The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: צוּץ

Under the Wings of Shekhinah: The Convert is Loved more than all who Stood at Mount Sinai

“If a convert comes to convert, one should extend a hand to him to bring him under the wings of Shekhinah” (Vayiqra Rabbah 2:9).

“Our Rabbis taught: If at the present time a man comes to be converted, he is to be told: ‘What have you seen that you came to become a convert; do you not know that Israel at the present time are persecuted and oppressed, despised, harassed and overcome by afflictions?’ If he replies, ‘I know and yet I am unworthy,’ he is accepted immediately, and is given instruction in some of the minor and some of the major mitsvot. He is informed of the crime [of the neglect of the mitsvot of] Gleanings, the Forgotten Sheaf, the Corner and the Poor Man’s Tithe. He is also told of the punishment for the transgression of the mitsvot.

Furthermore, he is told: ‘You must know that before you came to this condition, if you had eaten forbidden fat you would not have been punishable with being cut off, if you had profaned the Sabbath you would not have been punishable with stoning; but now were you to eat forbidden fat you would be punished with being cut off; were you to profane the Sabbath you would be punished with stoning.’ And as he is informed of the punishment for the transgression of the mitsvot, so is he informed of the reward granted for their fulfilment. He is told, ‘You must know that the world to come was made only for the righteous, and that Israel at the present time are unable to bear either too much prosperity, or too much suffering.’ He is not, however, to be persuaded or dissuaded too much [lit., and they do not overwhelm him nor are they too exacting].

If he accepts, he is circumcised immediately. Should any shreds [round the corona] which render the circumcision invalid remain, he is to be circumcised a second time. As soon as he is healed arrangements are made for his immediate immersion [in a ritual bath], when two learned men must stand by his side and acquaint him with some of the minor mitsvot and with some of the major ones. When he comes up after his immersion he is deemed to be an Israelite in all respects.

In the case of a woman convert, women make her sit in the water up to her neck, while two learned men stand outside and give her instruction in some of the minor mitsvot and some of the major ones” (BT Yevamot 47a).

“Why should [Abraham] not have circumcised himself at the age of forty-eight, when he recognised his Creator? So as not to shut the door in the face of converts. Then why not be circumcised at the age of eighty-five, when He spoke with him between the parts? [see Genesis 15:9–10]. In order that Isaac might issue from a holy source. Then let him be circumcised at the age of eighty-six, when Ishmael was born? Rabbi Shim’on son of Laqish said: ‘I will set up a cinnamon tree in the world: just as the cinnamon tree yields fruit as long as you manure and tend around it, so [shall Abraham be] even when his blood runs sluggishly and his passions and desires have ceased’ [i.e., the blessed Holy One promised to renew Abraham’s virility, precisely, by means of circumcision]” (Bereshit Rabbah 46:2).

“‘O gentle Hillel, blessings rest on your head for bringing me under the wings of Shekhinah!” (BT Shabbat 31a).

“Teach us Rabbi: If a convert converts on the eve of Passover, when is he allowed to eat his paschal lamb? So did our Rabbis teach: House of Shammai says: Let him immerse [in a ritual bath] and eat his paschal lamb in the evening. But House of Hillel says: He who separates from his foreskin is considered as if he departed from the grave [i.e., he has only to wash his hands like one who returns from the cemetery, and then he may partake straight away, cf. BT Pesaḥim 92a; Mekhilta de-Rabbi Shim’on bar Yoḥai, 12:48].

Rabbi Shim’on son of Laqish said to them: The convert is loved more than all who stood at Mount Sinai. Why? For had they not seen the thunder, the flames, the lightning, the mountain quaking, and the sound of the ram horns, they would not have accepted the Kingdom of Heaven upon themselves. Yet, this one who has not seen any of these, makes himself perfect [with circumcision], comes before the blessed Holy One and accepts upon himself the Kingdom of Heaven. Is there greater love than this?

It happened that Onqelos the Convert asked an elder, ‘How is a convert loved before the blessed Holy One? For all that is written of His love is and loving the sojourner to give him bread and cloak (Deuteronomy 10:18).’ He answered, ‘Our father Jacob sought only this from the blessed Holy One: and give me bread to eat and clothing to wear (Genesis 28:20). And our Rabbis said: The convert is loved because the blessed Holy One recorded his honor through the prophet, as is written, [O hope of Israel, its rescue in time of trouble,] why should you be as a sojourner in the land, [and as a wayfaring man that turns aside to tarry for a night?] (Jeremiah 14:8). The blessed Holy One said ‘I love the convert, but wicked ones have come to challenge Abraham, the father of all converts. אוֹי (oy), Woe, unto them, for they are doomed to fall before him, as is written, וַּי יָהּ (vai Yah)woe is Yah, in the days of Amraphel (Genesis 14:1) [reading וַּי יָהּ (vai Yah)woe is Yah, instead of וַיְהִי (va-yehi), and it happened, see Rabbi Enoch Zundel ben Yosef, Ets Yosef]. Who was this [wicked one]? Nimrod. Why was he called אַמְרָפֶל (amrafel), Amraphel? For he אָמַר (amar), said, to Abraham ‘פֹּל (pol), descend, into the fiery furnace!’” (TanḥumaLekh Lekha 6).

And the inhabitants of Gibeon had heard what Joshua did to Jericho and to Ai. And they on their part acted with cunning and provisioned themselves…. And they went to Joshua at the Gilgal camp and said to him and to the men of Israel, ‘We have come from a far-away land, and now seal a pact with us.’ … And the men took from their provisions, and they did not inquire of YHWH (Joshua 9:3–4, 6, 14).

“Do not think that the blessed Holy One only draws near גֵרֵי הַצֶּדֶק (gerei ha-tsedeq), converts of righteousness, who converted for the sake of Heaven. For even in the case of those who were converted with no intention of honoring the Name of Heaven we find that the blessed Holy One exacted punishment for an offence against them, as is written, And there was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year. [And David sought out the presence of YHWH. And YHWH said, ‘On account of Saul and on account of the house of blood guilt, because he put the Gibeonites to death.’ … and the Gibeonites were not of Israelite stock but from the remnant of the Amorites, and the Israelites had vowed to them, but Saul sought to strike them down in his zeal for the Israelites and for Judah] (2 Samuel 21:1) [cf. Joshua 9]. What is year after year? It teaches that they were three consecutive years. When David saw that famine began to make its appearance in his days, he said to himself: ‘Rain does not descend on account of the transgression of five things: For the transgression of those who serve idols, of those who practise immorality, of those who shed blood, of those who publicly subscribe to charity and do not pay, and for the transgression of those who do not give their tithes in accordance with the regulations.’ …

David thought: ‘Has then the blessed Holy One dealt [harshly] with His people because of these converts?’ The blessed Holy One said to him: ‘If you estrange those that are distant, you will ultimately estrange also those that are near. Go, learn a lesson from Joshua, your master.’ For when the Gibeonites said Come up quickly to us and rescue us and help us (Joshua 10:6), Joshua thought at first: ‘Shall we put the Assembly [of Israel] to trouble for the sake of these converts?’ And the blessed Holy One said to him, ‘Joshua, if you estrange those that are distant you will ultimately estrange also those who are near. Go, mark the plant from which you yourself have sprung! Is it not from converts? As is written, And to Joseph were born in the land of Egypt, whom Asenath daughter of Potiphera priest of On bore to him, Manasseh and Ephraim (Genesis 46:20), and as is written, of the tribe of Ephraim, Hosea, son of Nun (Numbers 13:8)? Immediately, The king [David] called to the Gibeonites and said to them—now the Gibeonites… (2 Samuel 21:2). Regarding the next words, now the Gibeonites were not of Israelite stock (ibid.): what connection has one thing with the other? Because David called the Gibeonites and said to them what he did [‘What shall I do for you and how shall I atone, that you may bless YHWH’s heritage?’ (ibid., 3)], and they refused to accept his words [saying, let seven men of (Saul’s) sons be given to us, that we may impale them before YHWH], therefore, the Gibeonites were not of Israelite stock, and David rose and removed them so that they might not enter the Assembly. Of this we have learned that Nethinim are forbidden to enter the Assembly [cf. Ezra 8:20: Also of the Nethinim, whom David and the princes had appointed for the service of the Levites, two hundred and twenty Nethinim: all of them were registered by name]. On that occasion David said: The blessed Holy One presented Israel with three gifts, making them compassionate, bashful, and generous [see BT Yevamot 79a; cf. BT Pesaḥim 113b]” (Bemidbar Rabbah 8:4).

“Whoever maintains this holy mark [of circumcision] is linked with those two sublime rungs [Yesod and Shekhinah], protecting him completely, crowing him with supernal glory…. Rabbi El’azar said, ‘But we have learned: A convert who has been circumcised and enters beneath the wings of Shekhinah is called גֵּר צֶדֶק (ger tsedeq), convert of righteousness, and nothing more. A convert of righteousness, surely—worthy of entering that crown of Righteousness [Malkhut, but no higher]. Yet you say that he attains both of them!’

Rabbi Shim’on replied, ‘El’azar, my son, there is no comparison between one who comes from a holy root, from a stock of truth, and one who comes from evil filth, from a root of foul, fierce loathsomeness. Of Israel is written I planted you as a noble vine, of entirely faithful seed (Jeremiah 2:21). Of the nations of the world is written whose flesh is the flesh of donkeys and whose emission is the emission of stallions (Ezekiel 23:20). Thus, holy Israel—faithful seed, stock that became fragrantly firm at Mount Sinai, where filth ceased—all turn fragrant, all enter the holy covenant of day and night, becoming totally complete. But as for nations of the world, it is difficult to remove filth from them, even up to three generations. Therefore we have learned: ‘The best among the Gentiles…’ (Mekhilta, Beshallaḥ 1). So a convert of righteousness, surely!” (Zohar 3:14a–b).

“It was taught: Rabbi Ḥananya son of Rabbi Shim’on son of Gamaliel said: Why are converts at the present time oppressed and visited with afflictions? Because they did not keep the seven commandments of the sons of Noah [see BT Sanhedrin 56a].

Rabbi Yose said: One who has become a convert is like a child newly born. Why then are converts oppressed? Because they are not so well acquainted with the details of the mitsvot as the Israelites.

Abba Ḥanan said in the name of Rabbi El’azar: Because they do not do it out of love but out of fear. Others said: Because they delayed before entering under the wings of  Shekhinah. Rabbi Abbahu said, or some say Rabbi Ḥanina: What is the proof-text? May YHWH requite your actions and may your reward be complete from YHWH God of Israel under whose wings you have come to shelter (Ruth 2:12)” (BT Yevamot 48a–b).

“Our Rabbis taught: He who mistreats a convert transgresses three prohibitions, and he who oppresses him transgresses two. How does mistreating differ? Because three prohibitions are written: You shall not cheat a sojourner (Exodus 22:20); and should a sojourner sojourn with you in your land, you shall not wrong him (Leviticus 19:33); and you shall not defraud each other (ibid. 25:17), a convert is included in each other. Three are written for one who oppresses as well: And you shall not oppress him (Exodus 22:20); no sojourner shall you oppress [for you know the sojourner’s heart, since you were sojourners in the land of Egypt] (ibid. 23:9); [If you should lend money to My people, to the pauper among you,you shall not be to him like a creditor, [you shall not impose interest on him] (ibid. 22:24), which includes a convert!—but [say] both [are forbidden] by three [prohibitions].

It has been taught: Rabbi Eli’ezer the Great said: Why did Torah warn against [the wronging of] a convert in thirty-six, or as others say, in forty-six, places? Because the convert turns to evil [cf. Rashi on BT Horayot 13a]. What is that which is written, You shall not cheat a sojourner and you shall not oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt (Exodus 22:20). It has been taught: Rabbi Natan said: A blemish which is in you, do not say to your fellow. And thus people say: He who has a hanging in his family does not say to another, ‘Hang this fish up for me’” (BT Bava Metsi’a 59b).

 

Threads of the Mind: Any Time that You Make Your Way Through them Peace will be Upon You

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Yah YHWH of Armies, God of Israel, Living God, El Shaddai. Lofty and high One, who dwells forever and holy His Name (Isaiah 57:15) engraved thirty-two wondrous paths with wisdom. He created His world with three סֶפָרִים (sefarim), ciphers: בְסֶפֶר וּסְפָר וְסִפֻּר (ve-sefer u-sefar we-sipur), with a scroll, and a count, and a recounting” (Sefer Yetsirah §1).

“What are these thirty-two [wondrous paths of wisdom]?… A parable: To what can the matter be compared? A king ‘[residing] within the innermost chambers’ (BT Berakhot 10a), thirty-two in all. Now, each of the chambers has a path. Is it fitting for this king that everyone enter his chambers by way of his paths? You would say: No. Is it fitting for him not to display his pearls, his hidden treasures, his precious objects, and his filigree? You would say: No. What then does he do? He must touch the daughter, and include all the paths in her and in her garments. Whoever wishes to enter, let him look here” (Bahir §63).

“What is the reason that we [tie] blue wool in the tsitsit? And what is the reason there are thirty-two threads? A parable: To what can the matter be compared? A king had a lovely garden with thirty-two paths. He placed a guard over them and made those paths known to him alone, saying to him, ‘Guard them and go on them each day, and any time that you make your way through them peace [will be upon] you.What did the guard do? He said, ‘If I am alone on these paths is it possible for one guard to maintain [all of] these paths? And what’s more, the world will say, “כִּי לוֹ (Ki lo), since [these paths are] his, he [must be] king of this [garden], and he guards this [garden] [alt., And what’s more, the world will say this king is כִּילַי (kilai), a churl, and he guards this (garden)].”’ Therefore, this guard put other guards over the paths—thirty-two paths.

And what is the reason for the blue? The guard said, ‘Perhaps these [other] guards will say the garden belongs to me.’ He gave them a sign and said to them, ‘See, this is the king’s sign, that this garden belongs to him. And these are the paths he maintains, they are not mine [see Heikhalot Rabbati §§244–45]. And, look: His seal.’ A parable: To what can the matter be compared? A king and his daughter had servants. They sought to go to a faraway land [but] they were terrified by the king’s dread (Proverbs 20:2). The king gave them his sign [of goodwill]. They were terrified of the daughter and she gave them a sign. She said, ‘From now on, with these two signs YHWH guards you from all harm, He guards your life (Psalms 121:7)’” (Bahir §§92–93).

“What is the earth from which the heavens were hewn? The Throne of the blessed Holy One. It is the אֶבֶן יְקָרָה (even yeqarah), precious Stone, and the sea of Wisdom, corresponding to the blue in the tsitsit. Rabbi Me’ir thus said: Why is blue chosen above all other colours? [‘Whoever fulfills the mitsvah of tsitsit is as though he greeted the face of Shekhinah,] for the blue resembles the sea, and the sea resembles the vault of the heavens, and the vault of the heavens resembles the Throne of Glory’ (Sifrei, Numbers 115) [cf. BT Menaḥot 43b: ‘(Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai taught:) Whoever is diligent with this mitsvah merits receiving the face of Shekhinah’]. Therefore it is written And they saw the God of Israel, and beneath His feet was like a fashioning of סַפִּיר (sappir), [blue] sapphire, pavement and like the very heavens for pureness (Exodus 24:10). It is furthermore written [And above the firmament that was over their heads was] the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of אֶבֶן סַפִּיר (even sappir), a [blue] sapphire stone: [and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it] (Ezekiel 1:26)” (Bahir §96).

Ḥokhmah—expanding in thirty-two directions and issuing from the Concealed Brain, from the radiance within. That which the Holy Ancient One shines into Ḥokhmah is the beginning of what is revealed. It becomes three heads, with one head encompassing them. These three expand in Ze’eir Anpin, and from these all shine” (Zohar 3:289b, Idra Zuta).

“חוּטֵי הַשֵּׂכֶל (Ḥutei ha-sekhel), threads of the mind [i.e., tsitsit], spread from the blessed Holy One, each one emanating to watch over Israel” (Berit Menuḥa: Sixth Way, Way of the Intellect, cf. BT Menaḥot 43b).

“And what [purpose does] ן (nun) [in אֹזֶן (ozen), ear, serve]? To teach you that the brain is the root of the חוּט הַשִׁדרָה (ḥut ha-shidrah), spinal cord, and from there it drinks תָּמִיד (tamid), perpetually (Exodus 27:20; Leviticus 24:2). If not for the spinal cord, the brain would not exist, for the entire trunk is for the sake of the brain, and if the entire trunk were not to exist, the brain would not exist. The spinal cord is the channel from the brain to the entire body, and this is the bent נ (nun). But this ן (nun) [in אֹזֶן (ozen), ear] is long. The long nun always comes at the end of a word to teach you that the long nun comprises the bent and the long, but the bent is the foundation. This teaches you that the long nun comprises male and female” (Bahir §83).

“[Of the ten sefirot] seventh is east of the world, whence comes the seed of Israel. For the spinal cord draws from the brain of man and reaches to the ‘middle finger’ whence comes seed [i.e., the phallus], as is written, From מִזְרָח (mizraḥ), the east, I will bring זַרְעֶךָ (zarekha)your seed (Isaiah 43:5) [cf. Bahir §73, §155, §159; BT Bava Batra 25a: ‘Rabbi Abbahu said, Shekhinah (receives) in the west’]. When Israel is good before the Omnipresent: I will bring your seed and you will have new seed. But when Israel is bad, the seed is from that which has already come into the world, as is written: A generation goes and a generation comes (Ecclesiastes 1:4)—teaching it has already come” (Bahir §155).

Wisdoms cry aloud outside, in the squares she lifts her voice (Proverbs 1:20)? This verse is difficult: first it is written Wisdoms cry aloud outside, and then, in the squares she lifts her voice—its beginning does not match the end, nor its end the beginning! However, Wisdoms cry out in the the streets—when it flows from the concealed brain of Arikh Anpin to the brain of Ze’eir Anpin through those strands, it is as if two brains join outside, becoming one brain. And when there is flow from one to the other, it is written she lifts her voice—in the singular.

Because of the flow from brain to brain through those strands, they are not coarse. Why? Because if they were coarse, nothing could flow through them to the brain. Thus, no wisdom emerges from a person who is coarse and angry, as is written: Words of the wise said gently are heard (Ecclesiastes 9:17). From here we learn that if the hair on a person’s head is coarse, wisdom does not settle within him [see BT Pesaḥim 66b: ‘Regarding any person who becomes angry, if he is a sage, his wisdom departs from him; if he is a prophet, his prophecy departs from him’].

Consequently, they are long, to bring benefit to all. What is meant by ‘all’? To enter חוּטָא דְּשִׁדְרָה (ḥuta de-shidrah), the spinal cord, which drinks from the brain. Therefore the hair of the head does not overhang the hair of the beard; for the hair of the head hangs and rises over the ears, behind, not overhanging the beard, because one must not mingle with the other, since each branches out on its own path” (Zohar 3:131b, Idra Rabba).