Silver has a crucible and gold a kiln, and YHWH tries hearts (Proverbs 17:3).
“Rabbi Yonatan said, ‘A potter does not test a weak vessel, for if he hits it just once, he will break it….’ Rabbi Yose son of Ḥaninah said, ‘When a flax maker knows that the flax is in good shape, then the more he beats it, the more it will improve and glisten’” (Bereshit Rabbah 55:1).
“This world is like a mustard seed in a heap. Why? Because of the [encircling] רוּחָא (ruḥa), wind, that beats it and sustains it. If this wind were to stop, the world would wither in an instant” (Bahir §179).
The grass withers, the flower fades: because רוּחַ (ruaḥ), the breath, of YHWH blows upon it: surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades: but the word of our God shall stand forever (Isaiah 40:7–8).
Man’s days are like grass, like the bloom of the field, thus he blooms—when the wind passes by him, he is gone, and his place will no longer know him (Psalms 103:15–16, cf. Zohar 3:133a [IR], ad loc.).
When You hide Your face, they panic, You withdraw their breath and they perish, and to the dust they return (Psalms 104:29–30).
Thus says YHWH God: From רוּחוֹת בֹּאִי הָרוּחַ (ruḥot boi ha-ruaḥ), the four winds, come O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live (Ezekiel 37:9).
“Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Ḥananiah said, ‘When a wind comes upon the earth, the blessed Holy one breaks it up on the mountains, and weakens it on the hills and says to it, ‘Make sure not to harm My creatures.’ Why? For רוּחַ (ruaḥ), wind, before Me is faint (Isaiah 57:16). He weakens it, as it says, When My wind faints upon Me (Psalms 142:4). And why does He do all this? Rav Huna in the name of Rabbi Aḥa, ‘On behalf of the souls which I have made (Isaiah ibid.)’” (JT Berakhot 9:2, 13c–d).
“Rav Ḥanan son of Abba has said in the name of Rav: Four winds blow every day and the north wind with all of them, for without this the world could not endure a single moment. The דָרוֹם (darom), south, wind is the most harsh, and were it not that the [angel] Son of Hawk stays it with his wings it would destroy the world, as it says, The hawk wing opens by Your understanding, spreads his wings toward the south (Job 39:26)—no; what it means is that it is the תְּדִירָה תְּדִירָה (tedirah tedirah), constant abode, of Shekhinah [שְׁכִינָה (shekhinah), Divine Presence, from לְשַׁכֵּן (le-shaken), ‘to dwell.’ She is also called הַדַר (dar), the Dweller, see BT Sukkah 35a; Bahir §175]. For so said Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi: Let us be grateful to our ancestors for showing us the place of prayer, as is written, the heaven of heavens, with all their armies bow down to You (Nehemiah 9:6).
Rav Aḥa son of Ya’aqov protested: Perhaps, [the sun and moon bow down to the east], like a servant who has received a reward from his master and retires backwards, bowing as he goes [i.e., the verse refers to the sun and moon at their setting and not at their rising, and hence the Shekhinah is in the east]. This [indeed] is a difficulty. Rabbi Oshaya expressed the opinion that the Shekhinah is בְּכָל מָקוֹם (ba-khol maqom), omnipresent. For Rabbi Oshaya said: What is the meaning of the verse, You, even You, are YHWH alone; You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, [with all their armies, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and You enliven them all] (ibid.). Your messengers are not like the messengers of flesh and blood. Messengers of flesh and blood return to the place from which they have been sent, but Your messengers return [and report on] their mission from the [very same] place which they have been sent, as it says, You send lighting bolts on their way, and they say to You, ‘Here we are!’ (Job 38:35). It does not say, they will come and say, but rather, on their way and they say, which shows that Shekhinah is omnipresent.
Rabbi Yishma’el also holds that Shekhinah is omnipresent, since the academy of Rabbi Yishma’el taught: From where do we know that Shekhinah is omnipresent? Because it says, And, behold, the messenger that talked with me went forth, and another messenger went out to meet him (Zechariah 2:7). It does not say, went out after him, but went out to meet him. This shows that Shekhinah is omnipresent. Rav Sheshet [the blind] also held Shekhinah is omnipresent, because [when desiring to pray] he used to say to his attendant: Set me facing any way except the east. And this was not because Shekhinah is not there, but because the sectarians advise turning to the east. Rabbi Abbahu, however, said that Shekhinah is in the west; for so said Rabbi Abbahu: What is אוֹרִיָּה (oriyyah) [a Persian word meaning ‘evening,’ and by extension ‘west’]? It is equivalent to אֲוִיר יָהּ (avir Yah), divine air.
Rav Yehudah said: What is, Let my teaching יַעֲרֹף (ya’arof), drop, like rain (Deuteronomy 32:2)?—the west wind which comes מֵעָרפּוֹ (me-arpo), from the back, of the world [i.e., the sea, which is at the western side of the land of Israel]. My saying תִּזַּל (tizzal), flow, like dew (ibid.): this is the north wind which מַזָּלֶת אֶת הַזָּהָב (mazzalet et ha-zahav), makes gold flow, and so it says: הַזָּלִים זָהָב (Ha-zalim zahav), who pours gold, from the purse (Isaiah 46:6). Like שְׂעִירִם (se’irim), showers, on the green (Deuternomy ibid.): this is the east wind which rages through the world like a שָׂעִיר (sa’ir), goat-demon. And like cloudbursts on the grass (ibid.): this is the south wind which brings up showers and causes the grass to grow.
It has been taught: Rabbi Eli’ezer says that the world is like a veranda, and the north side is not enclosed, and so when the sun reaches the north-west corner, it swings round and returns [to the east] above the firmament. Rabbi Yehoshu’a, however, says that the world is like a tent, and the north side is enclosed [cf. Genesis 4:7: at the tent flap sin crouches], and when the sun reaches the north-west corner it circles and goes back behind the dome [till it reaches the east], as it says, [The sun rises and the sun sets, and to its place it glides, there it rises.] It goes to the south and swings round to the north (Ecclesiastes 1:5–6): it goes to the south—by day, and swings round to the north—by night. Round and round goes the wind, and on its rounds the wind returns (ibid.): this refers to the eastern and western sides of the heavens, of which the sun sometimes goes round them and sometimes traverses [i.e., it goes round them in winter when it is below the horizon, and it traverses them in summer when it is above the horizon].
He [Rabbi Yehoshu’a] used to say: We have arrived at the view of Rabbi Eli’ezer, [since we have learnt]: From the sky-chamber comes the tempest (Job 37:9): this is the south wind; and from the wind’s dispersal the cold (ibid.): this is the north wind. From the breath of אֵל (El) the ice is made (ibid., 10): this is the west wind: and wide waters turn solid (ibid.): this is the east wind.’ But doesn’t the Master say that it is the south wind which brings showers and makes the grass grow?—there is no contradiction; when the rain falls gently [it is from the south], and when it falls heavily [it is from the east].
Rav Ḥisda said: What is meant by the verse, From the north gold comes (Job 37:22)? This refers to the north wind which makes gold flow; and so it says: Who pours gold from the purse (Isaiah 46:6).
Rafram son of Papa said in the name of Rav Ḥisda: Since the day when the Temple was destroyed the south wind has not brought rain, as it says, And he decreed on the right hand, and there was hunger; and he devoured on the left hand, and they were not satisfied: [they shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm] (Isaiah 9:19); and it is written, The north and the south, You created them (Psalms 89:13).
Rafram son of Papa also said in the name of Rav Ḥisda: Since the day when the Temple was destroyed, rain no longer comes down from the ‘good treasury,’ as it says, YHWH will open for you His goodly treasure (Deuteronomy 28:12): When Israel act according to the will of the Omnipresent and are settled in their own land, then rain comes down from a ‘good treasury,’ but when Israel are not settled on their own land, then the rain does not come down from a ‘good treasury’ [cf. BT Yevamot 62a; Bahir §155; Zohar 2:161b].
Rabbi Yitsḥaq said: He who desires to become wise should turn to the south [when praying], and he who desires to become rich should turn to the north. And your mnemonic is that the table [in the Tabernacle] was to the north of the altar and the candlestick to the south [the table being the symbol of plenty, and the candlestick of knowledge]. Rabbi Yehoshu’a son Levi, however, said that he should always turn to the south, because through obtaining wisdom he will obtain wealth, as it says, length of days are in her right hand, in her left hand wealth and honor (Proverbs 3:16). But was it not Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi who said that Shekhinah is in the west?—[he means that] one should turn aside [slightly] to the south. Rabbi Ḥanina said to Rav Ashi [of Babylon]: Those like you who live to the north of the land of Israel should turn to the south. How do we know that Babylon is to the north of the land of Israel?—as is written [in a prophecy concerning the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians:] From the north, evil will be let loose on the inhabitants of the land (Jeremiah 1:14)” (BT Bava Batra 25a–b).
“They asked [Rabbi Akiva]: ‘Why is ח (ḥet) open? And why is its vowel a small ַַ (pataḥ)?’ He said: ‘Because all the רוּחוֹת (ruḥot), winds [or: directions], are closed up, except for the north, which is open for good and for evil.’ They said: ‘How can you say that it is for good? Is it not written, And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire engulfing itself (Ezekiel 1:4). Fire—nothing other than flaring anger, as is written, And fire came out from before YHWH and consumed them (Leviticus 10:2).’ He said: ‘There is no difficulty. One speaks of when Israel does the will of the Omnipresent, while the other speaks of when they do not do His will. When Israel does not do His will, then the fire draws near. But when they do His will, then the quality of Compassion encompasses and surrounds, as is written, Who pardons offences, and passes over rebellion (Micah 7:18).’
A parable: To what can the matter be compared? A king wanted to punish and whip his slaves. One hegemon stood up and asked the reason for this punishment. When the king described the offence he said, ‘Your slaves never did such a thing. I will be their bondsman until you investigate it more thoroughly.’ In the meantime, the king’s anger was calmed” (Bahir §34–§35).
From the north, evil will be תִּפָּתַח (tipataḥ), let loose, on the inhabitants of the land (Jeremiah 1:14).
“What is פַּתַח (pataḥ)? It is an פֶּתַח (petaḥ), opening. Which opening? The north wind, open to all the world. It is the gate from which good and evil emerge. And what is good? [Rabbi Akiva] mocked them, saying: ‘Did I not tell you that it is a small pataḥ?’ They said: ‘We have forgotten, teach us a second time.’ He reviewed, saying: ‘A parable: A king had a throne. Sometimes he carried it on his arm, and sometimes on his head.’ ‘Why?’ they asked. ‘Because it was lovely and it was a pity to sit on it.’ They asked: ‘And where did he place it on his head?’ He replied: ‘In the open מ (mem), as is written, Truth from the earth will spring up, as justice from the heavens looks down (Psalms 85:12).’
Rabbi Amora sat and expounded: What is the meaning of YHWH loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob (Psalms 87:2)? The gates of Zion, are the פִּתְחֵי עוֹלָם (pitḥei olam), portals of the world (Psalms 24:7). Now a gate is nothing other than an portal. Therefore we say, ‘Open the gates of Mercy for us.’ YHWH said: I love the gates of Zion when they are open. Why? Because they are on the side of evil. But when Israel does good before YHWH and are worthy that good be opened for them, then He loves them—more than all the dwellings of Jacob. They are all peace, as is written, Jacob was a simple man, a dweller in tents [cf. Zohar 1:167b: ‘a consummate man’] (Genesis 25:27).
This is like two men, one who is driven to do evil but does good, and the other who is driven to do good but does evil. Who is more praiseworthy? The one who is driven to do evil and does good, for he may do good again. It is therefore written: YHWH loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. They are all peace, as is written, Jacob was a simple man, a dweller in tents” (Bahir §37–§39).
“The blessed Holy One has a quality whose name is רָעָה (ra’ah), Evil. It is to the north of the blessed Holy One, as is written: From the north, evil will be let loose on all the inhabitants of the land (Jeremiah 1:14)—any evil that comes to all inhabitants of earth comes from the north.
What is this quality? It is the likeness of a hand. It has many messengers [i.e., fingers], and the name of them all is Evil. Some of them are big and some are small, but they all bring guilt to the world. This is because תֹהוּ (tohu), Chaos, is toward the north. Tohu is nothing other than רָעָה (ra’ah), Evil. It תָּהָא (taha), confounds, the world and causes people to offend. Every evil impulse that exists in man comes from there. And why is it placed to the left? Because it does not have any authority nor any place in the world except in the north [which is to one’s left when facing the rising sun in the east]. It is not accustomed to be anywhere except in the north. It does not want to be any place but in the north. If it remained in the south until it learned the manner of the south, how could it lead others astray? It would have to stay there days until it learned, and then it could not cause people to offend. It therefore is always in the north, to the left. This is the meaning of For the devisings of the human heart are evil from youth (Genesis 8:21). It is evil from his youth, and it does not incline other than to the left, for it is already accustomed to being there. It is regarding this that the blessed Holy One said to Israel If you really heed the voice of YHWH your God, and do what is right in His eyes, and hearken to His commands (Exodus 15:26)—not to the commands of the evil impulse. And keep all His statutes (ibid.)—not the statutes of the evil impulse [all the sickness that I put upon Egypt I will not put upon you,] for I am YHWH your healer (ibid).
What does the evil impulse gain? What is this like? A king appointed clerks over the provinces of his kingdom, over his work and over his goods. Everything had its clerk. There was one clerk in charge of the storehouse containing fine food. Another was in charge of the storehouse containing stones. Everyone came to the storehouse containing fine food. The clerk in charge of the storehouse of stones came and saw that people were buying only from the other clerk. What did he do? He sent his messengers to raze the weak house. However, to the strong ones they could not do so. He said, ‘In the time that it takes to raze one of the strong, you can raze ten of the weak. People will then all come and buy stones from me, and I will not be inferior to the other.’ Therefore it is written, From the north, evil will be let loose on all the inhabitants of the land (Jeremiah 1:14). It then continues, For, I will call all the families of the kingdoms of the north, says YHWH; and they shall come, and they shall set everyone his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem (ibid., 15). Evil will be their trade, and the evil impulse will also constantly strive. הַשָׂטָן (Ha-satan), the adversary, turns aside, since he weighs down the whole world on the scale of liability. How do we know? As is written, and he turned aside to her (Genesis 38:16), and the Targum renders this וּסְטָא (u-seta), and he turned aside. It is likewise written שְׂטֵה (seteh), turn away, from him and pass on (Proverbs 4:15)” (Bahir §162–§164, cf. ibid. §167).
“And what is from there is the Shepherd, Israel’s Stone (Genesis 49:24)? That from There Israel’s Stone is sustained. What is it by name? Indeed, say: Supernal Justice [Binah]. What is it? The great צָפוּן (tsafun), hidden, light, called סֹחָרֶת (soḥaret), Darkness. And the stone below is called דַּר (dar), Mother-of-Pearl” (Bahir §193).
“As for [Binah] being called צְפוֹנִית (tsefonit), north, this is because She is supernally concealed, and from Her side issues north and judgments are aroused from Her side—even though She is compassion and joy, as we have already established. When She emerges, north emerges within Her, included and connected with דָרוֹם (darom), south” (Zohar 3:120a).
How abundant Your goodness that you have hidden for those who revere You, that You have wrought, for those who shelter in You! (Psalms 31:20).
“That You have hidden. What is meant by צָפַנְתָּ (tsafanta), You have hidden? Now, who could rob or seize from His hands what He wishes to give, that it would be written You have hidden? But go and see the compassionate deeds performed by the blessed Holy One! With that by which He strikes, He provides healing. With what does He strike? With the left. With the right, He draws near [see BT Sotah 47a]; with the left, He strikes. Yet with that by which He strikes, he provides healing to the world! מִצָּפוֹן (Mi-tsafon), From the north, evil will be let loose (Jeremiah 1:14)—from the north He strikes, since from there issue all judgments and all harsh decrees; yet there abide all the fine rewards and benefits that the blessed Holy One intends to bestow upon Israel. In the time to come, the blessed Holy One will call on the north, saying to it, ‘In you I have placed all the benefits and fine rewards for My children who have suffered so many calamities in this world for the sanctification of My Name. Give the fine rewards that I entrusted to you!’
As is said: I will say לַצָּפוֹן (la-tsafon), to the north, ‘Give’ and to the south, ‘Do not withhold!…’ (Isaiah 43:6). Now, is this the correct manner? Surely, all blessings are from the south [Ḥesed], and all goodness of the world issues from the south, yet He says Do not withhold?…” (Zohar 3:173b).