The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: רָשָׁע

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Innocent Who Suffer, the Guilty Who Prosper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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