The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

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From the North Wind Gold Flows

IMG_0953Silver 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).


Mother of Pearl and Black Pearl: He Took a Fraction of Her Radiance and Made a Lovely Precious Stone

Pearl Nature Black Work Shell HD Background“Was light created on the first day? For, behold, it is written: And God placed [the two great lights] in the vault of the heavens (Genesis 1:17), and it is written: And it was evening and it was morning, fourth day (ibid., 19)—this is according to Rabbi El’azar. For Rabbi El’azar said: With the light the blessed Holy One created on the first day one could gaze from one end of the universe to the other; but as soon as the blessed Holy One foresaw the generation of the Flood and the generation of the Dispersion [i.e., the generation which built the Tower of Babel], and saw that their actions were corrupt, He arose and hid it away from them, as is said: The light of the wicked is withheld (Job 38:15). And for whom did He hide it? For the righteous in the time to come, for it is said: And God saw the light, that it was good (Genesis 1:4); and good means only the righteous, for it is said: Say you to the righteous, that it shall be good: [for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds] (Isaiah 3:10). As soon as the light saw that it had been treasured away for the righteous, it rejoiced, as is said: The light of the righteous rejoices (Proverbs 13:9)” (BT Ḥagigah 12a).

“It was taught: The light which was created in the six days of Creation cannot shine during the day because it dims the orb of the sun, nor by night, because it was created only to shine by day. Then where is it? It is treasured away for the righteous in the time still to come, as it says, Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of the seven days, [in the day that YHWH binds up the hurt of His people, and heals the stroke of their wound] (Isaiah 30:26). Seven! surely there were only three, seeing that the luminaries were created on the fourth day! It is like a man who says, ‘I am providing so much for the seven days of my [wedding] feast. Rabbi Neḥemyah said: It refers to the seven days of mourning for Methuselah, when the blessed Holy One lavished light upon them [see BT Sanhedrin 108b]” (Bereshit Rabbah 3:6).

“Rabbi Yehudah son of Simon said, ‘With the light created by the blessed Holy One on the first day, one could gaze and see from one end of the universe to the other. When the Holy One foresaw the corruption of the generation of Enosh and the generation of the Flood, He hid it away from them, as is written: The light of the wicked is withheld (Job 38:15). Where did He hide it? In the Garden of Eden. אוֹר זָרֻעַ לַצַּדִּיק וּלְיִשְׁרֵי לֵב שִׂמְחָה (Or zaru’a la-tsaddiq u-le-yishrei simḥa), Light is sown for the righteous, joy for the upright in heart (Psalms 97:11) [ר עֲקִיבַה (R. Akiva)]” (Vayiqra Rabbah 11:7).

“God said, ‘Let there be light!’ And there was light (Genesis 1:3)—primordial, transcendent light, already existent. From here issued all powers and forces, so Earth turned firm and fragrant, generating Her potencies. As the light shone, its radiance blazed from one end of the universe to the other. When it gazed upon the wicked of the world, it hid itself away, emerging only by its paths, concealed, unrevealed….

God said, ‘Let there be light!’ This is the light that the blessed Holy One created at first. It is the light of the eye. This is the light that the blessed Holy One showed Adam, who gazed with it from one end of the universe to the other” (Zohar 1:30b, 31b).

“Look at what we have learned in our Mishnah: With the light that the blessed Holy One created at first, one could gaze and see from the beginning of the world to its end. Come and see: The light of the sun is a sixty-thousand-and-seventy-fifth of the light of the speculum of the concealed light. If even at this light of the sun a person cannot gaze, how much more so at that light!

Yet we have said that a person could see with it from the beginning of the world to the end of the world! Well, so have we decreed in our Mishnah: With that light, a person could know and see—with the radiance of wisdom—all that was and all that will be, from the beginning of the world to the end of the world, and it has been concealed for the righteous in the world to come. What is meant by ‘in the world to come’? When the holy soul leaves this world and enters the world to come [cf. Tanḥuma, Vayiqra, 8: ‘The wise call it הַעוֹלָם הַבּא (ha-olam ha-ba), the world to come, not because it does not exist now, but for us today in this world it is still to come’; Zohar 3:290b (IZ): ‘The world that is coming, constantly coming, never ceasing’]” (Zohar Ḥadash 15b, Midrash ha-Ne’lam).

“Rabbi Neḥunya son of ha-Qannah said: One verse says, They have not seen the light, בָּהִיר (bahir), bright, though it be in the skies (Job 37:21). Another verse says, He set darkness His hiding-place round Him (Psalms 18:12), and it is also written, Cloud and dense fog around Him (Psalms 97:2). ‘A third verse comes and reconciles them’ (Baraita de-Rabbi Yishma’el 13), as is said, Darkness itself will not darken for You, and the night will light up like the day, the dark and light will be one (Psalms 139:12)” (Bahir §1).

Torah is light (Proverbs 6:23).

“Rabbi Boi said: From eternity I was shaped, at the start, before the earth (Proverbs 8:23). What is מֵעוֹלָם (me-olam), from eternity? A matter necessary לְהֵעַלֵּם (le-he’allem), to conceal, from all, as is written: The world, too, He has put in their heart, [without man’s grasping at all what it is God has done from beginning to end] (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Do not read הָעֹלָם (ha-olam), the world, but rather הָעַלֵּם (ha-allem), the concealment. Torah is saying, ‘I was first, so that I might be the start of the world,’ as is said, From eternity I was shaped, at the start, before the earth. You may think that the earth was before her, thus: before the earth. And what [was] בָּרָא (bara), created (Genesis 1:1)? All that was needed, then אֱלֹהִים (Elohim). Only then is it written: the heavens and the earth (ibid.)” (Bahir §10).

“Rabbi Berekhiyah said, ‘Why is it written, God said, ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light (Genesis 1:3), and not [simply] ‘And there was?’ This can be compared to a king who had a beautiful object and set it aside until he had prepared a place for it; then he placed it there, as is written: ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light—for it already was” (Bahir §25).

Unveil my eyes that I may look upon the wonders of Your Torah (Psalms 119:18).

“And Rabbi Yoḥanan said: There were two [iterations of] ‘light,’ as is written, [And God said, ‘Let there be light.’] And there was light (Genesis 1:3). Regarding both of them it is written, it was good (ibid., 4). The blessed Holy One took one and hid it for the righteous in the World that is Coming. Of this is written, How great Your goodness that You hid for those who fear You. You have wrought for those who shelter in You [before the eyes of humankind] (Psalms 31:20). To teach that the primordial light cannot be seen by any creature, as is written, it was good [cf. Shemot Rabbah 35:1]. Furthermore it is written, And God saw that it was good (Genesis 1:21). The blessed Holy One saw all that He had made, and saw goodradiant בָּהִיר (bahir), brilliance. He took of that good, and included in it the thirty-two paths of Wisdom, giving it to this world. This is the meaning of, For good learning I have given you, do not forsake My teaching (Proverbs 4:2). Alas, say this is treasury of Oral Torah.

The blessed Holy One said, ‘This quality is included in this world, and it is Oral Torah. If you guard this quality in this world, then you will be worthy of the World that is Coming, which is the good treasured away for the righteous.’ What is it? It is His strength, as is written, And His glow will be as the light (Habakkuk 3:4). The glow that was taken from the primordial light will be [manifest] light if His children keep the teaching and the commandments that I have written to instruct them (Exodus 24:12) [cf. Zohar 2:166b].’ Therefore it is written, Hear, My son, your father’s reproof, and do not forsake your mother’s teaching (Proverbs 1:8).

And it is written, He has rays at His side: and there is His strength hidden (Habakkuk 3:4). What is His strength hidden? The light that was concealed: that You hid for those who fear You (Psalms 31:20). As is said: You have wrought for those who shelter in You (ibid.)—those who take refuge in Your shadow in this world, who keep Your teaching, and fulfill Your commandments. Who sanctify Your great Name, unifying it in private and in public, as it says: before the eyes of humankind (ibid.)” (Bahir §147–§148).

“Rabbi Berekhiyah sat and expounded: Each day we speak of הַעוֹלָם הַבּא (ha-olam ha-ba). Do we then understand what we are saying? The Targum renders this as עָלְמָא דְאָתֵי (alma de-atei), the World to Come. But what is it? This teaches that before the world was created, it arose in thought to create a great light for illumination. A great light was created which no creature could wield [see Tanḥuma, Shemini, 9]. The blessed Holy One foresaw that none could bear it so He took one-seventh and gave it to them in its place. The rest He treasured away for the righteous in the time to come, saying, ‘If they prove worthy of this seventh and guard it, I will give them the rest in the other world.’ It is therefore called the עוֹלָם הַבּא (olam ha-ba), World that is Coming, since it already came [before] the six days of Creation. Regarding this it is written, How great Your goodness that You hid for those who fear You (Psalms 31:20)” (Bahir §160).

“And what is the fear of God? It is the primordial light. Thus Rabbi [Me’ir] said: Why is it written God said, ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light?’ (Genesis 1:3). Why does it not say, ‘and it was so?’ But this teaches that the light was so great that no creature could gaze upon it. The blessed Holy One therefore treasured it away it for the righteous in the time still to come. This is the quality of all סְחֹרָה (seḥorah), goods, in the world. It is also the power of the precious stones called סֹחָרֶת (soḥaret), Black Pearl, and דַּר (dar), Mother-of-Pearl [see Esther 1:6; BT Megillah 12a ad loc.]. And over what quality is Mother-of-Pearl? To teach you that the blessed Holy One took a fraction of [the Black Pearl’s] radiance and from it produced a lovely precious stone. In [Mother-of-Pearl] He included all the mitsvot” (Bahir §190).

I am שְׁחוֹרָה (sheḥorah), dark, but desirable (Song of Songs 1:5), the speculum that does not shine but Father and Mother adorned Her so that Her husband be pleased with Her” (Zohar 1:49b).

“And what is from there is the Shepherd, Israel’s Stone (Genesis 49:24)? That מִשָּׁם (mi-sham), from There, Israel’s Stone is sustained [וְשָׁם (ve-sham), and There, is His strength hidden (Habakkuk 3:4)]. What is מִשֶּׁם (mishem), it by name? Indeed, say: צֶדֶק עֶליוֹן (tsedeq elyon), supernal Justice [upper ShekhinahBinah]. What is it? The great hidden light called סֹחָרֶת (Soḥaret) [which סְחוֹר סְחוֹר (seḥor seḥor), surrounds, everything, cf. Zohar 3:120a]. And the stone below is called דַּר (dar), Dweller [i.e., lower שְׁכִינָה (Shekhinah), Presence, from לְשַׁכֵּן (le-shaken), ‘to dwell.’ Cf. Seder Rabba de-Vereshit, see Schäfer, Synopse zur Hekhalot-Literatur, §440: ‘Shekhinah is below just as Shekhinah is above’].

What is He has rays at מִיָּדוֹ (mi-yado), His side (Habakkuk 3:4)? These are the five fingers of the right יָד (yad), hand” (Bahir §193). 

“A precious stone set in a crown, as is written, the stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone (Psalms 118:22). It ascends to the place from which it was hewn, as is written, from there is the Shepherd, Israel’s Stone (Genesis 49:24)” (Bahir §91).

Like a Mustard Seed in a Ring

Emeq ha-Melekh“[Rabbi Berakhiyah’s] disciples said to him: From above to below we know. But from below to above we do not know. He replied: Is it not all one—below to above and above to below? They said: Rabbi, ascending is not like descending. One can run while descending, but it is not so while ascending. He replied: Go out and see.

He sat and expounded for them: ‘Shekhinah is below just as Shekhinah is above’ (Seder Rabba de-Vereshit). And what is Shekhinah? Say that this is the light emanated from the primordial light, Ḥokhmah. It also turns everything, as is written: The whole earth is filled with His glory (Isaiah 6:3). What is its function here? A parable: A king had seven sons, and he assigned each one his place. He said to them, ‘Sit, this one on the back of that one.’ The lowest one said, ‘I will not dwell below! I will not be so far from you!’ He said to them, ‘I will hereby turn and see you all day long [cf. BT Ta’anit 31a].’ This is The whole earth is filled with His glory. Why is He in their midst? To stand them up and make them endure” (Bahir §171).

“It has been taught: There are ten גַלגַלִים (galgalim), spheres, and ten מַאֲמָרוֹת (ma’amarot), commands. Each sphere has its command. Not that it is surrounded by it, but rather it turns it.

This world is like a mustard seed in a ringWhy? Because of the spirit that blows upon it, [turning] and sustaining it. If this spirit were to be interrupted, the world would wither in an instant [cf. Isaiah 40:7–8; BT Bava Batra 25a–b]” (Bahir §179).

“All the lights expanding, large and small, appear as the hub of a wheel [lit., כְּעֵין גַלגַל (ke-ein galgal), as the eye of a wheel]. All the spheres and worlds and their hosts appear in the center like a mustard seed. And they all go to and fro, whirling, never still….

From the abundant efflux of the great and awesome firmament spread the mighty seraphim, capable masters standing watch, conducting all the worlds—conducting mysterious things arranged by the blessed Holy One when He created the 18,000 worlds [see BT Avodah Zarah 3b; Zohar 1:23b–24a (TZ); Rabbenu Baḥya ben Asher on Numbers 10:35].

Within this firmament the spheres and their hosts are fixed. Because of its overwhelming strength, the spheres appear as a mustard seed. And from this exquisite firmament emanates one fine and lovely spark comprising every kind of תִפאֶרֶת (tif’eret), beauty. It is the light that stands above, reward of the world, covering it” (Berit Menuḥa, Second Way: The Way of Love, First Vowel, Sixth Vowel).

“קָו הַמִדָּה (Qav ha-Middah): Length and Breadth. Qav ha-Middah: Depth and Height. Qav ha-Middah: Circle and Square.

Established to be known through thirteen gates—twenty-six on the two sides. When they are engraved in their engravings, they are all one within this measure. Qav ha-Middah ascends and descends, engraved in its engravings on all sides.

Light Not Existing in Light, engraves, and the Spark of All Sparks bursts forth, striking within the Will of Wills, secreted within it, unknown.

When this Will desires to ramify, this Spark—concealed within Will, befitting and not befitting to exist as color—shoots out. When this Will ramifies, this Spark—splaying color and no color—strikes, entering into that extension, splaying forth in its colors. It ascends, becoming actualized through its ascent within Will and its emanation.

Will strikes its extension in concealment, unknown—emitting gossamer lights, coalescing as one. When they seek to emerge, that Spark, imbued with colors, strikes the extension and it becomes constricted. On account of the pressure, those diaphanous lights emerge, audible as one. Then the Spark displays colors within them, all dyed at once: white, red, green, and black. The Spark lingered there for twelve months, and then they were uprooted, and planted in another place.

This Spark ascends and descends, and is called בּוּצִינָא דְּקַרְדִינוּתָא (botsina de-qardinuta), Lamp of Adamantine Darkness. Enhancing and striking all the luminous shoots, it decrees, ‘Grow!’ [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 10:6]. Then springs gush forth from that supernal, primordial extension, irrigating and illuminating them all, and they flourish.

With the בּוּצִיצָא דְּקַרְדִינוּתָא (botsitsa de-qardinuta), Spark of Adamantine Darkness, the One who Shines, shines—ascending and descending, spreading out in all directions. Then it is called קָו מִדָּה (qav middah), Line of Measure, its measurement enduring above and below.

Line of Measure—Spark of Adamantine Darkness, Concealed of all Concealed, lustrous measure, configuring beauty for all. The beauty itself, emerging from the first extension, configures them. They stand within it, poised for calibration above and below.

One who attains this mystery and knows it, merits to know the wisdom of his Master. Happy is his portion in this world and in the world that is coming!” (Zohar Ḥadash 57a).

π: A Line of Thirty Cubits Going all Around

hiram_allas_salomon_temppeli_brazen_sea_574“’Whatsoever has a circumference of three handbreadths is one handbreadth in diameter’ (Mishnah). Is it so?—Rabbi Yoḥanan replied: Scripture stated: And he made the cast metal sea ten cubits from edge to edge, circular all around, and five cubits in height and a line of thirty cubits going all around (1 Kings 7:23). But surely there was its brim?—Rav Papa replied: Of its brim, it is written in Scripture: [a mere] blossom of a lily; as is written: its thickness was a handspan, and its rim like the design of a cup’s rim, blossom and lily, two thousand bats did it hold (ibid., 26) [the bat is a relatively large unit of liquid measure, but the precise quantity is uncertain]. But there was [still] a fraction at least?—when it was reckoned it was that of the inner circumference [this is the only instance where a doubt is raised in the Talmud in connection with a mathematical statement, proving that the Rabbis were well aware of the more exact ratio between the diameter and circumference and that the ratio of 1:3 was accepted by them simply as a workable number for religious purposes, cf. BT Eruvin 76a; Sukkah 7b]” (BT Eruvin 14a).

“Rabbi Abba opened, saying, ‘He made the sea (1 Kings 7:23), and it is written: Standing upon twelve oxen: three facing north, three facing west, three facing south, and three facing east, with the sea set upon them above… (ibid., 25), and it is written: the twelve oxen underneath the sea (ibid., 44). Standing upon twelve oxen—certainly so! For this sea [Shekhinah] is arrayed by twelve in two worlds: by twelve above, appointed by chariots; by twelve below, twelve tribes” (Zohar 1:241a).

The Cave is Filled by the Sea, yet the Sea is not Diminished: He Surrounds all Worlds and He Fills all Worlds

IMG_1039And the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting and the glory of YHWH filled the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:34).

“Rabbi Yehoshu’a of Sikhnin said in the name of Rabbi Levi: Why was the Tent of Meeting compared to a cave on the seashore? When the sea rises and floods it, the cave is filled by the sea, yet the sea is not diminished. So too, the Tent of Meeting was filled with the splendor of the Shekhinah, as is said, on [Israel’s] יוֹם כַּלֹּת (yom kallot), bridal day, Moses [set up the Tabernacle] (Numbers 7:1)” (Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana 1:2, cf. Tanḥuma, Vayakhel, 7; Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 19a).

As I beheld the living beings, behold, one wheel on the earth alongside the living beings (Ezekiel 1:15). Rabbi Eleazar said, ‘This is a certain angel who stands on earth and whose head extends close to the living beings.’ In a matnita [tannaitic tradition] it is taught: His name is Sandalfon, who is taller than his companion by a journeying distance of five hundred years. He stands behind the Chariot, binding crowns for his Maker. But is it so? Behold it is written: Blessed be the glory of YHWH from His place (Ezekiel 3:12) accordingly, no one knows His place!—he pronounces the Name over the crown, and it goes and rests on His head.

Rava said: All that Ezekiel saw Isaiah saw. What does Ezekiel resemble? A villager who saw the king [and prophesied from afar, i.e., exile]. And what does Isaiah resemble? A townsman who saw the king [and prophesied from within the land of Israel]” (BT Ḥagigah 13b).

“Rabbi Dosa says: Behold, it says, You shall not be able to see My face, for no human can see Me and live (Exodus 33:20). While they are living, they do not see, but in the hour of their death, they do see. Thus it says, Before Him will kneel all who go down to the dust whose life is undone (Psalms 22:30). Rabbi Akiva says: For no human can see Me and liveeven the living beings that carry the Throne cannot see the Glory! Son of Azzai said: I do not mean to repudiate my master’s words, but to add to his words: For no human can see Me and liveeven the ministering angels, whose life is the life of eternity, do not see the Glory!” (Sifra, Vayiqra, dibbura dindavah 2:12, 4a).

What is From His place (Ezekiel 3:12)? Because no one knows His place. This is like a king’s daughter who came from afar, and nobody knew where she came from. When they saw that she was אֵשֶׁת חַיִל (eshet ḥayil), a worthy woman, lovely and refined in all that she did, they said: ‘She undoubtedly was taken from the side of the light, for her deeds give light to the world.’ They then asked her: ‘Where are you from?’ She replied: ‘From my place.’ They said: ‘If so, the people of your place must be great! Blessed are you and blessed is your place!’” (Bahir §132).

His disciples said to him: From above to below we know. But from below to above we do not know. He replied: Is it not all one—below to above and above to below? They said: Our Rabbi, ascending is not like descending. One can run while descending, but it is not so while ascending. He replied: Go out and see.

He sat and expounded for them: ‘Shekhinah is below just as Shekhinah is above’ (Seder Rabba de-Vereshit) [see Wertheimer, Battey Midrashot 1:30]. And what is Shekhinah? Say that this is the light emanated from the primordial light, Ḥokhmah. It also surrounds everything, as is written: The whole earth is full of His glory (Isaiah 6:3). What is its function here? A parable: A king had seven sons, and he assigned each one his place. He said to them, ‘Sit, this one on the back of that one.’ The lowest one said, ‘I will not dwell below! I will not be so far from you!’ He said to them, ‘I will hereby turn and see you all day long.’ This is The whole earth is full of His glory. Why is He in their midst? To stand them up and make them endure” (Bahir §171).

“All beings above and below cannot grasp, till finally they declare: Blessed be the glory of YHWH from His place! (Ezekiel 3:12). Those below proclaim that He is above, as is written: Your glory is above the heavens (Psalms 113:4). Those above proclaim that He is below, as is written: Your glory is over all the earth (ibid. 57:12). Finally all of them, above and below, declare: Blessed be the glory of YHWH from His place! For He is unknowable; no one has ever been able to comprehend Him” (Zohar 1:103a).

“What is the difference between them [ס (samekh) and ם (mem)]? Well, when enclosed and hidden within itself, within the supernal point above, She [Binah] assumes the form of the letter ס (samekh), enclosed within and hidden, ascending above. And when She returns and sits רְבִיעָא (revi’a), crouching, over children below to suckle them, She assumes the form of the letter ם (mem) [which is] רְבִיעָא (revi’a), quadrilateral, enclosed in four directions of the world [the first appearance of the letter ס (samekh) in the Torah is in the word הַסֹּבֵב (ha-sovev), surrounds (Genesis 2:11), and its second appearance is in the word וַיִּסְגֹּר (va-yisgor), closed (ibid., 21), see Bereshit Rabbah 17:6]” (Zohar 2:127a, cf. BT Shabbat 104a).

“He surrounds all the worlds, and none but He surrounds them in any direction, up or down or to the four corners of the compass, and no one has escaped outside His realm, for He fills all the worlds and there is no other that fills them [cf. BT Berakhot 10a]. He grants life, and there is no other god above Him to give Him life, as is said: You enliven them all (Nehemiah 9:6), and for Him Daniel said: And all earth’s dwellers are counted as naught, and as He chooses He does with the array of the heavens and the earth’s dwellers, [and there is none who can protest against Him and say to Him, ‘What have You done?’] (Daniel 4:32). He binds and unites kind to its kind above and below, and the four elements would have no proximity except with the blessed Holy One in their midst” (Zohar 3:225a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

A Spark of Impenetrable Darkness

image“At the head of potency of the King. He engraved engravings in luster on high. A spark of impenetrable darkness flashed within the concealed of the concealed, from the head of Infinity—a cluster of vapor forming in formlessness, thrust in a ring, not white, not black, not red, not green, no color at all. As a cord surveyed, it yielded radiant colors. Deep within the spark gushed a flow, splaying colors below, concealed within the concealed of the mystery of אֵין סוֹף (Ein Sof). It split and did not split its aura, was not known at all, until under the impact of splitting, a single, concealed, supernal point shone. Beyond that point, nothing is known, so it is called רֵאשִׁית (Reshit), Beginning, first command of all…. Zohar, Radiance! Sowing seed for its glory, like the seed of fine purple silk wrapping itself within, weaving itself a palace, constituting its praise, availing all.

With this beginning, the unknown concealed one created the palace. This palace is called אֱלֹהִים (Elohim). The secret is: בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים (Bereshit bara Elohim), With beginning, _____ created Elohim (Genesis 1:1) [cf. Bahir §10]” (Zohar 1:15a).

At the head of potency of the King… a spark of impenetrable darkness (Zohar 1:15a)when it surveyed its drawing out, there came forth from this point a hidden קָו (qav), cord. This thought was like so: ם (mem), first it was the closed ם (mem), and when the cord, which was the ו (vav), extended from the מִדָּה (middah), measure, it opened and was made into ב (bet). This is בְּרֵאשִׁית (Bereshit), In the beginning (Genesis 1:1)—the רֵאשִׁית (Reshit), Beginning, in the בּ (bet). When it is the closed ם (mem), it is the great ם (mem) as in, לםרבה (le-marbeh), of the increase of, dominion (Isaiah 9:6) and it was made into a ring [cf. BT Shabbat 104a; ZḤ 72b–c]. Therefore, it is said by all, ‘You are betrothed to me with this טַבַּעַת (taba’at), ring’ ם (mem). Of this it says a cluster of vapor forming in formlessness, thrust in a עִזְקָא (izqa), ring, not white, not black, not red, not green, no color at all (Zohar 1:15a).

When it extended to shine, a cord surveyed, it yielded radiant colors…. within (ibid.). And this is the secret of Wrapped in light like a cloak, [stretching out heavens like a tent-cloth] (Psalms 104:2). For this is the cloaked light that does not spread, hidden. The אֲוִיר (avir), atmosphere [lit., air], is called אוֹר (or), light, and with the addition of the י (yod), the point in the palace, for when one takes the י (yod) out of אֲוִיר (avir), atmosphere, one reveals אוֹר (or), light. And this is And God said, Let there be light (Genesis 1:3)” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 19a–20b).

“At the head of potency of the King… a spark of impenetrable darkness…. not white, not black, not red, not green, no color at all (Zohar 1:15a). This spark is the קָו מִדָּה (qav middah), cord of measure, which is clothed in the אֲוִיר (avir), atmosphere, and when it is in the atmosphere, it is closed and not seen at all. When it extends itself to be revealed, there comes out from this אֲוִיר (avir), intangible air, one point. What remains is light, the primordial light of the work of creation. As it says And God said, יְהִי אוֹר (Yehi or), ‘Let there be light’ (Genesis 1:2)—let there be י (yod) plus אֲוִיר (avir), atmosphere, and this secret is passed to the wise of heart.

This point, after it extends from that light is clothed in four colors from the upper palace, and this is called ב (bet) so it says Through wisdom a house is built (Proverbs 24:3) and this point measures out five colors, as it says Who measured at the rising of the water (Isaiah 40:12)” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 37b).

Tail in the Head: The Elusive Serpent

2235_127246100159_9430_nDeclaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done (Isaiah 46:10).

“The ten sefirot belimah are the basis. Their end is embedded in their beginning like a flame bound to a burning coal. For the Lord is singular, and He has none second to Him; and before one, what can you count?

The ten sefirot belimah are the basis; their measure is ten yet they have no limit” (Sefer Yetsirah §6–§7).

There is a thing of which one would say, “See this, it is new.” It already has been in the eons that were before us (Ecclesiastes 1:10).

That which was already has been, and what is to be already has been, and הָאֱלֹהִים (Ha-Elohim) seeks out the pursued (Ecclesiastes 3:15).

“Rabbi Ḥiyya opened, saying, ‘That which is has already been called by name, and what is to be [… already has been] (Ecclesiastes 3:15, 6:10). That which is has already [been]—corresponding to what we have learned: Before the blessed Holy One created this world, He created worlds and destroyed them, until the blessed Holy One entertained the desire to create this world, and He consulted the Torah. Then He was arrayed in His adornments and adorned with His crowns, and He created the world. All that exists in this world was already in His presence, rising before Him, arranged before Him (Zohar 3:61a–b).

“Gravings of engravings, like the appearance of a long serpent, extending here and theretail in the head, head behind the shoulders, pregnant and furious, guarded and hidden” (Zohar 2:176b, Sifra di Tsni’uta).

“תָּלִי (Tali)—a spark rendered as an illusory serpent. Its tail clinging to orbs, surrounding them. In its might it darkens the seven planets” (Berit Menuḥa: The Second Way, The Way of Love, Eight Vowel).

The elusive Serpent (Job 26:13).