The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: סָמָאֵל

Do Not Make the Fence Excessive Lest it Collapse and Severe the Saplings

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“The Men of the Great Assembly said three things: Be careful in judgment; raise up many disciples; and make a fence for the Torah” (M Avot 1:1).

“Rabbi Akiva said: Mocking and frivolity lead to immorality. The oral tradition is a fence for Torah; tithes are a fence for wealth; vows are a fence for abstinence. The fence for wisdom is silence” (M Avot 3:17).

“‘Make a fence for the Torah.’ And make a fence for your words, in the way that the blessed Holy One made a fence for His words, and the first human made a fence for his words. Torah made a fence for her words. Moses made a fence for his words. So too, Job as well as the Prophets, the Writings, and the sages—all of them made a fence for their words [on Job’s ‘fence,’ see Job 31:1]” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan A, 1).

He who breaches a fence, a snake will bite him (Ecclesiastes 10:8).

Now the serpent was most cunning (Genesis 3:1).

For in much wisdom is much worry, and he who adds wisdom adds pain (Ecclesiastes 1:18): Because man increases his wisdom he increases worry against himself, and because he increases his knowledge he adds to his pain. Solomon said: Because I increased my wisdom I increased my worry, and because I increased my knowledge I increased my pain. Did you ever hear anybody say: ‘This donkey went out and caught the sun, or caught a fever? And where is suffering prevalent? With human beings. Rabbi said: A תַּלְמִיד חָכָם (talmid ḥakham), disciple of the wise, does not require a warning [cf. BT Sanhedrin 8b]. Rabbi Yoḥanan said: It is like the fine linen garments which come from Bet Shean: if they are even slightly blackened they are ruined; but as for the [coarse] linen garments which come from Arbel, what is their value altogether?

Rabbi Yishma’el taught: According to the camel so is its load. It often happens that two people enter a tavern; one orders, ‘Bring me roast meat, white bread, and good wine,’ while the other orders, ‘Bring me bread and beets’: the former eats and suffers afterwards, while the latter eats and does not suffer. Thus human ills weigh heavily upon the one but not upon the other.

It was taught in Rabbi Me’ir’s name: According to the greatness of the serpent so was his downfall: because he was most cunning, he was [most] cursed of all (Genesis 3:14). Now the serpent was most cunning of all the beasts of the field. Rabbi Hoshaya the Elder said: He stood out distinguished like a reed, and he had feet. Rabbi Yirmeyah son of El’azar said: He was an אֶפִּיקוֹרֶס (epiqores), unbeliever. Rabbi Shim’on son of El’azar said: He was like a camel. He deprived the world of much good, for had this not happened, one could have sent goods through him, and he would have gone and returned [cf. BT Sanhedrin 59b]….

But from the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden God has said, “You shall not eat from it and you shall not touch it, lest you die” (Genesis 3:3). Thus it is written, Add nothing to His words, lest He rebuke you and you be given the lie (Proverbs 30:6) [cf. Deuteronomy 4:2: You shall not add… neither shall you take away from it]. Rabbi Ḥiyya taught: Do not make the fence excessive [lit., more than the main thing], lest it collapse and יִקְצֹץ הַנְּטִיעוֹת (yiqtsots ha-neti’ot), severe the saplings. Thus, the blessed Holy One had said, For on the day you eat from it, you are doomed to die (Genesis 2:17); whereas she did not say so, but rather, God has said, “You shall not eat from it and you shall not touch it, lest you die”; when he [the serpent] saw her lying so, he took and thrust her against it. ‘Have you then died?’ he said to her; ‘just as you were not stricken through touching it, so will you not die when you eat it, For God knows that on the day you eat of it [your eyes will be opened and you will become as gods knowing good and evil] (ibid., 5).

Rabbi Tanḥuma said: I was asked this question in Antioch. I answered: It is not written, יוֹדְעִים אֱלֹהִים (yod’im elohim), knowing gods, but rather, יֹדֵעַ אֱלֹהִים (yode’a Elohim), God knows. Rabbi Yehoshu’a of Sikhnin said in Rabbi Levi’s name: He [the serpent] began speaking לָשׁוֹן הָרַע (lashon ha-ra), slander, of his Creator, saying, ‘Of this tree did He eat and then create the world; hence He orders you, You shall not eat from it, so that you may not create other worlds, for every person hates his fellow craftsmen.’ Rabbi Yehudah son of Rabbi Simon said: He argued: ‘Whatever was created after its companion dominates it. Thus: the heavens were created on the first day and the firmament on the second: does it not bear its weight? The firmament was created on the second and herbs on the third: do they not interrupt its waters? Herbs were created on the third day and the luminaries on the fourth [and through the heat of the sun plant life matures and ripens]; the luminaries on the fourth and the birds on the fifth. Rabbi Yehudah son of Rabbi Simon said: The זִיז (ziz) is a clean bird, and when it flies it obscures the orb of the sun [thus it dominates the sun, as it were]. Now you were created after everything in order to rule over everything; make haste and eat before He creates other worlds which will rule over you. Hence it is written, And the woman saw that the tree was good [for eating and that it was lust to the eyes and the tree was lovely to look at, and she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave to her man, and he ate…] (Genesis 3:6): she saw [how plausible were] the words of the serpent” (Bereshit Rabbah 19:1, 3–4).

“Rabbi Shemu’el son of Naḥman said, ‘The serpent was asked, Why are you generally to be found among fences?’ He replied, ‘Because I made a breach in the fence of the world.’ Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai taught: The serpent was the first to make a breach in the world’s fence, and so he has become the executioner of all who make breaches in fences” (Vayiqra Rabbah 26:2).

“Rabbi Levitas the visionary opened, ‘Enmity I will set between you and the woman, between your seed and hers (Genesis 3:15)—abundant hatred from the day the world was created, on account of the incitement of the serpent. From the moment it was cursed, driven out from the gate of the King, it lies in ambush constantly amid fences in the world, amid those fences of the Torah, biting all who trample those fences underfoot [see BT Avodah Zarah 18a (in the name of Rabbi Shim’on son of Laqish); Tanḥuma, Eqev 1; Zohar 1:198a–b]. Woe to one who is caught! Woe to one who is bitten! Woe for the persistence of the vile enmity, for the snake’s wicked hatred for Her, the one called woman of valor (Proverbs 31:10). Malevolent animus it nursed for Her from the day the world was created until it ravaged Her, pulverizing Her until She lay in the dust (Zohar Ḥadash 91c [MhN]).

“Four died through the incitement of the serpent, namely: Benjamin the son of Jacob, Amram the father of Moses, Jesse the father of David, and Chileab the son of David” (BT Shabbat 55b).

“On the eve of the Passover Jesus the Nazarene was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, ‘He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and incited [or: enticed] Israel. Any one who can say anything in his favor, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.’ But since nothing was brought forward in his favor he was hanged on the eve of the Passover!—Ulla said: ‘Do you suppose that he was one for whom a defense could be made? Was he not an enticer concerning whom Scripture says, you shall not pity him and shall not shield him (Deuteronomy 13:9)? With Jesus however it was different, for he was connected with the government‘” (BT Sanhedrin 43a).

“What is different about an inciter [that the court does not seek to deem him innocent]? Rabbi Ḥama son of Ḥaninah says: I heard at the lecture of Rabbi Ḥiyya son of Abba: An inciter is different, as the Compassionate One says, [Should your brother, your mother’s son… incite you in secret, saying, ‘Let us go and worship other gods’ that you did not know, neither you nor your fathers…] you shall not spare him and you shall not pity him and shall not shield him. [But you shall surely kill him] (Deuteronomy 13:7–10).

Rabbi Shemu’el son of Naḥman said in Rabbi Yonatan’s name: Whence do we know that we do not plead on behalf of a inciter? From the primordial serpent. For Rabbi Simlai said: The serpent had many pleas to put forward but did not do so. Then why did the blessed Holy One not plead on its behalf? Because it offered none itself. What could it have said? ‘The words of the master or those of the disciple, whose words should be listened to? Surely the master’s!’

Ḥizqiyyah said: How do we know that whoever increases, decreases? From, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it and you shall not touch it [lest you die’] (Genesis 3:3).

Rav Mesharshiyya said: From: אַמָּתַיִם (ammatayim), two, and a half cubits its length (Exodus 25:10) [if אַמָּתַיִם (ammatayim), two, were spelled without א (alef) it would read מָתַיִם (matayim), two hundred. Thus by adding א (alef) the number is reduced]. Rav Ashi said: From: עַשְׁתֵּי עֶשְׂרֵה (ashtei esreh), eleven, curtains (ibid. 26:7) [if עַשְׁתֵּי עֶשְׂרֵה (ashtei esreh), eleven, were spelled without ע (ayin) it would read שְׁתֵּי עֶשְׂרֵה (shetei esreh)twelve. Thus by adding ע (ayin) the number is reduced]” (BT Sanhedrin 29a, cf. Zohar 2:233b).

“נִשְׁמַת נְקֵבָה (Nishmat neqevah), female inspiration, is from the Female, and נִשְׁמַת זָכָר (nishmat zakhar), male inspiration, is from the Male. This is the reason the serpent followed Eve [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 20:11]. He said, ‘Her inspiration is drawn from the north, and so I will soon seduce her.’ And how did he seduce her? By mounting her.

The wicked Samael conspired with the entire army on high against his Master. This was because the blessed Holy One said, To hold sway over the fish of the sea and the winged creature of the heavens (Genesis 1:26) [cf. Deuteronomy 14:20]. He said, ‘How can we cause him to offend and be driven from before His presence?’ He descended with all his army, and sought a suitable mate on earth. At last he found the serpent, which looked like a camel, and he rode on it [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 19:1; Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 13; Zohar 1:228a]. He then went to the woman and said to her, ‘Though God said, you shall not eat from any tree of the garden…(Genesis 3:1)—I, however, will seek more, I will add in order that she detract [see BT Sanhedrin 29a: ‘Whoever increases, decreases’].’ She replied, ‘From the fruit of the garden’s trees we may eat. He did not prevent us, other than: the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden God has said, You shall not eat from it and you shall not touch it, lest you die‘ (Genesis 3:2).

She added two things: the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden—He only said, From the tree (Genesis 2:17); and you shall not touch it, lest you die [while He only spoke of eating]. What did Samael do? He went and touched the tree. The tree cried out and said, ‘Wicked one, do not touch me!’ Therefore it is written: Let no haughty foot overtake me, nor the hand of the wicked repel me. There did the doers of mischief fall. They were toppled and could not rise (Psalms 36:12–13).’

He then said to the woman, ‘See, I touched the tree and did not die. You too can touch and not die.’ The woman went and touched the tree. She saw the Angel of Death approaching her and said, ‘Woe! Now I will die and the blessed Holy One will make another woman and give her to Adam. I will therefore cause him to eat with me. If we die, we will both die, and if we live, we will both live.’ She took the fruit of the tree and ate it, and she also gave to her husband. Their eyes opened and their teeth were set on edge. He said, ‘What is this that you have given me to eat? Just as my teeth were set on edge, so will the teeth of all generations be set on edge’ [cf. Jeremiah 31:29: The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children’s teeth are set on edge].

He sat in true judgement, as is written, For You upheld my justice, my right, You sat on the throne of the righteous judge (Psalm 9:5). He called to Adam, and said ‘Why do you hide from Me?’ He replied, ‘I heard Your sound in the garden (Genesis 3:10). I heard Your sound in the garden—and my bones trembled. And I was afraid, for I was naked, and I hid—I was naked of works, I was naked of mitsvot, and I was naked of actions.’ Therefore it is written: and I was afraid, for I was naked, and I hid.

What was Adam’s clothing? A skin of nail [cf. Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 14]. However, when he ate of the fruits of the tree, his skin of nail was stripped from him, and he saw himself naked, as is written, Who told you that you were naked? (Genesis 3:11). Adam said before the blessed Holy One, ‘Master of the World: When I was alone did I offend You? But the woman that You gave me, she drove me from your words,’ as is written, The woman whom you gave me, [she gave me from the tree, and I ate] (Genesis 3:12). The blessed Holy One said to her, ‘Was it not enough for you to offend, but you also caused Adam to offend?’ She said before Him, ‘Master of the World: The serpent [beguiled me so] that I offend You.’ He summoned all three and sentenced upon them nine curses and death and cast down the wicked Samael and his band from their holy place in the heavens. He cut off the feet of the serpent and cursed it more than any living creature and more than any beast, decreeing that it be stripped of its skin every seven years in great pain [see BT Bekhorot 8a].

Let me hear gladness and joy, [let the bones that You crushed exult] (Psalms 51:10″ (Bahir §199–§200).

Serpentine Sorcery: Whoever is Drawn Near Becomes Defiled

“Resh Laqish said, ‘… If one comes to defile himself, he is provided an opening; if one comes to purify himself, he is assisted” (BT Shabbat 104a).

“Come and see: In the middle of the sky, a lustrous path is woven—Celestial Serpent—all gossamer stars clustered with mounds upon mounds, encharged with requiting the deeds of inhabitants of the world. Similarly, numerous bands of dazzling demons issue from this supernal, primordial serpent—by whom Adam was seduced—and they are all encharged with requiting deeds of the world.

So if a person comes to purify himself, he is assisted from above; his Lord’s assistance encircles him, and he is protected, called ‘holy.’ If a person comes to defile himself, numerous bands of dazzling demons lie in wait for him; they all hover over him, surrounding him, defiling him, and he is called ‘impure.’ They all go in front of him, proclaiming, ‘Impure! Impure!—as is said: He shall call out, ‘Impure! Impure!’ (Leviticus 13:45). All of them are linked with that primordial serpent, requiting countless deeds of the world.

Rabbi Yitsḥaq and Rabbi Yose were walking from Tiberias to Lydda. Rabbi Yitsḥaq said, ‘I am amazed at that wicked Balaam, all of whose actions stemmed from the side of impurity! Here we learn a mystery: All species of נְחָשַׁיָּא (neḥshayya), sorcery, throughout the world are linked with, and issue from, that primordial נָחָשׁ (naḥash), serpent—slimy spirit of impurity. So all witchcraft of the world is named accordingly: נְחָשִׁים (neḥashim), serpentine sorcery, all issuing from this side. Whoever is drawn here becomes defiled. Furthermore, he must defile himself in order to draw upon himself that side of impure spirit. For we have learned: As one arouses, so he draws upon himself supernal holiness from above—and is sanctified. If one arouses the side of impurity, he draws upon himself a spirit of impurity—and is defiled. As already mentioned, we have learned that if a person comes to defile himself, he is defiled.

So in order to draw upon himself impure spirit from that supernal serpent, that wicked Balaam defiled himself every night with his donkey, engaging with her conjugally [see BT Sanhedrin 105a–b; Zohar 3:207a], in order to become defiled and draw upon himself impure spirit; then he enacted his sorcery.

To begin with, he would take one of those snakes and offer up incense before it. Then he split its head, extracted its tongue, took certain herbs, and burned everything—concocting incense. Next he took the snake’s head, split it in four, and concocted another incense. He traced a circle, recited a formula, and performed further rites—until he had drawn upon himself impure spirits, who revealed to him what he needed. Through them he accomplished his acts, by their knowledge derived from that celestial serpent. He continued his acts of sorcery until he had drawn upon himself a spirit from that primordial serpent. This is how he discovered and grasped knowledge of sorcery and divination; so it is written: He did not go, as time after time, to encounter נְחָשִׁים (neḥashim), serpentine sorceries (Numbers 24:1)—neḥashim, serpents, literally! The essential root lies in impurity, as has been said; subsequently all begins solely in this….

‘All these practices, all of Balaam’s knowledge—where did he learn it? He replied, ‘From his father. But in those mountains of the East, land of the East, he mastered all kinds of sorcery and divination—for in those mountains reside Uzza and Azael, whom the blessed Holy One had cast down from heaven. Bound in iron chains, they divulge sorcery to human beings; so from there Balaam knew, as is said: From Aram, Balak led me; Moab’s king, from mountains of the East (ibid. 23:7)” (Zohar 1:125a–126a, cf. Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 69, 97a).

Chosen to Become for Him a Treasured People: Why was the Torah Given to Israel?

Hear this word that YHWH has spoken concerning you, O Israelites, concerning the entire clan that I brought up from Egypt, saying: Only with you was I intimate of all the clans of the earth. Therefore will I make a reckoning with you for all your crimes (Amos 3:1–2).

“A Tanna taught in the name of Rabbi Me’ir: Why was the Torah given to Israel? Because they are עֹזִין (ozin), impudent [like עִזִּין (izzin), she-goats]. The academy of Rabbi Yishma’el taught: [YHWH from Sinai came and from Seir He dawned upon them, He shone from Mount Paran and appeared from Ribeboth-Kodesh,from His right hand was a fiery law for them (Deuteronomy 33:2); the blessed Holy One said: These are worthy to be given a law of fire [cf. Exodus 32:9: And YHWH said to Moses, ‘I see this people and, look, it is a stiff-necked people’]. Some say: The laws of these are like fire, for had not Torah been given to Israel no people or tongue could withstand them. And this is what Rabbi Shim’on son of Laqish said: There are three impudent ones: Israel among the peoples, the dog among animals, [and] the cock among birds. Some say: Also the goat among small cattle. And some say: Also the caper-bush among trees [because of its rapid growing, for as soon as it is plucked it grows again, see BT Shabbat 30b]” (BT Beitsah 25b).

Not because you are more numerous than all the peoples did YHWH desire you and choose you [for you are the fewest of all peoples] (Deuteronomy 7:7). The blessed Holy One said to Israel, I love you because even when I bestow greatness upon you, you humble yourselves before Me. I bestowed greatness upon Abraham, yet he said to Me, I am but dust and ashes (Genesis 18:27); Upon Moses and Aaron, yet they said: And what are we? [i.e., we are nothing!] (Exodus 16:8); upon David, yet he said: But I am a worm and no man (Psalm 22:7). But with the nations it is not so. I bestowed greatness upon Nimrod, and he said: Come, let us build us a city [and a tower with its top in the heavens, that we may make us a name…] (Genesis 11:4); upon Pharaoh, and he said: Who is YHWH, [that I should heed His voice? …] (Exodus 5:2). Upon Sennacherib, and he said: Who is there of all the gods of the lands [that saved their land from my hand…] (2 Kings 18:35); upon Nebuchadnezzar, and he said: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; [I will be like the most High] (Isaiah 14:14); upon Hiram king of Tyre, and he said: I sit in the seat of God, in the midst of the seas (Ezekiel 28:2)” (BT Ḥullin 89a).

“כִּי יַעֲקֹב בָּחַר לוֹ יָהּ יִשְׂרָאֵל לִסְגֻלָּתוֹ (Ki Ya’aqov baḥar lo Yah, Yisra’el lisgullato), For Jacob, chose for himself Yah, Israel as his own treasure (Psalms 135:4).

Come and see: Ki Ya’aqov baḥar lo Yah, For Jacob, chose for himself Yah. So far, we don’t know who chose whom: if the blessed Holy One chose Jacob, or Jacob chose the blessed Holy One! However, from what a verse reveals, we know that the blessed Holy selected Jacob for His share, as is written: for YHWH’s share is His people, Jacob His allotted inheritance (Deuteronomy 32:9). Come and see: Similarly, Jacob selected his allotted portion as his share, ascending above all rungs” (Zohar 1:161b, cf. Sifrei Devarim 312).

“Rabbi Ḥiyya opened, ‘For Yah has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel as His own treasure (Psalms 135:4). How beloved are Israel to the blessed Holy One, who desires them and wants to cleave to them and be joined with them! He made them a unique nation in the world, as is written Who is like Your people Israel, a nation unique on earth? (2 Samuel 7:23). And they desired Him and linked themselves with Him as is written: For Jacob has chosen Yah for himself. And it is written: For YHWH’s share is His people (Deuteronomy 32:9)—He entrusted other nations to princely rulers appointed over them, while for His own share He took Israel (Zohar 2:126a–b).

“Rabbi Yoḥanan said, ‘Why are the people of the princes protected, while the people of the blessed Holy One are not?’ Rabbi Yitsḥaq replied, ‘The poor man is not like the wealthy man. The poor man must guard what is his; the wealthy man does not guard what is his! All the more so since Israel hail from a King who loves truth and justice, and the first judgment He renders is on the members of His household, for He wishes them to be protected from sin more than anyone else, as is written: You alone have I known of all the families of the earth—that is why I call you to account for all your iniquities (Amos 3:2) [cf. BT Avodah Zarah 4a ad loc.]” (Zohar 2:17b [MhN]).

“The blessed Holy One invited the other nations to receive the Torah. Now, was it not revealed before Him that they did not want it? However, so that they would have no excuse: if only He had given them the Torah, they would have kept it” (Zohar 3:20a).

“Rabbi Ḥiyya opened, ‘YHWH, when You came forth from Seir, when You strode from the field of Edom, the earth trembled, the heavens poured… (Judges 5:4). Come and see: Happy are Israel in this world and in the world that is coming, for the blessed Holy One delights in them and they cleave to Him and are called holy, Nation of YHWH. He has even elevated them to a supernal rung called Holiness, as is written: Holiness is Israel to YHWH (Jeremiah 2:3), as we have established. For from the eighth day the people of Israel cleave to His Name and are His, inscribed with His Name below, as is written: Who is like your people Israel, a unique nation on earth? (1 Chronicles 17:21). All the other nations do not cleave to Him nor follow His laws, and the holy insignia is lacking from them, so they cleave to the unholy Other Side.

Come and see: When the blessed Holy One wished to give the Torah to Israel, He summoned the people of Esau and said to them, ‘Do you want to receive the Torah? At that moment, the Holy Land quaked and sought to enter the Hollow of the Great Abyss. She said before Him, ‘Joyous splendor, two thousand years before the world was created—will I be snatched away to the uncircumcised who are not inscribed with Your covenant?’

The blessed Holy One replied, ‘O throne, throne, may a thousand such nations perish, yet the covenant of holy Torah will not be presented to them!’ As is written: YHWH, when You came forth from Seir, when You strode from the field of Edom, the earth trembled—surely, for Torah, who is the holy covenant, is given only to one who bears the holy covenant. And whoever conveys Torah and the covenant of Righteous One and Assembly of Israel, for Torah is given to this place and to no other.’

Rabbi Abba said, ‘He betrays three supernal places—betraying Torah, betraying the Prophets, and betraying the Writings. He betrays Torah, as is written: This is the Torah that Moses set before the Children of Israel (Deuteronomy 4:44). He betrays the Prophets, as is written: All your sons are disciples of YHWH (Isaiah 54:13)—they are disciples of YHWH, not others. And it is written: Seal Torah among My disciples (ibid., 8:16)—among them, not among others. He betrays the Writings, as is written: He established a testimony in Jacob, and ordained a teaching in Israel, which He commanded to our fathers to make them known to their children (Psalms 78:5). And it is written: Surely the righteous will acclaim Your name (ibid., 140:14). Who are the righteous? Righteous One and Assembly of Israel. For whoever is not circumcised and has not entered their covenant must not acclaim His Holy Name, which is Torah [cf. Deuteronomy 30:6: And YHWH your God shall circumcise your heart].

Rabbi Ḥiyya said, ‘Once the blessed Holy One revealed Himself on Mount Sinai to give Torah to Israel, the earth turned calm and tranquil again, as is written: The earth feared, and was still (Psalms 76:9)” (Zohar 3:91a–b).

“Come and see: It is written O YHWH, when You came forth from Seir, when You strode from the field of Edom, the earth trembled, the very heavens dripped, the clouds, O they dripped water (Judges 5:4). When the blessed Holy One wished to give the Torah to Israel, He went and invited the children of Esau, and they did not accept it—as is said: YHWH from Sinai came and He shone from Seir upon them (Deuteronomy 33:2), and they refused to accept it. He went to the children of Ishmael, and they refused to accept it, as is written: He radiated from Mount Paran (ibid.). Since they refused, He returned to Israel; so we have learned.

Now a question should be raised—and we have already learned that it is no sin when a person scrutinizes the details of Torah and asks his questions to elucidate its words. This verse is unsettled, and one should ask: When the blessed Holy one came to Seir, to which of their prophets did He appear? If you say that He revealed Himself to all of their people, we never find this except for Israel alone and through Moses. And, as has already been said, the verse should read as follows: YHWH to Sinai came and He shone to Seir upon them; He radiated to Mount Paran. Why from Seir upon them, and why from Mount Paran? All must be known and examined. I have already asked and have not heard and do not know.

When Rabbi Shim’on came, [Rabbi Yose] approached and asked about the matter as before. He replied, ‘This question has already been discussed. YHWH from Sinai came—as is said: Look, I am coming to you in the utmost cloud (Exodus 19:9), and from Sinai He came and revealed Himself to them. And He shone from Seir upon them—from what the children of Seir said, refusing to accept it; from this He illumined Israel, lavishing them with light and great love. Similarly, He radiated and illuminated from Mount Paran—from what the children of Paran said, refusing to accept it. From this, Israel gained greater love and radiance fittingly.

As for your asking ‘Through whom did He reveal Himself to them?’—come and see: it is a sublime mystery, and through you the matter is revealed. Torah issued from the supernal mystery of the head of the concealed King. When it reached the left arm, the blessed Holy One saw bad blood accumulating in that arm. He said, ‘I must purge and cleanse this arm; if that bad blood does not diminish, it will damage all. Surely, every defect must be eliminated from here.’

What did He do? He summoned Samael, who then came before Him. He said to him, ‘Do you want My Torah?’ He asked, ‘What’s written in it?’ He replied, ‘You shall not murder (Exodus 20:13).’ The blessed Holy One skipped to the necessary place. He said, ‘Heaven forbid! This Torah is Yours, and Yours it will remain. I don’t want this Torah.’

He went on pleading before Him, saying, ‘Master of the Universe, if You give it to me, my whole dominion will vanish, for look, my dominion is over killing—and there will be no wars—and my dominion is over the planet Mars. If so, all this will be abolished from the world! Master of the Universe, take Your Torah, and let me have no share or portion in it! But, if it pleases You, here is the people descended from Jacob—for them it is fitting.’ And he thought he was uttering slander against them.

This is He shone from Seir upon themfrom Seir, precisely, light radiated to Israel. Samael thought, ‘Surely, if Jacob’s children accept this, they will vanish from the world and never gain dominion! [Samael] responded to Him several times similarly. [The blessed Holy One] said to him, ‘You are the firstborn, and for you it is fitting.’ He replied, ‘Look, my birthright is his! It was sold to him, and I consented [see Genesis 25:29–34].’ He said to him, ‘Since you want no share in it, remove yourself from it entirely’ [even from the seven Noahide commandments, see BT Bava Qamma 38a, Avodah Zarah 2b–3a]. He replied, ‘Fine.’ He said to him, ‘Since it is so, give Me advice about what I should do, so that Jacob’s children will accept it, as you say.’ He replied, ‘Master of the Universe, they must be bribed. Take some light from the radiance of the powers of heaven and bestow it upon them, and thereby they will accept it—and here, mine will be first.’

He stripped off the radiance covering him and gave it to Him to give to Israel, as is written: He shone מִשֵּׂעִיר (mi-se’ir), from Seir, upon themfrom Seir, precisely, namely Samael, as is written: הַשָּׂעִיר (Ha-sa’ir), The goat, shall bear upon it [all their iniquities] (Leviticus 16:22). Upon them—upon Israel. Once He eliminated this, removing the bad blood from the left arm, He turned to the right arm and saw that it was similar. He said, ‘This arm, too, must be cleansed of bad blood.’ He summoned Rahab, and said to him, ‘Do you want My Torah?’ [Rahab, the sea monster, is sometimes used as a poetic epithet for Egypt (see Psalms 87:4), and here the prince of Ishmael, cf. Zohar 2:170b; 3:246b (RM); ZḤ 30d]. He replied, ‘What’s written in it?’ He skipped ahead and said, ‘You shall not commit adultery (Exodus 20:13).’ He replied, ‘Woe, if the blessed Holy One transmits this legacy to me—an evil legacy, which will eliminate my whole dominion; for I have obtained a blessing of waters, a blessing of the fish of the sea, as is written: פְּרוּ וּרְבוּ (Peru urvu), Be fruitful and multiply [and fill the water in the seas] (Genesis 1:22), and similarly: He will be פֶּרֶא (pere), a wild ass, of a man (ibid. 16:12).’

He began to plead before Him, saying, ‘Master of the Universe, we issued as two sons from Abraham! Here are the children of Isaac; give it to them, for whom it is fitting.’ He replied, ‘I cannot, for you are the first born, and for you it is fitting.’ He began to plead, saying, ‘Master of the Universe, my birthright will be his; and this light that I have thereby inherited, take and give to them.’ And so He did, as is written: הוֹפִיעַ (Hofi’a), He radiated, from Mount Paran.

Why is it written concerning Samael, וְזָרַח (Ve-zaraḥ), and He shone, whereas concerning Rahab it is written differently: Hofi’aHe appeared? Well, with the light that Samael stripped from himself, He took the sword and the killing [cf. Genesis 27:40: By your sword shall you live]—to kill by judicial sentencing, to kill properly—as is written: your triumphant sword (Deuteronomy 33:29) [cf. ZḤ 14a (MhN)], although it was not yours. And with the blessing that Rahab stripped from himself, He took a little, like someone to whom a little of his blessing appears, to enable [Israel] to be fruitful and multiply. Thus, hofi’aHe appeared, from Mount Paran, and it is not written ve-zaraḥ, and He shone. Once He had obtained these gifts for Israel from those ruling princes, He came and summoned all the myriads of holy ones (Deuteronomy 33:2), appointed over the other nations. They replied to Him similarly, and from all of them He received and obtained gifts to bestow upon Israel.

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 3:192a–193a).

The Devisings of the Human Heart are Evil from Youth

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Antoninus inquired of Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nasi], ‘From what time does the evil impulse hold sway over man; from the formation [of the embryo] or from issuing forth? He said, ‘From the formation [of the embryo].’ He said, ‘If so he would rebel in his mother’s womb and go forth. But it is from when he issues.’ Rabbi said: This thing Antoninus taught me, and Scripture supports him, as is said, at the tent flap sin crouches (Genesis 4:7)” (BT Sanhedrin 91b, cf. BT Yevamot 69a; Niddah 30b–31a).

“Rabbi Naḥman son of Rabbi Ḥisda expounded: What is meant by, וַיִּיצֶר (Va-yiytser), then fashioned, YHWH God, the human (Genesis 2:7)—written with two יוּדִין (yudin), yods? To show that the blessed Holy One created two impulses, one good and the other evil. Rabbi Naḥman son of Yitsḥaq objected. He said: according to this animals, of which it is not written יִּיצֶר (yiytser), fashioned [with two yods, see Genesis 2:19: and YHWH God יִּצֶר (yitser), fashioned, from the soil each beast of the field…], should have no evil impulse, yet we see that they injure and bite and kick! It is as expounded by Rabbi Shim’on son of Pazzi; for Rabbi Shim’on son of Pazzi said: אוֹי לִי מִיּוֹצְרִי (Oy li mi-yotsri), Woe is me because of my Maker, אוֹי לִי מִיִּצְרִי (oy li mi-yitsri), woe is me because of my urge! Or again as explained by Rabbi Yirmiyahu son of El’azar; for Rabbi Yirmiyahu son of El’azar said: The blessed Holy One created דוּ פַּרְצוּפִין (du partsufin), two faces, in the first man, as it says, From behind and in front You shaped me (Psalms 139:5)….

Rav said: The evil impulse resembles a fly and dwells between the two openings of the heart [cf. BT Sukkah 52b], as it says, A dead fly makes the perfumer’s oil chalice stink (Ecclesiastes 10:1). Shemu’el said: It is like a kind of חִטָּה (ḥittah), wheat, as it says, At the tent flap חַטָּאת (ḥattat), sin, crouches (Genesis 4:7). Our Rabbis taught: Man has two kidneys, one of which prompts him to good, the other to evil; and it is natural to suppose that the good one is on his right side and the bad one on his left, as is written, A wise man’s mind [lit., heart] is at his right, and the fool’s mind at his left (Ecclesiastes 10:2)” (BT Berakhot 61a).

“Here is a mystery. In all actions performed by the blessed Holy One, He begins with the external, and then the kernel within…. The Other Side always precedes: growing, developing, protecting the fruit. Once it has grown, it is cast aside; What the wicked will prepare, the righteous will wear (Job 27:17)—that קְלִפָּה (qelipah), shell, is thrown away and the Righteous One of the world is blessed” (Zohar 2:108b).

“Rabbi Ammi son of Abba said: What is There is a little town… (Ecclesiastes 9:14)? A little town—the body; and few people within it (ibid.)—the limbs; and a great king came against it and went round it (ibid.)—the יֵצֶר הָרָע (yetser ha-ra), evil impulse; and built against it great siegeworks (ibid.)—crimes; But he found within it a poor wise man (ibid.)—the יֵצֶר טוֹב (yetser tov), good impulse; and that person saved the town through his wisdom (ibid.)—to repentance and good deeds; but no one recalled that poor man (ibid.)—for when the evil impulse [gains control], none remember the good impulse. Wisdom is stronger for the wise than ten rulers who are in the town (ibid. 7:19). Wisdom is stronger for the wise—repentance and good deeds; than ten rulers—two eyes, two ears, two hands, two feet, head of the torso [i.e., penis], and mouth” (BT Nedarim 32b).

“Rabbi Ḥiyya opened, ‘Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but YHWH delivers him from them all (Psalms 34:20). Come and see how intensely a person is attacked, from the day that the blessed Holy One endows him with a soul to exist in this world! For as soon as a human emerges into the atmosphere the evil impulse lies ready to conspire with him, as has been said; for it is written: At the tent flap sin crouches (Genesis 4:7)—right then the evil impulse partners with him.

Come and see that it is so! For animals all protect themselves from the day they are born fleeing from fire and all menacing sites; yet a human being is ready at once to fling himself into the fire, because the evil impulse dwells within him, instantly luring him into evil ways.

We have established what is written: Better a poor and wise child than an old and foolish king who no longer knows how to heed warning (Ecclesiastes 4:13). Better a child—the good impulse, who is a child, just recently with a person, accompanying him only from the age of thirteen, as had been said [see Avot de-Rabbi Natan B, 16; Qohelet Rabbah on 4:13; Midrash Tehillim 9:5; Zohar 1:78a–b (ST), 110b (MhN)].

Than a king—the evil impulse, who is called king, ruling over humanity in the world. Old and foolish, for he is surely old, as already established, since as soon as a person is born, emerging into the atmosphere, he accompanies that person. So he is an old and foolish king [on the link between foolishness and sin, see Numbers 12:11; BT Sotah 3a].

Who no longer knows how לְהִזָּהֵר (le-hizzaher), to heed warning. It is not written לְהַזְהִיר (le-hazhir), to give warning, but rather le-hizzaher, to heed warning—because he is a fool, of whom Solomon said The fool walks in darkness (ibid. 2:14), for he issues from dregs of darkness, deprived of light forever [but he who does not know how to take care of others is not yet considered foolish (Sullam)]….’

Than an old king—the evil impulse, as has been said, for since the first day he existed, he has never escaped defilement. And he is foolish—all his ways evil, leading humans astray, not knowing how to heed warning. He sidles up to people with ploys, luring them from the good way to the evil.

Come and see: This is why he hastens to be with a person from the day he is born, so that he will trust him. For look, when the good impulse arrives, the person cannot believe him—and considers him a burden! Similarly we have learned: Who is cunningly wicked? One who pleads his case in front of the judge before the other party arrives, as is said: The first to plead his case seems right… (Proverbs 18:17) [cf. BT Sotah 21b]. Similarly this cunning wicked one, as is said: The serpent was cunning (Genesis 3:1)—he arrives first, dwelling with a person before his counterpart comes to rest upon him. Since he appears first, pleading his case with him, when his counterpart—the good impulse—arrives, the person finds him obnoxious and cannot raise his head [cf. Zohar 2:199a: ‘The good impulse, who guides all… said to him, ‘What are you doing sound asleep?’… Repent of your sins!’], as if he loaded on his shoulders all the burdens of the world, because of that cunning wicked one who reached him first. Concerning this, Solomon said, The poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heeded (Ecclesiastes 9:16), because the other anticipated him.

So whoever accepts a person’s words before his counterpart arrives, acts as if he accepts belief in another, false god [see BT Shabbat 105b]. Rather, till the other comes and examines him (Proverbs 18:17). This is the way of the righteous, for a righteous person does not believe that cunningly wicked evil impulse before his counterpart, the good impulse, arrives. Because of this, people stumble in the world to come.

However, one who is righteous, in awe of his Lord, endures many afflictions in this world so as not to trust and consort with that evil impulse, and the blessed Holy One delivers him from them all, as is written: Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but YHWH delivers him from them all. It is not written Many are רָעוֹת לַצַּדִּיק (ra’ot la-tsaddiq), the afflictions for the righteous, but rather צַדִּיק (tsaddiq), [of] the righteous, because the blessed Holy One אִתְרְעֵי (itre’ei), delights, in that human being and delivers him from everything in this world and in the world that is coming [because the afflictions he suffers alienate him from the evil impulse (Sullam)]. Happy is his share!” (Zohar 1:179a–b, cf. Bahir §§163–164).

For He knows יִצְרֵנוּ (yitsrenu), our devisings, recalls that we are dust (Psalms 103:14).

“In the time to come the blessed Holy One will bring the evil impulse and slay it in the presence of the righteous and the wicked. To the righteous it will have the appearance of a towering hill, and to the wicked it will have the appearance of a thread of hair. Both the former and the latter will weep; the righteous will weep saying, ‘How were we able to overcome such a towering hill!’ The wicked also will weep saying, ‘How is it that we were unable to conquer this thread of hair!’ And the blessed Holy One will also marvel together with them, as is said, Thus said YHWH of Armies: Does it seem beyond the remnant of this people in these days? So it would be beyond Me (Zechariah 8:6) [cf. Zohar 1:190b].

Rav Assi said, ‘The evil impulse is at first like the thread of a spider, but ultimately becomes like cart ropes, as is said, Woe, who haul crime with the cords of falseness and like the ropes of a cart, offense (Isaiah 5:18).’ 

Rabbi Avira or, as some say, Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi, made the following exposition: The evil impulse has seven names. The blessed Holy One called him Evil, as is said, For the יֵצֶר (yetser), devisings, of the human heart are evil from youth (Genesis 8:21). Moses called him Uncircumcised, as is said, Circumcise the foreskin of your heart (Deuteronomy 10:16). David called him Impure, as is said, A pure heart create for me God (Psalms 51:12)—implying that there is an impure one. Solomon called him Foe, as is said, If your foe is hungry, feed him bread, and if he thirsts, give him water, for you would heap live coals on his head, and YHWH will pay you back (Proverbs 25:21)—do not read יְשַׁלֶּם לָךְ (yeshalem-lakh), will pay you back, but יַשׁלִימֶנוּ לָךְ (yashlimenu-lakh), will cause it to be at peace with you. Isaiah called him Stumbling-block, as is said, Build up, build up, clear a road, take away stumbling blocks from My people’s road (Isaiah 57:14). Ezekiel called him Stone, as is said, And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit will I put within you, and I will take away the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). Joel called him Northerner, as is said, And the northerner I will put far from you (Joel 2:20) [cf. Jeremiah 1:14: From the north evil will be let loose on all the inhabitants of the land].

Our Rabbis taught: And אֶת הַצְּפוֹנִי (et-ha-tsefoni), the northerner, I will put far from youthe evil impulse which is always צָפוּן (tsafun), hidden, in the heart of man.…

The school of Rabbi Yishma’el taught, If this repulsive wretch meets you, drag him to the House of Study. If he is of stone, he will dissolve, if of iron he will shatter  [cf. BT Qiddushin 30a]. ‘If he is of stone he will dissolve’—for it is written, Oh, every one who thirsts go to the water (Isaiah 55:1) and it is written, Water wears away stones (Job 14:19). ‘If he is of iron, he will shatter,’ as is written, Is not My word like fire, said YHWH, and like a hammer splitting rock? (Jeremiah 23:29).

Rabbi Shemu’el son of Naḥman said in the name of Rabbi Yonatan: the evil impulse seduces you in this world and bears witness against you in the world that is coming, as is said, Who pampers his slave from youth, in the end there will be מָנוֹן (manon)  [alt., מָנוֹד (manod), dismay] (Proverbs 29:21), for according to the [method of letter permutation] א״ט ב״ה (at bah) Rabbi Ḥiyya [teaches] סָהֵדַה (sahadah), witness, is called מָנוֹן (manon). Rav Ḥuna pointed out an incongruity: It is written, For a spirit of whoring made them stray, [and they played the whore against their God] (Hosea 4:12), but is it not also written, [For the spirit of whoring] is within them (ibid., 5:4)? First it only causes them to err, but ultimately it enters into them. Rabba observed, ‘First the evil impulse is a wayfarer in the street, then he is called guest, and finally he is called man [of the house], for it is said, And a wayfarer came to the richman, and it seemed a pity to him to take from his own sheep and cattle to prepare for the traveler who had come to him, and he took the poor man’s ewe and prepared it for the man who had come to him [ doomed is the man who has done this! And the poor man’s ewe he shall pay back fourfold, in as much as he has done this thing, and because he had no pity!] (2 Samuel 12:4–6)” (BT Sukkah 52b).

“Rabbi Yeisa said, ‘At the moment he departs from the world, every inhabitant of the world sees Adam to bear witness that due to his own sins he is departing, not because of Adam—except for those three who departed due to the incitement of the primordial serpent, namely, Amram, Levi, and Benjamin; some say: also Jesse. They never sinned; no trace of a sin could be found upon them to warrant their death, but that incitement of the serpent was brought to bear upon them, as we have said” (Zohar 1:57b, cf. BT Shabbat 55b).

“It has been taught in the name of Rabbi Me’ir: Man enters the world with clenched hands saying, ‘The whole world is mine; I shall inherit it!’ But when man leaves the world his hands are open, saying, ‘I have not taken anything from [this] world’” (Qohelet Rabbah 5:14).

Holding in Their Hand that Reptile

“Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘Woe to human beings who do not know, consider, or see! They are all obtuse, unaware how full the world is of strange, invisible creatures, of hidden things. If the eye were empowered to see, humans would be amazed how they themselves can endure. Come and see: This Na’amah was mother of demons. From her side issue all those inflamed by human beings, absorbing their spirit of lust, titillating them, turning them into casualties of ejaculation. Since such a casualty derives from the side of impure spirit, he must bathe to purify himself, as established by the Companions” (Zohar 1:55a, cf. Deuteronomy 23:11; BT Berakhot 6a).

“Come and see: All generations in the days of Noah exposed their sins to the world brazenly, in sight of all. One day Rabbi Shim’on was walking through the gates of Tiberias when he saw some men drawing the bow taut with the shaft of a centaur. He exclaimed, ‘What! Such brazen sin, provoking their Lord?’ He cast his eyes upon them; they were hurled into the sea and drowned” (Zohar 1:58a).

“Rabbi Yitsḥaq was in the presence of Rabbi Shim’on. He asked him: This verse, And the earth was corrupt before God (Genesis 6:11)—given that humans sinned, but how did the earth [do so]? He replied: Since it is written, for all flesh had corrupted their way [upon earth] (ibid., 12), as has been said. Similarly, The earth was defiled, and I inflicted her punishment upon her (Leviticus 18:25). It was human beings who sinned. But if you ask, ‘How did earth [sin]?’ the answer is: Human beings constitute the essence of earth—they ruin earth, and it is ruined. The verse proves it, as is written: God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth (Genesis, ibid.).

Come and see: All sins of a human being are entirely his ruination, yet are susceptible to return [i.e., may be atoned by repentance]; but the sin of spilling seed, wasting his way, emitting seed upon earth, ruining both himself and the earth—of this is written: stained is your iniquity before Me (Jeremiah 2:22). Similarly, You are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil cannot abide with you (Psalms 5:5), except through great returning. Similarly, Er, firstborn of Judah, was evil in the eyes of YHWH; and YHWH slew him (Genesis 38:7). This has already been explained.

Rabbi Yehudah asked: Why did the blessed Holy One punish the world with water, and not with fire or some other element? He [Rabbi Shim’on] replied: It is a mystery! For they wasted their ways, so that the upper waters and lower waters failed to unite fittingly; so did they ruin their ways, male and female waters. So they were punished by water, just like they sinned. The water was boiling, peeling off their skin, just as they wasted their ways with boiling water [cf. BT Sanhedrin 108b]. A fitting punishment, as is written: All the springs of the great abyss burst forth (ibid. 8:2)—lower waters; and the sluices of heaven opened (ibid.)—upper waters. Upper and lower waters” (Zohar 1:61b–62a).

What he did was evil in the eyes of YHWH (Genesis 38:10). Rabbi Ḥiyya opened, In the morning sow your seed… (Ecclesiastes 11:6). Come and see how greatly a person should beware his sins and be heedful in his actions before the blessed Holy One! For numerous messengers and officials populate the world, roaming around, observing human actions and testifying about them, all recorded in a book [see M Avot 2:1].

Come and see: Of all the sins by which a person is defiled in this world, this is the sin by which he is defiled both in this world and the world that is coming: spilling one’s seed fruitlessly [cf. BT Niddah 13a–b]—emitting seed in vain by hand or foot, and becoming defiled, as is written: For You are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil cannot abide with You (Psalms 5:5). He does not enter the curtain nor gaze upon the Countenance of Days, as we have learned, for it is written: Evil cannot abide with You, and similarly: Er, Judah’s firstborn, was evil (Genesis 38:7). Therefore, Your hands are full of blood (Isaiah 1:15). Happy is the share of a person in awe of his Lord, guarded from the evil path, purifying himself to persevere in the awe of his Lord!

Come and see: In the morning sow your seed. This verse has been established: in the morning—when a man is in his prime, in his youth; then he should strive to engender children, as is written: sow your seed. Then is the time, as is written: Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth (Psalms 127:4), since he can teach them the ways of the blessed Holy One and obtain a fine reward in the world that is coming, as is written: Happy is the man who fills his quiver with them; they will not be put to shame… (ibid., 5)—in that world, when masters of judgment come to accuse him; for you cannot find a better reward in that world than one who has taught his child the awe of his Lord and the ways of Torah.

Come and see from Abraham, of whom is written For I have known him, so that he will instruct his children… (Genesis 18:19). So the merit stands him well in that world against all masters of judgment; therefore, In the morning sow your seed. And at evening—even in old age, a time when a person wanes, what is written? Do not hold back your hand—one should not forsake engendering in this world. Why? For you do not know which will prosper… (Ecclesiastes, ibid.), so that they can stand up for him in that world. Therefore, Children are the heritage of YHWH (Psalms 127:3). Who is heritage of YHWH? Bundle of the soul [Shekhinah], aspect of the world that is coming. As for this heritage, who entitles one to enter the heritage of YHWH? Children—those children entitle him to the heritage of YHWH. So, happy is the person who attains them and teaches them the ways of Torah, as has been said” (Zohar 1:188a).

“Whoever emits his seed fruitlessly is called evil and does not see the face of Shekhinah, as is written: You are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil cannot abide with You (Psalms 5:5), and similarly: Er, firstborn of Judah, was evil in the eyes of YHWH (Genesis 38:7). Here too, Woe to the wicked! Evil!—woe to that wicked one, who is evil, who made himself evil. For what his hands have perpetrated will be requited to him—to include one who fornicates with his hands, emitting seed fruitlessly; this one is tormented in that world more than all.

Come and see! For it is written: Woe to the wicked! Evil! Since it is written Woe to the wicked, why evil? But as I have said: He made himself evil. And it is written: Evil cannot abide with You. All of them ascend, whereas this one does not. Now, you might ask, ‘What about other sinners who have killed people? Come and see: All of them ascend, but he does not. Why? Because they have killed other human beings, whereas he has killed his children—his very own children!—spilling much blood.

Come and see: Of other sinners of the world is not written It was evil in the eyes of YHWH, where as here is written What he did was evil in the eyes of YHWH (ibid., 10). Why? Because he wasted on the ground (ibid., 9).

We have learned: Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘There is nothing in the world for which one cannot repent, except for this [cf. Zohar 1:61b–62a]. There is no sinner who cannot see the face of Shekhinah, except for this one, as is written: Evil cannot abide with You—at all!” (Zohar 1:219b).

“Woe to him for that punishment, woe to him for tainting the sign of the holy covenant! Woe to him for that shame, for eternal vengeance will be wreaked upon him—vengeance of this world and vengeance for that taint. This is the mystery of what is written: For the rod of wickedness shall not rest on the portion of the righteous (Psalms 125:3)…. This pertains if one has not turned back completely in repentance, a turning capable of covering his deeds” (Zohar 2:214b).

“And we have learned: A man is forbidden to gaze at the beauty of a woman, so that he not have evil fantasies and be uprooted to something else. This is how Rabbi Shim’on acted when he was walking through town, followed by the Companions, and they saw beautiful women. He would lower his eyes and say to the Companions, ‘Do not turn to idols (Leviticus 19:4).’ For whoever gazes at a woman’s beauty during the day will have fantasies at night; and if they overwhelm him, he transgresses Do not make molten gods for yourselves (ibid.). Furthermore, if he has intercourse with his wife while those evil imaginings arise within him, the children they engender are called molten gods. Do not turn to idols. Rabbi Abba said, ‘A person is forbidden to look at idols of the nations or to derive benefit from them—all the more so, to look at a place that should not be seen” (Zohar 3:83b–84a).

You shall show them no grace. [You shall not intermarry with them. You shall not give your daughter to his son, nor shall you take his daughter for your son. For he will make your son swerve from following Me…] (Deuteronomy 7:2–4). For Rav said: One is forbidden to say, ‘How beautiful is this idolatress!’ The following objection was raised: It happened that Rabban Shim’on son of Gamaliel, while standing on a step on the Temple-mount, saw a heathen woman who was particularly beautiful, and he exclaimed: ‘How great are Your works, O YHWH!’ (Psalms 104:24). Likewise, when Rabbi Akiva saw the wife of the wicked Tyranus Rufus [Governor of Judea], he spat, then laughed, and then wept. ‘Spat’—because of her originating only from a fetid drop [see M Avot 3:1]; ‘laughed’—because he foresaw that she would become a convert and that he would take her to wife; ‘wept,’ that such beauty should [ultimately] decay in the dust.

What then about Rav’s ruling? [who holds that one must not admire the beauty of a genitle woman]. [He might say that] each of these rabbis merely offered thanksgiving. For a Master has said: He who beholds goodly creatures should say, ‘Blessed be He who has created such in His world’ [cf. BT Berakhot 58b]. But is even mere looking permitted? The following can surely be raised as an objection: [When you sally forth in a camp against your enemy,you shall keep yourself from every evil thing (Deuteronomy 23:10), that one should not look intently at a beautiful woman, even if she be unmarried, or at a married woman even if she be ugly, nor at a woman’s attractive dress, nor at male and female donkeys, or a pig and a sow, or at fowls when they are mating; even if one is all eyes like the Angel of Death!

It has been said of the Angel of Death that he is completely full of eyes. When a sick person is about to die, he stands above the head of the bed. In his hand is a drawn sword with a bitter drop suspended. When the sick person sees him, he is terrified and opens his mouth. The angel flings the drop inside [cf. Job 20:14: vipers’ bile in his gut]. From this drop he dies; from this drop he turns putrid; from this drop his face turns green [therefore the Angel of Death is called סָמָאֵל (sama’el), the Venom of God].

[What may have happened in the aforementioned case of Rabban Shim’on son of Gamaliel was that] the woman turned round a corner [and her face thus met his eyes unexpectedly]” (BT Avodah Zarah 20a).

“Our Rabbis taught: If a man counts out money from his hand into the hand of a woman so as to have the opportunity of gazing at her, even if he can vie in Torah and good deeds like Moses our teacher, he shall not escape the punishment of Hell, as it says, Hand to hand the evil will not go scot-free (Proverbs 11:21), he shall not escape from the punishment of Hell” (BT Berakhot 61a).

“Rabbi Meir used to mock עוֹבְרֵי עֲבֵירָה (overei aveirah), transgressors. One day Satan appeared to him in the guise of a woman on the opposite bank of the river. As there was no ferry, he seized the ‘rope’ and עֶבֶר (ever), crossed. When he had reached half way along the ‘rope,’ he let him go saying: ‘Had they not proclaimed in Heaven, ‘Take heed of Rabbi Meir and his learning,’ I would have valued your blood [i.e., life] at two ma’ahs.’ Rabbi Akiva used to mock transgressors. One day Satan appeared to him as a woman on the top of a palm tree. Grasping the tree, he went climbing up: but when he reached half-way up the tree he let him go, saying: ‘Had they not proclaimed in Heaven, ‘Take heed of Rabbi Akiva and his learning,’ I would have valued your blood at two ma’ahs.’

Peleimo used to say every day, ‘An arrow in the Adversary’s eyes!’ One day—it was the eve of Yom Kippur—he disguised himself as a poor man and went and called out at his door; so bread was taken out to him. He said, ‘On such a day, when everyone is within, shall I be without?’ He was taken in and bread was offered him. He said, ‘On a day like this, when everyone sits at the table, shall I sit alone!’ He was led and sat down at the table. As he sat, his body was covered with sores and puss, and he was behaving repulsively. ‘Sit properly,’ he rebuked him. He said, ‘Give me a cup,’ and one was given him. He coughed and spat his phlegm into it. They scolded him, he fainted and died. Then they [the household] heard people crying out, ‘Peleimo has killed a man, Peleimo has killed a man!’ Fleeing, he hid in a toilet; he followed him, and he fell before him. Seeing how he was suffering, he disclosed his identity and said to him, why have you spoken this way [provoking me by saying: An arrow in the Adversary’s eyes]? What then should I say? You should say: ‘The Compassionate rebuke Satan’ [cf. Zechariah 3:2: YHWH rebuke You, הַשָּׂטָן (ha-satan), the Accuser]” (BT Qiddushin 81a–b).

“Rav Yoḥanan said: Man has a small member—when he starves it, it is satisfied, and when he satisfies it, it is starving” (BT Sukkot 52b).

And I saw among the dupes, discerned among the young men a witless lad, passing through the streets, by the corner, on the way to her house he strides, at twilight, as evening descends, in pitch-black night and darkness. And, look, a woman to meet him, whore’s attire and hidden intent. Bustling she is and wayward, in her house her feet do not stay. Now outside, now in the square, and by every corner she lurks.

She seizes him and kisses him, impudently says to him: “I had to make well-being offerings, today I’ve fulfilled my vows. And so I’ve come out to meet you, to seek you, and I’ve found you. With coverlets I’ve spread my couch, dyed cloths of Egyptian linen. I’ve sprinkled my bed with myrrh, with aloes and cinnamon. Come, let us drink deep of loving till morn, let us revel in love’s delights….” She sways him with all her talk, with her smooth speech she leads him astray. He goes after her in a trice, as an ox goes off to the slaughter, as a stag prances into a halter. Till an arrow pierces his liver, as a bird hastens to the snare, not knowing the cost is his life.

And now, sons, listen to me, and attend to my mouth’s sayings. Let your heart not veer to her ways, and do not go astray on her paths. For many the victims she has felled, innumerable all whom she has killed. Through her house are the ways to Sheol, going down to the chambers of Death (Proverbs 7:7–18, 21–27).

“The secret of secrets: From the strength of the noon-flame of Isaac, from the dregs of wine, a naked shoot came forth, comprising together male and female, red like a lily, and they spread out on several sides, down several paths. The male is called Samael and his female is always included with him. Just as on the side of holiness there are male and female, so on the other side there are male and female, included one with the other. The female of Samael is called ‘serpent,’ ‘a wife of harlotry,’ ‘the end of all flesh,’ ‘the end of days.’

Two evil spirits are attached to one another. The male spirit is fine, the female spirit spreads out down several ways and paths, and is attached to the male spirit. She dresses herself in finery like an abominable harlot and stands at the corners of streets and highways in order to attract men. When a fool approaches her, she embraces him and kisses him, and mixes her dregs of wine with snake poison for him. Once he has drunk, אַסְטֵי (astei), he turns aside, after her. When she sees that he has turned aside after her from the way of truth, she takes off all the finery that she had put on for the sake of this fool [cf. Bahir §164].

This is the finery that she uses to seduce mankind: her hair is long, red like a lily; her face is white and pink; six pendants hang at her ears; her bed is made of Egyptian flax; all the ornaments of the East encircle her neck; her mouth is shaped like a tiny door, beautified with cosmetic; her tongue is sharp like a sword; her words smooth as oil; her lips beautiful, red as a lily, sweetened with all the sweetnesses in the world; she is dressed in purple, and attired in thirty-nine items of finery. This fool turns aside after her, and drinks from the cup of wine, and commits harlotry with her, completely enamored of her. What does she do? She leaves him asleep on the bed and ascends to the realms above, accuses him, obtains authority, and descends. The fool wakes up, thinking to sport with her as before, but she takes off her finery, and turns into a fierce warrior, facing him in a garment of flaming fire, a vision of dread, terrifying both body and soul, full of horrific eyes, a sharpened sword in his hand with drops of poison suspended and dripping from it. He kills the fool, and throws him into Hell” (Zohar 1:148a–b, Sitrei Torah, cf. Zohar 1:190a–b; 2:163a–b; 3:19a, 76b–77a).

“The Queen does not dwell in one’s כֹּחַ (koaḥ), power, [namely] the כ״ח (twenty-eight) finger joints, until all the filth of the wicked, unfit slavegirl, wife to the unfit, is removed. Therefore, the Masters of Mishnah explained that ‘filthy hands are unfit to make a blessing’ (BT Berakhot 53b). This water is for cleansing the hand upon which the hand of YHWH rests. The hand of YHWH is the water of Torah. The ignorant people are considered as unclean reptiles [see BT Pesaḥim 49b]. What good will immersing in water do them, holding in their hand that reptile, which is the wicked slavegirl, stolen goods in their possession, the stolen blessings they stole from the blessed Holy One. They do not know what a blessing is, or what filth is” (Zohar 3:273b, Ra’aya Meheimna Eqev).

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).