The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: סֻּכּוֹת

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).