The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: סְתוּמָה

He Will Open for You His Goodly Treasure: The Twentieth Day of the Omer—an Opening to Hope

Ilan Sefirot - Kabbalistic Divinity map. Amsterdam, 18th century, NLI

“Rafram son of Papa also said in the name of Rav Ḥisda: Since the day when the Temple was destroyed, rain no longer comes down from the ‘good treasury,’ as it says, YHWH will open for you His goodly treasure (Deuteronomy 28:12): When Israel act according to the will of the Omnipresent and are settled in their own land, then rain comes down from a ‘good treasury,’ but when Israel are not settled on their own land, then the rain does not come down from a ‘good treasury’” (BT Bava Batra 25b).

“Happy is one who succeeds in cleaving to the blessed Holy One fittingly! Happy is he in this world and in the world that is coming. [Seven days and seven days (1 Kings 8:65)—whoever joins these with these] the blessed Holy One opens for him holy treasure when his prayer needs to be received, as is written: YHWH will open for you His goodly treasurethe heavens (Deuteronomy 28:12). אֶת הַשָּׁמַיִם (Et ha-shamayim), The heavens—treasures above and below; seven days and seven days, all of them one, as is written: His goodly treasureHis treasure, singular, of et ha-shamayimthe heavensseven and seven channels (Zechariah 4:2), and they are one” (Zohar 1:204b).

Seven and seven (Zechariah 4:2)—all transcendent: one contained within its fellow. They are seven, each one contained within its companion. Now, you might say, ‘Six would have been better, so that each one can be combined within the other, because in this case one remains! With which shall it be combined?’ The answer is that when they all ascend, totaling twelve, the one positioned above them all, completing the number thirteen, is encompassed by the one standing above it. This last one is the lofty point from which all emerge….

When Solomon built the Temple and the lower world was in perfect accord with the upper world, Israel was entirely righteous, ascending numerous, lofty rungs. Then, Throne of Glory rose in rapture with abundant delight, with profuse exaltation. Then, Song of Songs of Solomon (Song of Songs 1:1), ascending in bliss, descending in bliss, joining in bliss—all worlds in bliss.

Song—for the blessed Holy One. Of Songs—for upper and lower realms. Which is Solomon’s—joining of all worlds in rapture, to the King who possesses peace completely.

Uttered by Elijah: ‘Song of Songs. It is written: YHWH will open for you His goodly treasure, the heavens (Deuteronomy 28:12). When the blessed Holy One created the world, He created sublime שִׁיתּין (shittin), channels—founts conducting rain of blessing and transcendent sanctifications from above. These drew first from the Fount of Life, from the supernal place from which they emerged [cf. BT Sukkah 49a]. 

In the beginning, before the world was created, a single desire called Hidden Thought arose and was revealed. Everything was set within that Hidden Thought, everything that existed, and that would come to exist. From that Thought arose the desire to create the world, and a subtle flow comprising hiddenness of Thought issued forth, inaudible, unrevealed. It can be perceived with wisdom that has been conferred—and not conferred—to the wise of heart, because it has not been revealed beyond.

From this flow five founts emerged, plus one that was sealed, and one absorbing all. These springs existed when the world was created, as is written: בְּרֵאשִׁית (Be-reshit), With beginning, ____ created אֱלֹהִים (Elohim), God (Genesis 1:1). בְּרֵאשִׁית (Be-reshit)—בָּרָא שִׁיתּ (bara shit), created a hollow. This hollow is a fount collecting all founts, nourishing worlds. The heavens (ibid.)—those six lofty springs, above all, conveying into this hollow. 

From the day the world was created until the Temple was built, they were sealed, entirely closed. If you say, ‘But Abraham [Ḥesed] was in the world’—behold it is written: And there was famine in the land (ibid. 12:10). Of Isaac [Gevurah]: And there was a famine in the land besides the former famine (ibid. 26:1). Similarly with Jacob [Tif’eret], it is written: And there was famine in all the lands (ibid. 41:54). Of Moses [Netsaḥ], it is written in several places: Who will feed us? (Numbers 11:4, 18); the people thirsted for water there (Exodus 17:3); there was no water for the community (ibid. 20:2). Of Joshua [Hod], despite their having entered the land, it is written: the manna ceased… and they ate of the produce of the land (Joshua 5:12). In the days of the Judges, it is written: In the days when the judges judgedthere was a famine in the land (Ruth 1:1) [cf. BT Bava Batra 14b: ‘Samuel wrote Judges and Ruth’]. Of David [Malkhut], it is written: There was a famine during the reign of David (2 Samuel 21:1) [on the Patriarchs etc., and their corresponding sefirot, see Bahir §135–§136Zohar 1:21b; 3:255b (RM)].

How can this all be explained? The explanation is that those channels had not opened, and the world was nourished only from a squeezed-out ooze, with no opening at all—aside from the resin exuded from a tree, dripping below, or from a rock. When Solomon [Yesod] came and the Temple was built, all the worlds were in a single balance, above and below. Then the hollow that receives and gathers from all lofty channels opened up. When did it open up? When those lofty channels opened up. Once that hollow opened up, blessings flowed to the world.

When did it open? When a crooked one that sat at its feet was removed. When that one was banished, שִׁיתּ (shit), hollow, became שִׁיר (shir), Song, and goodly treasure (Deuteronomy 28:12) opened up.

By whose strength? The heavens (ibid.). These are the rest of the שִׁיתּין (shittin), channels—that is, הַשִּׁירִים (ha-shirim), Songs—for they all opened up and were perfected to bestow nourishment for all the worlds. Then it is written: Judah and Israel dwelt in safetyeveryone under his own vine and under his own fig tree (1 Kings 5:5); and it is written: They ate and drank and rejoiced (ibid. 4:20)—for this שִׁיתּ (shit), hollow, and the שִׁיתּין (shittin), channels, had opened [cf. BT Sukkah 53a].

All sublime delicacies descended into all worlds. Then ardor was aroused from among them toward supernal King, all becoming one, with no division. In this way, praise transcending all praises ascends toward the King who possesses peace, fashioning total delight above and below.

It is written: שִׁיר (shir), A songto You is silent praise, [God in Zion; and to You a vow will be paid] (Psalms 65:1–2). King David knew by the holy spirit that this song was destined to be revealed in the world, and he said: Song—destined to be revealed. To You it is silent—hidden, for permission to reveal this homage is lacking. But this adulation and praise pertains to God in Zion—when the Temple is built, for it mirrors the supernal Temple. Then, a vow will be paid [on David’s vow, see Psalms 132:1–5. David longed to build the Temple, see 2 Samuel 7:2: Seepray, I dwell in a cedarwood house while the Ark of God dwells within curtains]” (Zohar Ḥadash, 62b, 62d–63a).

Decline of the Generations: As for Us the Opening is no Bigger than the Eye of a Fine Needle

“Moses received Torah from Sinai and 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. They said three things: Be careful in judgment; raise up many disciples; and make a fence for Torah” (M Avot 1:1).

“Rabbah son of Son of Ḥana said in the name of Rabbi Yoḥanan, reporting Rabbi Yehudah son of Ila’i: See what a difference there is between the earlier and the later generations. The earlier generations made their Torah permanent and their ordinary work occasional, and both prospered in their hands. The later generations made their ordinary work permanent and their Torah occasional, and neither prospered in their hands” (BT Berakhot 35b, cf. Gittin 81a).

“Rabbi Zera said that Rava son of Zamina said: ‘If the early ones were like angels then we are like human beings, but if the early ones were like human beings then we are like donkeys; not like the donkey of Rabbi Ḥanina son of Dosa or the donkey of Rabbi Pinḥas son of Ya’ir but like ordinary donkeys’” (BT Shabbat 112b).

“Compared with Sarah, all other people are like a monkey to a human being, and compared with Eve Sarah was like a monkey to a human being, and compared with Adam Eve was like a monkey to a human being, and compared with the Shekhinah Adam was like a monkey to a human being. The beauty of Rabbi Kahana was a reflection of the beauty of Rabbi Abbahu; the beauty of Rabbi Abbahu was a reflection of the beauty of our father Jacob, and the beauty of Jacob was a reflection of the beauty of Adam” (BT Bava Batra 58a).

“Rabbi Yoḥanan said: ‘The heart of the earlier ones was open like the entrance to the outer hall of the Temple, while the heart of the later ones was open only like the entrance to the inner hall [which was smaller]. But as for us the opening is no bigger than the eye of a fine needle….’ Abbaye said: ‘We are like a peg in a wall with regard to Gemara.’ Rava said: ‘We are like a finger in wax with regard to common sense.’ Rabbi Ashi said: ‘We are like a finger in a pit with regard to forgetfulness’” (BT Eruvin 53a).

“Rav said: Torah is destined to be forgotten in Israel, as is said, [If you do not keep to do all the words of this teaching written in this book to fear this solemn and fearsome name, YHWH your God,] YHWH will make your plagues and the plagues of your seed הִפְלָא (hifla), astounding, [great and relentless plagues, evil and relentless illnesses] (Deuteronomy 28:59): now, I do not know what this astonishment is, but when it is said, [And the Master 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 הַפְלֵא וָפֶלֶא (ha-fle va-fele), wonder upon wonder, [and the wisdom of its wise men shall vanish and the discernment of its discerners disappear] (Isaiah 29:13–14), it follows that this wonder refers to Torah” (BT Shabbat 138b).

“Rabbi Yoḥanan said: The fingernail of the earlier generations is better than the belly of the later generations. Resh Laqish said to him: On the contrary, the latter generations are better, although they are oppressed by the governments, they are occupying themselves with Torah. He [Rabbi Yoḥanan] replied: The Temple will prove it for it came back to the former generations, but not to the latter ones. The question was put to Rabbi El’azar: Were the earlier generations better, or the later ones? He answered: Look upon the Temple! Some say he answered: The Temple is your witness” (BT Yoma 9b).

“Come and hear: When the First Temple was destroyed, the cities with pastureland [… for the Levites] (Numbers 35:2) were abolished, the Urim and Thummim ceased, and there was no more a king from the House of David. However, if a person should whisper to you [that, in fact, the Urim and Thummim remained, as is written with regard to the time of the Second Temple:] And the governor said to them, that they should not eat of the most holy things, till a priest could consult with Urim and with Thummim (Ezra 2:63), reply to him: like a man says to his fellow, ‘Until the dead live and the Messiah, son of David, comes!’ [i.e., the distant future].

However, Rav Naḥman son of Yitsḥaq said: Who are the former prophets? This excludes Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi who are the latter prophets. For our Rabbis have taught: When Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi died, the רוּחַ הַקֹּדֶשׁ (ruaḥ ha-qodesh), Holy Spirit, departed from Israel; nevertheless they made use of the בַּת קוֹל (bat qol), Daughter of Voice [i.e, a reverberating sound or echo, see Tosefta, Sotah 13:3; JT Sotah 9:12, 24b; BT Yoma 9b, Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah on 8:10].

On one occasion they were sitting in the upper chamber of Gurya’s house in Jericho; Daughter of Voice was granted to them from the heavens, announcing, ‘There is in your midst one man who is deserving that the Shekhinah should rest upon him, but his generation is unworthy of it.’ They all looked at Hillel the elder; and when he died, they lamented over him, ‘Alas, the devout man! Alas, the humble man! Disciple of Ezra!’ On another occasion they were sitting in an upper chamber in Yavneh; Daughter of Voice was granted to them from the heavens, announcing, ‘There is in your midst one man who is deserving that Shekhinah should alight upon him, but his generation is unworthy of it.’ They all looked at Shemu’el the Little; and when he died, they lamented over him, ‘Alas, the humble man! Alas, the devout man! Disciple of Hillel!’ At the time of his death he also said, ‘Shim’on [son of Gamaliel] and Yishma’el [son of Elisha the High Priest are destined] for the sword and their companions for death, and the rest of the people for plunder, and great distress will come upon the people.’

They also wished to lament over Rabbi Yehudah son of Bava [a victim of the Hadrianic Persecution], ‘Alas, the devout man! Alas, the humble man!’ But the hour was unstable and they could not lament publicly over those who had been murdered by the government” (BT Sotah 48b).

“Our Rabbis have taught: Hillel the Elder had eighty disciples, thirty of whom were worthy of the Shekhinah resting upon them, as [it did upon] Moses our Master, thirty of whom were worthy that the sun should stand still for them [as it did for] Joshua son of Nun [see Joshua 10:12], [and the remaining] twenty were ordinary. The greatest of them was Yonatan son of Uzziel [cf. BT Megillah 3a], the smallest of them was Yoḥanan son of Zakkai.

They said of Rabbi Yoḥanan son of Zakkai that he did not leave [unstudied] Scripture, Mishnah, Gemara, Halakhah, Aggadah, details of the Torah, details of the Scribes, inferences a minori ad majus, analogies, [the calculation of] seasons, gematriyyot, the speech of the ministering angels, the speech of spirits, and the speech of palm-trees, parables of launderers and fox fables, great matters or small matters; great matters mean the Account of the Chariot, small matters [such as halakhot that were ultimately formulated in the framework of] the disputes of Abbaye and Raba; in order to fulfil what is said, To pass substance on to my lovers, and their storehouses to fill (Proverbs 8:21). And if the smallest of them was so great, how much more so was the greatest? They said of Yonatan son of Uzziel that when he used to sit and occupy himself with the study of Torah, every bird that flew above him was burnt immediately” (BT Sukkah 28a).

“Rav Papa said to Abbaye: How is it that for the former generations miracles were performed and for us miracles are not performed? It cannot be because of their [superiority in] study, because in the years of Rav Yehudah the whole of their studies was confined to נְזִיקִין (neziqin), Damages, and we study all six orders [of the Mishnah]… and yet when Rav Yehudah took off one shoe, rain used to come, whereas we torment ourselves and cry loudly, and no notice is taken of us! He replied: The former generations used to be ready to sacrifice their lives for the sanctity of the Name; we do not sacrifice our lives for the sanctity of the Name” (BT Berakhot 20a).

In the footsteps of Messiah impudence will swell; prices will surge; the vine will give its fruit but wine will be costly [or: scarce]; the kingdom will turn to sectarianism; and there will be no rebuke. The meeting place [of the Sages] will become a whorehouse; the Galilee will be destroyed; the highland will be desolate; the border people will wander from city to city and none will show them mercy; the wisdom of scribes will stink; sin‑fearing people will be detested; truth will be missing; young men will humiliate the elderly; the elderly will stand while the young sit; the son reviles the father, the daughter rises against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies are the people of his household (Micah 7:6); The face of the generation is like the face of a dog; sons have no shame in front of their fathers; and on what can one depend? Our Father in Heaven”(M Sotah 9:15; BT Sotah 49b, cf. Plato, The Republic 562b).

“But verging on the days of the Messiah, even children of the world are destined to find hidden treasures of wisdom, thereby discovering calculations of the end. At that time it will be revealed to all, as is written: For then (Zephaniah 3:9). What does then mean? When Assembly of Israel rises from the dust, raised by the blessed Holy One. Then I will transform the language of the peoples into a purer one, so they may all call upon the name of YHWH and serve Him shoulder to shoulder (ibid.)” (Zohar 1:118a).

“Rabbi Simon said in the name of Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi: מנצפ״ך (MNTsPK)—צוֹפִים (tsofim), Watchers [i.e., the visionary prophets], uttered them [i.e., the open form of the letters], Halakhah from Sinai [see BT Shabbat 104a]. Rabbi Yirmeyah said in the name of Rabbi Ḥiyya son of Abba: They are what the Watchers instituted [hence the mnemonic מנצפ״ך rather than כמנפ״ץ following the order of the Hebrew alphabet].

It once happened on a stormy day that the Sages did not attend the House of Assembly. Some children were there and they said, ‘Come and let us make a House of Assembly! What is the reason it is written מֵ״ם מֵ״ם נוּ״ן נוּ״ן צָדִּ״י צָדִּ״י פֵּ״א פֵּ״א כָּ״ף כָּ״ף [i.e., why do these letters have two forms]? These [teach that Torah was transmitted] from מַאֲמָר לְמַאֲמָר (ma’amar le-ma’amar), from utterance to utterance, נֶאֱמָן לְנֶאֱמָן (ne’eman le-ne’eman), from steadfast to steadfast, צַדִּיק לְצַדִּיק (tsaddiq le-tsaddiq), from righteous to righteous, פֶּה לְפֶה (peh le-feh), from mouth to mouth, and כַּף לְכָף (kaf le-khaf), from palm to palm…’” (Bereshit Rabbah 1:11).

The words of the wise are כַּדָּרְבֹנוֹת (ka-darvonot), like goads (Ecclesiastes 12:11). Rabbi Berekiah the Kohen said: כְּכַדּוּר שֶׁל בָּנוֹת (ke-khadur shel banot), like a girls’ ball. As with a child’s סְפַיְרָה (sefairah), ball, which they pickup and throw about, this way and that, so too the words of the wise” (Bemidbar Rabbah 14:4, cf. Tanḥuma, Beha’alotkha 15).

The words of the wise are כַּדָּרְבֹנוֹת (ka-darvonot), like goads (Ecclesiastes 12:11)—כְּכַדּוּר שֶׁל בָּנוֹת (ke-khadur shel banot), like a girls’ ball. What is a ball turned from hand to hand which has never fallen to the ground? [Tradition,] thus: Not a single word has fallen of all the good words that YHWH your God has spoken (Joshua 23:14).

What is a ball tossed by hands which has never fallen to the ground? [קַבָּלָה (Qabbalah), tradition,] thus: ‘Moses קִבֵּל (qibbel), received, Torah from Sinai and 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’ (M Avot 1:1)” (Qohelet Rabbah on 12:11, cf. Tanḥuma, Beha’alotkha 15).

“Every man must conduct himself to employ this Name [i.e., this book] with fear of sin and humility. Love is first, desirable actions second, and fear is third [cf. M Sotah 9:15; BT Avodah Zarah 20b; Zohar 3:145a; Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 5b]. And happy is the man whose Creator has granted the understanding and knowledge to fathom the mystery of this great Name which all the Sages, men of God who have illuminated our Torah, have employed and handed one to the other in great secrecy and with perfect intention, mouth to mouth (Numbers 12:8) [cf. BT Ḥagigah 13a; Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed 1:71].

These are the names of the heads of the generations who employed this Name—see the greatness of these men and how they acted with the necessary honor in these matters: The first to employ it was Adam [cf. Pirqe de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 8Zohar 1:52a; 2:55a], who employed it many days to know wisdom and understanding. He handed it on to Seth and Seth composed many books of unfathomable wisdom and arranged all the orders of the מֶרְכָּבָה (merkavah), Chariot, by the discernment of this Name. Seth handed it on to Enosh who went astray and misled the sons of his generation and so the generation of the Flood started to stray from the way and to spread whoring [cf. TanḥumaBereshit, 12:3; Job 21:14]. With great lust they gazed at the הַרַּכֶּבֶת הַכֹּחוֹת (ha-rakevet ha-koḥot), ladder of forces [of cause and effect], saying, ‘As it is fitting for these to הַרְכִּיב (harkiv), mount, each other, so will we do.’

And Enosh handed it on to Arpachshad [cf. Jubilees 9:4] who became very wise in it and Arpachshad handed it on to Methuselah [cf. Yalqut ShimoniBereshit, 5:42], but Enoch the father of Methuselah, did not favor it because he feared he might seize it and incur guilt. Methuselah handed it on to Lamech and Lamech handed it on to Noah.

Noah handed it on to his son Shem and Shem established his academy and dispersed the wisdom to enlighten many to return faithfully to the Good and he reigned over all the princes of the earth and all princes of the peoples served at his table [on Shem as the youngest, yet, wisest of Noah’s sons, see BT Sanhedrin 69b. On Shem’s academy, see BT Makkot 23b; Avodah Zarah 36b; Bereshit Rabbah 63:7, 67:8].

Shem handed it on to his son Eber and Eber handed it on to Abraham and Eber handed it on to Isaac and Eber handed it on to Jacob [each generation receiving from the source]. And Abraham added wisdom and knowledge to it and handed it on to his son Isaac in exacting detail [cf. MS Vatican 299; Bahir §192]. And Jacob handed it on to his sons, but to Levi he gave the main part [see Rabbi Yosef Gikatilla, Sha’arei Tsedeq, 2b, on Deuteronomy 33:8]. And Levi handed it on to Amram and Amram handed it on to Moses and Moses attained an exceedingly lofty and wondrous wisdom with it  [cf. BT Yevamot 49b: ‘All the prophets gazed through a dim glass, whereas Moses our Rabbi gazed through a clear glass’; BT Rosh ha-Shanah 21b; Nedarim 38a: ‘Fifty gates of Binah were created in the world, and all were given to Moses save one, as it says, And You made him little less than אֱלֹהִים (Elohim) (Psalms 8:6)].

Moses handed it on to Aaron and Aaron to his sons Nadab and Abihu who delved deeply to know the matter but were punished as the Torah informs us [see Leviticus 10:1–2; cf. Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana 26:9; Zohar 2:126a]. However, the קַבָּלָה (qabbalah), tradition, remained with Phinehas. And he delved to know more than all who preceded him and Phinehas handed it on to Joshua, although Joshua learned this teaching—this profound secret—from Moses [cf. Ba’al ha-Turim on Numbers 27:20: ‘And YHWH said to Moses, ‘Take you Joshua son of Nun, a man who has spirit within him, and lay your hand upon him… and you shall set something of you grandeur upon him in order that all the Israelite community will heed’ (Numbers 27:18–20)—מֵהוֹדְךָ (me-hodekha), something of your grandeur, is numerically equivalent to הַסוֹד (ha-sod), the secret’].

Joshua handed it on to Caleb and Caleb handed it on to his brother’s son Othniel who became very strong, as is written, [And Caleb said, ‘Whoever strikes Kiriath-Sepher (Scribe Townand takes it, to him I shall give Achsah my daughter as wife.’And Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, took it (Joshua 15:16–17; Judges 1:12–13).

Othniel handed it on to Ehud and Ehud to his sons but all of them were punished, however, he handed it on to Machir son of Jair and Machir handed it on to Eli and Eli to Samuel and Samuel delved to know like Moses, quality by quality [see BT Berakhot 31a on Psalms 99:6], and he arranged several wards and handed it on to Saul but he did not know how to wield it and was punished. Saul handed it on to David and David to his son Chileab and Chileab to his brother Solomon and in it Solomon became wise, more than all who preceded him, as is written, And he was wiser than all men [… and his fame was in all the nations round about] (1 Kings 5:11). Solomon handed it on to Benaiah and Benaiah hid it in the Temple archives. Then came the wise kings of Judah and took it out from there [see 2 Chronicles 17:3–9].

There are those who say that Solomon handed it on to Amos, and Amos to Isaiah and Isaiah to Zephaniah and Zephaniah to Jeremiah and Jeremiah to Baruch and Baruch to Ezra and Ezra and his court were wise and discerning [cf. BT Megillah 15a: ‘Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Korḥa said: Malachi is the same as Ezra, and the Sages say that Malachi was his proper name…’]. Their number was as the number of the one hundred-twenty righteous, chieftains of the Israelites who stood in the breach [see Ezra 10:14; cf. Psalms 106:23]. And Ezra and his court handed it on to Shemaiah and Avtalion, sons of Sennacherib king of Assyria who came to shelter under His wings [i.e., to convert, see BT Gittin 57b]. When the Sages saw that they were deserving of this name they handed it on to them and Shemaiah and Avtalion handed it on to Hillel and Shammai. [Hillel] was a descendent of the royal house of David as is found in Chronicles [see 1 Chronicles 3; BT Ketubbot 62b: ‘Rabbi (Yehudah ha-Nasi) descended from (Hillel, who, in turn, descended from David’s son) Shephatiah the son of Avital’].

Hillel and Shammai handed it on to Yonatan son of Uzziel and to Rabbi Yoḥanan son of Zakkai [see BT Sukkah 28a], and they plumbed its depths according to their reach [but not like Rabbi Neḥunia son of ha-Qannah, see Heikhalot Rabbati §203], and they handed it on to Rabbi Eli’ezer the Great. Rabbi Eli’ezer the Great handed it on to Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Akiva to Yehudah ha-Nasi, until Rabbi Shim’on [son of Yoḥai] came, but from the days of Rabbi Shim’on it remained hidden and closed [cf. Zohar 1:224b–225a; 3:58a: ‘Come and see: Among generations to come, Torah is destined to be forgotten, and the wise-hearted will gather in the Holy Chamber, yet there will be no one who can close and open (i.e., to declare forbidden, or pure, and permitted, or pure). Woe to that generation! From here on, there will be no generation like this one until King Messiah arrives’], except for a few later sages who grasped and understood it according to [mere] intellect such as the Geonim who delved to know the mysteries of the blessed Holy One according to the wisdom of the time and according to the [limited] wisdom of the generation.

When it arose in thought before the Creator to create this world with this Name, to extend a cord (Isaiah 44:13), and stand Mount Moriah by His qualities—the mountain God desired for His dwelling (Psalms 68:17)—He stood the table at the north with all sorts of food, created orbs to praise His Name, and servants performing His pleasure (ibid. 103:21). And with this Name, hung the world over its position. He built the Temple such that through windows this very light, without end and without limit, might dwell and illuminate. From this Name pillars of understanding were rooted, walls of wisdom, and windows of light. With this Name the Temple was filled with illustrious זוֹהַר (zohar), radiance [see BT Menaḥot 86b; Tanḥuma (Buber), Beha’alotkha 2:1; Vayiqra Rabbah 31:7].

He is our God and we are His servants but there are none who may approach Him proudly to see His beauty, except three. Their sign is, שְּׁמִי לְעֹלָם (shemi le-olam), My name forever [and thus am I invoked in all ages] (Exodus 3:17) [cf. BT Sanhedrin 38b on Exodus 23:21], and they are: שְׁמוּעִיאֵל (Shemui’el), מְטַטְרוֹן (Metatron), and יָהוֹאֵל (Yaho’el) [cf. Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 55, 89a]. [Since the gates of light have been closed from the time of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai] these three angels reveal secrets of the Name to created beings in order to make known His splendor and the triumph of His strength. It is the root of our Torah and the essence of our faith, the place of Rest. The first to make known the singularity of the Creator and His covenant with Israel. To make known His dominion with them and His partnership with them [see, e.g., Zohar 1:5a]. It is named in memory of the mystery of His wisdom: סֵפֶר בְּרִית הַמְנוּחָה (sefer berit ha-menuḥa), The Book of the Covenant of Rest.

Happy the man whose strength is in You (Psalms 84:6)—to know His highways, His conduct; My God’s processions, my King in holiness (ibid. 68:25)—His wondrousness. And thus I have recounted the names of the Sages who have employed it [i.e., the secret of the great Name]….

And now you will be able to grasp and understand the strength of your God, the essence of His vast wonders, more than what the ancients grasped in their great wisdom. For the truth is that the first generations they are the very wisest (Proverbs 30:24), the middle generations they are not all so, and the last generations are [even] wiser than the first, for this accords with the nature and יְצִירַת הָעוֹלָם (yetsirat ha-olam), formation of the world. As with the rotation of the wheel [of a watermill, i.e., the vicissitudes of fortune; cf. BT Shabbat 151b], the first ones which ascend are full, the middle ones pour, and the last ones draw and ascend in order to pour as well [cf. Rabbi Yeshayahu ben Mall di Trani, She’elot u-Teshuvot Rid, № 62]….

Daughters of Jerusalem, swear to me by the gazelles, by the deer in the field, that you will never awaken love until it is ripe (Song of Songs 2:7; 3:5). For although King Solomon in his great wisdom understood how to vocalize יהוה (YHWH) he swore in the name of all the holy nation not to ponder it until the day the blessed Holy One bestows compassion on His people and their Land, and open before them the gates of light. And now as I said, the gates of wisdom have begun to open, and therefore, one may study and gain great wisdom” (Berit MenuḥaIntroduction; The Second Way: The Way of Love, Eighth Vowel, Ninth Vowel).

“Rabbi Shim’on replied… ‘We have revealed what was not revealed to the ancient ones!’” (Zohar 3:287a).

Recount to the last generation (Psalms 48:14).

Master of Repentance: There is No Gate that Tears Cannot Enter

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“Seven things were created before the world was created: The Torah, repentance, the Garden of Eden, Hell, the Throne of Glory, the Temple, and the name of the Messiah…. תְשׁוּבָה (Teshuvah), repentance, as is written, Before mountains were spawned (Psalms 90:2), and it is written, You bring man back to the dust and say, שׁוּבוּ (shuvu), ‘Turn back, humankind’ (ibid., 3)” (BT Pesaḥim 54a).

“Rabbi Ḥama son of Ḥanina said: Great is repentance, for it brings healing to the world, as is said: I will heal their rebellion, I will love them freely (Hosea 14:5). Rabbi Ḥama son of Ḥanina raised [a difficulty]: It is written, Turn back, rebellious children (Jeremiah 3:22)—at first you were rebellious; and it is written, I will heal your rebellion (ibid.). This is not difficult: here out of love; there, out of fear.

Rav Yehudah raised [a difficulty]: It is written: Turn back, rebellious children—I will heal your rebellion, and it is written: For I have claimed possession of you and have taken you, one from a town and two from a clan, [and brought you to Zion] (ibid., 14). This is not difficult: Here out of love or fear; there, through suffering.

Rabbi Levi said: Great is repentance, for it reaches up to the Throne of Glory, as is said: Turn back, O Israel, to YHWH your God (Hosea 14:2). Rabbi Yoḥanan said: Great is repentance, for it overrides a prohibition of Torah, as is said: [And the word of YHWH came to me,] saying: Look, should a man send away his wife, and she go from him and become another man’s, can he go back to her again? Would not that land be wholly polluted? And you, you have whored with many lovers, and would you come back to Me? said YHWH (Jeremiah 3:1) [cf. Deuteronomy 24:4].

Rabbi Yonatan said: Great is repentance, because it brings about redemption, as is said, And a redeemer shall come to Zion, and to those who turn back from crime in Jacob (Isaiah 59:20). A redeemer shall come to Zion—why? Because of those who turn back from crime in Jacob. Resh Laqish said: Great is repentance, because through it rebellious deeds are counted as errors, as is said, Turn back, O Israel, to YHWH your God, for you have stumbled in your crime (Hosea 14:2). Crime—[surely] rebellious deeds, yet the prophet calls it ‘stumbling!’ Resh Laqish also said: Great is repentance, because through it rebellious deeds are counted as though they were merits, as is said, And when the wicked turns back from his wickedness and does justice and righteousness, for it he shall live (Ezekiel 33:19). This is not difficult: Here out of love; there, out of fear.

Rabbi Shemu’el son of Naḥmani said in the name of Rabbi Yonatan: Great is repentance, because it prolongs the [days and] years of man, as is said: And when the wicked man turns back from his wickedness that he has done and does justice and righteousness, he shall preserve himself in life (ibid. 18:27). Rabbi Yitsḥaq said: In the West [i.e., the land of Israel] they said in the name of Rabbah son of Mari: Come and see how different from the character of one of flesh and blood is the action of the blessed Holy One. As to the character of one of flesh and blood, if one angers his fellow, it is doubtful whether he will be appeased by him or not. And even if you would say, he can be appeased, it is doubtful whether he will be appeased by mere words. But with the blessed Holy One if a man commits a transgression in secret, He is appeased by mere words, as is said: Take words with you and turn back to YHWH (Hosea 14:3). And not only that: It is held by Him good, as is said: And take what is good (ibid.). And not only that: The verse ascribes to him as if he had offered up bulls, as is said: And we shall offer our speech instead of bulls (ibid.). Lest you say ‘obligatory bulls,’ it says: I will heal their rebellion, I will love them freely (ibid., 5).

It was taught: Rabbi Me’ir used to say, Great is repentance, for the entire world is forgiven on account of a single individual who repents, as is said: I will heal their rebellion, I will love them freely, for My wrath has turned back from him (Hosea 14:5). It does not say from them, but from him. What is בַּעַל תְּשׁוּבָה (ba’al teshuvah), a master of repentance, like? Rav Yehudah said: If the forbidden thing came to his hand a first time and a second time, and he escapes to the right in protest. Rav Yehudah [added]: With the same woman, at the same time, in the same place.

Rav Yehudah said: Rav raised [the following difficulties]: It is written: Happy, of sin forgiven, absolved of offense (Psalms 32:1); and it is also written: Who covers his crimes will not prosper, [but who admits and leaves off will be granted mercy] (Proverbs 28:13)? This is not difficult. Here, offenses that have become known; there, offenses that have not become known. Rav Zutra son of Toviah in the name of Rav Naḥman said: Here we speak of offenses committed by a man against his fellow, there of offenses committed by man against the Omnipresent.

It was taught: Rabbi Yose son of Yehudah said: If a man commits a transgression, the first, second and third time he is forgiven, the fourth time he is not forgiven, as is said: Thus said YHWH: For three trespasses of Israel, and for four, I will not turn it back (Amos 2:6); and it says: Look, all this God performs twice or thrice with a man, [to bring back his being from the Pit, to glow in the light of life] (Job 33:29). What is ‘and it says’ [i.e., why the additional proof text]? Lest you say this applies only to a community, but not to an individual. Come and hear: Look, all this God performs twice or thrice with a man.

Our Rabbis taught: As for the transgressions which one has confessed on one Yom Kippur, he should not confess them on another Yom Kippur; but if he repeated them, then he should confess them, on another Yom Kippur. And if he had not committed them again, yet confessed them again, of him is written: Like a dog going back to his vomit a dolt repeats his folly (Proverbs 26:11). Rabbi Eli’ezer son of Ya’aqov said: He is more praiseworthy, as is said: For my crimes I know, and my offense is before me always (Psalms 51:5). How then do I [explain], Like a dog going back to his vomit? In accord with Rav Huna, for Rav Huna said: Once a man has committed a transgression once and twice, it is permitted to him. ‘Permitted’—can it enter your mind that it is permitted to him?! Rather, it appears to him as if it were permitted.

One must confess the offense in detail, as is said, This people has committed a great offense, they have made themselves gods of gold (Exodus 32:31). These are the words of Rav Yehudah son of Bava. Rabbi Akiva said: [This is not necessary], as is said: Happy, of sin forgiven, absolved of offense. [Happy, the man to whom YHWH reckons no crime, in whose spirit is no deceit] (Psalms 32:1). Then why did Moses say: they have made themselves gods of gold? That accords with Rabbi Yannai, for Rabbi Yannai said [see BT Berakhot 32a]: Moses said before the blessed Holy One: Master of the Universe! [It is] the silver and gold that you gave to Israel in abundance, until they said: דַי (Dai), enough, [which] caused them to make gods of gold [a play on the name of a place called דִי זָהָב (di zahav), Di-Zahab (Deuteronomy 1:1)]” (BT Yoma 86a–b).

“Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘Everything in the world depends upon repentance and upon the prayer that one offers to the blessed Holy One—especially one who sheds tears in his prayer, for there is no gate that those tears cannot enter. What is written? She opened it and saw the child (Exodus 2:6). She openedShekhinah, who stands over Israel like a mother over her children, and She always opens in their defense. As soon as She opened she saw the child—a child of delight (Jeremiah 31:20), Israel, who sin before their King in everything and immediately turn back in repentance, crying before Him like a son before his father. What is written? And look, a boy crying! (Exodus 2:6)—once he cries, all evil decrees of the world are annulled. What is written? She had compassion on him—aroused in mercy for him, taking pity on him. She said, ‘This is one of the children of the Hebrews’ (ibid.)—not one of the children of the other nations, who are stiff-necked and hard-hearted. One of the children of the Hebrews—tender-hearted from their fathers and mothers, to return to their Lord. She called the child’s mother (Exodus 2:8)—who was weeping, as is written: A voice is heard on a height—wailing, bitter weeping—Rachel weeping for her children… (Jeremiah 31:14). He is crying, and the child’s mother is crying. Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘Of the time to come, what is written? With weeping they will come, and with consolations I will guide them (ibid., 9). What does this mean: With weeping they will come? By virtue of the weeping of the child’s mother, who is Rachel, they will come and be gathered in from exile” (Zohar 2:12b).

Thus says YHWH: A voice is heard in Ramah—wailing, bitter weeping—Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for her children, because they are no more (Jeremiah 31:15).

“Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘Until the day that Shekhinah returns to that site together with the exiles of Israel, as is said: There is no hope for your future, declares YHWH: children will return to their land (Jeremiah 31:17). The blessed Holy One swore this oath to her, and as they return from exile, Israel are destined to stand by Rachel’s grave and weep there, just as she wept over Israel’s exile. So it is written: With weeping they will come (ibid., 9), and: There is reward for your labor (ibid., 16). At that moment, Rachel—who is by the road—is destined to rejoice along with Israel and Shekhinah, as the Companions have established” (Zohar 1:175a–b, cf. Bereshit Rabbah 82:10; Mekhilta, Pisḥa 14; BT Megillah 29a; Zohar 1:203a).