The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

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Bread of Shame

imageThe hater of gifts shall live (Proverbs 15:27).

“Before souls come to the world, they resemble one who eats the bread of the King without serving Him. And this is why the Sages say that it is good for man to have been created [see BT Eruvin 13b]…. Souls feel ashamed to eat the bread of the King without serving Him, and therefore they yearn to come to the world… so as to leave that shame; they seek to come to this world, to engage in Torah and mitsvot, to till it and watch it (Genesis 2:15) so that they may eat bread without shame” (Rabbi Yosef Karo, Maggid Meisharim, Bereshit; cf. Zohar 2:87a, Sava de-Mishpatim).

“One who eats from his friend’s food is ashamed to look at him” (JT Orlah 1:5, 61b).

“Two people eat from the same bowl, but each one tastes according to his deeds” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan §37).

“Rabbi Natan son of Abba further said in the name of Rav: He who is dependent on another’s table, the world is dark to him, as is said: He wanders for bread—where is it? He knows that the dark day awaits him (Job 15:23). Rabbi Ḥisda says: Also, his life is no life” (BT Beitsah 32b).

“I have the following tradition from my grandfather’s family: At all times shall one [rather] hire himself out to עֲבוֹדָה זַרָה (avodah zarah), idol-worship [lit., foreign worship], than be in need of [his fellow] creatures. He thought that עֲבוֹדָה זַרָה (avodah zarah), [meant] actual [idol worship], but it is not so, [the meaning being,] ‘work which is foreign to him;’ as Rav said to Rabbi Kahana: Flay a carcass in the street and earn a wage, and say not, ‘I am a great man and the work is degrading to me’” (BT Bava Batra 110a).

“One who supports himself from his own labor is greater than one who fears Heaven” (BT Berakhot 8a).

“Tanna debe Eliyyahu [taught]: Though Rabbi Akiva said, ‘Treat your Sabbath like a weekday rather than be dependent on men,’ yet one must prepare something small at home [in honor of Sabbath]. What is that [which even the poorest must prepare]? Rav Papa said: Fried fish. As we learned: Rabbi Yehudah son of Teima said, ‘Be as bold as a leopard, swift as an eagle, fleet as a gazelle, and as mighty as a lion, to do the will of your Father in Heaven’ (M Avot 5:24)” (BT Pesaḥim 112a).

“Rabbi Yehudah opened, ‘Is it not to share your bread with the hungry? (Isaiah 58:7). Come and see: Happy is one’s portion when he encounters a poor person! For a poor person is a gift that the blessed Holy One has sent to him. Happy is the share of one who receives that gift cheerfully!…’ Is it not to share your bread with the hungry? What is פָרֹס (paros), to share? לְמִפְרַס (Le-miphras), to spread, a tablecloth with bread and food to eat. Alternatively, Is it not פָרֹס (paros), to share?—as is said: פְּרֵס פְּרִיסַת (Peres perisat), פְּרֵס (peres)—has been divided (Daniel 5:28), for one should לְמִפְרַס פְּרִיסִין (le-miphras perisin), break pieces, of bread before him so that he will not feel ashamed, and one should break it before him generously” (Zohar 2:198a).

“Please, LORD our God, do not make us dependent on the gifts or loans of other people, but only on Your full, open, holy and generous hand so that we may suffer neither shame nor humiliation for ever and all time” (Birkat ha-Mazon).

“The Rabbis taught: It happened once that a man’s wife died and she left behind a child to nurse, and he did not have the wages [to pay] a wet-nurse. A miracle was performed for him and his breasts opened like a woman’s breasts and he nursed his child. Rav Yosef said, ‘Come and see how great a man this is that such a miracle was performed for him!’ Abbaye said to him, ‘On the other hand, how deficient a man this is that סִדְרֵי בְרֵאשִׁית (sidrei ve-reshit), the laws of nature, were changed for him! [if he was worthy he might have come into money, therefore, a miracle was really performed for the child].’ Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘Come and see how difficult [providing] a person’s food [is]: the laws of nature were changed for him!’ Rabbi Naḥman said: Know that miracles are evoked, but food is not created [from nothing; on blessing not appearing in an empty place, see BT Sanhedrin 92a, in the name of Rabbi El’azar; Naḥmaindes on Exodus 25:24; Zohar 1:88a–b, 240a, 250a; 2:63b, 67a, 87b–88a, 154b–155a, 157b; 3:34a]” (BT Shabbat 53b).

“A person should not embolden himself to say: ‘The blessed Holy One will save me,’ or ‘He will do this for me.’ Rather, he should place his strength in the blessed Holy One, to help him fulfill the commandments of Torah and walk in the way of truth, for as soon as one comes to purify himself, he is certainly assisted [cf. BT Shabbat 104a]. So should one fortify himself in the blessed Holy One—in order that He may help him—holding fast to Him, not placing his strength in another. So, whose strength is in You (Psalms 84:5)” (Zohar 1:142a).

Happy all who fear YHWH, who walk in His ways. When you eat of the toil of your hands, happy are you, and it is good for you (Psalms 128:2).

Merest Breath said Qohelet, Merest Breath, All is Merest Breath

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הֶבֶל (Hevel), mere breath, all humankind (Psalms 39:12).

“Come and see: When actions prove worthy below, and a person contemplates the service of the Holy King, the act he performs turns into a breath above. And there is no breath without a voice—rising, crowned above, becoming an advocate before the blessed Holy One. Every action in which a person engages that is not in the service of the blessed Holy One turns into breath that goes drifting through the world. And when the person’s soul departs, that breath whirls through the world like a stone in a sling, as is written: The soul of your enemies He will sling from the hollow of a sling (1 Samuel 25:29). Who will sling? That breath conducting it around the world. So, everything done under the sun that is not in the service of the blessed Holy One turns into a breath—but it is breaking of spirit, for it breaks the spirit, rising and falling in the world, as is written: breath and shattering of spirit (Ecclesiastes 1:14)” (Zohar 2:59a).

“A spirit leaving this world who has not grown or spread in this world undergoes rolling and finds no rest, comes revolving into the world like a stone in a sling until it finds a redeemer to redeem it…. The spirit that he left, adhering to that vessel, is not lost—for 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).

Better this World, the Work of Our Hands

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“[Rabbi Ya’aqov] used to say: Better one hour of repentance and good deeds in this world than all the life in the world to come. Better one hour of bliss in the world to come than the whole life of this world” (M Avot 4:22).

May the sweetness of the Master our God be upon us and the work of our hands firmly found for us, and the work of our hands firmly found! (Psalms 90:17).

“May you see your world in your lifetime” (BT Berakhot 17a).

“A person should not embolden himself to say: ‘The blessed Holy One will save me,’ or ‘He will do this for me.’ Rather, he should place his strength in the blessed Holy One, to help him fulfill the commandments of Torah and walk in the way of truth, for as soon as one comes to purify himself, he is certainly assisted [cf. BT Shabbat 104a]. So should one fortify himself in the blessed Holy One—in order that He may help him—holding fast to Him, not placing his strength in another. So, whose strength is in You (Psalms 84:5)” (Zohar 1:142a).

Go to the ant, you sluggard, see its ways and get wisdom. For she has no foreman, no taskmaster nor ruler. She readies her bread in summer, stores up her food at the harvest. How long, O sluggard, will you lie there. When will you rise from your sleep? A bit more sleep, a bit more slumber, a bit more lying with folded arms, and your privation will come like a wayfarer, your want like a shield-bearing man (Proverbs 6:6–11).

“Our Rabbis taught: And you shall gather in your grain (Deuteronomy 11:14). What is to be learnt from these words? Since it says, This book of teaching shall not depart from your mouth, [and you shall murmur it day and night, so that you may keep to do according to all that is written in it; then you will make your ways succeed and then you will prosper] (Joshua 1:8)—I might think that these matters are as they are written [i.e., to be taken literally]. Therefore it says, And you shall gather in your grain—the usual way of the land. This is the view of Rabbi Yishma’el.

Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai says: Is that possible? If a man ploughs in the ploughing season, and sows in the sowing season, and reaps in the reaping season, and threshes in the threshing season, and winnows in the season of wind, what is to become of Torah? No. Rather when Israel performs the will of the Omnipresent, their work is performed by others, as is said, And foreigners shall stand and tend your flocks [and strangers be your farmers and keepers of your vineyards] (Isaiah 61:5), and when Israel does not perform the will of the Omnipresent their work is carried out by themselves, as is said, And you shall gather in your grain. And not only that but the work of others also is done by them, as is said, You will serve your enemies… [whom YHWH will send against you in hunger and in thirst and in nakedness and in the lack of all things, and he will put an iron yoke on your neck until you are destroyed] (Deuteronomy 28:48).

Abayye: Many have done as Rabbi Yishma’el, and it has worked well; others have acted like Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai and it has not been successful. Rava said to the Rabbis: I beg you during [the months of] Nisan and Tishrei [the crucial agricultural periods] do not to appear before me. [Engage in your agricultural work then] so that you not be preoccupied [or: anxious] about your sustenance all year [on Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai’s extreme outlook, see BT Shabbat 33b].

Rabba son of Son of Ḥana said: Rabbi Yoḥanan said in the name of Rabbi Yehudah son of Rabbi El’ai: Come and see: the latter generations are not like the earlier generations. The earlier generations made their Torah permanent and their work occasional—this and that were successful for them. The latter generations who made their work permanent and their Torah occasional, neither this nor that was successful for them” (BT Berakhot 35b, cf. Decline of the Generations).