The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: יָם

π: A Line of Thirty Cubits Going all Around

hiram_allas_salomon_temppeli_brazen_sea_574“’Whatever has a circumference of three handspans is one handspan in diameter’ (Mishnah). Is it so? Rabbi Yoḥanan said: The verse says: And he made the cast metal sea ten cubits from edge to edge, circular all around, and five cubits in height and a line of thirty cubits going all around (1 Kings 7:23). But surely there was its brim? Rav Papa replied: Its brim, [was merely] like the petal of a lily, as is written: its thickness was a handspan, and its rim like the design of a cup’s rim, blossom and lily, two thousand bats did it hold (ibid., 26) [the bat is a relatively large unit of liquid measure, but the precise quantity is uncertain]. But there was [still] a fraction at least? When it was reckoned it was that of the inner circumference [this is the only instance where a doubt is raised in the Talmud in connection with a mathematical statement, proving that the Rabbis were well aware of a more exact ratio between the diameter and circumference; the ratio of 1:3 was accepted by the Rabbis simply as a workable number for religious purposes, cf. BT Eruvin 76a; Sukkah 7b]” (BT Eruvin 14a).

“Rabbi Abba opened, saying, ‘He made the sea (1 Kings 7:23), and it is written: Standing upon twelve oxen: three facing north, three facing west, three facing south, and three facing east, with the sea set upon them above… (ibid., 25), and it is written: the twelve oxen underneath the sea (ibid., 44). Standing upon twelve oxen—certainly so! For this sea [Shekhinah] is arrayed by twelve in two worlds: by twelve above, appointed by chariots; by twelve below, twelve tribes” (Zohar 1:241a).

Just as Big Fish Swallow Up Small Fish

Talmud Teacher

Tanna’im and Amora’im, you come from the aspect of the qualities of the blessed Holy One. You have labored much to purify my daughter the Halakhah [Malkhut] from the husks of the mixed multitude, which are the evil questions that cannot be interpreted or explained away. Of them it says: The crooked cannot תְקֹן (teqon), turn, straight nor can the lack be counted (Ecclesiastes 1:15). But תִּיקוּ (tiqu), ‘It is undecided,’ applies to them [a phrase employed in the Gemara and interpreted as an acronym: תִּשְׁבִּי יְתָרֵץ קֻשְׁיוֹת וְאִבַּעְיוֹת (Tishbi yetarets qushyot ve-iba’eyot), the Tishbite (i.e., Elijah) will resolve difficult questions and problems]. Anything undecided concerning a prohibition is handled as a stricture. It is a תִּיקּוּן (tiqqun), correction, without final ן (nun), [indicating] it can not be corrected, since it lacks final ן (nun), which is the World that is Coming [namely, Binah and Her ן״ (fifty) gates]. For תִּיקוּ (tiqu), undecided, in the World that is Coming is שְׁתִיקָה (shetiqah), silence, as in ‘שְׁתוֹק (shetoq), Silence! For so it arose in thought.’

There are questions that are the garments of the Halakhah of which it says filigree of gold—as is written: All the princess’s treasure is pearls, filigree of gold her raiment. [In embroidered stuff she is led to the king, maidens in train, her companions] (Psalms 45:14). You [Amorai’m], cut into several legal sentences and later fix and explain them away using various arguments.

If one chapter of the Mishnah is missing, and it has been maintained that something is missing from the Mishnah, you מְתַקְּנִין (me-taqqnin), repair it. [For example, where it is stated in the Gemara: ‘A clause has been omitted, for this is the way we have learned it’] such is a lack that can be counted. If a simpleton comes and spreads an evil report of the craftsman that cuts the garments, saying: The Torah is lacking, yet, it is written: The תּוֹרַת (torat), teaching, of YHWH is perfect (Psalms 19:8). Perfect—in all the members of the body, the 248 positive decrees, as is written: You are all beautiful, my love, and there is no flaw in you (Song of Songs 4:7); perfect—in Her garments. How can anything be lacking in the Mishnah?

Say to him: Look carefully and find the [missing] piece. You may find it mixed with other verses and Mishnahyot [meaning, it is the custom of Torah to be lacking in one place and abundant in another], for it is the way of the craftsman to cut garments into several pieces [and that which is missing in one place is filled out in another]. The disciples, inexperienced in connecting the Halakhah to those pieces confuse the sentences and questions, and cannot explain the dilemmas until the craftsman comes and explains all the doubts they have. At that time, Halakhah, the princess [Malkhut], rises before the King, perfect in everything, in body, garments and jewelry. And in it is fulfilled: And I will see it, to remember the everlasting covenant (Genesis 9:16). Sometimes the craftsman has an experienced disciple whom he sends to correct them.

They all rose and said: Faithful Shepherd, surely you are the craftsman, for it says of you, ‘Moses received the Torah at Sinai’ (M Avot 1:1). From that time onward, everyone is your disciple, from Joshua to the end of all generations. This is what we learned, that he ‘handed it on to Joshua; Joshua to the elders; the elders to the prophets; [and the prophets handed it on to the men of the Great Assembly]’ to the end of all (ibid.). And who is your skilled disciple? We see that it has been said to let everything wait until Elijah comes” (Zohar 3:27b, Ra’aya Meheimna Tsav).

“We learned that fish and locusts do not require [ritual] slaughter [in order to be eaten, rather, it is their gathering which makes them permissible, see BT Ḥullin 27b]. Such are the Masters of Mishnah. They are consumed without slaughter [by the Angel of Death]. It says of them, And was gathered to his kinfolk (Genesis 49:33). Like fish of the sea live in the sea, so do the disciples of sages and Masters of Mishnah live in the sea—if they are separated from Torah they immediately die. תַּנִּינָא דְּמַתְנִיתִין (Tannina de-matnitin), Rehearser of Mishnah, wherein proliferate תַנִינֵי יַמָּא (taninei yamma), sea monsters. If those [beasts] who live on dry land [i.e., those without Torah and mitsvot] fall into the water but cannot swim they die. However, [only] the Masters of Kabbalah who are above all are אָדָם (adam), human [and know how to tread deep water, i.e., the sea of Torah and Her hidden depths, cf. BT Bava Metsi’a 114b; Keritot 6b]. Of them it says Hold sway over the fish of the sea and the fowl of the heavens (Genesis 1:26), who are מָארֵי מַתְנִיתִין תַּנִּינָיָּא (marei Matnitin tanninayya), Masters of Mishnah—sea monsters [who prey on small fish]. הַתַּנִּינִם הַגָּדוֹל (Ha-tanninim ha-gadol), the great sea monster (Genesis 1:21), is the נָחָשׁ בָּרִחַ (naḥash bariaḥ), fleeing serpent (Isaiah 27:1), corresponding to: וְהַבְּרִיחַ (ve-ha-beriaḥ), and the crossbar, in the middle board [shall מַבְרִחַ (maberiaḥ), shoot through, from end to end] (Exodus 26:28).

When תַּנִּינִם (tanninim), sea monsters [punning on תַּנָּאִים (tanna’im), Rehearsers]—the Masters of Mishnah—have a disagreement among them, asking each other difficult questions, [one then] swallows his colleague [as large fish swallow small fish]. This refers to a disciple unqualified to teach who teaches, which is punishable by death [cf. BT Sotah 22a: ‘Rav said, What is the meaning of the verse Many are those she has struck dead, numerous are her slain (Proverbs 7:26)? Many are those she has struck dead—this refers to a disciple unqualified to teach [to decide questions of law] who teaches. Numerous are her slain—this refers to a disciple qualified to teach who does not’; Zohar 1:5a; 3:84b–85b]. But if they are matched [both being big fish] and have an argument or difficulty, it says of them in the end, וָהֵב בְּסוּפָה (waheb be-sufah), against Waheb in a whirlwind (Numbers 21:14), which has been interpreted: אַהֲבָה בְּסוֹפָהּ (ahava be-sofah), love at its end (BT Qiddushin 30b) [cf. Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 6a].

In the meantime a נוּנָא רַבָּא (nuna rabba), great fish, came [namely, Rav Hamnuna Saba], saying, ‘[Moses] Faithful Shepherd, אֵיתָן (etan), Staunch, is your settlement, and set in the rock your nest (Numbers 24:21). [The תַּנָּאִים (tanna’im), Rehearsers, say] תַּנְיָ (tanya), ‘It was taught‘ [and this] assists you because the fish have their nest in the Rock [Malkhut]. אֵיתָן (Eitan), staunch, is [the letters of] תַּנְיָ (tanya), ‘It was taught,’ rearranged; אֵתָנִים (etanim), Mighty (Job 12:19), is [the letters of] תַּנָּאִים (tanna’im), Rehearsers, rearranged. Beware of them, because you are heavy-mouthed and heavy-tongued (Exodus 4:10). And whoever wishes to attack the fish of the sea in the Rock—Masters of Mishnah, the תַּנָּאִים (Tanna’im)—needs to be fierce and of a sharp and polished tongue to bore to the great abyss which lies there.

For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end he shall speak, and not lie: [though he tarries, wait for him; because he will surely come, he will not delay] (Habakkuk 2:3). It has been explained ‘This verse pierces and descends to the very abyss’ (BT Sanhedrin 97b). Who is it that shall descend to the great abyss to find that time [of the End] but You, of whom it says, Your justice like the unending mountains, Your judgment, the great abyss (Psalms 36:7). Many Masters of Mishnah wanted to penetrate the depth of Halakhah to find there the time of the coming of redemption, but went down and did not come up [הֲלָכָה (halakhah), ‘ways of conduct,’ alludes to הַכַּלָה (ha-kalah), the Bride, i.e., Malkhut, Shekhinah]. Though their tongue was Like a hammer that shatters the rock in pieces (Jeremiah 23:29), their hammer was too weak and could not penetrate that Rock [to discover the End]. Whoever penetrates that Rock without permission, a serpent will come to bite him; others bore into Her until they reach the great abyss but do not come up from there [cf. Ecclesiastes 10:8: He who digs a pit will fall in it, and he who breaches a wall, a snake will bite him].’ …

And you [Moses, Faithful Shepherd] aid yourself by תַּנְיָא (tanya), ‘it was taught,’ more than all of them, since you are the Leviathan of the sea of Torah. For the master of all fishes is called לִוְיָתָן (Livyatan), Leviathan, named after Torah, of which it says, For they are a לִוְיַת (livyat), garland of grace, on your head (Proverbs 1:9). Because of you Man and beast YHWH rescues (Psalms 36:7). Man—of him it has been said [The Torah (is maintained by)] a man who dies in a tent (Numbers 19:14), and the Masters of Mishnah have taught that Torah does not remain except for one who kills himself for Her, and death is only poverty [cf. M Avot 6:4; BT Tamid 32a: ‘What shall a man do to live? Let him kill himself. What should a man do to kill himself? Let him keep himself alive’]. Beast—the ignorant, who are submissive like horses and mules to the Masters of Mishnah” (Zohar 3:278a–80b, Ra’aya Meheimna Ki Tetse).

Water Runs Out from the Sea


“Water means nothing but Torah, as it says, Oh, every one who thirsts go to the water (Isaiah 55:1)” (BT Bava Qamma 82a).

“Torah is compared to water, as is written, Oh, every one who thirsts go to the water (Isaiah 55:1)—just as the world cannot survive without it and a man purifies himself with it, so too the world cannot not survive without Torah, which teaches man how to purify himself. And just as water, a man does not plant a tree and does not build a house if he has no water, so too the world cannot survive without Torah. And just as water is vital for the world, so too Torah is vital for the world. Just as with water, anyone who does not know how to swim in it will cause himself to be lost from the world, so too anyone who is not able to find words of Torah is lost from the world. Just as water can be drawn to any place one desires, so too Torah is drawn in all the world. Just as water is not preserved in silver containers nor in gold containers but rather in ones of clay, so too Torah is not preserved by the arrogant, but by one with a humble spirit. And Rabbi Eḥa says: ‘But wisdom found from nothing (Job 28:12). What is from nothing? From those who make themselves as nothing.’ And just as with water there is none who oversees it [in order to sell it], so too Torah” (Tanḥuma, Ki Tavo 3).

“Rabbi Ḥanina son of Idi said: Why are words of Torah likened to water, as is written, Oh, every one who thirsts go to the water (Isaiah 55:1)? To teach you that just as water flows from a high place to a low place, so words of Torah leave the one who is arrogant and stay with the one who is humble” (BT Ta’anit 7a).

“The disciples asked Rabbi Berekhiah, ‘Allow us [to speak] words before you,’ but permission was not given. Another time he did permit them, only to determine if they had focused themselves. One day he scrutinized them saying, ‘Let me hear your wisdom.’ They opened and said: In the beginning (Genesis 1:1)—one. Though a spirit grows faint before Me, the life-breath—it is I who made it (Isaiah 57:16) [—two]. God’s stream is filled with water (Psalms 65:10) [—three]. What is פֶּלֶג אֱלֹהִים (peleg Elohim), God’s stream? Thus our Rabbi taught us that the blessed Holy One took up the waters of Creation and divided them. ‘He placed half of them in the firmament and half of them in the ocean, this is פַּלַג אֱלֹהִים מְלֹא מָיִם (palag Elohim melo mayim), God split the fullness of water‘ (Bereshit Rabbah 4:4). And by it man learns Torah. Others say: Through the merit of rendering kindness, a man learns Torah, as is written, Woe, everyone that thirsts, come to the waters, and he that has no silver; come, buy, and eat (Isaiah 55:1). Go to Him and He will render loving-kindness to you, and you will buy and eat” (Bahir §51).

“‘Blessed be YHWH, Who is blessed’—gushing of blessings from the source of life to the place from which all saturation streams, saturating all. Since He is a source, in mystery of sign of the covenant, we call Him ‘Who is blessed’—spring of the well. Once they reach there, surely the well is filled, for its waters never cease” (Zohar 2:135b).

Woe to anyone who compares Him to any quality, even to one of His own qualities, and certainly not to humans whose foundation is in the dust (Job 4:19), who are perishable and worthless. But the likening [that we employ] is only according to His power over that quality, or even over all the creatures. There is no [likening] above that quality, and when [His power] retreats, there is no quality, nor likeness, nor form [cf. BT Berakhot 33b; Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed, 1:56–60].

This is like the sea. Water of the sea that flows from it has no conceivable shape or form. But by the flow of the sea water over the vessel, which is the earth, it takes on a form, and we can then reckonthe source of the sea is one. A spring emerges from it, according to its expansion in a round vessel, which is י (yod). The source is one, and the spring that emerges from it is second. Afterwards He made a large vessel, similar to a large excavation, which was filled with the water that flowed from the spring. This is called Sea, it is the third vessel. And that large vessel streams as into long receptacles. And so there is a מָקוֹר (maqor), source, a מַעְיָין (ma’ayyan), spring, a יָם (yam), sea, and seven נְחָלִין (nealin), wadis, which amount to ten. If the Artisan will break these vessels that He fashioned, the water will return to the source and the broken vessels will remain dry without water [cf. Psalms 74:13; M Kelim 2:1; Bereshit Rabbah 12:5; MS Vatican 274, 83a; MS Frankfurt, 24a; Rabbi Ḥayyim Vital, Mevo She’arim, 2:2, 1–11; Sha’ar ha-Haqdamot, Derush be-Olam ha-Niqqudim].

So the עִלַּת הָעִלּוֹת (illat ha-illot), Cause of Causes, made ten sefirot and called Keter מָקוֹר (maqor), Source, and there is no end to the welling of its light. Therefore, He called Himself אֵין סוֹף (ein sof), Without End, and He has no likeness or image. There is no vessel there able to conceive Him or have any knowledge of Him at all. Therefore, it has been said of Him, ‘What is too wondrous for you, do not expound; what is concealed from you, do not inquire. [You have no business with hidden matters!]’ (Ben Sira) [cf. BT Ḥagigah 13a; Megillah 25a].

Afterwards He made a small vessel: י (yod). It was filled from [the source] and He called it ‘A Wellspring of Wisdom.’ He called himself in it Wise, and the vessel He called Ḥokhmah. Then, He made a large vessel and called it יָם (yam), Sea. He named it Binah and He called Himself an Understanding One.

He is wise of Himself and understands Himself because Ḥokhmah is not called Ḥokhmah of its own accord [cf. Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed 1:56–57], rather because the Wise One filled it with His own welling. Binah is not called so of its own accord, but rather because of the Understanding One who filled it from His own, and if He had removed Himself and risen from it, it would have remained dry, [as is written]: Water runs out from the sea and the river is parched and dries up (Job 14:11) [cf. Isaiah 19:5].

Afterwards, and strike it into seven נְחָלִים (neḥalim), wadis, [that one may trod upon it dry-shod] (Isaiah 11:15). He made seven precious vessels and called them גְּדֻלָּה (gedullah), Greatness, גְּבוּרָה (gevurah), Might, תִּפְאֶרֶת (tif’eret), Splendor, נֵּצַח (netsaḥ), Triumph, הוֹד (hod), Grandeur, כֹּל (kol), All, and הַמַּמְלָכָה (ha-mamelakhah), the Kingship. He called himself Great in Greatness and also חָסִיד (ḥasid), Devout, Glorious in Glory and Triumphant in Battles. In Majesty He called Himself  ‘The Majesty our Creator,’ and in יְסוֹד (yesod), Foundation, He called Himself צַדִיק (tsaddiq), Righteous One, Yesod, Foundation [of the World] (Proverbs 10:25), support of all vessels [sefirot], and all the worlds [cf. Bahir §102, §180]. And in Kingship, He called Himself King: [Yours, O YHWH,] the גְּדֻלָּה (gedullah), greatness, and the גְּבוּרָה (gevurah), might, and the תִּפְאֶרֶת (tif’eret), splendor, and the נֵּצַח (netsaḥ), triumph, and the הוֹד (hod), grandeur, indeed, כֹל (khol), all, in the heavens and on the earth. Yours, O YHWH, is הַמַּמְלָכָה (ha-mamelakhah), the kingship [and what is exalted as head over all] (1 Chronicles 29:11).

All is in His authority—whether to lessen the vessels, or, to increase or decrease their gushing, as is His desire with them. He does not have over Him a god to increase or decrease in Him. Then He created servants for these vessels [of Atsilut], a throne with four pillars and six steps for the throne. They are all ten. All—Throne like the cup of blessing to which they ascribed ten things because of the Torah given in עֲשָׂרָה דִּבְּרָן (asarah dibbran), Ten Utterances, and because of the world, which was the Work of Creation [Beri’ah] that was created with עֲשָׂרָה מַאֲמָרוֹת (asarah ma’amarot), Ten Sayings.

He then arrayed groups to serve the Throne: Malakhim, Er’elim, Serafim, Ḥayyot, Ofanim, Ḥashmalim, elim, elohim, sons of Elohim, and Ishim [cf. BT Ḥagigah 12b; Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Yesodei ha-Torah 2:7; Berit Menuḥa: The Third Way: The Way of Peace]. He made servants for these, Samael and all his band, that are like clouds to ride on in order to descend to earth, and they are like horses” (Zohar 2:42b–43aRa’aya Meheimna Bo).

No Voice Without Speech, No Speech Without Voice

“Voice, breath, word—רוּחַ קוֹדֶשׁ (ruaḥ ha-qodesh), Holy Breath [or: Holy Spirit]” (Sefer Yetsirah §10, cf. Psalms 51:13; Isaiah 63:10–11).

“Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘It is written: I was dumb with silence, stilled, bereft of goodness, my pain aroused (Psalms 39:3). This verse was spoken by Assembly of Israel, who is in exile. Why? Because voice conducts speech. When She is in exile, voice separates from Her, no word is heard, and so: I was dumb with silence. Why? Because I was stilled, bereft of goodness—for voice no longer accompanies Her, and Israel declares: To You, דֻמִיָּה (dumiyah), silence, is praise (ibid. 65:2). Who is silence? Praise, praise of David (Psalms 145:1), who turns silent in exile, voiceless. Rabbi Yitsḥaq said, ‘What does to you mean? Because of You, She is silent, for You abandoned Her” (Zohar 1:36b).

“This is because [Assembly of Israel] sinned in the matter of יָהּ (Yah), God, and God left the body [יָהּ (Yah), as it were, removed Himself from אֱלֹהִים (Elohim)], and [Assembly of Israel] remained אִלֵם (ilem), mute, without sight, hearing, smell, or speech [which are יהוה (YHWH)]. And the mystery of the matter is to be found in: נֶאֱלַמְתִּי דוּמִיָּה (ne’elamtti dumiyah)I was dumb with silence (Psalms 39:3). דוּמִיָּה (Dumiyyah), silence—דּוֹם (dom), silent, יָהּ (Yah), God [cf. Psalms 37:7; BT Gittin 56b]” (Zohar 3:221a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

“Expanding from the site of concealed thought, unknown, expanding and settling in the larynx, a site continuously gushing in the mystery of the spirit of life. It sought to expand and reveal itself further; thence issued fire, air, and water, merging as one. Jacob emerged, Consummate Man, a single voice issuing audibly. Hence, thought, having been concealed in silence, was heard revealing itself. Thought expanded further revealing itself, and this voice struck against lips. Then speech issued, consummating all, revealing all. It is perceived that all is concealed thought, having been within, and all is one. Once this expansion ripened, generating speech through the potency of that voice, then The House, in its being built (1 Kings 6:7). The verse does not read when it was built, but rather in its being built, every single time” (Zohar 1:74b).

“There is no voice without speech, and there is no speech without voicesurely, general needing particular and particular needing general.…

Come and see: Thought is beginning of all, and being thought, it is within, concealed and unknowable. As this Thought expands further, it approaches the place where spirit dwells, and when it reaches that place it is called Binah, Understanding, for it is not as concealed as at first, although it is concealed…. This voice conducts speech, conveying a word resignedly; for voice is released from the place of spirit and proceeds to conduct a word, issuing true words” (Zohar 1:246a).

Contemplation, is חָכְמָה (Ḥokhmah), Wisdom—a hint to the wise [inspiration is prior to conceptualizing the thought (Sullam), cf. Midrash on Proverbs 22:15: ‘A hint is sufficient for a wise man but a fool needs the fist’]. Ḥokhmah (Wisdom) arose in thought, which is Binah, since thought and contemplation are one, for Ḥokhmah (Wisdom) is known only through Binah (Understanding), and Binah is in the heart [the seat of understanding]. Thus thought is in the heart and contemplation is in the heart [cf. BT Berakhot 61a]” (Zohar 3:229a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).