The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: עָפָר

Do not Plant Asherah or any-Tree-like Object beside the Altar that You Make for YHWH Your God

“Come and see: When a woman is joined with her husband, she is called by his name: אִישׁ אִשָּׁה (ish ishah), man, woman; צַדִּיק צֶדֶק (tsaddiq tsedeq), righteous, righteousness [cf. Zohar 1:132b]. He is עוֹפֶר (ofer), fawn, and she is עָפָר (afar), dust. Then he is צְבִי (tsevi), hart, and she is צְבִיָּה (tseviyyah), doe; צְבִי (tsevi), fairest, of all lands (Ezekiel 20:6).

It is written: Do not plant אֲשֵׁרָה (asherahor any-tree-like object beside the altar that you make for YHWH your God (Deuteronomy 16:21). Beside the altar—is it permitted above the altar or anywhere else? Rather, we have established: אֲשֶׁר (Asher) is her husband, and she is named after him: אֲשֵׁרָה (Asherah). So it is written: For Baal and Asherah (2 Kings 23:4). So, Do not plant אֲשֵׁרָה (asherah)… beside the altar that you make for YHWH your God—over against the altar of YHWH, for the altar of YHWH is based on this, so do not plant another Asherah over against Her. 

Come and see: All those sun-worshippers are always called worshippers of Baal, and those who worship the moon are called worshippers of Asherah, so for Baal and Asherah, Asherah being named after her husband, Asher. If so, why was this name displaced? Because Asherah derives from the verse בְּאָשְׁרִי (Be-oshri), Happy am I! For daughters will deem me happy (Genesis 30:13), while the other nations did not deem Her happy, substituting another in Her place. Further it is written: All who honored her despise her (Lamentations 1:8). So this name was displaced in order that those worshipped by other nations not be empowered. We call Her altar made of earth, as is written: altar of earth… (Exodus 20:22). So, dust of the earth” (Zohar 1:49a).

Different Earth shall be Taken and the House Plastered

“Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘If a person obtains a recycled soul and fails to have it rectified within him, it is as though he falsifies the truth of the King; and I apply to him the verse: or if he finds something lost and denies it and swears falsely (Leviticus 5:22). And denies it—better for him if he had never been created! [cf. BT Niddah 30b; Zohar 3:13a].

We have learned: ‘A completely righteous person is not thrust aside; an incompletely righteous person is.’ Who is completely righteous, and who is incompletely righteous? Could it be that one whose deeds are flawed is called righteous? [cf. BT Berakhot 7a–b, Megillah 6b, Bava Metsi’a 71a, Avodah Zarah 4a].’

‘Well, a completely righteous person is clearly recognized, for he has not taken tortuous convolutions; and with his inheritance he builds a structure, erects walls, hews out wells, and plants trees.

An incompletely righteous person is one who builds a structure with another’s inheritance—digging into it, restoring the foundation stones as before, toiling over it; yet he does not know if it will remain his. Furthermore, regarding himself, he is considered good and righteous; but regarding that inheritance, not so.

This may be compared to a person who builds a beautiful and attractive building. But when he examines the foundation, he sees that it is sinking and distorted in all directions. The building is incomplete until he demolishes it and rebuilds it anew. Regarding his building itself, it was fine and beautiful; but regarding the foundation, it was bad and distorted. So it is not called a complete project; it is not called a complete building. Consequently, ‘an incompletely righteous person is thrust aside [at the revival of the dead].’ Thus, while the wicked swallows up the one more righteous than he (Habakkuk 1:13) [cf. BT Berakhot 7b, Megillah 6b, Bava Metsi’a 71a]” (Zohar 3:213a–b).

“The Faithful Shepherd [Moses] said… in order that the bailiff [of Sheol] not recognize a person it is necessary to perform for him a change of place, a change of name, and a change of deed [see BT Rosh ha-Shanah 16b]. As it was with Abraham, it was said: Go forth from your land and your birthplace and your father’s house (Genesis 12:1)—a change of place. And no longer shall your name be called Abram but your name shall be Abraham (ibid. 17:5)—a change of name. And there is also the change of deed, for he changed from doing bad deeds, as he had at first, to performing good deeds. A similar thing happens with the spirit of a man who dies childless, for likewise the blessed Holy One does to the man in banishing him from that world and bringing him to this world. And this has already been discussed [see Zohar 3:97a–111a (RM), cf. BT Pesaḥim 113b].

You change his face and send him away (Job 14:20). It is said the spirit עָבְרָה (avrah), passes by, him (Psalms 103:16)—one of the evil messengers [called] עֶבְרָה (evrah), Anger (Psalms 78:49). And when he encounters him and sees that he is changed the Prince of Destruction investigates, asking the bailiff ‘Is this your offender?’ and he answers, ‘He is not.’ 

When he is banished from his place and planted elsewhere, it is said about him: And his place will no longer know him (Psalms 103:16), for different earth shall be taken and the house plastered (Leviticus 14:42). And this is the secret of he shall raze the house, its stones, and its timbers (Leviticus 14:45)—those bones, sinews, and flesh that he had returned to the dust. What is written about it? And עָפָר (afar), dust, shall be the serpent’s food (Isaiah 65:25)—since he was afflicted. Later: And different עָפָר (afar), earth, shall be taken and the house plastered—to build for himself bones and sinews, as an old house is renovated, he is certainly renewed.

What about And his place will no longer know him? This is [his] spirit, for his little spirit is engulfed in supernal spirit. This is similar to a tree that is not producing fruit. They take his branches and graft onto a superior tree which produces fruit, combining both with each other. Of this time it is said, And his place will no longer know him.

And so it is with a man who lives in a city where bad people dwell, and he is unable to keep the decrees of Torah and is not successful in Torah. He should change his place of residence and move from there, and settle somewhere with good people, Masters of Torah, who keep the decrees [cf. M Avot 6:9]. This is because Torah is called a Tree, as is written: A tree of life is she to those who grasp her (Proverbs 3:18). Man, too, is a tree, as is written: Like the tree of the field is a human (Deuteronomy 20:19) [cf. Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 21; Zohar 2:60b; 3:202a–b], and the decrees of Torah are like fruits. And what is written about it? Only a tree that you know is not a tree for eating, it you may destroy and cut down (Deuteronomy 20:20), that is to say, you shall destroy it from this world and cut it down from the next world. This is why he must uproot from the place and plant elsewhere, among righteous people.

As the childless man is called עָקָר (aqar), ‘barren,’ and his wife ‘barren,’ so too Torah without decrees is barren. On this we have learned: ‘Not learning but doing is the עִקַּר (iqqar), main thing’ (M Avot 1:17). The Companions came and prostrated themselves in front of him and said: We have certainly learned something new here—how one רוּחַ (ruaḥ), spirit, can be incorporated in another. We are as one who perceives with his own eyes and it is revealed to him. Originally we had only a tradition but now it has been elucidated” (Zohar 3:217b, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).