The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: Angel of Death

Go, My People, Come into Your Chambers and Shut Your Doors Behind You

And they provoked Him through their acts, and the scourge broke out among them (Psalms 106:29).

“Rabbi Shemu’el son of Naḥmani said that Rabbi Yonatan said: Punishment comes upon the world only when there are wicked in the world, and it begins only with the righteous first, as is said: Should a fire go forth and catch in thorns (Exodus 22:5). When does fire break out? When thorns are found. And it begins only with the righteous first, as is said: or standing grain… be consumed, [he who set the fire shall surely pay] (ibid.). It does not say and consumes standing grain, but standing grain… be consumed—it already was consumed.

Rabbi Yosef taught: What is And as for you, none of you shall go out from the entrance of his house till morning (Exodus 12:22)? Once permission has been granted to the Destroyer, he does not distinguish between righteous and wicked, as is said, [Thus said YHWH: Here I am against you,] and I will take out My sword from its sheath and cut off from you the righteous and the wicked (Ezekiel 21:8)….

Our Rabbis taught: A plague in town? Keep your feet indoors, as it says, And as for you, none of you shall go out from the entrance of his house till morning, and it says, Go, my people, come into your chambers and shut your doors behind you. [Hide but a moment until the wrath passes. For YHWH is about to come out from His place to punish the crime of the dwellers on earth, and the earth shall lay bare its bloodguilt and no longer cover its slain] (Isaiah 26:20) [cf. Zohar 1:183a ad loc.]. And it says: Outside will the sword bereave and within chambers—terror. [Both youth and virgin, suckling and gray-haired man] (Deuteronomy 32:25). Why? Lest you say these words [apply] only to the night, but not to the day.

Come and hear: Go, my people, come into your chambers and shut your doors behind you. And should you say this matter [applies only] where there is no such terror within, whereas where there is terror within it is much better to go out and sit among people in one company, again come and hear: Outside will the sword bereave and within chambers—terror—that [even where] the terror is within the sword will destroy [more] outside.

In the time of a plague Rava used to keep the windows shut, as is written, For death has come up through our windows, [has entered our citadels, to cut off the babe from the street, the young man from the squares] (Jeremiah 9:20).

Our Rabbis taught: A plague in town? One should not walk in the middle of the road, because the Angel of Death walks there—for as soon as permission has been granted him, he strides brazenly. But when there is peace in the town, one should not walk at the sides of the road, for since he has no permission he slinks along in hiding.

Our Rabbis taught: A plague in town? Nobody should enter the synagogue alone, as the Angel of Death keeps his tools there. However, this is the case only where no children are being taught there or where ten [men] do not pray there [together].

Our Rabbis taught: When dogs howl the Angel of Death has come to town. But when dogs frolic Elijah the prophet has come to town—only if there is no female among them” (BT Bava Qamma 60a–b, see Mekhilta, Pisḥa 11; Zohar 1:63a, 68a–b, 69a, 107b, 113a, 182b, 197b; 2:196a, 227a).

“Our Rabbis taught: There are four signs: A sign of transgression is swelling [due to the build-up of excess fluid in the body’s tissues i.e., edema]; a sign of baseless hatred is jaundice; a sign of arrogance is poverty [cf. BT Qiddushin 49b]; a sign of לָשׁוֹן הָרַע (lashon ha-ra), the evil tongue [i.e., slander], is diphtheria.

Our Rabbis taught: Diphtheria comes to the world on account of [neglect of] tithes. Rabbi El’azar son of Rabbi Yose said: On account of the evil tongue [cf. BT Yevamot 62b]. Rava, some say Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi, said: What verse [teaches this]? But the king will rejoice in God, all who swear by him will revel, for the mouth of the liars יִסָּכֵר (yissakher), is muzzled [playing on אַסְכָּרָה (askarah), diphtheria, an acute bacterial disease that can infect the body in the tonsils, nose, or throat] (Psalms 63:12).

It was asked by them: Does Rabbi El’azar son of Rabbi Yose say, [Only] on account of slander, or perhaps on account of slander too?

Come and hear: For when our Rabbis entered the ‘vineyard’ in Yavneh [the famous town north west of Jerusalem, the seat of the Sanhedrin and Rabbi Yoḥanan son of Zakkai’s academy after the destruction of the Temple. Sittings were held in a ‘vineyard,’ i.e., members sat in rows similar to vines in a vineyard], Rabbi Yehudah, Rabbi El’azar son of Rabbi Yose and Rabbi Shim’on [son of Yoḥai] were present, and this question was raised before them: why does this affliction start in the bowels and end in the throat? Rabbi Yehudah son of Rabbi Ila’i, the first speaker on all occasions answered and said: Though the kidneys counsel, the heart gives understanding [kidneys were thought to be the seat of conscience, see Psalms 16:7; the heart is imagined as the seat of understanding, see Isaiah 6:10], and the tongue cuts [a word, yet] the mouth finishes [it].

Rabbi El’azar son of Rabbi Yose answered and said: Because they eat impure food with it. ‘Impure food!’ does it enter your mind? Rather [say] because they eat unfit food [i.e., which was not tithed]. Rabbi Shim’on answered and said: As a punishment for the neglect of study. They said to him. Let women prove it! [since they are not obligated to study (see BT Qiddushin 29b), and yet suffer from diphtheria (cf. M Sotah 3:4)]. That is because they restrain their husbands [from study]. Let Gentiles prove it! [since they are not obligated to study Torah, and are yet subject to it]. That is because they restrain Israel. Let children prove it! That is because they make their fathers to neglect [study]. Then let school children prove it! There it is as Rabbi Guryon. For Rabbi Guryon, some say Rav Yosef son of Rabbi Shemaya, said: When there are righteous men in the generation, the righteous are seized [by death] for the [sins of the] generation; when there are no righteous in a generation, school children are seized for the generation. Rabbi Yitsḥaq son of Ze’iri, some say Rabbi Shim’on son of Nezira, said: Which verse [teaches this]? If you do not know, O fairest of women, go out in the tracks of the sheep [and graze your goats by the shepherd’s מִשְׁכְּנוֹת (mishkenot), shelters (Song of Songs 1:8) and we interpret this as [referring to] the goats which are הַמְמוּשְׁכָּנִין (ha-memushkanin), taken as collateral, for the [debts of the] shepherds. Thus this proves that he said on account of slander too. This proves it” (BT Shabbat 33a–b).

“Rabbi Aḥa traveled to כְפַר טַרְשָׁא (Kefar Tarsha), Clod Village; he arrived at his inn. All the town’s residences spoke in hushed tones about him, saying, ‘A great man has arrived here. Let us go to him. They went to him. They said to him, ‘Is the master’s heart anguished by the destruction?’ He said to them, ‘What do you mean?’ They said to him, ‘For seven days, a plague has been hovering over the town. Each day it grows stronger and does not desist.’ He said to them, ‘Let us go to the synagogue and implore mercy from the blessed Holy One.’

While they were walking, [some people] arrived and said, ‘So-and-so and so-and-so have died, and so-and-so and so-and-so are about to die.’ Rabbi Aḥa said to them, ‘Now is not the time to stand by—the hour is pressing! Rather, set aside forty of the most righteous people, in four groups of ten, and I with you; ten for one corner of the town, ten for another corner of the town, so on for the four corners of the town; and recite with soulful devotion the passages of the aromatic incense that the blessed Holy One gave Moses, accompanied by the passages of the sacrifices [cf. BT Shabbat 89a].’

They did so three times—and passed through all four directions of the town, reciting accordingly [cf. Zohar 2:219a: It is forbidden to burn incense anywhere else except in the fire-pan (of the Temple)]. Afterward, he said to them, ‘Let us go to those verging on death. Set aside [other righteous people] for their houses and let them recite in a similar fashion. When you finish, recite these verses loudly three times: Moses said to Aaron, ‘Take the fire-pan and place fire upon it…’ (Numbers 17:11); Aaron took… (ibid., 12); He stood between the dead… (ibid., 13).’

They did so and the plagued ceased. They heard a voice saying, ‘Secret striker, primal striker, wait on high; the judgment of heaven does not hover here, for they know how to nullify it.’

Rabbi Aḥa’s heart was faint. He fell asleep. He heard that they were telling him, ‘Just as you accomplished that, accomplish this! Go and tell them to return in teshuvah, for they are wicked before Me.’

He arose and returned them in complete teshuvah, and they accepted upon themselves never to desist from Torah; and they changed the name of the city to מָאתָא מַחְסֵיָא (Mata Meḥseya), Town of Compassion [cf. BT Ketubbot 4a; Horayot 12a; Zohar 1:72a, 94b]” (Zohar 1:100b–101b, Midrash ha-Ne’lam).

“Whoever is careless over washing hands is uprooted from the world” (BT Sotah 4b).

 

The Adversary Dances Among Them: He Descends and Leads Astray, Ascends and Arouses Wrath

And one day, the sons of God came to stand in attendance before YHWH, and the Adversary, too, came among them to stand in attendance before YHWH. And YHWH said to the Adversary, “From whence do you come?” And the Adversary answered YHWH and said, “From roaming the earth and walking about in it.” And YHWH said to the Adversary, “Have you paid heed to My servant Job, for there is none like him on earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and shuns evil and still clings to his innocence, and you incited Me against him to destroy him for nothing.” And the Adversary answered YHWH and said, “Skin for skin! A man will give all he has for his own life. Yet, reach out, pray, Your hand and strike his bone and his flesh. Will he not curse You to your face?” And YHWH said to the Adversary, “Here he is in your hands. Only preserve his life.” And the Adversary went out from before YHWH’s presence. And he struck Job with a grievous burning rash from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head (Job 2:1–7).

“Rabbi Yoḥanan said: [And you incited Me against him to destroy him for nothing (Job 2:3)]—were it not written in the verse we would not dare say it: Like a man whom others incite, and is incited [against his better judgment, cf. Deuteronomy 13:6]. A Tanna taught: [The Adversary] he descends and leads astray, ascends and arouses wrath, obtains authorization and seizes the soul. And the Adversary answered YHWH and said, “Skin for skin! A man will give all he has for his own life. Yet, reach out, pray, Your hand and strike his bone and his flesh. Will he not curse You to your face?” And YHWH said to the Adversary, “Here he is in your hands. Only preserve his life.” And the Adversary went out from before YHWH’s presence. And he struck Job (Job 2:4–7).

Rabbi Yitsḥaq said: The Adversary’s torment was worse than that of Job. A parable: Job was like a servant who is told by his master, ‘Break the cask but do not let any of the wine spill.’ Resh Laqish said: The Adversary, the evil impulse, and the Angel of Death are all one. He is called הַשָּׂטָן (ha-satan), the Adversary, as is written, And the Adversary went out from before YHWH’s presence (Job 2:7). He is called the evil impulse: [we know this because] it is written in another place, [“And YHWH saw that the evil of the human creature was great on the earth and that every scheme of his heart’s devising] was only perpetually evil. [And YHWH regretted having made the human on earth and was grieved to the heart] (Genesis 6:5), and it is written here Only against him do not reach out your hand (Job 1:12). He is also the Angel of Death, since it says, [“Here he is in your hands.] Only preserve his life” (ibid. 2:6), consequently his very existence is in his hands.

Rabbi Levi said: [In acting as adversaries] both the Adversary’s and Peninah’s intentions were for the sake of Heaven. The Adversary, when he saw the blessed Holy One inclined to [favor] Job said, ‘Perish the thought that He should forget the passion of Abraham!’ Of Peninah it is written, And her rival would torment her sorely so as to provoke her [(to prayer) because YHWH had closed her womb] (1 Samuel 1:6). When Rav Aḥa son of Ya’aqov expounded [this teaching] in Papunia, the Adversary came and kissed his feet.

With all this, Job did not offend with his lips (Job 2:10)—Rava said: With his lips he did not offend, but he did offend within his heart. What did he say? The earth is given in the wicked man’s hand, the face of its judges He veils. If not He—then who else? (ibid. 9:24). Rava said: Job sought to turn the dish [i.e., the world] upside down. Abayye said: Job was referring only to the Adversary” (BT Bava Batra 16a).

“[Bewildering and beguiling,] the Adversary dances among them” (BT Megilah 11b, cf. BT Berakhot 33a; Pesaḥim 112b).

“What is And they came to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms, and they encamped there by the water (Exodus 15:27)? What is so great about seventy date palms? In one of the smallest spots there are a thousand! But they were worthy of being their example, and there they were likened to date palms, as is written, And they came to Marah and could not drink water from מָרָה (marah), Marah, for they were מָרִים (marim), bitter (ibid., 23). Teaching that a מַעֲרָבִית (ma’aravit), western, wind was preventing [them], as is written, And he cried out to YHWH, and YHWH showed him a tree, and he flung it into the water, and the water turned sweet (ibid., 25)—immediately the blessed Holy One laid His hand upon the Adversary, diminishing him a bit, as is written, There did He set him a statute and law, and there did he test Him (ibid.). Teaching that at this time, the Adversary clung to them in order to blot them out from the world [cf. JT Shabbat 5:2, 7b: ‘The Adversary accuses only in a time of danger’], as is written, And the people murmured against Moses, saying ‘What shall we drink?’ (ibid., 24), continuing to accuse Moses until he cried out to YHWH, and YHWH showed him a tree. YHWH showed him a tree—why? To teach that the Tree of Life was around the water. The Adversary came and removed it from there in order to accuse Israel and cause them to offend their Father in Heaven. He said to them: Now you assemble in the wilderness? Yet these [bitter] waters you take up are good, for you will be content with them, but in the wilderness you will not find [enough] even to wash your hands and faces. Then, naked, you will die of hunger and thirst, entirely in want! 

They came to Moses and told him such and such, but he dismissed them. [The Adversary] saw that he was unable to overpower Israel and Moses, and so the people came to Moses and the people murmured against Moses: Here we are without water, what is there to drink in the wilderness?—the Adversary came and feigned their words to Moses in order to cause them to offend. As soon as Moses saw the Adversary, He cried out to YHWH, and YHWH showed him a tree—the very Tree of Life the Adversary had removed. And he flung it into the water, and the water turned sweet. And the blessed Holy One came to the Adversary [with] a statute and law; and there did he test Him—Israel. And the blessed Holy One warned Israel, saying: If you really heed the voice of YHWH your God (ibid., 26) and so forth.

A parable: A king had a lovely daughter and others were lusting for her. The king knew of it but could not fight with those who exposed his daughter to bad ways. He came to his house and warned her, saying, “My daughter, give no regard to the words of these enemies and they will not be able to overcome you. Do not leave the house, but do all your work at home. Do not sit idle, even for a single moment. Then they will not be able to see you and harm you. There is a certain quality in them which departs from a good way and chooses every bad way. When they see man directing himself along a good way, they hate him.” 

And what is it? The Adversary. Teaching that the blessed Holy One has a quality whose name is רָעָה (ra’ah), Evil; and it is to the north of the blessed Holy One, as is written, From the north הָרָעָה (ha-ra’ah), evil, will be let loose on all the inhabitants of the land (Jeremiah 1:14). That is to say, any evil that comes to all the inhabitants of the land (ibid.), comes from the north.

What is this ‘certain quality’? She is the shape of a hand. She has many messengers, and the name of them all is רַע רַע (ra ra), evil! evil! Some are big and some are small, but they all bring guilt upon the world since תֹּהוּ (tohu) is on the north side. Tohu—none other than Evil, מְתָהֵה (metaheh), bewildering, inhabitants of the world until they sin. Every יֵצֶר הָרָע (yetser ha-ra), evil impulse, in man is from there. And why was he given to the left? Because he has no authority, nor any place in the world, except in the north; he is not accustomed to being anywhere except the north, he does not want to be anywhere except the north. If he remained in the south until he learned from the way of the south, how could he lead astray? He would be detained those days unable to make them miss the mark (Judges 20:16). Therefore, he is forever in the north, to the left. And this is For the יֵצֶר (yetser), devisings, of the human heart are evil from youth (Genesis 8:21)—he is evil from his youth and he does not incline other than to the left, for he is already accustomed to her. Of this the blessed Holy One said to Israel: If you really heed the voice of YHWH your God, and do what is right in His eyes, and hearken to His commands (Exodus 15:26)—not to the commands of the evil impulse; And keep all His statutes (ibid.)—not the statutes of the evil impulse [all the sickness that I put upon Egypt I will not put upon you,] for I am YHWH your healer (ibid.).

Why is the evil impulse enriched? A parable: To what can the matter be compared? A king appointed officials (Esther 2:3) over his kingdom and his trade—each one had a surplus. [There was an official appointed] over the storehouses of foodstuff and goods, and one appointed over a storehouse of stones. All the world came to buy from the storehouses of goods. This one appointed over the storehouse of stones came. He saw that they were not buying from him, [and] he envied [this]. What did he do? He commanded all of his brothers to destroy the weak houses—for they were unable [to destroy] the strong ones. He said, ‘In any case, [when] you strive to destroy [one] house from among the strong ones, twenty of the weak ones will be destroyed, and they will all come and buy [stones] from me. And I will not be less than my competitor!’ Thus it is written: From the north evil will be let loose on all the inhabitants of the land (Jeremiah 1:14). It then continues, ‘For I am about to call forth all the clans of the kingdoms of the north,’ says YHWH,’ and they shall come and each set his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem [and against its walls all round and against all the towns of Judah] (ibid., 15). Evil will be a trade to her, also the evil impulse strives perpetually [cf. Genesis 6:5]. And what is the import of שָׂטָן (satan), ‘adversary’? Satan, adversary—in other words מֻטֶּה (mutteh), skewed justice (Ezekiel 9:9); that מַטֶּה (matteh), he tips, the world toward the scale of guilt. And it is written, וַיֵּט (Va-yet), And he turned aside, to her by the road, [and said, ‘Here, pray, let me come to bed with you…’](Genesis 38:16), and it is translated, וּסְטָא (u-seta), and he turned aside, to her. And it is written, שְׂטֵה (Seteh), turn away, from him and pass on (Proverbs 4:15)” (Bahir §§107–110).

And She Took of Its Fruit: A Decree was Ordained Beforehand

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“‘[Rabbi El’azar son of ha-Qappar said:] Envy, lust, and seeking honor, drive a man out of the world’ (M Avot 4:21).

The ministering angels said before the blessed Holy One, ‘Master of all Worlds: What is a human creature that You should know him? (Psalms 144:3). The human is like unto breath (ibid., 4)—אֵין עַל עָפָר מָשְׁלוֹ (ein al afar mashlo), he has no match on earth [alt., his rule is not over dust] (Job 41:25).’ He said to them, ‘Just as you praise Me above, he shall proclaim My unity below. And moreover, are you able to stand up and give names to all the creatures?’ They stood up but could not. Immediately Adam stood up and gave names to all the creatures, as is said, And the human called names to all the cattle… (Genesis 2:20).

When the ministering angels saw, they said, ‘If we do not come upon Adam with counsel that he might offend before his Creator, we cannot overcome him.’ Now Samael was the great prince in Heaven—the living beings have four wings and the seraphs have six wings, while Samael has twelve wings. He took his band and descended and saw all the creatures which the blessed Holy One had created in His world, and he found among them none so skilled to do evil as the serpent, as is said, Now the serpent was most cunning of all the beasts of the field that YHWH God had made (Genesis 3:1). And his look was like that of a camel, and he mounted and rode upon him. The Torah cried out, saying, ‘Samael, just now the world was created, is it the time to rebel against the Omnipresent? Is it the time to lift yourself on high? The Master of Worlds scoffs at the horse and its rider (Job 39:18).’

A parable: to what can the matter be compared? A man who has an evil spirit within him. And all the deeds that he does, from his own mind does he do them? And all of the words that he speaks, from his own mind does he speak? Is it not that he only does [them] from the mind of the evil spirit which is upon him? So [was it with] the serpent: all the deeds that he performed and all the words that he spoke, he only spoke and only did them by the will of Samael. And of him it says, in his evil the wicked is driven off (Proverbs 14:32).

A parable. To what can the matter be compared? To a king who married a woman and made her supreme over all that he had—precious stones and pearls. He said to her: All that I have shall be in your hands, except this cask, which is full of scorpions. A certain old man visited her; he asks, for instance, for vinegar. He said to her: Will you argue that he deals kindly with you? ‘He deals with me (thus): over all that he possesses has he made me supreme. Thus he said to her: Behold, all that I have is given into your hands except this cask, which is full of scorpions. [The old man] said to her: Is not all the jewelry of the king indeed in this cask? But he wishes to marry another woman, and to give them to her—the king is the first man [Adam], the woman is Eve, and the one who asked for vinegar is the serpent; of them is said, There did the doers of mischief fall. They were toppled and could not rise (Psalms 36:13).

The serpent argued with himself, saying: If I go and speak to Adam, I know that he will not listen to me, for a man is always hard, as is said, [the woman had a good mind and lovely looks,but the man was hard and evil in deeds (1 Samuel 25:3) [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 17:8]; and, look, I will speak to Eve, for I know that she will listen to me; for women listen to all creatures, as is said, [The foolish woman bustles about.Gullibility!—and she knows nothing of it (Proverbs 9:13). The serpent went and spoke to the woman: Is it [true that] you also have been commanded concerning the fruit of the tree? She said: Yes, as is said, [“From the fruit of the garden’s trees we may eat,but from the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden [Elohim has said, ‘You shall not eat from it and you shall not touch it, lest you die’”] (Genesis 3:3). And when the serpent heard the words of Eve, he found an opening through which he could enter, so he said to her: This command is nothing else except the evil eye, for in the hour when you eat, you will be like אֱלֹהִים (Elohim), gods—a Creator. Just as He creates worlds and destroys worlds, so will you be able to create worlds and to destroy worlds. Just as He kills and brings to life, so also will you be able to kill and to bring to life, as is said, For God knows that on the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened [and you will become as gods knowing good and evil] (ibid., 5).

The serpent went and touched the tree, which commenced to cry out, saying: Wicked One! do not touch me! as it is said, Let no haughty foot overtake me, nor the hand of the wicked repel me. There did the doers of mischief fall. [They were toppled and could not rise] (Ps. 36:11–13). The serpent went and said to the woman: Behold, I touched it, but I did not die; you too may touch it, and you will not die. The woman went and touched the tree, and she saw the angel of death coming towards her; she said: Woe is me! I will die now, and the blessed Holy One will make another woman and give her to Adam, but behold I will cause him to eat with me; if we die, we will both die, and if we live, we will both live. And she took of the fruits of the tree, and ate, and also gave to her husband, so that he should eat with her, as is said, “and she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave to her man, [and he ate] (Genesis 3:6). When Adam had eaten of the fruit of the tree, he saw that he was naked, and his eyes were opened, and his teeth were blunted. He said to her: What is this that you have given me to eat, that my eyes should be opened and my teeth blunted? Just as my teeth were blunted, so shall the teeth of all generations be blunted [cf. Jeremiah 31:29: The fathers ate unripe fruit and the sons’ teeth were blunted]….

He sat in judgment and He judged with judgment. He said to him: Why did you flee before Me? He answered Him: I heard Your sound and my bones trembled,’ as is said, I heard Your sound in the garden and I was afraid, for I was naked, and I hid (Genesis 3:10).

What was the garment of the first man? A skin of nail and a cloud of glory covered him. But when he ate of the fruits of the tree, his skin of nail was stripped off him and he saw himself naked, and the cloud of glory departed from him, as is said, And He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? From the tree I commanded you not to eat have you eaten?’ (ibid., 11). Man said before the blessed Holy One: Master of all Worlds! When I was alone, I did not offend against You. But the woman whom You have brought to me enticed me away from Your words, as is said, The woman whom you gave by me, [she gave me from the tree, and I ate] (ibid., 12).

The blessed Holy One called to Eve, and said to her: Was it not enough for you that you yourself offended? But [also] that you should make Adam offend? She said before Him: Master of all Worlds! The serpent enticed my mind to offend before You, as is said, The serpent beguiled me and I ate (ibid., 13).

He brought the three of them and passed sentence of judgment upon them, consisting of nine curses and death. He cast down Samael and his band from their holy place in the heavens, and cut off the feet of the serpent. And He cursed him more than all living beasts and all cattle, and decreed that he should shed his skin and suffer pain once in seven years in great pain, and cursed him that he should drag himself by his belly, and his food is turned in his innards into dust and viper’s bile (Job 20:14), and death is in his mouth, and He put hatred between him and the children of the woman, so that they should bruise his head, and after all these death.

He gave the woman nine curses and death [see BT Eruvin 100b]: the afflictions arising from menstruation and the tokens of virginity; the affliction of conception in the womb; and the affliction of childbirth; and the affliction of bringing up children; and her head is covered like a mourner, and it is not shaved except on account of immorality, and her ear is pierced like perpetual slaves; and like a slavegirl she waits upon her husband; and she is not believed in [a matter of] testimony; and after all these death [see BT Sotah 12a].

He extended retribution to Adam [as to a part of the] nine curses and death. He reduced his power, and He reduced his stature because of the impurity connected with issues and with pollution; as well as the [ritual] impurity arising from sexual intercourse; he was to sow wheat and to reap thistles, and his food was to be the grass of the earth, like that of the beast; and [he was to earn] his bread in anxiety, and his food by the sweat [of his brow]; and after all these death.

He extended pardon to Adam [as to a part of the] nine curses and death. He reduced his power and He reduced his stature because of the impurity of issues and of pollution [see BT Sanhedrin 38b]; as well as the impurity arising from sexual intercourse; he was to sow wheat and to reap thistles, and his food was to be the grass of the earth, like that of the beast; and [he was to earn] his bread in anxiety, and his food by the sweat [of his brow]; and after all these: death. If Adam offended, what was the offence of the earth, that it should be cursed? Because it did not speak against the [evil] deed [see Targum Yerushalmi (fag.) on Genesis 3:17], therefore it was cursed; for in the hour when the sons of man miss the mark in graver transgressions He sends a plague to the sons of man; and in the hour when the sons of man miss the mark in less vital transgressions, He smites the fruits of the earth, because of [the offenses of] the sons of man, as is said, Cursed be the soil for your sake, [with pangs shall you eat from it all the days of your life] (ibid., 17)” (Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 13–14).

“נִשְׁמַת נְקֵבָה (Nishmat neqevah), female inspiration, is from the Female, and נִשְׁמַת זָכָר (nishmat zakhar), male inspiration, is from the Male. This is the reason the serpent went after Eve [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 20:11]. He said, ‘Her soul comes from the north, and so I will soon seduce her.’ And how did he seduce her? By mounting her.

His disciples asked: Tell us how this happened? He replied: The wicked Samael conspired with the entire army on high against his Master, since the blessed Holy One said To hold sway over the fish of the sea and the winged creature of the heavens (Genesis 1:26) [cf. Deuteronomy 14:20]. He said: How can we cause him to offend and be driven from before His presence? He descended with all his army, and sought a suitable companion on earth. At last he found the serpent, which looked like a camel, and he rode on him [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 19:1; Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 13; Zohar 1:228a]. He then went to the woman, saying to her: Though Elohim said, you shall not eat from any tree of the garden… (ibid. 3:1)—however, I will seek more, I will add in order that she detract. She replied: From the fruit of the garden’s trees we may eat (ibid., 2)—He did not prevent us, except for the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden Elohim has said, “You shall not eat from it and you shall not touch it lest you die” (ibid., 2–3). She added two things: the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden—He only said, from the tree (ibid. 2:17); and you shall not touch it, lest you die. What did Samael do? He went and touched the tree. The tree cried out, saying, “Wicked one! Do not touch me!” Therefore, it is written: Let no haughty foot overtake me, nor the hand of the wicked repel me. There did the doers of mischief fall. They were toppled and could not rise (Psalms 36:12–13).

He then said to the woman: See, I touched the tree and did not die. You too can touch and not die. The woman went and touched the tree. She saw the Angel of Death approaching her and said: ‘Oy! Now I will die and the blessed Holy One will make another woman and give her to Adam! I will therefore cause him to eat with me. If we die, we will both die, and if we live, we will both live. She took the fruit of the tree and ate it, and she also gave to her husband. Their eyes opened, their teeth were blunted (Jeremiah 31:29). He said: What is this that you have given me to eat? Just as my teeth were blunted, so will the teeth of all generations be blunted. He sat in true judgment, as is written, For You upheld my justice, my right, You sat on the throne of the righteous judge (Psalms 9:5). He called to Adam, saying: Why do you hide from Me? He replied: I heard Your sound in the garden (Genesis 3:10). I heard Your sound in the garden—and my bones trembled; And I was afraid, for I was naked, and I hid. I was naked—of works; I was naked—of mitsvot; and I was naked—of actions. Therefore, it is written: and I was afraid, for I was naked, and I hid.

What was Adam’s clothing? A skin of nail. However, when he ate of the fruits of the tree, his skin of nail was stripped from him and he saw himself naked, as is written, Who told you that you were naked? (ibid., 11). Adam said before the blessed Holy One: Master of the World: When I was alone did I offend You? But the woman whom You gave me, she drove me away from Your words, as is written, The woman whom You gave me, [she gave me from the tree, and I ate] (ibid., 12). The blessed Holy One said to her: Was it not enough for you to offend, but you also caused Adam to offend? She said before Him: Master of the World: The serpent [beguiled me so] that I offend You. He summoned all three of them and sentenced nine curses upon them and death, and cast down the wicked Samael and his band from their holy place in the heavens. He severed the serpent’s feet and cursed him more than any living creature, more than any beast, and decreed that he be stripped of his skin every seven years, in great pain [see BT Bekhorot 8a]. 

Therefore, Let me hear gladness and joy, [let the bones that You crushed exult] (Psalms 51:10)” (Bahir §§199–200).

“The letter מ (mem) was the original sign for Adam, establishing death upon the world, because this letter was flying over Adam’s head when, as is written: She took מִפִּרְיוֹ (mi-piryo), of its fruit (Genesis 3:6)—מ פִּרְיוֹ (mem, piryo)—and it was waiting for ו ת (vavtav). When, as is written, וַתֹּאכַל וַתִּתֵּן (va-tokhal va-titten), and she ate, and she gave, וַתִּפָּקַחְנָה (va-tippaqaḥnah), And [the eyes of the two] were opened (ibid., 6–7), then מָוֶת (mavet), death, was established upon the world” (Zohar 3:237a, cf. ibid. 1:12b).

“Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘A decree was ordained beforehand that Adam should die since he was taken from the ground. As implied by what is written: on the day you eat from it [you will surely die] (Genesis 2:17)—teaching that had he not sinned, he would have had a long life [cf. BT Shabbat 55a–b]. As soon as he sinned, the punishment was that his days be shortened—and that he die on that very day. After he repented, the blessed Holy One granted him His day—which is one thousand years [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 8:2].

This proves that the decree that he die was prior. For were it not so, when he repented He should have rescinded the decree!

Rabbi Shim’on explained, ‘He repented and He rescinded the decree ordained for him—on the day you eat from it (ibid.); He lengthened his days, granting him His day” (Zohar Ḥadash 18c).

Bribing the Other Side: Save from the Sword My Soul, from the Cur’s Power My Person

hyena

“Come and see: Had [Job] given a portion to all, the Accuser could not have prevailed against him later. Now, you might ask, ‘Why did the blessed Holy One harm him?’ Well, because he caused the light to be covered and concealed, and did not bring another offering, sustaining others—only an ascent offering, rising above. Therefore it is written: This Job did continually (Job 1:5). For if the Other Side had been nourished with a portion, he would have been removed from the Temple and withdrawn, and the side of Holiness would have ascended higher and higher. But he did not want another to be nourished by his offering, so he removed himself from him. How do we know? As is written: and shunning evil (Job 1:1). Therefore he always brought an ascent offering, from which the Other Side never derives pleasure; so everything that he later took was his to take. Thus Job caused foreskin to cover the sealed covenant, from which it did not depart; and consequently the blessed Holy One aroused that Accuser, as is written: Have you noticed My servant Job? (Job 1:8).

Come and see: When the blessed Holy One wished to unite with Israel, the time was not ripe because foreskin covered the light—until that Accuser took what was his from Job. Therefore the blessed Holy One commanded that it be eaten in haste, for that Other Side was engaged with Job, and He commanded them to remove foreskin. Then the blessed Holy One united with Israel, and that Other Side separated from holiness, engaging with Job and taking what was his. Then, It is a passover offering to YHWH (Exodus 12:11). For until now, it was not a passover offering to YHWH. Happy are they who unify their Lord fittingly!…

Come and see: The goat that Israel sends to the dessert is in order to give a portion to that Other Side, with which to be occupied. Now, you might say, ‘Why two goats here—one for YHWH and one for that Other Side? Granted, that goat of the Other Side, but why for YHWH? ‘Well, this may be compared to a king who sat in judgement over his son. He summoned the bailiff, who regularly administers punishment, so that he would prepare to punish his son. That bailiff was glad, and entered the king’s palace to eat there. When his son saw, he said to himself, ‘Surely, this bailiff has come into my father’s palace only because the king is angry with me.’ What did he do? He went and reconciled with him. Once he had done so, the king ordered that the bailiff should not know of it. Afterward, the bailiff entered. The king said to himself, ‘Now if this one knows about the meal that I have prepared for myself and my son, the table will be disrupted.

What did he do? He summoned the butler and told him, ‘Prepare something and place it in front of me and in front of that bailiff, so that he thinks he is dining from my food in my presence, and he won’t know about that precious joyous feast for me and my son; he will take that portion and leave, and withdraw from the joy of our feast.’ If the king had not done so, that bailiff would not have departed from the king’s palace. Therefore the blessed Holy One said, ‘Prepare two goats, one for Me and one for that Denouncer, so that he will think that he is eating from My meal and be unaware of our other joyous feast, and he will take that portion and go on his way and depart from My house” (Zohar 2:181b–185a).

“There is a saying: ‘To the contemptible one in the royal palace—give him a little wine and he will praise you before the king. Otherwise, he will speak evil; and sometimes superiors of the palace convey those words, on account of which the king imposes punishment.’

Rabbi Yitsḥaq said, ‘This may be compared to a fool who stands before the king. Give him some wine and then tell him and show him all those deviancies you have committed and all those bad deeds, and he will come and praise you, saying that there is no one in the world like you.

Here, too, the Denouncer is standing constantly before the King. The people of Israel present him this gift, in which is a list of all the bad deeds, all the deviancies, and all the sins that they have committed; and he comes and praises Israel and becomes their Defender. And the blessed Holy One transfers everything onto the head of his people, since it is written For you are heaping live coals on his head, and YHWH will reward you (Proverbs 25:22)” (Zohar 3:101b–102a).

“Rabbi Shemu’el son of Naḥmani in the name of Rabbi Yonatan said: Every mitsvah that one performs in this world precedes him and walks in front of him in the world to come, as is said: And your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of YHWH shall be your rear guard (Isaiah 58:8). Likewise, every transgression that one commits מְלֻפַּפְתּוֹ (melupafto), clasps round him, and leads him on the day of judgment, as is said, יִלָּפְתוּ (Yillaftu), they clasp round him, the path of their way (Job 6:18). Rabbi El’azar said: It is attached to him like a dog, as is said, And he would not listen to her, to lie by her, to be with her (Genesis 39:10). To lie by her—in this world; to be with her—in the world to come” (BT Avodah Zarah 5a).

“As the saying goes, ‘Throw a dog a bone and he’ll lick the dust off your feet.’ Son of Zoma was asked, ‘Is it permitted to castrate a dog?’ [see BT Ḥagigah 14b, cf. M Avot 4:1; Zohar 2:89a]? He replied, ‘[And anything with crushed or smashed or torn-off or cut-off testes you shall not bring forward to YHWH, and] in your land you shall not do it (Leviticus 22:24)—to all that is in your land you shall not do it.’ Just as the world needs this, the world needs that! Concerning this is said: and behold, it was very good (Genesis 1:31)—the Angel of Death. It must not be eliminated from the world [see BT Sanhedrin 64a]; the world needs it! Even though it is written concerning them: The dogs are fiercely ravenous, [they never know satiety] (Isaiah 56:11), they should not be abolished from the world. All is required—good and bad! Accordingly, on this day we must throw the dog a bone [cf. Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 46: ‘They gave him a bribe on Yom Kippur so that he would not nullify Israel’s sacrifice’]. While he is dragging it, the one who enters the hall of the King enters, with no one to hinder him. Afterward, he wags his tail!” (Zohar 3:63b, Piqqudin).

My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Far from my rescue are the words that I roar. My God, I call out by day and You do not answer, by night—no stillness for me…. For the curs came all around me, a pack of the evil encircled me, like a lion at my hands and my feet (Psalms 22:2–3, 17).

I considered till morning, that, as a lion, so will He break all my bones: from day even to night will You make an end of me (Isaiah 38:13).

“There is there [in the afterlife] a certain path, and in that path a certain attribute like a dog. When the soul enters any one of those pathways, the dog sees her and immediately he barks. When the demons and angels of destruction hear his voice, they know that a soul is there. Immediately they come and seize the soul and sling her, as is written, The נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh), soul, of your enemies He will sling from the hollow of a sling (1 Samuel 25:29), until they cast her into Hell. King David, peace upon him, pleaded before the blessed Holy One to save him from that dog, as is said: Save נַפְשִׁי (nafshi), my soul, from the sword, my only one from the clutches of a dog (Psalms 22:21). Now, was David, king of Israel, afraid of a single dog?! Rather, of that attribute called ‘dog.’

They said further: The souls of Israel do not enter that place of those pathways, and that dog does them no harm, as is said: But against any of the Children of Israel, no dog will snarl (Exodus 11:7)” (Midrash ha-Ne’lamAddendum 2 [Qeta Lo Yadu’a 82–83]).

“Likewise, when a man dies, if he has been meritorious, the image of a lion descends to welcome his נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh), soul, but if he has not, an image of a dog descends, of which David said: Save from the sword my soul, from the cur’s hand my person (Psalms 22:21). And since the blessed Holy One desired to save the bodies of Israel from them, and their soul too, He commanded that sacrifices be offered of beasts and bodies in their stead. This is according to: If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. [For you shall heap coals of fire upon his head, and YHWH shall reward you] (Proverbs 25:21–22). But the blessed Holy One takes nothing except the desire of the heart and remorse of the heart, as is written: Elohim’s sacrifices—a broken רוּחַ (ruaḥ)spirit. A broken, crushed heart Elohim spurns not (Psalms 51:19). They are like earthenware vessels, about which it is said: ‘After they are broken, they become pure’ (BT Shabbat 16a)….

A hungry dog: whoever does not want to be bitten by it gives it meat or bread to eat and water to drink. And the secret of the matter is: If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink (Proverbs 25:21–22). He thereby becomes friendly towards the person, and not only does he not bite him, with a number of troubles, but he becomes an advocate for him and loves him” (Zohar 3:247b, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

Through All Your Ways Know Him: The Evil Impulse is Very Good

The ways of YHWH are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall stumble in them (Hosea 14:10).

Through all your ways know Him, and He will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:6). Rava said: Even in the matter of עֲבִירָה (avirah), a transgression” (BT Berakhot 63a).

“Now, you might say, ‘How can a person love the blessed Holy One with יֵצֶר הָרָע (yetser ha-ra), the evil impulse? For look, the evil impulse is hostile, preventing a person from serving the blessed Holy One! How can he love Him with it? Well, this is a greater service of the blessed Holy One, when the evil impulse is overturned by the love that one feels for the blessed Holy One. For when the evil impulse is overturned and broken by a person, this is true love of the blessed Holy One, since he knows how to draw that evil impulse to His service. Here is a mystery for masters of qualities: Everything that the blessed Holy One has made, above and below, is all intended to manifest His glory, and all is for His service. Now, who has ever seen a servant denouncing his master, opposing everything that his master wishes?

It is the will of the blessed Holy One that humans should serve Him constantly, walking in the path of truth, thereby becoming worthy of many benefits. Since this is His will, how can an evil servant come and oppose, by his Master’s will—luring people to an evil path, distancing them from the good path, and causing them to disobey the will of their Lord? But actually, he is doing the will of his Master! This may be compared to a king who had an only son, whom he loved exceedingly. He commanded him, in love, not to approach an evil woman, for whoever approached her would be unworthy of entering the king’s palace. The son consented to do his father’s will in love. In the king’s abode, outside, was a harlot, comely in appearance and beautiful in form. Some days later, the king said, ‘I want to see my son’s devotion to me.’ He called for that harlot and said to her, ‘Go and seduce my son,’ to see his son’s devotion to him. That harlot, what did she do? She went after his son and began embracing him, kissing him, seducing him with all kinds of enticements.

If that son is worthy and obeys his father’s command, he rebukes her, pays no heed to her, and thrusts her away from him. Then the father rejoices in his son and brings him into his palace, giving him gifts and presents and great honor. Who caused all this honor for that son? You must admit, that harlot! And that harlot, does she deserve praise for this or not? Surely she does, from every aspect. First, because she carried out the king’s command; and second, because she brought upon the son all this honor, all this goodness, all this love of the king toward him. Therefore, it is written: and look, it was very good (Genesis 1:31). And look, it was good—this is the Angel of Life; very is the Angel of Death, who is surely very good for whoever heeds his Lord’s command.

Come and See: Were it not for this accuser, the righteous would not inherit those supernal treasures reserved for them in the world that is coming. Happy are they who have encountered this accuser, and happy are they who have not encountered him! Happy are they who have encountered him, for through him they inherit all that goodness, all that bliss, all those delights of the world that is coming, of which is written No eye has seen, O God, but You, what You will do for one who awaits You (Isaiah 64:3). Happy are they who have not encountered him, for through him they inherit Hell and are banished from the land of the living—the wicked who do not heed their Lord and are drawn after him. Therefore, the righteous should be grateful to him, for through him they inherit all that goodness, bliss, and delight in the world that is coming. What is the benefit for this accuser when the wicked obey him? Well, even though he has no benefit, he fulfills the command of his Master.

Furthermore, he is strengthened because of this; since he is evil, he becomes stronger when perpetrating evil. A wicked person is strengthened only after he has killed someone. Once he has killed people, he is emboldened, empowered potently, and feels pleasure. Similarly, that accuser grows in power only after he has lured people, accused them, and killed them. Then he is pleased, strengthened, and potently empowered. Just as the side of life is strengthened when people are good and walk on the straight path, so too this accuser is strengthened and empowered when the wicked heed him and are dominated by him—may the Compassionate One save us! Happy are they who are worthy of defeating him and overturning him, earning the world that is coming because of him! One should be strengthened by the blessed Holy One constantly. Of this is said Happy is the human whose strength is in You—highways in their heart (Psalms 84:6). Happy are they in this world, and happy are they in the world that is coming!” (Zohar 2:163a–b).

And you shall remember all the way on which YHWH your God led you these forty years in the wilderness, in order to afflict you, to test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commands or not (Deuteronomy 8:2).

“Our Rabbis taught: וְשַׂמְתֶּם (ve-samtem), And you shall set (Deuteronomy 11:18)—סַם תָם (sam tam), a complete remedy. This may be compared to a man who struck his son a strong blow, and then put a plaster on his wound, saying to him, ‘My son! As long as this plaster is on your wound you can eat and drink at will, and bathe in hot or cold water, without fear. But if you remove it, it will break out into sores.’ Even so did the blessed Holy One speak to Israel: ‘My children! I created the evil impulse but I [also] created Torah, as its תַבלִין (tavlin), antidote [lit., spice]; if you occupy yourselves with Torah, you will not be delivered into his hand, for it is said: For whether you offer well, or whether you do not (Genesis 4:7). But if you do not occupy yourselves with Torah, you will be delivered into his hand, for it is written, at the tent flap sin crouches (ibid.). Moreover, he is altogether preoccupied with you [to make you sin], for it is said, and for you is his longing (ibid.). Yet if you will, you can rule over him, for it is said, and you will rule over him (ibid.)” (BT Qiddushin 30b).

“A parable: A king had sons and bought slaves for them saying, ‘Behold: They are to belong to you all equally.’ But one son said, ‘I do not want to share with you, for I am able to rob you of everything.’ The king said, ‘Because of this, you shall have no share among them at all, and you shall perform only what you are capable of!’ He went and lay in wait for them and showed them gold and jewels and armies, saying to them, ‘Come over to me.’ What did the king do? He lined up his armies and those of all his sons and showed them to the slaves, saying to them, ‘Do not deceive yourselves, mistaking his army [as] greater than my army. Here are my armies, but that son is the deceiver and plans to seize you. Do not listen to him, for at first he will speak smoothly in order to trap you in his nets, and afterwards יִצְחַק (yitsḥaq), he will laugh. But you are my slaves and I will do [good] for you if you turn away from him. For he is the שָׂר עַל תֹּהוּ (sar al tohu), prince of mere emptiness,’ as is said, And swerve not after הַתֹּהוּ (ha-tohu), mere emptiness (1 Samuel 12:21)—he will be of no avail, nor will he save, for he is mere emptiness, yet he is harmful, and I counsel you: If you really heed the voice of YHWH your God, and do what is right in His eyes, and hearken to His commands—keeping all His statutes—all the sickness that I put upon Egypt I will not put upon you (Exodus 15:26). Why all of this? Only to shut every door to him, so that he not find you at times soft and at times hard. When you keep all His statutes: all the sickness that I put upon Egypt­—by My hand—I will not put upon you. What is for I am YHWH your healer (ibid.)? And when He comes and strikes a blow—I am YHWH your healer” (Bahir §167).