The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: צֶדֶק

Mother of Pearl and Black Marble: He Took a Thousandth of Her Radiance and from Her Built a Lovely Precious Stone

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“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 Neḥunia son of ha-Qannah said: One verse says, They have not seen the light, bright though it be in the skies (Job 37:21). And another verse says, He set darkness His hiding-place (Psalms 18:12); it is also written, Cloud and dense fog around Him (ibid. 97:2). This is difficult. However, a third verse comes to hold the balance: Darkness itself will not darken for You, and the night will light up like the day, the dark and light will be one (ibid. 139:12) [cf. Bemidbar Rabbah 15:8]” (Bahir §1).

Torah is light (Proverbs 6:23).

“Rabbi Boi said: What is In remote eons I was shaped, מֵרֹאשׁ (me-rosh), from the head (Proverbs 8:23)? [As you say, בַּת רֹאשִׁי (bat roshi), ‘Daughter of My head’]. What is מֵעוֹלָם (me-olam), in remote eons? A matter necessary לְהֵעָלֵם (le-he’alem), to conceal, from all the world, as is written, The world, too, He has put in their heart, [without man’s grasping at all what it is ha-Elohim has done from beginning to end] (Ecclesiastes 3:11)—do not read הָעֹלָם (ha-olam), the world, but rather הֶעְלֵם (he’elem), concealment. Torah says, ‘I preceded [all] to be רֹאשׁ לָעוֹלָם (rosh la-olam), head of the world,’ as is said, me-olam, in remote eons, I was shaped, me-rosh, from the head. And if you say: perhaps the earth preceded her, it says, before the earth (ibid.). As is the case elsewhere: In the beginning created Elohim (Genesis 1:1)—what created [Elohim]? The needs of all, then Elohim. And what is written next? The heavens and the earth (ibid.)” (Bahir §10, cf. Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 42, 82a).

“Rabbi Berekhiah 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 in awe of 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 good—radiant בָּהִיר (bahir), brightness. 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 brilliance will be as the light (Habakkuk 3:4). The brilliance 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 in awe of 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 Berekhiah sat and expounded: Each day we speak of הַעוֹלָם הַבָּא (ha-Olam ha-Ba) but do we know what we are saying? The Targum renders this as עָלְמָא דְאָתֵי (alma de-atei), the World that Came. But what is it? This teaches that before the world was created, it arose in thought to create a great light to illuminate and a great light was created which no creature was able to wield [see Tanḥuma, Shemini, 9]. The blessed Holy One foresaw that none could bear it, He took one-seventh and gave it to them in its place and the rest He treasured away for the righteous in the time yet 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 ha-Olam ha-Ba, the World that is Coming, since it is already [always] coming from the six days of creation. Of this is written: How great Your goodness that You hid for those in awe of You (Psalms 31:20)” (Bahir §160).

“And what is Awe of YHWH (Isaiah 33:6)? It is the primordial light. Thus Rabbi [Berekhiah] 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? But this teaches that the light was so great that no creature could gaze upon it. The blessed Holy One therefore treasured it away for the righteous in the time still to come. This is the quality of all that is סְחֹרָה (seḥorah), valuable, in the world. It is also the power of the precious stones called סֹחָרֶת (soḥaret), Darkness [or: Black Marble], and דַּר (dar), Dweller [or: Mother-of-Pearl; see Esther 1:6; BT Megillah 12a ad loc. Perhaps the black marble called Darkness is the supernal sun, too blindingly bright, as it were, to gaze upon, cf. Job 10:22: You shine like darkness; Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed, 1:59; Zohar 2:188a]. And what is the quality of Soḥaret, Darkness? To teach you that the blessed Holy One took a thousandth of [Soḥaret’s, i.e., the World that is Coming’s] radiance and from Her בֹּנֶה (boneh), built [alluding to בִּינָה (Binah)] a lovely precious stone [cf. Tanuma, Pequdei 3]. In Her [namely, Dar, i.e., this world] 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 מִשָּׁם רֹעֶה (Misham ro’eh), from there the Shepherd, Israel’s Stone (Genesis 49:24)? That from There Israel’s Stone is sustained. What is מִשֶּׁם (mishem), it by name? Ah, say: צֶדֶק עֶלְיוֹן (tsedeq elyon), supernal Justice [upper ShekhinahBinah]. And what is it? The great צָפוּן (tsafun), hidden, light, called סֹחָרֶת (Soḥaret), Darkness [which סְחוֹר סְחוֹר (seḥor seḥor), surrounds, everything, cf. Zohar 3:120a], and the stone residing below is 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’]. And what are the beams mentioned in the verse [The radiance is like light.] Beams from His hand He has, [and there His might is hidden] (Habakkuk 3:4)? These are the five fingers of the right 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 feeds Israel’s Stone (Genesis 49:24)” (Bahir §91, cf. Zohar 1:231b).

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).

There is No Constellation for Israel

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“And why was Torah given [in Sivan] and not in the rest of the moons [i.e., months]? What is this matter like? A king who was arranging the festivities for his daughter’s wedding. And a man, one of the royal dignitaries, said: ‘It would be seemly for the princess, after she is seated in the palanquin, to have her ride on an elephant and so raise her among all the nobles of the kingdom.’ Another answered and said: ‘An elephant stands high, but is without splendor or beauty [alt., an elephant stands high, and so the princess will not appear impressive]. And since the princess is lovely, it would be more seemly to have her mount a horse and thus show her loveliness among all the nobles of the kingdom.’ Then a man spoke up and said: ‘An elephant stands high, and a horse is comely; but neither has a mouth to speak with, hands to clap together, nor feet to dance with. Hence it is fitting for me to extol the princess, for I have a mouth to speak with, hands to clap together, and feet to dance with; and so I would have her mount on my shoulders to display her loveliness.’ Even so the blessed Holy One, did not give the Torah in Nisan nor in Iyyar, because the מַּזַּל (mazzal), constellation, of Nisan is Aries, and the constellation of Iyyar is Taurus, and it is not fitting for them to extol and praise [the Torah]. Hence the blessed Holy One gave the Torah in Sivan, because the constellation of Sivan is תְּאוֹמִים (Te’omim), Gemini, and Twins are human, and being human have mouths to speak with, and hands to clap together, and feet to dance with….

Why did the blessed Holy One create His world in Nisan and not create it in Iyyar? Because at the time that the blessed Holy One wished to create His world He said to the prince of darkness: ‘Leave My presence, for I desire the world’s creation to begin with light,’ the prince of darkness being as black as a bull. At once the prince of darkness replied to the blessed Holy One: ‘Why do You wish to put something ahead of me in the creation? [i.e., Aries, a white lamb (Nisan) before a black bull, Taurus (Iyyar)]. The blessed Holy One said to the prince of darkness: ‘Leave My presence. If you will not leave My presence, I will rebuke you—I desire to begin creating the world with light.’ ‘And after the darkness, what will You create?’ ‘תְּאוֹמִים (Te’omim), Gemini.’ ‘And why will you create תְּאוֹמִים (te’omim), twins?’ ‘Because the human will be able to see both in daylight and in darkness—מַּזַּל תְּאוֹמִים (mazzal Te’omim), constellation of Gemini [Sivan].’ ‘And after that what will You create?’ ‘סַרְטָן (Sartan), Cancer [Tammuz]: Because like a crab man scrabbles together his possessions out of holes and cracks.’ ‘And after that what will You create?’ ‘אַרְיֵה (Aryeh), Leo [Av].’ ‘Since after man in crab-fashion scrabbles together his possessions out of holes and cracks, he then thinks he is as strong as a lion.’ ‘And after that what will You create?’ ‘בְּתוּלָה (Betulah), Virgo [Elul]. For man is meant to rejoice in a virgin [alt., to grow as plump as a virgin].’ ‘And after that what will You create?’ ‘מֹאזְנַיִם (Moznayim), Libra [Tishrei], for man’s deeds will be weighed in the balance.’ ‘And after that what will You create?’ ‘עַקְרָב (Aqrav), Scorpio [Marḥeshvan]. When a man is weighed and crimes discovered in him, he is made to go down to Hell.’ ‘And after that what will You create?’ ‘קַשָּׁת (Qashat), Sagittarius [Kislev]. Perhaps you will say that once a man is plunged into Hell, there will be no coming up for him. When mercy is besought in his behalf, however, he is shot up from Hell as an arrow from the קַשָּׁת (qashat), bow.’ ‘And after that what will You create? ‘גְּדִי (Gedi), Capricorn [Tevet]. You might think that when man comes up out of Hell, his countenance will be gloomy. The truth is that as he comes up, he will romp like a גְּדִי (gedi), kid.’ ‘And after that what will You create?’ ‘דְּלִי (Deli), Aquarius [Shevat], the pitcher from which I splash pure water on man to purify him of his sins.’ ‘And after that what will You create?’ ‘דָּגִים (Dagim), Pisces [Adar]. Because Israel are exempt from the forces that rule the world, and the [evil] eye or מַּזַּל גּוֹרֵם (mazzal gorem), planetary influence, can no more prevail over them [than it can over דָּגִים (dagim), fish, under water. Cf. BT Berakhot 20a; Bereshit Rabbah 97:2]: only the [planet of the] hour [at birth] influences [cf. Pirqei de-Rabbi-Eli’ezer, 6].’

And why did the blessed Holy One in the beginning create the sun as the only source of light?’ Because the world, all of it, was intended to be lighted by one luminary, the same by night as by day. And after the creation of the sun, [the prince of darkness asked], ‘what will You create?’ ‘כּוֹכָב (Kokhav), Mercury, and נוֹגַה (Nogah), Venus [two-in-one, i.e., a hermaphroditic planet].’ But because the blessed Holy One foresaw the generation of the flood take to whoring, He—just as soon as He foresaw that—made Mercury and Venus dwell apart from each other. Nevertheless, the generation of the flood rose up and confounded one sex with the other.

Mercury is אִישׁ (ish), man, and Venus אִשּׁה (ishah), woman [cf. BT Sotah 17a]. Now why create Mercury at all? Because Mercury—the male principal—represents our father Abraham who in wisdom gives guidance to all the world, every part of it.’

‘And after that what will You create?’ ‘The לְבָנָה (Levanah), Moon—for the children of Israel, every one of them, are destined to reflect the light of Abraham as the moon reflects the light of the sun.’ ‘And after that what will You create?’ ‘שַׁבְתַאִי (Shabbtai), Saturn—for the peoples of the world will rule over Israel.’ ‘And after that what will You create?’ ‘צֶדֶק (Tsedeq), Jupiter—for the blessed Holy One לְהַצְדִּיק (le-ha-tseddiq), will deal justly, with them. And you may mistakenly think that the peoples will be saved from the judgment. But the blessed Holy One created מַאְדִים (Ma’adim), Mars, [אָדוֹם (adom), red]—Hell into which they will fall” (Pesiqta Rabbati 20:1–2).

“[Length of] life, sons, and sustenance depend not on merit but on מַזָּל (mazzal), flux of destiny” (BT Mo’ed Qatan 28a).

“It was recorded in Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi’s notebook: He who [is born] on the first day of the week [Sunday] shall be a man without one in him—what does ‘without one in him’ mean? Shall we say, without one good quality? Surely Rabbi Ashi said: I was born on the first day of the week! So it must be, ‘Without one bad quality.’ But didn’t Rabbi Ashi say: I and Dimi son of Qaquzeta were born on the first day of the week: I am king [head of the academy] and he is a captain of thieves!—rather it means either all good or all bad. What is the reason? Because light and darkness were created on that day. He who is born on the second day of the week will be contentious—what is the reason? Because the waters were divided thereon. He who is born on the third day of the week will be wealthy and promiscuous. What is the reason? Because herbs were created that day. He who is born on the fourth day of the week will be wise and radiant [cf. Ecclesiastes 8:1: a man’s wisdom lights up his face]. What is the reason? Because the luminaries were hung [on that day]—he who is born on the fifth day of the week will render kindnesses. What is the reason? Because the fishes and birds were created that day. He who is born on the eve of the Sabbath will be a חַזְרָן (ḥazran), seeker. Rav Naḥman son of Yitsḥaq commented: חַזְרָן (ḥazran), assiduous, in mitsvot. He who is born on the Sabbath will die on the Sabbath, because the great day of the Sabbath was desecrated on his account. Rava son of Rav Shila said: But he shall be called great and holy.

Rabbi Ḥanina said to [his disciples]: Go and tell the son of Levi, it is not the מַזָּל (mazzal), constellation, of the day that is the influence but the constellation of the hour that is the influence [cf. BT Shabbat 129b: ‘The planet Mars rules at even-numbered hours of the day…’; Pirqe de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 5]. He who is born under the sun will be a radiant man: he will eat and drink of his own but his secrets will be revealed; if a thief, he will not succeed. He who is born under Venus will be a wealthy and promiscuous man. What is the reason? Because fire burns in it. He who is born under Mercury will be radiant and wise. What is the reason? Because it is the sun’s scribe. He who is born under the Moon will be a man to suffer evil, he will build and raze, raze and build, eating and drinking what is not his but his secrets will remain concealed: if a thief, he will be successful. He who is born under Saturn will be a man whose plans will be frustrated [since שַׁבְתַאִי (Shabbtai), Saturn, alludes to שׁבָּת (shabbat), cessation]. Others say: All designs against him will be frustrated. He who is born under צֶדֶק (Tsedeq), Jupiter, will be a man צִדְקָן (tsidqan), who does justly. Rav Naḥman son of Yitsḥaq observed:  צַדְקָן (tsadqan), who does righteousness, in mitsvot. He who is born under Mars will be a man who spills blood. Rabbi Ashi said: Either a surgeon, a thief, a [ritual] slaughterer, or a circumciser. Rabbah said: I was born under Mars [yet am none of these]. Abayye said: The master has also punished and killed [see BT Megillah 7b: ‘Rabbah and Rabbi Zera joined together in a Purim feast. They became drunk, and Rabbah arose and cut Rabbi Zera’s throat. On the next day he prayed on his behalf and revived him. Next year he said, Will your honor come and we will have the Purim feast together? He replied: A miracle does not take place on every occasion’].

It was stated. Rabbi Ḥanina says: The מַזָּל (mazzal), constellation, gives wisdom, the constellation gives wealth, and there is a מַזָּל (mazzal), flux of destiny, to Israel. Rabbi Yoḥanan says: There is no flux of destiny to Israel. Now, Rabbi Yoḥanan [follows] his own reasoning, [as] Rabbi Yoḥanan said: How do we know that there is no flux of destiny to Israel? Because it is said, Thus says YHWH, Learn not the way of the nations, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the nations are dismayed at them (Jeremiah 10:2)—they are dismayed but not Israel. Rav too [holds that] there is no flux of destiny to Israel. For Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav: How do we know that there is no flux of destiny to Israel? Because it is said, וַיּוֹצֵא (Va-yotse)And He took [him] outside (Genesis 15:5). Abraham said before the blessed Holy One ‘Master of the Universe! [Look, to me you have given no seed, and] a member of my household is to be my heir (ibid., 3).’ He said to him: ‘Not so, [This one will not be your heir,] but he who issues from your loins will be your heir’ (ibid., 4). He said before Him, ‘I have gazed at my horoscope, and I am not fated to engender a son.’ ‘Leave, your astrological speculations! For there is no מַזָּל (mazzal), constellation, to Israel. What do you suppose? Since צֶדֶק (Tsedeq), Jupiter, stands in the West I will turn it back and place it in the East’ [cf. Job 37:12; Zohar 1:110a; Bereshit Rabbah 44:10]. As is written, Who raised up צֶדֶק (Tsedeq), Jupiter, from the east, He has summoned it for his sake (Isaiah 41:2). From Shemu’el too [we learn] that there is no מַזָּל (mazzal), constellation, to Israel. For Shemu’el and Avlet were sitting, while certain people were going to a lake [to cut reeds]. Avlet said to Shemu’el: ‘That man is going but will not return, [for] a snake will bite him and he will die.’ Shemu’el said, ‘If he is an son of Israel he will go and return.’ While they were sitting he went and returned. [Thereupon] Avlet arose and threw off [the man’s] knapsack [of reeds], [and] found a snake in it cut up and lying in two pieces—Shemu’el said to him, ‘What did you do?’ ‘Every day we pooled our bread and ate it; but today one of us had no bread, and he was ashamed. I said to them, I will go and collect [the bread]. When I came to him, I pretended to take from him, so that he should not be ashamed.’ ‘You have done a מִצְוָה (mitsvah), commandment’ he said to him [cf. JT Orlah 1:5, 61b: ‘One who eats from his friend’s food is ashamed to look at him’]. Then Shemu’el went out and expounded: but righteousness saves from death (Proverbs 10:2); and [this does not mean] from an unnatural death, but from death itself.

From Rabbi Akiva too [we learn that] there is no מַזָּל (mazzal), flux of destiny, to Israel. For Rabbi Akiva had a daughter. Now, Chaldeans told him, ‘On the day she enters her bridal chamber a snake will bite her and she will die.’ He was very worried about this. On that day [of her marriage] she took a brooch [and] stuck it into the wall and it penetrated the eye of a snake. The following morning, when she took it out, the snake came trailing after it. ‘What did you do?’ her father asked her. She said to him ‘A poor man came to our door in the evening and everybody was busy at the banquet, and there was none to attend to him. So I took the portion which was given to me and gave it to him.’ ‘You have done a מִצְוָה (mitsvah), commandment’ he said to her. Then Rabbi Akiva went out and expounded: but righteousness saves from death: and not [merely] from an unnatural death, but from death itself. From Rav Naḥman son of Yitsḥaq too [we learn that] there is no מַזָּל (mazzal), flux of destiny, to Israel. The mother of Rav Naḥman son of Yitsḥaq was told by Chaldeans, ‘Your son will be a thief.’ [Thus] she did not let him [go] bareheaded, saying to him, ‘Cover your head so that the fear of heaven may be upon you, and pray’—now, he did not know why she spoke that to him. One day he was sitting and studying under a palm tree, the evil impulse overcame him, he climbed up and bit off a cluster with his teeth” (BT Shabbat 156a–b).

“Just as there are twelve constellations from the side of good so there are twelve constellations from the side of evil. This is what is meant by, [These are the sons of Ishmael and these are their names in their habitations and their encampments,] twelve chieftains according to their tribes (Genesis 25:16), since, [On the day of good luck, enjoy the good, and on the day of evil, see:] one against the other God has set (Ecclesiastes 7:14)” (Zohar 3:283a, Ra’aya Meheimna Ki Tetse).

Seven Crowns, Seven Firmaments, and Seven Planets: These Corresponding to those in Concealment of Words

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“Sevenths are always beloved. [With the firmaments] above, the seventh is beloved: שָׁמַיִם (shamayim), Heavens, שְׁמֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם (shemei ha-shamayim), Heavens beyond the Heavens, רָקִיעַ (raqi’a), Firmament, שְׁחָקִים (sheḥaqim), Skies, זְבוּל (zevul), Loft, מָעוֹן (ma’on), Dwelling, and עֲרָבוֹת (aravot), Clouds—and it is written, Pave the way for the Rider of Clouds, for Yah is His name (Psalms 68:5). With the earths [below] the seventh is beloved: אֶרֶץ (erets), Earth, אֲדָמָה (adamah), Ground, אַרְקָא (arqa), Earth [Aramaic], גַּיְא (gai), Valley, צִיָּה (tsiyyah), Dry Region, נְשִׁיָּה (neshiyyah), Oblivion, תֵּבֵל (tevel), Firm Land [or: World]—and it is written, And He judges תֵּבֵל (tevel), the world, in righteousness, lays down law to the peoples in truth (Psalms 9:9). With generations the seventh is beloved: Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch—and it is written, And Enoch walked with God (Genesis 5:24). With fathers the seventh is beloved: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Levi, Kohath, Amram, and Moses—and it is written, And Moses had gone up to God (Exodus 19:3). With sons the seventh is beloved, as is said, David the seventh (1 Chronicles 2:15). With kings the seventh is beloved: Saul, Ish-Bosheth, David, Solomon, Rehoboam, Abijah, and Asa—and it is written, And Asa called to YHWH [his God…] (2 Chronicles 14:10). With years the seventh is beloved, as is said, But in the seventh you shall let it go and let it lie fallow (Exodus 23:11). With שְׁמִטִּין (shemittin), years of release, the seventh is beloved, as is said, And you shall hallow the fiftieth year (Leviticus 25:10). With days the seventh is beloved, as is said, And God blessed the seventh day [and hallowed it…] (Genesis 2:3). With months the seventh is beloved, as is said, ‘In the seventh month on the first of the month [you shall have a sabbath’] (Leviticus 23:24)” (Vayiqra Rabbah 29:11).

He counts the number of stars, to all of them gives names (Psalms 147:4).

“Rabbi Yehudah said: There are two firmaments, as is said: Look, YHWH your God’s are the heavens and the heavens beyond the heavens (Deuteronomy 10:14). Resh Laqish said: [There are] seven, namely, וִילוֹן (vilon), Curtain; רָקִיעַ (raqi’a), Firmament; שְׁחָקִים (sheḥaqim), Skies; זְבֻל (zevul), Loft; מָעוֹן (ma’on), Dwelling; מָכוֹן (makhon), Site; and עֲרָבוֹת (aravot), Clouds. The one called Vilon, Curtain, serves no purpose except that it enters in the morning and goes forth in the evening and renews every day the work of creation, as is said: [He is enthroned on the rim of the earth, and its dwellers are like grasshoppers.] He spreads out the heavens like gauze and stretches them like a tent to dwell in (Isaiah 40:22).

The one called Raqi’a, Firmament, is that in which sun and moon, stars and constellations are set, ast is said: And Elohim set them in the firmament of the heavens to light up the earth (Genesis 1:17).

The one called Sheḥaqim, Skies, is that in which millstones stand and grind manna for the righteous, as is said: And He charged the skies above, and the doors of the heavens He opened, and rained on them manna to eat (Psalms 78:23–24).

The one called Zevul, Loft, is that in which [the heavenly] Jerusalem [see BT Ta’anit 5a] and the Temple and the Altar are built, and Michael, the great prince [over Israel, see Daniel 12:1; BT Yoma 77a], stands and offers up an offering there, as is said: I indeed have built You a lofty house, a firm place for Your dwelling forever (1 Kings 8:13). And whence do we derive that it is called שָׁמָיִם (shamayim), Heavens? For it is written: Look מִשָּׁמַיִם (mi-shamayim), from the heavens, and see, from Your holy and glorious זְבֻל (zevul), abode (Isaiah 63:15).

The one called Ma’on, Dwelling, is that in which there are groups of ministering angels, who utter song by night, and are silent by day for the sake of Israel’s honor, as is said: By day YHWH ordains His kindness and by night His song is with me (Psalms 42:9) [cf. BT Avodah Zarah 3b ad loc.]…. And whence do we derive that [Ma’on, Dwelling,] is called shamayim, Heavens? As is said: Look down from Your holy dwelling place, from the heavens, [and bless your people Israel…] (Deuteronomy 26:15).

The one called Makhon, Site, is that in which there are storehouses of snow and storehouses of hail [see Job 38:22], and the upper recess of harmful dew and the upper recess of rain-pellets [to strike down produce (Rashi)], the chamber of the storm and whirlwind, and the cave of vapor, and their doors are of fire, as is said: YHWH will open for you His goodly treasure (Deuteronomy 28:12). But are these to be found in the Raqi’a, Firmament? Surely, they are to be found on the earth, for it is written: Praise YHWH from the earth, sea monsters and all you deeps. Fire and hail, snow and smoke, stormwind that performs (Psalms 148:7–8). Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav: David entreated concerning them, and caused them to come down to the earth. He said before Him: Master of the Universe, Not a god desiring wickedness are You, no evil will sojourn by You (ibid. 5:5); righteous are You, O Lord, [let not] evil sojourn in Your abode. And how do we know that [Makhon, Site,] is called shamayim, Heavens? As is written: And You shall hearken in the heavens, מְכוֹן (mekhon), the firm place, of Your dwelling (1 Kings 8:39).

The one called Aravot, Clouds, in which there are righteousness, justice, charity, גִנְזֵי (ginzei), treasuries, of life, treasuries of peace, treasuries of blessings, the neshamot, souls, of the righteous, and the ruḥot, spirits, and neshamot, souls, that are to be created in the future, and the dew with which the blessed Holy One will revive the dead….

There are [also] the ofannim and the serafim, and the holy living beings, and the ministering angels, and the Throne of Glory; and the King, the Living God, lofty and holy (Isaiah 57:15), dwells over them in Aravot, Clouds, as is said: Sing to God, hymn His name. Pave the way for the Rider of Clouds, for Yah is His name (Psalms 68:5). And how do we know that [Aravot which is also means ‘plains, steppes, willows’] is called shamayim, Heavens? From ‘riding,’ which is iterated in two verses. Here it is written: Sing to… the Rider of Clouds. And elsewhere it is written: Riding through heavens as your help (Deuteronomy 33:26). And darkness and cloud and thick darkness surround Him, as is said: He set darkness His hiding-place round Him, His abode darkness of water, the clouds of the skies (Psalms 18:12). But is there any darkness before Heaven? For behold it is written: He lays bare the deep and the hidden things, knows what is in darkness, and light dwells with Him (Daniel 2:22)—this is not difficult: the one refers to inner houses [in which there is only light], the other to outer houses [hidden in darkness of cloud and dense fog, cf. Tanḥuma (Buber), Beha’alotkha 2:1; Bemidbar Rabbah 15:8].

And Rav Aḥa son of Ya’aqov said: There is still another firmament above the heads of the living beings, for it is written: And there was a likeness over the heads of the beasts—a platform like the appearance of the fearsome ice stretched over their heads above (Ezekiel 1:22). Until here, you have permission to speak; from here forward you do not have permission to speak, for so it is written in the Book of Ben Sira: What is too wondrous for you, do not expound; what is concealed from you, do not inquire. You have no business with hidden matters! [see Ben Sira 3:21–22]” (BT Ḥagigah 12b–13a).

“Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘The blessed Holy One is called שָׁמַיִם (shamayim), Heavens. And because He is called Heavens, all those firmaments included in this name number seven, and when they join as one they are called Heavens, and are called the Name of the blessed Holy One. Who are those firmaments? As we have learned: וִילוֹן (vilon), Curtain, רָקִיעַ (raqi’a), Firmament, שְׁחָקִים (sheḥaqim), Skies, זְבֻל (zevul), Loft, מָעוֹן (ma’on), Dwelling, מָכוֹן (makhon), Site, and עֲרָבוֹת (aravot), Clouds. So we have learned in the Aggadta of the House of Rav Sava.

Rabbi Yitsḥaq said, ‘These are barraitas of the House of Rav Sava, and there are many such treating all these aspects, as we have learned.’

Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘I have learned an outside barraita—that corresponding to all these seven crowns [sefirot] of the King are found seven firmaments and seven planets running back and forth. They are called by names for their names although all those thrones of firmaments and seven planets are equivalent. שַׁבְתַאִי (Shabbtai), Saturn; צֶדֶק (tsedeq), Jupiter; מַאְדִים (ma’adim), Mars; חַמָּה (ḥammah), Sun; נוֹגַה (nogah), Venus; כּוֹכָב (kokhav); Mercury, לְבָנָה (levanah), Moon. These are equivalent to those, in concealment of words, regarding those of whom is written Let them stand and save you—the astrologers, the stargazers (Isaiah 47:13). All those matters are concealed, although these are not ways of Torah.

As for us, we follow ways of Torah, as is written: He gave them names like the names his father had called them (Genesis 26:18). We follow what the blessed Holy One spoke; and we follow Him, as is written: Walk in His ways (Deuteronomy 28:9).

Rabbi Yose said, ‘Matters are simple for the Companions and well known, although concealed.’

He said to him, ‘We have learned as follows—as Rabbi Yehudah said in the name of Rabbi Ḥiyya in our presence, and as they taught from those barraitas—’In the days of King Solomon, the moon assumed fullness.’ In many places, the words of those barraitas are well known’ [cf. Zohar 1:243b; Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana 5:12; Shemot Rabbah 15:26; Berit Menuḥa, The Second Way: The Way of Love, Eight Vowel].

Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘I raise my hands in prayer to the supernal Holy One, that these matters may be revealed by me in that world as they were concealed in my heart. We do not follow the ways of those barraitas; the ways of Torah we grasp!’

It has been taught: Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘Who can you find as great in wisdom as King David and King Solomon, within this crown known in those barraitas? The moon King David called Righteousness, since it is his, as is written: Open for me the gates of righteousness (Psalms 118:19). So too, King Solomon. It is called Righteousness, and the sun—who is called My Covenant—is called Justice; and they are Thrones of Glory for the King, as is written: Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne (ibid. 89:15). Righteous One and Righteousness, similarly, are on a single rung.’

It has been taught: Seven crowns, as established, are called nine; and even in those barraitas those seven firmaments are nine.

Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘How long will the Companions read these words? Look, we follow the blessed Holy One, and we know matters; through us has been revealed what was not revealed to the ancient ones!

From here on, all these words and all these barraitas—put them aside for those who have not entered and emerged. Thereby, they will come to inquire; and when they inquire, the Companions will say, Woe to the generation from which Rabbi Shim’on has departed! But come and see: From here on, there will be no generation like this—nor Torah being revealed to the Companions’” (Zohar 3:287a–b).

“The Faithful Shepherd began by saying: It is written: ‘Though our lips were full of praise like the expansive firmament’ [Morning Service for Sabbath and Festivals]. And the firmaments are seven in number. Vilon, Curtain; Raqi’a, Firmament; Sheḥaqim, Skies, are so called because therein the millstones grind mannah for the Righteous One in the World that is Coming. And the basis for the name שְׁחָקִים (sheḥaqim), Skies, is: וְשָׁחַקְתָּ (ve-shaḥaqta), and you shall pound it, to fine powder (Exodus 30:36). And they are Netsaḥ and Hod, about which it is said: And שְׁחָקִים (sheḥaqim), skies, stream justice (Isaiah 45:8), which is the lower Shekhinah.

Curtain—for it pours in the evening, and brings out in the morning. FirmamentYesod, for in it the sun [Tif’eret] and the moon [Malkhut] give light, for they are the middle pillar and the lower Shekhinah, as is written: And אֱלֹהִים (Elohim), set them in the firmament of the heavens to light up the earth (Genesis 1:17). And the Righteous One [Yesod] is a sign (Exodus 13:16) when uniting Netsaḥ and Hod, and testimony (Psalms 60:1) when uniting Tif’eret and Malkhut.

Netsaḥ and Hod are the two halves of a body, like תְּאוֹמִים (te’omim), twins [alluding to the angels Sandalfon and Metatron, and the מַּזַּל תְּאוֹמִים (mazzal te’omim), constellation of Twins (Gemini). Cf. Exodus 31:18; Song of Songs 4:5, 5:2; BT Ḥagigah 12b], which is why they are called Sheḥaqim, Skies. The two of them together are ו ו (vav, vav) of וֶשֶׁט (veshet), esophagus, from the left side, and they are the two molar teeth from the right side [וֶשֶׁט (veshet) according to its expanded spelling contains two of the letter ו (vav)]” (Zohar 3:235b–236a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

“The King’s Daughter [Malkhut] is bound by ropes in the prison of Her exile. She is a nest to Samael among the stars and the blessed Holy One swears Though you exalt yourself as the eagle, and though you set your nest among the stars, from there will I bring you down, says YHWH (Obadiah 1:4). And Shekhinah is נוֹגַה (nogah), Venus: The fire had נוֹגַה (nogah), a radiance (Ezekiel 1:13). Hence the בֵּית כְּנֶסֶת (beit kenesset), House of Assembly, is called אֵשׁנוֹגַה (eshnogah), radiant fire [i.e., ‘synagogue,’ in a foreign tongue].

The fire of מַאְדִים (ma’adim), Mars, derives from אוֹדֶם (odem), redness: A row of אוֹדֶם (odem), ruby, topaz, and malachite, the first row (Exodus 28:17). נוֹגַה (Nogah), Venus, is a white fire, and both are the face of the sun [Tif’eret], and the face of the moon [Malkhut]. Netsaḥ and Hod receive the whiteness from Ḥesed and the אוֹדֶם (odem), redness, from Gevurah; Aaron and David came from there; one received Compassion and the other received Judgment. David came from the left side: and he was ruddy (1 Samuel 16:12). Aaron is a man of Ḥesed, and the two true prophets [Netsaḥ and Hod] are from them. The face of Moses shines with prophecy from Binah [see Zohar 3:247b], which is the supernal חַמָּה (ḥammah), Sun, whence his prophecy came.

In them are Esau the wicked, [who is the] the servant אֱדוֹם (edom), Edom, and his female מַאְדִים (ma’adim), Mars, which is שְׁפִיכוּת דָּמִים (shefikhut damim), bloodshed, in Israel. She caused it to be fulfilled in the MatronitaHe has made me desolate and faint all the day (Lamentations 1:13). הוֹד (Hod), turned דָּוָה (davah), faint [הוֹד (Hod), read backwards is דָּוָה (davah), faint], and they [שֹׁמֵמָה (shomemah), desolate, and דָּוָה (davah), faint] correspond to Netsaḥ and Hod. Jachin and Boaz on both of which the House is supported, since a house of assembly is named after them אֵשׁנוֹגַה (eshnogah), bright fire, as we said” (Zohar 3:282b, Raaya Meheimna Ki Tetse).

Above the Stars

IMG_0978“And those who do not know the mystery [of cycling souls] say: ‘Sons, life and sustenance do not depend on merit but מַזָּלא (mazzala), the flux of destiny’ (BT Mo’ed Qatan 28a). Take the case of Abram, who saw that he was not destined to have a son, and the blessed Holy One took him outside, as is written: And He took him outside and He said, ‘Look… (Genesis 15:5). And it has been taught that He said to him: ‘Leave your astrology!’ (Bereshit Rabbah 44:12) [cf. BT Shabbat 156b]. And He took him above the stars and said to him: Look up to the heavens and count the stars, if you can count them (Genesis 15:5). So much for the words of the Rabbis, for they must be interpreted in the way of the hidden!

Come and see: All creatures in the world, before the Torah was given to Israel, were dependent on מַזָּלא (mazzala), destiny, even ‘sons, life and sustenance.’ But after the Torah was given to Israel, He removed Israel from the influence of the stars and constellations [Thus says YHWH, ‘Learn not the way of the nations, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the nations are dismayed at them’ (Jeremiah 10:2)]. This we have learned from Abraham, since his children were destined to receive from אַבְרָהָם (Avraham), Abraham: ה (he)—ה״ (five) books of Torah, as is said: ‘These are the generations of heaven and earth בְּהִבָּרְאָם (be-hibbare’am), when they were created (Genesis 2:4). Do not read בְּהִבָּרְאָם (be-hibbare’am), when they were created, but rather בְּה״ בְּרָאָם (be-he bera’am), with ה (heHe created them(BT Menaḥot 29b) [cf. ZḤ 2d. On the especially small ה (he) of Genesis 2:4, see Bereshit Rabbah 12:9; Zohar 1:91b, 93a, 105b, 128b, 154b, 230b; 3:117a]. He said to Abraham ‘Because of that ה (he) which was added to your name, the heavens below you and all the stars and constellations that shine in ה (he) [Shekhinah] will be subservient to your will.’

Moreover, it is written: הֵא (he), look… here is seed for you, and sow the land (Genesis 47:23)—with ה (he). That is, For through Isaac shall your seed be acclaimed (Genesis 21:12). For this reason, everyone who engages in Torah is released from the influence of the stars and constellations. By learning Torah with the intention of keeping her commandments. If not, then he is as one who does not engage in Torah, and the stars and constellations do hold sway over him. Even more so the common people, who are likened to animals, about which it has been taught, Cursed be he who lies with any beast (Deuteronomy 27:21). The jurisdiction of the stars and constellations over them is certainly not annulled [cf. Maimonides’ teaching that divine providence delivers one from ‘the sea of chance’ Guide of the Perplexed 3:51]” (Zohar 3:215b–17a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

“Surely Jacob cleaved to truth. If so, then why did he act this way with Laban [using stratagems to increase the number of dark-colored sheep and white-spotted goats, see Genesis 30:32–43]? Because Jacob was examining the hour of his מַזָּלא (mazzala), zodiacal constellation, for one is permitted to examine his hour before returning to his country. If his constellation rises in accord with his undertaking, fine; if not, he should not take a step until it ascends favorably” (Zohar 1:161a).

“Why are the nations lustful? Because they did not stand at Mount Sinai. For when the serpent came upon Eve he injected filth into her: [as for] the Israelites who stood at Mount Sinai, their lustfulness departed; the nations, who did not stand at Mount Sinai, their lustfulness did not depart. Rabbi Aha son of Rabbah asked Rabbi Ashi. What about converts? Though they were not present, their guiding stars were present, as is written, [Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oathbut with him that stands here with us this day before YHWH our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day (Deuteronomy 29:15). Now he differs from Rabbi Abba son of Qahana, for Rabbi Abba son of Qahana said: Until three generations the filth did not disappear from our patriarchs: Abraham begat Ishmael, Isaac begat Esau, [but] Jacob begat the twelve tribes in whom there was no taint whatsoever” (BT Shabbat 145b–146a, cf. Yevamot 103b; Avodah Zarah 22b).