The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: נָחָשׁ

Choose the Spice of Life

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“Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi asked: ‘What is And this is the teaching which Moses שָׂם (sam), set, before the children of Israel (Deuteronomy 4:44)?’ If he is worthy it becomes for him סַם (sam), medicine, of life, if not, סַם (sam), poison, of death [cf. pharmakon]” (BT Yoma 72b, cf. BT Ta’anit 7a).

“There is nothing good higher than עֹנֶג (oneg), delight, there is nothing evil lower that נֶגַע (nega), affliction” (Sefer Yetsirah §18).

Inasmuch as you will not have served YHWH your God in joy and with a good heart out of an abundance of all things, you will serve your enemies whom YHWH will send against you… I call to witness for you today the heavens and the earth. Life and death I set before you, the blessing and the curse, and you shall choose life so that you may live, you and your seed (Deuteronomy 28:47; 30:19).

“Our Rabbis taught: וְשַׂמְתֶּם (Ve-samtem), and you shall set [these words on your heart and in your very being…] (Deuteronomy 11:18)—סַם תָּם (sam tam), a complete remedy. Torah is compared to סַם חַיִּים (sam ḥayyim), an elixir of life. A parable: A man who struck his son a strong blow, and [then] put a plaster on his wound, saying to him, ‘My son, as long as this plaster is on your wound eat and drink what you like, and bathe in hot water or cold water, and do not fear. But if you remove it, look, it will rot.’ Thus the blessed Holy One said to Israel: ‘My children! I created the evil impulse but I [also] created Torah, as its תַבלִין (tavlin), antidote [lit., ‘spice’]; if you occupy yourself with Torah, you will not be delivered into his hand, as is said: For if you offer well, will it not be uplifting? (Genesis 4:7). But if you do not occupy yourself with Torah, you will be delivered into his hand, as is written, at the tent flap sin crouches (ibid.). And not only that, but he is entirely occupied with you, as is said, and for you is his longing (ibid.). Yet if you wish, you will rule over him, as is said, and you will rule over him (ibid.)” (BT Qiddushin 30b).

“This may be compared to a doctor who had one vial full of vivifying drug, which he kept for his son. He wanted to give his son that vivifying ointment. The doctor was wise, and he said, ‘There are bad servants in my house. If they know that I am giving this present to my son, it will be evil in their eyes, and they will seek to kill him.’

What did he do? He took a little bit of deadly poison and put it on the opening of the vial. Then he called his servants and said to them, You are faithful to me; would you like this drug?

They said, Let’s see what it is. They took a bit to taste, and before even smelling it, they felt that they were about to die. They said to themselves, If he gives this drug to his son, he will die, and we will inherit our master.

They said to him, Our master, this drug is fitting only for your son. Here are the wages of our labor; we leave them for you—give them to him as a bribe so that he will take this drug.

Similarly, the blessed Holy One is a wise doctor. He knew that if He gave the Torah to Israel before informing [the heavenly princes], they would pursue Israel every day on account of it and kill them. But He did this, and they gave Him gifts and presents so that [Israel] would accept it. All of these Moses received to give to Israel, as is written: You ascended the heights, you seized captives, you took gifts for humans (Psalms 68:19). Consequently, Israel inherited the Torah without any challenge or any accusation at all. Blessed is He and blessed is His name forever and forever!” (Zohar 3:193a, cf. BT Avodah Zarah 2b–3b).

“Even with all [of one’s lifetime of חֵטְא (ḥet), missing the mark] if he turns back in repentance of this it says, Turn back and be healed (Isaiah 6:10). And I will give him his soulmate, as it says, Let her be healing to your navel (Proverbs 3:8)—the form of Torah is סַם (sam), medicine, and she is life, as is written, A tree of life is she to those who grasp her (ibid. 3:18) [cf. BT Qiddushin 30b]. And his wife is in his form, as is written, Enjoy life with a woman whom you love (Ecclesiastes 9:9). Torah is good, as is written, For good learning I have given you, [do not forsake תּוֹרָתִי (torati), My teaching] (Proverbs 4:2). And his wife is in his form, as is written, Who finds a wife, finds a good thing (ibid. 18:22)” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 30a).

Tail in the Head: The Elusive Serpent

2235_127246100159_9430_nWho tells from the first the last, and from old what is not yet done (Isaiah 46:10).

“Ten sefiroth belimah—their end is embedded in their beginning like a flame bound to a burning coal. For the Lord is singular, He has none second to Him. Before one, what do you count?

Ten sefiroth belimah—their measure is ten yet they have no end: depth of first and depth of last; depth of good and depth of evil; depth of above and depth of below; depth of east and depth of west; depth of north and depth of south. And a singular Lord—God, steadfast King—reigning over them all from His holy dwelling for ever and ever” (Sefer Yetsirah §§6–7).

There is a thing of which one would say, “See this, it is new.” It already has been in the eons that were before us (Ecclesiastes 1:10).

That which was already has been, and what is to be already has been, and ha-Elohim seeks out the pursued (Ecclesiastes 3:15).

“Rabbi Ḥiyya opened, saying, ‘That which is has already been called by name, and what is to be [… already has been] (Ecclesiastes 3:15, 6:10). That which is has already [been]—corresponding to what we have learned: Before the blessed Holy One created this world, He created worlds and destroyed them, until the blessed Holy One entertained the desire to create this world, and He consulted the Torah. Then He was arrayed in His adornments and adorned with His crowns, and He created the world. All that exists in this world was already in His presence, rising before Him, arranged before Him (Zohar 3:61a–b).

“Gravings of engravings, like the appearance of a long serpent, extending here and theretail in the head, head behind the shoulders, pregnant and furious, guarded and hidden” (Zohar 2:176b, Sifra di Tsni’uta).

“תְּלִי (Teli)—a spark rendered as an illusory serpent. Its tail clinging to orbs, surrounding them. In its might it darkens the seven planets” (Berit Menuḥa: The Second Way, The Way of Love, Eighth Vowel).

The elusive Serpent (Job 26:13).