The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: לִוְיָתָן

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).

The World He Made is like a Ball Thrown from Hand to Hand


He stretches Zaphon over the void, hangs earth over emptiness (Job 26:7).

“It is taught: Rabbi Yose says: Woe to creatures who see but know not what they see, who stand but know not on what they stand. What does the earth stand on? On the pillars, for it is said: He makes the earth shake in its setting, and its pillars shutter (Job 9:6). The pillars upon the waters, for it is said: Who stamps firm the earth on the waters (Psalms 136:6). The waters upon the mountains, for it is said: over mountains the waters stood (ibid. 104:6). The mountains on the wind, for it is said: He that forms the mountains, and creates the wind (Amos 4:13). The wind upon the storm, for it is said: Stormwind that performs His command (Psalms 148:8). Storm is תְּלוּיָה (teluyah), suspended, on the arm of the blessed Holy One for it is said: [A refuge, the God of old,] from beneath the arms of the world (Deuteronomy 33:27). But the Sages say: [The world] stands on twelve pillars, for it is said: He set out the boundaries of peoples, by the number of the sons of Israel (ibid. 32:8). And some say seven pillars, for it is said: Wisdom has built her house, she has her pillars, seven (Proverbs 9:1). Rabbi El’azar son of Shammua’ says: [It stands] on one pillar, and its name is ‘Righteous,’ for it is said: The Righteous One is the foundation of the world (Proverbs 10:25)” (BT Ḥagigah 12b).

“Rabbi Yehudah opened, God said, ‘Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters…’ (Genesis 1:6). Come and see: When the blessed Holy One created the world, He created seven רְקִיעִים (reqi’im), heavens, above; He created seven earths; He created seven seas; He created seven rivers; He created seven days; He created seven weeks; He created seven years seven times, seven thousand years that the world exists. The blessed Holy One is in the seventh of all [cf. Sefer Yetsirah §39, §42].

Seven שְׁחָקִים (sheaqim), heavens, above, and in each and every one: ministers, stars, and constellations, serving in each and every firmament—all dwelling one above the other, to receive the yoke of their Master’s kingdom. In all of those firmaments are various chariots and ministers, one upon another—some with six wings, some with four wings; some with four faces; some with two faces, some with one; some flaming fire, some water, some wind, as is written: He makes His angels winds, His ministers flaming fire (Psalms 104:4).

All those רְקִיעִין (reqi’in), firmaments, one upon the other, are like skins of an onion, some below and some above. Every firmament moves and trembles from fear of their Master; at His command they move, and at His command they stand still. And above them all, the blessed Holy One, conveying all by His power and might.

Correspondingly, seven earths below, all in the inhabited realm, although some are higher and some are lower, and the land of Israel is highest of all, and Jerusalem is highest of habitation [cf. Ibn Ezra on Genesis 1:2: ‘As to the Midrash that there are seven earths it means that the realm inhabited by human beings is divided into seven zones (or climates);’ Zohar 1:177a; 2:30b].

[Yet] our Companions who dwell in the south have seen in the books of the ancients and in the Book of Adam that those earths are divided as follows: they exist below corresponding to those firmaments above, one upon another, one upon another, and between each earth and the next is a firmament separating one from another. So all those earths are distinguished by names, and in each of them is a Garden of Eden and a Hell. In them are creatures, differing from one another, corresponding to the pattern above: some with two faces, some with four, some with one, and the appearance of these is unlike those.

Now you might say, ‘But all inhabitants of the world issued from Adam! How did Adam descend to all those earths and engender children? And how many wives did he have? Well, Adam existed only in the highest world of all called תֵּבֵל (Tevel), Firm Land, as is said: He commanded לְתֵבֵל אַרְצוֹ (le-Tevel Artso), His earth Firm Land [cf. Proverbs 8:31: Playing בְּתֵבֵל אַרְצוֹ (be-Tevel Artso), with His inhabited world]. This תֵּבֵל (Tevel), Firm Land, is linked with the firmament above and joined with the supernal Name, as is written: He judges תֵּבֵל (Tevel), the Firm Land, with righteousness (Psalms 9:9)—with righteousness [i.e., Shekhinah], surely! So the children of Adam exist in this highest one called תֵּבֵל (Tevel), Firm Land, and they are superior to all, corresponding to the pattern above.

How so? Just as above there are firmaments, with one firmament highest of all, above which is the throne of the blessed Holy One, as is said: like the appearance of sapphire, image of a throne. And upon the image of a throne, an image like the appearance of a human being upon it above (Ezekiel 1:26)—so here too in this תֵּבֵל (Tevel), Firm Land, is a king of all. And who is that? The human being, who is not to be found among all those lower ones.

And those lower ones, where did they come from? Well, from residual vapors of the earth, assisted by the firmament above, issue creatures differing from one another, some clothed in shells, like those worms found in the earth—some of them red, black, or white shells, some any color. All the creatures are like that, and they endure for only ten years or so.

[Yet] in the book of Hamnuna Sava it is explained further that all the inhabited world מִתְגַּלְגְּלָא בְּעִגּוּלָא כַּכַּדּוּר (mitgalgela be-iggula ka-kadur), revolves in a circle like a ball, some below and some above. All those creatures differ in their appearance, due to the difference of the atmosphere in every place, and they remain in existence like human beings. Consequently, there is a place in the inhabited world where day shines for some, while for others it is dark—for these it is day, while for those it is night. And there is a place where it is entirely day, and night exists for only a brief time [cf. Plato, Timaeus 62d–63a].

And that which is said in the books of the ancients and in the Book of Adam is correct, for it is written: I praise You, for awesomely and wondrously am I made, wondrous are Your works, and my soul deeply knows it (Psalms 139:14), and it is written: How many are Your works, O YHWH! All of them You made in wisdom; the earth is filled with Your creatures (ibid. 104:24). So all is fine [since these and those are the words of the Living God]. This mystery has been transmitted to the masters of wisdom and not to markers of boundaries, for it is a deep mystery of Torah.

Similarly, in the sea, which has numerous creatures differing from one another, as is written: This sea, vast and broad of reach, [gliding creatures there beyond number, living beings small and great]. There ships go, [Leviathan whom You fashioned to play with] (Psalms 104:25–26). All interdependent, all interlinked, and all corresponding to the pattern above. And in all those worlds, none rules but the human being, with the blessed Holy One over him.

Rabbi Nehorai Sava sailed on the Great Sea, and the sea grew stormy and all those aboard the ship perished. A miracle happened to him and he descended through certain pathways in the heart of the sea and emerged beneath the sea into an inhabited land. He saw some of those creatures—all of them small—and they were praying, but he did not know what they were saying. A miracle happened to him and he ascended. He said, ‘Happy are the righteous, who engage in Torah and know concealed mysteries above and below! Woe to those who dispute their words and do not believe!

From that day on, when he came to the house of study and they were uttering a word of Torah, he would weep. They asked him, ‘Why are you weeping?’ He replied, ‘Because I transgressed believing in the Rabbis, and I fear the judgment of that world” (Zohar 3:10a, cf. ZḤ 15a [MhN]; Scholem, “Parashah Ḥadashah,” 441–42).

One silver bowl (Numbers 7:13)—the world He made is כַּכַּדּוּר (ka-kadur), like a ball, thrown from hand to hand” (Bemidbar Rabbah 13:14).

“It has been taught: There are ten גַלגַלִים (galgalim), [nested] spheres, and ten מַאֲמָרוֹת (ma’amarot), commands. Each and every sphere has its command—not that it is surrounded by it, but rather it turns it. This world is [like] a mustard seed in a ring. Why? Because of the breath that blows upon it and sustains it. If this breath were to be interrupted, the world would wither in an instant” (Bahir §179, cf. Maimonides, Mishneh TorahHilkhot Yesodei ha-Torah 1:5).

“Sound of a גַּלְגַּלָּא מִתְגַּלְגְּלָא (galgalla mitgalgela), sphere revolving, from below to above; her braided chariots whirling, a sweet sound ascending and descending, drifting through the world. Sound of a shofar drawn out in depths of rungs, turning the sphere. Around her lie two מַגְרוֹפִין (magrofyan), spades [or: shovels, ladles, hydraulica, see BT Arakhin 10b–11a], on the right and on the left, in two colors intermingling—this one white, that one red—both turning the sphere above. When turning to the right, white ascends; when turning to the left, red descends. The sphere turns constantly, never subsiding. Two birds ascend chirping, one to the south, one to the north, soaring through the air. The chirping and the sweet sound of the sphere join as one, the A psalm, a song for the Sabbath day (Psalms 92:1), and all blessings flow whisperingly in this sweetness through the passionate sound of the shofar” (Zohar 1:233b, cf. BT Yoma 20b; Guide of the Perplexed 2:8; Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 75–76, 27b).