The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: עֲבִירָה

He is Unclean, He shall Dwell Apart: Yet it was Our Sickness He was Bearing!

“Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi met Elijah at the opening of the cave of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai [cf. 1 Kings 19:8–9]. He asked him: ‘Do I have a portion in the world to come?’ He said, ‘If this lord desires.’ Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi said, ‘I saw two, but heard the voice of a third [i.e., the Shekhinah (Rashi)].’ He then asked him, ‘When will the Messiah come?’ ‘Go and ask him himself,’ he replied. ‘Where is he sitting?’ He said, ‘At the portal of the city of Rome.’ ‘And by what sign may I recognize him?’ He said, ‘He is sitting among the ill, poor, and suffering: everyone of them untie all at once and rebandage them together, whereas he unties and rebandages each separately [before treating the next], thinking, should I be wanted, I must not be delayed [by having to bandage a number of sores].’ So he went to him and greeted him, saying, ‘Peace be upon you, Rabbi and Teacher.’ ‘Peace be upon you son of Levi,’ he replied. ‘When will you come Master?’ he asked, ‘Today,’ he replied. On his returning to Elijah, he asked, ‘What did he say to you?’ ‘Peace be upon you Son of Levi,’ he replied. [Elijah] said, ‘He thereby assured you and your father of [a portion in] the world to come.’ ‘He spoke a lie to me, saying that he would come today, but has not.’ [Elijah] answered him, ‘This is what he said to you, Today, if you would only heed His voice!’ (Psalms 95:7)” (BT Sanhedrin 98a).

“The Rabbis said: [The Messiah,] his name is חִיוְורָא (ḥivvra), White, of the House of Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nasi], as is written, Indeed, he has borne our illness, and our sorrows he has carried. But we had reckoned him plagued, God-stricken and tormented (Isaiah 53:4) [i.e., the Messiah is as הַמְּצֹרָע (ha-metsora), the one afflicted with skin blanch—he is called unclean and dwells outside the camp (Rashi)]” (BT Sanhedrin 98b).

And the person afflicted with skin blanch, in whom the affliction is, his clothes shall be torn and his hair disheveled, and his moustache he shall cover, and he shall call out, “Unclean! Unclean!” All the days that the affliction is on him he shall remain unclean. He is unclean. He shall dwell apart. Outside the camp shall his dwelling be (Leviticus 13:45–46).

Indeed, he has borne our illness, and our sorrows he has carried. But we had reckoned him plagued, God-stricken and tormented. Yet he was wounded for our crimes, crushed for our transgressions. The chastisement that restored our well-being he bore, and through his bruising we were healed (Isaiah 53:4–5).

This shall be the teaching concerning הַמְּצֹרָע (ha-metsora), the one afflicted with skin blanch—הַמוֹצִיא רָע (ha-motsi ra), the one who utters evil. Rabbi Ḥiyya said, ‘If anyone produces evil speech, all his limbs are defiled and he deserves to be confined, for that evil word rises and arouses an impure spirit upon him, defiling him” (Zohar 3:53a).

“Yet he who [continually] declares [others] unclean is [himself] unclean and never speaks in praise [of people]. And Shemu’el said: With his own blemish he stigmatizes [others] as unclean” (BT Qiddushin 70a).

“When [the souls in the Garden of Eden below roam on every new moon and Sabbath] they tell the Messiah about the suffering of Israel in exile and about the wicked among them who do not seek to know their Lord, he weeps aloud over the wicked, as is written: But he was wounded for our sins, crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5). Those souls return and stand in their places.

In the Garden of Eden there is one chamber called the Chamber of the Ill. The Messiah then enters that chamber and calls for all the illnesses, all the pains, and all the sufferings of Israel to come upon him, and they all do so. And if he did not ease them off of Israel, taking them upon himself, no one could endure the sufferings of Israel from the punishments of Torah, as is written: Yet it was our sickness that he was bearing (Isaiah 53:4). Similarly, Rabbi El’azar on earth [see BT Bava Metsi’a 83b–84b].

For innumerable are the sufferings looming over a person every day, all of which descended into the world at the time when Torah was given. When the people of Israel were in the Holy Land, they eliminated all those illnesses and sufferings from the world through rituals and sacrifices. Now, the Messiah removes them from inhabitants of the world, until a person departs from this world and receives punishment, as has been said. Except for the extremely wicked, who are sent deep within Hell, into those other compartments, where they are punished severely for the extreme filth of the soul; then intense fire is kindled to consume that filth. Woe to the soul who suffers that punishment! Furthermore, angels of destruction harass them with rods of fire to shake out that filth. Woe to the soul who suffers that punishment! Happy are those who keep the commandments of Torah!” (Zohar 2:212a, cf. Zohar Ḥadash 56c).

For this command which I charge you today is not too wondrous for you nor is it distant. It is not in the heavens, to say, “Who will go up for us to the heavens and take it for us and let us hear it, that we may do it?” And it is not beyond the sea, to say, “Who will cross over for us beyond the sea and take it for us and let us hear it, that we may do it?” But the word is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it (Deuteronomy 30:11–14).

You are good and do good. Teach me Your statutes. The arrogant plaster me with lies—I with whole heart keep Your decrees. Their heart grows dull like fat—as for me, in Your teaching I delight. It was good for me that I was afflicted, so that I might learn Your statutes. Better for me Your mouth’s teaching than thousands of pieces of silver and gold (Psalms 119:68–72).

“Rabbi Abba said, ‘Yose, my son, I will tell you what happened to me with the Holy Lamp [Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai]. One day we were walking in the valley of Ono, delving into Torah that whole day. Due to the intensity of the sun, we sat ourselves down in the cleft of a certain rock [this recalls the cleft of the rock where God revealed His back to Moses (Exodus 33:22–23). Similarly, here, a profound mystery is revealed: the suffering of the righteous]. I said to him, ‘How is it that whenever the wicked proliferate in the world, the righteous among them are smitten on their account? For we have learned as follows: ‘For a generation’s חוֹבָא (ḥova), sin [lit., liability, debt], the righteous are seized.’ Why? If because they do not reprimand the world for their deeds, well, there are many who do reprimand but are not heeded, and the righteous are overwhelmed by them. And if it is so that there will be no one to protect the world, then let them not die and not be seized for the sins [of the world], since the righteous find joy in the destruction [of the wicked].’

He replied, ‘For a generation’s sin, the righteous are surely seized, and we have established these matters. But when the righteous are seized with illness or afflictions, it is in order to atone for the world; then all sins of the generation are purged. How do we know this? From all members of the body. When all the members are in distress—grave illness prevailing over them—one member must suffer so that all of them may be healed. Which one is it? The arm. The arm is struck and blood is drawn from it, and then all members of the body are healed.

Similarly, inhabitants of the world are bodily members, interlinked. When the blessed Holy One wishes to grant healing to the world, He strikes one righteous person among them, and through him provides healing to all. How do we know this? As is written: But he was wounded for our sins, crushed for our iniquities, and by his wound we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). And by his wound—bloodletting, like someone letting blood from his arm. By that wound we are healed—healing comes to us, to all members of the body.

Never is a righteous person smitten except to provide healing to the generation and to atone for them. This is the mystery of ‘a righteous one who suffers,’ for the Other Side prefers most of all that Judgment should overwhelm a righteous one—for then he does not care about the whole world and ignores them because of the joy of dominating him [cf. Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 1a–b]. Yet that righteous person attains supreme dominion in this world and in the world that is coming. As for ‘a righteous one who prospers,’ this is because the blessed Holy One does not care to atone for the world’” (Zohar 3:217b–18b).

The Devisings of the Human Heart are Evil from Youth

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Antoninus inquired of Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nasi], ‘From what time does the evil impulse hold sway over man; from the formation [of the embryo] or from issuing forth? He said, ‘From the formation [of the embryo].’ He said, ‘If so he would rebel in his mother’s womb and go forth. But it is from when he issues.’ Rabbi said: This thing Antoninus taught me, and Scripture supports him, as is said, at the tent flap sin crouches (Genesis 4:7)” (BT Sanhedrin 91b, cf. BT Yevamot 69a; Niddah 30b–31a).

“Rabbi Naḥman son of Rabbi Ḥisda expounded: What is meant by, וַיִּיצֶר (Va-yiytser), then fashioned, YHWH God, the human (Genesis 2:7)—written with two יוּדִין (yudin), yods? To show that the blessed Holy One created two impulses, one good and the other evil. Rabbi Naḥman son of Yitsḥaq objected. He said: according to this animals, of which it is not written יִּיצֶר (yiytser), fashioned [with two yods, see Genesis 2:19: and YHWH God יִּצֶר (yitser), fashioned, from the soil each beast of the field…], should have no evil impulse, yet we see that they injure and bite and kick! It is as expounded by Rabbi Shim’on son of Pazzi; for Rabbi Shim’on son of Pazzi said: אוֹי לִי מִיּוֹצְרִי (Oy li mi-yotsri), Woe is me because of my Maker, אוֹי לִי מִיִּצְרִי (oy li mi-yitsri), woe is me because of my urge! Or again as explained by Rabbi Yirmiyahu son of El’azar; for Rabbi Yirmiyahu son of El’azar said: The blessed Holy One created דוּ פַּרְצוּפִין (du partsufin), two faces, in the first man, as it says, From behind and in front You shaped me (Psalms 139:5)….

Rav said: The evil impulse resembles a fly and dwells between the two openings of the heart [cf. BT Sukkah 52b], as it says, A dead fly makes the perfumer’s oil chalice stink (Ecclesiastes 10:1). Shemu’el said: It is like a kind of חִטָּה (ḥittah), wheat, as it says, At the tent flap חַטָּאת (ḥattat), sin, crouches (Genesis 4:7). Our Rabbis taught: Man has two kidneys, one of which prompts him to good, the other to evil; and it is natural to suppose that the good one is on his right side and the bad one on his left, as is written, A wise man’s mind [lit., heart] is at his right, and the fool’s mind at his left (Ecclesiastes 10:2)” (BT Berakhot 61a).

“Here is a mystery. In all actions performed by the blessed Holy One, He begins with the external, and then the kernel within…. The Other Side always precedes: growing, developing, protecting the fruit. Once it has grown, it is cast aside; What the wicked will prepare, the righteous will wear (Job 27:17)—that קְלִפָּה (qelipah), shell, is thrown away and the Righteous One of the world is blessed” (Zohar 2:108b).

“Rabbi Ammi son of Abba said: What is There is a little town… (Ecclesiastes 9:14)? A little town—the body; and few people within it (ibid.)—the limbs; and a great king came against it and went round it (ibid.)—the יֵצֶר הָרָע (yetser ha-ra), evil impulse; and built against it great siegeworks (ibid.)—crimes; But he found within it a poor wise man (ibid.)—the יֵצֶר טוֹב (yetser tov), good impulse; and that person saved the town through his wisdom (ibid.)—to repentance and good deeds; but no one recalled that poor man (ibid.)—for when the evil impulse [gains control], none remember the good impulse. Wisdom is stronger for the wise than ten rulers who are in the town (ibid. 7:19). Wisdom is stronger for the wise—repentance and good deeds; than ten rulers—two eyes, two ears, two hands, two feet, head of the torso [i.e., penis], and mouth” (BT Nedarim 32b).

“Rabbi Ḥiyya opened, ‘Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but YHWH delivers him from them all (Psalms 34:20). Come and see how intensely a person is attacked, from the day that the blessed Holy One endows him with a soul to exist in this world! For as soon as a human emerges into the atmosphere the evil impulse lies ready to conspire with him, as has been said; for it is written: At the tent flap sin crouches (Genesis 4:7)—right then the evil impulse partners with him.

Come and see that it is so! For animals all protect themselves from the day they are born fleeing from fire and all menacing sites; yet a human being is ready at once to fling himself into the fire, because the evil impulse dwells within him, instantly luring him into evil ways.

We have established what is written: Better a poor and wise child than an old and foolish king who no longer knows how to heed warning (Ecclesiastes 4:13). Better a child—the good impulse, who is a child, just recently with a person, accompanying him only from the age of thirteen, as had been said [see Avot de-Rabbi Natan B, 16; Qohelet Rabbah on 4:13; Midrash Tehillim 9:5; Zohar 1:78a–b (ST), 110b (MhN)].

Than a king—the evil impulse, who is called king, ruling over humanity in the world. Old and foolish, for he is surely old, as already established, since as soon as a person is born, emerging into the atmosphere, he accompanies that person. So he is an old and foolish king [on the link between foolishness and sin, see Numbers 12:11; BT Sotah 3a].

Who no longer knows how לְהִזָּהֵר (le-hizzaher), to heed warning. It is not written לְהַזְהִיר (le-hazhir), to give warning, but rather le-hizzaher, to heed warning—because he is a fool, of whom Solomon said The fool walks in darkness (ibid. 2:14), for he issues from dregs of darkness, deprived of light forever [but he who does not know how to take care of others is not yet considered foolish (Sullam)]….’

Than an old king—the evil impulse, as has been said, for since the first day he existed, he has never escaped defilement. And he is foolish—all his ways evil, leading humans astray, not knowing how to heed warning. He sidles up to people with ploys, luring them from the good way to the evil.

Come and see: This is why he hastens to be with a person from the day he is born, so that he will trust him. For look, when the good impulse arrives, the person cannot believe him—and considers him a burden! Similarly we have learned: Who is cunningly wicked? One who pleads his case in front of the judge before the other party arrives, as is said: The first to plead his case seems right… (Proverbs 18:17) [cf. BT Sotah 21b]. Similarly this cunning wicked one, as is said: The serpent was cunning (Genesis 3:1)—he arrives first, dwelling with a person before his counterpart comes to rest upon him. Since he appears first, pleading his case with him, when his counterpart—the good impulse—arrives, the person finds him obnoxious and cannot raise his head [cf. Zohar 2:199a: ‘The good impulse, who guides all… said to him, ‘What are you doing sound asleep?’… Repent of your sins!’], as if he loaded on his shoulders all the burdens of the world, because of that cunning wicked one who reached him first. Concerning this, Solomon said, The poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heeded (Ecclesiastes 9:16), because the other anticipated him.

So whoever accepts a person’s words before his counterpart arrives, acts as if he accepts belief in another, false god [see BT Shabbat 105b]. Rather, till the other comes and examines him (Proverbs 18:17). This is the way of the righteous, for a righteous person does not believe that cunningly wicked evil impulse before his counterpart, the good impulse, arrives. Because of this, people stumble in the world to come.

However, one who is righteous, in awe of his Lord, endures many afflictions in this world so as not to trust and consort with that evil impulse, and the blessed Holy One delivers him from them all, as is written: Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but YHWH delivers him from them all. It is not written Many are רָעוֹת לַצַּדִּיק (ra’ot la-tsaddiq), the afflictions for the righteous, but rather צַדִּיק (tsaddiq), [of] the righteous, because the blessed Holy One אִתְרְעֵי (itre’ei), delights, in that human being and delivers him from everything in this world and in the world that is coming [because the afflictions he suffers alienate him from the evil impulse (Sullam)]. Happy is his share!” (Zohar 1:179a–b, cf. Bahir §§163–164).

For He knows יִצְרֵנוּ (yitsrenu), our devisings, recalls that we are dust (Psalms 103:14).

“In the time to come the blessed Holy One will bring the evil impulse and slay it in the presence of the righteous and the wicked. To the righteous it will have the appearance of a towering hill, and to the wicked it will have the appearance of a thread of hair. Both the former and the latter will weep; the righteous will weep saying, ‘How were we able to overcome such a towering hill!’ The wicked also will weep saying, ‘How is it that we were unable to conquer this thread of hair!’ And the blessed Holy One will also marvel together with them, as is said, Thus said YHWH of Armies: Does it seem beyond the remnant of this people in these days? So it would be beyond Me (Zechariah 8:6) [cf. Zohar 1:190b].

Rav Assi said, ‘The evil impulse is at first like the thread of a spider, but ultimately becomes like cart ropes, as is said, Woe, who haul crime with the cords of falseness and like the ropes of a cart, offense (Isaiah 5:18).’ 

Rabbi Avira or, as some say, Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi, made the following exposition: The evil impulse has seven names. The blessed Holy One called him Evil, as is said, For the יֵצֶר (yetser), devisings, of the human heart are evil from youth (Genesis 8:21). Moses called him Uncircumcised, as is said, Circumcise the foreskin of your heart (Deuteronomy 10:16). David called him Impure, as is said, A pure heart create for me God (Psalms 51:12)—implying that there is an impure one. Solomon called him Foe, as is said, If your foe is hungry, feed him bread, and if he thirsts, give him water, for you would heap live coals on his head, and YHWH will pay you back (Proverbs 25:21)—do not read יְשַׁלֶּם לָךְ (yeshalem-lakh), will pay you back, but יַשׁלִימֶנוּ לָךְ (yashlimenu-lakh), will cause it to be at peace with you. Isaiah called him Stumbling-block, as is said, Build up, build up, clear a road, take away stumbling blocks from My people’s road (Isaiah 57:14). Ezekiel called him Stone, as is said, And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit will I put within you, and I will take away the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). Joel called him Northerner, as is said, And the northerner I will put far from you (Joel 2:20) [cf. Jeremiah 1:14: From the north evil will be let loose on all the inhabitants of the land].

Our Rabbis taught: And אֶת הַצְּפוֹנִי (et-ha-tsefoni), the northerner, I will put far from youthe evil impulse which is always צָפוּן (tsafun), hidden, in the heart of man.…

The school of Rabbi Yishma’el taught, If this repulsive wretch meets you, drag him to the House of Study. If he is of stone, he will dissolve, if of iron he will shatter  [cf. BT Qiddushin 30a]. ‘If he is of stone he will dissolve’—for it is written, Oh, every one who thirsts go to the water (Isaiah 55:1) and it is written, Water wears away stones (Job 14:19). ‘If he is of iron, he will shatter,’ as is written, Is not My word like fire, said YHWH, and like a hammer splitting rock? (Jeremiah 23:29).

Rabbi Shemu’el son of Naḥman said in the name of Rabbi Yonatan: the evil impulse seduces you in this world and bears witness against you in the world that is coming, as is said, Who pampers his slave from youth, in the end there will be מָנוֹן (manon)  [alt., מָנוֹד (manod), dismay] (Proverbs 29:21), for according to the [method of letter permutation] א״ט ב״ה (at bah) Rabbi Ḥiyya [teaches] סָהֵדַה (sahadah), witness, is called מָנוֹן (manon). Rav Ḥuna pointed out an incongruity: It is written, For a spirit of whoring made them stray, [and they played the whore against their God] (Hosea 4:12), but is it not also written, [For the spirit of whoring] is within them (ibid., 5:4)? First it only causes them to err, but ultimately it enters into them. Rabba observed, ‘First the evil impulse is a wayfarer in the street, then he is called guest, and finally he is called man [of the house], for it is said, And a wayfarer came to the richman, and it seemed a pity to him to take from his own sheep and cattle to prepare for the traveler who had come to him, and he took the poor man’s ewe and prepared it for the man who had come to him [ doomed is the man who has done this! And the poor man’s ewe he shall pay back fourfold, in as much as he has done this thing, and because he had no pity!] (2 Samuel 12:4–6)” (BT Sukkah 52b).

“Rabbi Yeisa said, ‘At the moment he departs from the world, every inhabitant of the world sees Adam to bear witness that due to his own sins he is departing, not because of Adam—except for those three who departed due to the incitement of the primordial serpent, namely, Amram, Levi, and Benjamin; some say: also Jesse. They never sinned; no trace of a sin could be found upon them to warrant their death, but that incitement of the serpent was brought to bear upon them, as we have said” (Zohar 1:57b, cf. BT Shabbat 55b).

“It has been taught in the name of Rabbi Me’ir: Man enters the world with clenched hands saying, ‘The whole world is mine; I shall inherit it!’ But when man leaves the world his hands are open, saying, ‘I have not taken anything from [this] world’” (Qohelet Rabbah 5:14).

A Man Should Always Regard Himself as though He were Half Liable and Half Meritorious

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“Rabbi Akiva used to say: All is given on collateral, and a net is spread over all the living. The shop is open, the shopkeeper extends credit, the ledger is open, and the hand records. Whoever wishes to borrow may come and borrow. The collectors regularly make their daily rounds and collect payment from a person, whether he realizes it or not. They have [a record] on which they can rely; the judgment is just; and all is prepared for the banquet” (M Avot 3:20).

Our Rabbis taught: A man should always regard himself as though he were half liable and half meritorious: if he performs one mitsvah, happy is he for weighting himself down in the scale of merit; if he commits one offense woe to him for weighting himself down in the scale of liability, as is said, yet a single offender destroys much good (Ecclesiastes 9:18)—on account of a single offense which he commits much good is lost to him.

Rabbi El’azar son of Rabbi Shim’on said: Because the world is judged by its majority, and an individual [too] is judged by his majority, if he performs one mitsvah, happy is he for turning the scale both of himself and of the whole world on the side of merit; if he commits one offense, woe to him for weighting himself and the whole world in the scale of liability, as is said: yet a single offender—on account of the single offense which this man commits he and the whole world lose much good.

Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai said: Even if he is perfectly righteous all his life but rebels in the end, he destroys the former, as is said: The righteousness of the righteous shall not save him on the day of his trespass (Ezekiel 33:12) [cf. Numbers 20:24]. And even if one is completely wicked all his life but performs repentance in the end, he is not reminded of his wickedness, as is said, and in the wickedness of the wicked he shall not stumble on the day he turns back from his wickedness (ibid.). Yet, let it be regarded as half offenses and half merits! Resh Laqish said: [It means that] he regrets his past [in that case his righteous past is completely disregarded].

‘All who rehearse Scripture, and Mishnah, and [have] a worldly occupation [lit., דֶּרֶךְ אֶרֶץ (derekh erets), the way of the land], will not be quick to offend, as is said: And the triple cord will not quickly be snapped (Ecclesiastes 4:12). And all who do not יִשְׁנוּ (yishnu), rehearse, Scripture, nor Mishnah, nor [have] a worldly occupation, do not belong to יִשּׁוּב (yishuv), civilization’ (Mishnah).

Rabbi El’azar son of Rabbi Tsaddoq said: To what are the righteous compared in this world? To a tree standing entirely in a place of purity, but its branches overhang a place of impurity; when the branch is cut, it stands entirely in a place of purity. Thus the blessed Holy One brings suffering upon the righteous in this world, in order that they may inherit the world to come, as is said, Then your beginning would seem a trifle and your latter day very grand (Job 8:7).

And to what are the wicked compared in this world? To a tree standing entirely in a place of impurity, its branches overhang a place of purity: when the branch is cut, it stands entirely in a place of impurity. Thus the blessed Holy One bestows good upon them in this world, in order to drive them away and dispossess them to the lowest rung, as is said: There may be a straight way before a man, but its end is the ways of death (Proverbs 14:12)” (BT Qiddushin 40a–b).

“Rabbi Shemu’el son of Naḥmani said in the name of Rabbi Yonatan: ‘Whoever fulfills a single mitsvah in this world—it ushers him into the world that is coming… and whoever commits a single transgression in this world—it clasps him and ushers him into the day of Judgment” (BT Sotah 3b).

“According to his merits and liabilities. As we have explained, he who does one mitsvah is treated well. He who is average, is a person whose merits and liabilities are balanced, the half of merits is below and the half of liabilities below. This is the secret of What is your petition, and it shall be granted to you, and what is your request? Up to half the kingdom, and it shall be done! (Esther 5:6). In the case of a completely righteous man, all his merits are above and his liabilities below. For a completely wicked man, his liabilities are above and his merits are below” (Zohar 3:111a, Ra’aya Meheimna Behar).

“Rabbi Yosef, the son of Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi, became ill and fell into a coma. When he recovered, his father asked him, ‘What did you see?’ He replied, ‘I saw a upside-down world: the upper below and the lower above.’ He said to him, ‘My son, you saw a clear world. And how are we [situated] there?’ He replied, ‘Just as we are here, so are we there’” (BT Pesaḥim 50a).

“If his offenses are many and his mitsvot few, then he receives his reward in this world, [and this] is a wicked man who prospers…. The Masters of Mishnah taught: ‘Woe to him for whom the hour smiles’ [for he receives his reward during his lifetime] (BT Berakhot 7b)” (Zohar 3:230b, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

 “Rabbi El’azar said, ‘If the scale is evenly balanced—offenses on this side, merits on that—what does the blessed Holy One do? He tips it toward Kindness, as is said: Yours, Master, is kindness (Psalms 62:13).’ Rabbi Yose son of Rabbi Ḥanina said, ‘What does the blessed Holy One do? He snatches one writ of debt from the offenses, and immediately the merits tip the scales, as is said, He lifts iniquity and passes over transgression (Micah 7:18)’” (Midrash Tehillim 30:4).

“The son of David will not come until the [last] coin has gone from the purse [i.e., until all debts have been paid]” (BT Sanhedrin 97a).

Rabbi Shim’on replied: If the blessed Holy One had not created the evil impulse and the good impulse, which are light and darkness, there would not have been any merit or liability for the man of בְּרִיָּה (Beri’ah), Creation. So man was created with both, as it is written: See, I have set before you today life and good and death and evil, that I charge you today to love YHWH your God, to go in His ways and to keep His commands and His statutes and His Laws (Deuteronomy 30:15). They asked him: Why all this? Better He had not created darkness. Then man would have no reward or punishment as opposed to being created and having to offend, thereby causing much [damage].

He said to them: It was right to create him in this way because Torah was created for his sake, for it contains punishments for the offenders and rewards for the righteous. Thus, there can be no reward for the righteous or punishment for the offenders without the man of בְּרִיָּה (Beri’ah), Creation. He did not create it a wasteland. He formed it to be inhabited (Isaiah 45:18). They said, ‘Indeed, we have certainly now heard what we had never heard before. It is now clear that the blessed Holy One did not create anything that he did not require’” (Zohar 1:22a, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar).

“If a man strikes many coins from one stamp they all resemble one another, but the Supreme King of the Kings of Kings, the blessed Holy One, fashioned every man in the stamp of the first man, and yet not one of them resembles his fellow. Therefore every single person is obliged to say: ‘The world was created for my sake’” (BT Sanhedrin 37a).

Missing the Mark and a Precious Pearl of Advice

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“There were once some hooligans in the neighborhood of Rabbi Me’ir who caused him a great deal of trouble. Rabbi Me’ir prayed for mercy on them, that they should die. Rabbi Me’ir’s wife, Beruria, said to him: What is your thinking? Because it is written Let חַטָּאִים (ḥatta’im), offences, vanish (Psalms 104:35). Is it written חוֹטּאִים (ḥott’im), offenders? It is written ḥatta’im, offences! Further, look at the end of the verse: and the wicked be no more. Since the offences will cease, there will be no more wicked men! Rather pray for them that they should return [to the right way], and there will be no more wicked. He did pray for them, and they returned” (BT Berakhot 10a).

Every one of them could sling a stone at a hair, and not יַחֲטִא (yaḥati), miss (Judges 20:16).

There is no man righteous on earth who does good and will not יֶחֱטָא (yaḥeta), miss the mark (Ecclesiastes 7:20).

There is no man who does not יֶחֱטָא (yeḥeta), offend (2 Chronicles 6:36).

For a nation lost in counsel are they (Deuteronomy 32:28)—Rabbi Yehudah explains the verse in reference to Israel, but Rabbi Neḥemiah explains it in reference to the nations of the world. Rabbi Yehudah explains the verse in reference to Israel: Israel has lost the good sense that had been given them. For, actually, counsel implies Torah, as is said: Mine is counsel and prudence, [I am Discernment, mine is might] (Proverbs 8:14).

There is no understanding among them (Deuteronomy 32:28)—there isn’t one of them clever enough to observe and wonder: Yesterday, one of us would pursue a thousand of the nations, and two of us would put 10,000 to flight. But now, one of the nations pursues a thousand of us, and two put 10,000 of us to flight—is it not Had not their Rock handed them over, [had YHWH not given them up] (ibid. 32:30)?

Rabbi Neḥemiah explains it in reference to the nations: The nations have lost the seven commandments that I gave them, there is no understanding among them.

In the days of Messiah, there won’t be one of them clever enough to observe and wonder: Now, one of them pursues a thousand of us, and two of them puts 10,000 of us to flight—is it not Had not their Rock handed them over?” (Sifrei, Deuteronomy 322).

“Our Rabbis taught: Beloved are Israel, for the blessed Holy One surrounded them with mitsvot: tefillin on their heads, tefillin on their arms, tsitsit on their garments, and mezuzot on their doorposts; concerning these David said, Seven times daily I praise you because of Your righteous laws (Psalms 119:164). And as David entered the bath and saw himself standing naked, he exclaimed, ‘אוֹי (Oy) that I stand naked without any mitsvah!’ But when he reminded himself of the circumcision in his flesh his mind was set at ease. And when he came out he sang a psalm of praise concerning it, as is written, To the lead player, on the eight, A David psalm (Psalms 12:1); that is, concerning circumcision which was given [for the] eighth [day].

Rabbi Eli’ezer son of Ya’aqov said, Whosoever has the tefillin on his head, the tefillin on his arm, the tsitsit on his garment, and the mezuzah on his doorpost, is in absolute security and will not יֶחֱטָא (yaḥeta), offend, as is written, [And if one should attack him, the two will stand against him.] And the triple cord will not quickly be snapped (Ecclesiastes 4:12); and it is also written, YHWH’s messenger encamps round those who fear Him and sets them free (Psalms 34:8)” (BT Menaḥot 43b).

“Rabbi Ḥanina and Rabbi Yonatan were walking on the road and came to a parting of ways, one led by the door of a place of idol-worship and the other led by a whore house. One said to the other: Let us go by the place of idolatry since the impulse for it has been abolished [see BT Sanhedrin 64a]. The other, however, said: Let us go by the whore house and defy our impulse and have our reward. As they approached the place they saw the whores withdraw at their presence. One said to the other: How did you know this? He said מְזִמָּה (Mezimmah) will watch over you, discernment will keep you, [to save you from a way of evil, from a man who speaks perversely] (Proverbs 2:11).

The Rabbis said to Rava: How is this word מְזִמָּה (mezimmah) to be understood [since it has the twofold meaning of cunning, and depravitity]? Shall it be rendered Torah since the word זִמָּה (zimmah) in Scripture is rendered in the Targum [Onqelos], She is counsel of the wicked (Leviticus 18:17); and Scripture has the phrase, Wonderful is His counsel, and excellent His wisdom (Isaiah 28:29)? But in that case the word should have been זִמָּה (zimmah). This, then, is how it is to be understood, ‘Against things of זִמָּה (zimmah), depravitity, She [מְזִמָּה (mezimmah), Cunning, i.e., Torah] will watch over you'” (BT Avodah Zarah 17b, cf. Sifrei, Deuteronomy 322; Midrash Tanna’im, Deuteronomy 32:28; Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana 12:12; Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah on 8:5).

“For one who puts wisdom before יִרְאַת חֶטְאוֹ (yirat ḥeto), his fear of missing the mark, wisdom does not endure” (M Avot 3:11).

“A king had a precious pearl, and it was the treasure of his kingdom” (Bahir §72).

“Torah, who offers advice to the whole world… and she warns the inhabitants of the world, saying, ‘Look how compassionately your Lord treats you! A precious pearl that He had, He has sold to you for nothing, that you might have dominion over it in the world” (Zohar 2:97a).

“For we have learned: Torah has given 613 types of advice to a person in order for him to be complete with his Lord, for his Lord wants to benefit him in this world and in the world that is coming—especially in the world that is coming” (Zohar 2:82b).

The Innocent Who Suffer, the Guilty Who Prosper

There are righteous to whom it befalls as though they did wickedly, and there are wicked to whom it befalls as though they did righteously (Ecclesiastes 8:14).

“Rabbi Yoḥanan said in the name of Rabbi Yose: Moses sought three things before the blessed Holy One and they were granted to him. He asked that Shekhinah should rest upon Israel, and it was granted to him, as is said: [And how, then, will it be known that I have found favor in Your eyes, I and Your people?] Will it not be by Your going with us (Exodus 33:16).

He asked that Shekhinah should not rest upon the nations, and it was granted to him, as is said: That I and Your people may be distinguished [from every people that is on the face of the earth?] (ibid.).

He asked to know the ways of the blessed Holy One and it was granted to him, as is said: Let me know, pray, Your ways (ibid., 13). He said before Him, ‘Master of the Universe: Why is it there are innocent who prosper and innocent who suffer? And there are guilty who prosper and guilty who suffer?’ He said, ‘Moses, the innocent who prosper are innocent born of innocent; the innocent who suffer are innocent born of guilty. The guilty who prosper are guilty born of innocent; the guilty who suffer are guilty born of guilty.

The Master said: ‘The innocent who prosper are innocent born of innocent; the innocent who suffer are innocent born of guilty’—it is not so, as is written: Reckoning the crime of fathers with sons [and sons of sons, to the third generation and the fourth] (ibid. 34:7), and it is written: [Fathers shall not be put to death over sons,] and sons shall not be put to death over fathers. [Each man shall be put to death for his own offense] (Deuteronomy 24:16)—the verses contradict each other! This is not difficult. This [verse refers to] when they adhere to the deeds of their fathers as their own; that [verse refers to] when they do not adhere to the deeds of their fathers as their own, [as is written, Reckoning the crime of fathers with sons, with the third generation and with the fourth, for My foes, and doing kindness to the thousandth generation for My friends and for those who keep My commands (Exodus 20:5)].

Rather, He said to [Moses]: The innocent who prosper are completely innocent; the innocent who suffer are not completely innocent. The guilty who prosper are not completely guilty; the guilty who suffer are completely guilty. But this [saying of Rabbi Yoḥanan that all three requests of Moses were granted] departs from Rabbi Me’ir. For Rabbi Me’ir said: Two were granted to him, and one was not granted to him. As is said: And I shall grant grace to whom I grant grace (ibid. 33:19)—even though he is not worthy. And have compassion for whom I have compassion—even though he is not worthy” (BT Berakhot 7a).

As the proverb of the ancient says, “From wicked men does wickedness come forth” (1 Samuel 24:14).

“Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai [said]: It is permitted to confront the wicked in this world, as is said, Those who forsake teaching praise the wicked, but those who keep the teaching confront them (Proverbs 28:4). That was also taught by Rabbi Dostai son of Rabbi Mattun, who says: It is permitted to confront the wicked in this world, as is said, Those who forsake teaching praise the wicked. Should somebody whisper to you: But is it not written Do not be incensed by evildoers. Do not envy those who do wrong (Psalms 37:1)? Then you may tell him: Only one whose heart strikes him [with regret over his wrong doing] says so. Rather, Do not be incensed by evildoers—to be like them; Do not envy those who do wrong—to be like them. And so it is said, Let your heart not envy offenders, but in fear of YHWH all day long. [For if you keep it, there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off] (Proverbs 23:17). But this is not so! For Rabbi Yitsḥaq said: If you see a wicked man upon whom the hour is smiling, do not confront him, as is said, His ways come to pass in every hour (Psalms 10:5). And not only that, he is victorious in the court of judgment, as is said, Your judgments are high up above him (ibid.). And not only that, he sees his enemies’ [downfall], as is said, All his foes he enflames (ibid.). There is no difficulty. The one speaks of his private matters, the other one speaks of matters of Heaven.

Or if you wish, say that both speak of matters of Heaven, and still there is no difficulty. The one speaks of a wicked man upon whom the hour is smiling, the other one speaks of a wicked man upon whom the hour is not smiling. Or if you wish, say that both speak of a wicked man upon whom the hour is smiling, and still there is no difficulty. The one speaks of the completely righteous one, the other of one who is not completely righteous. For Rav Huna said: What is Why do You look upon traitors and stay silent, when the wicked destroy one more righteous than he? (Habakkuk 1:13)—can the wicked destroy one more righteous than he? Is it not written, [The wicked spies out the just man and seeks to put him to death.] YHWH will not forsake him in his hands [and will not condemn him when he is judged] (Psalms 37:32–33)? And it is written, No wrong will befall the righteous, [but the wicked are filled with harm] (Proverbs 12:21) Rather, he destroys the one who is only more righteous than he, but he cannot destroy the completely righteous one. And if you wish, say: It is different when the hour is smiling upon him” (BT Berakhot 7b).

“Rabbi El’azar son of Rabbi Zadoq said: To what are the righteous compared in this world? To a tree standing entirely in a place of purity, but its branches overhang to a place of impurity; when the branches are cut off, it stands entirely in a place of purity. Thus the blessed Holy One brings suffering upon the righteous in this world, in order that they may inherit the world that is coming, as is said, Then your beginning would seem a trifle and your latter day very grand (Job 8:7).

And to what are the wicked compared in this world? To a tree standing entirely in a place of impurity, but its branches overhang a place of purity: when the branches are cut off, it stands entirely in a place of impurity. Thus the blessed Holy One bestows good upon the wicked in this world, in order to destroy them and banish them to the lowest rung, as is said, There may be a straight way before man, but his end is the ways of death (Proverbs 14:12)” (BT Qiddushin 40b).

“Sons, life and sustenance do not depend on merit but מַזָּלא (mazzala), the flux of destiny. For [take] Rabbah and Rav Ḥisda. Both were righteous; one master prayed for rain and it came, the other master prayed for rain and it came. Rav Ḥisda lived to the age of ninety-two, Rabbah lived to the age of forty. In Rav Ḥisda’s house sixty marriage feasts were held, at Rabbah’s house there were sixty bereavements. At Rav Ḥisda’s house there was the purest wheaten bread for dogs, and it was not wanted; at Rabbah’s house there was barley bread for human beings and that not to be had” (BT Mo’ed Qatan 28a).

For there is no man righteous on earth who does good and will not offend (Ecclesiastes 7:20).

“Rabbi Yishma’el and Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Yishma’el says, ‘Since the righteous perform the Torah, which was given from the mountains of God, the blessed Holy One acts justly with them like the mountains of God. But since the wicked do not perform the Torah, which was given from the mountains of God, the blessed Holy One is exacting with them, even unto the great deep.’ Rabbi Akiva says, ‘The blessed Holy One is as exacting with these as with those: from the righteous He collects in this world for a few wicked deeds which they have done, in order to render them full payment in the world to come; while He gives ease to the wicked and pays them in this world for the few good deeds that they have done, in order to punish them in the world to come” (Tanḥuma [Buber], Emor 5).

“According to his merits and liabilities. As we have explained, he who does one mitsvah is treated well. He who is average, is a person whose merits and liabilities are balanced, the half of merits is below and the half of debts below. This is the secret of What is your petition, and it shall be granted to you, and what is your request? Up to half the kingdom, and it shall be done! (Esther 5:6). In the case of a completely righteous man, all his merits are above and his liabilities below. For a completely wicked man, his liabilities are above and his merits are below” (Zohar 3:111a, Ra’aya Meheimna Behar).

“If his offenses are many and his mitsvot few, then he receives his reward in this world, [and this] is a wicked man who prospers…. The Masters of Mishnah taught: Woe to him for whom the hour smiles, for he receives his reward during his lifetime” (Zohar 3:230b, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

When the wicked spring up as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed forever (Psalms 92:8).

Through All Your Ways Know Him: The Evil Impulse is Very Good

The ways of YHWH are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall stumble in them (Hosea 14:10).

Through all your ways know Him, and He will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:6). Rava said: Even in the matter of a עֲבִירָה (avirah), transgression” (BT Berakhot 63a).

“Now, you might say, ‘How can a person love the blessed Holy One with יֵצֶר הָרָע (yetser ha-ra), the evil impulse? For look, the evil impulse is hostile, preventing a person from serving the blessed Holy One! How can he love Him with it? Well, this is a greater service of the blessed Holy One, when the evil impulse is overturned by the love that one feels for the blessed Holy One. For when the evil impulse is overturned and broken by a person, this is true love of the blessed Holy One, since he knows how to draw that evil impulse to His service. Here is a mystery for masters of qualities: Everything that the blessed Holy One has made, above and below, is all intended to manifest His glory, and all is for His service. Now, who has ever seen a servant denouncing his master, opposing everything that his master wishes?

It is the will of the blessed Holy One that humans should serve Him constantly, walking in the path of truth, thereby becoming worthy of many benefits. Since this is His will, how can an evil servant come and oppose, by his Master’s will—luring people to an evil path, distancing them from the good path, and causing them to disobey the will of their Lord? But actually, he is doing the will of his Master! This may be compared to a king who had an only son, whom he loved exceedingly. He commanded him, in love, not to approach an evil woman, for whoever approached her would be unworthy of entering the king’s palace. The son consented to do his father’s will in love. In the king’s abode, outside, was a harlot, comely in appearance and beautiful in form. Some days later, the king said, ‘I want to see my son’s devotion to me.’ He called for that harlot and said to her, ‘Go and seduce my son,’ to see his son’s devotion to him. That harlot, what did she do? She went after his son and began embracing him, kissing him, seducing him with all kinds of enticements.

If that son is worthy and obeys his father’s command, he rebukes her, pays no heed to her, and thrusts her away from him. Then the father rejoices in his son and brings him into his palace, giving him gifts and presents and great honor. Who caused all this honor for that son? You must admit, that harlot! And that harlot, does she deserve praise for this or not? Surely she does, from every aspect. First, because she carried out the king’s command; and second, because she brought upon the son all this honor, all this goodness, all this love of the king toward him. Therefore, it is written: and look, it was very good (Genesis 1:31). And look, it was good—this is the Angel of Life; very is the Angel of Death, who is surely very good for whoever heeds his Lord’s command.

Come and See: Were it not for this accuser, the righteous would not inherit those supernal treasures reserved for them in the world that is coming. Happy are they who have encountered this accuser, and happy are they who have not encountered him! Happy are they who have encountered him, for through him they inherit all that goodness, all that bliss, all those delights of the world that is coming, of which is written No eye has seen, O God, but You, what You will do for one who awaits You (Isaiah 64:3). Happy are they who have not encountered him, for through him they inherit Hell and are banished from the land of the living—the wicked who do not heed their Lord and are drawn after him. Therefore, the righteous should be grateful to him, for through him they inherit all that goodness, bliss, and delight in the world that is coming. What is the benefit for this accuser when the wicked obey him? Well, even though he has no benefit, he fulfills the command of his Master.

Furthermore, he is strengthened because of this; since he is evil, he becomes stronger when perpetrating evil. A wicked person is strengthened only after he has killed someone. Once he has killed people, he is emboldened, empowered potently, and feels pleasure. Similarly, that accuser grows in power only after he has lured people, accused them, and killed them. Then he is pleased, strengthened, and potently empowered. Just as the side of life is strengthened when people are good and walk on the straight path, so too this accuser is strengthened and empowered when the wicked heed him and are dominated by him—may the Compassionate One save us! Happy are they who are worthy of defeating him and overturning him, earning the world that is coming because of him! One should be strengthened by the blessed Holy One constantly. Of this is said Happy is the human whose strength is in You—highways in their heart (Psalms 84:6). Happy are they in this world, and happy are they in the world that is coming!” (Zohar 2:163a–b).

And you shall remember all the way on which YHWH your God led you these forty years in the wilderness, in order to afflict you, to test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commands or not (Deuteronomy 8:2).

“Our Rabbis taught: וְשַׂמְתֶּם (ve-samtem), And you shall set (Deuteronomy 11:18)—סַם תָם (sam tam), a complete remedy. This may be compared to a man who struck his son a strong blow, and then put a plaster on his wound, saying to him, ‘My son! As long as this plaster is on your wound you can eat and drink at will, and bathe in hot or cold water, without fear. But if you remove it, it will break out into sores.’ Even so did the blessed Holy One speak to Israel: ‘My children! I created the evil impulse but I [also] created Torah, as its תַבלִין (tavlin), antidote [lit., spice]; if you occupy yourselves with Torah, you will not be delivered into his hand, for it is said: For whether you offer well, or whether you do not (Genesis 4:7). But if you do not occupy yourselves with Torah, you will be delivered into his hand, for it is written, at the tent flap sin crouches (ibid.). Moreover, he is altogether preoccupied with you [to make you sin], for it is said, and for you is his longing (ibid.). Yet if you will, you can rule over him, for it is said, and you will rule over him (ibid.)” (BT Qiddushin 30b).

“A parable: A king had sons and bought slaves for them saying, ‘Behold: They are to belong to you all equally.’ But one son said, ‘I do not want to share with you, for I am able to rob you of everything.’ The king said, ‘Because of this, you shall have no share among them at all, and you shall perform only what you are capable of!’ He went and lay in wait for them and showed them gold and jewels and armies, saying to them, ‘Come over to me.’ What did the king do? He lined up his armies and those of all his sons and showed them to the slaves, saying to them, ‘Do not deceive yourselves, mistaking his army [as] greater than my army. Here are my armies, but that son is the deceiver and plans to seize you. Do not listen to him, for at first he will speak smoothly in order to trap you in his nets, and afterwards יִצְחַק (yitsḥaq), he will laugh. But you are my slaves and I will do [good] for you if you turn away from him. For he is the שָׂר עַל תֹּהוּ (sar al tohu), prince of mere emptiness,’ as is said, And swerve not after הַתֹּהוּ (ha-tohu), mere emptiness (1 Samuel 12:21)—he will be of no avail, nor will he save, for he is mere emptiness, yet he is harmful, and I counsel you: If you really heed the voice of YHWH your God, and do what is right in His eyes, and hearken to His commands—keeping all His statutes—all the sickness that I put upon Egypt I will not put upon you (Exodus 15:26). Why all of this? Only to shut every door to him, so that he not find you at times soft and at times hard. When you keep all His statutes: all the sickness that I put upon Egypt­—by My hand—I will not put upon you. What is for I am YHWH your healer (ibid.)? And when He comes and strikes a blow—I am YHWH your healer” (Bahir §167).