The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: צַמְצֵם

When Love was Strong We could have Made Our Bed on the Blade of a Sword

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And they shall make an ark of acacia wood (Exodus 25:10). Thus it is written, Shaddai, whom we find not, is lofty in power (Job 37:23). Our great teacher [Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nasi] said: We are indebted to Job, because he added to everything Elihu said. Job said to his companions: ‘Do you imagine that even all you have said exhausts His praise? Who can declare all the praises and mighty deeds of the blessed Holy One? All the things you have said, Why, these are but the least of His ways [the tag-end of the word that is heard of Him] (ibid. 26:14).

Elihu said: Shaddai, whom we find not lofty in power. He that hears this verse may say: ‘Perhaps, perish the thought, this is blasphemy!’ But this is what Elihu meant: We will never find the blessed Holy One’s power [fully] displayed towards any of His creatures, for He does not visit His creatures with burdensome laws, but comes to each one according to his strength. For know that if blessed Holy One had come upon Israel with the full force of His strength when He gave them the Torah, they would not have been able to withstand it, as it says, If we hear again the voice of YHWH our God, we shall die (Deuteronomy 5:22). However, He came upon them according to their individual strength, for it says, YHWH’s voice in power (Psalms 29:4). It does not say בְּכֹחוֹ (be-khoḥo), in His power, but בַּכֹּחַ (ba-koaḥ), in power, that is, according to the strength of each individual [cf. Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana 12:25].

Another interpretation: Shaddai, whom we find not, is lofty in power—when the blessed Holy One said to Moses, Make Me a Tabernacle, [that I may abide in their midst] (Exodus 25:8), he said in amazement, ‘The Glory of the blessed Holy One fills the heavens and earth, and yet He commands Make Me a Tabernacle! Moreover, he foresaw that Solomon would one day build a Temple, much larger than the Tabernacle, and yet would say before the blessed Holy One: But can אֱלֹהִים (Elohimreally dwell on earth? Look, the heavens and the heavens beyond the heavens cannot contain You. How much less this house that I have built (1 Kings 8:27).

If Solomon said this of the Temple which was so much greater than the Tabernacle, then how much more could this be said of the Tabernacle? For this reason Moses said: He who dwells in the Most High’s shelter (Psalms 91:1), which Rabbi Yehudah son of Rabbi Shim’on expounded: He who dwells in the shelter is Most High above all His creatures. Now what is בְּצֵל (be-tsel), in the shadow of, Shaddai (ibid.)? בְּצַלְ אֵל (Be-tsal El), in the shadow of God. It does not say In the shadow of the Compassionate, or In the shadow of the Gracious, but In the shadow of Shaddai; in the shadow which בְּצַלְאֵל (Betsalel), Bezalel, constructed. And for this reason it says, In the shadow of Shaddai lies at night. The blessed Holy One said, ‘Not as you think do I think: twenty boards on the north, twenty on the south and eight in the west [is enough for Me]. Moreover, I will descend וַאֲצַמְצֵם (va-atsamtsem), and contract, My Shekhinah within one square cubit [cf. BT Berakhot 8a: ‘Rabbi Ḥiyya son of Ammi in the name of ‘Ulla: Since the day that the Temple was destroyed, the blessed Holy One has nothing in this world but the four cubits of Halakhah alone’]’” (Shemot Rabbah 34:1).

“When love was strong, we could have made our bed on the blade of a sword. Now that our love has grown weak, a bed of sixty [cubits] is not large enough for us. Rav Huna said: This is alluded to in the verses: At first [when Israel was loyal] it is said: And I shall meet with you there and speak with you, from above the covering [between the two cherubim that are on top of the Ark of the Covenant] (Exodus 25:22); and it is taught: The Ark measured nine handspans high and the cover one handspan, i.e., ten in all. Again it is written: And the house that King Solomon built was sixty cubits in length and twenty in width and thirty cubits in height (1 Kings 6:2). But in the end it is written: Thus said YHWH: The heavens are My throne and the earth is My footstool. What house would you build for Me [and what place for My resting, when all these My hand has made and Mine all these are?—said YHWH—But to this do I look, to the poor man and to the broken of spirit who trembles at My word] (Isaiah 66:1)” (BT Sanhedrin 7a).

Close is YHWH to all who call Him, to all who call to Him in truth (Psalms 145:18).

“Rabbi Pinḥas said in the name of Rabbi Yehudah son of Shim’on, ‘An idol appears to be near, but is actually far… the blessed Holy One appears to be far yet nothing is closer than He… like a person who speaks into his fellow’s ear and he hears him. And is it possible that a god could be closer to his creatures than this? For He is so close to His creatures it is as if they speak directly into His ear” (JT Berakhot 9:1, 13b).

“An idol is near but far. The blessed Holy One is far but near” (Devarim Rabbah 2:6).

From afar YHWH appeared to me: With everlasting love do I love you, therefore did I draw you in kindness (Jeremiah 31:2).

“Rabbi Shim’on son of Azzai said: The Glory of which is written, The heavens and earth do not I מָלֵא (male), fill? (Jeremiah 23:24)—see how love for Israel caused the Glory to דָחָק (daḥaq), compress, in order to appear over the cover [of the Ark of the Covenant] between the two cherubim!” (Sifra, Nedavah 2, cf. Tanḥuma, Vayakhel, 7).

I am אֵל שַׁדַּי (El Shaddai). Walk in My presence and be blameless, and I will grant My covenant between Me and you (Genesis 17:1).

“Rabbi Yehudah raised a contradiction: [And the cherubim sheltered the Ark and its poles from above. And the poles extended, andthe ends of the poles could be seen [from the Holy Place in front of the sanctuary] (1 Kings 8:8), and it is written but they could not be seen from without (ibid.)—how is that possible? They were seen and not seen. Therefore it was also taught: ‘The ends of the poles could be seen—one might have assumed that they did not protrude from their place, thus it says: And the poles extended. One might assume that they tore the פָּרוֹכֶת (parokhet), curtain, and emerged, thus it says: but they could not be seen from without. How then? They pressed forth and protruded as the two breasts of a woman, as is said: A sachet of myrrh is my lover to me, all night between שָׁדַי (shaddai), my breasts (Song of Songs 1:13)’” (BT Yoma 54a).

“[A certain Samaritan] said to [Rabbi Me’ir]: Is it possible that He of whom is written, The heavens and earth do not I fill? (Jeremiah 23:24) spoke to Moses from between the two poles of the Ark? He said to him: Bring me large mirrors. When he brought them he said to him, ‘Look at your reflection,’ and he saw it large. ‘Bring me a small mirror.’ He brought it. ‘Look at your reflection in it.’ He saw it small. He said to him: If you, who are but flesh and blood, can change yourself at will, how much more so He at whose word the world came into existence! Thus when He so wishes, The heavens and earth do not I fill? While when He wishes, He speaks to Moses from between the poles of the Ark. Rabbi Ḥanina son of Isei said: At times the world and its fullness cannot contain His glory, yet at times He speaks to man from between the hairs of his head, as is written, And YHWH answered Job from הַסְּעָרָה (ha-sea’arah), the whirlwind (Job 38:1)—from between שַׂעֲרוֹת (sa’arot), the hairs, of his head” (Bereshit Rabbah 4:4).

A sachet of myrrh is my lover to me (Song of Songs 1:13)—of all the spices, none is sweeter than this myrrh. Similarly, the blessed Holy One is the most fitting thing in the world. And why does he compare the blessed Holy One to a sachet? Because it is written of Him: [If a man should hide in secret places, would I not see him? said YHWH.] The heavens and earth do not I fill? (Jeremiah 23:24). But צַמְצֵם (tsamtsem), He contracts, His Shekhinah between the poles of the Ark, as it says, all night between my breasts (Song of Songs, ibid.)” (Midrash Shir ha-Shirim 15b [Grünhut]).

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).