The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: שַׁדָּי

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]).

Like a Weaned Babe

original“Rabbi Yoḥanan said in the name of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai: What is the meaning of the verse, She opens her mouth in wisdom, teaching of kindness is on her tongue (Proverbs 31:26). To whom was Solomon alluding in this verse? He was alluding only to his father David who dwelt in five worlds and composed a psalm [for each of them]. He dwelt in his mother’s womb, and broke into song, as it says, Bless, O my being, YHWH, and everything in me, His holy name (Psalms 103:1). He emerged into the atmosphere of the world and looked upon the stars and constellations and broke into song, as it says, Bless YHWH, O His messengers, valiant in power, performing His word, to heed the sound of His word. Bless YHWH, all His armies… (Psalms 103:20–21). יֹנֵק מִשְּׁדֵי אִמּוֹ (Yoneq mi-shedei immo), he sucked from his mother’s breast, and looked on her bosom and broke into song, as it says, Bless, O my being, YHWH, and do not forget all His generous acts (ibid., 2) [connecting גְּמוּלָיו (gemulav), all His generous acts, with גְּמוּלֵי מֵחָלָב (gemulei me-ḥalav), weaned from milk (Isaiah 28:9)]. What is גְּמוּלָיו (gemulav), all His generous acts?—Rabbi Abbahu said: That He placed her breasts at the source of understanding [i.e., the heart, the seat of understanding, see Deuteronomy 6:5; Proverbs 2:2, 10; Sefer Yetsirah §59b].

For what reason is this?—Rav Yehudah said: So that he should not look upon the place of nakedness; Rav Mattena said: So that he should not suck from a place that is foul. He saw the downfall of the wicked and broke into song, as it says, Let offences vanish from the earth and the wicked be no more. Bless, O my being, YHWH, Hallelujah! (Psalms 104:35). He looked upon the day of death and broke into song, as it says, Bless, O my being, YHWH! YHWH, my God, You are very great. Grandeur and glory You don (ibid., 1). How does this verse refer to the day of death?—Rabbah son of Rav Shila said: We learn it from the end of the passage, where it is written: When You hide Your face, they panic, You withdraw their breath and they perish… (ibid., 29)” (BT Berakhot 10a).

Taste and see that YHWH is good (Psalms 34:8).

And the manna was like coriander seed and its color like the color of bdellium. The people would go about and gather it and… make it into cakes. And its taste was like the לְשַׁד (leshad), creaminess, of oil (Numbers 11:7–8)—the taste of it was as the taste of a לְשַׁד (leshad), cake baked with oil. Rabbi Abbuha said: Just as the infant finds very many a flavor in the שָׁד (shad), breast, so also did Israel find many a taste in the manna as long as they were eating it. There are some who say: A שֵׁד (shed), demon; even as the demon changes into many colors, so did the manna change into many tastes [cf. Avot de-Rabbi Natan §37: ‘Two people eat from the same bowl, but each one tastes according to his deeds’]” (BT Yoma 75a).

“שְׁנֵי שָׁדַיִךְ (Shenei shadaikh), Your two breasts, are two fawns (Song of Songs 4:5). For in this chamber there is the spirit… [of love], and this living being issued two lights, one included in the other and unified, called, אֵל שַׁדָּי (El Shaddai). These two lights are called שַׁדָּי (Shaddai), and together with אֵל (El), of the chamber below, זְכוּת אֵל (Zekhut El), they join each other and intermingle to be called אֵל שַׁדָּי (El Shaddai), for they issued from the שָּׁדָיִם (shadaim), breasts….

Here lies the beginning of Abraham, who is of the right, called אַהֲבָה רַבָּא (ahavah rabba), Great Love, as we said. And he received the chamber called אַהֲבָה (ahavah), Love. Then, Your שָׁדַיִם (shadaim), breasts, were firm (Ezekiel 16:7), and filled with goodness to sustain and nourish all from here. And when the breasts were firm and filled by the רְחִימוּ עִלָּאָה (reḥimu illaah), supernal love, then this chamber was called אֵל שַׁדָּי (El Shaddai), as we said. And by this the world found supply when it was created, because when the world was created, it could not exist, and did not endure, until this chamber was revealed, that Abraham took. When Abraham was seen in this chamber, the world said דַי (dai), enough, for there is supply to sustain and nourish the world. It was therefore called אֵל שַׁדָּי (El Shaddai) [in whom there is] enough.

The blessed Holy One will fill and repair it in the future, as is written, That you may nurse, and be satisfied מִשֹּׁד (mishod), from the breasts, of her consolations; that you may drink deeply, and be delighted with the abundance of her glory (Isaiah 66:11). מִשֹּׁד (Mishod), from the breasts, of her consolations and the abundance of her glory are all in this chamber. Then, at that time, it is written, Who would have uttered to Abraham—‘Sarah is הֵינִיקָה (heiniqah), suckling, sons!’ (Genesis 21:7), for יְנִיקָא (yeniqa), sucking, depends upon Abraham” (Zohar 2:252b, Heikhalot).

But I have calmed and contented myself like a גָּמֻל (gamul), weaned, babe on its mother—like a weaned babe I am with myself (Psalms 131:2).