The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: סֻכָּה

I Will Climb into the Palm Tree and Take Hold of its Branches

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“Rabbi Yishma’el says: [The mitsvah of the four species requires] three הֲדַסִּים (hadassim), myrtle branches, two עֲרָבוֹת (aravot), willow branches, one לוּלָב (lulav), palm branch, and one אֶתְרוֹג (etrog), citron” (M Sukkah 3:4).

Make me know the path of life. Joys overflow in Your presence, delights in Your right hand forever (Psalms 16:11).

Israel said before the blessed Holy One: ‘Master of the Universe! Make me know the path of life [חַיִּים (ḥayyim), life, is numerically equivalent to לוּלָב (lulav), palm branch]!’ He said to them, ‘Here are the Ten Days of Repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur: שֹׂבַע שְׂמָחוֹת (sova’a semaot), joys overflow, in Your presence—rather read: שֶׁבַע שְׂמָחוֹת (sheva semaot), seven joys, of the festival, and what are they? The four species, plus סֻכָּה (sukkah), hut, the Ḥagigah (festal) offering, and rejoicing. What is delights in Your right hand נֶצַח (netsaḥ), forever? Rabbi Avin said, ‘This is the palm branch, like one who is מְנַצֵחַ (menatseaḥ), victorious, holds a wand. What is this like? Two who entered before the judge, but we do not know who won, unless we see one of them holding a wand in his hand and then we know that he won. Similarly, Israel and the nations of the world go in and contend with the blessed Holy One on Rosh Hashanah, and we do not know who won, but when Israel depart from His presence with their לֻלַּבּין (lullabbin), palm branches, and אֶתְרוֹגִין (etrogin), citrons, in their hands, we know that Israel came out victorious [cf. BT Sukkah 55b]” (Vayiqra Rabbah 30:2, cf. Midrash Tehilim 17:5).

Now, all the holy forms are appointed over all the peoples, but ‘Israel is holy’ (BT Ḥullin 7b), they pluck [a beautiful] נוֹף (nof), branch (Psalms 48:3) [from] the Tree. And his heart, what [is the] heart? The stately fruit of the גוּף (guf), body. So Israel plucks fruit of a stately tree (Leviticus 23:40)—a date palm surrounded by his branches all around with his palm branch in the middle. So Israel plucks a branch of this Tree, which is His Heart. And corresponding to the branch is the spinal cord in man, the root of the guf, trunk. What is this לוּלָב (lulav), palm branch? It denotes: ל״ו ל״ב (Thirty-six, thirty-two)—to לֵב (lev), the Heart, thirty-six are added. And what is this Heart? In Him are ‘Thirty-two wondrous paths of Wisdom’ (Sefer Yetsirah §1). In each path there is also a form keeping guard, as is written, To guard the way to the tree of life (Genesis 3:24)” (Bahir §98, cf. Zohar 3:104a; TZ 21, 47b).

Rabbi Berekhiah sat and expounded: What is the לוּלָב (lulav), palm branch, that we discussed? We said: ל״ו (thirty-six) given over to ל״ב (thirty-two). But how? He replied: There are three princes: תָּלִי (Tali) [alt., תְלִי (Theli), like a serpentine spine which twists the heavens, i.e., Draco, Axis Mundi], Wheel, and Heart. Each one is twelve, and the three therefore reckon thirty-six, by which the world is sustained [see BT Sanhedrin 97b; Sukkah 45b], as is written: The Righteous One is foundation of the world (Proverbs 10:25)” (Bahir §101).

A parable: A king wished to plant nine male trees in his garden, all of them palms. What did he do? He said: Since they are all of the same kind it is impossible for them to endure. What did he do? He planted a אֶתְרוֹג (etrog), citron, among them, and it was one of those nine which arose in thought to be male. And why is the citron, female? Because it is written, The fruit of a stately tree, fronds of palm trees, [and a branch of a leafy tree and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before YHWH your God seven days] (Leviticus 23:40). What is the fruit of a stately tree? The Targum renders this, fruit of the citron tree, palm branches, [myrtles and willows]” (Bahir §172).

What is [Holy, holy,holy (Isaiah 6:3)? This the אֶתְרוֹג (etrog), citron, stateliness of all. Why is it called stately (Leviticus 23:40)? Do not read הָדָר (hadar), stately, but הַדַר ­(ha-dar), the Dweller [cf. BT Sukkah 35a]. This is the etrog, citron—separate from the לוּלָב (lulav), palm branch, bunch. Yet no mitsvah of lulav, palm branch, exists without it. For it is also bound with All [the Righteous One; Yesod, see Zohar 1:221a]. With each one; unified with them all.

What does the לוּלָב (lulav), palm branch, correspond to? The spinal cord. Therefore it is written, [Fronds of palm trees,] and a branch of a leafy tree and willows of the brook (Leviticus 23:40). The branches must cover the majority [of the bunch]. If its branches do not cover its majority, it is invalid. Why? What is this like? A man has arms, and with them he protects his head. He has two arms, and his head makes three: a branch of a leafy tree. A branch is to the left, and the leaves are to the right. It then comes out that the tree is in the middle. And why is it called a tree? Because it is the root of the Tree.

What are willows of the brook (Leviticus 23:40)? There are two [willow branches in the לוּלָב (lulav), palm branch], and these correspond to the two thighs in man. Why are they called עַרְבֵי נָחַל (arvei naḥal), willows of the brook? Because the greater of the two is inclined toward the מַעֲרֵב (ma’arev), west, and draws its power from there. The one to the north is smaller than it by a journey of five hundred years. It is on the northwest side, through which it functions. It is named after it, since they are both עֲרָבִים (aravim), mixed.

Another interpretation: עַרְבֵי נָחַל (Arvei naḥal), willows of the brook—sometimes their functions מְעָרְבִים (me’arvim), are mixed, this with that. And why are they called willows of the brook? Say because of the place in which they are steady, which is called נָחַל (naḥal), brook [or: river]. Therefore it is written All the rivers go to the sea, and the sea is not full (Ecclesiastes 1:7). What is this sea? We say that it is the אֶתְרוֹג (etrog), citron.

How do we know that each of the seven qualities [sefirot] is called נָחַל (naḥal), river? Because it is written, And from Mattanah to Nahaliel and from Nahaliel to Bamoth (Numbers 21:19) [cf. M Avot 6:2]. Do not read נַחֲלִיאֵל (naḥaliel), Nahaliel, but נַחֲלֵי אֵל (naḥlei El), rivers of God. And all six then go on one way to the Sea. What is this way? It is the one that decides between them. Therefore it is written: Before Him went the pestilence, and burning fever went forth at His feet (Habakkuk 3:5). All of them go to that channel, and from that channel to the Sea. This is And from מַּתָּנָה (mattanah), Mattanah, to Nahaliel—a place which is נִתַן (nitan), given, namely from the brain to Nahaliel and from Nahaliel to Bamoth.

What is Bamoth? As the Targum renders it: רָמָתָא (ramata), Heights. This is the סְגוּלָּה (segullah), which follows the זַרְקָא (zarqa). And from Bamoth to the valley that is in the steppes of Moab, by the top of Pisgah looking out over the wasteland (Numbers 21:19). And from Bamoth, Heights, to the valley that is in the steppes of Moab—that which is מְזוּמָן (mezuman), ready. And what is that which was in the steppes of Moab? Do not read מוֹאָב (mo’av), Moab, but מִאָב (mi-av), from father. This is the Father of whom is written, Because Abraham has listened to My voice and has kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, [and My teachings] (Genesis 26:5).

What is הַשָּׂדֶה (ha-sadeh), the steppes [or: the field]? It is the one that is at the top of Pisgah, and which is also looking out over the wasteland. יְשִׁימֹן (Yeshimon), the wasteland, is translated as שְׁמַיָּא (shemayya), heavens. Regarding that channel, it is written, A garden spring, a garden of fresh water and streams from Lebanon (Song of Songs 4:15). What is Lebanon? We say this is Ḥokhmah. What are עַרְבֵי נָחַל (arvei naḥal), willows of the brook? We say this is that which gives נַחֲלָה (naḥalah), a heritage, to Israel. And that is two אוֹפַנִי הַמֶרְכָּבָה (ofani ha-merkavah), wheels of the Chariot.

We learned that there are ten גַלגַלִים (galgalim), spheres [or: wheels], and ten utterances. Each sphere has its utterance. Not that it is surrounded by it, but rather it surrounds it. This world is like a mustard seed in a ring. Why? Because of the breath that blows upon it, by which it is sustained. If this breath were to be interrupted the world would wither in an instant [in the mystery of You enliven them all (Nehemiah 9:6)]” (Bahir §§175–179).

Why was she called תָמָר (tamar), Date Palm, and not any other name? Because she was female. Can we then say that she was female [i.e., was this something extraordinary]? But it is because she included both male and female. For every date palm includes both male and female. How is this? The לוּלָב (lulav), palm branch, is male. The fruit is male on the outside and female on the inside. And how so? The pit of a date is cleft like a woman. Corresponding to it is the power of the moon above” (Bahir §198).

“A אַמָּה (ammah), cubit [lit., arm], is the measure of the body in four directions and up and down, making six cubits. And each arm has three joints, making eighteen joints in the six cubits, being the secret of the eighteen wavings with the lulav in six directions, three in each direction. Of them it is said: קוֹמָתֵךְ (Qomatekh), Your stature, is like a palm tree (Song of Songs 7:8). And this is the שִׁיעוּר קוֹמָה (shi’ur qomah), measure of the stature, the מִקְוֵה יִשְׂרָאֵל (Miqveh Yisra’el), Gathering of Israel (Jeremiah 14:8) in Shekhinah” (Zohar 3:228a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

“She [Malkhut] is raised with the four species up to Thought [Ḥokhmah], as is written: I thought: I will climb, the palm, [I will grasp its stalks] (Song of Songs 7:9). אֶעֱלֶה (E’eleh), I will climb—a sign: אֶתְרוֹג (etrog), citron, עֲרָבָה (aravah), willow, לוּלָב (lulav), palm branch, and הֲדָס (hadas), myrtle” (Zohar 3:283b, Ra’aya Meheimna Ki Tetse, cf. Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 29b).

אַל תְּבוֹאֵנִי רֶגֶל גַּאֲוָה (Al tevo’eni regel ga’avah), Let no haughty foot overtake me, nor the hand of the wicked repel me (Psalms 36:12)אֶתְרֹג (etrog), citron” (Rabbi Ḥayyim Vital, Sefer ha-Liqqutim).

A Shelter for Them as a Mother Over Her Children

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And on the fifteenth day of the seventh month you shall have a sacred assembly, no task of work shall you do, and you shall celebrate a festival to YHWH seven days (Numbers 29:12). And on the fifteenth day—from the side of יָהּ (Yah) [numerically equivalent to fifteen]. And you shall celebrate a festival—ו (vav), the middle pillar [Ze’eir Anpin]. Seven days—בַּת שֶׁבַע (Bathsheva) [lit., the Daughter of Seven], Malkhut [the final ה (he) of יהוה (YHWH)]. The Patriarchs [Ḥesed, Gevurah, and Tif’eret] and [Moses] the Faithful Shepherd [Netsaḥ], and Aaron [Hod], and David [Malkhut], and שְׁלֹמֹה (Shelomoh), Solomon [alluding to שָׁלוֹם (Shalom), Peace, an epithet of Yesod] are seven, corresponding to seven sefirot. I want to construct for you a סֻכָּה (Sukkah), Hut—supernal Mother [Binah], who will provide a shelter over them as Mother over children.

And on account of the seven sefirot, it is said: I made the Israelites dwell in huts when I brought them out of the land of Egypt (Leviticus 23:43), namely, with seven clouds of glory [cf. BT Sukkah 11b]. סוּכָּה (Sukkah), Hut, [spelled] with a letter ו (vav), in the mystery of the two children [whom Binah provides a shelter for, namely], יְהוָה (YHWH) and אֲדֹנָי (Adonai), for the numerical value of סוּכָּה (Sukkah), Hut, amounts to יְאֲהדֹוָנָהי (YAHDWNHY) [mystery of]: The cherubim shall spread their wings above, סֹכְכִים (sokh’khim), shielding, the cover with their wings, and their faces toward each other (Exodus 25:20) [on cherubim as children, see BT Ḥagigah 13b; Sukkah 5b].

And the cherubs are ten handbreadths from bottom to top [ten sefirot of reflected light], from their feet to their heads, and [ten sefirot of direct light] from their heads to their feet, and they rest on a handbreadth, which is י (yod). Ten from top to bottom and ten from bottom to top, and this is יוֹד (yod) [numerically equivalent to twenty]. And this is why the Rabbis ruled that the size of a sukkah, hut, should not be less than ten and not more than twenty. A Hut that is built in the shape of a kiln is from the side of Mother [i.e., Judgment] of whom is said: And Mount Sinai was all in smoke because YHWH had come down on it in fire, and its smoke went up like smoke from a kiln [and the whole mountain trembled greatly] (Exodus 19:18), and it is all one. 

And there shall be a hut for a shadow in the daytime [from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a shelter from storm and from rain] (Isaiah 4:6). This is because a roof is required, and this casts a shadow, of which is said: בְּצֵל (be-tsel), In the shadow, of Shaddai, he lies at night (Psalms 91:1). And the meaning is not of the shadow cast by an ordinary hut that shields the body from the sun, but to the shadow that casts a shield over the נִשְׁמְתָא (nishmeta), soul: In בְּצִלּוֹ (be-tsillo), His shadow, I delighted to sit (Song of Songs 2:3), and of whom we said: Under בְּצִלּוֹ (be-tsillo), His shadow, we shall live among the nations (Lamentations 4:20). The word צֵל (tsel) with a final letter ם (mem) added to it forms צֶלֶם (tselem), image [where צֵל (tsel) shadow, alludes to the thatching], and it is said: With צֶלֶם (tselem), an image, a man goes about (Psalms 39:7). Closed ם (mem) has four sides to it [i.e., alluding to the four walls of the hut].

And with regard to the teaching: Two according to the regulations, and a third of even a handbreadth; and of him who says three according to the regulations, and a fourth of even a handbreadth: that is because [of the three measurements:] two, three, four, which together make nine. And the handbreadth [that they mentioned with the two or with the three] is the tenth, Malkhut, that makes up every shortage. And this is why the size of a hut is not less than ten, referring to Malkhut, which is the tenth of every sefirot, and not more than twenty, which is כ (kaf), upper כֶּתֶר (Keter), Crown, which is further than the eye can see. This is that upper glory, about which Moses said: Show me, pray, Your glory (Exodus 33:18), to which the blessed Holy One, responded: You shall not be able to see My face (ibid., 20), and there is no כָּבוֹד (kavod), glory, without כ (kaf).

And for this reason the Masters of Mishnah viewed as corresponding to them: a hut made like an alleyway, which is from the side of the letter ב (bet), and in the shape of a right angle, which is from the side of the letter ג (gimel), and like a hut which is from the side of the letter ד (dalet). And these seven letters [which are doubled with the addition of a dagesh allude to the seven sefirot and the seven types of invalid hut:] ב (bet), ג (gimel), ד (dalet), כ (kaf), פ (peh), ר (resh), and ת (tav): כ (Kaf): כִּבְשָׁן (kivshan), kiln. ב (Bet): בּוּרְגָנִין (burganin), wayside station, and to the remaining [invalid] huts, all of which are referred to by the Masters of Mishnah and there is no need to prolong the discussion on them [see BT Sukkah 8a–b].

And corresponding to them are the seven planets, and they are male and female [for when these seven letters are weak they are of the male and when they are strong they are of the female]. And they are therefore called “the seven doubles” (Sefer Yetsirah §37) and are like the seven candles of the candelabrum and it is said of this: Seven times daily I praised You (Psalms 119:164). And so: and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon its top (Zechariah 4:2), and likewise, the seven sefirot are double. And so, too, are the seven days of creation below and the seven above: and there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

The palm branch is the Righteous One [Yesod] for the palm branch is like the spinal cord that contains eighteen vertebrae, corresponding to the eighteen shakings with the palm branch. And they correspond to the eighteen blessings of the Amidah, and they correspond to the eighteen mentions [of YHWH] in Grant to YHWH, O sons of God (Psalms 29:1), and the eighteen holy remembrances in the recital of the Shema. And the palm branch is shaken in six directions which makes six, and it is shaken three times in each direction for a total of eighteen.

The palm branch [is taken] in the right [hand], and is comprised of six, namely three myrtle branches: Gedullah, Gevurah, and Tif’eret, and they are like the three colors found in the eye [i.e., white, red, and green]. And the two willow twigs are Netsaḥ and Hod, and they are similar to the two lips. The palm branch Yesod and it is like the spinal cord that supports all the bones and of which David said: All my bones say, ‘YHWH, who is like You?’ (Psalms 35:10). And the citron is Malkhut and is like the heart, in which are thoughts.

And the shakings of the Hallel are common to the shakings of the taking up of the palm branch, and there are eighteen: we beseech You, YHWH, pray, rescue (Psalms 118:25)—eighteen each at the first and last Acclaim [YHWH] (ibid., 1, 29), and eighteen at the taking up of the palm branch, making a total of seventy-two. And this is why לוּלָב (lulav), palm branch, is numerically equivalent to sixty-eight, together with the four species and this is חֶסֶד (Ḥesed) [numerically equivalent to seventy-two], which is the right side. And this is why it was decreed that the palm branch be taken in the right hand, which is the side of Ḥesed, and the citron to the side of Gevurah, to the left—the heart. And this is why it was decreed that the citron, which is like the heart, be held in the left hand, as it has been taught: palm branch in the right hand and citron in the left, corresponding to Remember and Keep. And who is the one taking both? The middle pillar. The palm branch is His right, the citron is His left” (Zohar 3:255b, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

“Come and see: When man sits in this Hut which is the shadow of Faith, the Shekhinah spreads Her wings over him from above and Abraham and five other righteous ones make their dwelling with him. This is the meaning of, In huts you shall dwell seven days (Leviticus 23:42). It is written, seven days, rather than, in seven days. Similarly it is written, Six days did YHWH make: the heavens and the earth (Exodus 31:17). One should rejoice every day with a joyful countenance in those אוּשְׁפִּיזִין (ushpizin), guests, that dwell with him” (Zohar 3:103b, Ra’aya Meheimna Emor).

The Blessed Holy One Invited the other Nations to Receive the Torah

O YHWH, when You came forth from Seir… (Judges 5:4)—what did He seek in Seir, and what did He seek in Mount Paran? [cf. Deuteronomy 33:2: YHWH from Sinai came and from Seir He dawned upon them, He shone from Mount Paran…]—Rabbi Yoḥanan says: This teaches us that the blessed Holy One, offered the Torah to every nation and every tongue, but none accepted it, until He came to Israel who received it. [The nations] will say: ‘Did we accept it and fail to observe it? But surely: ‘Then why did you not accept it?’—the nations will then say, ‘Master of the Universe, did You suspend the mountain over us like a cask as You have done to Israel and did we still decline to accept it?’ For Rabbi Dimi son of Ḥama said: And they stood under the mountain (Exodus 19:17)—this teaches us that the blessed Holy One suspended the mountain over Israel like a cask, saying to them: ‘If you accept the Torah, it will be well with you, but if not, there will you find your grave.’ Thereupon the blessed Holy One will say to them: ‘Let us then consider the happenings of old,’ as is said, Who among them can declare this, and show us former things (Isaiah 43:9), ‘There are seven commandments which you did accept, did you observe them?’ [How do we know that they did not observe them?]—for Rabbi Yosef learned: He stood, and shook the earth: He beheld, וַיַּתֵּר (va-yater), and caused to tremble, the nations (Habakkuk 3:6) [cf. BT Bava Qamma 38a]: what did He see? He saw that the nations did not keep even the seven commandments which the sons of Noah had taken upon themselves, and seeing that they did not keep them, He stood up and released them [וַיַּתֵּר (va-yater) also means, ‘he releases,’ cf. מוּתָר (mutar), permitted]. Then they benefited by it; according to this it pays to be a sinner!

The release from those commandments only means that even if they kept them they would not be rewarded. But why should they not? Is it not taught: Rabbi Meir would say: How do we know that even a heathen who engages in Torah study is like the high priest? From the verse And you shall keep My statutes and My laws which a person shall do and live through them (Leviticus 18:5). It does not say If a Priest, Levite, or Israelite do, and live through them, but a person; here, then, you can learn that even a heathen who studies Torah is equal to a High Priest!—what is meant, then, is that they are rewarded not as greatly as one who does a thing which he is commanded to do, but as one who does a thing uncommanded. For, Rabbi Ḥanina said: He who is commanded and does, stands higher then he who is not commanded and does.

The nations will then say, ‘Master of the Universe, has Israel, who accepted the Torah, kept it? The blessed Holy One will reply, ‘I can give evidence that they kept the Torah.’ They said ‘O Master of the Universe can a father give evidence in favor of his son? For it is written, My son, My firstborn, is Israel (Exodus 4:22). Then will the blessed Holy One say: ‘Heaven and earth can bear witness that Israel has fulfilled the entire Torah.’ But they will [object], saying: ‘Master of the Universe, heaven and earth are partial witnesses, for it is said, If not for My covenant with day and with night, I should not have appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth’ (Jeremiah 33:25). [And Rabbi Shim’on son of Laqish further said:] What is conveyed by the phrase, And it was evening and it was morning, the sixth day? (Genesis 1:31). It teaches us that God made a condition with the works of creation, saying: ‘If Israel accept My Torah it will be well, but if not, I shall reduce you to welter;’ which accords with the comment of Rabbi Ḥizqiyah on the verse, From the heavens You made judgment heard, the earth was afraid and fell silent (Psalms 76:9). If the earth trembled, how could it be still, and if it was still, how could it tremble? But at first it trembled, and then it became still.

The blessed Holy One will then say, ‘Some of yourselves shall testify that Israel kept the entire Torah. Let Nimrod come and testify that Abraham did not [consent to] worship idols; let Laban come and testify that Jacob could not be suspected of theft [cf. Genesis 31:37]; let Potiphar’s wife testify that Joseph was above suspicion of immorality; let Nebuchadnezzar come and testify that Ḥanania, Mishael and Azariyah did not bow down to an image; let Darius come and testify that Daniel never neglected the prayers [his windows were open in his upper chamber towards Jerusalem, and he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before God, see Daniel 6:11, the earliest record of the practice]; let Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Na’amathite, and Eliphaz the Temanite [and Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite (see Job 32:2; cf. BT Bava Batra 15b)] testify that Israel has kept the whole Torah; as  is said, Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: who among them can declare this, and show us former things? let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified: or let them hear, and say, It is truth (Isaiah 43:9).

The nations will then plead. ‘Offer us the Torah anew and we shall obey it.’ But the blessed Holy One will say to them, ‘You foolish ones among peoples, he who took trouble [to prepare] on the eve of the Sabbath can eat on the Sabbath, but he who has not troubled on the eve of the Sabbath, what shall he eat on the Sabbath? Nevertheless, I have an easy command which is called סֻּכֹּת (sukkot), Huts (Leviticus 23:42); go and carry it out.’ [But how can you say so:] does not Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi say: What is, And you shall keep what is commanded and the statutes and the laws that I charge you today to do (Deuteronomy 7:11)? It is that only this day is the time to do them,’ they cannot be done tomorrow [cf. Bahir §81: ‘Each day has its own power’]; this day is the time in which to do them, but not in which to be rewarded for them. [Why then should they be offered this observance in the days of the Messiah?]—because the blessed Holy One does not deal imperiously with His creatures. And why does He call it an easy command?—because it does not affect one’s purse. Immediately every one of them will take himself and go and make a hut on the top of his roof; but the blessed Holy One will cause the sun to blaze forth over them as at the cycle of Tammuz [i.e., summer solstice] and every one of them will trample down his hut and go away, as is said, Let us tear off their fetters, let us fling away their bonds! (Psalms 2:3). [But you have just said] ‘The blessed Holy One does not deal imperiously with His creatures?—true! but with the Israelites, too, it occasionally happens that the cycle of Tammuz extends till the Festival [Sukkot] and they are vexed [by the heat, the test is therefore not exceptional or harsh]. But does not Rava say: He who is vexed thereby is freed from dwelling in the סוּכָּה (sukkah), hut? (BT Sukkah 26a)—granted, they would [in such circumstances] be freed, but would Israelites contemptuously trample it down? Thereupon the blessed Holy One will laugh at them, as is said, He who dwells in the heavens will laugh [the Master derides them] (Psalms 2:4). Rabbi said Yitsḥaq: ‘Only on that day is there laughter for the blessed Holy One!’

Some connected that comment of Rabbi Yitsḥaq with the following teaching: Rabbi Yose says, ‘In time to come the nations will come and offer themselves as converts.’ But will such be accepted? Has it not been taught that in the days of the Messiah converts will not be accepted [see BT Yevamot 24a]; likewise none were accepted in the days of David or of Solomon?—well, they will be self-made converts [lit., ‘dragged-in converts’ a class of converts who judaize en masse under the impulsion of fear], and will place tefillin on their foreheads and on their arms, fringes in their garments, and a mezuzah on their doorposts, but when the battle of Gog and Magog will come about [see Ezekiel 39:12] they will be asked, ‘For what purpose have you come?’ and they will answer: ‘Against God and His Messiah,’ as is said, Why are the nations aroused, and the people’s murmur vain things? (Psalms 2:1). Then each of the converts will throw aside his religious token and get away, as is said, Let us break their bands asunder (ibid.), and the blessed Holy One will sit and laugh, as is said: He who dwells in the heavens will laugh (Psalms 2:4).

[It was on this that] Rabbi Yitsḥaq remarked that there is no laughter for the blessed Holy One except on that day. But is there not, indeed? Yet Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav: ‘The day consists of twelve hours; during the first three hours the blessed Holy One is occupying Himself with the Torah, during the second three He sits in judgment on the whole world, and when He sees that the world is so guilty as to deserve destruction, He transfers Himself from the seat of Justice to the seat of Mercy; during the third quarter, He is feeding the whole world, from the horned buffalo to the brood of vermin [cf. BT Shabbat 107b]; during the fourth quarter He is sporting with the Leviathan, as is said, There the ships go, this Leviathan You fashioned to play with’? (Psalms 104:26). Rabbi Naḥman son of Yitsḥaq said: Yes, He sports with His creatures, but does not laugh at His creatures except on that day” (BT Avodah Zarah 2b–3b, cf. Zohar 3:20a, 192a–193a).

Send Off the Mother: Let Understanding Go

Rav Raḥmai said: What is You shall surely send off the mother, and the children you may take for yourself? (Deuteronomy 22:7). Why does it not say, You shall surely send off the father? But it says, You shall surely send off the mother in honor of the one who is called Mother of the World, as is written, For you will call בִּינָה (binah), understanding, ‘Mother’ (Proverbs 2:3)” (Bahir §§104–105).

“Ten fingers of the hands, corresponding to ten sefirot by which the heavens and earth were sealed. And these ten correspond to the Ten Utterances [or: Commandments], and within these ten all 613 mitsvot are included: If you count the number of letters of the Ten Utterances you will find that there are 613 letters, comprising all twenty-two letters, except for ט (tet) which is absent. What is the reason? To teach that ט (tet) is the בֶּטֶן (beten), belly [Binah or Malkhut], and is not [reckoned with] the sefirot” (Bahir §124, cf. ibid. §84).

And the offspring you may take for yourself (Deuteronomy 22:7)…. This is a sign of compassion? Whoever says this has spoken folly! Someone with pity would have left the mother and children, and continued on his way!” (Zohar Ḥadash 77b, cf. TZ 23a).

“Mother crouches over them, suckling them, and of this is written Do not take the mother above the children (Deuteronomy 22:6). And we have learned: One should not increase his sins below, causing Mother to withdraw from the children. It is also written: She is your mother—do not expose her nakedness (Leviticus 18:7). Woe to one who exposes Her nakedness!” (Zohar 1:219a).

“The blessed Holy One conveys a flow of seven rungs below into that rung united with those seven. Now, you might say, ‘But there are six, and no more!’ Well, Mother is then sitting upon the fledglings, crouching over them, and we get Her to fly away, and we take those six children along with this rung below—fulling the verse that is written: Surely send off the mother, and the children you may take for yourself (Deuteronomy 22:7).

Rav Hamnuna Sava said, ‘On this day [Shavu’ot], Israel takes only five children, who are the five books of Torah.’

Now, you might say, ‘There are six!’ Well, really, there are seven, counting one bird found between the wings of Mother.

The people of Israel know how to hunt for great and precious game. What do they do? They draw out that bird [Shekhinah] from beneath the wings of Mother by murmuring of the mouth, whispering toward Her again and again. And that bird loves those murmurings and those sounds that they whisper to Her. Although She is beneath the wings of Her Mother, She raises Her head, gazes toward that whispering sound, and flies to them, emerging from beneath Her Mother’s wings.

As soon as the people of Israel receive Her, they hold Her tight, whispering to Her, binding Her in a bind so that She will not fly away. They immediately grasp that bond, and She tries to fly off but cannot get away. While that bond is in their hands, they whisper with their voices and She chirps along with them, flying up and descending.

When all those Sons beneath the wings of their Mother hear the chirping of their Sister—that bird—and that whispering sound, they immediately emerge from beneath their Mother’s wings and fly toward that bird, and the people of Israel take them and grasp them. Were it not for that bird whom they grasp at first, [the Sons] would never fly to them and they could not grasp them.

How do they capture this holy bird? They prepare precious food for Her joyously with all sorts of delights, entering the synagogue and house of study—chirping to Her, whispering to Her softly, fittingly. And She, concealed beneath Her Mother’s wings, raises Her head and sees prepared tables, with chirping toward Her fittingly; She emerges and flies to them, as has been said, with all those Sons grasping Her.

They send off the Mother who is crouching over them, and She goes away. Because from the seventh heaven and above—’What is concealed from you, do not explore or search.’ Send it off, for you will not be able to comprehend. Of this is written Surely send off the mother, and the children you may take for yourself, so that it may go well with you and you will prolong your days (Deuteronomy 22:7)” (Zohar 3:254b).