“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 חִיוְורָא (ḥivvra), White, of the House of Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nasi], as is written, 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).
“[And God said,‘נַעֲשֶׂה (Na’aseh), let us make, a human in our image…’ (Genesis 1:26)]—Rabbi Simon said: When the blessed Holy One came to create the first human, the ministering angels made themselves into cohorts and parties, some of them saying, ‘He will not be created,’ and some of them saying, ‘He will be created.’ As is written, Kindness and truth נִפְגָּשׁוּ (nifggashu), have met [or: have struck], justice and peace נָשָׁקוּ(nashaqu), have kissed [or: (each has) נִשְׁקוֹ (nishqo), his weapon] (Psalms 85:11). Kindness said, ‘He will be created, because he will render kindness.’ Truth said, ‘He will not be created, because he is all lies.’ Righteousness said, ‘He will be created, because he will perform justice.’ Peace said, ‘He will not be created, because he is all strife.’ What did the blessed Holy One do? He took up Truth and flung it to the earth, as is written, And he flung truth to the ground (Daniel 8:12). The ministering angels said before the blessed Holy One, ‘Master of the Worlds! How [can] You be in contempt of the council?’ [Nevertheless,] Truth will rise from the earth, as is written, Truth from the earth will spring up, [as justice from the heavens looks down] (Psalms ibid., 12).
The Rabbis say in the name of Rabbi Ḥanina, and Rabbi Pinḥas and Rabbi Ḥelqiah say in the name of Rabbi Simon: מְאֹד (me’od), very—[read:] אָדָם (adam), man. As is written, And God saw all that He had done, and, look, it was me’od, very, good (Genesis 1:31). And, look, it was… good—man. Rav Huna Rabbah of Sepphoris, said: While the ministering angels were busy arguing with each other, the blessed Holy One created him. He said to them, ‘What are you arguing for? Man is already נַעֲשָׂה (na’asah), made!” (Bereshit Rabbah 8:5–6).
“Any time Israel occupies themselves with Torah and doing the will of their Father in Heaven, the blessed Holy One Himself turns Elohim [i.e., the quality of Judgment] to blessing, as is said, Truth from the earth will spring up, as justice from the heavens looks down (Psalms 85:12). Now there is no looking down except to bless, as is said, Look down from Your holy dwelling place, [from the heavens,] and bless your people [Israel…] (Deuteronomy 26:15). Any time Israel does not occupy themselves with Torah and doing the will of the Omnipresent, perish the thought, He turns to curse them, as is said, And it grew up to the host of the heavens and brought down some of the stars from the host and trampled them. [And up to the Commander of the Host it grew, and from it the daily offering was taken away, and the firm place of His sanctuary was flung away.] And a host was criminally set against the daily offering, and it flung truth to the ground and prospered in what it did (Daniel 8:10–12). And there is no host of the heavens but Israel. Criminally—crime of Torah, as is said, And it flung truth to the ground and prospered in what it did. Teaching that if Israel, perish the thought, flings words of Torah to the ground, immediately the kingship of the nations prosper” (Tanna debei Eliyyahu 18).
“אֱמֶת (Emet), truth—א (alef) at the beginning of the alphabet, מ (mem) in the middle, ת (tav) at its end… When Israel lies in Torah of Truth, by swearing falsely, it is said, And he flung truth to the ground (Daniel 8:12). What is the ground? Shekhinah. And when Israel fulfills the Torah of Truth, by swearing the truth, it is said, אֱמֶת מֵאֶרֶץ תִּצְמָח (emet me-erets titsemaḥ), truth from the earth will spring up (Psalms 85:12). Now in exile it says, And truth is not to be found (Isaiah 59:15) and falsehood rules the world. But when Truth is arrayed, ascending to its site obliterating falsehood from the world, it is written, True speech stands firm always (Proverbs 12:19). It is not written firmly founded, but rather, firm always. But a mere moment—a lying tongue (ibid.). What is Truth? The middle pillar. Shekhinah—a teaching of truth was in his mouth, [and no wrong was found on his lips] (Malachi 2:6). And what is falsehood? Samael. When the truth rules, falsehood will be removed from the world ” (Tiqqunei Zohar 63, 95a–b).
Behold the man whose name is צֶמַח (tsemaḥ), Shoot; and יִצְמָח (yitsemaḥ), he shall shoot up, in his place, and he shall build the temple of YHWH (Zechariah 6:12).
“The Sages said, ‘If the King Messiah comes from among the living, David will be his name; if he comes from among the dead, it will be David himself.’ Rabbi Tanḥuma said, ‘I say that the basis for this is, And keeping faith with His anointed, to David [and his seed forever] (Psalms 18:51).’
Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi said, ‘צֶמַח (Tsemaḥ), Shoot, is his name.’ Rabbi Yudan son of Rabbi Ayybo said, ‘מְנַחֵם (Menaḥem), Comforter, is his name.’ Ḥananiah son of Rabbi Abahu said, ‘They do not disagree. The numerical value of the letters of one name equals the numerical value of the other—צֶמַח (Tsemaḥ) is equal to מְנַחֵם (Menaḥem)’ [cf. Zohar 3:16a].
And this supports the view of Rabbi Yudan son of Rabbi Ayybo. Once a Jew was plowing and his ox snorted once before him. An Arab who was passing and heard the sound said to him, ‘O son of Judah, O son of Judah. Loosen your ox, and loosen your plow. For today your Temple was destroyed.’ The ox snorted again. He said to him, ‘O son of Judah, O son of Judah. Bind your ox, and bind your plow. For today the King Messiah was born.’ He said to him, ‘What is his name?’ [The Arab replied,] ‘Menaḥem.’ He said to him, ‘And what is his father’s name?’ He said to him, ‘Ḥizqiyah.’ He said to him, ‘Where is he from?’ He said to him, ‘From the royal capital of Bethlehem in Judea.’ He went and sold his ox and sold his plow. And he became a peddler of infants’ clothes. And he went from place to place until he came to that very city. All of the women bought from him. But Menaḥem’s mother did not buy from him. He heard the women saying, ‘O Mother of Menaḥem, O Mother of Menaḥem, come buy for your child.’ She said, ‘I want to choke this enemy of Israel. For on the day he was born the Temple was destroyed.’ He said to her, ‘We are sure that on this day it was destroyed, and on this day it will be rebuilt.’ She said to him, ‘I have no money.’ He said to her, ‘It is of no matter to me. Come and buy for him and if you have no money, pay me when I return.’ After a while he returned. He went up to that place. He said to her, ‘What happened to the infant?’ She said to him, ‘Since the time you saw him a wind came and whisked him away from me.’
Rabbi Bun said, ‘Why must we learn this from an Arab? Do we not have evidence for it? And Lebanon with its mighty shall fall (Isaiah 10:34). And what follows this? And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1)’” (JT Berakhot 2:3, 5a, cf. Eikhah Rabbah 1:51; Zohar 1:82b).
“שִׂיחַ (Shiaḥ), plant, of the field (Genesis 2:5)—the first מָשִׁיחַ (mashiaḥ), Messiah, who was not yet on earth. Shrub, of the field (ibid.)—the second Messiah. Why were they not on the earth? Because Moses was not there with them to serve the Shekhinah [called Earth]. Of him, it is written: And there was no human to till the soil (ibid.). The secret is given in: The scepter shall not pass from Judah (Genesis 49:10)—Messiah son of David; Nor the mace from between his legs (ibid.)—Messiah son of Joseph. Until Shiloh comes (ibid.)—Moses, since מֹשֶׁה (Moshe), Moses, is numerically equivalent to שִׁילֹה (Shiloh), Shiloh. וְלוֹ יִקְהַת (Ve-lo yiqehat), and to him the submission, of peoples (ibid.)—the letters [of]: וְלֵוִי קְהָת (ve-Levi qehat), and Levi Kohath [i.e., reaching from Moses, to Kohath and Levi, his ancestors]” (Zohar 1:25b, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar).
“[Rabbi Yoḥanan son of Zakkai used to say,] ‘If you have a sapling in your hand, and it is said to you, ‘Behold, there is the Messiah’—go on with your planting, and afterward go out and receive him” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan B, 31).
And Moses, YHWH’s servant, died there in the land of Moab by the word of YHWH. And he was buried in the glen in the land of Moab opposite Beth-Peor, and no man has known his burial place to this day. And Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died. His eyes had not grown bleary and his sap had not fled. And the Israelites keened for Moses in the steppes of Moab thirty days, and the days of keening in mourning for Moses came to an end (Deuteronomy 34:5–8).
“He opened, saying, ‘Benayahu son of Yehoyada (2 Samuel 23:20)….
He went down and smote the lion (ibid.)…. When sins prevailed, He descended to the rungs below, and He killed that lion, no longer willing to provide its prey.… On a snowy day—a day when sins prevailed, and judgment was decreed above by the celestial court…. Until here, mystery of the verse. What is written next? He slew an Egyptian, a man of good appearance (2 Samuel, 23:21)…. He slew an Egyptian man…. Who is it? Moses, as is written: They said, ‘An Egyptian man rescued us’ (Exodus 2:19).… The Egyptian had a spear in his hand (2 Samuel, ibid.)…. as is said: with the staff of God in my hand (Exodus 17:9)…. With this he sinned at the rock, as is said: He struck the rock with his staff twice (Numbers 20:11). The blessed Holy One said to him, ‘Moses, I did not give you My staff for this. By your life! [on the righteous being judged most strictly, see BT Ta’anit 8a]. From now on, it will no longer be in your hand.’ Immediately He went down to him with a club (2 Samuel, ibid.)—with severe judgment. And wrenched the spear from out of the Egyptian’s hand, for from that moment it was withheld from him and was never again in his hand. And killed him with his own spear. Because of the sin of striking with that staff, he died and did not enter the Holy Land, and this light was withheld from Israel” (Zohar 1:6b).
“In the future the blessed Holy One will return what was stolen from you—that staff—as is written, [And he struck down an Egyptian man, a man of daunting appearance, a spear was in the hand of the Egyptian. And he went down to him with a staff] and stole the spear from the hand of the Egyptian [and he killed him with his own spear] (2 Samuel 23:21) for it was you of whom is said an Egyptian man. And in your exile and your cycling, He will set aside for you towns of asylum to save yourself from your endless pursuers” (Zohar 2:114b, Ra’aya Meheimna Mishpatim).
And the human knew Eve his woman and she conceived and bore קַיִן (qayin),Cain, and she said, “I have got me, a man with YHWH.” And she bore as well his brother הֶבֶל (hevel), Abel, and Abel became a herder of sheep while Cain was a tiller of the soil. And it happened in the course of time that Cain brought from the fruit of the soil an offering to YHWH. And Able too had brought from the choice firstlings of his flock, and YHWH regarded Abel and his offering but He did not regard Cain and his offering, and Cain was very incensed, and his face fell…. And Cain said to Abel his brother, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field Cain rose against Abel his brother and killed him. And YHWH said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said,“I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” And He said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cry out to me from the soil. And so, cursed shall you be by the soil that gaped with its mouth to take your brother’s blood from your hand.” And Cain said to YHWH, “My punishment is too great to bear” (Genesis 4:1–11).
“And Cain said to Abel his brother, ‘Let us go out to the field’ (Genesis 4:8). And it was when the two of them had gone out to the field, Cain said to Abel, ‘There is no judgment, and there is no judge, and there is no other world, and there is no gift of good reward for the righteous, and there is no punishment for the wicked. And the world was not created in compassion and it is not governed with compassion. For what reason was your offering accepted from you with favor, but from me it was not accepted with favor?!’ Abel said to him, ‘There is judgment and there is a Judge and there is another world, and there is a gift of good reward for the righteous, and punishment for the wicked. The world was created in compassion and it is governed with compassion. Because the fruits of [my] good deeds were better than yours, my offering was accepted from me with favor but from you it was not accepted with favor.’ And the two of them were arguing in the field and Cainrose againstAbel his brother and killed him (ibid.)” (Fragment Targum).
“From the filth [injected into Eve by the primordial serpent] Cain came forth and killed Abel the shepherd, of whom it is written: For he is but flesh (Genesis 6:3). בְּשַׁגַּם (Beshagam), for (ibid.), is Abel, and he killed him, as is known. However, בְּשַׁגַּם (beshagam), for, [he is but flesh. Let his days be a hundred and twenty years] is certainly [a hint to] Moses and he was firstborn of the [primordial] human [בְּשַׁגַּם (beshagam), for, is numerically equivalent to מֹשֶׁה (moshe), Moses, see BT Ḥullin 139b].
And with all this, for the sake of covering the nakedness of his father, Moses took the daughter of Jethro to be his wife. Of Jethro, it is written: And the sons of the Kenite, the father-in-law of Moses (Judges 1:16)—this has already been explained [see Sifrei Bemidbar, Be-Ha’alotekha, 78; Shemot Rabbah 27:7; Mekhilta Yitro, Amaleq, 1; Tanḥuma, Shemot, 11; cf. BT Bava Batra 109b; Zohar 3:215b (RM)]. Why was Jethro called Kenite? Because he detached himself from Cain, as is written: And Heber הַקֵּינִי (ha-qeni), the Kenite, had separated from קַיִן (qayin), Cain (Judges 4:11) [on Jethro’s seven names, see Mekhilta de-Rabbi Yishma’el, Amaleq, 3]” (Zohar 1:28b, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar).
“And they taught about Jethro: Why is his name called ‘Kenite?’ Because הַקֵּינִי (ha-qeni), the Kenite, had separated from קַיִן (qayin), Cain (Judges 4:11). The Holy Lamp [Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai] rose and said: Therefore it is said: קָנִיתִי (Qaniti), I have got me, a man with YHWH (Genesis 4:1), for [Eve] saw through the Holy Spirit that in the future [Jethro’s] sons would sit in the Chamber of Hewn Stone [meeting place of the Sanhedrin, see BT Sotah 11a]” (Zohar 3:215b, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).
“He who sheds human blood by humans [his blood will be shed] (Genesis 9:6)—that very man himself. The one slain will kill the one who killed him, according to ‘Because you drowned [them], they drowned you…’ (M Avot 2:7). Thus Abel killed Cain in the days of Moses, and the death of Korah by swallowing, measure for measure, is known. Like Korah, test and demand with warp and woof and you will find a wondrous secret [i.e., comb the fabric of the text (Numbers 16:1) lengthwise and breadthwise. Cf. M Kil’ayim 9:8; BT Sanhedrin 110a]” (Rabbi Menaḥem Tsiyyoni, Sefer Tsiyyoni, Qoraḥ, 82):
וַיִּקַּח קֹרַח בֶּן יִצְהָר בֶּן קְהָת בֶּן לֵוִי (Va-yiqaḥ qoraḥ ben yitshar ben qehat ben levi), and Korah son of Izhar son of Kohath son of Levi, and Datham and Abiram sons of Eliab and On son of Peleth sons of Reuben, took up, and they rose before Moses, and two hundred fifty men of the Israelites, community chieftains, persons called up to meeting, men of renown. And they assembled against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, “You have too much! For all the community, they are all holy, and in their midst is YHWH, and why should you raise yourselves up over YHWH’s assembly?” And Moses heard andfell on his face…. The ground that was under them split apart, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households and every human being that was Korah’s, and all his possessions (Numbers 16:1–4, 32)—קַיִן (qayin), Cain; הֶבֶל (hevel), Abel.
“‘Rabbi Akiva said: The company of Korah has no share in the world that is coming. Rabbi Eli’ezer said: YHWH kills and gives life, brings down to Sheol and raises up (1 Samuel 2:6)’ (M Sanhedrin 10:3). Our Rabbis taught: for it is said, And the earth covered over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly (Numbers 16:33)—this is Rabbi Akiva’s view. Rabbi Yehudah son of Batira said: They are as a lost article, which is sought, for it is said, I have wandered like a lost sheep. Seek Your servant, for Your commands I did not forget (Psalms 119:176).
Korah took (Numbers 16:1). Resh Laqish said: He took a bad bargain [or: purchase] for himself, being plucked out of Israel [קֵרֵחַ (qereaḥ), baldness, puns on קֹרַח (qoraḥ), Korah]. Son of יִצְהָר (yitshar), Izhar (ibid.)—a son who incensed the whole world with himself as the [heat of] צֹהַרִים (tsoharim), noon. Son of קְהָת (qehat), Kohath (ibid.)—a son who קֵהֶה (qeheh), set on edge, the teeth of his progenitors [i.e., who disgraced his parents]. Son of לֵוִי (levi), Levi (ibid.)—a son who joined the לְוָיָה (levayah), retinue, of Hell. Then why not say too ‘son of יַעֲקֹב (ya’aqov), Jacob,’ [implying] a son who עַקָב (eqev), marched, himself into Hell?—Rabbi Shemu’el son of Rabbi Yitsḥaq answered: Jacob supplicated for himself [not to be counted amongst Korah’s ancestors], as is written, In their council let me never set foot, their assembly my presence shun (Genesis 49:6): In their council let me never set foot—the spies [in no case is the genealogy of the spies traced to Jacob (Rashi)]; their assembly my presence shun—to the company of Korah. דָתָן (Datan), Datham [Korah’s ally], (ibid.)—stepped over the דָת (dat), law, of God; אֲבִירָם (Aviram), Abiram (ibid.)—stoutly refused to repent; אוֹן (on), On(ibid.)—he sat in אֹנינוֹת (oninot), lamentations; פֶּלֶת (pelet), Peleth (ibid.)—פֶּלֶאוֹת (pele’ot), wonders, were done for him [since he abandoned the conspiracy, and was miraculously saved from its fate]; son of רְאוּבֵן (reuven), Reuben—a son who רֵאָה (re’ah), saw, and הַבִין (havin), understood.
Rav said: On son of Peleth was saved by his wife. She said to him, ‘What does it matter to you? Whether the one [Moses] remains master or the other [Korah] becomes master, you are but a disciple.’ He replied, ‘But what can I do? I have taken part in their counsel, and they have sworn me [to be] with them.’ She said, ‘I know that they are all a holy community, as is written, For all the community, they are all holy (Numbers 16:3). Sit here, and I will save you.’ She gave him wine to drink, intoxicated him and laid him down within [the tent]. Then she sat down there at the entrance and loosened her hair. Whoever came [to summon him] saw her and retreated.
Meanwhile, Korah’s wife joined [the rebels] and said to him [Korah], ‘See what Moses has done. He himself has become king; his brother he appointed High Priest; his brother’s sons he has made the vice High Priests. If terumah is brought, he decrees, Let it be for the priest; if the tithe is brought, which belongs to you [being a Levite], he orders, Give a tenth part thereof to the priest. Moreover, he has had your hair cut off [in accordance with the purification rites of the Levites (see Numbers 8:7)], and makes sport of you as though you were dirt; for he cast his eyes on your hair [i.e., he is envious].’
He said to her, ‘But he has done likewise!’ She replied, ‘Since all the greatness was his, he said also, Let me die with the Philistines! (Judges 16:30) [this was used proverbially to denote readiness to suffer, so that others might suffer too—Moses, retaining all the greatness himself, did not mind shaving his own hair off, seeing that he had caused all the rest to do so, thus depriving them of their beauty]. Moreover, he has commanded you, Set [fringes] of indigo wool [in the corners of your garments (see Numbers 15:38)]; but if there is virtue in indigo wool, then bring forth indigo wool, and clothe your entire academy with it.’
Thus is written, Every 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” (BT Sanhedrin 109b–110a).
“Come and see: The Levites, who come from the side of Judgment, are not purified until their hair is removed, as is written: Thus you shall do to them to purify them: sprinkle on them expiation water and have them pass a razor over all their flesh (Numbers 8:7). And in order for them to be further assuaged, the priest, who comes from the side of Ḥesed, must elevate them, as is written: Aaron shall make of the Levites an elevation offering before YHWH (ibid., 11)….
Rabbi Yitsḥaq said, ‘The greatest of all Levites was Korah, whom the blessed holy One made below corresponding to the pattern above, calling him קֹרַח (qoraḥ), Korah…. He is קֵרֵחַ (qereaḥ), bald (Leviticus 13:40). When Korah saw his head hairless and saw Aaron bedecked with royal adornments, he felt belittled and was jealous of Aaron [cf. Tanḥuma, Qoraḥ 3; Tanḥuma (Buber), Qoraḥ 6; Bemibar Rabbah 18:4]. The blessed Holy One said to him, ‘I made you corresponding to the pattern above. You do not wish to ascend among those above? Go down and be among those below!—as is written: and they go down alive to Sheol (Numbers 16:30). What is Sheol? Hell, where the wicked cry out and no one has compassion on them. Yet they are destined to ascend and be revived when the blessed Holy One awakens His people and revives them, as is written: YHWH kills and gives life, brings down to Sheol and raises up (1 Samuel 2:6)” (Zohar 3:49a).
“Every conflict that is for the sake of heaven is destined to endure, while any conflict not for the sake of heaven is not destined to endure. Which conflict is for the sake of heaven? The conflict between Hillel and Shammai. Which conflict is not for the sake of heaven? The conflict of Korah and his entire band” (M Avot 5:17, cf. Liqqutei Moharan 64:4).
“Rabbi Abba said in the name of Shemu’el: For three years there was a conflict between the House of Shammai and the House of Hillel. These said, ‘The Halakhah accords with us.’ And the those said, ‘The Halakhah accords with us.’ Then an echo went forth announcing, ‘Both are the words of אֱלֹהִים חַיִּים (Elohim ḥayyim), the living God, but the Halakhah is in accord with the rulings of the House of Hillel.’ Since, however, both are the words of the living God, what was it that entitled the House of Hillel to have the Halakhah fixed in accord with their rulings? Because they were kindly and modest, they studied their own rulings and those of the House of Shammai [see for example BT Berakhot 10b], and were even so [humble] as to mention the words of the House of Shammai before theirs” (BT Eruvin 13b).
“[Rabbi Shim’on ha-Amsoni said:] Just as I received reward for the exposition, so I will receive reward for the retraction [to be defeated by the truth is a defeat which is also a victory]” (BT Pesaḥim 22b).
“Doubts make sages of men” (Midrash Shemu’el on M Avot 5:27).
“In the act of Creation a conflict arose between left and right, and in that conflict aroused by the left, Hell emerged, clinging there. The central pillar, who is the third day, entered between them, mediating the conflict, reconciling the two sides. Hell descended, left merged in right, and peace prevailed over all [cf. Zohar 1:87a].
Similarly the conflict between Korah and Aaron was left against right. Moses, contemplating the act of Creation, said, ‘It is fitting that I mediate the conflict between left and right.’ He endeavored to reconcile them, but the left was unwilling, and Korah stiffened his resistance. He [Moses] said, ‘Hell must certainly join in the heat of the conflict of the left. Since he does not want to join above, merging in the right, he will certainly descend below by the intensity of his rage.’ Korah did not want this conflict to be harmonized by Moses because it was not for the sake of heaven; he cared nothing about the supernal glory and denied the act of Creation. As soon as Moses saw that he had denied the act of Creation and been thrust outside, Moses became very angry (Numbers 16:5). Moses became very angry because they had denied the act of Creation. Korah denied everything above and below, as is written: who strove against Moses and Aaron as part of Korah’s band when they strove against YHWH (ibid. 26:9), below and above. So he joined what befitted him [i.e., Hell, Sheol].
A conflict arrayed as above, ascending, not descending, established rightly, is the conflict of Hillel and Shammai. The blessed holy One mediated between them, harmonizing them. This was a conflict for the sake of heaven, so Heaven [Tif’eret] mediated the conflict, and upon this conflict the world was established. This resembled the act of Creation, whereas Korah totally denied the act of Creation, disputing heaven, seeking to deny the words of Torah. He certainly adhered to Hell, so there he clung. This secret appears in The Book of Adam. When darkness aroused, it aroused intensely, thereby creating Hell, clinging to it in that conflict. As seething fury subsided, conflict of a different type arose: a conflict of love. There were two conflicts: one, beginning; one, ending. This is the way of the righteous: beginning harshly, ending gently [cf. BT Qiddushin 30b]. Korah was the beginning of the conflict: seething in wrath, he was compelled to cling to Hell. Shammai was the end of the conflict, when wrath subsides and one must arouse the conflict of love and be reconciled by heaven” (Zohar 1:17a–b).
“Rabbi Berekhiyah said: What is The words of the wise are כַּדָּרְבֹנוֹת (ka-darvonot), like goads… [given from one shepherd] (Ecclesiastes 12:11)? כַּדוּר שֶׁל בָּנוֹת (Kadur shel banot), a girls’ ball—one tosses it here, and the other tosses it there. So too the Sages, who delve into Talmud and engage in Torah: one gives his reasoning and the other his, one puts forward one account and the other another, but the words of all are from Moses, the shepherd, who received from the Singular One of the world. Since one gives one account and the other another, perhaps their words merely fly about. Therefore it is written, like nails driven in (ibid.)” (Pesiqta Rabbati 3:1).
“Composers of collections (Ecclesiastes 12:11)—those who enter and sit assembled in assemblies, declaring what is impure [to be] impure, and what is pure [to be] pure; what is impure in its place, and what is pure in its place.
Should a man think to himself, ‘Since the House of Shammai declare impure and the House of Hillel declare pure, so-and-so forbids, and so-and-so permits, how then shall I learn Torah? Therefore it says [And God spoke] all these words (Exodus 20:1).
Given from one shepherd (Ecclesiastes 12:11)—one God created them. One Leader gave them. The blessed Master of Deeds spoke them. Therefore make of your heart chambers and chambers and bring into it the words of the House of Shammai and the words of the House of Hillel, the words of those who declare impure and the words of those who declare pure” (ToseftaSotah 7:12, cf. Job 22:22; BT Ḥagigah 3b; Bemidbar Rabbah 14:4).
“One who sees a crowd says, ‘Blessed is He who knows secrets. Just as their faces are different one from the other, so are their opinions different one from the other” (JT Berakhot 9:1, 13b).
“Within Torah is power of the right, as is said: from His right hand, a fiery law for them (Deuteronomy 33:2), and left is included in right. Whoever makes right left, and left right, is as if he destroys the world.
Come and see: Aaron is right; Levites are left. Korah sought to change right into left, so he was punished. Furthermore, he possessed the לָשׁוֹן הָרַע (lashon ha-ra), evil tongue, and he was punished entirely.
Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘Left is always included in right. Korah sought to change the arrangement of above and below, so he was eliminated from above and below.
Korah took (Numbers 16:1). What is meant by took? He took evil counsel for himself. If anyone chases after something that is not his, it escapes him; and what is more, he loses what he has. Korah pursued that which was not his; he lost his own without attaining the other [cf. Tosefta Sotah 4:19; BT Sotah 9b; Bereshit Rabbah 20:5; Mishnat Rabbi Eli’ezer 18, p. 334].
Come and see: The world exists only by peace. When the blessed Holy One created the world, it could not endure until peace came and settled upon all. What is it? Sabbath, which is peace of those above and below. Then the world endured. And whoever quarrels with it will be eliminated from the world [cf. M Avot 1:18]” (Zohar 3:176a).