The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: כַּוָנָה

Prayer Should be Elevated Just as One Aims the Stone in a Sling


“Rabbi Pinḥas said in the name of Rabbi Me’ir, and Rabbi Yirmeyah said in the name of Rabbi Abba, ‘When Israel prays, you do not find them all praying as one, but rather each assembly prays on its own, one after the other. When they have all finished, the angel appointed over prayers gathers all the prayers offered in all the synagogues and fashions them into עֲטָרוֹת (atarot), diadems, which he places on the head of the blessed Holy One” (Shemot Rabbah 21:4, cf. Zohar 2:201b).

Rabbi Shim’on opened, saying: Listen, all supernal ones. Gather, all mortals, masters of the academy above and below. Elijah [i.e., Sandalfon], upon an oath, ask permission from the blessed Holy One to descend here because a great battle awaits you. Come down, Enoch [i.e., Metatron], you and all the masters of the academy under your supervision. Not for my glory, but for the glory of Shekhinah.

He opened as before, expounding זַרְקָא (zarqa), מַקָּף (maqqaf), and so forth, saying: Certainly by the musical intonation, זַרְקָא (zarqa), the prayer should be raised to that known site, like one aims the stone in a sling [cf. Bahir §§89–91, 178]. Just as one aims the stone carefully, so as not to miss the target, so should thought be raised with prayer to that תַּגָּא (tagga), coronet, set and adorned. Of this stone they said, ‘[In uttering the tefillah, when one bows, one should bow at בָּרוּך (barukh), “blessed,”] and stand upright with [the mention of] the Name’ (BT Berakhot 12a).

And when he raises Her from that site conducting Her to Her husband [one should not interrupt his prayer] even if a serpent is wound around his feet, and even though: and you shall bite his heel (Genesis 3:15) [cf. Psalms 91:13; BT Berakhot 30b: ‘Even if a king greets him he should not answer him. And even if a serpent is wound round his heel he should not break off’]. Nevertheless, the stone is hinted at by the י (yod) of יַעֲקֹב (Ya’aqov), which is composed of י (yod) and עָקֵב (aqev), heel, as is written: Through the name of the Shepherd and Israel’s Stone (Genesis 49:24)—he does not stop and must raise Her to אֵין סוֹף (Ein Sof) [cf. Zohar 1:65a: ‘Come and see: All transpires in the mystery of faith, so that one is satisfied by the other (i.e., so that the lower is satisfied by the higher, and vice versa), so that the one who must, ascends to Ein Sof ‘]. ‘When one bows, one should bow at בָּרוּך (barukh), “blessed”’ (BT Berakhot 12a)—he must draw Her down ceaselessly without causing any separation between Her above or below.

Sometimes He is Her husband ו (vav), the Righteous One [Yesod] who includes the six joints of two legs. Then She descends toward Him for the purpose of coupling according to the mystery of two legs [Netsaḥ and Hod]. But at other times, He is Her husband ו (vav) [Tif’eret] which includes the six joints of the two arms: beginning, middle and end. Then She grows and ascends to the two arms [Ḥesed and Gevurah]. At other times He [Ze’eir Anpin] is Her husband and stands between Father [Ḥokhmah] and Mother [Binah]. This is when He is called בֵּן יָהּ (Ben Yah), Son of God, and She should be elevated there to Him for coupling. At other times, Her husband is Keter with ו (vav) inserted between י י (yod, yod) like so: א (alef). Then She should be elevated to Him, as She grows with Him and reaches exactly the same rung as He does. When She ascends to Keter, it is written of Her: the stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone (Psalms 118:22).

When She rises up to the Head of all Heads the angels ask ‘Where is the place of His glory to admire Him?’ And when She rises She becomes just like a תַּגָּא (tagga), coronet, on the head of א (alef)—כֶּתֶר (Keter), Crown. When She descends: a point underneath [like so: וִ]. So when She ascends She is called עֲטָרָה (atarah), Diadem, in the mystery of musical intonations, and when She descends, She is called נְקוּדָה (nequdah), Point. When She mates She is like so: וּ. When She is a coronet on His head She is called the letter ז (zayin). The sign of the covenant consists of this because it is the seventh letter in all. Indeed, this Stone is בִּנְיָינָא (binyyana), building, of all the worlds [cf. BT Niddah 45b: ‘And YHWH God יִּבֶן (yi-ven), built, the rib He had taken from the human into a woman (Genesis 2:21)—the blessed Holy One placed more בִּינָה (binah), understanding, in women than in men’; Sanhedrin 93b: ‘בִּינָה (Binah), understanding, one thing from another’; ibid., 110a: ‘The wise woman has built her house (Proverbs 14:1)—wife of On son of Peleth; and Folly with her own hands destroys it (ibid.)—Korah’s wife’]. Because of this: a whole and honest weight-stone you shall have (Deuteronomy 25:15). She is the quantity בֵּין (bein), between, each and every sefirah, and every sefirah amounts with Her to ten. Her stature is ו (vav). Through Her every cubit between each and every sefirah becomes ten cubits. And the secret of the matter: ten cubits the length of the board (Exodus 26:16), and She is between them all. She is ten between every sefirah and ten multiplied by ten totals one hundred; when מֵאָה (me’ah), one hundred, is reversed [you have:] אַמָּה (ammah), cubit.

Each and every quantity [that Malkhut measures] is called a world [a quantity of its own]. These are י (yod) and ו (vav)—שִׁעוּר וּמִדָּה (shiur u-middah), height and width [or: stature and quantity]. ו (Vav) is the שֶׁקֶל (sheqel), weight [of the light (Sullam)]; י (yod) is the מִדָּה (middah), width. And the measurement of the quantity is five cubits long and five cubits wide. This corresponds to the measurement of every firmament, which is five-hundred parasangs long and five-hundred parasangs wide. This is the mystery of ה ה (he, he) [in יהוה (YHWH)]; the first ה (he) alludes to width and the lower ה (he) to length, as explained elsewhere.

So here you have the שִׁיעוּר קוֹמָה (shi’ur qomah), measure of the stature, of Him [Ze’eir Anpin] in יהוה (YHWH), because ו (vav) alludes to firmament of the heavens [Tif’eret of Ze’eir Anpin (Sullam)]. Its five firmaments, namely the last ה (he) of יהוה (YHWH), is called Five Heavens. This is the additional יהוה (YHWH) that indicates the five firmaments included in the heavens. The upper five firmaments are called Heavens of the Heavens. These are ה ה (he, he) of יהוה (YHWH). The ו (vav) is their sixth firmament. י (Yod) of יהוה (YHWH) is the mystery of Malkhut [the seventh firmament and seven plus seven equals fourteen]. Here are those lands, seven upon seven lands that cover each other like onion rings, which surround each other on all sides. They are all alluded to in the two eyes, and the three colors in the eye: white, red and green. Its white color is Ḥesed, its red color, which are red streaks, are Gevurah and its green color is Tif’eret. The two eyelids are Netsaḥ and Hod, the eye itself is Yesod and the black point is Malkhut.

The י (yod) in the Name יהוה (YHWH) is called a small, or short, world. The ו (vav) in יהוה (YHWH), which is Tif’eret, is the long world. Whomever wishes that his desires be fulfilled by the long world should pray at length, and whoever prays to the short world should pray quickly. Therefore, it has been explained that in a place where they are told to make it short a person should not pray at length [cf. Exodus 14:15]. To pray quickly is like the prayer of Moses, who recited the following short prayer, אֵל (El), pray, heal her, pray (Numbers 12:13) [see Sifrei, Numbers 105 ad loc.], as he addressed the [infinitesimal] point of י (yod) [which is the small, or short, world].

[The place where it was recommended that one should pray at length during times when one is not allowed to curtail the prayer stems from an aspect of ו (vav), as in] וּלְהִתְנַפֵּל (ul-hitnapel), to fall down, [as Moses did:] וָאֶתְנַפַּל (va-etnapal), And I threw myself, before יְהוָה (YHWH) (Deuteronomy 9:18)—פ (peh) because forty days and forty nights (ibid.), reckons eighty, which is the sum of פ״ (forty) [all this relates to the mystery of the letters פ (peh) and ו (vav), which appear in the word וָאֶתְנַפַּל (va-etnapal)]. Everything appears in the two מ (mem) one open מ (mem) and one closed final ם (mem) [cf. BT Shabbat 104a], with the י (yod) as a point in the middle, which forms the word מַיִם (mayim), water. From the aspect of Ḥesed, one should pray at length.

In the Holy Name יהוה (YHWH) rises by the fourth tune of the musical intonations. And one should prolong this intonation, which is fourth over the Name of יהוה (YHWH), the mystery of the תְקִיעָה (teqi’ah). The place to make it short is from the aspect of Gevurah, the intonations of שְׁבָרִים (shevarim). This is called the תְּבִיר (tevir), break, of the musical intonations. The middle, which is neither prolonged nor shortened, is the mystery of תְרוּעָה (teru’ah). This is the middle pillar and is the mystery of the musical intonations called שַׁלשֶׁלֶת (shalshelet), Chain, as it interlinks them [i.e., the right and left pillars] according to the mystery of the שֶׁקֶל הַקֹּדֶשׁ (sheqel ha-qodesh), consecrated coin [שֶׁקֶל (sheqel), coin, is numerically equivalent to נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh), person].

Corresponding to the רְבִיעַ (revi’i), fourth, [musical intonation] which rises there, is חוֹלָם (olam) among the vowels, which is also Ḥesed. The שְׁבָרִים (shevarim) [or the תְּבִיר (tevir), break, of the musical intonations] corresponds, to שְׁבָא (sheva). In pronouncing this fourth one should raise his voice and in pronouncing the other [referring to the תְּבִיר (tevir), which is Gevurah], one should lower his voice. Because of this, it is called שְׁבָרִים (shevarim) [cognate with: שֶׁבֶר (shever), break] as the voice should be lowered [lit., שָׁבוּר (shavoor), broken]. This is done in secret, as is written of the lower Shekhinah: And Her voice not heard (1 Samuel 1:13). תְּרוּעָה (Teruah) is mystery of the middle pillar, called שַׁלְשֶׁלֶת (shalshelet), Chain [this is also the mystery of the י (yod), located between the two ם (mem) of אַרְבָּעִים יוֹם וְאַרְבָּעִים לַיְלָה (arba’im yom ve-arba’im lailah), forty days and forty nights. This is the mystery of segolta among the intonations (Sullam)].

The fourth of the musical intonations is for raising the voice, the tevir of the musical intonations is for lowering the pitch. Chain holds to the two pillars as a chain joining them to each other. It is like the רְבִיעִי (revi’i) with which one prolongs the word with melody. It is a vowel like the Ḥolam. There is no vowel among the points that does not have a corresponding musical intonation [see Bahir §§36–44]. For example, the vowel Segol corresponds to the musical intonation segolta, the vowel sheva corresponds to the musical intonation zaqef gadol. There is always a vowel corresponding to a musical intonation for all those who know the hidden mysteries.

Rabbi Shim’on opened saying: zarqa, maqqaf, shofar holekh, segolta. The vowel to the right is יְהוָה מֶלֶךְ (Adonai melekh), YHWH reigns (Psalms 96:10). The vowel to the left, shuruq is יְהוָה מָלָךְ (Adonai malakh), YHWH reigned (Psalms 93:1). The vowel [iriq] in the middle, Tif’eret, is יְהוָה יִמְלֹךְ (Adonai yimlokh), YHWH shall reign (Exodus 15:18). Rabbi Aḥa said: YHWH reigns—the supernal world; YHWH shall reignTif’eret; YHWH reigned—the Ark of the Covenant” (Zohar 1:23a–24b, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar).

A Prayer of the Lowly When He Joins in Her Sorrow

Tisha bAv

If the prayer is not whole many demons pursue it, as is written: All her persecutors overtook her in her distress (Lamentations 1:3). This is why people pray: Yet He is compassionate… (Psalms 78:38). [He atones for] Crime (ibid.)—Samael, who is the Serpent; and does not destroy (ibid.)—the Angel of Destruction; and abundantly takes back His wrath and does not arouse all His fury (ibid.). And we pray that these four [namely: crime, destruction, wrath, and fury] do not pursue the prayer, as many demons are attached to these. There are seven ministers, who have seventy more attached to them. Those seventy bring allegations in each and every firmament through which the prayer passes and seven-hundred myriad demons are attached to them.

If the prayer ascends whole, with the mitsvah of wrapping tallit and tefillin of the head and of the hand, it is said of them: And all the peoples of the earth will see that the name of YHWH is called over you and they will fear you (Deuteronomy 28:10). The name of YHWH—this has already been explained as tefillin of the head. Whoever sees the name יהוה (YHWH) over the head in prayer, which is the name אֲדֹנָי (Adonai), shall immediately flee, as is written: A thousand fall at Your side (Psalms 91:7).

Because Jacob saw through the Holy Spirit the oppression of the last exile, in the end of days, it is said of him, And Jacob was greatly afraid, and he was distressed (Genesis 32:8). As a result, he divided the holy nation in exile into three parts, as is written: And he placed the slavegirls and their children first (ibid. 33:2). This means at first in the exile of Edom: and Leah and her children after them, and Rachel and Joseph last (ibid.). Because he saw their eventual poverty and suffering, he prayed for them: if… I return safely to my father’s house (ibid. 28:21), so that they may have the merit to be redeemed and return to the Temple. He said in prayer: and give me bread to eat and clothing to wear (ibid.).

Because of this exile, David described Shekhinah as hungry and exhausted and thirsty in the wilderness (2 Samuel 17:29), because he saw Shekhinah desolate and withering and then joined in Her sorrow. After he saw that the children of Israel repented with joy, he composed ten types of psalms [cf. Zohar 3:283a (RM); TZ Haqdamah, 3a–b]. At the end of them all, he said: A prayer of the lowly when he grows faint (Psalms 102:10). This prayer encompasses all other prayers and ascends before all other prayers [see Vayiqra Rabbah 3:2; Zohar 3:195a]. The other prayers, sung with a melody, are delayed in being presented before the King, and do not enter, until the prayer of the poor does.

Which is the prayer of the lowly? It is the evening prayer. Since She is without Her husband She is lowly and faint and may be taken freely by anyone. The Righteous One is withered and lowly under the rule of all peoples of the world, every people enslaves them and rules over them. This is similar to the evening prayer, because it is the aspect of the night of exile.

The prayer of Sabbath is a charity given to the lowly as the Masters of Mishnah explained that the sun during Sabbath is charity given to the poor [see BT Ta’anit 8b: ‘Rabbi Yitsḥaq further said: Sunshine on the Sabbath is an act of kindness towards the poor, as is said, But unto you that fear My name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and you shall go forth, and grow up like calves of the stall (Malachi 4:2)’]. Therefore, on every weekday a person should make himself a pauper at the gate of the King during the prayer of Amidah for the sake of Shekhinah, that he participate in the sorrow of Shekhinah as did David. He should cover himself with the proper vestments, namely tallit with tassels, as a poor man stands at the gate to the palace of the King, Adonai, because אֲדֹנָי (Adonai) is numerically equivalent to that of הֵיכָל (heikhal), palace. This is why it is said [at the beginning of the Amidah prayer:] Adonai open my lips (Psalms 51:17).

When a person opens his lips during the weekdays at Arvit [the evening prayer], an eagle descends to carry the prayer of the night upon its wings. This eagle is called Nuriel. It is called Uriel from the aspect of Ḥesed and Nuriel from the aspect of Gevurah, which is a burning fire about which is written: A river of fire was flowing and went out before Him (Daniel 7:10) [cf. BT Ḥagigah 13b ad loc.].

During Shaḥarit (Morning Service), the lion descends to receive the prayer with its arms and wings—every living being has four wings—this is the angel Michael. During Minḥah (Afternoon Service), the ox descends to receive the prayer with its horns and wings, and this is the angel Gabriel.

On Sabbath, the blessed Holy One descends with the three Patriarchs [Ḥesed, Gevurah, and Tif’eret] to receive His only Daughter [Shekhinah] through them. This is the secret of the Sabbath which consists of ש (shin) and בַּת (bat), daughter. The three lines of ש (shin) refer to the three Patriarchs. Through them, the blessed Holy One receives the prayer of Sabbath. At that time, the celestial living beings that are called by the name יהוה (YHWH) say, as is written: Lift up your heads, O gates, and lift up, eternal portals, that the King of glory may enter (Psalms 24:9).

At this time, seven הֵיכָלִין (heikhalin), chambers, are opened. The first chamber is the chamber of Love, the second is the chamber of Fear, the third is the chamber of Compassion, the fourth is the chamber of Prophecy from the aspect of the speculum that shines, the fifth is the chamber of Prophecy from the aspect of the dim glass, the sixth is the chamber of Justice and the seventh is in the chamber of Judgment. These chambers correspond to the seven sefirot. The chamber of Love is Ḥesed, Fear is Gevurah, Compassion is Tif’eret, the speculum that shines is Netsaḥ, the dim glass is Hod, Justice is Yesod and Judgment is Malkhut.

Of them is written: בְּרֵאשִׁית (Bereshit), In the beginning, which consists of בָּרָא שִׁית (bara shit), created six; אֱלֹהִים (Elohim) is in the seventh chamber. There are seven chambers below, and seven chambers above. The seven voices that correspond to them appear in the psalm, Grant to YHWH (Psalms 29:1), which includes eighteen [iterations of] יהוה (YHWH). By these the blessed Holy One sails through eighteen worlds according to the mystery of: The chariots of Elohim are myriads, thousands of thousands (Psalms 68:18) and there are 18,000 worlds [see BT Avodah Zarah 3b]. Many guardians of the gates stand before the chambers to receive the prayers and no prayer enters without being measured and weighed.

None can stand before the gate of prayers and prevent any prayer from entering. Of such a one is written: [Like arrows in the warrior’s hand, thus are sons born in youth. Happy the man who fills his quiver with them.] They shall not be shamed when they speak with their enemies at the gate (Psalms 127:5). This is the gate of the King. Since the prayer is a mitsvah and Shekhinah and Torah is the blessed Holy One they must not be separated. Torah and the mitsvah should be elevated with Love and Fear.

There are the 248 words in the recitation of Shema that were given in love and fear, and that are contained in the ה (he) of יהוה (YHWH). Therefore, the blessing: ‘He Who chooses His people Israel with love,’ is recited before the recitation of Shema to indicate that we draw solely from the aspect of Love, which is the mystery of the 248 positive mitsvot. These 248 positive mitsvot are included within Abraham [because אַבְרָהָם (Avraham), Abraham, is numerically equivalent to 248, and his is the quality of Loving-kindness]. It is written of him: The seed of Abraham My friend (Isaiah 41:8).

Tefillin are strength, as they were given from the aspect of Fear, which is the left. This is the Terror of Isaac, because all the prosecutors ascend to demand all the Judgments throughout the worlds. Thus, it is written: And by the arm of His strength (Isaiah 62:8). This is why it is written: Love אֶת יְהוָה (et-Adonai), YHWH, all His faithful (Psalms 31:24). But Tif’eret of יהוה (YHWH) comprises all, as it is the middle pillar. Hence it says of Jacob, And, look, YHWH was poised over him (Genesis 28:13). This was not mentioned in relation to Abraham or Isaac, because Jacob is the aspect of Tif’eret, which includes all, since it is the middle pillar. When called by the name Jacob, He includes the quality of Abraham, וה (vav, he), and the 248 positive mitsvot. Later, when he was called Israel, he rose by יוֹד הֵא וְאוֹ הֵא (Yod He Vav He). The mystery of יוֹד הֵא וְאוֹ הֵא (Yod He Vav He) appears in the expression ‘Israel arose in thought’ (Bereshit Rabbah 1:4) to be created because מַחֲשָׁבָה (maḥshavah), thought, consists of: מַה חַשָׁב (mah ḥashav), ‘What thought.’ מַה (Mah)—יוֹד הֵא וְאוֹ הֵא (Yod He Vav He) [numerically equivalent to מַה (mah)], in which the Holy Name lies. Because of Jacob, who is called Israel, it is written: And Elohim created the human in his image (Genesis 1:27) after the likeness of his Master.

Sons, life and sustenance are drawn down to the lower beings only through the aspect of the middle pillar, of which is written: My son, My firstborn is Israel (Exodus 4:22) [on ‘sons, life, and sustenance,’ see BT Mo’ed Qatan 28a]. This is the Tree of Life, as is written: The tree [grew and became mighty, and its top reached the heavens and its branches to the end of all the earth. Its foliage was lovely and its fruit great, and there was] food for all [in it] (Daniel 4:8–9). As for Shekhinah—Israel below are Her life; Torah—Her sustenance; and prayer—an offering which offers Shekhinah for coupling [with Ze’eir Anpin]. During the exile, it is said that Shekhinah said to Her husband: Give me sons, for if You don’t, I am a dead woman! (Genesis 30:1).

Shekhinah is an offering for the blessed Holy One which He receives with both the right and the left arm, and with the body. His coupling with Her is accomplished by the Righteous One [Yesod, called ‘sign’]. This is the sign of the tefillin, of Sabbath and of the holidays. So when prayer [Shekhinah] ascends [to Ze’eir Anpin] She should be joined with Him with all ten sefirot [because there can be no holiness with fewer than ten] which is His own holiness, His blessing and unity. Therefore, when a person wishes his prayer to ascend, he should raise it with all its movement, the musical intonations and the vowels, since the letters are horses, the vowels horsemen, and the musical intonations weapons. If the serpent aims to seize the prayer, one must prepare a sling against it, and the mystery of the matter lies in זַרְקָא (zarqa), מַקַּף (maqqaf), שׁוֹפָר הוֹלֵךְ (shofar holekh), and סְגוֹלְתָּא (segolta)” (Zohar 1:23a, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar, cf. Zohar 2:86b).

Soul Food

“You can mend the cosmos by anything you doeven eating…. So when you are about to eat bread, say הַמּוֹצִיא (ha-motsi), ‘who brings forth’: ‘Blessed are you, YHWH our God, sovereign of the world, who brings forth bread from the earth.’ Then by eating, you bring forth sparks that cleave to your soul” (Kavvanah, a spiritual “intention,” of Rabbi Yitsḥaq Luria, recorded by Rabbi Yosef Don Don, ca. 1570, translated in Matt, The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism, p. 149).

The righteous man eats for the sating of נַפְשׁוֹ (nafsho), his gullet [or: his soul], but the belly of the wicked will want (Proverbs 13:25).

“When a person eats he must direct his thought so that it roam (2 Chronicles 16:9) with the blessed Holy One over each and every bite, as is written, And they beheld God and ate and drank (Exodus 24:11)” (Rabbenu Baḥya ben Asher, Shulḥan shel Arba).

“Whoever wants bread, let him eat by the mouth of the sword” (Zohar 3:188b).

Inner Service: A Good Thought is Linked with Action

And Adonai said, Inasmuch as this people approached with its mouth and with its lips honored Me but kept its heart far from Me, and their reverence for Me was a commandment of men learned by rote, therefore will I continue to strike this people with wonder upon wonder, and the wisdom of its wise men shall vanish and the discernment of its discerners disappear (Isaiah 29:13–14).

“There is service of the blessed Holy One based on activity of the body, and this is considered service. Then there is service of the blessed Holy One that is more internal, and this is essence, for all depends on that inner service, essence of all” (Zohar 2:201a).

“Do not stand לְהִתְפַּלֵּל (le-hitpallel), to make yourself the object of [divine] intervention, unless with deep concentration [lit., מִתּוֹךְ כֹּבֶד רֹאשׁ (mitokh koved rosh), in the midst of a heavy head, cf. BT Yevamot 105b]. The devout men of old used to wait one hour before praying in order to direct their heart-minds to the Omnipresent—even if a king greets him, he should not answer; even if a serpent is wound round his heel, he should not break off” (M Berakhot 5:1, cf. BT Berakhot 30b).

“Rabbi Yirmiyah said in the name of Rabbi El’azar, ‘One who was reciting the [Amidah] Prayer וְלֹא כִּיוֵּן לִבּוֹ (ve-lo kivven libbo), but his mind was not focused, if he knows that he can go back and focus he should go back and recite the Prayer. And if not, he should not go back and recite the Prayer.’

Rabbi Ḥiyya the Great said, ‘In all my days I never כִּוּוּנִית (kivunit), focused. One time I wanted to focus וְהִרְהֲרִית בְּלִבִּי (ve-hirharit be-libbi), and I conceived in my mind. And I said to myself, ‘Who goes up first before the king? The Arqabata [a high dignitary in Persia] or the Exilarch?’

Shemu’el said, ‘I count the birds [or: clouds].’

Rabbi Bun son of Ḥiyya said, ‘I count rows of bricks.’ Rav Matanyah said, ‘I regard myself as profited. For when I reach the Thanksgiving blessing, my head bows instinctively’” (JT Berakhot 2:4, 17b).

“Merit has both stock and fruit, as is said: It is good for the righteous [for the fruit of his deeds he enjoys] (Isaiah 3:10). Transgression has stock but not fruit, as is said: Alas, for the wicked, there is evil, [for as his hands have done, it will be done to him] (ibid., 11). Then how do I establish, And they ate from the fruit of their way, and from their own counsels they were sated (Proverbs 1:31)? Transgression which bears fruit has fruit; that which does not bear fruit has no fruit.

A good thought is linked with action, as is said: Then did the YHWH-fearers speak together, each man to his neighbor, and YHWH hearkened and He heard, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for the YHWH-fearers who value His name (Malachi 3:16). Now, what is who value His name [lit., וּלְחֹשְׁבֵי (u-le-ḥoshvei), and that thought upon, His name]?

Rav Assi said: Even if one [merely] thinks of performing a mitsvah but is forcibly prevented the verse ascribes it to him as though he has performed it. An evil thought is not linked with action, as is said: Had I seen mischief in my heart, Adonai would not have listened (Psalms 66:18). Then how do I establish, [Hear, O earth,] I am about to bring evil against this people, the fruit of their devisings [for they did not listen to all My words, and My teaching they have spurned] (Jeremiah 6:19)? Thought which bears fruit the blessed Holy One links with action. Thought which does not bear fruit the blessed Holy One does not link with action.

What of So as to catch the house of Israel in their thoughts (Ezekiel 14:5)? Rav Aḥa son of Ya’aqov: That refers to idolatry, for a Master said: Idolatry is so heinous that he who rejects it is as though he admits [the truth of] the whole Torah. ‘Ulla said: [This is to be explained] as Rav Huna taught. For Rav Huna said: Once a man transgresses and repeats it, it is permitted him. ‘It is permitted him!’ can you really think so? Rather, it becomes to him as something permitted [cf. BT Yoma 39a: ‘Transgression dulls the heart of man]” (BT Qiddushin 40a).