The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: Abraham

There was a Famine in the Land: Descent—a Need of Ascent

It came to pass after these things that God נִסָּה (nissah), tested, Abraham (Genesis 22:1). It is written: You have given נֵּס (nes), a banner, to those in awe of You לְהִתְנוֹסֵס (le-hitnoses), to be unfurled (Psalms 60:6)—trial upon trial, elevation above elevation, to test them in the world, to elevate them in the world like a ship’s banner” (Bereshit Rabbah 55:1).

“Once Abraham was crowned with his rungs in the Holy Land and entered the holy rung, what is written? There was a famine in the land (Genesis 12:10), for no one knew how to draw near the blessed Holy One [cf. Amos 8:10]. There was a famine in the land, for until now the power [of Shekhinah] over the land had not vitalized or nourished the land, for it was still unsanctified, unstable. As soon as Abraham saw that the power appointed over the land had not vitalized it fittingly with holy energy, Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there (ibid.). How did Abraham know? As is written: To your seed I give this land (ibid., 7). Then Abraham knew that the land would be arrayed in holy arrayal only through certain rungs issuing from him. He discovered a mystery of wisdom: only so would the land be arrayed in holiness [i.e., it is impossible to reach the height of perfection unless one has first descended into the realm of evil and risen from there, see Rabbi Avraham Galanté, Zahorei Ḥammah on Zohar 1:81b].

Abram went down to Egypt. Why Egypt? Because it is equivalent to the Garden of YHWH, as is written: Like the garden of YHWH, like the land of Egypt (ibid. 13:10) [cf. Deuteronomy 11:10]. For there one river on the right plunges, as is written: The name of the first is Pishon, the one winding through the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold (ibid. 2:11). Once Abraham knew and entered perfect faith, he sought to know all those rungs linked below, and since Egypt drew from the right, he went down to Egypt. 

Come and see: Famine prevails only when compassion withdraws from justice. 

When he drew near to Egypt (ibid. 12:11).

Rabbi El’azar said, כַּאֲשֶׁר הִקְרִיב (Ka’asher hiqriv), When he drew [someone] near. The verse should read: כַּאֲשֶׁר קָרַב (Ka’asher qarav), When he came near. Why Ka’asher hiqriv, when he drew [someone] near? As is written, Pharaoh hiqriv, drew [someone] near (Exodus 14:10), for he drew Israel back to God [see Shemot Rabbah 21:5]. Here too, hiqriv, for he drew himself near to the blessed Holy One fittingly. 

To enter Egypt (Genesis, ibid.)—to scrutinize those rungs, and shun them, to shun the ways of the Egyptians. 

Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘Come and see: Because Abraham went down to Egypt without permission, his descendants were enslaved there for four hundred years. For look at what is written: Abram went down to Egypt, and not: Go down to Egypt! ” (Zohar 1:81a–b).

“Come and see the mystery of the matter: If Abram had not gone down to Egypt and been refined there first, he would not have become the share of the blessed Holy One. Similarly with his children, when the blessed Holy One wanted to make them a unique and perfect people, to draw them close to Him: If they had not first gone down to Egypt and been refined there, they would not have become His unique nation. Similarly, if the Holy Land had not been given first to Canaan to rule, it would not have become the portion and share of the blessed Holy One [see Zohar 1:73b]. It is all one mystery….

Come and see: When Abraham entered the land the blessed Holy One appeared to him, as has been said, for it is written: to YHWH who had appeared to him (Genesis 12:7). There he received nefesh and built an altar for that rung. Afterward, continually journeying (ibid., 9), receiving ruaḥ. Finally he ascended to cleave to neshamah, and then he built an altar there to YHWH (ibid., 8)—uncharacterized, referring to neshamah, concealed of all concealed. 

Then he knew he had to be refined and crowned with rungs, so immediately Abram went down to Egypt (ibid., 10). He was delivered from there, not seduced by those dazzling demons. Refined, he returned to his domain. Having descended and been refined, immediately Abram went up from Egypt (ibid. 13:1)—went up, literally, returning to his domain, cleaving to supernal faith, as is written: to the Negev. From now one Abraham knew supernal wisdom, cleaving to the blessed Holy One, becoming the right hand of the world. Then Abram was very heavily laden with cattle, with silver, and with gold (ibid., 2). Very heavily laden—on the side of the East; with cattle—on the side of the West; with silver—on the side of the South; and with gold—on the side of the North” (Zohar 1:82b–83b).

“Come and see: When the blessed Holy One created Adam, He commanded him for his own good and endowed him with wisdom, whose rungs he climbed. Descending below, he rediscovered the craving of the evil impulse and clung to it, forgetting all he had attained of the supernal glory of his Lord.

Then came Noah. At first is written: Noah was a completely righteous man (Genesis 6:9). Later he descended below and saw strong wine, unclassified, one day old. He drank some of it, became drunk, and exposed himself.

Then came Abraham. He ascended in wisdom, contemplating the glory of his Lord. Afterwards, there was a famine in the land and Abram went down to Egypt… (ibid. 12:10). Subsequently what is written? Abram went up from Egypt… (ibid. 13:1), ascending to the rung he had attained at first. He entered in peace and emerged in peace.

Then came Isaac. What is written? There was a famine in the land… and Isaac went (ibid. 26:1). Isaac went and later ascended from there in peace.

Every single one of the righteous is tested by the blessed Holy One, to elevate them in this world and in the world that is coming” (Zohar 1:140b).

Vitality of the World

Add. 27006

“Rabbi Me’ir said, ‘When a person is in distress, what expression does the Shekhinah say? As it were: My head is lighter, my arm is lighter [a euphemism for feeling heaviness and pain].’

If so for the Omnipresent in distress on account of the blood of the wicked when it is shed, how much more so on account of the blood of the righteous!” (M Sanhedrin 6:5).

“We learned in the primary compisition: ‘The Other Side prefers most of all that Judgment should overwhelm a righteous one—for then he does not care about the [debts owed him by the] whole world and ignores them’ (Zohar 3:218a) [cf. Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 1a–b]. While [the Companions] were still discussing, a shade [the spirit of Rabbi Pinḥas son of Ya’ir] came upon them and asked: ‘How do we know? We know from Job. For the blessed Holy One, saw that generation was deserving of annihilation, and when the adversary came to denounce, the blessed Holy One said to him: Have you paid heed to My servant Job, for there is none like him on earth (Job 1:8) in order to save the whole generation through him. The matter can be likened to a shepherd when a wolf comes to devour his flock and destroy them. Being wise, what does the shepherd do? He gives the wolf a lamb that is stronger, fatter, and larger than the others, the leader of the flock, and the wolf, out of his desire to have control over the lamb, forgets about the rest of the flock. What does the shepherd do next? While the wolf is preoccupied with that lamb, he flees with the flock and brings them to safety. Later, he returns to the lamb and saves it from the wolf.

This is exactly what the blessed Holy One, did with the generation. He offered the righteous one for indictment in order to save the generation on his account. And if, like Jacob, he is strong, the verse says of him: and a man wrestled with him (Genesis 32:25). This is even more the case when he overcomes, until he says: Let me go (ibid., 27).’ He said: ‘O Shade! O Shade! It certainly must be so. Happy is the portion of that righteous man who is strong in suffering afflictions, and how much more so the one who, by means of his [afflictions], manages to overcome his denouncer who has his control over the whole generation, and it is accounted to him as though he had rescued them, and the blessed Holy One, appoints him as shepherd over them in place [of the adversary]. This was how the Faithful Shepherd [Moses] came to be the shepherd over Israel, and not only that, but he will lead them in the next world. And this was because he saved them that they should not be lost, for he guided them in Torah and mitsvot.’

While they were yet talking, the Faithful Shepherd himself came and said to them: ‘And why was the right arm afflicted? The way of all physicians is to draw blood initially from the right arm. Since the left arm is the one that is nearer the heart, why is blood not let from it [i.e., why is it that one righteous man is afflicted and not another (Sullam), cf. BT Mo’ed Qatan 28a]?’ He answered: ‘Because the blessed Holy One, does not wish overly to strike, and one suffices. But if the bile is serious and spreads throughout the members of the body, blood is drawn from the left arm [too].’

He said to him: ‘If the two of them were not [afflicted] at the same time, that would be fine, but what about the case of the two righteous men, one of whom suffers from diseases and troubles, while the other is treated with kindness? Why is it that if the bile spread, blood is not drawn from both of them who are the two arms, so that healing may be given to all members. And in the case where the bile does not become more serious, and does not spread throughout the members of the body, why is more blood let from the right arm than from the left?’ He said to him: ‘Why don’t you give the answer?’

‘Certainly the body and the two arms correspond to the three Patriarchs and the head to אָדָם קַדְמָאָה (adam qadma’ah), Primordial Man—the right arm corresponds to Abraham and the left arm corresponds to Isaac, the body corresponds to Jacob. Within the body, the liver is to the right, the spleen to the left—Esau and Ishmael. The heart is Jacob in the center. The lungs and kidneys correspond to Abraham and Isaac. Lungs—water—draw in all sorts of elixirs; kidneys—fire—cook the seed that descends from the brain.

And since Abraham [Ḥesed] is ‘water’ he places his children in the exile of Edom. This is why the liver and the gall that is in the liver are to the right of Abraham. [Edom’s] sword is the מְרֵרָה (mererah), gall, of which it is said: But in the end she’s as מָרָה (marah), bitter, as wormwood [sharp as a double-edged sword] (Proverbs 5:4) [cf. BT Avodah Zarah 20b]. And if the liabilities become greater in number among the children of Abraham, who are placed in the exile of Edom, and the מַרְעֵיהּ (mareih), bile, spreads over them from the side of the liver, they must be smitten and blood has to be drawn from the right arm. And ‘Whoever has his money taken is as though his blood was spilled’ (BT Bava Metsi’a 58b), for he remains poor, and a poor man is considered as dead [see BT Shabbat 129a–b; Gittin 70a. Cf. Zohar 3:227a (RM)].

But if the liabilities become greater in number among the children of Isaac they are exiled among Ishmael [see Zohar 2:17a (MhN)]. The bile spreads from the side of the spleen, on the left. And blood has to be drawn from the left arm, and not from any other.

And if liabilities become greater in number amongst the children of Jacob, who are scattered among the children of Esau and Ishmael, then the bile spreads over the body and blood has to be drawn from both arms [cf. Zohar 3:246a]. But if all three of them are afflicted as one, the bile then rises to the head and blood must be drawn from veins of the head. And these three became a chariot for Primordial Man and the Patriarchs, and acquire from them strength to suffer torments and protect the generation throughout the four directions of the world.

Woe to the generation that causes the Patriarchs and Primordial Man to be struck, for this includes also the righteous amongst them, for there is no difference between Primordial Man and the Righteous One and the Patriarchs and Primordial Man. This is because these are their נִשְׁמָתִין (nishmatin), souls, and their illnesses, pains, and sufferings reach the Patriarchs and Man. Just as when a number of rivers flow out from the Sea and return to Her murky and dirty, but the Sea removes their murkiness and dirtiness. And because of the Sea’s valor, for She is strong, She does not suffer from their filth, but expels it, and the rivers remain clear and pure, without that filth. Just as a mother cleans dirt from her little ones. Indeed, the Patriarchs remove the liabilities and the filth from their children, Israel, when there are people of righteous deeds among them who are strong enough to suffer torments for the sake of the generation [on the merit of the Patriarchs, see BT Shabbat 55a; BT Rosh ha-Shanah 11a. On the expending of an individual’s merits, see BT Shabbat 32a; Ta’anit 20b]. At that time there is no difference between them [namely, the righteous of the generation and the Patriarchs].’ They all came and greeted him [Moses the Faithful Shepherd] and said to him: ‘Sinai! Sinai! Through whose mouth the blessed Holy One and His Shekhinah speak. Who is able to challenge Him in anything? Happy is our portion that we have merited to renew matters in the primary compostion [of Zohar] through you, so that the Shekhinah may give light in exile.’

He said to them: ‘Rabbis of every generation, those who have been [or will be] during their time, and how much more so the Holy Lamp whose wisdom will shine in all the generations that come after him: do not give the blessed Holy One, quiet in Torah until the Holy Spirit is poured out on us.’ …

None but you [Moses, Faithful Shepherd,] may employ great מְטַטְרוֹן שַׂר הַפָּנִים (Metatron Sar ha-Panim), Metatron, Prince of the Countenance, since your name [מֹשֶׁה‎ (Moshe), Moses] is intimated in the initials of his.

And now there is need of a physician to know by how many degrees the pulse of the patient, Israel, has increased in the exile of Edom, for it is said of him I am in a fever of love (Song of Songs 5:8). For a number of physicians gathered over him to check the pulse in order to know when his illness would come to an end, but not one of them could understand them, for no physician is competent to read the pulse of this particular patient, for there are beats of Teqiah Shevarim Teru’ah Teqiah, Teqiah Shevarim Teqiah, Teqiah Teru’ah Teqiah, as the prophet said of them: Like a woman with child, that draws near the time of her delivery, is in pain, and cries out in her pangs (Isaiah 26:17).

And all the ten shofar blasts are included in three תְּקִיעָה שְׁבָרִים תְּרוּעָה (Teqiah Shevarim Teru’ah). תְּקִיעָה (Teqiah)—the length of the exile. שְׁבָרִים (Shevarim), Moaning—the proximity of the exile. תְּרוּעָה (Teru’ah), Wailing Alarm—the coming redemption; teaching of the duress after duress with no respite between them [cf. BT Rosh ha-Shanah 33b–34a]. And clearly, since the other nations make Israel’s exile more difficult, it is the duress that they exert that brings redemption closer. And so too in our case of the patient’s pulse: beats come faster, one after the other, with no space between them, and the man’s נַפְשָׁא (nafsha), soul [or: breath], leaves him.

קשר״ק קש״ק קר״ק (Teqiah Shevarim Teru’ah, Teqiah Teqiah Shevarim, Teqiah Teqiah Teru’ah, Teqiah)—קֶשֶׁר (qesher), conspiracy, to remove שֶׁקֶר (sheqer), falsehood, from the world [cf. BT Rosh ha-Shanah 16b]. Concerning this was the oath: מִלְחָמָה לַיהוָה בַּעֲמָלֵק (milḥamah la-Adonai ba-Amaleq), War for YHWH against Amalek for all time [the intial letters of which are numerically equivalent to ע״ב (seventy-two), cf. TZ 67a; TZḤ 115a] (Exodus 17:16). A simple, double, triple and quadruple song will arise in the world, where the letters [יהוה (YHWH)] will ascend: י יה יהו יהוה (Y YH YHW YHWH) [numerically equivalent to seventy-two, cf. Ibn Ezra on Genesis 4:19]. At that time [the prayer] will be answered: ‘וּבְכֵן (U-vekhen), and therefore, the righteous shall see and be glad, the upright exult and the pious rejoice in song’ (Amidah for the Days of Awe). This additional ו״ (six) [of ‘וּבְכֵן (U-vekhen)’ alludes to]the Sixth Millennium. The Second Temple was destroyed קע״ב (one hundred and seventy-two) years before [the Sixth Millennium]. And following the completion of רע״ב (two hundred and seventy-two), as in the verse, At עֶרֶב (erev), evening, you shall know that it was YHWH who brought you out [of the land of Egypt] (Exodus 16.6). Also, For your servant became עָרַב (arev), pledge, for the lad (Genesis 44:32) [‘you should know that all these dates mentioned in the Zohar refer to an arousal from above, which occur at these times for redemption, however, certainly it depends on the people’s actions and repentance’ (Sullam)]” (Zohar 3:218a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

“צוּר עוֹלָמִים (Tsur olamim), Everlasting Rock (Isaiah 26:4), חַי הָעוֹלָם (Ḥai ha-olam), Vitality of the World (Daniel 12:7), יוֹצֵר בְּרֵאשִׁית (yotser bereshit), Fashioner of the Beginning, Reviver of the Dead, who is our life and our sustained existence, our merit, our help, and our drawing near, to praise Your name. Blessed are You Lord, God of praises” (JT Berakhot 1:5, 10b).

All who are Merciful to the Cruel in the End Become Cruel to the Merciful: The Best of Serpents—Crush its Head!

“How strong is the power of the Other Side that it managed to hide from the eyes of our holy patriarchs the danger of the קְלִפּוֹת (qelipot), shells: from the eyes of our father Abraham, the shell of Ishmael; from the eyes of our father Isaac, the shell of Esau; and from the eyes of our father Jacob, the shell of the תְּרָפִים (terafim), household gods (Genesis 31:19). During the footsteps of Messiah, the Other Side becomes even stronger, in order to strike the disciples of the wise with blindness” (Rabbi Hillel Rivlin of Shklov, in the name of the Gaon of VilnaQol ha-Tor 5:9):

And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, מְצַחֵק (mestaeq), laughing. And she said to Abraham, “Drive out this slavegirl and her son, for the slavegirl’s son shall not inherit with my son, with Isaac.” And the thing seemed evil in Abraham’s eyes because of his son. And God said to Abraham, “Let it not seem evil in your eyes on account of the lad and on account of your slavegirl. Whatever ever Sarah says to you, listen to her voice, for through Isaac shall your seed be acclaimed. But the slavegirl’s son, too, I will make a nation, for he is your seed” (Genesis 21:9–13) [cf. the Code of Hammurabi, 146].

“Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai said, ‘Rabbi Akiva used to offer four explanations, and mine follows from his. Rabbi Akiva said that  מְצַחֵק (mestaeq) refers solely to idolatry, as is written, And the people came back from eating and drinking and they rose up לְצַחֵק (letsaḥeq), to play. [And YHWH said to Moses, ‘Quick, go down, for your people (i.e., the motley throng, mixed multitude) that I brought up from Egypt has acted ruinously] (Exodus 32:6) [cf. M Avot 3:17: ‘Rabbi Akiva said: שְׂחוֹק (Seḥoq), mocking, and frivolity lead to immorality’]. From this we learn that Sarah saw Ishmael building idolatrous altars, catching locusts, and sacrificing them.

Rabbi Eli’ezer, son of Rabbi Yose of Galilee, said מְצַחֵק (mestaeq) was none other than illicit sexual relations. Sarah saw Ishmael molesting and assaulting the women, as is written, there was Isaac מְצַחֵק (mestaeq), playing, with Rebekah his wife (Genesis 26:8) [cf. ibid. 39:17: The Hebrew slave came into me, whom you bought us, לְצַחֶק (letsaeq), to play, with me)].

Rabbi Yishma’el said מְצַחֵק (mestaeq) refers to bloodshed, as is written: And Abner said to Joab, ‘Pray, let the lads arise and ישַׂחֲקוּ (yesaḥaqu), play, before us.’… And they arose and crossed over—twelve in number… And each man grasped the head of the other with his sword at the side of the other, and they fell together  (2 Samuel 2:14–16). From this we learn that Sarah saw Ishmael taking his bow and arrow and shooting towards Isaac, as is written Like a lunatic shooting deadly firebrands is a man who deceives his neighbor and says, ‘Why, I was joking’ (Proverbs 26:18–19).

But I say, perish the thought such a person be in the house of so righteous a man! How could there be idolatry, sexual licentiousness and bloodshed in the home of him, of whom it is said, For I have embraced him so that he will charge his sons [and his household after him to keep the way of YHWH to do righteousness and justice, that YHWH may bring upon Abraham all that He spoke concerning him’]  (Genesis 18:19). Therefore מְצַחֵק (mestaeq) here can refer only to the matter of inheritance; for when Isaac was born to Abraham, everyone rejoiced, saying, ‘Abraham has had a son, a son who shall inherit the world and take a double portion!’ And Ishmael was מְצַחֵק (mestaeq), sneering, saying, ‘Fools I am the firstborn, and I shall take a double portion.’ Indeed, [we may infer this] from Sarah’s response: for the slavegirl’s son shall not inherit with my son. My interpretation is more sound than that of Rabbi Akiva” (Tosefta Sotah 6:6, cf. Bereshit Rabbah 53:11).

“Rabbi Ḥiyya said, ‘Since the day Isaac was born, as long as Ishmael remained in Abraham’s house he did not attain a name. Wherever gold is found, scoria goes unmentioned. So, the son of Hagar the Egyptian, a male unworthy of being mentioned in the presence of Isaac.

Rabbi El’azar said, ‘Sarah saw. She saw him through a contemptuous eye, eyeing him not as the son of Abraham but as the son of Hagar the Egyptian. So, Sarah saw. Sarah saw him with that eye—not Abraham, since in relation to Abraham it is not written: son of Hagar the Egyptian, but rather: his son

Now, would you ever imagine that Sarah was jealous of her [namely, Hagar] or her son [Ishmael]? If so, the blessed Holy One would not have consented to her, as is written: Whatever Sarah tells you, hearken to her voice. Rather, because she saw him engaging in idolatry and because his mother taught him idolatrous customs, Sarah said, ‘For the son of this maidservant will not inherit! I know he will never inherit the share of faith, nor will he share a portion with my son—neither in this world nor in the world that is coming.’ Therefore the blessed Holy One consented” (Zohar 1:118b).

The children jostled each other with in her (Genesis 25:22), for there that wicked Esau waged battle against Jacob. וַיִּתְרֹצְצוּ (Va-yitrotsetsu), They jostled each other—they crushed each other, as we say: רָצַץ (Ratsats), Crush, its head! Crushing one another, they split apart.

Come and see: This one, the side riding the serpent; that one, the side riding the sacred, perfect throne, on the side of the sun [Tif’eret] performing with the moon [Shekhinah]” (Zohar 1:138a).

And Isaac loved Esau for the game that he brought him, but Rebekah loved Jacob… And it happened when Isaac was old, that his eyes grew too bleary to see, and he called to Esau his elder son and said to him, “My son!” and he said, “Here I am.” And he said, “Look, I have grown old; I know not how soon I shall die. So now, take up, pray, your gear, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field, and hunt me some game, and make me a dish of the kind that I love and bring it to me that I may eat, so that I may solemnly bless you before I die.” And Rebekah was listening as Isaac spoke to Esau his son… (Genesis 25:28; 27:1–5).

And Laban had gone to shear his flocks, and Rachel stole his household gods that were her father’s. And Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean, in not telling him he was fleeing… And Laban said to Jacob, “What have you done, deceiving me, and driving my daughters like captives of the sword? Why did you flee in stealth and deceive me and not tell me? I would have sent you off with festive songs, with timbrel and lyre. And you did not let me kiss my sons and my daughters. O, you have played the fool!.. why did you steal my gods?” And Jacob answered and said to Laban, “For I was afraid, for I thought, you would rob me of your daughters. With whomever you find your gods, that person shall not live…  But Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them… (Genesis 31:19–20; 31–32).

“Rabbi Yose said, ‘What are תְּרָפִים (terafim), household gods (Genesis 31:19)? They were idolatry. Why are they called תְּרָפִים (terafim)? Out of disgrace, as we have learned: ‘place of תּוֹרֶף (toref), pudenda…’ [תְּרָפִים (Terafim), household gods] speak constantly, offering evil counsel to one’s soul. Rachel feared they would offer advice on how to harm Jacob, so to disgrace idolatry she placed them underneath her and they could not speak… Now Rachel, even though she acted to uproot her father from idolatry, was punished; for she never raised Benjamin or existed with him for even an hour [see Genesis 35:16–20]—all on account of her father’s suffering, despite her good intentions” (Zohar 1:164b).

“Come and see! It is written: The people saw that Moses lagged [in coming down from the mountain, and the people assembled against Aaron and said to him, ‘Rise up, make us gods that will go before us, for this man Moses who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what happened to him] (Exodus 32:1). Who are the people? The עֵרֶב רַב (erev rav), mixed multitude [see Exodus 12:38; 32:7]. Who are the עֵרֶב רַב (erev rav), mixed multitude? Were they Lydians, Ethiopians, Cretans or Togarmans, that they are called עֵרֶב רַב (erev rav), ‘mixed multitude’? Were they not Egyptians, journeying from Egypt? If they were a mixture of many nations, it should have been written A mixed multitude ּעַלו (alu), went up, with them, corresponding to their mixture. Rather, A mixed multitude עָלָה (alah), went up, with them [written with the collective singular verb] (Exodus 12:38)—they were one nation, with one language, but consisting of all the sorcerers of Egypt and all its soothsayers, of whom is written and they too, the soothsayers of Egypt, did [thus with their spells] (Exodus 7:11), wanting to confront the wonders of the blessed Holy One. Once they saw the miracles and wonders that Moses performed in Egypt, they returned to Moses. The blessed Holy One said to Moses, ‘Do not accept them!’

Moses said, ‘Master of the Universe! Now that they have seen Your power, they want to convert. Let them see Your power every day and they will know that there is no God but You.’ And Moses accepted them [cf. Exodus 32:11; BT Pesaim 87b: ‘The blessed Holy One scattered Israel amongst the heathens only so that they may accumulate converts’]” (Zohar 2:191a, cf. ibid. 2:45b, 191a, 195a).

“Moses wanted to bring these converts under the wings of the Shekhinah and presumed 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 small ה (he) with the awe of י (yod) and with the love of [the first] ה (he). So he fell from his rung, which is ו (vav)” (Zohar 1:25a, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar).

“All the exile and the destruction of the Temple and all the suffering, all of it came through Moses’ acceptance of the עֵרֶב רַב (erev rav), motley throng, and all the wicked ones and evildoers in every generation come from them, and this is what is referred to: [Once Shabbatai son of Marinus came to Babylon and entreated them to provide him with facilities for trading and they refused this to him; neither did they give him any food. He said:] ‘These are the descendants of the motley throng’ (BT Beitza 32b)” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 97a).

Everything has a season, and a time for every matter under the heavens. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to rip down and a time to build. A time to weep and a time to laugh. A time to mourn and a time to dance. A time to fling stones and a time to gather stones in. A time to embrace and a time to pull back from embracing. A time to seek and a time to lose. A time to keep and a time to fling away. A time to tear and a time to sew. A time to keep silent and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace (Ecclesiastes 3:1–8).

“[And Saul came up to the city of Amalek] and lay in wait in the ravine. [And Saul said to the Kenite, ‘Go, turn away, come down from amidst the Amalekite, lest I sweep you away together with him, for you did kindness to all the Israelites when they came up from Egypt] (1 Samuel 15:5).

Rabbi Mani said: Because of what happens in the ravine: When the blessed Holy One said to Saul: ‘Now, go and strike down Amalek, [and put under the ban everything that he has, you shall not spare him, and you shall put to death man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and donkey’] (ibid., 3), [Saul] said: If on account of one person Torah said: Perform the ceremony of the heifer whose neck is to be broken [in atonement for an unidentified homicide, see Deuteronomy 21:1–9], how much more [ought consideration to be given] to all these persons! And if human beings sinned, what has the cattle committed; and if the adults have sinned, what have the little ones done?

A divine voice came forth and said: do not be over-righteous (Ecclesiastes 7:16). And when Saul said to Doeg: ‘You, then, turn round [and stab the priests.’ … and he struck down Nob the priests’ town with the edge of the sword, man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and donkey and sheep, all by the edge of the sword] (1 Samuel 22:18), a divine voice came forth to say: don’t be over-wicked (Ecclesiastes ibid., 17)” (BT Yoma 22b, cf. Mekhilta, Beshalla 1; Guide of the Perplexed 3:39).

“As they say, ‘Do no good to an evil person and harm will not come to you; for if you do good to an evil person, you have done wrong'” (Qohelet Rabbah on 5:8).

“All who are merciful to the cruel in the end become cruel to the merciful” (Qohelet Rabbah on 7:16, cf. Midrash Zuta; Tanḥuma, Mezora 1; Yalkut Shimoni, 1 Samuel, 121).

“Rav Yehudah said in Shemu’el’s name: When Solomon married Pharaoh’s daughter, she brought him a thousand musical instruments and said to him, ‘Thus we do in honour of that idol, thus in honour of that idol,’ yet he did not forbid her.

Rav Yehudah said in Shemu’el’s name: When Solomon married Pharaoh’s daughter, Gabriel descended and planted a reed in the sea, and it gathered a bank around it, on which the great city of Rome was built [i.e., Solomon’s unfaithfulness laid the seeds for the dissolution of the Jewish State]. In a barraita it was taught: On the day that Jeroboam brought the two golden calves, one into Bethel and the other into Dan, a hut was built, and this developed into Magna Graecia [Greek Italy, i.e., Rome]” (BT Shabbat 56b, cf. Sanhedrin 21b; Shir HaShirim Rabbah 1, 1:10).

The Binding: Now I Know that You Fear God

And it happened after these things that God tested Abraham. And He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ and he said, ‘Here I am.’ And He said, ‘Take, pray, your son, your only one, whom you love, Isaac, and go forth to the land of Moriah and offer him up as a burnt offering, on one of the mountains which I shall say to you.’ And Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey and took his two lads with him, and Isaac his son, and he split wood for the offering, and rose and went to the place that God had said to him (Genesis 22:1–3).

“Abraham our father was tested with ten trials and he withstood all of them, to make known how great is His love for our father Abraham” (M Avot 5:3).

It came to pass after these things that God נִסָּה (nissah), tested, Abraham (Genesis 22:1). It is written: You have given נֵּס (nes), a banner, to those in awe of You לְהִתְנוֹסֵס (le-hitnoses), to be unfurled (Psalms 60:6)—trial upon trial, elevation above elevation, to test them in the world, to elevate them in the world like a ship’s banner” (Bereshit Rabbah 55:1).

And He said to him, ‘Abraham! Take, pray, your son (Genesis 22:2). And Abraham, having pity upon Isaac, said before Him: Master of all Worlds concerning which son do You decree upon me? Is it concerning the son lacking circumcision, or the son born for circumcision? He answered him: Your only one. He rejoined: This one is the only son of his mother, and the other son is the only son of his mother. He said to him: whom you love. He said to Him: I love both of them. He said to him: Isaac” (Bereshit Rabbah 31:38).

“And what is the purpose [of the Binding]? אֶמֶת (Emet), truth: in order that the equity of God’s justice may be מְאוּמָת (me’umat), verified, in the world. Thus, if one says, ‘Whom He wishes to enrich, He enriches; to impoverish, He impoverishes; whom He desires, He makes a king; when He wished, He made Abraham wealthy, and when He wished He made him king,’ then you can answer, ‘Can you do what Abraham did?’ Abraham was a hundred years old when Isaac his son was born to him (Genesis 21:5). And after all this anguish [i.e., Sarah’s childlessness], it was said to him, ‘Take your son…’ (Genesis 22:2). And he did not refuse.

Rabbi Yonatan said, ‘A potter does not test a weak vessel, for if he hits it just once, he will break it….’ Rabbi Yose son of Ḥaninah said, ‘When a flax maker knows that the flax is in good shape, then the more he beats it, the more it will improve and glisten….’ Rabbi El’azar said, ‘The matter may be compared to a householder who has two heifers, one strong, one weak. On whom does he place the yoke? So the blessed Holy One does not try the wicked but the righteous: YHWH probes the righteous (Psalms 11:5)….

One said, ‘I am more beloved than you, for I was circumcised when I was thirteen years old.’ The other said, ‘I am more beloved than you, for I was circumcised sooner, namely, on the eighth day.’ Ishmael said to him, ‘I am more beloved than you, because I could have objected but didn’t.’ At that moment Isaac said, ‘Would the blessed Holy One appear to me and tell me to cut off one of my limbs I would not object.’ The blessed Holy One said to him, ‘If I should tell you to offer yourself up to Me, you would not refuse’” (Bereshit Rabbah 55:1–4).

“[And Abraham made a great feast on the day Isaac was weaned (Genesis 21:8)]the adversary said to the Almighty, ‘Master of the Universe! To this old man did You graciously vouchsafe the fruit of the womb at the age of a hundred, yet of all that banquet which he prepared, he did not have one turtle-dove or pigeon to sacrifice to You! He only acted in honour of his son! Rabbi Shim’on son of Abba said: [Take,] pray, [your son, your only one, whom you love, Isaac…] (Genesis 22:2)—נָא (na), pray, can only denote entreaty. This may be compared to a king of flesh and blood who was confronted by many wars, which he won by the aid of a great warrior. Subsequently he was faced with a severe battle. Thereupon he said to him, ‘I pray you assist me in battle that people may not say, there was no reality in the earlier ones.’ So also did the blessed Holy One say to Abraham, ‘I have tested you with many trials and you withstood them all. Now, be firm, for My sake in this trial, that men may not say, there was no reality in the earlier ones….’

[The adversary said to Abraham on his way to Mount Moriah:] Look, you reproved many, and slack hands you strengthened. The stumbler your words lifted up, and bended knees you bolstered. But now it comes to you and you cannot stand it, it reaches you and you are dismayed (Job 4:2–5). He replied, I will walk in my wholeness (Psalms 26:2). ‘But,’ said [the adversary] to him, Is not your reverence your safety? (Job 4:6). ‘Remember,’ he retorted, What innocent man has died? (ibid.). Seeing that he [Abraham] would not listen, he said to him, And to me came a word in secret (ibid., 12) thus have I heard from behind the curtain, ‘the lamb will be for a burnt-offering, while Isaac will not be the burnt-offering.’ He [Abraham] replied, ‘It is the penalty of a liar, that should he even tell the truth, he is not listened to’” (BT Sanhedrin 89b, cf. Midrash Vayyosha 1:36).

“וַיְהִי (Vayhi), it came to pass, after these דְּבָרִים (devarim), things (Genesis 22:1). Rabbi Shim’on said: We have learned that the expression It came to pass in the days of denotes sorrow, while the phrase וַיְהִי (Vayhi), it came to pass—even without in the days of—is tinged with sorrow [see BT Megillah 10b; Bereshit Rabbah 41 (42):3].

It came to pass after—the lowest of all upper rungs. Who is that? דְּבָרִים (Devarim) [Shekhinah], as is said: I am not a man of דְּבָרִים (devarim), words (Exodus 4:10) [at the beginning of his career, Moses was heavy of mouth and heavy of tongue (Exodus 4:10), not yet filled with the divine word, not yet intimate with Shekhinah]. Who came after this rung? And Elohim tested Abraham (Genesis, ibid.) for the evil impulse came to accuse in the presence of the blessed Holy One. Here we should contemplate: Elohim tested Abraham. The verse should read: tested Isaac, since Isaac was already thirty-seven years old, and his father was no longer responsible for him. If Isaac had said, ‘I refuse,’ his father would not have been punished. So why is it written, Elohim tested Abraham, and not Elohim tested Isaac?

But Abraham, precisely! For he had to be encompassed by judgment [or: crowned by rigor], since previously Abraham had contained no judgment at all. Now water was embraced by fire. Abraham had been incomplete until now, when he was crowned to execute judgment, arraying it in its realm. His whole life long he had been incomplete until now, when water was completed by fire, fire by water.

So Elohim tested Abraham—not Isaac—calling him to be embraced by judgment. When he did so, fire entered water, becoming complete. One was judged, one executed judgment—encompassing one another. Therefore the evil impulse came to accuse Abraham, who was incomplete until he executed judgment upon Isaac. For the evil impulse appears after דְּבָרִים (devarim), coming to accuse.

Come and see the mystery of the word: Although we have said that Abraham is written, not Isaac, Isaac is encompassed by this verse through the mysterious wording: Elohim tested אֶת (et) Abraham. It is not written tested לְאַבְרָהָם (le-Avraham), Abraham, but rather נִסָּה אֶת אַבְרָהָם (nissah et-Avraham)—tested et Abraham, precisely! This is Isaac, for at that time he dwelled in low power. As soon as he was bound on the altar, initiated into judgment fittingly by Abraham, he was crowned in his realm alongside Abraham—fire and water encompassing one another, ascending. Then division became apparent: water versus fire.

Who would have created a compassionate father who turned cruel? It was only so that division would manifest: water versus fire, crowned in their realms, until Jacob appeared, and everything harmonized—triad of patriarchs completed above, and below arrayed….

Isaac said to Abraham his father, My father!… (Genesis 22:7). Why didn’t he answer him at all? Because he had withdrawn from a father’s mercy for his son, so it is written: Here I am my son (ibid.). Here I am—mercy [i.e., Abraham (Ḥesed)] has vanished, transformed into judgement [i.e., Isaac (Gevurah)]. Abraham said, and it is not written: His father said, for he did not appear as a father but rather as an adversary” (Zohar 1:119b–120a, TZ 139a).

“Son honors his father—Isaac to Abraham. When did he honor him? When he bound him on the altar, intending to offer him up as a sacrifice. Isaac was thirty-seven years old, while Abraham was an old man, so if he had kicked with one foot he could not have withstood him. Yet he honored his father, allowing himself to be bound like a lamb to fulfill his father’s will” (Zohar 1:103a).

Do not reach out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him, for now I know that you fear God and you have not held back your son, your only one, from Me (Genesis 22:12).

Abraham My servant (Genesis 26:24).

Through these Three Adam Attained a Change of Name, a Change of Place, and a Change of Deed

“Rabbi Yitsḥaq said, ‘Four things tear up a person’s verdict: charity, crying out, a change of name, and change of deeds. צְדָקָה (Tsedaqah), charity, as is written, But צְדָקָה (tsedaqah), righteousness, saves from death (Proverbs 10:2). Crying out, as is written, And they cry to YHWH from their straits from their distress He brings them out. [He turns the storm into silence, and its waves are stilled, and they rejoice that these have grown quiet, and He leads them to the realm of their desire] (Psalms 107:28). Change of name, as is written, Sarai your wife shall no longer call her name Sarai, for Sarah is her name (Genesis 17:15); and it continues, And I will bless her and I will also give you from her a son (ibid., 16). Change of deeds, as is written, And God saw their acts, that they had turned back from their evil way, and God relented from the evil that He said to do to them, and he did not do it (Jonah 3:10). And some say a change of place, as is written, And YHWH said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your land [and your birthplace and your father’s house to the land I will show you] (Genesis 12:1), and afterwards, And I will make you a great nation [and I will bless you and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing] (ibid., 2). And the other [namely, Rabbi Yitsḥaq, why does he not include this]?—in that case it was the merit of the Land of Israel which helped him” (BT Rosh ha-Shanah 16b).

And you shall hold them in estate for your children after you to inherit a holding forever (Leviticus 25:46). It is a command to have a Canaanite slave as a servant, as is written: A holding forever. They come from the side of Ham, who uncovered nakedness [of Noah], of whom it says, Cursed be Canaan, the lowliest slave shall he be to his brothers (Genesis 9:25). Why the lowliest slave? Because he is a slave to a slave עוֹלָם (olam), forever, which is the olam, world, of Jubilee [even at the Jubilee he will not be set free like other slaves (Sullam)]. It may be said that as he is a brother to Shem and Japheth, why should he not be like them? Also, seeing Eliezer, Abraham’s servant, was the descendant of Ham, why was he not like him but instead righteous? [Because] the blessed Holy One approved of the blessing Laban gave him [see Genesis 24:31].

Surely this pertains to the mystery גִלְגּוּלָא (gilggula), rolling: ‘Who גּוֹלֵל (golel), rolls away, light from before darkness’ (Evening Service)—Abraham’s servant who came out of darkness, the issue of Ham. It suffices for the servant to be like his master, Abraham, who came from Terah the idol worshiper! ‘And darkness from before the light’ (ibid.)—Ishmael who came out from Abraham, and Esau from Isaac.

The mystery is that this is caused by the mixture of drops in a place it does not belong. This is he who mingles his drop with a maid, Mahalath, the daughter of Ishmael or a daughter of a strange god who are evil and darkness, while his drop is goodness and light: And God saw the light, that it was good (Genesis 1:4). He who mingles good with evil transgresses the words of his Master, who said, but from the tree of knowledge, good and evil, you shall not eat (Genesis 2:17).

The blessed Holy One rolls that which the man mingled together with him so as to receive punishment. If he repents, learns Torah and separates good from evil, forbidden from permitted, impure from pure, unfit from fit, that evil is separated from good, it says of him ‘A creation for good and a creation for evil’ [cf. BT Berakhot 61a: ‘וַיִּיצֶר (va-yetser), and formed (Genesis 2:7)—spelled with two letters י (yod) to show that God created two impulses, one good and the other evil’]. And through Torah he separates them, and the blessed Holy One bequeaths him a נִשְׁמְתָא (nishmata), soul, from Him, so he will rule them both, the one which is light, the World that is Coming, and the other, which is darkness, this world. Hence, it is written: And blew into his nostrils the נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים (ayyim nishmat), breath of life (Genesis 2:7).

According to his merits and liabilities. As we have explained, ‘He who does one mitsvah is treated well. He who is average, is a person whose merits and liabilities are balanced, the half of merits is below and the half of liabilities below’ [see BT Qiddushin 40b; Sotah 3b]. This is the secret of What is your petition? and it shall be granted you, and what is your request? Up to half the kingdom, and it will be done! (Esther 5:6). In the case of a completely righteous man, all his merits are above and his liabilities below. For a completely evil man, his liabilities are above and his merits are down below.

The man who sins in public is of two grades. If he does penance in public [then he is seated] among the righteous [of that world], who are familiar with the laws of the blessed Holy One and refrain from sinning; [if] secretly [then] among the wicked men [who envy him his repentance] so that the eyes of the wicked will pine (Job 11:20) is fulfilled.

Adam’s sin was therefore against, And YHWH God commanded (Genesis 2:16)—we explained commanded referrers to idolatry since he sinned in idolatry. He formed him in תֶרַח (Teraḥ), Terah’s, drop of semen, in which he [the soul of Adam] רָתַח (rataḥ), enraged, the blessed Holy One by transgressing in idolatry. He did penance and smashed the images of idols and all the victuals. He mended the sins and smashed the sin and the evil structure he built. And he made the blessed Holy One and His Shekhinah rule over the whole world.

By sanctifying His Name in public, and by going into the fire to be burned, so that the words would be fulfilled the images of their gods you shall burn in fire (Deuteronomy 7:25). Furthermore, he caused his father, Terah, to repent and brought him, his mother, and all the rulers of that age to the Garden of Eden [cf. Zohar 1:77b]. He was thus purified as silver by fire [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 38:13: ‘When Abraham descended into the fiery furnace (of Nimrod he) was saved’], like the king’s coin forged with a mixture of lead. He was therefore put in fire, and the lead came out, which is Ishmael. Ishmael therefore was mocking and worshipped idols, while Adam remained purified by fire. This is the change of name. For when Adam was rolled he had to undergo a change of name, change of place, and change of deed.

Then came Isaac, and he became stronger through him, the second transgression of which it says, the human (Genesis 2:16), which refers to bloodshed. This brought the trial of Isaac by the cleaver [see Genesis 22:10]. He was cleansed by him, as food is picked from refuse. And the dross came out, which is Esau who sheds blood.

Then came Jacob who formed it to Laban and became his servant. Hence it says, I will serve seven years for Rachel your younger daughter (Genesis 29:18). Since he exchanged her with her sister, he served an additional seven years, in order to remove the two drops Adam spilt in a foreign place [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 20:11: ‘Throughout the entire one hundred and thirty years during which Adam held aloof from Eve the male demons were made ardent by her and she bore, while the female demons (Lilit and Naamah) were inflamed by Adam and they bore, as is written, so should he do wrong, I will chastise him with the rod men use and with the afflictions of humankind (2 Samuel 7:14)—Adam, which means, the children of the first man’]. This is incest, alluded to by saying, [‘From every fruit of the garden you may surely eat. But from the tree of knowledge, good and evil, you shall not eat, for on the day you eat from it, you are doomed to die’] (Genesis 2:16). He took them out of Laban the Aramean, the serpent.

Through these three Adam attained a change of name, a change of place, and a change of deed [the Patriarchs repaired the three cardinal sins: idolatry, murder, and sexual immorality]. He obtained a change of name through Abraham, a change of place through Isaac, and a change of deed through Jacob. And if it was said of him: Then He saw and recounted it [set it firm and probed it, too…] (Job 28:27–8), that if He accepted his repentance, all the more so that of others [who are not as great].

Therefore, for a good servant, the place brings it about, and for an evil servant, also, but as for other servants, a holding forever (Leviticus 25:46). The heads of the academy rose and said Happy the people who has it thus (Psalms 144:15). שֶׁכָּכָה (Shekakhah), has it thus, is [numerically equivalent] as that of מֹשֶׁה (Moshe), Moses. The Faithful Shepherd rose and said, ‘Happy the people whose God is YHWH’ (ibid.)” (Zohar 3:97a–111a, Ra’aya Meheimna Behar, cf. ibid. 3:217b).

I have rolled away from you the shame of Egypt (Joshua 5:9).

More than the Calf Wants to Suck the Cow Wants to Suckle: The Pleasure from Him Accepting a Gift

“Our Rabbis have taught: Always let the left hand push away and the right hand draw near” (BT Sotah 47a).

And he raised his eyes and saw, and, look, three men were standing before him. He saw, and he ran toward them from the tent flap and bowed to the ground. And he said, “אֲדֹנָי (Adonai)My lords, if I have found favor in your eyes, please do not go on past your servant. Let a little water be fetched and bathe your feet and stretch out under the tree, and let me fetch a morsel of bread, and refresh yourselves. Then you may go on, for have you not come by your servant?” (Genesis 18:2–5, cf. Naḥmanides on ibid.).

“Rav Yehudah said in Rav’s name: Hospitality to wayfarers is greater than welcoming the Shekhinah, for it is written, And he said, אֲדֹנָי (Adonai), My Lord, if I have found favor in your eyes, please do not go on past‘ [Abraham thus left the Divine Presence, as it were, to attend to the wants of the three wayfarers, cf. BT Shevu’ot 35a]” (BT Shabbat 127a).

Rabbi Yoḥanan said: What is: And so, when Moses would raise his hand, Israel prevailed, and when he would put down his hand, Amalek prevailed (Exodus 17:11)? This is to teach that the world exists because of lifting of the hands in prayer, in the priest’s benediction. Why? Because of that power which was given to our father Jacob, whose name is Israel. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were given powers, one to each of them, according to his character. Abraham renders kindness בָּעוֹלָם (ba-olam), forever, for he used to invite everyone in the עוֹלָם (olam), world, and all the wayfarers, provide them with food and run to welcome them, as is written, and he ran toward them (Genesis 18:2), and it is written: and bowed to the ground (ibid.). This was a perfect act of kindness [cf. BT Shevu’ot 35a; Shabbat 127a], and the blessed Holy One bestowed upon him according to his measure and gave him the quality of חֶסֶד (ḥesed), kindness, as is written, You give truth to Jacob, and kindness to Abraham, which you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old (Micah 7:20).

What is from the days of old? This is to teach that if Abraham had not performed acts of kindness and been worthy of the quality of חֶסֶד (ḥesed), Kindness, Jacob would not have been worthy of the quality of אֱמֶת (emet), Truth, for it is because Abraham was worthy of the quality of Kindness that Isaac was worthy of the quality of פַּחַד (paḥad), Terror, as is written, And Jacob swore בְּפַחַד (be-faḥad), by the Terror, of his father Isaac (Genesis 31:53) [cf. BT Shabbat 89b]. Is there a man who would swear in this way, by trust in the Terror of his father? But Jacob had not yet received his own power, so he swore by the power which was given to his father, as is said: And Jacob swore by the Terror of his father Isaac.

And what is it? תֹּהוּ (Tohu), chaos, from which the evil emanates that מְתָּהָה (metahah), confounds, sons of man. And what is it? It is that of which is written: And YHVH’s fire came down and consumed the offering and the wood and the dirt, and the water that was in the trench it licked up (I Kings 18:38). It is also written: For YHVH your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God (Deuteronomy 4:24). And what is Ḥesed? It is Torah, as is written, Woe, everyone that thirsts, come to the waters, and he that has no silver (Isaiah 55:1). And to him who does not have silver, it is silver, as is written, come, buy, and eat; come, buy wine and milk without silver and without price (ibid.). He will feed you and teach you Torah for you already have become worthy of it because of the merit of Abraham who used to perform acts of kindness. Without silver—he would feed others; without price—he would give them wine and milk.

What are wine and milk? And what is the connection between them? To teach that wine is paḥad, Terror; milk is Ḥesed, kindness. Why did he mention wine first? Because it is nearer to us. Do you actually think they are wine and milk? But it is the image, likeness, idea, of wine and milk” (Bahir §§135–136).

“More than the calf wants to suck the cow wants to suckle” (BT Pesaḥim 112a).

“[What is the ruling in the case of a woman who says to a man] ‘Here are one hundred dinars and I will become betrothed to you?’ Mar Zutra ruled in Rav Papa’s name: She is betrothed…. Here the reference is [only] to an important man: in return for the pleasure from him accepting a gift from her she completely מַקְנְיָא לֵיהּ נַפְשָׁהּ (maqeneya leih nafshah), cedes herself [though normally the man must give the money, see BT Qiddushin 5b, yet if he is eminent his acceptance confers pleasure, which in turn is considered of financial value]” (BT Qiddushin 7a).

Yearning of the Father is Always Exclusively for his Daughter

“A parable: a king once had a daughter who was good, sweet, lovely, and perfect. He married her to a royal prince, and clothed, crowned, and bejeweled her, giving her much wealth. Is it possible for the king to ever leave his daughter? You must say no. Is it possible for him to be with her constantly? You must say no. What then must he do? He places a screen between the two, and whenever the father needs his daughter, or the daughter needs her father, they can come together through this screen [cf. Shemot Rabbah 52:5]. Therefore it is written: All the princess’s treasure is inward, filigree of gold her raiment (Psalms 45:14)” (Bahir §54).

“From where [is it known] Abraham had a daughter? As is written, And YHWH had blessed Abraham בַּכֹּל (ba-kol), in all things (Genesis 24:1) [see BT Bava Batra 16b; cf. ibid., 25a]. It is also written, כֹּל (kol), All—called by שְׁמִי (shemi), My name: for My glory I have created him, I have formed him; yea, I have made him (Isaiah 43:7) [cf. Berit MenuḥaIntroduciton]. Was this blessing his daughter or not? Yes, it was his daughter.

A parable: A king had a servant who was innocent and perfect before him. He tested him with many trials and he endured them all [see Jubilees 17:17; 19:8; M Avot 5:3; Avot de-Rabbi Natan A, 33; B, 36; Midrash Tehillim 18:25; Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 26]. The king said, ‘What will I give to this servant? What shall I do for him? There is nothing for me but to entrust him to my older brother [possibly Sandalfon], that he counsel him, guard him, and honor him.’ The servant returned with the older brother and learned his qualities. The brother loved him very much, and called him his lover, as is written, the seed of Abraham, My lover (Isaiah 41:8) [cf. Sefer Yetsirah §61 ad loc.]. He said, ‘What shall I give him? What shall I do for him? Behold I have made a lovely vessel, and in it are lovely jewels. There is nothing like them [in] treasuries of kings. I will give it to him, and he will be worthy in his place.’ This is, And YHWH blessed Abraham in all things” (Bahir §78).

“The Rabbis have taught: בַּכֹּל (ba-kol) (Genesis 24:1)—Abraham’s daughter, is not dead. She still exists, and whoever sees her has made a great find, as is said: [I, all my lovers I love,] and my seekers do find me (Proverbs 8:17)” (Mirash ha-Gadol).

“[Elijah] opened and said, [Moses] Faithful Shepherd, the blessed Holy One gave this bride of yours [Shekhinahהַכַּלָה (ha-kalah), the Bride, alluding to הֲלָכָה (Halakhah)] 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 named בַּכֹּל (Bakol)’ (BT Bava Batra 16b). By her he observed the whole Torah ‘Even to the עֵירוּבֵי תַּבְשִׁילִין (eruvei tavshilin), mixing of cooked dishes [a later rabbinic ordinance allowing one to cook on a holiday for the Sabbath]’ (BT Yoma 28b). 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) [cf. Bahir §192]. And he brought her up, as written, And he brought up Hadassa (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). He brought her up with every good quality and was kind to her. He raised her to greatness, with the quality of חֶסֶד (ḥesed), Loving-kindness, of Abraham. His house was, for her sake, wide open to do kindness to all the people of the world” (Zohar 3:277b, Ra’aya Meheimna Ki Tetse).

“Lower world does not arouse toward Upper World without the cherubim wafting fragrance toward the right. After they bestow aroma to the right, and the right arouses toward Upper World, at once Lower World arouses to petition for its needs. What is written? Rachel said to Leah, ‘Please give me’ (Genesis 30:14). Give me blessings from the arousal of mandrakes, aroused for you by the right side.

Then, Upper World joyfully, playfully, responded to her, saying, ‘Is your taking my husband a small thing?‘ (ibid. 30:15)—like a mother to her daughter. If so, the Husband of the Upper World must be Jacob! Not so! Yearning of the Father is always exclusively for his Daughter. His love is directed toward Her because She is the only daughter, among six sons [sefirot]. He doles out provisions, largesse, and gifts to each of those six sons—but He allocates nothing for Her, nor does She inherit anything. On account of all this, He watches over Her with greater fondness and love than all the rest.

Out of love for Her, He called Her ‘Daughter’ [cf. BT Bava Batra 16b]. This did not satisfy Him, so He called Her ‘Sister’ [cf. Genesis 20:1; Proverbs 7:4; Song of Songs 4:9, 10, 12; 5:1, 2]. This did not satisfy Him, so He called Her ‘Mother,’ in the name of His Mother [cf. Proverbs 2:3; BT Berakhot 57a]. This did not satisfy Him, so He called Her by His name, as is written: But הַחָכְמָה (ḥokhmah), Wisdom, found from אַיִן (ayin), Nothing (Job 28:12)—Ḥokhmah, actually! This is why Upper World said to Her, ‘Is your taking my husband a small thing‘—for all of His love is drawn toward You” (Zohar 1:156a–b, Sitrei Torah, cf. Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana 1:3; Shemot Rabbah 52:5; Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah on 3:11; Zohar 2:100b).

Above the Stars

IMG_0978“And those who do not know the mystery [of cycling souls] say: ‘Sons, life and sustenance do not depend on merit but מַזָּלא (mazzala), the flux of destiny’ (BT Mo’ed Qatan 28a). Take the case of Abram, who saw that he was not destined to have a son, and the blessed Holy One took him outside, as is written: And He took him outside and He said, ‘Look… (Genesis 15:5). And it has been taught that He said to him: ‘Leave your astrology!’ (Bereshit Rabbah 44:12) [cf. BT Shabbat 156b]. And He took him above the stars and said to him: Look up to the heavens and count the stars, if you can count them (Genesis 15:5). So much for the words of the Rabbis, for they must be interpreted in the way of the hidden!

Come and see: All creatures in the world, before the Torah was given to Israel, were dependent on מַזָּלא (mazzala), destiny, even ‘sons, life and sustenance.’ But after the Torah was given to Israel, He removed Israel from the influence of the stars and constellations [Thus says YHWH, ‘Learn not the way of the nations, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the nations are dismayed at them’ (Jeremiah 10:2)]. This we have learned from Abraham, since his children were destined to receive from אַבְרָהָם (Avraham), Abraham: ה (he)—ה״ (five) books of Torah, as is said: ‘These are the generations of heaven and earth 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. 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]. He said to Abraham ‘Because of that ה (he) which was added to your name, the heavens below you and all the stars and constellations that shine in ה (he) [Shekhinah] will be subservient to your will.’

Moreover, it is written: הֵא (he), look… here is seed for you, and sow the land (Genesis 47:23)—with ה (he). That is, For through Isaac shall your seed be acclaimed (Genesis 21:12). For this reason, everyone who engages in Torah is released from the influence of the stars and constellations. By learning Torah with the intention of keeping her commandments. If not, then he is as one who does not engage in Torah, and the stars and constellations do hold sway over him. Even more so the common people, who are likened to animals, about which it has been taught; Cursed be he who lies with any beast (Deuteronomy 27:21). The jurisdiction of the stars and constellations over them is certainly not annulled [cf. Maimonides’ teaching that divine providence delivers one from ‘the sea of chance’ Guide of the Perplexed 3:51]” (Zohar 3:215b–17a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

“Surely Jacob cleaved to truth. If so, then why did he act this way with Laban [using stratagems to increase the number of dark-colored sheep and white-spotted goats, see Genesis 30:32–43]? Because Jacob was examining the hour of his מַזָּלא (mazzala), zodiacal constellation, for one is permitted to examine his hour before returning to his country. If his constellation rises in accord with his undertaking, fine; if not, he should not take a step until it ascends favorably” (Zohar 1:161a).

“Why are the nations lustful? Because they did not stand at Mount Sinai. For when the serpent came upon Eve he injected filth into her: [as for] the Israelites who stood at Mount Sinai, their lustfulness departed; the nations, who did not stand at Mount Sinai, their lustfulness did not depart. Rabbi Aha son of Rabbah asked Rabbi Ashi. What about converts? Though they were not present, their guiding stars were present, as is written, [Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oathbut with him that stands here with us this day before YHWH our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day (Deuteronomy 29:15). Now he differs from Rabbi Abba son of Qahana, for Rabbi Abba son of Qahana said: Until three generations the filth did not disappear from our patriarchs: Abraham begat Ishmael, Isaac begat Esau, [but] Jacob begat the twelve tribes in whom there was no taint whatsoever” (BT Shabbat 145b–146a, cf. Yevamot 103b; Avodah Zarah 22b).

Leave Your Father’s House, Go to Yourself!

Image“[Abraham] already knew and tested all those rulers conducting the entire inhabited world; he already balanced and tested those who ruled throughout the world, conducting stars and constellations—who overpowered whom. He had succeeded in balancing the entire inhabited world, but when he reached this site [the land of Canaan] he saw an unbearable, impenetrable potency of depths.

Once the blessed Holy One saw his arousal and desire, He immediately revealed Himself to him, saying Go to yourself (Genesis 12:1), to know yourself to refine yourself. From your land—from that habitation to which you clung. From your birthplace—from that wisdom through which you envision and gauge your birth, the precise moment you were born, under which star and constellation. From your father’s house—do not consider your father’s house, whether you are rooted in your father’s house to succeed in the world. So, Go you forth!—from this wisdom, this speculation” (Zohar 1:78a).

“The emperor said to Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Ḥananiah, ‘I wish to behold your God.’ … He went and placed the emperor facing the sun during the summer solstice. He said to him, ‘Look at it.’ He replied, ‘I cannot.’ Rabbi Yehoshu’a said, ‘If at the sun—which is but one of the ministering servants of the blessed Holy One—you admit you cannot look, how much more so the Shekhinah” (BT Ḥullin 59b–60a).

“Rabbi Ya’aqov of the village of Naburaya in Tyre expounded: To You silence is praise, God, in Zion (Psalms 65:1)—silence sums it all up, as regarding a priceless pearl, all who attempt to praise it [merely] diminish its value’” (JT Berakhot 9:1, 4f).

“Rabbi Yose and Rabbi iyya were traveling on the road. As they were going along, night dusked; they sat down. While they were sitting, the day lightened. They said, ‘Let us rise and go on.’ They rose and went on; morning began to glow.

Rabbi iyya said, ‘Look at the face of the east, how it shines! Now all those children of the East, of mountains of light, are bowing to this light and worshiping it before the sun comes out. For once the sun comes out, how many there are who worship the sun! But these are those who worship this light, calling this light—which shines in the zone of the sun before it emerges—‘God of the shining pearl,’ and their oath is by ‘God of the shining pearl.’

‘Now, you might say, ‘This worship is in vain.’ But since ancient, primeval days they have thereby known wisdom. When the sun lightens, before emerging, the prince appointed over the sun emerges, with holy letters of the supernal holy Name inscribed above the head of the sun. By the powers of those letters, he opens all the windows of heaven, striking them and passing. That prince enters the radiance shining around the sun, and there he remains until the sun comes forth, spreading through the world. That prince is in charge of gold and all rubies, and they worship that image there. With points and signs inherited from the ancients, from primeval days, they come to know the points of the sun, enabling them to find the location of gold and gems.’

Rabbi Yose said, ‘How long will all these rites persist in the world! Surely falsehood has no pillars on which to stand [cf. BT Shabbat, 104a]!’

The other one opened, saying, ‘The lip of truth will be established forever, but the tongue of falsehood lasts only a moment (Proverbs 12:19). Come and see: If all inhabitants of the world worshiped falsehood, it would be so. But the light and shining radiance are surely true; stars aloft in the sky are true. If out of stupidity and deficiency, they call them ‘God,’ the blessed Holy One does not wish to destroy His own creation. Even in the time to come, the stars and luminaries of the world will not be destroyed. But who will be destroyed? Those who worship them [cf. BT Avodah Zarah 54b]” (Zohar 2:188a).

The Wisdom of the Children of the East

ImageAnd Abraham took another wife, and her name was Keturah. And she bore him Zimran and Jokshan and Medan and Midian and Ishbak and Shuah. And Jokshan begot Sheba and Dedan. And the sons of Dedan were the Ashurim and the Letushim and the Leummim. And the sons of Midian were Ephah and Epher and Enoch and Abida and Eldaah. All these were were the sons of Keturah. And Abraham gave all he had to Isaac. And to the sons of Abraham’s concubines Abraham gave gifts while he was still alive and sent them away from Isaac his son eastward, to the land of the East (Genesis 25:1–6).

“Rabbi Abba said, ‘One day I happened upon a certain town formerly inhabited by children of the East, and they told me some of the wisdom they knew from ancient days. They had found their books of wisdom, and they brought me one.… I found in it all the ritual of star-worship, requisites, and how to focus the will upon them, drawing them down.… I said to them, ‘My children, this is close to words of Torah, but you should shun these books, so that your hearts will not stray after these rites, toward all those sides mentioned here; lest—Heaven forbid—you stray from the rite of the blessed Holy One! For all these books deceive human beings, since the children of the East were wise—having inherited a legacy of wisdom from Abraham, who bestowed it upon the sons of the concubines, as is written: To the sons of his concubines Abraham gave gifts, while he was still alive, and he sent them away from his son Isaac eastward, to the land of the East (Genesis 25:6). Afterward they were drawn by that wisdom in various directions” (Zohar 1:99b).

“What is the meaning of gifts? Rabbi Yirmeyah son of Abba said, ‘This teaches that Abraham transmitted to them a name of defilement [by which to conjure demons and sorcery]’” (BT Sanhedrin 91a).

Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of the children of the East (1 Kings 5:10).