The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: תוֹרָה

Sometimes in those Empty Ones You May Discover Bells of Gold!

vishniac-beggarsA teaching did Moses charge us, a heritage for Jacob’s assembly! (Deuteronomy 33:4).

“Rabbi Parnak said in Rabbi Yoḥanan’s name: He who is himself a scholar, and his son is a scholar, and his son’s son too, Torah will nevermore cease from his seed, as is written, As for me, this is My covenant with them, says YHWH; My spirit that is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, nor out of the mouth of your descendants, nor out of the mouth of your descendant’s descendants, says YHWH, from this time forth and forever (Isaiah 59:21). What is meant by says YHWH?—the blessed Holy One, said, ‘I am surety for you in this matter.’ What is the meaning of from this time forth and forever?—Rabbi Yirmeyahu said: ‘From now on Torah seeks its home [i.e., it becomes hereditary in that family]” (BT Bava Metsi’a 85a).

“Rabbi Yose said: Let the property of your fellow be as precious to you as your own. Prepare yourself to study Torah, for it does not come to you as an inheritance. And let all your deeds be for the sake of Heaven” (M Avot 2:17).

“If one wants to become a priest or a Levite he cannot because his father was not a priest or a Levite. However, if one wants to become righteous even if he is a gentile he can do so because it is not a family trait, as it says: bless YHWH, those who fear YHWH, bless YHWH (Psalms 135:20)—it does not say the house of those who fear YHWH but those who fear YHWH. It is not a family trait, rather, on their own they chose to fear and love the blessed Holy One. Therefore, the blessed Holy One loves them” (Bemidbar Rabbah 8:2).

“Be heedful of the children of the poor, for from them Torah goes forth, as is written, Water drips מִדָּלְיָו (midalyav), from his branch, [and his root in abundant waters] (Numbers 24:7)—[מִדַּלִּים (mi-dallim), from the poor,] goes forth Torah [likened to water]. And why is it not usual for scholars to give birth to sons who are scholars? Rabbi Yosef said, ‘That they not say, The Torah is their legacy’ [i.e., others should not complain that it is useless for them to study, or that they themselves should not think study unnecessary]. Rav Sheshet, the son of Rav Idi, said: ‘That they should not be arrogant towards the public.’ Mar Zutra said: ‘Because they act high-handedly against the public.’ Rav Ashi said: ‘Because they call people donkeys.’ Ravina said: Because they do not first utter a blessing over the Torah [as required]. For Rav Yehudah said in Rav’s name: ‘What is meant by, Who is the wise man, that may understand this? [… for why is the land perished and is burned up like a wilderness, that none passes through?] (Jeremiah 9:11). Now, this question was put to the sages and prophets but they could not answer it until the blessed Holy One Himself did so, as is written, And YHWH says, Because they have forsaken My law which I set before them, and have not obeyed My voice, neither walked in it (ibid., 12): but is not have not obeyed My voice identical with, neither walked in it? Rav Yehudah said in Rav’s name: ‘[It means] that they did not first recite a blessing over Torah’” (BT Nedarim 81a).

Like a slice of pomegranate רַקָּתֵךְ (raqatekh), your forehead (Song of Songs 4:3)…. Even רֵיקַנִין (reiqanin), the empty ones, among you are as full of mitsvot as a pomegranate [is full of seeds]” (BT Berakhot 57a).

“That donkey-driver, is he here? For sometimes in those empty ones, you may discover bells of gold! [In rabbinic literature the bell appears as a symbol of revelation and inspiration, see BT Sotah 9b, in the name of Rabbi Neḥemiah: ‘Shekhinah was ringing before him like a bell’]” (Zohar 2:95a).

“Sometimes in a poor man’s undergarment you’ll find a pearl” (Zohar 3:157b, cf. M Avot 4:1).

“Rabbi Yose son of Yehudah of Bavli village said: When you learn from the young, what is it like? Like eating unripe grapes or drinking wine straight from the vat. When you learn from the old, what is it like? Like eating ripe grapes and drinking old wine.

Rabbi Me’ir said: Do not look at the flask but at what it contains, for a new flask may contain old wine, and an old flask may not contain anything, even new wine” (M Avot 5:26–27).

A Jealous Fire

burnttorah

“Rabbi El’azar said,… ‘You, cleaving to YHWH your God, are alive everyone of you today (Deuteronomy 4:4). Now is it possible to cleave to Shekhinah, of whom it is written: YHWH your God is a devouring fire (ibid., 24)? Rather the meaning is: whoever marries his daughter to a disciple of the Sages, conducts business on their behalf, or benefits them from his assets is regarded by Scripture as if he cleaves to Shekhinah [cf. BT Sotah 14a, where Rabbi Ḥama son of Ḥanina explains that one can approach and withstand the consuming fire of Shekhinah by imitating the divine, e.g., by clothing the naked, visiting the sick, comforting mourners, and burying the dead]” (BT Ketubbot 111b).

“The General Agrippa asked Rabban Gamaliel, ‘It is written in your Torah, For YHWH your God is a devouring fire, a jealous God (Deuteronomy 4:24). Is a wise man jealous of any but a wise man, a warrior of any but a warrior, a rich man of any but a rich man?’ He replied, ‘I will give you a parable: To what can the matter be compared? A man who marries an additional wife. If the second wife is her superior, the first will not be jealous of her, but if she is her inferior, the first wife will be jealous of her’” (BT Avodah Zarah 55a).

“Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘A word lingers here with us.’ He opened, saying, ‘Two verses are written: YHWH your God is a devouring fire (Deuteronomy 4:24), and You, cleaving to YHWH your God, are alive every one of you today (ibid., 4). We have established these verses in various places, and the Companions have been aroused by them.

Come and see: For YHWH your God is a devouring fire. The word has been discussed among the Companions: There is a fire devouring fire, devouring and consuming it, for there is fire fiercer than fire, as they have established [see BT Yoma 21b]. But come and see: Whoever desires to penetrate the wisdom of holy unification should contemplate the flame ascending from a glowing ember or a burning candle. For flame ascends only when grasped by course substance” (Zohar 1:50b–51a).

“The blue [light of a flame corresponds to] Shekhinah, the Judgment that devours sacrifices and burnt offerings. If She finds men to be as dry wood, like dry wicks without oil, which is Torah and Compassion, [She] is a fire to them and burns them” (Zohar 3:33a, Ra’aya Meheimna Tsav, cf. Zohar 2:166a).

“Rabbi Abba son of Rabbi Ḥiyya son of Abba said in the name of Rabbi Yoḥanan [son of Nappaḥa]: One who writes down הֲלַכוֹת (halakhot), ways of conduct, is as one who burns the Torah, and he who learns from them does not receive reward…. Rabbi Yehudah son of Naḥmani, the translator of Resh Laqish expounded: One may not recite oral teachings from a written document and one may not recite written teachings from memory. The house of Rabbi Yishma’el taught: ‘Write for yourself these words’ (Exodus 34:27). These words [i.e., the Written Torah] you may write, but you may not write halakhot” (BT Temurah 14b, cf. Gittin 60a–b; Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed 1:71).

“The Companions saw the face of Shekhinah and were encompassed by fire. Rabbi Abba’s face blazed in fire from rapture of Torah. It has been taught: All that day, none of them left the house, and the house was swathed in smoke. Words among them were fresh and ecstatic as if they were receiving Torah that very day from Mount Sinai! When they departed they did not know if it was day or night” (Zohar 1:94b, cf. Vayiqra Rabbah 16:4; Avot de-Rabbi Natan B, 13).

“As to what the Rabbis have said: ‘Now is it possible for one to cleave to Shekhinah?—it certainly is!… Know and believe that there is a special quality to the essence of the purity of limbs that allows for man to hold fast to the Shekhinah even if She is a consuming fire” (Rabbi Yosef Gikatilla, Sha’arei Orah 166).

Israel’s Light Increases Little by Little

IMG_1037

“Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi asked: ‘What is: And this is the Torah which Moses שָׂם (sam), set, before the children of Israel (Deuteronomy 4:44)?’ If he is worthy it becomes סַם (sam), medicine, of life, for him, if not, a סַם (sam), poison, of death” (BT Yoma 72b, cf. BT Ta’anit 7a).

“What was the beginning of Rabbi Akiva? They say that he was forty years old and had not learned a thing. Once, he was standing at the mouth of a well. He said, ‘Who carved this stone?’ They said to him, ‘The water that drips on it every day. Akiva, did you not read Water wears away stones (Job 14:19)?’ Immediately Akiva reasoned, ‘Just as the soft sculpts the hard, all the more so words of Torah, which are as hard as iron, can penetrate my heart, which is but flesh and blood! Immediately he returned to learn Torah.

He then went together with his son and they appeared before an elementary teacher. Akiva said to him: ‘Master, teach me Torah.’ Akiva took one end of the tablet, and his son the other end of the tablet. The teacher wrote down the alef-bet for him and he learned it; alef tav, and he learned it; the book of Leviticus, and he learned it. He went on studying until he learned the entire Torah. Then he went and appeared before Rabbi Eli’ezer and Rabbi Yehoshu’a. He said to them, ‘My masters, reveal the justification of Mishnah to me.’ When they told him one halakhah he went off to be by himself. He said, ‘This alef, why was it written? This bet, why was it written? This thing, why was it said?’ He came back and asked them, and reduced them to silence [cf. M Avot 3:17]….

Rabbi Tarfon said to him: ‘Akiva, of you it says The wellsprings of rivers he blocked. What was hidden he brought out to light (Job 28:11).’ What was hidden—from men, you Rabbi Akiva brought out to light” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, A6).

“Rabbah expounded in the name of Rabbi Sehora who had it from Rav Huna: What is: Wealth can be less than הֶבֶל (hevel), mere breath, but who gathers bit by bit makes it grow (Proverbs 13:11)? [cf. Ecclesiastes 1:2: הֲבֵל הֲבָלִים (havel havalim), merest breath]. If a man makes his Torah חֲבִילוֹת חֲבִילוֹת (ḥavilot ḥavilot), bundles of bundles, his learning decreases, and if he does not do so but gathers bit by bit he makes it grow. Rabbah remarked: The Rabbis are well aware of this matter and yet disregard it. Rabbi Naḥman son of Yistḥaq said: I acted on this advice and my study remained with me” (BT Eruvin 54b, cf. BT Avodah Zarah 19a).

If you find honey, eat just what you need, lest you have your fill of it and throw it up (Proverbs 25:16).

“[Torah]—the light in her reforms” (JT Ḥagigah 5:7, 80a).

He said, ‘Let me go, for dawn has risen! (Genesis 32:27). Rabbi Yehudah opened, Who is this looking forth like the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun…? (Song of Songs 6:10). This verse has been established and explained, but Who is this looking forth?—Israel, when the blessed Holy One will raise them, bringing them out of exile. He will then open for them a tiny crack of light, then another opening, wider, until the blessed Holy One opens for them supernal gates facing four directions of the world. So with all the blessed Holy One does for Israel and for the righteous among them—always so, never all at once. This can be compared to a person thrown into darkness, dwelling in darkness constantly. When they want to illumine him, they must open the light to him like the eye of a needle, then wider, always gradually, until he is illumined with all the light fittingly. Similarly with Israel, as is said: little by little I will drive them out before you (Exodus 23:30). And so with one who is being cured: not all at once, but little by little until he is fortified [cf. JT Berakhot 1:1, 2c].

But with Esau, not so! Rather, he is illumined all at once and deprived little by little, until Israel are fortified and eliminate him entirely from this world and from the world that is coming. Since he blazed all at once, he is annihilated completely, whereas Israel’s light increases little by little until they are invigorated and the blessed Holy One illumines them forever. Everyone asks, Who is this looking forth like the dawn?—at first a subtle glow; then fair as the moon, then bright as the sun, then awesome as bannered hosts (Song of Songs, ibid.)—Beaming powerfully, intensely, fittingly” (Zohar 1:170a).

“Rabbi Levi said in the name of Rabbi Yose son of Ila’i, ‘It is natural that the great should calculate by the great, and the small by the small. Esau calculates by the sun, which is large, and Jacob by the moon, which is small.’ Rabbi Naḥman said, ‘That is a happy presage. Esau calculates by the sun, which is large: just as the sun rules by day but not by night, so does Esau have a share in this world, but has no share in the world to come. Jacob calculates by the moon, which is small: just as the moon rules by day and by night, so Jacob has a share in this world and in the world to come!’” (Bereshit Rabbah 6:3).

“Come and see! This is the way of Torah: At first, when she begins to reveal herself to a person, she beckons him momentarily with a hint. If he perceives, good; if not, she sends for him, calling him ‘simple’: ‘Tell that simple one to come closer, so I can talk with him.’ As is written: Whoever is simple, let him turn here, he who lacks understanding (Proverbs 9:4). As he approaches, she begins to speak with him from behind a curtain she has drawn, words suitable for him, until he reflects little by little. This is derasha [homiletical interpretation]. Then, she converses with him from behind a delicate sheet, words of riddle, and this is haggadah [allegorical tales].

Once he has grown accustomed to her, she reveals herself to him face-to-face, and tells him all her hidden secrets and all the hidden ways, concealed in her heart since primordial days. Then he is a complete man, husband of Torah, master of the house, for all her secrets she has revealed to him, concealing nothing” (Zohar 2:99a–b).

The path of the righteous is like light’s radiance, ever brighter till day has come. The way of the wicked is like darkness. They know not on what they stumble (Proverbs 4:18).

The Blessed Holy One Invited the other Nations to Receive the Torah

O YHWH, when You came forth from Seir… (Judges 5:4)—what did He seek in Seir, and what did He seek in Mount Paran? [cf. Deuteronomy 33:2: YHWH from Sinai came and from Seir He dawned upon them, He shone from Mount Paran…]—Rabbi Yoḥanan says: This teaches us that the blessed Holy One, offered the Torah to every nation and every tongue, but none accepted it, until He came to Israel who received it. [The nations] will say: ‘Did we accept it and fail to observe it? But surely: ‘Then why did you not accept it?’—the nations will then say, ‘Master of the Universe, did You suspend the mountain over us like a cask as You have done to Israel and did we still decline to accept it?’ For Rabbi Dimi son of Ḥama said: And they stood under the mountain (Exodus 19:17)—this teaches us that the blessed Holy One suspended the mountain over Israel like a cask, saying to them: ‘If you accept the Torah, it will be well with you, but if not, there will you find your grave.’ Thereupon the blessed Holy One will say to them: ‘Let us then consider the happenings of old,’ as is said, Who among them can declare this, and show us former things (Isaiah 43:9), ‘There are seven commandments which you did accept, did you observe them?’ [How do we know that they did not observe them?]—for Rabbi Yosef learned: He stood, and shook the earth: He beheld, וַיַּתֵּר (va-yater), and caused to tremble, the nations (Habakkuk 3:6) [cf. BT Bava Qamma 38a]: what did He see? He saw that the nations did not keep even the seven commandments which the sons of Noah had taken upon themselves, and seeing that they did not keep them, He stood up and released them [וַיַּתֵּר (va-yater) also means, ‘he releases,’ cf. מוּתָר (mutar), permitted]. Then they benefited by it; according to this it pays to be a sinner!

The release from those commandments only means that even if they kept them they would not be rewarded. But why should they not? Is it not taught: Rabbi Meir would say: How do we know that even a heathen who engages in Torah study is like the high priest? From the verse And you shall keep My statutes and My laws which a person shall do and live through them (Leviticus 18:5). It does not say If a Priest, Levite, or Israelite do, and live through them, but a person; here, then, you can learn that even a heathen who studies Torah is equal to a High Priest!—what is meant, then, is that they are rewarded not as greatly as one who does a thing which he is commanded to do, but as one who does a thing uncommanded. For, Rabbi Ḥanina said: He who is commanded and does, stands higher then he who is not commanded and does.

The nations will then say, ‘Master of the Universe, has Israel, who accepted the Torah, kept it? The blessed Holy One will reply, ‘I can give evidence that they kept the Torah.’ They said ‘O Master of the Universe can a father give evidence in favor of his son? For it is written, My son, My firstborn, is Israel (Exodus 4:22). Then will the blessed Holy One say: ‘Heaven and earth can bear witness that Israel has fulfilled the entire Torah.’ But they will [object], saying: ‘Master of the Universe, heaven and earth are partial witnesses, for it is said, If not for My covenant with day and with night, I should not have appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth’ (Jeremiah 33:25). [And Rabbi Shim’on son of Laqish further said:] What is conveyed by the phrase, And it was evening and it was morning, the sixth day? (Genesis 1:31). It teaches us that God made a condition with the works of creation, saying: ‘If Israel accept My Torah it will be well, but if not, I shall reduce you to welter;’ which accords with the comment of Rabbi Ḥizqiyah on the verse, From the heavens You made judgment heard, the earth was afraid and fell silent (Psalms 76:9). If the earth trembled, how could it be still, and if it was still, how could it tremble? But at first it trembled, and then it became still.

The blessed Holy One will then say, ‘Some of yourselves shall testify that Israel kept the entire Torah. Let Nimrod come and testify that Abraham did not [consent to] worship idols; let Laban come and testify that Jacob could not be suspected of theft [cf. Genesis 31:37]; let Potiphar’s wife testify that Joseph was above suspicion of immorality; let Nebuchadnezzar come and testify that Ḥanania, Mishael and Azariyah did not bow down to an image; let Darius come and testify that Daniel never neglected the prayers [his windows were open in his upper chamber towards Jerusalem, and he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before God, see Daniel 6:11, the earliest record of the practice]; let Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Na’amathite, and Eliphaz the Temanite [and Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite (see Job 32:2; cf. BT Bava Batra 15b)] testify that Israel has kept the whole Torah; as  is said, Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: who among them can declare this, and show us former things? let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified: or let them hear, and say, It is truth (Isaiah 43:9).

The nations will then plead. ‘Offer us the Torah anew and we shall obey it.’ But the blessed Holy One will say to them, ‘You foolish ones among peoples, he who took trouble [to prepare] on the eve of the Sabbath can eat on the Sabbath, but he who has not troubled on the eve of the Sabbath, what shall he eat on the Sabbath? Nevertheless, I have an easy command which is called סֻּכֹּת (sukkot), Huts (Leviticus 23:42); go and carry it out.’ [But how can you say so:] does not Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi say: What is, And you shall keep what is commanded and the statutes and the laws that I charge you today to do (Deuteronomy 7:11)? It is that only this day is the time to do them,’ they cannot be done tomorrow [cf. Bahir §81: ‘Each day has its own power’]; this day is the time in which to do them, but not in which to be rewarded for them. [Why then should they be offered this observance in the days of the Messiah?]—because the blessed Holy One does not deal imperiously with His creatures. And why does He call it an easy command?—because it does not affect one’s purse. Immediately every one of them will take himself and go and make a hut on the top of his roof; but the blessed Holy One will cause the sun to blaze forth over them as at the cycle of Tammuz [i.e., summer solstice] and every one of them will trample down his hut and go away, as is said, Let us tear off their fetters, let us fling away their bonds! (Psalms 2:3). [But you have just said] ‘The blessed Holy One does not deal imperiously with His creatures?—true! but with the Israelites, too, it occasionally happens that the cycle of Tammuz extends till the Festival [Sukkot] and they are vexed [by the heat, the test is therefore not exceptional or harsh]. But does not Rava say: He who is vexed thereby is freed from dwelling in the סוּכָּה (sukkah), hut? (BT Sukkah 26a)—granted, they would [in such circumstances] be freed, but would Israelites contemptuously trample it down? Thereupon the blessed Holy One will laugh at them, as is said, He who dwells in the heavens will laugh [the Master derides them] (Psalms 2:4). Rabbi said Yitsḥaq: ‘Only on that day is there laughter for the blessed Holy One!’

Some connected that comment of Rabbi Yitsḥaq with the following teaching: Rabbi Yose says, ‘In time to come the nations will come and offer themselves as converts.’ But will such be accepted? Has it not been taught that in the days of the Messiah converts will not be accepted [see BT Yevamot 24a]; likewise none were accepted in the days of David or of Solomon?—well, they will be self-made converts [lit., ‘dragged-in converts’ a class of converts who judaize en masse under the impulsion of fear], and will place tefillin on their foreheads and on their arms, fringes in their garments, and a mezuzah on their doorposts, but when the battle of Gog and Magog will come about [see Ezekiel 39:12] they will be asked, ‘For what purpose have you come?’ and they will answer: ‘Against God and His Messiah,’ as is said, Why are the nations aroused, and the people’s murmur vain things? (Psalms 2:1). Then each of the converts will throw aside his religious token and get away, as is said, Let us break their bands asunder (ibid.), and the blessed Holy One will sit and laugh, as is said: He who dwells in the heavens will laugh (Psalms 2:4).

[It was on this that] Rabbi Yitsḥaq remarked that there is no laughter for the blessed Holy One except on that day. But is there not, indeed? Yet Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav: ‘The day consists of twelve hours; during the first three hours the blessed Holy One is occupying Himself with the Torah, during the second three He sits in judgment on the whole world, and when He sees that the world is so guilty as to deserve destruction, He transfers Himself from the seat of Justice to the seat of Mercy; during the third quarter, He is feeding the whole world, from the horned buffalo to the brood of vermin [cf. BT Shabbat 107b]; during the fourth quarter He is sporting with the Leviathan, as is said, There the ships go, this Leviathan You fashioned to play with’? (Psalms 104:26). Rabbi Naḥman son of Yitsḥaq said: Yes, He sports with His creatures, but does not laugh at His creatures except on that day” (BT Avodah Zarah 2b–3b, cf. Zohar 3:20a, 192a–193a).

Fools See Someone in a Good-Looking Garment and They Look No Further

image “Rabbi Akiva says: Torah speaks in the language of men” (Sifre, Numbers 112).

“These verses may be read literally, but words of Torah are sealed. How many words of wisdom are concealed in every single word of Torah! The pathways are known; for Torah does not consist of dreamy words, transmitted to whoever interprets them and conducted by the mouth—nevertheless, requiring appropriate treatment. Now, if this is so with dreams, how much more do words of Torah—delights of the Holy King—need to be followed according to the way of truth!” (Zohar 2:95a, Sava de-Mishpatim).

“Come and see: For a king of flesh and blood, it is undignified to engage in common talk, much less to write it down. Now, would you ever imagine that the supernal King, the blessed Holy One, had no holy words to write, with which to compose the Torah, so that he had to collect all of these words about commoners—such as words about Esau, about Hagar, about Laban with Jacob, about the donkey, Balaam, and Balak, about Zimri, and all the other stories that are written—and make a Torah out of them? If so, why is it called a Torah of truth (Malachi 2:6)—Torah of YHWH is perfect; the decree of YHWH is trustworthy; The precepts of YHWH are just; the command of YHWH is lucid; the awe of YHWH is pure? And it is written: more desirable than gold… (Psalms 19:8–11). These are words of Torah! But surely it is called Torah of YHWH, Perfect Torah, and every single word comes to demonstrate other, supernal matters. The wording of the story does not come to signify itself, but rather to signify something about the totality, as has been said….

Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘Woe to the person who says that Torah intended to present a mere story and ordinary words! For if so, we could compose a Torah right now with ordinary words, and more laudable than all of them. If to display matters of the world, even worldly potentates possess words more sublime. If so, let us follow them and make a Torah out of them! But all the words of Torah correspond to the following pattern.

Come and see: The world above and the world below are evenly balanced: Israel below, supernal angels above. Of the angels is written He makes His angels spirits… (Psalms 104:4). This pertains to the celestial realm. But when they descend below, although they descend, they don garments of this world. If they are not clothed in a garment befitting this world, they cannot not endure in this world, nor can the world endure them.

If this is so with angels, then concerning Torah—who created them and all the worlds, which exist for her sake—when she descends to this world, if she does not clothe herself in garments of this world, the world cannot endure. So this story of Torah is a garment of Torah. Whoever thinks that the garment is the real Torah and not something else, may his spirit expire! He will have no share in the world that is coming! Therefore David said: Uncover my eyes, so I can see wonders out of your Torah (Psalms 119:18)—what is beneath the garment of Torah [cf. Zohar 2:99b (SM): ‘The wise who are full of eyes—although that matter is concealed there in its garment—see it through the garment’].

Come and see: There is a garment visible to all. Those fools, when they see someone in a good-looking garment, look no further. Yet the significance of that garment is the body; the significance of the body is the soul. Corresponding to this pattern, Torah has a body—and words of Torah called ‘bodies of Torah.’ This body is clothed in a garment, namely stories of this world. Fools of the world look only at that garment, the story of Torah. Those who know more do not look at the garment, but rather at the body beneath that garment. The wise—servants of the supernal King, those who stood at Mount Sinai—look only at the soul, root of all, real Torah. And in the world that is coming, they are destined to gaze upon the soul of the soul of Torah…. Happy are the righteous who look at Torah properly! As wine must sit in a bottle, so Torah must sit in this garment. Therefore, concerning Torah, one should look only at what is beneath the garment. So all these words and all these stories are garments” (Zohar 3:149b–152a, cf. Rabbi Avraham Abulafia, Mafteaḥ ha-Ḥokhmot 44).

“Happy is the share of one who engages in Torah constantly! What is written of him? But the Torah of YHWH is his delight, and on His Torah he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree (Psalms 1:2–3). Why is this adjoined to that? Well, whoever engages in Torah day and night should not be a parched tree, but rather like what? Like a tree planted by streams of water. Just as a tree has roots, bark, pith, branches, leaves, flowers, and fruit—these seven types amounting to ten, and ten to seventy—so words of Torah have a simple sense, midrashic meaning, a hint alluding to wisdom, gimatriyya’ot, hidden mysteries, sealed mysteries, one above the other; unfit and fit, impure and pure, forbidden and permitted. From here on, branches spread out in every direction. He shall be like a tree, surely! And if not, he is not a master of wisdom” (Zohar 3:202a, cf. Rabbi Avraham Abulafia, Sheva Netivot ha-Torah translated in Idel, Language, Torah, and Hermeneutics in Abraham Abulafia, p. 82–109).

All the Commandments of the Blessed Holy One: You Shall Love Your Fellow as Yourself

“Our Rabbis taught: A man should always be lenient like Hillel, not strict like Shammai. It once happened that two men made a bet with each other, saying, He who goes and provokes Hillel will receive four hundred zuz. One said, ‘I will go and provoke him.’ That day was the Sabbath eve, and Hillel was washing his head. He went, passed by the door of his house, and called out, ‘Who here is Hillel, who here is Hillel?’ He robed and went out to him, saying, ‘My son, what do you need?’ ‘I have a question to ask.’ He said. ‘Ask, my son.’ ‘Why are the skulls of the Babylonians oval? ‘My son, you have asked a great question [Hillel was himself a Babylonian], because they have no skillful midwives.’ He departed, waited an hour, returned, and called out, ‘Who here is Hillel, who here is Hillel?’ He robed and went out to him, saying, ‘My son, what do you need?’ ‘I have a question to ask,’ he said. ‘Ask, my son.’ He asked: ‘Why are the eyes of the residents of Tadmor bleary?’ ‘My son, you have asked a great question: because they live among the sands.’ He departed,waited an hour, returned, and called out, ‘Who here is Hillel, who here is Hillel?’ He robed and went out to him, saying, ‘My son, what do you need?’ ‘I have a question to ask,’ he said. ‘Ask, my son.’ ‘Why are the feet of the Africans wide?’ ‘My son, you have asked a great question: because they live in watery marshes.’ ‘I have many questions to ask but fear that you may become angry.’ He then robed, sat before him and said, ‘Ask all the questions you have to ask.’ ‘Are you the Hillel who is called Prince of Israel?’ ‘Yes,’ he replied. ‘If that is you may there not be many like you in Israel.’ ‘Why, my son?’ he asked. ‘Since I have lost four hundred zuz because of you.’ ‘Be careful of your spirit, Hillel is worth it that you should lose four hundred zuz and yet another four hundred zuz on his account, yet Hillel shall not be strict.’

Our Rabbis taught: A certain stranger once came before Shammai and asked him, ‘How many teachings do you have?’ He said, ‘Two, the Written Torah and the Oral Torah.’ ‘I trust you with respect to the Written Torah, but with respect to the Oral Torah I do not trust you; make me a convert on condition that you teach me the Written Torah [only]. He scolded and drove him out in rebuke. When he went before Hillel, [who accepted him as] a convert. On the first day, he taught him, Alef, bet, gimmel, dalet; the following day he reversed [them] for him. ‘But yesterday you did not tell me that.’ ‘Did you not rely on me? Then trust me with respect to the Oral [Torah] too [since there must be a certain reliance on authority before anything can be learnt at all].’

On another occasion it happened that a certain stranger came before Shammai and said to him, ‘Make me a convert, on condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot.’ He shoved him with the builder’s cubit in his hand [בֶּאֱמֶת (be’emet), builder’s cubit, perhaps plays on אֶמֶת (emet), truth, i.e., Shammai’s approach was built on the basis of absolute truth]. When he went before Hillel, he said to him, ‘What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: that is the whole Torah and the rest is its commentary. Go and learn’” (BT Shabbat 30b–31a).

“Son of Azzai said: This is the book of the descendants of Adam: [On the day God created the human, in the image of God] (Genesis 5:1) is a great principle of Torah. Rabbi Akiva said: and love your fellow as yourself (Leviticus 19:18) is a great principle, so that you must not say, ‘Since I have been put to shame, let my fellow be put to shame, since I have been cursed, let my fellow be cursed.’ Rabbi Tanḥuma said: If you do so, know whom you put to shame, for God created the human in His image (Genesis 1:27)” (Bereshit Rabbah 24:7, cf. Sifra Qedoshim 4:12).

“[Rabbi Ḥiyya son of Abba said:] Even father and son, master and disciple, who are engaged in Torah at the same gate become each other’s אֹיְבִים (oivim), enemies. Yet, they do not move from there until they are made אֹהֲבִים (ohavim), friends, [again], as is said: אֶת וָהֵב בְּסוּפָה (et vahev be-sufah), Waheb in a whirlwind (Numbers 21:14)—do not read בְּסוּפָה (be-sufah), in a whirlwind, but rather [אַהֲבָה (ahavah), love] בְּסוֹפָהּ (be-sofah), at its end” (BT Qiddushin 30b, cf. Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 6a).

“All Companions who do not love each other divert themselves from the straight path” (Zohar 2:190b).

Look, how good and how pleasant is the dwelling of brothers גַּם יָחַד (gam yaḥad), also together! (Psalms 133:1)—those Companions, when they sit as one, not separating from each other. At first they appear as men waging war, seeking to kill one another; afterward, they appear in love, in brotherhood. What does the blessed Holy One say? Look, how good and how pleasant is the dwelling of brothers gam yaḥad, also together!gam, also, including Shekhinah with them. Furthermore, the blessed Holy One listens to their utterances and is pleased and delights with them, as is written: Then those who revere YHWH spoke with one another; and YHWH listened attentively, and it was written in a book of remembrance before Him… (Malachi 3:16) [see M Avot 3:2 ad loc.; cf. BT Shabbat 63a].

And you, Companions who are here, just as you have been previously, so from now on: do not part from one another until the blessed Holy One delights with you and proclaims peace upon you—and for your sake, peace will prevail in the world, as is written: For the sake of my brothers and my companions (Psalms 122:8)” (Zohar 3:59b).

They helped everyone his fellow; and everyone said to his brother, “Be strong” (Isaiah 41:6).

A song of ascents for David. Look, how good and pleasant is the dwelling of brothers together (Psalms 133:1, cf. Zohar 3:59b).

“Rabbi Ḥiyya opened, ‘When your enemy falls, do not be glad; when he stumbles, let not your heart rejoice‘ (Proverbs 24:17)…. Come and see: Why did Joseph—who was granted dominion by the blessed Holy One—spin schemes around his brothers when they fell into his hands? After all, he knew the Torah that his father taught him! But perish the thought that Joseph spun those schemes to take revenge upon them! Rather, he did all this only to bring his brother Benjamin for whom he yearned. He did not let his brothers fall, for look what is written: Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain… (Genesis 42:25)—all this so they would not fall” (Zohar 1:199a).

“Just as water covers the nakedness of the sea, as it says, [They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of YHWH,] as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9), so too Torah [and mitsvot] cover the nakedness of Israel, as it says, [Hatred foments strife, but] אַהֲבָה (ahava), love, covers up all misdeeds (Proverbs 10:12) [on a garment being woven out of one’s virtuous days see e.g., Zohar 1:224a–b; cf. BT Menaḥot 43b]” (Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah, 1:2).

“It is written, You shall not take vengeance, and you shall not harbor a grudge against any of the children of your people (Leviticus 19:18). How does this apply? If someone is chopping meat, and the clever cuts his hand, will he in return cut the [other] hand? But love your fellow as yourself (ibid.)” (JT Nedarim 9:4, 41c).

“It has been taught in the Concealment of the Book: In every manner חֶסֶד (ḥesed), love [or: kindness], must be increased and fashioned, not cut or eliminated from the world” (Zohar 3:133b, Idra Rabba).

“Don’t the inhabitants of the world realise that I based the world solely on love? As is written, כִּי אָמַרְתִּי עוֹלָם חֶסֶד יִבָּנֶה (ki-amarti olam ḥesed yibaneh), I said, ‘The world shall be built on love’ (Psalms 89:3). By this the world endures” (Zohar 1:10b).

“Come and see: All is called Love, and for the sake of love all exists, as is written: Many waters cannot quench love (Song of Songs 8:7). All endures by love, for the Holy Name is found to be so, as has been established. י (Yod)—the upper tip is never separated from י (yod), since it settles upon it, never parting” (Zohar 3:267b).

Primordial Kings were Destroyed: Would you ever Imagine that they were Nullified?

“‘The world was created through ten sayings’ (M Avot 5:1)…. And in three are these [sayings] included: YHWH through Wisdom founded earth, set heavens firm through Discernment. Through His Knowledge the deeps burst open (Proverbs 3:19–20)” (Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 17–18).

“[Mar Raḥmai son of Bibi’s] disciples asked: What is דָּלֶת (dalet)? He said to them: A parable: [To what can the matter be compared?] There were once עֲשָׂרָה (asarah), ten, kings in one place, and all of them rich, but one of them, though עָשִׁיר (ashir), rich, was not [as rich] as any of them. Even though his wealth was great, he was called דָּל (dal), ‘poor,’ compared to the others….

What are the ten kings? They are seven voices, and three sayings. But what sayings? And YHWH has proclaimed you today [to be to Him a treasured people, as He has spoken to you, and to keep all His commands, and to set you high above all the nations that He made, for praise and for reclaim and for glory, and for you to be a holy people to YHWH your God, as He has spoken] (Deuteronomy 26:18). But what three? The beginning of wisdom is—get חָכְמָה (ḥokhmah), wisdom, and in all that you get, get בִינָה (vinah), discernment (Proverbs 4:7), as is written, [Yet it is a spirit in man,] and Shaddai’s breath that grants discernment (Job 32:8)—Shaddai’s breath is תְּבִינֵם (tevinem), Discernment. What is third? As the old man said to the child, ‘What is too wondrous for you, do not expound; what is concealed from you, do not inquire. You have no business with hidden matters!’ (BT Ḥagigah 13a)” (Bahir §§27, 49).

“It has been taught: The Book of Concealment, a book on scales. For until there was a balance, they did not gaze face-to-face, and the primordial kings died and their weapons vanished and the earth was nullified. Until the head of Desire of all Desires arranged and bestowed garments of glory” (Zohar 2:176b, Sifra di-Tsni’uta).

“When Rabbi Shim’on opened, the earth quaked and the Companions trembled. He revealed in mystery, and opened, saying, ‘These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before a king reigned over the Children of Israel (Genesis 36:31). Happy are you, O righteous ones, to whom are revealed mysteries of mysteries of Torah, which have not been revealed to holy ones of the Highest. Who will examine this? Who will be worthy of this? It is testimony to faith of total faith. May the prayer be accepted, that it may not be considered a sin to reveal this.

‘And what will the Companions say? For this verse is difficult, since it should not have been written so, because we see that there were numerous kings before the Children of Israel appeared and before they had a king; so what is intended here? Well, it is mystery of mysteries, which humans cannot know or perceive or arouse in their minds.

‘It has been taught: Before the Ancient of Ancients, Concealed of the Concealed, had prepared adornments of the King and crowns of crowns, there was neither beginning nor end. He engraved and gauged within Himself, and spread before Himself one curtain, in which He engraved and gauged kings, but His adornments did not endure. As is written: These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before a king reigned—Primordial King—over the Children of Israel, the Primordial One (Genesis 36:31). All those who had been engraved were called by name, but they did not endure, so He eventually put them aside and concealed them. Afterward, He ascended in that curtain and was arrayed perfectly” (Zohar 3:128a, Idra Rabba).

“Until He Himself was arrayed in His enhancements, all those that He intended to arrange did not endure, and all those worlds were destroyed…. Would you ever imagine that they were nullified? Look, they are all included in [Primordial] Adam! Rather, they were nullified and removed from that arrangement, until the image of Adam appeared. When this image appeared they were all engraved and transformed into another existence. Some of them became fragrantly firm, some of them not entirely so, and some of them not at all.

Now, you might say, ‘But it is written He died… he died (Genesis 36:33–39)—implying that they were nullified completely.’ Not so! Rather, anyone who descends from his original rung of existence is said to have died, as is written: The King of Egypt died (Exodus 2:23)—meaning that he descended from the rung that he occupied. Once Adam was arrayed, they were called by different names and became fragrantly firm existing in Him, enduring in their places… transformed into another existence, settling securely” (Zohar 3:135b, Idra Rabba).

“Before the world was created, they did not gaze face-to-face, and therefore primordial worlds were destroyed, and primordial worlds were fashioned in disarray. That which is disarrayed is called ‘flashing sparks’—like a blacksmith pounding an iron tool, scattering sparks in every direction; and those flying forth flash and scintillate and are immediately extinguished. These are called Primordial Worlds. Thus they were destroyed and did not endure, until the Holy Ancient One was arrayed and the Artisan proceeded to His artistry” (Zohar 3:292b, Idra Zuta).

“Nothing in the world, be it ever so small, lacks a place in which to be hidden and absorbed; it is never lost” (Zohar 2:99b).

“Israel is the kernel of the world; Israel arose in thought. Other nations, who are the shell preceded, as is written: אֵלֶּה (elleh), these, are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned over the Children of Israel (Genesis 36:31). Yet the blessed Holy One intends to initiate the kernel without the shell, as is written: Holy is Israel to YHWH, the first fruits of His harvest (Jeremiah 2:3)—the kernel preceding the shell. Although the kernel will arise without a shell, who would dare to extend his hand to eat of it? All who eat of it will be held guilty; evil will befall them—declares YHWH (ibid.)” (Zohar 2:108b, Sava de-Mishpatim).

“אֵלֶּה (Elleh), these, are the generations of the heavens and the earth (Genesis 2:4). It has been established: ‘Wherever אֵלֶּה (elleh), these, is written it nullifies the preceding’ (Bereshit Rabbah 30:3). And these are the generations of תֹּהוּ (tohu) hinted at in the second verse: The earth then was tohu, welter (Genesis 1:2). Regarding those it is said the blessed Holy One created worlds and destroyed them [see Bereshit Rabbah 3:7; 9:2]. Thus, it is written: The earth then was welter and waste (Genesis 1:2). Why did the blessed Holy One create worlds to destroy them? It would have been better had He not created them at all! But this is certainly a great mystery. What is ‘and destroying them’? It cannot be that the blessed Holy One destroyed the makings of His own hands. Furthermore, these are the heavens of which is said, For the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, [but the earth shall grow old like a garment, and they that dwell in it shall die in like manner: but My redemption shall be forever, and My righteousness shall not be abolished] (Isaiah 51:6) [cf. Psalms 102:26–27]. If so, does the blessed Holy One [create] and shatter?

The mystery is that the blessed Holy One created the world by Torah, as is written: בְּרֵאשִׁית (Bereshit), with beginning (Genesis 1:1), about which is written: YHWH created me at the רֵאשִׁית (reshit), outset, of His way, [before His works of old] (Proverbs 8:22). And by this reshitbeginning, He created the [supernal] heavens and the earth [i.e., the six sefirot whose creation are hinted at by the permutation of בְּרֵאשִׁית (bereshit): בָּרָא שִׁית (bara shit), He created six]. He sustained them with the covenant which is in בְּרֵאשִׁית (bereshit) [i.e., בְּרִית אֵשׁ (berit esh), covenant of fire], as is written: Were it not for בְרִיתִי (veriti), My covenant, day and night, I would not have established the laws of the heavens and earth (Jeremiah 33:25). These are: The heavens are the heavens of YHWH (Psalms 115:16). And the land of the living comprises seven zones [lit., lands, see Zohar 3:10a], about which King David wrote, I will walk before YHWH in the lands of the living (Psalms 116:9).

Afterwards He created the heavens and the earth upon תֹּהוּ (tohu), welter, without any foundation—the covenant—to support them [cf. Job 26:7]. Because of this the blessed Holy One, wanted to give Torah—the covenant of circumcision—to the nations of the world but because they did not want to receive it the land remained parched and dry [see BT Avodah Zarah 2b–3b; Sifre Deuteronomy 33:2]. Thus: Let the waters under heaven be gathered together to one place, and let the dry land appear (Genesis 1:9). Waters—Torah. To one place—Israel, because the souls of Israel come from that Place, of which is written: Blessed be the glory of YHWH from His place (Ezekiel 3:12). The glory of YHWH—lower Shekhinah; from His place—upper Shekhinah. And since their souls come from there then certainly יהוה (YHWH) rests on them. Of them is written: Yes, YHWH’s portion is His people (Deuteronomy 32:9).

Torah is [for creating] יִשּׁוּבָא דְּעָלְמָא (yishuva de-alma), the civilized world. The nations of the world who did not accept her have remained wasted and dry. This is ‘The blessed Holy One created worlds and destroyed them’—those who did not keep the decrees of Torah. It does not mean He destroyed His own makings as people might think [see for example BT Sanhedrin 103a in the name of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai: ‘The blessed Holy One wished to hurl the world back into welter and waste on account of Jehoiakim, but that He gazed at (the rest of) his generation, and His mind was appeased’]. Why should He destroy His own children?! Of whom is written: ‘בְּהִבָּרְאָם, (Be-hibbare’am), when they were created (Genesis 2:4). Do not read בְּהִבָּרְאָם (be-hibbare’am), when they were created, but rather בְּה״ בְּרָאָם (be-he bera’am), with ה (heHe created them’ (BT Menaḥot 29b) [cf. ZḤ 2d]. Because of those converts from among the nations of the world the small ה (he) of אַבְרָהָם (Avraham), Abraham, fell during the Fifth Millennium [on the especially small ה (he) of Genesis 2:4, see Bereshit Rabbah 12:9; Zohar 1:91b, 93a, 105b, 128b, 154b, 230b; 3:117a]. [And the river was wasted and dried up (Isaiah 19:5):] Wasted—the First Temple; dried up—the Second Temple.

Moses wanted to bring them [i.e., the motley throng, the mixed multitude] under the wings of the Shekhinah and thought that they too were drawn down from ה (he). Thus he caused the fall of ה (he) of אַבְרָהָם (Avraham), Abraham. This brought upon him descent, as is written: Go, get you down, for your people… have become corrupt (Exodus 32:7). They did not receive the small ה (he) with awe of י (yod) and with the love of [the first] ה (he). So he fell from his rung, which is ו (vav)” (Zohar 1:24b–25a, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar).

Missing the Mark and a Precious Pearl of Advice

684px-Shepherd_boy_slinging_(LC-DIG-matpc-05262)

“There were once some hooligans in the neighborhood of Rabbi Me’ir who caused him a great deal of trouble. Rabbi Me’ir prayed for mercy on them, that they should die. Rabbi Me’ir’s wife, Beruria, said to him: What is your thinking? Because it is written Let חַטָּאִים (ḥatta’im), offences, vanish (Psalms 104:35). Is it written חוֹטּאִים (ḥott’im), offenders? It is written ḥatta’im, offences! Further, look at the end of the verse: and the wicked be no more. Since the offences will cease, there will be no more wicked men! Rather pray for them that they should return [to the right way], and there will be no more wicked. He did pray for them, and they returned” (BT Berakhot 10a).

Every one of them could sling a stone at a hair, and not יַחֲטִא (yaḥati), miss (Judges 20:16).

There is no man righteous on earth who does good and will not יֶחֱטָא (yaḥeta), miss the mark (Ecclesiastes 7:20).

There is no man who does not יֶחֱטָא (yeḥeta), offend (2 Chronicles 6:36).

For a nation lost in counsel are they (Deuteronomy 32:28)—Rabbi Yehudah explains the verse in reference to Israel, but Rabbi Neḥemiah explains it in reference to the nations of the world. Rabbi Yehudah explains the verse in reference to Israel: Israel has lost the good sense that had been given them. For, actually, counsel implies Torah, as is said: Mine is counsel and prudence, [I am Discernment, mine is might] (Proverbs 8:14).

There is no understanding among them (Deuteronomy 32:28)—there isn’t one of them clever enough to observe and wonder: Yesterday, one of us would pursue a thousand of the nations, and two of us would put 10,000 to flight. But now, one of the nations pursues a thousand of us, and two put 10,000 of us to flight—is it not Had not their Rock handed them over, [had YHWH not given them up] (ibid. 32:30)?

Rabbi Neḥemiah explains it in reference to the nations: The nations have lost the seven commandments that I gave them, there is no understanding among them.

In the days of Messiah, there won’t be one of them clever enough to observe and wonder: Now, one of them pursues a thousand of us, and two of them puts 10,000 of us to flight—is it not Had not their Rock handed them over?” (Sifrei, Deuteronomy 322).

“Our Rabbis taught: Beloved are Israel, for the blessed Holy One surrounded them with mitsvot: tefillin on their heads, tefillin on their arms, tsitsit on their garments, and mezuzot on their doorposts; concerning these David said, Seven times daily I praise you because of Your righteous laws (Psalms 119:164). And as David entered the bath and saw himself standing naked, he exclaimed, ‘אוֹי (Oy) that I stand naked without any mitsvah!’ But when he reminded himself of the circumcision in his flesh his mind was set at ease. And when he came out he sang a psalm of praise concerning it, as is written, To the lead player, on the eight, A David psalm (Psalms 12:1); that is, concerning circumcision which was given [for the] eighth [day].

Rabbi Eli’ezer son of Ya’aqov said, Whosoever has the tefillin on his head, the tefillin on his arm, the tsitsit on his garment, and the mezuzah on his doorpost, is in absolute security and will not יֶחֱטָא (yaḥeta), offend, as is written, [And if one should attack him, the two will stand against him.] And the triple cord will not quickly be snapped (Ecclesiastes 4:12); and it is also written, YHWH’s messenger encamps round those who fear Him and sets them free (Psalms 34:8)” (BT Menaḥot 43b).

“Rabbi Ḥanina and Rabbi Yonatan were walking on the road and came to a parting of ways, one led by the door of a place of idol-worship and the other led by a whore house. One said to the other: Let us go by the place of idolatry since the impulse for it has been abolished [see BT Sanhedrin 64a]. The other, however, said: Let us go by the whore house and defy our impulse and have our reward. As they approached the place they saw the whores withdraw at their presence. One said to the other: How did you know this? He said מְזִמָּה (Mezimmah) will watch over you, discernment will keep you, [to save you from a way of evil, from a man who speaks perversely] (Proverbs 2:11).

The Rabbis said to Rava: How is this word מְזִמָּה (mezimmah) to be understood [since it has the twofold meaning of cunning, and depravitity]? Shall it be rendered Torah since the word זִמָּה (zimmah) in Scripture is rendered in the Targum [Onqelos], She is counsel of the wicked (Leviticus 18:17); and Scripture has the phrase, Wonderful is His counsel, and excellent His wisdom (Isaiah 28:29)? But in that case the word should have been זִמָּה (zimmah). This, then, is how it is to be understood, ‘Against things of זִמָּה (zimmah), depravitity, She [מְזִמָּה (mezimmah), Cunning, i.e., Torah] will watch over you'” (BT Avodah Zarah 17b, cf. Sifrei, Deuteronomy 322; Midrash Tanna’im, Deuteronomy 32:28; Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana 12:12; Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah on 8:5).

“For one who puts wisdom before יִרְאַת חֶטְאוֹ (yirat ḥeto), his fear of missing the mark, wisdom does not endure” (M Avot 3:11).

“A king had a precious pearl, and it was the treasure of his kingdom” (Bahir §72).

“Torah, who offers advice to the whole world… and she warns the inhabitants of the world, saying, ‘Look how compassionately your Lord treats you! A precious pearl that He had, He has sold to you for nothing, that you might have dominion over it in the world” (Zohar 2:97a).

“For we have learned: Torah has given 613 types of advice to a person in order for him to be complete with his Lord, for his Lord wants to benefit him in this world and in the world that is coming—especially in the world that is coming” (Zohar 2:82b).

When You Reach the Pure Marble Stones do not Say “Water! Water!”

“All the holy Writings render the hands unclean [i.e., are canonical]…. Rabbi Shim’on son of Azzai said, ‘I have a received a tradition from the mouths of seventy-two elders, on the day they inducted Rabbi El’azar son of Azariyah into his seat [as head] at the Academy, that the Song of Songs and Qohelet render the hands unclean.’

Rabbi Akiva said, ‘Perish the thought! No one from Israel has ever disputed concerning the Song of Songs that it does not render the hands unclean, since the whole world is not worthy of the day that the Song of Songs was given to Israel. For all the Writings are holy, but the Song of Songs is Holy of Holies, and if they have disputed they have not disputed concerning it but concerning Qohelet’” (M Yadayim 3:5).

“Our Rabbis taught: He who recites a verse of the Song of Songs and treats it as a [profane] song, and one who recites a verse at the banqueting house—not in its [fitting] time—brings evil upon the world” (BT Sanhedrin 101a).

“The Rabbis taught: Four entered the פַּרדֵס (pardes), Orchard: Son of Azzai, and Son of Zoma, Aḥer and Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Akiva said to them, ‘When you come to the place of pure marble stones, do not say, ‘Water! Water!’ For it is said, A speaker of lies shall not stand firm before my eyes (Psalms 101:7).’ Son of Azzai glimpsed and died. Of him it says, Grievous in the eyes of YHVH is the death of His faithful ones (ibid. 116:15).

Son of Zoma glimpsed and was harmed. Of him it says, If you find honey, eat just what you need, lest you have your fill of it and throw it up (Proverbs 25:16). Aḥer קִיצֵּץ בַּנְּטִיעוֹת (qitsets ba-neti’ot), severed the saplings. Rabbi Akiva emerged in peace….

Our Rabbis taught: Once Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Ḥananyah was standing on a step on the Temple Mount, and Son of Zoma saw him and did not stand up before him. He said to him: From where to where, Son of Zoma [i.e., what is on your mind]? He replied: I was gazing between the upper and the lower waters, and there is only a bare three fingers’ [breadth] between them, for it is said: And the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters (Genesis 1:2)—like a dove which hovers over her young without touching [cf. JT Ḥagigah 2:1: Like an eagle who rouses his nest, over his fledglings he hovers…  (Deuteronomy 32:11)]. Afterwards Rabbi Yehoshu’a said to his disciples: Son of Zoma is still outside [cf. Heikhalot Rabbati §93: ‘Rabbi Yishma’el said: Thus was the teaching as to the vision of the Chariot: He who beholds the Chariot has no right to stand up (out of courtesy to a superior), except before three authorities only: before a king and before a high priest and before a Sanhedrin. And should he stand up he would be guilty of death because he had stood up before it, and he would lessen his days and cut short his years’; Ben Sira: ‘Do not seek out what is too wondrous for you; do not inquire into that which is concealed from you’; BT Megillah 25a–b; Ḥagigah 11b: ‘From one end of heaven to the other you may inquire, but you may not inquire what is above, what is below, what is before, what is after’]….

Aḥer severed the saplings. Of him it says, Do not let your mouth make your body offend, [nor say before God that it was a mistake] (Ecclesiastes 5:5). What does it refer to? He saw that permission was granted to Mitatron to sit and write the merits of Israel [on the significance of the alternate spellings מְטַּטְרוֹן (Metatron) and מִיטַּטְרוֹן (Mitatron), see Zohar 2:277a; TZ, intro, 15a; TZ 21, 44a, 61a; Z 39d]. He said: It is taught as a tradition that on high there is no standing and no sitting, no jealousy and no rivalry, no nape and no fatigue [cf. BT Berakhot 17a]. Perhaps—perish the thought—there are two authorities! [Immediately] they led Mitatron forth, and punished him with sixty fiery lashes [see 3 Enoch 16], saying to him: Why did you not rise before him when you saw him? Permission was [then] given to him to erase the merits of Aḥer. A bat qol issued, saying: Turn back, rebellious children (Jeremiah 3:22)—except Aḥer.

[Afterwards] he said: Since this man has been banished from that world, let me go forth and enjoy this world. So Aḥer went into bad ways [lit., תַרְבּוּת רָעָה (tarbut ra’ah), wicked culture, i.e., foreign culture]. He went forth, found a whore and demanded her. She said to him: Are you not Elisha son of Avuyah? [But] when he uprooted a radish out of its bed on the Sabbath and gave it to her, she said: It is an אַחֵר (aḥer), Other.

After he went into bad ways, Aḥer asked Rabbi Me’ir, saying to him: What is the meaning of the verse: One against the other God has set (Ecclesiastes 7:14)? He replied: It means that for everything that God created He created its counterpart. He created mountains, and created hills; He created seas, and created rivers. [Aḥer] said to him: Rabbi Akiva, your master, did not explain it so, but [as follows]: He created righteous, and created wicked; He created the Garden of Eden, and created Hell. Everyone has two portions, one in the Garden of Eden and one in Hell. The righteous man, having been declared innocent, takes his own portion and his fellow’s portion in the Garden of Eden. The wicked man, having been declared guilty, takes his own portion and his fellow’s portion in Hell.

Rav Mesharshiyya said: What is the verse? In the case of the righteous, it is written: Therefore in their land they shall possess double: [everlasting joy shall be unto them] (Isaiah 61:7). In the case of the wicked it is written: And destroy them with double destruction (Jeremiah 17:18).

After he went into bad ways, Aḥer asked Rabbi Me’ir: What is written: Gold and glass cannot equal it, nor its worth in golden vessels (Job 28:17)? He answered: These are the words of Torah, which are difficult to acquire like vessels of fine gold, but are easily destroyed like vessels of glass. [Aḥer] said to him: Rabbi Akiva, your master, did not explain it so, but [as follows]: Just as vessels of gold and vessels of glass, though they be broken, have a remedy, even so a discple of the wise, though he has sinned, has a remedy. [Rabbi Me’ir] said to him: Then, you, too, return! He replied: I have already heard from behind the Curtain: Turn back, rebellious children (Jeremiah 3:22)—except Aḥer.

Our Rabbis taught: Once Aḥer was riding on a horse on the Sabbath, and Rabbi Me’ir was walking behind him to learn Torah at his mouth. He said to him: Me’ir, turn back, for I have already measured by the paces of my horse that thus far extends the Sabbath limit [i.e., two thousand cubits (in all directions) from the place where a person makes his abode for the Sabbath, beyond which it is forbidden to go on the day of rest, see M Shabbat 24:5; Eruvin 4:3, 5:7]. He replied: You, too, go back! [Aḥer] answered: Have I not already told you that I have already heard from behind the Curtain: Turn back, rebellious children (Jeremiah 3:22)—except Aḥer.

[Rabbi Me’ir] prevailed upon him and took him to an academy. [Aḥer] said to a child: Recite for me your verse! [The child] answered: There is no peace, says YHVH, for the wicked (Isaiah 48:22). He then took him to a synagogue. [Aḥer] said to a child: Recite for me your verse! He answered: For though you wash yourself with lye, and use much soap, yet your crime is marked before Me, says YHVH God (Jeremiah 2:22). He took him to yet another synagogue, and he said to a child: Recite for me your verse! He answered: And when you are plundered, what will you do? Though you clothe yourself with crimson, though you deck yourself with ornaments of gold, though you enlarge your eyes with paint, in vain shall you make yourself fair; [your lovers will despise you, they will seek your life] (ibid. 4:30).

He took him to yet another synagogue until he took him to thirteen synagogues: all of them recited similarly. When he said to the last one, Recite for my your verse, he answered: וְלָרָשָׁע (ve-la-rasha), And to the wicked, God said: ‘Why do you recount My statutes [and bear My pact in your mouth, when you have despised chastisement and flung My words behind you?]  (Psalms 50:16). That child was a stutterer, so it sounded as though he answered: ‘וְלַאֱלִישָׁע (ve-la-elisha), But to Elisha, God said.’ Some say that [Aḥer] had a knife with him, and he cut him up and sent him to the thirteen synagogues: and some say that he said: Had I a knife in my hand I would have cut him up.

When Aḥer was laid to rest they said: Let him not be judged, nor let him enter the world to come. Let him not be judged, because he engaged in Torah; nor let him enter the world to come because he sinned. Rabbi Me’ir said: It were better that he should be judged and that he should enter the world to come. When I die I shall cause smoke to rise from his grave. When Rabbi Me’ir died, smoke rose up from Aḥer’s grave. Rabbi Yoḥanan said: A mighty deed to burn his master?! There was one amongst us, and we cannot save him; if I were to take him by the hand, who would snatch him from me! [But] he said: When I die, I shall extinguish the smoke from his grave. When Rabbi Yoḥanan died, the smoke ceased from Aḥer’s grave. A certain eulogizer [began]: Even the guard [of Hell] could not stand before you, O master!

Aḥer’s daughter [once] came before Rabbi and said to him: O master, support me! He asked her: ‘Whose daughter are you?’ She replied: I am Aḥer’s daughter. He said: Are any of his children left in the world? Look it is written: No son nor grandson in his kinfolk, and no remnant where he sojourned (Job 18:19). She answered: Remember his Torah and not his deeds. Immediately, a fire came down and licked Rabbi’s bench. Rabbi wept and said: If it be so on account of those who dishonour Her, how much more so on account of those who honour Her [i.e., Torah].

But how did Rabbi Me’ir learn Torah at the mouth of Aḥer? Behold Rabbah son of Son of Ḥana said that Rabbi Yoḥanan said: What is the meaning of the verse, For the priest’s lips should preserve knowledge, and they should seek the law from his mouth: for he is the messenger of YHVH of Armies (Malachi 2:7)? If the rabbi is like an messenger of YHVH of Armies, they should seek Torah from his mouth, but if not, they should not seek Torah from his mouth!—Resh Laqish answered: Rabbi Me’ir found a verse and expounded it [as follows]: Bend your ear and hear the words of the wise, and set your heart on My knowledge (Proverbs 22:17). It does not say, to their knowledge, but to My knowledge.

Rabbi Ḥanina said, [he decided it] from here: Listen, daughter, and look, incline your ear, and forget your people, and your father’s house (Psalms 45:11). The verses contradict one another! There is no contradiction: in the one case the verse refers to an adult [who, unlike a child, can use discrimination and avoid the teacher’s wrongdoing; hence the last two verses permit him to learn even from a heretic], in the other to a child.

When Rav Dimi came [to Babylon] he said: In the West [i.e., the Land of Israel] they say: Rabbi Me’ir ate a half-ripe date and threw the peel away. Rabba expounded: What is written? To the walnut garden I went down to see the buds of the brook (Song of Songs 6:11). Why are the disciples of the wise likened to a nut? To tell you that just as the nut, though it be spoiled with mud and filth, yet its contents are not made repulsive, so a disciple of the wise, although he may have offended, yet his Torah is not made repulsive.

Rabbah son of Shila [once] met Elijah. He said to him: What is the blessed Holy One doing? He answered: He utters traditions in the name of all the rabbis, but in the name of Rabbi Me’ir he does not utter. Rabbah asked him, Why?—because he learnt traditions at the mouth of Aḥer. [Rabbah] said to him: But why? Rabbi Me’ir found a pomegranate; he ate [the fruit] within it, and the shell he threw away! He answered: Now He says: Me’ir My son says: When a man suffers [by receiving lashes or the death penalty at the hands of the court, see BT Sanhedrin 46a], to what expression does the Shekhinah give utterance? ‘Oy, My head is lighter, my arm is lighter [see M Sanhedrin 6:5].’ If the blessed Holy One is so grieved over the blood of the wicked, how much more so over the blood of the righteous that is shed.

Shemu’el found Rav Yehudah leaning on the door-bolt weeping. So he said to him: O, long-toothed one, why do you weep? He replied: Is it a small thing that is written concerning the rabbis? Where is the scribe? where is the one who weighs? where is he that counts the towers? (Isaiah 33:18). Where is the scribe?—for they counted all the letters in the Torah. Where is the one who weighs?—for they weighed the light and the heavy in the Torah [i.e., by arguing from minor to major and vice versa]. Where is he that counts the towers?— for they taught three hundred halakhot concerning a ‘tower which flies in the air.’ And Rabbi Ami said: Doeg and Ahitophel raised three hundred questions concerning a ‘tower which flies in the air.’ Yet we have learnt: ‘Three kings and four commoners have no share in the world to come’ (BT Sanhedrin 90a). What then shall become of us? [Shemu’el] said to him, O, long-toothed one, there was mud in their hearts—but what of Aḥer [why did his study of Torah not save him?]—Greek song did not cease from his mouth. It is told of Aḥer that when he used to rise from the academy, many heretical books [lit., books of the sectarians] used to fall from his lap.

Nimos the weaver asked Rabbi Me’ir: Does all wool that goes down into the [dyeing] kettle come up [properly dyed, i.e., does the study of Torah serve to protect all students from transgression (Rashi)]? He replied: All that was clean on its mother comes up [properly dyed], all that was not clean on its mother does not come up [properly dyed].

Rabbi Akiva ascended in peace and descended in peace; and of him Scripture says: Draw me after you, let us run. [The king has brought me into his chamber] (Song of Songs 1:4) [cf. Sefer Yetsirah §5]. And Rabbi Akiva too the ministering angels sought to thrust away [from the Orchard]; [but] the blessed Holy One said to them: Let this elder be, for he is worthy to avail himself of My glory—what did he expound? Rabbah son of Son of Ḥana said that Rabbi Yoḥanan said: וְאָתָה (ve-atah), And He appeared, from the myriads of holy ones (Deuteronomy 33:2)—אוֹת הוּא (ot hu), He is the Sign, among His myriads.

And Rabbi Abbahu said: דָּגוּל מֵרְבָבָה (dagul mervavah), standing out among ten thousand (Song of Songs 5:10)—He is דוֹגמָא (dogma), the Example, among His ten thousand. And Resh Laqish said: YHVH of Armies is His name (Isaiah 48:2)—He is Lord among His Army—and Rabbi Ḥiyya son of Abba said that Rabbi Yoḥanan said: Not in the wind is YHVH. And after the earthquake—fire. Not in the fire is YHVH. And after the fire, a sound of minute stillness (1 Kings 19:11–12). [And He said, ‘Go and stand on the mountain before YHVH,and, look, YHVH passed over (ibid., 11)” (BT Ḥagigah 14b–16a).

When God began to create heaven and earth, and the earth then was welter and waste and darkness over the deep and God’s breath hovering over the waters, God said, “Let there be light.” And there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good, and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And it was evening and it was morning, first day. And God said, “Let there be a vault in the midst of the waters, and let it divide water from water.” And God made the vault and it divided the water beneath the vault from the water above the vault, and so it was. And God called the vault Heavens, and it was evening and it was morning, second day (Genesis 1:1–8).

“תֹּהוּ (Tohu), welter—a pale line encompassing the whole world, from which darkness issued…; בֹּהוּ (bohu), waste—these are the slimy stones sunk in the abyss, from which water issues” (BT Ḥagigah 12a).

“The universe diffracts into forty-five hues of colored light. Seven disperse into seven abysses, each one striking its own abyss, stones gyrating. The light penetrates those stones, piercing them, and water issues from them, each one sinking within an abyss, covering both sides. Water flows through those holes, light penetrates, striking all four sides of the abyss. Each light whirls around its partner, converging as one, splitting the water” (Zohar 1:51a–52a).

“From the right side, Malkhut is called Stone. And a number of slimy stones come from Her. From them issue the waters of Torah, of which we have learned: Rabbi Akiva said to his disciples, When you reach the pure marble stones, do not say: ‘Water! Water! lest you endanger yourselves—do not say that these waters are waters, literally, because A speaker of lies shall not stand firm before my eyes (Psalms 101:7). For these waters are Torah, and it is said of Her: Torah is light (Proverbs 6:23). And since this light issues from a spring whose waters fail not (Isaiah 58:11), She is called Water.

And from the left side, this Stone, י (yod), is called Burning Coal, whence the ten sefirot ‘[are] as a flame bound to a burning coal’ (Sefer Yetsirah §6). And it has four hues [יהוה (YHVH)], and they are ten: יוֹד הֵא וָאו הֵא (Yod He Vav He) [amounting to י״ד (fourteen) letters]. And it is the יָד (yad), hand, of גְדוּלָה (gedullah), Greatness, on the right, the hand of גְבוּרָה (gevurah), Might, on the left, and from the middle pillar, an upraised hand. Therefore, it is comprised of forty-two hues [יָד (yad), hand, is numerically equivalent to י״ד (fourteen), and fourteen times three equals forty-two]” (Zohar 3:246a–b, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

“Son of Azzai glimpsed into the sixth chamber and saw the brilliance of the atmosphere [lit., air] of the marble stones that adorned the chamber. His body could not endure and he opened his mouth and asked them: ‘These waters, what are they?’ And he died.

Son of Zoma glimpsed at the marble stones and thought that they were water. His body endured to ask, but his mind could not. And he was harmed….

Rabbi Akiva said: Son of Azzai was found worthy and stood at the gate of the sixth chamber. However, he saw the brilliance of the pure marble stones opened his mouth twice and said: ‘Water! Water!’ Immediately they cut his head off and threw upon him eleven thousand iron bars. This should be a lesson for future generations, that a man not err in this way at the gate of the sixth chamber” (Heikhalot Zutarti §§345, 410, cf. Heikhalot Rabbati §259).

“Four entered an orchard—and all of them were selected to this realm, to these four elements. Each one was bound to his domain: one to the aspect of fire, one to the aspect of water, one to the aspect of air, one to the aspect of dust. All of them succumbed to their element, just as they entered—aside from the perfectly pious one, who proceeded to the right side and cleaved to the right, ascending on high.

When he reached the site called Chamber of Love, he cleaved to it passionately. He said, ‘This chamber must be conjoined with the chamber above, with great love!’ Then he was perfected in the mystery of faith—and ascended and consummated lesser love with great love, as is fitting. So, he died with love, and his soul departed with this verse: You shall love (Deuteronomy 6:5) [see BT Berakhot 61b]. Happy is his share!

As for all the others, each of them descended below and was punished in that element that cascades below.

Elisha descended below, into the left side—which is fire—descending within, not ascending, and encountered that Other Side, called אֵל אַחֵר (el aḥer), another god (Exodus 34:14). Teshuva was denied him; and he was banished because he cleaved to it. So he is called אַחֵר (Aḥer), Another, as we have established.

Son of Azzai descended into the element of dust; and before he reached the burnt dust, which extends to the Other Side, he succumbed to that dust and died. Of this is written Precious in the eyes of YHVH is the death of His faithful ones (Psalms 116:15).

Son of Zoma descended into the element of רוּחָא (ruḥa), air, and encountered another רוּחָא (ruḥa), spirit, extending to the side of impurity. And because another spirit passed by him, נִפגַע (nifga), he went mad. What is nifga? The impure spirit called פֶּגַע רָע (Pega Ra), Evil Disaster (1 Kings 5:18), and so, nifga, he went mad. פָּגַע (Paga), He came upon, him; and he did not stabilize.

None of them escaped punishment. Concerning this, Solomon said: There is futility befalling earth: there are righteous people treated according to the conduct of the wicked (Ecclesiastes 8:14)—for these descended among those rungs and were punished!

Come and see: Because Rabbi Akiva ascended on high, as is fitting, he entered in peace and emerged in peace.

[Rabbi Akiva survived his mystical quest intact. Even so, his fate was to be counted among the martyrs of Israel during the Hadrianic persecutions of the second century. Rabbi Shim’on wonders: How could he and the other martyrs—righteous innocents—be deserving of death at the hands of the Romans? Surely they deserved to die by divine kiss and be gathered to Shekhinah. The complex verse in Psalms provides the key:] He posed a question, not clarified explicitly, as is written: מִמְתִים (mi-metim), from men, by Your hand, O YHVHמִמְתִים (mi-metim), from men, from those fleeting of portion in life (Psalms 17:14). [David] was bewildered how these were slain among the slain of the world—righteous innocents, who never sinned such that they should be punished. Come and see: מִמְתִים (mi-metim), of them that die, by Your hand, O YHVHמִמְתִים (mi-metim), of them that die, מֵחֶלֶד (me-ḥeled), from those fleeting, of portion in life. By Your hand, O YHVH. Here are two modes: by Your hand, O YHVH, and חֶלֶד (ḥeled), fleetingBy Your hand O YHVH—the blessed Holy One, for the soul is gathered to Him; of them that die מֵחֶלֶד (me-ḥeled)—the Other Side, ruling over the body, as is written: I will never see a human again among the inhabitants of חָדֶל (ḥadel), the world (Isaiah 38:11) (Zohar 2:254b, Heikhalot Pequdei).

“[Now a river runs out of Eden to water the garden and] from there splits off into four רָאשִׁים (rashim), streams [lit., heads] (Genesis 2:10)—these are the four who entered the פַּרדֵס (pardes), Orchard. One went up פִישׁוֹן (pishon), Pishon, which is פִּי שׁוֹנֶה הֲלָכוֹת (pi shoneh halakhot), ‘My mouth repeats laws of conduct’ [corresponding to the פְּשָׁט (peshat), plain, meaning of Torah]. The second went up גִּיחוֹן (giḥon), Gihon, where is buried the one of whom it is written: Whoever goes on his גָּחוֹן (gaḥon), belly (Leviticus 11:42)—גַּבְרִיאֵל (gavriel), Gabriel, גָּבַר אֵל (gavar El), Man of God [namely, Moses, cf. Psalms 90:1]. Of him is written: To גֶבֶר (gever), a man, whose way is hidden, and God has hedged him about (Job 3:23)—no man knew the place of his grave nor will until the very day when he will be revealed there. And it is רֶמֶז (remez), hints, and to wise men hints [are sufficient].

The third went up חִדֶּקֶל (ḥideqel), Tigris—חַד (ḥad), sharp, and קַל (qal), light, and it is a חֲדִידָא (ḥadida), flawless, tongue, קַלָּא (qalla), quick, to דְרָשָׁא (derasha), homilies [cf. M Sotah 6:15: ‘With Son of Zoma died the last of the homilists’]. The fourth went up פְּרָת (perat), Euphrates, the brain [or: marrow, corresponding to the סוֹד (sod), secret, meaning of Torah] which is פְּרִיָּה (periyyah), flourishing, and רְבִיָּה (reviyyah), proliferation [cf. Genesis 1:28: פְּרוּ וּרְבוּ (peru u-revu), be fruitful and multiply]. Son of Zoma and Son of Azzai ascended with shells of Torah and were harmed by them, but Rabbi Akiva, who went up in the brain, of him it is said that he ascended in peace and descended in peace [cf. Rabbi Yosef Gikatilla, Perush ha-Niqqud: ‘In truth, to some of them it was a פַּרדֵס (pardes), paradise, and to others it was שְׁמָד (shemad), annihilation. And the mystery depends upon the secret (i.e., numerical value) of the שֵׁם ד״ (shem dalet), Four Letter Name’].

Rabbi El’azar said: Father, one day when we were in the academy, the Companions asked why Rabbi Akiva said to his disciples, When you reach the pure marble stones, do not say ‘Water! Water!’ or you may endanger yourselves, as is written, A speaker of lies shall not stand firm before my eyes (Psalms 101:7). Meanwhile, the סָבָא דְסָבִין (sava de-savin), Elder of Elders, descended, saying: ‘Rabbis, what are you engaging in?’ They said to him: ‘That which Rabbi Akiva said to his disciples concerning the pure marble stones.’ He said to them: ‘Indeed here is a supernal mystery, for it has been explained in the Academy on High. And in order that you not be neglected I have descended, since the mystery—a supernal mystery concealed from people of the generation—has been revealed among you [cf. Vayiqra Rabbah 29:4: ‘He confines His Shekhinah among those below. Why? So that if they err in a matter of Halakhah, the blessed Holy One enlightens their countenance’].’

These are surely the pure marble stones from which pure water flows. They are alluded to at the top and bottom of א (alef). The ו (vav), placed on a diagonal in between, is the Tree of Life. Whoever eats from that tree shall live forever. These two יוּדִין (yods) belonging to the א (alef) are hinted at in וַיִּיצֶר (va-yiytser), and formed (Genesis 2:7) [cf. BT Eruvin 18a]; one of the upper beings and the other of the lower beings stand for Wisdom at the beginning and Wisdom at the end [of יהוה (YHVH) spelled out in its full ten letter expanded form: יוֹד הֵא וָאו הֵא (Yod He Vav He); alt., יְאֲהדֹוָנָהי (YAHDVNHY)]. Mysteries of Wisdom, they are concealed supernal Wisdom, below supernal Keter. These are comparable to the two eyes from which two tears fell into the Great Sea. Why did the tears fall [see BT Berakhot 59a; Zohar 2:195b; 3:132a]? Because from these two tablets, Moses gave Torah to Israel. However, Israel was not worthy of receiving them, [so] they broke and fell (Exodus 32:19) causing the destruction of the First and Second Temples. Why did they fall? Because the letter ו (vav) flew out from them, which is the ו (vav) of וַיִּיצֶר (va-yiytser), and formed (Genesis 2:7). He gave them two others from the aspect of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. From here Torah was given in a manner of permitting and forbidding. From the right: Life; from the left: Death.

This is why Rabbi Akiva said to his disciples, When you reach the pure marble stones, do not say ‘Water! Water!’ Do not compare the pure marble stones to the other stones which are Life and Death: A wise man’s heart inclines him to his right hand but a fool’s heart is to the left (Ecclesiastes 10:2). Not only that, but you may endanger yourselves, because these are in separation, while the pure marble stones are in unity without separation of the whole. You may say, that when the Tree of Life departed from them [at the Sin of the Golden Calf] they fell and therefore they were separated from each other. However, A speaker of lies shall not stand firm before my eyes (Psalms 101:7), because there is no separation between them above. For those [tablets] that broke were of those [from the pure marble stones]. They approached to kiss him, but he vanished and was gone from them” (Zohar 1:26b, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar).

“And there is a chariot beneath זְּעֵיר אַנְפִּין (ze’eir anpin), Small Countenance, and he is מְטַּטְרוֹן אָדָם הַקָּטָן (metatron adam ha-qatan), Metatron the Lesser Man [cf. 3 Enoch 12]. And in his chariot, which is an orchard, they are hurrying from the sea of Torah, flowing out of his orchard to three of the four, about whom it was said that four entered the פַּרדֵס (pardes), Orchard. And we have already learnt this.

For he [Metatron] is the bird who was spotted by Rabbah son of Son of Ḥannah on the shore of the sea of Torah when the sea [Malkhut] reached its ankles [Netsaḥ and Hod], and its head reached to the top of the heavens [Tif’eret. On Rabbah son of Son of Ḥannah’s tall tales of his sea adventures and the various immense marine animals he encountered, see BT Bava Batra 73b–74a]. These three [namely, Son of Azzai, Son of Zoma, and Aḥer] did not fail in it because it contains numerous waters [of Ḥokhmah], but only, because of the forceful flow of the waters, and so have we learnt.

אבג (Alef, bet, gimel) include them and reckon six, the number of letters in מְטַּטְרוֹן (Metatron). ד (Dalet) is fourth: a sound of minute stillness (1 Kings 19:12). There came the King, for He is a man to sit on the throne.

א (Alef): יי (yod, yod)—upper waters, and lower waters, and there is nothing between them save a hair’s breadth, which is ו (vav), a slant line in between. It is the firmament [mystery of the וִילוֹן (vilon), Curtain, see BT Ḥagigah 12b] to divide water from water (Genesis 1:6). Thus there should be a separation between female and male, and that is why: and let it divide (Genesis 1:6). And the inner meaning of the matter: יְאֲהדֹוָנָהִי (YAHDVNHY)—the upper י (yod) is upper male waters and the lower י (yod) is lower, feminine waters. The six letters which come between are like the sum of ו (vav)—Metatron—which is between the א (alef).

Furthermore: י (yod)—a point; ו (vav)—a wheel. And there is no movement in the wheel at the six spokes [lit., extremities], as the numerical value of ו (vav), but only at the point. And this point is the unity of everything, and is witness to that Unity who has no second, and about whom the rabbis taught that one has to proclaim His unity in order to establish His kingship over the heavens and the earth and the four directions of the world.

ב (Bet)—heavens and earth [Tif’eret and Malkhut]; ג (gimel)—the pillar that bears them [Yesod]; ד (dalet)—the four living beings [of the Chariot]; ה (he)—the throne; ו (vav)—six steps [sefirot] up to the throne.

Moreover, א ב ג ד ה ו ז ח ט (alef, bet, gimel, dalet, he, vav, zayin, ḥet, tet): אָדָם (adam), Man [which has a reduced numerical value of nine, alluding to the first nine sefirot of Ze’eir Anpin]; י (yod)—יִיחוּד (yiḥud), He is Singular; Malkhut, tenth of אָדָם (adam), Man. The nine [sefirot] correspond to the nine letters. Happy are those of Israel who know the secret of their Master!” (Zohar 3:223b, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineas).

“Tefillin of the Master of the UniverseKeter [cf. BT Berakhot 6a, 7a]. And what is Keter of the Master of the Universe? It is יְהֹוָה (YHVH): י (yod)Ḥokhmah; ה (he)Binah; ו (vav)Tif’eret, which includes the six sefirot. ה (He) is Malkhut. And this is the reason: And who is כְּ (ke), like, Your people Israel, a unique nation upon earth (2 Samuel 2:23); כִּי (Ki), for, what great nation is there that has gods close to it כַּיהוָה (ka-Adonai), like YHVH, our God whenever we call to Him? (Deuteronomy 4:7); [also there is an aforementioned verse: There is no one holy כַּיהוָה (ka-Adonai), like YHVH, for there is no one beside You, and ther is no bastion like our God (1 Samuel 2:2)]. All four verses are inscribed with כ (kaf), and the mystery of the letter כ (kaf) is י י (yod, yod): יְאֲהדֹוָנָהי (YAHDVNHY). [And this is the inner meaning of:] עֲשָׂרָה עֲשָׂרָה הַכַּף (asarah asarah ha-kaf), ten ten (shekels) the ladle, by the sanctuary shekel (Numbers 7:86)—כ (kaf), from כֶּתֶר (keter), Crown, comprised of ten sefirot and they comprise [ten sefirot of direct light] from above downwards, and ten sefirot [of reflected light], are upwards from below.

And these are [Praise Him, the heavens of the heavens,] and the waters above the heavens (Psalms 148:4), which are masculine upper waters [ten sefirot of direct light], and feminine lower waters [the waters beneath the firmament (Genesis 1:7)—ten sefirot of reflected light]. And of them Rabbi Akiva said to his disciples: When you reach the pure marble stones, do not say: Water! Water! lest you endanger yourselves. For these are not waters as is normally understood, but rather אוֹר נוֹבֵעַ (or nove’a), ‘flowing light.’ This is why its name is מַיִם נוֹבְעִים (mayim nove’im), Flowing Water. And this light is never interrupted, nor is it cut off, nor separated. And because it is from Keter, it is called שֶׁאֵין לָהֶם סוֹף (she-ein lahem sof), Endless, for Keter is called אֵין סוֹף (ein sof), Without End [אוֹר (or), light, and אֵין סוֹף (Ein Sof) are numerically equivalent]” (Zohar 3:258a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

To the Daughter’s Father Fifty Weights of Silver

The_Jewish_Bride_Rembrandt

“What is this Torah? She says: We are a bride adorned and crowned, and all the mitsvot are included within [us]. She is Treasury of the Torah and the betrothed of the blessed Holy One, as is written, ‘Torah did Moses charge us, a heritage for Jacob’s assembly! (Deuteronomy 33:4). Do not read מוֹרָשָׁה (morashah), a heritage, but rather מְאוֹרָסָה (me’orasah), the betrothed‘ (BT Berakhot 57a; Pesaḥim 49b) [cf. Avot 2:17; Bemidbar Rabbah 8:2]. How is this so? When the people of Israel study Torah for her own sake, then she is the betrothed of the blessed Holy One, then she is the heritage of Israel” (Bahir §196).

“When Torah was given, Her tablets, likened to virginity, were broken. And the blessed Holy One again gave Her to Israel to keep Her [as] Oral Torah called הֲלָכָה (Halakhah) [alluding to הַכַּלָה (ha-kalah), the Bride] given to Moses on Sinai. And the groom of Torah broke Her virginity. Whoever speaks ill of Her since Her tablets were broken, the blessed Holy One, who is the girl’s Father—that daughter who is in בְּרֵאשִׁית (Bereshit) [i.e., בַּת רָאשֵׁי (bat rashei), ‘first daughter,’ or: בַּת רֹאשִׁי (bat roshi), ‘daughter of My head,’ see TZ 5, 10a] the King’s daughter—spoke: My daughter I gave to this man as wife, and he hated her. And look, he has imputed misconduct, saying, ‘I found no signs of virginity for your daughter,’ but these are the signs of My daughter’s virginity. And they shall spread out the garment before the elders of the town (Deuteronomy 22:17), and the parchment of Torah scroll unfolds, and they shall see written inside, Carve you two stone tablets like the first ones, and I shall write on the tablets the words which were on the first tablets that you smashed (Exodus 34:1).

Immediately Elijah rose with all the heads of the academy and they blessed him. And He said, ‘Sinai, Sinai, it would have been worthy for us to listen to your words and be silent, yet with permission from the blessed Holy One and His Shekhinah, I wish to say something to you, in your honor.’ He said to him, ‘Speak.’

[Elijah] opened, saying [Moses] Faithful Shepherd, ‘The blessed Holy One gave this Bride of yours to Abraham to bring up for you. And since he kept Her She is called his daughter. This is what is meant by the saying that Abraham had a daughter whose name was בַּכֹּל (Bakol) [see BT Bava Batra 16b]. By Her he observed the whole Torah even to the עֵירוּבֵי תַּבְשִׁילִין (eruvei tavshilin), Mixing of Dishes [an action allowing one to cook on a holiday for Sabbath. On the Patriarchs keeping the whole Torah even before it was given, see M Qiddushin 4:14 on Genesis 26:5, cf. Vayiqra Rabbah 2:10]. This is the meaning of [Abraham has listened בְּקֹלִי (be-qoli), to My voice] and has kept My charge [My commandments, My statutes, and My teachings] (Genesis 26:5). And he brought Her up, as written, And he became a guardian to Hadassah (Esther 2:7). And the blessed Holy One blessed him for Her sake, as written, YHWH had blessed Abraham in בַּכֹּל (ba-kol), all things (Genesis 24:1) [cf. Bava Batra 16b]. He brought Her up with every good quality and was kind to Her. He raised her to greatness, with the quality of חֶסֶד (ḥesed), Kindness, of Abraham. His house was, for Her sake, wide open to do kindness to all the people of the world….’

Should a man find a virgin young woman who is not betrothed… (Deuteronomy 22:28). The decree is to punish the seducer with fifty shekels of silver. Should a man find a virgin young woman who is not betrothed—these are Israel, who, from the aspect of the Shekhinah are called ‘Daughter.’ And take hold of her and lie with her, and they be found, the man lying with her shall give to the young woman’s father fifty weights of silver, and she shall be his wife inasmuch as he abused her. He shall not be able to send her away all his days (ibid., 28-29). The Sages and all the members of the academy say: a man—this is Israel from the aspect of the blessed Holy One [Tif’eret]. And take hold of her—with the knot of tefillin and with tsitsit. Who is not betrothed—an only daughter, who is the נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh), life-breath. And lie with her—with the prayer of lying down, namely הַשְׁכִּיבֵנוּ (hashkivenu), ‘Cause us to lie down.’ Shall give to the young woman’s father fifty weights of silver—these are the twenty-five and twenty-five letters of the unification [i.e., the recital of Shema]….

In relation to Secrets of Torah we must employ an allegory. There is a נִשְׁמְתָא (nishmeta), soul, that is the Matronita, and there is a soul that is a slavegirl, such as in: And should a man sell his daughter as a slavegirl (Exodus 21:7). And there is a soul that is a common slavegirl—so are most of the sons of men. There is he who is a slave to the soul. Sometimes the soul goes in the mystery of cycling: but the יּוֹנָה (yonah), dove, found no resting place for the sole of her foot (Genesis 8:9) [יּוֹנָה (yonah), dove, and גִּלְגּוּל (gilgul), life-cycle, are numerically equivalent]. And the evil impulse chases her to enter that body, a slavegirl to the evil impulse. He is a שֵׁד יְהוּדִי (shed yehudi), Jewish demon, and the soul is י (yod), the Hebrew slave [see Exodus 21:2–6; cf. BT Qiddushin 16a. On Jewish demons, see BT Pesaḥim 110a; Yevamot 122a and Rashi; Zohar 3:253a (RM); ZḤ 47 (MhN, Rut), 48d; cf. BT Gittin 66a] in which this שֵׁד (shed), demon, becomes שַׁדַּי (Shaddai) because it kept guard of the soul and repented through her, and with her blessed the blessed Holy One daily with ‘בָרוּך (Barukh), blessed…’ and with it sanctifies the blessed Holy One with ‘Holy, holy, holy,’ (Qedushah) and with it declares the unity of the blessed Holy One with the recital of Shema.

What used to be a demon turns into her angel—Metatron turns into Shaddai, since מְטַטְרוֹן (Metatron) is the sum of שַׁדַּי (Shaddai) [see BT Sanhderin 38b]. Immediately there is fulfilled in her And she shall be his wife, he shall not be able to send her away ever (Deuteronomy 22:19). But if he does not repent she is enslaved in him through the offences he committed and it shall be fulfilled in him, the wife and her children shall be her master’s (Exodus 21:4) [cf. Zohar 2:106a (SdM)], and it says of the demon which is her debtor: and he shall go out by himself (ibid.). That demon is like Moses’ staff that turns from a staff into a snake and from a snake into a staff [see Exodus 4:2]. So does this demon turn from a demon into an angel and from an angel into a demon, according to human deeds” (Zohar 3:277a, Ra’aya Meheimna Ki Tetse).