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 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).
Should He set His mind on man, רוּחוֹ וְנִשְׁמָתוֹ (ruaḥo ve-nishmato), his living breath, He would gather to Him. All flesh would expire together, man to the dust would return (Job 34:14).
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 said, ‘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 הַדַּר (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 an exedra, 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).
“Four רוּחוֹת (ruḥot), winds [or: directions] in the world; the east wind, the south wind, the west wind and the north wind. From the east wind light goes out to the world. From the south wind dews of blessing and rains of blessing go out to the world. From the west wind are the treasuries of snow and the treasuries of hail, and from there cold and heat and rains come into the world. From the north wind darkness goes out to the world. He created the north wind but He did not complete it, for He said, Anyone who says: I am a God, let him come and complete this wind which I have left [incomplete] and all will know that he is God. There [in the north] is the abode of destroying spirits, earthquakes, winds, demons, lightning and thunder; from there evil issues into the world, as is said, From the north evil will be let loose on the inhabitants of the land (Jeremiah 1:14)” (Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 17).
“They asked [Rabbi Akiva]: Why is the form of ח (ḥet) פֶּתַח (petaḥ), an opening, yet her vowel is a פַּתַח קָטָן (pataḥ qatan), small pataḥ? He said: Because all the winds are closed, except for the north, she is פְּתוּחָה (petuḥah), open, to good and to evil. They said to him: To good? And yet it is written, And I saw, and, look, a storm wind was coming from the north, a great cloud, and fire engulfing itself (Ezekiel 1:4). Fire—nothing but flaring anger, as is said, And fire came out from before YHVH and consumed them (Leviticus 10:2). He said: There is no difficulty. One [speaks of] a time when they do His will, while the other [speaks of] a time when they do not do His will. When they do not do His will, then the fire draws near. And when they do His will, then the quality of רַחֲמִים (raḥamim), Mercy, engulfs them, as is written, [Who is a God like You] dismissing crime and forgiving trespass [for the remnant of His estate?] (Micah 7:18).
A parable: A king wanted to whip and chastise his servants. One hegmon stood up and asked: For what? The king answered him: Because of such and such. He replied, ‘Never have your servants done this! I vouch for them, you investigate them.’ In any case, the king’s wrath subsided (Esther 7:10) [cf. BT Megillah 16a ad loc.; Zohar 3:133a (IR) ad loc.]” (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)? שַׁעֲרֵי (Sha’arei), the gates, of Zion, are the פִּתְחֵי (pitḥei), portals, of the world (ibid. 24:7). Now a gate is nothing but an פֶּתַח (petaḥ), opening.
Therefore we say, ‘Open the gates of Compassion for us.’ Thus the blessed Holy One 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 the blessed Holy One 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 peaceful 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 peaceful man, a dweller in tents” (Bahir §§37–39).
“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).