tell you what happened to me with the Holy Lamp [Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai]. One day we were walking in the valley of Ono, delving into Torah that whole day. Due to the intensity of the sun, we sat ourselves down in the cleft of a certain rock [this recalls the cleft of the rock where God revealed His back to Moses (Exodus 33:22–23). Similarly, here, a profound mystery is revealed: the suffering of the righteous]. I said to him, ‘How is it that whenever the wicked proliferate in the world, the righteous among them are smitten on their account? For we have learned as follows: ‘For a generation’s חוֹבָא (ḥova), sin [lit., liability, debt], the righteous are seized.’ Why? If because they do not reprimand the world for their deeds, well, there are many who do reprimand but are not heeded, and the righteous are overwhelmed by them. And if it is so that there will be no one to protect the world, then let them not die and not be seized for the sins [of the world], since the righteous find joy in the destruction [of the wicked].’
He replied, ‘For a generation’s sin, the righteous are surely seized, and we have established these matters. But when the righteous are seized with illness or afflictions, it is in order to atone for the world; then all sins of the generation are purged. How do we know this? From all members of the body. When all the members are in distress—grave illness prevailing over them—one member must suffer so that all of them may be healed. Which one is it? The arm. The arm is struck and blood is drawn from it, and then all members of the body are healed.
Similarly, inhabitants of the world are bodily members, interlinked. When the blessed Holy One wishes to grant healing to the world, He strikes one righteous person among them, and through him provides healing to all. How do we know this? As is written: But he was wounded for our sins, crushed for our iniquities, and by his wound we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). And by his wound—bloodletting, like someone letting blood from his arm. By that wound we are healed—healing comes to us, to all members of the body.
Never is a righteous person smitten except to provide healing to the generation and to atone for them. This is the mystery of ‘a righteous one who suffers,’ for the Other Side prefers most of all that Judgment should overwhelm a righteous one—for then he does not care about the whole world and ignores them because of the joy of dominating him [cf. Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 1a–b]. Yet that righteous person attains supreme dominion in this world and in the world that is coming. As for ‘a righteous one who prospers,’ this is because the blessed Holy One does not care to atone for the world’” (Zohar 3:217b–18b).
“Rabbi Me’ir said, ‘When a person is in distress, what expression does the Shekhinah say? As it were: My head is lighter, my arm is lighter [a euphemism for feeling heaviness and pain].’
If so for the Omnipresent in distress on account of the blood of the wicked when it is shed, how much more so on account of the blood of the righteous!” (M Sanhedrin 6:5).
“We learned in the primary compisition: ‘The Other Side prefers most of all that Judgment should overwhelm a righteous one—for then he does not care about the [debts owed him by the] whole world and ignores them’ (Zohar 3:218a) [cf. Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 1a–b]. While [the Companions] were still discussing, a shade [the spirit of Rabbi Pinḥas son of Ya’ir] came upon them and asked: ‘How do we know? We know from Job. For the blessed Holy One, saw that generation was deserving of annihilation, and when the adversary came to denounce, the blessed Holy One said to him: Have you paid heed to My servant Job, for there is none like him on earth (Job 1:8) in order to save the whole generation through him. The matter can be likened to a shepherd when a wolf comes to devour his flock and destroy them. Being wise, what does the shepherd do? He gives the wolf a lamb that is stronger, fatter, and larger than the others, the leader of the flock, and the wolf, out of his desire to have control over the lamb, forgets about the rest of the flock. What does the shepherd do next? While the wolf is preoccupied with that lamb, he flees with the flock and brings them to safety. Later, he returns to the lamb and saves it from the wolf.
This is exactly what the blessed Holy One, did with the generation. He offered the righteous one for indictment in order to save the generation on his account. And if, like Jacob, he is strong, the verse says of him: and a man wrestled with him (Genesis 32:25). This is even more the case when he overcomes, until he says: Let me go (ibid., 27).’ He said: ‘O Shade! O Shade! It certainly must be so. Happy is the portion of that righteous man who is strong in suffering afflictions, and how much more so the one who, by means of his [afflictions], manages to overcome his denouncer who has his control over the whole generation, and it is accounted to him as though he had rescued them, and the blessed Holy One, appoints him as shepherd over them in place [of the adversary]. This was how the Faithful Shepherd [Moses] came to be the shepherd over Israel, and not only that, but he will lead them in the next world. And this was because he saved them that they should not be lost, for he guided them in Torah and mitsvot.’
While they were yet talking, the Faithful Shepherd himself came and said to them: ‘And why was the right arm afflicted? The way of all physicians is to draw blood initially from the right arm. Since the left arm is the one that is nearer the heart, why is blood not let from it [i.e., why is it that one righteous man is afflicted and not another (Sullam), cf. BT Mo’ed Qatan 28a]?’ He answered: ‘Because the blessed Holy One, does not wish overly to strike, and one suffices. But if the bile is serious and spreads throughout the members of the body, blood is drawn from the left arm [too].’
He said to him: ‘If the two of them were not [afflicted] at the same time, that would be fine, but what about the case of the two righteous men, one of whom suffers from diseases and troubles, while the other is treated with kindness? Why is it that if the bile spread, blood is not drawn from both of them who are the two arms, so that healing may be given to all members. And in the case where the bile does not become more serious, and does not spread throughout the members of the body, why is more blood let from the right arm than from the left?’ He said to him: ‘Why don’t you give the answer?’
‘Certainly the body and the two arms correspond to the three Patriarchs and the head to אָדָם קַדְמָאָה (adam qadma’ah), Primordial Man—the right arm corresponds to Abraham and the left arm corresponds to Isaac, the body corresponds to Jacob. Within the body, the liver is to the right, the spleen to the left—Esau and Ishmael. The heart is Jacob in the center. The lungs and kidneys correspond to Abraham and Isaac. Lungs—water—draw in all sorts of elixirs; kidneys—fire—cook the seed that descends from the brain.
And since Abraham [Ḥesed] is ‘water’ he places his children in the exile of Edom. This is why the liver and the gall that is in the liver are to the right of Abraham. [Edom’s] sword is the מְרֵרָה (mererah), gall, of which it is said: But in the end she’s as מָרָה (marah), bitter, as wormwood [sharp as a double-edged sword] (Proverbs 5:4) [cf. BT Avodah Zarah 20b]. And if the liabilities become greater in number among the children of Abraham, who are placed in the exile of Edom, and the מַרְעֵיהּ (mareih), bile, spreads over them from the side of the liver, they must be smitten and blood has to be drawn from the right arm. And ‘Whoever has his money taken is as though his blood was spilled’ (BT Bava Metsi’a 58b), for he remains poor, and a poor man is considered as dead [see BT Shabbat 129a–b; Gittin 70a. Cf. Zohar 3:227a (RM)].
But if the liabilities become greater in number among the children of Isaac they are exiled among Ishmael [see Zohar 2:17a (MhN)]. The bile spreads from the side of the spleen, on the left. And blood has to be drawn from the left arm, and not from any other.
And if liabilities become greater in number amongst the children of Jacob, who are scattered among the children of Esau and Ishmael, then the bile spreads over the body and blood has to be drawn from both arms [cf. Zohar 3:246a]. But if all three of them are afflicted as one, the bile then rises to the head and blood must be drawn from veins of the head. And these three became a chariot for Primordial Man and the Patriarchs, and acquire from them strength to suffer torments and protect the generation throughout the four directions of the world.
Woe to the generation that causes the Patriarchs and Primordial Man to be struck, for this includes also the righteous amongst them, for there is no difference between Primordial Man and the Righteous One and the Patriarchs and Primordial Man. This is because these are their נִשְׁמָתִין (nishmatin), souls, and their illnesses, pains, and sufferings reach the Patriarchs and Man. Just as when a number of rivers flow out from the Sea and return to Her murky and dirty, but the Sea removes their murkiness and dirtiness. And because of the Sea’s valor, for She is strong, She does not suffer from their filth, but expels it, and the rivers remain clear and pure, without that filth. Just as a mother cleans dirt from her little ones. Indeed, the Patriarchs remove the liabilities and the filth from their children, Israel, when there are people of righteous deeds among them who are strong enough to suffer torments for the sake of the generation [on the merit of the Patriarchs, see BT Shabbat 55a; BT Rosh ha-Shanah 11a. On the expending of an individual’s merits, see BT Shabbat 32a; Ta’anit 20b]. At that time there is no difference between them [namely, the righteous of the generation and the Patriarchs].’ They all came and greeted him [Moses the Faithful Shepherd] and said to him: ‘Sinai! Sinai! Through whose mouth the blessed Holy One and His Shekhinah speak. Who is able to challenge Him in anything? Happy is our portion that we have merited to renew matters in the primary compostion [of Zohar] through you, so that the Shekhinah may give light in exile.’
He said to them: ‘Rabbis of every generation, those who have been [or will be] during their time, and how much more so the Holy Lamp whose wisdom will shine in all the generations that come after him: do not give the blessed Holy One, quiet in Torah until the Holy Spirit is poured out on us.’ …
None but you [Moses, Faithful Shepherd,] may employ great מְטַטְרוֹן שַׂר הַפָּנִים (Metatron Sar ha-Panim), Metatron, Prince of the Countenance, since your name [מֹשֶׁה (Moshe), Moses] is intimated in the initials of his.
And now there is need of a physician to know by how many degrees the pulse of the patient, Israel, has increased in the exile of Edom, for it is said of him I am in a feverof love (Song of Songs 5:8). For a number of physicians gathered over him to check the pulse in order to know when his illness would come to an end, but not one of them could understand them, for no physician is competent to read the pulse of this particular patient, for there are beats of Teqiah Shevarim Teru’ah Teqiah, Teqiah Shevarim Teqiah, Teqiah Teru’ah Teqiah, as the prophet said of them: Like a woman with child, that draws near the time of her delivery, is in pain, and cries out in her pangs (Isaiah 26:17).
And all the ten shofar blasts are included in three תְּקִיעָה שְׁבָרִים תְּרוּעָה (Teqiah Shevarim Teru’ah). תְּקִיעָה (Teqiah)—the length of the exile. שְׁבָרִים (Shevarim), Moaning—the proximity of the exile. תְּרוּעָה (Teru’ah), Wailing Alarm—the coming redemption; teaching of the strain after strain with no relief between them [cf. BT Rosh ha-Shanah 33b–34a; BT Sanhedrin 96b]. And clearly, since the other nations make Israel’s exile more difficult, it is the strain that they exert that brings redemption closer. And so too in our case of the patient’s pulse: beats come faster, one after the other, with no space between them, and the man’s נַפְשָׁא (nafsha), soul [or: breath], leaves him.
קשר״ק קש״ק קר״ק (Teqiah ShevarimTeru’ah,TeqiahTeqiah Shevarim, TeqiahTeqiah Teru’ah, Teqiah)—קֶשֶׁר (qesher), conspiracy, to remove שֶׁקֶר (sheqer), falsehood, from the world [cf. BT Rosh ha-Shanah 16b]. Concerning this was the oath: מִלְחָמָה לַיהוָה בַּעֲמָלֵק (milḥamah la-Adonai ba-Amaleq),War for YHWH against Amalek for all time [the intial letters of which are numerically equivalent to ע״ב (seventy-two), cf. TZ 67a; TZḤ 115a] (Exodus 17:16). A simple, double, triple and quadruple song will arise in the world, where the letters [יהוה (YHWH)] will ascend: י יה יהו יהוה (Y YH YHW YHWH) [numerically equivalent to seventy-two, cf. Ibn Ezra on Genesis 4:19]. At that time [the prayer] will be answered: ‘וּבְכֵן (U-vekhen), and therefore, the righteous shall see and be glad, the upright exult and the pious rejoice in song’ (Amidah for the Days of Awe). This additional ו״ (six) [of ‘וּבְכֵן (U-vekhen)’ alludes to]—the Sixth Millennium. The Second Temple was destroyed קע״ב (one hundred and seventy-two) years before [the Sixth Millennium]. And following the completion of רע״ב (two hundred and seventy-two), as in the verse, At עֶרֶב (erev), evening,you shall know that it was YHWH who brought you out [of the land of Egypt] (Exodus 16.6). Also, For your servant became עָרַב (arev), pledge, for the lad (Genesis 44:32) [‘you should know that all these dates mentioned in the Zohar refer to an arousal from above, which occur at these times for redemption, however, certainly it depends on the people’s actions and repentance’ (Sullam)]” (Zohar 3:219a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).
“צוּר עוֹלָמִים (Tsur olamim), Everlasting Rock (Isaiah 26:4), חֵי הָעוֹלָם (Ḥei ha-olam), Vitality of the World (Daniel 12:7), יוֹצֵר בְּרֵאשִׁית (yotser bereshit), Fashioner of the Beginning, Reviver of the Dead, who is our life and our sustained existence, our merit, our help, and our drawing near, to praise Your name. Blessed are You Lord, God of praises” (JT Berakhot 1:5, 10b).
And it happened after these things that Godtested Abraham. And He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ and he said, ‘Here I am.’ And He said, ‘Take, pray, your son, your only one, whom you love, Isaac, and go forth to the land of Moriahand offer him up as a burnt offering, on one of the mountains which I shall say to you.’ And Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey and took his two lads with him, and Isaac his son, and he split wood for the offering, and rose and went to the place that God had said to him (Genesis 22:1–3).
“Abraham our father was tested with ten trials and he withstood all of them, to make known how great is His love for our father Abraham” (M Avot 5:3).
“It came to pass after these things that God נִסָּה (nissah), tested, Abraham (Genesis 22:1). It is written: You have given נֵּס (nes),a banner, to those in awe of You לְהִתְנוֹסֵס (le-hitnoses),to be unfurled (Psalms 60:6)—trial upon trial, elevation above elevation, to test them in the world, to elevate them in the world like a ship’s banner” (Bereshit Rabbah 55:1).
“And He said to him, ‘Abraham!Take, pray, your son (Genesis 22:2). And Abraham, having pity upon Isaac, said before Him: Master of all Worlds concerning which son do You decree upon me? Is it concerning the son lacking circumcision, or the son born for circumcision? He answered him: Your only one. He rejoined: This one is the only son of his mother, and the other son is the only son of his mother. He said to him: whom you love. He said to Him: I love both of them. He said to him: Isaac” (Bereshit Rabbah 31:38).
“And what is the purpose [of the Binding]? אֶמֶת (Emet), truth: in order that the equity of God’s justice may be מְאוּמָת (me’umat), verified, in the world. Thus, if one says, ‘Whom He wishes to enrich, He enriches; to impoverish, He impoverishes; whom He desires, He makes a king; when He wished, He made Abraham wealthy, and when He wished He made him king,’ then you can answer, ‘Can you do what Abraham did?’ Abraham was a hundred years old when Isaac his son was born to him (Genesis 21:5). And after all this anguish [i.e., Sarah’s childlessness], it was said to him, ‘Take your son…’ (Genesis 22:2). And he did not refuse.
Rabbi Yonatan said, ‘A potter does not test a weak vessel, for if he hits it just once, he will break it….’ Rabbi Yose son of Ḥaninah said, ‘When a flax maker knows that the flax is in good shape, then the more he beats it, the more it will improve and glisten….’ Rabbi El’azar said, ‘The matter may be compared to a householder who has two heifers, one strong, one weak. On whom does he place the yoke? So the blessed Holy One does not try the wicked but the righteous: YHWH probes the righteous (Psalms 11:5)….
One said, ‘I am more beloved than you, for I was circumcised when I was thirteen years old.’ The other said, ‘I am more beloved than you, for I was circumcised sooner, namely, on the eighth day.’ Ishmael said to him, ‘I am more beloved than you, because I could have objected but didn’t.’ At that moment Isaac said, ‘Would the blessed Holy One appear to me and tell me to cut off one of my limbs I would not object.’ The blessed Holy One said to him, ‘If I should tell you to offer yourself up to Me, you would not refuse’” (Bereshit Rabbah 55:1–4).
“[And Abraham made a great feast on the day Isaac was weaned (Genesis 21:8)]—the adversary said to the Almighty, ‘Master of the Universe! To this old man did You graciously vouchsafe the fruit of the womb at the age of a hundred, yet of all that banquet which he prepared, he did not have one turtle-dove or pigeon to sacrifice to You! He only acted in honour of his son! Rabbi Shim’on son of Abba said: [Take,] pray, [your son, your only one, whom you love, Isaac…] (Genesis 22:2)—נָא (na), pray, can only denote entreaty. This may be compared to a king of flesh and blood who was confronted by many wars, which he won by the aid of a great warrior. Subsequently he was faced with a severe battle. Thereupon he said to him, ‘I pray you assist me in battle that people may not say, there was no reality in the earlier ones.’ So also did the blessed Holy One say to Abraham, ‘I have tested you with many trials and you withstood them all. Now, be firm, for My sake in this trial, that men may not say, there was no reality in the earlier ones….’
[The adversary said to Abraham on his way to Mount Moriah:] Look, youreproved many, and slack hands you strengthened. The stumbler your words lifted up, and bended knees you bolstered. But now it comes to you and you cannot stand it, it reaches you and you are dismayed (Job 4:2–5). He replied, I will walk in my wholeness (Psalms 26:2). ‘But,’ said [the adversary] to him, Is not your reverence your safety? (Job 4:6). ‘Remember,’ he retorted, What innocent man has died? (ibid.). Seeing that he [Abraham] would not listen, he said to him, And to me came a word in secret (ibid., 12) thus have I heard from behind the curtain, ‘the lamb will be for a burnt-offering, while Isaac will not be the burnt-offering.’ He [Abraham] replied, ‘It is the penalty of a liar, that should he even tell the truth, he is not listened to’” (BT Sanhedrin 89b, cf. Midrash Vayyosha 1:36).
“וַיְהִי (Vayhi), it came to pass, after these דְּבָרִים (devarim), things (Genesis 22:1). Rabbi Shim’on said: We have learned that the expression It came to pass in the days of denotes sorrow, while the phrase וַיְהִי (Vayhi), it came to pass—even without in the days of—is tinged with sorrow [see BT Megillah 10b; Bereshit Rabbah 41 (42):3].
It came to pass after—the lowest of all upper rungs. Who is that? דְּבָרִים (Devarim) [Shekhinah], as is said: I am not a man of דְּבָרִים (devarim), words (Exodus 4:10) [at the beginning of his career, Moses was heavy of mouth and heavy of tongue (Exodus 4:10), not yet filled with the divine word, not yet intimate with Shekhinah]. Who came after this rung? And Elohim tested Abraham (Genesis, ibid.) for the evil impulse came to accuse in the presence of the blessed Holy One. Here we should contemplate: Elohim tested Abraham. The verse should read: tested Isaac, since Isaac was already thirty-seven years old, and his father was no longer responsible for him. If Isaac had said, ‘I refuse,’ his father would not have been punished. So why is it written, Elohim tested Abraham, and not Elohim tested Isaac?
But Abraham, precisely! For he had to be encompassed by judgment [or: crowned by rigor], since previously Abraham had contained no judgment at all. Now water was embraced by fire. Abraham had been incomplete until now, when he was crowned to execute judgment, arraying it in its realm. His whole life long he had been incomplete until now, when water was completed by fire, fire by water.
So Elohim tested Abraham—not Isaac—calling him to be embraced by judgment. When he did so, fire entered water, becoming complete. One was judged, one executed judgment—encompassing one another. Therefore the evil impulse came to accuse Abraham, who was incomplete until he executed judgment upon Isaac. For the evil impulse appears after דְּבָרִים (devarim), coming to accuse.
Come and see the mystery of the word: Although we have said that Abraham is written, not Isaac, Isaac is encompassed by this verse through the mysterious wording: Elohim tested אֶת (et) Abraham. It is not written tested לְאַבְרָהָם (le-Avraham), Abraham, but rather נִסָּה אֶת אַבְרָהָם (nissah et-Avraham)—tested et Abraham, precisely! This is Isaac, for at that time he dwelled in low power. As soon as he was bound on the altar, initiated into judgment fittingly by Abraham, he was crowned in his realm alongside Abraham—fire and water encompassing one another, ascending. Then division became apparent: water versus fire.
Who would have created a compassionate father who turned cruel? It was only so that division would manifest: water versus fire, crowned in their realms, until Jacob appeared, and everything harmonized—triad of patriarchs completed above, and below arrayed….
Isaac said to Abraham his father, My father!… (Genesis 22:7). Why didn’t he answer him at all? Because he had withdrawn from a father’s mercy for his son, so it is written: Here I am my son (ibid.). Here I am—mercy [i.e., Abraham (Ḥesed)] has vanished, transformed into judgement [i.e., Isaac (Gevurah)]. Abraham said, and it is not written: His father said, for he did not appear as a father but rather as an adversary” (Zohar 1:119b–120a, TZ 139a).
“Son honors his father—Isaac to Abraham. When did he honor him? When he bound him on the altar, intending to offer him up as a sacrifice. Isaac was thirty-seven years old, while Abraham was an old man, so if he had kicked with one foot he could not have withstood him. Yet he honored his father, allowing himself to be bound like a lamb to fulfill his father’s will” (Zohar 1:103a).
Do not reach out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him, for now I know that you fear God and you have not held back your son, your only one, from Me (Genesis 22:12).
“A leafy olive tree beautiful with shapely fruit; amid the sound of great commotion He has set fire to it and its branches were broken (Jeremiah 11:16). Yehoshu’a son of Levi said: Just as the olive tree’s leaves do not fall neither in winter or summer so too Israel will always remain in this and the world to come [cf. Zohar 1:116a]….
Why is Israel compared to an olive? To teach that just as the olive does not produce its oil until it is crushed, so too Israel does not return except through suffering” (BT Menakhot 53b).
“Rabbi Shim’on son of Laqish said: Covenant is mentioned with regards to salt, and covenant is said with regard to suffering: Covenant is said with regards to salt, as is written: And every offering of your grain you shall season with salt (Leviticus 2:13). Covenant is said with regard suffering, as is written: [And it shall be, if you do not heed the voice of YHWH your God to keep to do all His commands and His statutes that I charge you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you… (Deuteronomy 28:15).] These are the words of the Covenant (ibid., 69). Just as the covenant said with regard to salt, the salt sweetens meat, so too the covenant mentioned with regard to suffering, the suffering washes away all the crimes of man.
It has been taught: Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai says: The blessed Holy One gave Israel three precious gifts, and all of them were given only through suffering: Torah, the land of Israel, and the World that is Coming. How do we know this of Torah? As is said: Happy the man whom Yah chastises, and whom מִתּוֹרָתְךָ (mitoratekha), from His teaching, He instructs (Psalms 94:12). The land of Israel—as is written: As a man chastises his son YHWH your God chastises you (Deuteronomy 8:5), and after that it is written: For YHWH your God is about to bring you to a goodly land (ibid.). The World that is Coming—as is written: For a mitsvah a lamp and a teaching a light, and the way of life—stern rebukes (Proverbs 6:23)” (BT Berakhot 5a).
“Rav Ami said: There is no death without sin, and there is no suffering without crime. There is no death without sin, as is written, The soul that sins, she shall die. The son shall not bear the crime of the father, neither shall the father bear the crime of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him (Ezekiel 18:20). There is no suffering without crime, as is written, I will requite their crime with the rod, and with plagues, their wrongdoing (Psalms 89:33)” (BT Shabbat 55a).
“Rava (some say, Rav Ḥisda) says: If a man sees that painful sufferings have befallen him, let him examine his deeds. For it is said: Let us search and examine our ways, and turn again to YHWH (Lamentations 3:40). If he examines and finds nothing [objectionable], let him attribute it to the neglect of Torah. For it is said: Happy the man whom Yah chastises, and whom from His teaching He instructs (Psalms 94:12). If he did attribute it [thus], and still did not find [this to be the cause], let him be sure that these are chastenings of love [see Zohar 1:180b, 181a]. For it is said: For whom YHWH loves He rebukes (Proverbs 3:12).
Rava, in the name of Rav Seḥora, in the name of Rav Huna, says: If the blessed Holy One is pleased with a man, he crushes him with painful sufferings. For it is said: YHWH delights in crushing him by disease (Isaiah 53:10). Now, you might think that this is so even if he did not accept them with love. Therefore it is said: to see if his soul would offer itself as a trespass-offering (ibid.). Even as the trespass-offering must be brought by consent, so also the sufferings must be endured with consent. And if he did accept them, what is his reward? He shall see his seed, He shall prolong his days (ibid.). And more than that, his learning will endure, as is said: and the will of YHWH shall prosper in his hand (ibid.)” (BT Berakhot 5a).
“When the blessed Holy One delights in the righteous, what is written? YHWH delights in crushing him by disease (Isaiah 53:10). This has been established, but the reason is that the delight of the blessed Holy One focuses only on soul, not on body; for soul resembles soul, while body is incapable of uniting above—even though the body’s image abides in supernal mystery” (Zohar 1:140b).
“When the human was created, what is written? You clothed me in skin and flesh (Job 10:11). What then is the human if not skin and flesh, and bones and sinews? But surely the human being is nothing but soul! And these that we have mentioned—skin, flesh, bones, and sinews are all merely a garment; they are a person’s clothing not the human. And when a person departs, he is stripped of those garments that he is wearing” (Zohar 2:76a).