The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: שָׁלוֹם

Peace by Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag (Ba’al ha-Sullam)

Ba'al ha-Sullam PortraitEmpirical research regarding the obligation to serve the blessed Holy One

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them (Isaiah 11:6).

… And it shall come to pass in that day, that YHWH shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people, who shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea (ibid., 11).

“Rabbi Shim’on son of Ḥalafta said, ‘The blessed Holy One found no vessel to hold blessing for Israel but peace, as it says: May YHWH give strength to His people. May YHWH bless His people with peace (Psalms 29:11)” (M Uqtsin 3:12).

After having demonstrated in previous essays a general overview of His service, whose essence is but the love of others, defined in practice as “giving to others,” meaning that the actualization of love of others is rendering kindness to others—aiming to ensure that we will not forget the purpose.

Now that we know for certain the mode of His service, there still remains to inquire whether this service is acceptable to us on faith alone, without any empirical basis, or whether we also have an empirical basis for it. This is what I want to demonstrate in the essay before us. But first I must thoroughly demonstrate the subject itself, meaning who it is who accepts our service.

However, I am not a lover of formal philosophy, since I detest theoretically based studies. And it is well known that most of my contemporaries agree with me, for we have tested such foundations, which are shaky. When the foundation moves a little, the whole building comes tumbling down.

Therefore, I have come to speak only by critique of empirical reason, starting from the simple recognition no one objects to, proving analytically (separating out the various elements in a matter), until we come to determine the sublime. And it will be tested synthetically (the unity and connection between matters, such as הֶקֵשׁ [heqesh], analogy, and קַל וָחוֹמֶר [qal va-ḥomer, the exegetical principle of inference from] minor to major), how the blessed Holy One’s service is confirmed and reaffirmed by simple recognition from a practical perspective [cf. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason].

Contradictions in providence

Any reasonable person who examines the reality before us discovers in it two polar opposites. When we consider the order in Creation, with regard to its existence and endurance, our eyes behold striking evidence of guidance, profound wisdom, and great skill, in terms of both the emergence of particular aspects of reality and the ensuring of their existence in a general way.

Let us take the making of a human being as an example: the love and delight of its parents is the first incentive bound to perform its function. And when the foundational drop is taken from the father’s brain, providence has very wisely arranged a safe place for it, which prepares it to receive the רוּחַ חַיִּים (ruaḥ ḥayyim), breath of life. Providence allots it its daily bread in precise measure, and it also readies wonderful bedding for it in the mother’s womb so that no stranger can harm it.

It tends to its every need like a expert nanny who will not forget it even for a moment, until it has acquired the strength to emerge into our world. At that time, providence briefly lends it just enough strength to break the walls that surround it, and like a seasoned warrior it breaks an opening and emerges into the world.

Then, too, providence does not abandon it. Like a loving mother, it brings it to such caring, loyal people it can trust, called “mother” and “father” to assist it through its days of feebleness until it grows and is able to sustain itself. Like the human, so are all the animals, plants, and inanimate objects—all are cared for in wisdom and compassion, ensuring their existence and the propagation of the species.

But those who examine this reality from the perspective of provision and continued existence can plainly see tremendous confusion and chaos, as though there were no leader and no guidance. Every man did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25)—building himself on the ruin of others. The wicked thrive and the righteous are trampled mercilessly.

Bear in mind that this paradox, set before the eyes of every reasonable and educated person, has preoccupied humanity since time immemorial. And there are many approaches to account for these two apparent contradictions in providence, inhabiting the very same world.

First approach: Nature

This approach is an ancient one. Since they did not find an entry way to bring these two polar opposites closer, they came to assume that the Creator, who created all these, who mightily watches over His existence lest any of it be annulled, is not all knowing but rather foolish.

Hence, although He watches over the existence of reality with wondrous wisdom, yet He Himself is thoughtless, and does all that without purpose. If there was any reason and sensing in Him, He would certainly not leave such malfunctions in the provision of existence without pity and compassion for the tormented. For this reason, they named Him “Nature”—an unknowing, unfeeling overseer. And therefore, in their opinion there is no one to resent, pray to, or justify oneself to.

Second approach: two authorities

Others were more wise since they found it difficult to accept belief in Nature’s providence. They saw that providence is far beyond human wisdom. They could not accept that the One who supervises all would Himself be thoughtless—for how can one give that which he does not possess? And can one instruct his fellow while he himself is a fool?

How can it be the one who sets before us acts in wondrous wisdom does not know what He is doing, but rather does so by accident? It is evident that chance cannot order any precise act, devised in wisdom, much less ensure its perpetual existence.

This is why they came to the second opinion, that there are two authorities: one creates and sustains the good, and the other creates and sustains the bad. And along their way they greatly elaborated on this with evidence and proof.

Third approach: numerous gods

This approach was derived from the approach of two authorities, since they isolated each and every act from the all-encompassing act [of Creation], that is: Power, Wealth, Domination, Beauty, Famine, Death, Chaos, and so forth. They appointed each its own overseer, and expanded this as they wished.

Fourth approach: His abandonment 

With the increase in wisdom as of late they see the tremendous interconnection between all aspects of Creation, they realized the idea of multiple gods is totally impossible. Thus, under close examination the problem of paradox in Creation was felt once again.

This led them to a new opinion: that the Overseer is indeed wise and caring. Yet, due to His exaltedness, which is beyond conception, our world is but a mustard seed, nothing in His eyes. It is not worth His while to bother with our petty affairs, and this is why we are neglected and left to chaos, every man doing what was right in his own eyes.

Alongside these approaches, there were religious approaches of divine unity. But this is not the place to examine them, as I wanted only to examine the origins from which the flawed approaches and bewildering opinions that vastly dominated and expanded in different times and places were taken.

We find that the basis on which the aforementioned approaches were built, having emerged from the apparent paradox between the two types of providence perceived in our world, came only to bridge this great divide.

Yet, the world persists as always. And not only was that great divide not bridged it expands before our eyes into a daunting abyss, without hope of escape. And when I look at all the attempts man has made these several thousand years to no avail, from the perspective of the Overseer I wonder if we should seek to bridge this great divide at all, but rather accept that this great תִקּוּן (tiqqun), repair, is in our own hands.

The necessity to practice caution with the laws of Nature

We can all plainly see that the human species must lead a social life, meaning it cannot subsist without the help of others [cf. Aristotle, Politics: “Man is by nature a social animal”]. Therefore, picture a circumstance in which a man retires from society to a desolate place and lives there a life of misery and great suffering due to his inability to provide for his needs. That man would have no right to protest against his fate. And if he were to do that, that is complain and curse his bitter fate, he would merely be showing his own stupidity.

This is because while providence has prepared a comfortable, appealing place for him in society, he has no justification to remove himself to a desolate place. Such a man should not be pitied, since he is going against the nature of Creation; since he has counsel to live as providence has decreed, he should not be pitied. That decree is agreed upon by all of humanity without dissent.

And I emphasize it on a religious basis, giving it the form of law: since providence emanates from the Creator, who undoubtedly acts with purpose, and since there is no action without intention, we find that anyone who violates חוּקִי הַטֶבַע (ḥuqi ha-teva), the Laws of Nature, הַטבִּיעַ (hatbbi’a), embedded, in us, ruins the plan [of Creation].

Because that plan is undoubtedly built into all the Laws of Nature, none excluded, just as the wise laborer does not add or subtract even a hairsbreadth of the necessary effort to carry out his plan, he who alters even a single law ruins the Creator’s plan, and will therefore be punished by Nature. Hence, we, too, creatures of the blessed Holy One must not pity such a man because he violates the Laws of Nature and ruins the divine plan. That, in my opinion, is the form of the law.

And I think it isn’t worthwhile for anyone to disagree with the form I have given to the law, because the words of the law are one. For in the end what is the difference if we say that the Overseer is blind “Nature,” or that the Overseer is wise, wonderful, knowing, feeling, and whose acts have intention?

In the end, we all admit that we are obligated to keep the commandments of providence, meaning the Laws of Nature. And we all admit that one who violates the commandments of providence, meaning the Laws of Nature, must be punished by Nature, and should not be pitied by anyone. Look, the nature of the law is one in the same, and the only difference is in the motivation: in their opinion it is [merely] necessary, while for me it is by design.

To avoid having to use both expressions—טֶבַע (teva), Nature, and מַשְׁגִּיחַ (mashgiaḥ), Overseer, in which there is no difference, as I have shown with respect to following the laws—from now on it is best for us to meet halfway and accept the words of the kabbalists that הַטֶבַע (ha-teva), Nature, is numerically equivalent to אֱלֹהִים (Elohim), God—eighty-six [and this serves as a mnemonic, see for example Rabbi Avraham Abulafia, Get ha-Shemot, 101b; Rabbi Ḥayyim Luzzatto, Da’at ha-Tevunot]. Then, I am able to call חוּקִי אֱלֹהִים (ḥuqi Elohim), the Laws of God, מִצְווֹת הַטֶבַע‎ (mitsvot ha-teva), the commandments of Nature, and vice-versa, for they are one and the same, and we need not discuss it further [cf. Philo, A Treatise on the Life of Moses, 2:12–14; De Mundi Opificio, 3; Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed, 2:40].

Now it is critically important for us to examine Nature’s commandments, to know what She demands of us, lest She punish us mercilessly. We have said that Nature obligates the human species to lead a social life, and this is simple. But we must examine the commandments that Nature obligates us to keep, with respect to the social life.

In general, we find that there are only two commandments to follow in society. These can be called קְבָּלָה (qabbalah), “receiving,” and הַשְׁפִּיעַ (hashpi’a), “giving.” This means that each fellow must, by nature, receive his needs from society and must benefit society through his work for its well-being. And if one violates one of these two commandments, he is punished mercilessly, as we said.

Now, we need not examine the commandment of receiving excessively, since the punishment is carried out immediately, preventing any neglect. But with the other commandment, that of giving to society, not only is the punishment not immediate, but it is administered indirectly. Therefore, this commandment is not kept properly.

Thus, humanity is scorched by the fire of a pot boiling over furiously, and war and famine and their consequences have so far not ceased. And the amazing thing about it is that Nature, like a skillful judge, punishes us according to our development. For we can see that to the same degree the human species develops, so too the torments and suffering involved in the acquisition of our provisions for our subsistence also proliferate.

Thus you have an empirical basis that His providence has commanded us to keep with all our might the commandment of giving to others in utter precision, in such a way that no fellow from among us would work any less than the measure required to secure the happiness of society and its success. And as long as we are idle in fulfilling this, Nature will not refrain from punishing and taking revenge against us.

And besides the blows we suffer today, we must also take into account the sword drawn for the future. Here the correct conclusion must be made—that Nature will ultimately triumph and we will all be forced to join hands in following Her commandments to the degree required of us.

Proof of His service by experience

But he who wishes to criticize my words might still ask, “Although so far you have proven that one must work to benefit people, where is the proof that it must be done for the blessed Holy One?”

Indeed, history itself has troubled in our favor and has prepared for us an established fact, sufficient for a full appreciation and unequivocal conclusion: anyone can see how a large society like the state of Russia, with hundreds of millions in population, more land than the whole of Europe, second to none in wealth of raw materials, and which has already agreed to lead a communal life and practically abolished private property altogether, where each worries only about the wellbeing of society, has seemingly acquired to the utmost degree the virtue of giving to others in the deepest sense, as far as the human mind can grasp.

And yet, go and see what has become of them. Instead of rising and exceeding the achievements of the bourgeois states, they sink ever lower. Now, they not only fail to benefit the lives of the workers a little more than in the bourgeois countries, they cannot even secure their daily bread or clothe their bare flesh. Indeed, this is shocking to us, because judging by the wealth of that country and its large population, it should not have come to this.

But this nation has erred with one offence the blessed Holy One will not forgive. For all this precious and exalted work, namely giving to others, which they have undertook, must be for the blessed Holy One and not for the sake of humanity. And because they serve, but not for His sake, from Nature’s perspective, they have no right to exist.

Try to imagine if every person in that society were anxious to keep the commandment of the blessed Holy One to the extent of the verse: And you shall love YHWH your God with all your heart and with all your being and with all your might (Deuteronomy 6:4), and to that extent each would rush to satisfy the needs and wants of his fellow to the utmost degree as it is man’s nature to satisfy his own wants, as is written, love your fellow as yourself (Leviticus 19:18).

If the blessed Holy One Himself were the aim of every worker while working for the well-being of society, meaning that the worker would anticipate that this service to society would reward him with cleaving with Him, the source of all truth and goodness and every sweetness and tenderness, there is no doubt that within a few years they would soar in wealth over all the countries of the world put together. That is because then they would be able to utilize the raw materials in their rich soil, would truly be an example for all the countries, and would be called blessed by the blessed Holy One.

But when all the work of giving to others is based solely on the benefit of society, it is a shaky foundation, for who and what would obligate the individual to toil for society? In a dry, lifeless principle, one can never hope to find motivation even among developed people, much less for undeveloped people. Thus arises the question, “Where would the worker or the farmer find sufficient motivation to work?”

For his daily bread will not increase or decrease according to his efforts, and there are no goals or rewards awaiting him. It is well known to researchers of Nature that one cannot perform even the slightest movement without motivation, without somehow benefiting himself.

When, for example, one moves his hand from the chair to the table, it is only because he thinks that by putting his hand on the table he will enjoy it more. If he did not think so, he would leave his hand on the chair for the rest of his life without moving it at all. All the more so with greater efforts.

And if you say that there is a solution—to place them under supervision so that anyone who is idle at his work will be punished by withholding his salary, I will ask, “Do tell me where the supervisors themselves should take the motivation for their work?” Because standing at one place and watching over people to motivate them to work is a great effort, too, perhaps more than the work itself! [cf. BT Sukkah 26a: “A person entrusts others (with the task of waking him from his) sleep. Rav Mesharsheyya protested: your guarantor needs a guarantor!”]. Therefore, it is like one wishes to switch on a machine without powering it.

Hence, they are doomed by Nature, since the Laws of Nature will punish them because they do not conform to Her decrees—performing these acts of giving to others in the form of serving the blessed Holy One, in order to attain the purpose of Creation, which is cleaving with Him. It was explained in the essay Matan Torah, that this cleaving comes to the one who labors in the manner of His sweet and delightful abundance, increasing to the desired degree for ascending to apprehend the truth of the blessed Holy One, until he is rewarded with what is hinted at by: Neither has the eye seen, O God, besides You, [what He has prepared for him that waits for Him] (Isaiah 64:4).

And imagine the farmer and the worker were so inspired while serving the well-being of society, they would certainly not need any supervisors, since they would already have sufficient motivation for a great effort, enough to raise society to the heights of happiness.

But the truth is that understanding this in such a way requires great care and proven conducts [or: faithful arrangements]. But everyone can see that without it they have no right to exist from the perspective of unyielding Nature, which knows no compromise, and this is what I wanted to demonstrate here.

Thus, I have shown from the perspective of empirical reason—from the actual history unfolding before our very eyes—that there is no other cure for humanity but to accept the commandment of providence: giving to others in order to please the blessed Holy One to the degree of two verses.

First: love your fellow as yourself (Leviticus 19:18), which is the quality of the service itself. This means that the extent one endeavors to give to others for the betterment of society should be no less than the extent he naturally cares for his own needs. Moreover, he should put his fellow’s needs before his own, as is written in the essay Matan Torah.

Then: And you shall love YHWH your God with all your heart and with all your being and with all your might (Deuteronomy 6:4). This is the goal that must be before everyone’s eyes when serving his fellow’s needs. This means that he labors and toils only to find favor in the eyes of the Creator—that He speak and they perform His will.

If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land (Isaiah 1:19)—for poverty and suffering and exploitation shall be no more in the land, and the happiness of each and every one shall soar ever higher, beyond measure. But as long as you refuse to assume the covenant of serving the blessed Holy One to the utmost degree, Laws of Nature stand ready to exact revenge. And as we have explained, He will not relent until He defeats us and we accept His authority, in whatever He commands.

And here I have provided you with research according to the critique of empirical reason regarding the absolute necessity of all people to assume the service of the blessed Holy One with all their heart, soul, and might.

Clarification of a saying from the Mishnah

Now that we have learned all the above, we can understand a statement which is unclear: “[Rabbi Akiva] used to say: All is given on collateral, and a net is spread over all the living. The shop is open, the shopkeeper extends credit, the ledger is open, and the hand records. Whoever wishes to borrow may come and borrow. The collectors regularly make their daily rounds and collect payment from a person, whether he realizes it or not. They have [a record] on which they can rely; the judgment is just; and all is prepared for the banquet” (M Avot 3:20).

Not for nothing does this parable remain hidden to us, without even a hint as to its meaning. This tells us that there is a great depth to delve into here. Indeed, it is well understood according to the knowledge we have acquired thus far.

The wheel of transformation

First, let me present the opinion of our sages concerning the unfolding of the generations of the world: although we see the bodies changing from generation to generation, this is only the case with the bodies. But the souls, which are the essence of the body, do not vanish, to be replaced, but travel from body to body, from generation to generation. The same souls that were at the time of the flood came also during the time of Babylon, and in the exile in Egypt, and in the exodus from Egypt, and so forth, until this generation and until the end of correction [see BT Shabbat 152b; Bahir §§121–22, 195].

Thus, in our world, there are no new souls the way bodies are renewed, but only a certain amount of souls that cycle on the wheel of transformation, because each time they enclothe in a new body and a new generation.

Therefore, with regard to the souls, all generations since the beginning of Creation to the final correction are like one generation that has extended its life over several thousand years, until it developed and was corrected as it should be. And the fact that in the meantime each has exchanged its body thousands of times is completely irrelevant, because the essence of the body’s self, called “the soul,” does not suffer at all by these changes.

And there is much evidence pointing to this, and a great wisdom called “the mystery of גִּלְגּוּל הַנְשָׁמוֹת (gilggul ha-neshamot), cycling souls.” And while this is not the place to explain it, because of the great importance of the matter, it is worthwhile to point out to the uninformed that cycling souls occurs in all the objects of tangible reality, and each object, in its own way, lives eternal life.

Although our senses tell us that everything is transient, this is only how we see it. In fact, here there are only cycles—no object is still, nor does it rest for even a moment, rather it cycles on the wheel of transformation, losing nothing of its essence along its way, as physicists have shown.

And now we come to clarify: “All is given on collateral.” This has been compared to someone who lends money to his fellow in order to make him a partner in the profit. To make sure that he doesn’t lose his money, he gives it to him as collateral, and thus he is free of any uncertainty. The same applies to the creation of the world and its existence, which the blessed Holy One has prepared for humanity to engage in and to eventually attain through it the exalted intention of cleaving with Him, as is explained in the essay Matan Torah. Thus, one must wonder, who would compel humanity to engage in His service, until they finally come to this exalted end?

Rabbi Akiva informs us about that: “All is given on collateral.” This means that everything that the blessed Holy One placed in Creation and has given to people, He did not give to them for free, but secured Himself with collateral. And should you wonder what collateral He was given? He replies: “and a net is spread over all the living.” This means that the blessed Holy One has cleverly devised a wonderous net and spread it over all of humanity, so no one will escape. All the living must be caught in this net and inevitably accept His service, until they attain their sublime purpose. This is the collateral with which the blessed Holy One secured Himself, to guarantee that no harm would come to the act of Creation.

Afterwards, he interprets it in detail and says, “The shop is open.” Meaning that this world seems to us like an open shop, without a shopkeeper, and anyone who passes through may take as much as he wishes, free of charge. However, Rabbi Akiva warns us that the shopkeeper sells on credit. In other words, although you cannot see any shopkeeper here, know that there is a shopkeeper, and the reason that he is not demanding payment is because he sells to you on credit.

And should you say, “How does He know what I owe?” He replies, “The ledger is open, and the hand records.” Meaning there is a book in which each act is written without fail. And the purpose revolves around the law of development that the blessed Holy One has embedded in humanity, which drives us ever forward.

This means that corrupt leadership in the states of humanity are the very ones that generate the good states. And each good state is nothing but the fruit of the labor in the bad state which preceded it. Indeed, these values of good and bad do not refer to the value of the state itself, but to the general purpose: each state that brings humanity closer to the purpose [of Creation] is called “good,” and one that distances them from the purpose is called “bad.”

By this standard alone the “law of development” is built—the corruption and wickedness that arises in a state are considered the cause of the good state, so that each state lasts just long enough to cultivate the evil in it to such a degree that the public can no longer tolerate it. At that time, the public is forced to join against it, uproot it, and regroup in a better state for the restoration of that generation.

And the new state, too, lasts just as long as the sparks of wickedness in it ripen and reach such a degree that they can no longer be tolerated, at which time it must be destroyed and a more peaceful state is built in its stead. And so the states clear up one by one and rung by rung until they come to such a restored state that it is without any sparks of wickedness.

And you discover that all the seeds from which the good states grow are only the corrupt deeds themselves, meaning that all the wickedness laid bare from under the hands of the wicked of the generation merge and accrue a great sum, until they weigh so heavily that the public can no longer bear them. Then, they rise up and demolish it and create a more desirable state. Thus you see that all the wickedness done becomes the driving force by which the good state is developed.

These are the words of Rabbi Akiva: “The ledger is open, and the hand records.” Any state that the generation is in is like a book, and all the wicked ones are as writing hands because each evil is carved and written in the book until they accrue an amount that the public can no longer bear. Then, they demolish that wicked state and regroup into a more desirable state. Thus, each and every act is calculated and written in the book, meaning in the state.

And he says, “Whoever wishes to borrow may come and borrow.” This means that he believes that this world is not like an open shop without shopkeeper, but that there is an owner present, a shopkeeper who stands in his shop and demands of each customer the right price for the merchandise he takes from the shop, meaning toiling in His service while he is nourished by that shop, in a manner that is certain to deliver him to the purpose of Creation, as He desires.

Such a person is regarded as he who wishes to borrow. Thus, even before he reaches out his hand to take from this world, which is the shop, he promises to faithfully repay his debt. In other words, he takes it upon himself to labor in order to attain His desire during the time he is supported by the shop, in a way that he promises to pay his debt by achieving the desired goal. Therefore, he is deemed as one who wishes to borrow, meaning that he pledges to return the debt.

Such a person is regarded as one who wishes to borrow. Thus, even before he stretches his hand to take from this world, “the shop,” he takes it on credit. In other words, he takes it upon himself to labor in order to attain His desire during the time he is supported by the shop—he promises to repay his debt by laboring for the purpose [of Creation]. Therefore, he is deemed one who wants to take purchase on credit.

Rabbi Akiva portrays two types of people: the first are “the shop is open” type, which regard this world as an open shop without shopkeeper. Of them he says, “The ledger is open, and the hand records.” Meaning, although they do not see that there is an account, all their actions are nonetheless written in the book, as explained above. This is according to the law of development embedded in Creation against humanity’s will, in which the deeds of the wicked themselves necessarily give rise to the good deeds, as we have shown above.

The second type of person is called “whoever wishes to borrow.” They take the shopkeeper into consideration, and when they take something from the shop, they only take it on credit. They promise to repay the shopkeeper the fixed price, meaning to attain the purpose [of Creation] by it. And of them he says, “Whoever wishes to borrow may come and borrow.”

And if you say, “What is the difference between the first type, in which the purpose [of Creation] comes to them according to the law of development, and the other type, in which the purpose [of Creation] comes to them by enslaving themselves to His service? Are they not equal in attaining the goal?!”

In that regard, he continues, “The collectors regularly make their daily rounds and collect payment from a person, whether he realizes it or not.” Thus, in truth, both give their daily payments of the debt.

And just as the forces that emerge by engaging in His service are deemed faithful collectors, who collect their debt incrementally each day, until it is paid in full, the mighty forces embedded in the law of development are also deemed faithful collectors who collect on their debt. This is the meaning of, “The collectors regularly make their daily rounds and collect payment from a person.”

However, there is a great difference and distance between them, meaning “whether he realizes it or not.” The first type pay their debt unknowingly, but storming waves crash upon them from the strong wind of development, driving them from behind, forcing them to advance.

Thus, their debt is collected against their will and with great suffering through manifestations of the forces of evil, which drive them from behind. But the second type pay their debt, which is the attainment of the purpose [of Creation] knowingly, of their own accord, by repeating the deeds which hasten the development of the sense of recognition of evil. And through this labor they gain doubly.

The first gain that these forces, which manifest from His service, are set before them as a magnetic force. They chase after it of their own free choice, with the spirit of love. Needless to say, they are free from any kind of sorrow and suffering like the first type.

The second gain is that they hasten the purpose [of Creation], for they are the righteous and the prophets who attain the goal in each generation, as is explained in the essay, Mahutah shel ḥokhmat ha-qabbalah (The Essence of the Wisdom of Kabbalah), in, Al mah sovevet ha-ḥokhmah (What Does the Wisdom Revolve Around?).

“All is given on collateral, and a net is spread over all the living. The shop is open, the shopkeeper extends credit, the ledger is open, and the hand records. Whoever wishes to borrow may come and borrow. The collectors regularly make their daily rounds and collect payment from a person, whether he realizes it or not. They have [a record] on which they can rely; the judgment is just; and all is prepared for the banquet.”

Thus you see that there is a great difference between those who pay knowingly and those who pay unknowingly, as the profit of the light of sweet delight over the darkness of pain and suffering. As he says: “They have [a record] on which they can rely.” In other words, he promises all those who pay knowingly and willingly that they have what to rely on, that there is great strength in His service to bring them to the sublime purpose [of Creation], and it is worthwhile for them to harness themselves under His burden.

And of those who pay unknowingly, he says, “the judgment is just.” Seemingly, one must wonder why providence permits corruption and suffering to manifest in the world, in which humanity is being scorched mercilessly.

He says about it that this “the judgment is just,” since “all is prepared for the banquet,” for the true intention. And the sublime delight that is destined to emerge with the revelation of His purpose in Creation, when all the trouble and toil and anguish that befall us through time will seem like a host who troubles himself greatly to prepare a great feast for the invited guests. And he compares the anticipated end that must finally be revealed to a banquet, whose guests attend with great pleasure. This is why he says, “the judgment is just; and all is prepared for the banquet.”

Such as that you will find regarding the creation of man:

The ministering angels said to the blessed Holy One: “Master of the Universe! What is man that You should note him, and the human creature, that You pay him heed? (Psalms 8:5). This trouble, for what has it been created?” He said to them, “If so sheep and oxen all together (ibid., 8), why were they created; why were birds of the heavens and fish of the sea (ibid., 9) created? A tower full of good things and no guests—what pleasure has its owner in having filled it?” They said to Him: “Master of the Universe! YHWH our Master, how majestic Your name in all the earth! (ibid., 10). Do what pleases You!” (Bereshit Rabbah 8:6).

Interpretation: The ministering angels who saw all the pain and suffering that was to befall humanity wondered “Why do You need this trouble?” And the blessed Holy One replied to them that indeed he had a tower full of good things, but only humanity was invited to it. And of course, the ministering angels weighed the pleasures in that tower, awaiting its guests, against the suffering and trouble that awaited humanity.

And once they saw that it was worthwhile for humanity to suffer for the good that awaited them, they agreed to the creation of man, just as Rabbi Akiva said, “the judgment is just; and all is prepared for the banquet.” Since the beginning of Creation, all people have had doubts but the thought of the blessed Holy One imposes on them to come to the banquet, knowingly or unknowingly.

And now all will see the truth in the words of the prophet in the prophecy of peace: The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid (Isaiah 11:6). And he reasoned: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of YHWH, as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9).

Thus, the prophet makes filling the whole world with knowledge of the blessed Holy One a condition for peace in the world, just as we have said above. The egoistic resistance between man and man deteriorate will not cease from the world by any human counsel or tactic, whatever it may be.

Our eyes see how the destitute turn over in dreadful, intolerable suffering, and humanity has already veered to the extreme right, as with Germany, or to the extreme left, as with Russia. But not only have they not eased the situation for themselves, they have worsened the plague and suffering, and the tulmult reaches up to the sky, as we all know.

Thus, they have no other choice but to accept His burden in knowledge of the blessed Holy One, meaning that they bend their actions to the will of the blessed Holy One and to His purpose, as He planned for them before Creation. And when they do that, it is plain to see that with His service, all envy and hatred will be abolished from humanity, as I have shown above. This is because then all members of humanity will unite into one body and one heart, full of the knowledge of the blessed Holy One. Thus, world peace and the knowledge of Him are one and the same thing.

Immediately following, the prophet says, And it shall come to pass in that day, that YHWH shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people…and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth (Isaiah 11:11–12). Thus we learn that world peace comes before the ingathering of the exiles.

Now you can understand the words of our sages: Rabbi Shim’on son of Ḥalafta said, “The blessed Holy One found no vessel to hold blessing for Israel but peace, as it says: May YHWH give strength to His people. May YHWH bless His people with peace (Psalms 29:11)” (M Uqtsin 3:12). Seemingly, one should wonder about this, “vessel to hold blessing for Israel.” Moreover, how does one draw that conclusion from these words?

But these words become clear to them like the prophecy of Isaiah that world peace precedes the ingathering of the exiles. This is it says, May YHWH give strength to His people—that in the future, when the blessed Holy One gives His people strength, meaning everlasting revival, then: May YHWH bless His people with peace. This means that He will first bless His people, Israel, with peace the world over, and then He shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people.

Our sages said about the reason for the words: the blessing of peace in the whole world precedes the strength, meaning the redemption, because “The blessed Holy One found no vessel to hold blessing for Israel but peace.” Thus, as long as self-interest and egoism exist among the nations, the Children of Israel, too, will not be able to serve the blessed Holy One on the side of purity in the matter of giving to others, as is written, And as for you, you will become for Me a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6), in the essay, Ha-Arvut. And we see it from experience, for coming to the Land and building the Temple can not be maintained in order to receive the blessings the blessed Holy One has sworn to our Patriarchs.

And this is why they said, “The blessed Holy One found no vessel to hold blessing for Israel but peace,” meaning until this time Israel has no vessel to hold the blessing of the Patriarchs. Therefore, the promise that we inherit the Land for all eternity has not yet been fulfilled, because world peace is the sole vessel that enables us to receive the blessing of the Patriarchs, as in the prophecy of Isaiah.

Let Us Build Us a City and a Tower

tower-of-babel.jpgAnd all the earth was one language, one set of words. And it happened as they journeyed from the east that they found a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to each other, “Come, let us bake bricks and burn them hard.” And the brick served them as stone, and bitumen served them as mortar. And they said, “Come, let us build us a city and a tower with its top in the heavens that we may make us a name, lest we be scattered over all the earth.” And YHWH came down to see the city and the tower that the human creatures had built. And YHWH said, “As one people with one language for all, if this is what they have begun to do, now nothing they plot to do will elude them. Come, let us go down and baffle their language there so that they will not understand each other’s language.” And YHWH scattered them from there over all the earth and they left off building the city. Therefore it is called Babel, for there YHWH made the language of all the earth babble. And from there YHWH scattered them over all the earth (Genesis 11:1–9).

“The generation of the Dispersion have no portion in the world that is coming. What did they do?—the disciples of Rav Shila taught: They said, ‘Let us build a tower, ascend to heaven, and cleave it with axes, that its waters might gush forth.’ In the West [the land of Israel] they laughed at this: If so, they should have built it on a mountain [and not in a valley]!

Rabbi Yirmiyah son of El’azar said: They split up into three parties. One said, ‘Let us ascend and dwell there;’ the second, ‘Let us ascend and serve the stars;’ and the third said, ‘Let us ascend and wage war.’ The party which proposed, ‘Let us ascend, and dwell there’—YHWH scattered them: the one that said, ‘Let us ascend and wage war’ were turned to apes, spirits, devils, and night-demons; whilst as for the party which said, ‘Let us ascend and serve the stars’—for there YHWH made the language of all the earth babble.

It has been taught Rabbi Natan said: They were all bent on serving the stars. [For] here it is written, that we may make us a name; whilst elsewhere it is written, and the name of other gods you shall not invoke (Exodus 23:13): just as there idolatry is meant, so here too. Rabbi Yonatan said: A third of the tower was burnt, a third sunk, and a third is still standing. Rav said: The atmosphere of the tower causes forgetfulness. Rav Yosef said: Babylon and Borsif are evil omens for Torah. What is the meaning of בורסיף (Borsif)?—Rav Assi said: An שֹׁאֲפִי (shafi), empty, בּוֹר (bor), pit” (BT Sanhedrin 109a). 

“The generation of the Flood said, Who is Shaddai that we should serve Him? (Job 21:15), whereas the generation of the Dispersion said: ‘It does not rest with Him to choose the celestial spheres for Himself and assign the terrestrial world to us. Come, rather, and let us build a tower at the top of which we will set an idol holding a sword, that it may appear to wage war with Him.’ Yet of the former not a remnant was left, whereas of the latter a remnant was left! But because the generation of the Flood was steeped in robbery, as is written, They set aside boundary-stones, a flock they steal and pasture it (ibid. 24:2), therefore not a remnant of them was left. And since the latter, on the other hand, loved each other, as is written, And all the earth was one language, therefore a remnant of them was left [cf. Zohar 1:76b]. Rabbi said: Great is peace, for even if Israel practice idolatry but maintain peace among themselves, the blessed Holy One says, as it were, ‘I have no dominion over them’; for it is said, Ephraim is stuck fast to idols. Let him be! (Hosea 4:17). But when their hearts are divided, what is written? Their heart is divided—now they bear guilt (ibid. 10:2)….

Come, let us bake bricks and burn them hard—this people is destined to be burnt out of the world.

And the brick served them as stone. Rabbi Huna said: Their work prospered: a man came to lay one [stone] and he laid two; he came to plaster one [row] and plastered two [the work seemed to grow of itself]. And they said: Come, let us build us a city and a tower. Rabbi Yudan said: The tower they built, but they did not build the city. An objection is raised: But it is written, And YHWH came down to see the city and the tower? Read what follows, he replied: And they left off building the city, the tower, however, not being mentioned. Rabbi Ḥiyya son of Abba said: A third of this tower which they built sank, a third was burnt, while a third is still standing. And should you think that it is small—Rabbi Huna said in Rabbi Idi’s name: When one ascends to the top, he sees the palm trees below him like grasshoppers [cf. Isaiah 40:22]” (Bereshit Rabbah 38:6, 8).

“There are five types in the עֵרֶב רַב (erev rav), motley throng [or: mixed multitude, cf. Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Teshuvah 3:7]: נְּפִלִים (Nefilim), גִּבֹּרִים (Gibborim), עֲנָקִים (Anaqim), רְפָאִים (Refaim), and עֲמָלֵקִים (Amaleqim), Amalakites [an נֶגַע רַע (nega ra), evil affliction, which plagues Israel until this day]. Because of them, the small ה (he) [Malkhut] fell from Her place. Balaam and Balak were from the side of עֲמָלֵק (Amaleq), Amalek. Take עָם (am) from בִּלְעָם (Bilam), Balaam, and לָק (laq) from בָּלָק (Balaq), Balak, and you are left with בָּבֶל (Bavel), Babel: for there YHWH made the language of all the earth בָּלַל (balal), babel (Genesis 11:9) [for similar word play, see Zohar 3:199b].

These are the ones who remained of those for whom it was said at the time of the Flood, And He wiped out all existing things (Genesis 7:23). Those who survived from the time of the fourth exile [of Edom] became the heads of the world. They became a weapon [lit., a tool of חָמָס (ḥamas), violence] over the Children of Israel and of them is written: for the earth is filled with חָמָס (ḥamas), outrage, by them (Genesis 6:13)—Amalekites.

Of נְּפִלִים (Nefilim) is written: That the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were comely (Genesis 6:2). These are the second type, נְּפִלִים (nefilim), fallen ones, from above. When the blessed Holy One made the human He said, Let us make a human in our image (Genesis 1:26). He wished to make him head over all above, so that he might govern all and they be under his rule, just as with Joseph: appoint overseers for the land (Genesis 41:34).

They wanted to denounce him, asking What is man that You should note him (Psalms 8:5), for he is bound to offend before You? The blessed Holy One replied, ‘If you were down below like he, you would offend more than he does.’ Immediately, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man… they were filled with lust for them, so the blessed Holy One cast them down in chains.

These are Uzza and Aza’el, from whom descended the souls of the motley throng, which are the Nephilim. They caused themselves to fall, fornicating with women who were comely. Because of this, the blessed Holy One also eliminated them from the world that is coming, that they not have a portion there. And He gave them their reward in this world, as is written: But He pays back those who hate Him to their face to make them perish (Deuteronomy 7:10).

Of the third type, גִּבֹּרִים (Gibborim), is written: they are the גִּבֹּרִים (gibborim), heroes, of yore, the men of הַשֵּׁם (ha-shem), renown (Genesis 6:4). These descend from the side of those, of whom is written: let us build us a city and a tower… that we may make us a שֵׁם (shem), name (Genesis 11:4). They build synagogues and academies [cf. Zohar 3:23a]. [They are like a] Torah scroll with a crown upon רֵישׁוֹי (reshoi), its head [corresponding to: and a tower with its רֹאשׁוֹ (rosho), top, in the heavens (ibid.)]. Not in the שֵׁם (shem), name, of the blessed Holy One, but rather to make themselves a name, as is written: that we may make us a name. From the Other Side they overcome Israel, who are like the dust of the earth. They rob them, shattering and wasting their work. Of them, is written: and the waters surged and multiplied mightily over the earth (Genesis 7:19).

רְפָאִים (Refaim), the fourth type. If they foresee distress for Israel, they abandon them. Even if they have the power to save them they do not want to do so. They abandon Torah and those who study it. Instead, they do favors for gentiles. Of them, is written: רְפָאִים (refaim), ghosts, they shall not rise [at the revival of the dead (Sullam)] (Isaiah 26:14). When Israel are visited, it is written of them: and made all their memory to perish (Isaiah 26:14).

עֲנָקִים (Anaqim), the fifth type. They belittle the value of those, of whom is written: and a עֲנָקִים (anaqim), necklace, round your throat (Proverbs 1:9) [namely, Israel]. Of them, is written: The Rephaim, they, too are accounted as עֲנָקִים (anaqim), giants (Deuteronomy 2:11), so they amount to each other—they return the world to welter and waste. And the mystery of the matter: the destruction of the Temple. And the earth then was welter and waste (Genesis 1:2), since [the Temple] is the basis of the world and the settling thereof. When the light, which is the blessed Holy One, appears immediately they will be wiped out of the world and destroyed. Nevertheless, redemption does not depend on their destruction, but on Amalek, that is, until he who was referred to in the oath is destroyed, which has already been explained [see Exodus 17:16: For hand upon Yah’s throne: War for YHWH against Amalek for all time]” (Zohar 1:25a, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar).

Who Hardens his Heart will Fall into Harm

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“We have found that the Temple was destroyed the first time only because they worshiped idols, engaged in forbidden sexual relations, and shed blood. And the same with the Second [Temple].

Rabbi Yoḥanan son of Torta said: ‘We have found that Shiloh was destroyed only because they disgraced the holy days and profaned the sacrificial offerings. We have found that the First Temple was destroyed only because they worshiped idols, and they engaged in forbidden sexual relations, and they were shedders of blood. But with the Second [Temple], we know them as [people who] toiled in Torah and were careful with mitsvot and with  tithes, and every kind of good conduct was among them, only that they loved money and hated one another [with] שִׂנְאַת חִנָּם (sinat ḥinnam), baseless hatred. And baseless hatred is so severe that it is equal in weight to idolatry, forbidden sexual relations and shedding blood.

A story: Rabbi Ze’ora and Ya’aqov son of Aḥa and Rabbi Abonah were sitting and saying: ‘[Baseless hatred is] even more [severe] since in the [case of the] First [Temple, it] was rebuilt but in [the case of] the Second [Temple, it] was not rebuilt.’ Rabbi Ze’ora said: ‘The [people of the] First [Temple] repented, but the [people of the] Second did not repent.’

Rabbi El’azar said: ‘The first ones—their iniquity and their designated time were revealed; the second ones—their iniquity was revealed but their designated time was not revealed.

They asked Rabbi Eli’ezer: ‘Are the last generations more worthy than the first ones?’ He answered them: ‘Your witnesses, the Chosen House shall prove [this]. Our forefathers removed the ceiling: And the cover of Judah He exposed (Isaiah 22:8) but we have smashed the walls: Saying, Raze it, raze it, to its foundation! (Psalm 137:7).’

They said: ‘Each generation for whom [the Temple] is not built during its days is considered as if it [were the generation that] had destroyed it” (JT Yoma 1:1, 38c).

“Rabbi Yoḥanan said: What is, Happy the man who fears at all times, but who hardens his heart will fall into harm? (Proverbs 28:14). The destruction of Jerusalem came through קַמְצָא וּבָּר קַמְצָא (qamtsa u-bar qamtsa), Locust and Son of Locust; the destruction of Tur Malka came through a rooster and a hen [cf. Judges 4:6]; the destruction of Bethar came through the shaft of a leather.

The destruction of Jerusalem came through a Qamtsa and a Son of Qamtsa in this way. A certain man had a friend Qamtsa and an enemy, Son of Qamtsa. He once made a party and said to his servant, Go and bring Qamtsa. The servant went and brought Son of Qamtsa. [The host] found him sitting [at the banquet]. He said, ‘Since that one [i.e., you] are the enemy of that man [i.e., me], what are you doing here? Get up and leave!’ He said to him, ‘Since I am here, let me be, and I will pay you for what I eat and drink.’

He said to him, ‘No.’ He said to him, ‘I will pay for half the banquet.’ He said to him, ‘No.’ He said to him, ‘I will pay for the whole banquet.’ He said to him, ‘No.’ He grabbed him by the hand and put him out. He [Son of Qamtsa] said, ‘Since the Rabbis were sitting and did not intervene, I will go and inform against them at the king’s palace.’ He went and said to the emperor, ‘The Jews are rebelling against you.’ He said, ‘How can I tell?’ He said to him, ‘Send them a sacrifice and see if they offer it [on the altar].’ He sent with him a fine calf. While on the way he made a blemish on its upper lip, or as some say on the white of its eye, in a place where we [Jews] count it a blemish but they do not. The Rabbis were inclined to offer it for the sake of peace with the kingdom. Rabbi Zekhariyah son of Avqulos said to them, ‘Should they say that blemished animals are offered on the altar?!’ They then proposed to kill [Son of Qamtsa] so that he should not go and tell him [the emperor]. Rabbi Zekhariyah son of Avqulos said to them, ‘Should they say that one who causes a blemish [on consecrated animals] be put to death?’ Rabbi Yoḥanan said, ‘The humility [or: scrupulousness; meekness (Rashi)] of Rabbi Zekhariyah son of Avqolas destroyed our Temple and burnt our Sanctuary and exiled us from our Land [cf. Eikhah Rabbah 4:3; Josephus, Jewish Wars 2:17, 2]….

[Knowing that Rabban Yoḥanan son of Zakkai was prepared to ask Vespasian not to destroy the Temple, he said to him]: If there is a barrel of honey and a snake is wrapped round it, wouldn’t they break the barrel in order to [kill] the snake? [So you should have broken down the walls to get rid of the zealots. Rabban Yoḥanan son of Zakkai] was silent. Rav Yosef said of him, and some say Rabbi Akiva: [I am YHWH, Maker of all…] setting sages back on their heels and thwarting their devisings (Isaiah 44:25). [Rabban Yoḥanan son of Zakkai] should have said, ‘We take tongs, remove the snake, and kill it, and we leave the barrel'” (BT Gittin 55b–56a, 56b).

“Why was the First Temple destroyed? Because of three things which prevailed there: idolatry, forbidden sexual relations, and bloodshed…. But why was the Second Temple destroyed, seeing that in its time they were occupying themselves with Torah, mitsvot, and the practice of tsedaqah, social justice? Because therein prevailed hatred without cause. That teaches you that baseless hatred is considered as of equal weight with the three sins of idolatry, forbidden sexual relations, and bloodshed together. And [during the time of] the First Temple did no baseless hatred prevail? Surely it is written: Scream and howl, O man, for it was against My people, [it was against all Israel’s princes. Felled by the sword were My people, so clap upon the thigh] (Ezekiel 21:17). El’azar said: This refers to people who eat and drink together and then thrust each other through with the daggers of their tongue!—that [passage] speaks of the princes in Israel, for it is written, Cry and wail, son of man: for it is upon My people. One might have assumed [it is upon] all [Israel], therefore it goes on, Upon all the princes of Israel: [terrors by reason of the sword shall be upon My people: strike therefore upon your thigh] (ibid.)” (BT Yoma 9b).

“Long ago, as Rabban Gamaliel, Rabbi El’azar son of Azariyah, Rabbi Yehoshu’a and Rabbi Akiva were walking on the road, they heard the noise of the crowds at Rome [travelling] from Puteoli, twenty miles away. They all fell weeping, but Rabbi Akiva was laughing. They said to him: Why are you laughing? He said to them: Why are you weeping? They said: These heathens who bow down to images and burn incense to idols live in safety and ease, whereas our Temple, the ‘Footstool’ of our God is burnt down by fire, and should we then not weep? [on the Footstool of God, see 1 Chronicles 28:2; Lamentations 2:1; Psalms 99:5; 132:7; cf. Ezekiel 43:7]. He replied: That is why I am laughing. If it is so for they that offend Him, how much more so for they that do obey Him! Once again they were coming up to Jerusalem together, and just as they came to Mount Scopus they saw a fox emerging from the Holy of Holies. They fell weeping and Rabbi Akiva was laughing. They said to him, why are you laughing? He said: Why are you weeping? They said to him: A place of which it was once said, but the stranger that comes near shall be put to death (Numbers 1:51), has now become the haunt of foxes, and should we not weep? He said to them: That is why I am laughing, for it is written, And I enlisted for myself two trusty witnesses, Uriah the priest and Zachariah son of Jeberechiah (Isaiah 8:2).

Now what connection has this Uriah the priest with Zechariah? Uriah lived during the times of the First Temple, while [the other,] Zechariah lived [and prophesied] during the Second Temple; but Scripture linked the [later] prophecy of Zechariah with the [earlier] prophecy of Uriah, In the [earlier] prophecy [in the days] of Uriah it is written, Therefore, because of you, Zion shall be plowed like a field, [and Jerusalem become heaps of ruins and the Temple mount a high forest] (Micah 3:12; Jeremiah 26:18–20). In Zechariah it is written, Thus said YHWH of Armies: Again shall old men and old women sit in the squares of Jerusalem (Zechariah 8:4), so long as Uriah’s [threatening] prophecy had not had its fulfilment, I had misgivings lest Zechariah’s prophecy might not be fulfilled; now that Uriah’s prophecy has been [literally] fulfilled, it is quite certain that Zechariah’s prophecy also is to find its literal fulfilment. They said to him: Akiva, you have comforted us! Akiva, you have comforted us!” (BT Makkot 24a–b, cf. JT Berakhot 2:4, 5a).

Truth from the Earth Will Spring Up

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“[And God said, נַעֲשֶׂה (Na’aseh), let us make, a human in our image…’ (Genesis 1:26)]—Rabbi Simon said: When the blessed Holy One came to create the first human, the ministering angels made themselves into cohorts and parties, some of them saying, ‘He will not be created,’ and some of them saying, ‘He will be created.’ As is written, Kindness and truth נִפְגָּשׁוּ (nifggashu), have met [or: have struck], justice and peace נָשָׁקוּ (nashaqu), have kissed [or: (each has) נִשְׁקוֹ (nishqo), his weapon] (Psalms 85:11). Kindness said, ‘He will be created, because he will render kindness.’ Truth said, ‘He will not be created, because he is all lies.’ Righteousness said, ‘He will be created, because he will perform justice.’ Peace said, ‘He will not be created, because he is all strife.’ What did the blessed Holy One do? He took up Truth and flung it to the earth, as is written, And he flung truth to the ground (Daniel 8:12). The ministering angels said before the blessed Holy One, ‘Master of the Worlds! How [can] You be in contempt of the council?’ [Nevertheless,] Truth will rise from the earth, as is written, Truth from the earth will spring up, [as justice from the heavens looks down] (Psalms ibid., 12).

The Rabbis say in the name of Rabbi Ḥanina, and Rabbi Pinḥas and Rabbi Ḥelqiah say in the name of Rabbi Simon: מְאֹד (me’od), very—[read:] אָדָם (adam), man. As is written, And God saw all that He had done, and, look, it was me’od, very, good (Genesis 1:31). And, look, it was… good—man. Rav Huna Rabbah of Sepphoris, said: While the ministering angels were busy arguing with each other, the blessed Holy One created him. He said to them, ‘What are you arguing for? Man is already נַעֲשָׂה (na’asah), made!” (Bereshit Rabbah 8:5–6).

“Any time Israel occupies themselves with Torah and doing the will of their Father in Heaven, the blessed Holy One Himself turns Elohim [i.e., the quality of Judgment] to blessing, as is said, Truth from the earth will spring up, as justice from the heavens looks down (Psalms 85:12). Now there is no look­ing down except to bless, as is said, Look down from Your holy dwelling place, [from the heavens,and bless your people [Israel…] (Deuteronomy 26:15). Any time Israel does not occupy themselves with Torah and doing the will of the Omnipresent, perish the thought, He turns to curse them, as is said, And it grew up to the host of the heavens and brought down some of the stars from the host and trampled them. [And up to the Commander of the Host it grew, and from it the daily offering was taken away, and the firm place of His sanctuary was flung away.And a host was criminally set against the daily offering, and it flung truth to the ground and prospered in what it did (Daniel 8:10–12). And there is no host of the heavens but Israel. Criminally—crime of Torah, as is said, And it flung truth to the ground and prospered in what it did. Teaching that if Israel, perish the thought, flings words of Torah to the ground, immediately the kingship of the nations prosper” (Tanna debei Eliyyahu 18).

אֱמֶת (Emet), truth—א (alef) at the beginning of the alphabet, מ (mem) in the middle, ת (tav) at its end… When Israel lies in Torah of Truth, by swearing falsely, it is said, And he flung truth to the ground (Daniel 8:12). What is the groundShekhinah. And when Israel fulfills the Torah of Truth, by swearing the truth, it is said, אֱמֶת מֵאֶרֶץ תִּצְמָח (emet me-erets titsema), truth from the earth will spring up (Psalms 85:12). Now in exile it says, And truth is not to be found (Isaiah 59:15) and falsehood rules the world. But when Truth is arrayed, ascending to its site obliterating falsehood from the world, it is written, True speech stands firm always (Proverbs 12:19). It is not written firmly founded, but rather, firm alwaysBut a mere moment—a lying tongue (ibid.). What is Truth? The middle pillar. Shekhinaha teaching of truth was in his mouth, [and no wrong was found on his lips] (Malachi 2:6). And what is falsehood? Samael. When the truth rules, falsehood will be removed from the world ” (Tiqqunei Zohar 63, 95a–b).

Behold the man whose name is צֶמַח (tsemaḥ), Shoot; and יִצְמָח (yitsemaḥ), he shall shoot up, in his place, and he shall build the temple of YHWH (Zechariah 6:12).

“The Sages said, ‘If the King Messiah comes from among the living, David will be his name; if he comes from among the dead, it will be David himself.’ Rabbi Tanḥuma said, ‘I say that the basis for this is, And keeping faith with His anointed, to David [and his seed forever] (Psalms 18:51).’

Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi said, ‘צֶמַח (Tsemaḥ), Shoot, is his name.’ Rabbi Yudan son of Rabbi Ayybo said, ‘מְנַחֵם (Menaḥem), Comforter, is his name.’ Ḥananiah son of Rabbi Abahu said, ‘They do not disagree. The numerical value of the letters of one name equals the numerical value of the other—צֶמַח (Tsemaḥ) is equal to מְנַחֵם (Menaḥem)’ [cf. Zohar 3:16a].

And this supports the view of Rabbi Yudan son of Rabbi Ayybo. Once a Jew was plowing and his ox snorted once before him. An Arab who was passing and heard the sound said to him, ‘O son of Judah, O son of Judah. Loosen your ox, and loosen your plow. For today your Temple was destroyed.’ The ox snorted again. He said to him, ‘O son of Judah, O son of Judah. Bind your ox, and bind your plow. For today the King Messiah was born.’ He said to him, ‘What is his name?’ [The Arab replied,] ‘Menaḥem.’ He said to him, ‘And what is his father’s name?’ He said to him, ‘Ḥizqiyah.’ He said to him, ‘Where is he from?’ He said to him, ‘From the royal capital of Bethlehem in Judea.’ He went and sold his ox and sold his plow. And he became a peddler of infants’ clothes. And he went from place to place until he came to that very city. All of the women bought from him. But Menaḥem’s mother did not buy from him. He heard the women saying, ‘O Mother of Menaḥem, O Mother of Menaḥem, come buy for your child.’ She said, ‘I want to choke this enemy of Israel. For on the day he was born the Temple was destroyed.’ He said to her, ‘We are sure that on this day it was destroyed, and on this day it will be rebuilt.’ She said to him, ‘I have no money.’ He said to her, ‘It is of no matter to me. Come and buy for him and if you have no money, pay me when I return.’ After a while he returned. He went up to that place. He said to her, ‘What happened to the infant?’ She said to him, ‘Since the time you saw him a wind came and whisked him away from me.’

Rabbi Bun said, ‘Why must we learn this from an Arab? Do we not have evidence for it? And Lebanon with its mighty shall fall (Isaiah 10:34). And what follows this? And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1)’” (JT Berakhot 2:3, 5a, cf. Eikhah Rabbah 1:51; Zohar 1:82b).

“שִׂיחַ (Shiaḥ), plant, of the field (Genesis 2:5)—the first מָשִׁיחַ (mashiaḥ), Messiah, who was not yet on earth. Shrub, of the field (ibid.)—the second Messiah. Why were they not on the earth? Because Moses was not there with them to serve the Shekhinah [called Earth]. Of him, it is written: And there was no human to till the soil (ibid.). The secret is given in: The scepter shall not pass from Judah (Genesis 49:10)—Messiah son of David; Nor the mace from between his legs (ibid.)—Messiah son of Joseph. Until Shiloh comes (ibid.)—Moses, since מֹשֶׁה (Moshe), Moses, is numerically equivalent to שִׁילֹה (Shiloh), Shiloh. וְלוֹ יִקְהַת (Ve-lo yiqehat), and to him the submission, of peoples (ibid.)—the letters [of]: וְלֵוִי קְהָת (ve-Levi qehat), and Levi Kohath [i.e., reaching from Moses, to Kohath and Levi, his ancestors]” (Zohar 1:25b, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar).

“[Rabbi Yoḥanan son of Zakkai used to say,] ‘If you have a sapling in your hand, and it is said to you, ‘Behold, there is the Messiah’—go on with your planting, and afterward go out and receive him” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan B, 31).

The Earth Opened its Mouth and Swallowed Them Measure for Measure

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And the human knew Eve his woman and she conceived and bore קַיִן (qayin), Cain, and she said, “I have got me, a man with YHWH. And she bore as well his brother הֶבֶל (hevel), Abel, and Abel became a herder of sheep while Cain was a tiller of the soil. And it happened in the course of time that Cain brought from the fruit of the soil an offering to YHWH. And Able too had brought from the choice firstlings of his flock, and YHWH regarded Abel and his offering but He did not regard Cain and his offering, and Cain was very incensed, and his face fell…. And Cain said to Abel his brother, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field Cain rose against Abel his brother and killed him. And YHWH said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said,“I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” And He said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cry out to me from the soil. And so, cursed shall you be by the soil that gaped with its mouth to take your brother’s blood from your hand.” And Cain said to YHWH, “My punishment is too great to bear” (Genesis 4:1–11).

And Cain said to Abel his brother, ‘Let us go out to the field’ (Genesis 4:8). And it was when the two of them had gone out to the field, Cain said to Abel, ‘There is no judgment, and there is no judge, and there is no other world, and there is no reward for the righteous, and there is no punishment for the wicked. And the world was not created in compassion and it is not governed with compassion. For what reason was your offering accepted from you with favor, but from me it was not accepted with favor?!’ Abel said to him, ‘There is judgment and there is a Judge and there is another world, and there is a reward for the righteous, and punishment for the wicked. The world was created in compassion and it is governed with compassion. Because the fruits of [my] good deeds were better than yours, my offering was accepted from me with favor but from you it was not accepted with favor.’ And the two of them were arguing in the field and Cain rose against Abel his brother and killed him (ibid.)” (Fragment Targum).

“From the filth [injected into Eve by the primordial serpent] Cain came forth and killed Abel the shepherd, of whom it is written: For he is but flesh (Genesis 6:3). בְּשַׁגַּם (Beshagam), for (ibid.), is Abel, and he killed him, as is known. However, בְּשַׁגַּם (beshagam), for, [he is but flesh. Let his days be a hundred and twenty years] is certainly [a hint to] Moses and he was firstborn of the [primordial] human [בְּשַׁגַּם (beshagam), for, is numerically equivalent to מֹשֶׁה (moshe), Moses, see BT Ḥullin 139b].

And with all this, for the sake of covering the nakedness of his father, Moses took the daughter of Jethro to be his wife. Of Jethro, it is written: And the sons of the Kenite, the father-in-law of Moses (Judges 1:16)—this has already been explained [see Sifrei Bemidbar, Be-Ha’alotekha, 78; Shemot Rabbah 27:7; Mekhilta Yitro, Amaleq, 1; Tanḥuma, Shemot, 11; cf. BT Bava Batra 109b; Zohar 3:215b (RM)]. Why was Jethro called Kenite? Because he detached himself from Cain, as is written: And Heber הַקֵּינִי (ha-qeni), the Kenite, had separated from קַיִן (qayin), Cain (Judges 4:11) [on Jethro’s seven names, see Mekhilta de-Rabbi Yishma’el, Amaleq, 3]” (Zohar 1:28b, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar).

“And they taught about Jethro: Why is his name called ‘Kenite?’ Because הַקֵּינִי (ha-qeni), the Kenite, had separated from קַיִן (qayin), Cain (Judges 4:11). The Holy Lamp [Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai] rose and said: Therefore it is said: קָנִיתִי (Qaniti)I have got me, a man with YHWH (Genesis 4:1), for [Eve] saw through the Holy Spirit that in the future [Jethro’s] sons would sit in the Chamber of Hewn Stone [meeting place of the Sanhedrin, see BT Sotah 11a]” (Zohar 3:215b, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

He who sheds human blood by humans [his blood will be shed] (Genesis 9:6)—that very man himself. The one slain will kill the one who killed him, according to ‘Because you drowned [them], they drowned you…’ (M Avot 2:7). Thus Abel killed Cain in the days of Moses, and the death of Korah by swallowing, measure for measure, is known. Like Korah, test and demand with warp and woof and you will find a wondrous secret [i.e., comb the fabric of the text (Numbers 16:1) lengthwise and breadthwise. Cf. M Kil’ayim 9:8; BT Sanhedrin 110a]” (Rabbi Menaḥem Tsiyyoni, Sefer Tsiyyoni, Qoraḥ, 82):

וַיִּקַּח קֹרַח בֶּן יִצְהָר בֶּן קְהָת בֶּן לֵוִי (Va-yiqaḥ qoraḥ ben yitshar ben qehat ben levi), and Korah son of Izhar son of Kohath son of Levi, and Datham and Abiram sons of Eliab and On son of Peleth sons of Reuben, took up, and they rose before Moses, and two hundred fifty men of the Israelites, community chieftains, persons called up to meeting, men of renown. And they assembled against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, “You have too much! For all the community, they are all holy, and in their midst is YHWH, and why should you raise yourselves up over YHWH’s assembly?” And Moses heard and fell on his face…. The ground that was under them split apart, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households and every human being that was Korah’s, and all his possessions (Numbers 16:1–4, 32)—קַיִן (qayin), Cainהֶבֶל (hevel), Abel.

“‘Rabbi Akiva said: The company of Korah has no share in the world that is coming. Rabbi Eli’ezer said: YHWH kills and gives life, brings down to Sheol and raises up (1 Samuel 2:6)’ (M Sanhedrin 10:3). Our Rabbis taught: for it is said, And the earth covered over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly (Numbers 16:33)—this is Rabbi Akiva’s view. Rabbi Yehudah son of Batira said: They are as a lost article, which is sought, for it is said, I have wandered like a lost sheep. Seek Your servant, for Your commands I did not forget (Psalms 119:176).

Korah took (Numbers 16:1). Resh Laqish said: He took a bad bargain [or: purchase] for himself, being plucked out of Israel [קֵרֵחַ (qereaḥ), baldness, puns on קֹרַח (qora), Korah]. Son of יִצְהָר (yitshar), Izhar (ibid.)—a son who incensed the whole world with himself as the [heat of] צֹהַרִים (tsoharim), noon. Son of קְהָת (qehat)Kohath (ibid.)—a son who קֵהֶה (qeheh), set on edge, the teeth of his progenitors [i.e., who disgraced his parents]. Son of לֵוִי (levi), Levi (ibid.)—a son who joined the לְוָיָה (levayah), retinue, of Hell. Then why not say too ‘son of יַעֲקֹב (ya’aqov), Jacob,’ [implying] a son who עַקָב (eqev), marched, himself into Hell?—Rabbi Shemu’el son of Rabbi Yitsḥaq answered: Jacob supplicated for himself [not to be counted amongst Korah’s ancestors], as is written, In their council let me never set foot, their assembly my presence shun (Genesis 49:6): In their council let me never set foot—the spies [in no case is the genealogy of the spies traced to Jacob (Rashi)]; their assembly my presence shun—to the company of Korah. דָתָן (Datan), Datham [Korah’s ally], (ibid.)—stepped over the דָת (dat), law, of God; אֲבִירָם (Aviram), Abiram (ibid.)—stoutly refused to repent; אוֹן (on), On (ibid.)—he sat in אֹנינוֹת (oninot), lamentations; פֶּלֶת (pelet), Peleth (ibid.)—פֶּלֶאוֹת (pele’ot), wonders, were done for him [since he abandoned the conspiracy, and was miraculously saved from its fate]; son of רְאוּבֵן (reuven), Reuben—a son who רֵאָה (re’ah), saw, and הַבִין (havin), understood.

Rav said: On son of Peleth was saved by his wife. She said to him, ‘What does it matter to you? Whether the one [Moses] remains master or the other [Korah] becomes master, you are but a disciple.’ He replied, ‘But what can I do? I have taken part in their counsel, and they have sworn me [to be] with them.’ She said, ‘I know that they are all a holy community, as is written, For all the community, they are all holy (Numbers 16:3). Sit here, and I will save you.’ She gave him wine to drink, intoxicated him and laid him down within [the tent]. Then she sat down there at the entrance and loosened her hair. Whoever came [to summon him] saw her and retreated.

Meanwhile, Korah’s wife joined [the rebels] and said to him [Korah], ‘See what Moses has done. He himself has become king; his brother he appointed High Priest; his brother’s sons he has made the vice High Priests. If terumah is brought, he decrees, Let it be for the priest; if the tithe is brought, which belongs to you [being a Levite], he orders, Give a tenth part thereof to the priest. Moreover, he has had your hair cut off [in accordance with the purification rites of the Levites (see Numbers 8:7)], and makes sport of you as though you were dirt; for he cast his eyes on your hair [i.e., he is envious].’

He said to her, ‘But he has done likewise!’ She replied, ‘Since all the greatness was his, he said also, Let me die with the Philistines! (Judges 16:30) [this was used proverbially to denote readiness to suffer, so that others might suffer too—Moses, retaining all the greatness himself, did not mind shaving his own hair off, seeing that he had caused all the rest to do so, thus depriving them of their beauty]. Moreover, he has commanded you, Set [fringes] of indigo wool [in the corners of your garments (see Numbers 15:38)]; but if there is virtue in indigo wool, then bring forth indigo wool, and clothe your entire academy with it.’

Thus is written, Every wise woman has built her house (Proverbs 14:1)—wife of On son of Peleth; and Folly with her own hands destroys it (ibid.)—Korah’s wife” (BT Sanhedrin 109b–110a).

“Come and see: The Levites, who come from the side of Judgment, are not purified until their hair is removed, as is written: Thus you shall do to them to purify them: sprinkle on them expiation water and have them pass a razor over all their flesh (Numbers 8:7). And in order for them to be further assuaged, the priest, who comes from the side of Ḥesed, must elevate them, as is written: Aaron shall make of the Levites an elevation offering before YHWH (ibid., 11)….

Rabbi Yitsḥaq said, ‘The greatest of all Levites was Korah, whom the blessed holy One made below corresponding to the pattern above, calling him קֹרַח (qoraḥ), Korah…. He is קֵרֵחַ (qereaḥ), bald (Leviticus 13:40). When Korah saw his head hairless and saw Aaron bedecked with royal adornments, he felt belittled and was jealous of Aaron [cf. Tanḥuma, Qoraḥ 3; Tanḥuma (Buber), Qoraḥ 6; Bemibar Rabbah 18:4]. The blessed Holy One said to him, ‘I made you corresponding to the pattern above. You do not wish to ascend among those above? Go down and be among those below!—as is written: and they go down alive to Sheol (Numbers 16:30). What is Sheol? Hell, where the wicked cry out and no one has compassion on them. Yet they are destined to ascend and be revived when the blessed Holy One awakens His people and revives them, as is written: YHWH kills and gives life, brings down to Sheol and raises up (1 Samuel 2:6)” (Zohar 3:49a).

“Every conflict that is for the sake of heaven is destined to endure, while any conflict not for the sake of heaven is not destined to endure. Which conflict is for the sake of heaven? The conflict between Hillel and Shammai. Which conflict is not for the sake of heaven? The conflict of Korah and his entire band” (M Avot 5:17, cf. Liqqutei Moharan 64:4).

“Rabbi Abba said in the name of Shemu’el: For three years there was a conflict between the House of Shammai and the House of Hillel. These said, ‘The Halakhah accords with us.’ And the those said, ‘The Halakhah accords with us.’ Then an echo went forth announcing, ‘Both are the words of אֱלֹהִים חַיִּים (Elohim ḥayyim), the living God, but the Halakhah is in accord with the rulings of the House of Hillel.’ Since, however, both are the words of the living God, what was it that entitled the House of Hillel to have the Halakhah fixed in accord with their rulings? Because they were kindly and modest, they studied their own rulings and those of the House of Shammai [see for example BT Berakhot 10b], and were even so [humble] as to mention the words of the House of Shammai before theirs” (BT Eruvin 13b).

“[Rabbi Shim’on ha-Amsoni said:] Just as I received reward for the exposition, so I will receive reward for the retraction [to be defeated by the truth is a defeat which is also a victory]” (BT Pesaḥim 22b).

“Doubts make sages of men” (Midrash Shemu’el on M Avot 5:27).

“In the act of Creation a conflict arose between left and right, and in that conflict aroused by the left, Hell emerged, clinging there. The central pillar, who is the third day, entered between them, mediating the conflict, reconciling the two sides. Hell descended, left merged in right, and peace prevailed over all [cf. Zohar 1:87a].

Similarly the conflict between Korah and Aaron was left against right. Moses, contemplating the act of Creation, said, ‘It is fitting that I mediate the conflict between left and right.’ He endeavored to reconcile them, but the left was unwilling, and Korah stiffened his resistance. He [Moses] said, ‘Hell must certainly join in the heat of the conflict of the left. Since he does not want to join above, merging in the right, he will certainly descend below by the intensity of his rage.’ Korah did not want this conflict to be harmonized by Moses because it was not for the sake of heaven; he cared nothing about the supernal glory and denied the act of Creation. As soon as Moses saw that he had denied the act of Creation and been thrust outside, Moses became very angry (Numbers 16:5). Moses became very angry because they had denied the act of Creation. Korah denied everything above and below, as is written: who strove against Moses and Aaron as part of Korah’s band when they strove against YHWH (ibid. 26:9), below and above. So he joined what befitted him [i.e., Hell, Sheol].

A conflict arrayed as above, ascending, not descending, established rightly, is the conflict of Hillel and Shammai. The blessed holy One mediated between them, harmonizing them. This was a conflict for the sake of heaven, so Heaven [Tif’eret] mediated the conflict, and upon this conflict the world was established. This resembled the act of Creation, whereas Korah totally denied the act of Creation, disputing heaven, seeking to deny the words of Torah. He certainly adhered to Hell, so there he clung. This secret appears in The Book of Adam. When darkness aroused, it aroused intensely, thereby creating Hell, clinging to it in that conflict. As seething fury subsided, conflict of a different type arose: a conflict of love. There were two conflicts: one, beginning; one, ending. This is the way of the righteous: beginning harshly, ending gently [cf. BT Qiddushin 30b]. Korah was the beginning of the conflict: seething in wrath, he was compelled to cling to Hell. Shammai was the end of the conflict, when wrath subsides and one must arouse the conflict of love and be reconciled by heaven” (Zohar 1:17a–b).

“Rabbi Berekhiyah said: What is The words of the wise are כַּדָּרְבֹנוֹת (ka-darvonot), like goads… [given from one shepherd] (Ecclesiastes 12:11)? כַּדוּר שֶׁל בָּנוֹת (Kadur shel banot), a girls’ ball—one tosses it here, and the other tosses it there. So too the Sages, who delve into Talmud and engage in Torah: one gives his reasoning and the other his, one puts forward one account and the other another, but the words of all are from Moses, the shepherd, who received from the Singular One of the world. Since one gives one account and the other another, perhaps their words merely fly about. Therefore it is written, like nails driven in (ibid.)” (Pesiqta Rabbati 3:1).

Composers of collections (Ecclesiastes 12:11)—those who enter and sit assembled in assemblies, declaring what is impure [to be] impure, and what is pure [to be] pure; what is impure in its place, and what is pure in its place.

Should a man think to himself, ‘Since the House of Shammai declare impure and the House of Hillel declare pure, so-and-so forbids, and so-and-so permits, how then shall I learn Torah? Therefore it says [And God spoke] all these words (Exodus 20:1).

Given from one shepherd (Ecclesiastes 12:11)—one God created them. One Leader gave them. The blessed Master of Deeds spoke them. Therefore make of your heart chambers and chambers and bring into it the words of the House of Shammai and the words of the House of Hillel, the words of those who declare impure and the words of those who declare pure” (Tosefta Sotah 7:12, cf. Job 22:22; BT Ḥagigah 3b; Bemidbar Rabbah 14:4).

“One who sees a crowd says, ‘Blessed is He who knows secrets. Just as their faces are different one from the other, so are their opinions different one from the other” (JT Berakhot 9:1, 13b).

“Within Torah is power of the right, as is said: from His right hand, a fiery law for them (Deuteronomy 33:2), and left is included in right. Whoever makes right left, and left right, is as if he destroys the world.

Come and see: Aaron is right; Levites are left. Korah sought to change right into left, so he was punished. Furthermore, he possessed the לָשׁוֹן הָרַע (lashon ha-ra), evil tongue, and he was punished entirely.

Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘Left is always included in right. Korah sought to change the arrangement of above and below, so he was eliminated from above and below.

Korah took (Numbers 16:1). What is meant by took? He took evil counsel for himself. If anyone chases after something that is not his, it escapes him; and what is more, he loses what he has. Korah pursued that which was not his; he lost his own without attaining the other [cf. Tosefta Sotah 4:19; BT Sotah 9b; Bereshit Rabbah 20:5; Mishnat Rabbi Eli’ezer 18, p. 334].

Come and see: The world exists only by peace. When the blessed Holy One created the world, it could not endure until peace came and settled upon all. What is it? Sabbath, which is peace of those above and below. Then the world endured. And whoever quarrels with it will be eliminated from the world [cf. M Avot 1:18]” (Zohar 3:176a).