The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: anti-semitism

He is Sleeping Among His People

And Haman said to King Ahasuerus: “There is a certain people scattered and separate from the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom, and their rules are different from every people’s and they do not observe the king’s rules, and it does not pay for the king to leave them in peace. If it please the king, let it be written to wipe them out, and ten thousand talents of silver will I measure out to the court overseers to bring into the king’s treasury.” And the king removed his ring from his hand and gave it to Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, foe of the Jews (Esther 3:8–9, cf. Exodus 1:8).

“Just as oil will not mix with other liquids, so Israel do not mix with the other peoples of the world, as is written, You shall not intermarry with them (Deuteronomy 7:3)” (Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah 1:21).

“[However,] Rabbi El’azar said: The blessed Holy One did not scatter Israel among the peoples except that converts be added to them, for it is said: And I will sow her [Israel] for Myself in the earth (Hosea 2:25); surely a man sows a se’ah in order to harvest many korin! And from this Rabbi Yoḥanan said: and I will have compassion upon her that had not obtained compassion [and I will say to them who were not My people, you are My people; and they shall say, You are my God] (ibid.)” (BT Pesaḥim 87b).

And Haman said to King Aheshurues: יֶשְׁנוֹ עַם אֶחָד (Yeshno am ead), there is one people (Esther 3:8), the very same of whom it is said, [Hear, O Israel! YHWH our God, YHWH is] אֶחָד (ead), One (Deuteronomy 6:4). [Do not read יֶשְׁנוֹ עַם אֶחָד (yeshno am eḥad), there is one people, but rather:] יָשֵׁן לוֹ מֵעַמּוֹ (yashen lo me-ammo), He is sleeping despite [or: among] His people” (Ester Rabbah 7:12, cf. BT Megillah 15b; Abba Guryon 5; Leqaḥ Tov 3:11, 5:14; Aggadat Ester 4:1, 17; Rabbi Ḥayyim Vital, Pri Ets Ḥayyim, Purim 5).

That night the sleep of the king was shaken (Esther 6:1). The heavens, the throne of the King of the King of Kings, the blessed Holy One, were shaken when He saw Israel in such distress. But is there sleep before הַמָּקוֹם (ha-maqom), the Omnipresent?! Is it not said, Behold, He neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalms 121:4)? Rather, in a time when Israel is in distress and the peoples of the world are at peace, it says, Awake, why sleep, O Master! [Rouse up, neglect not forever. Why do תַסְתִּיר (tastir), You hide, Your face, forget our affliction, our oppression?] (Psalms 44:24–25) [cf. BT Ḥullin 139b: ‘Where is אֶסְתֵּר (ester), Esther, in the Torah? Let Me אַסְתִּירָה (astirah), hide, My face from them (Deuteronomy 32:20)’].

King Ahasuerus’ sleep was also disturbed, because he saw in a dream Haman seizing a sword to kill him, and he awoke in terror from his sleep and told his scribes to bring [the royal annals] the Book of Acts to see what events had occurred, and they opened the book and found how Mordecai had informed against Bigthan and Teresh. So when they said to the king, Look, Haman is standing in the court (Esther 6:5), the king said: ‘What I saw in my dream is true; he has only come at this time of day to kill me’” (Ester Rabbah 10:1).

“[Preparing to impale Mordecai] Haman went about looking for a stake fifty cubits long, but could not find any, save that was in his house, which Parshandatha his son had brought from Kedronia, which is Kerdos. Because Haman’s son was ruler there; and there he saw the stake, which was from Noah’s ark. And Haman uprooted it from his house, so that the curse of Darius might be fulfilled in him, as is written, [Also I have made a decree, that] whosoever shall alter this word, let timber be pulled down from his house, and being set up, let him be impaled (Ezra 6:11). And this word found favor with Haman, and he prepared a gallows for himself; he erected it and perfected it. A heavenly voice called out saying, ‘How proper and fitting is this gallows for you.’

That night [the king could not sleep….] (Esther 6:1): On that night sleep [deserted] the carpenters who were preparing the gallows for Haman. On that night sleep deserted the smiths who were preparing the nails to be set in the gallows. On that night sleep deserted the King of Kings. Were in not written, one would dare not say it, as is written: Awake, why sleep, O Master! (Psalms 44:24); And the Master awoke as one sleeping, [like a warrior shaking off wine] (Psalms 78:65). On that very night the blessed Holy One was revealed. [And they impaled Haman on the stake that he had readied for Mordecai, and the king’s wrath subsided…. On the contrary, it was the Jews who dominated their foes (Esther 7:10, 9:1)]” (Targum Ester, see Kasher and Klein, New Fragments of Targum to Esther, p. 154–55).

“Secrecy within secrecy was prepared and arranged in a single skull filled with crystalline dew. Membrane of air, purified and sealed; those strands of clean fleece hanging evenly. Will of Wills is revealed through prayer of those below. Open-eyed watching, never sleeping, ever vigilant; supervision below by supervision of radiance above. Two nostrils of an official arousing breath for all [as a nose supervising commandingly]” (Zohar 2:176b, Sifra di-Tsni’uta).

“Eyes of the White Head are different from other eyes. There is no lid over the eye, nor any eyebrows. Why? Because it is written: Behold, He neither slumbers nor sleeps, the Guardian of Israel (Psalms 121:4)—Israel above. And it is written: that Your eyes may be open (1 Kings 8:52). And it has been taught: Whatever comes in Compassion has no lid over the eye, nor any eyebrows. All the more so, the White Head, which has no need.

Rabbi Shim’on said to Abba, ‘To what does this allude?’ He replied, ‘To fish, fish of the sea, whose eyes have neither lids nor brows, and they do not sleep and need no protection for the eye. All the more so, the Ancient of Ancients—who needs no protection; and all the more so, since He watches over all, and all is nourished by Him, and He does not sleep, as is written: Behold, He neither slumbers nor sleeps, the Guardian of Israel—Israel above.

It is written: Behold, the eye of YHWH is upon those who revere Him (Psalms 33:18), and it is written: The eyes of YHWH range over the whole earth (Zechariah 4:10). There is no contradiction. One refers to זְעֵיר אַנפִּין (Ze’eir Anpin), Small Countenance, and the other to אֲרִיך אַנְפִּין (Arikh Anpin), Elongated Countenance. Nevertheless, there are two eyes, turning into one. This eye is white within white, and a white including all whites” (Zohar 3:129b, Idra Rabba, cf. Zohar 3:137b–138a, Idra Rabba).

Who Causes the Tail to Rise Above, Dominate, and Strike?

Snake & his Tail

And now, if you will truly heed My voice and keep My covenant, you will become for Me a treasure among all the peoples, for Mine is all the earth. And as for you, you will become for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:5).

And it shall be, if you do not heed the voice of YHWH your God to keep and to do all His commands and His statutes that I charge you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you… The sojourner who is in your midst will rise up high above you and you will go down far below. He will put you in debt and you will not put him in debt. He will become the head and you will become the tail. And all these curses will come upon you and pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed. For you will not have heeded the voice of YHWH your God to keep His command and His statutes which He charged you (Deuteronomy 28:43–45, cf. Zohar Ḥadash, 59b–60a).

“How fortunate are you, O Israel. When you act according to the will of YHWH no nation or tongue can dominate you. But when you do not act in accordance with the will of YHWH you are delivered into the hands of a lowly people, and not only a lowly people but into the power of the beasts of a lowly people” (BT Ketubbot 66b).

“Rabbi El’azar wept. He opened, saying, ‘Her sound will move like a snake… (Jeremiah 46:22). Now that Israel is in exile, She surely moves like a snake. When a snake bends its head to the dust and raises its tail, the tail dominates and strikes anyone in front of it. Who causes the tail to rise above, dominate, and strike? The head, which is bent low. Nevertheless, who controls the tail, and who propels its movements? The head—although it is bent to the dust, it conducts [the tail’s] movements. Therefore, now the other nations—who are attached to the tail—rise above, dominate, and strike, while the head is bent to the dust, as is said: Fallen, not to rise again, [is Virgin Israel] (Amos 5:2) [cf. BT Berakhot 4b]. Nevertheless, this head controls the tail and preserves it, as is said: They made me keeper of the vineyards (Song of Songs 1:6)—the other nations, who are the tail.

Rabbi Yehudah came and kissed his hands, and said, ‘If I had asked nothing in the world except for this, and gained it, it would be enough for me! For now I know how the other nations and their dominion are controlled. Happy is the share of Israel, of whom is written For Yah has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel as His treasure (Psalms 135:4)’” (Zohar 3:119b).

“Rabbi Yitsḥaq said, ‘All the princes of the nations ascend or descend because of this one [Metatron]. When he ascends, the princes of the nations descend. When he descends, they ascend. All depends on the children of Jacob!’

Rabbi Yehudah son of Shalom said, ‘Good or evil comes to the world solely on account of the children of Jacob!’

A certain [Roman] hegmon came to Rabbi Abbahu and said, ‘The entire world should assemble against you as against this locust—to obliterate you from the world in a single instant! For if this nation does not worship its Lord, it is written: He will shut the heavens so that there will be no rain, and the earth will not yield her fruit (Deuteronomy 11:17). If she strays, the entire world is destroyed on her account!’

He replied, ‘But it is you who cause her to stray and not to follow the proper path!’ He said to him, ‘It is your sins that rouse us!’ Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘The hegmon spoke well’” (Zohar Ḥadash 28c, cf. BT Berakhot 17a).

You May Say that Esther has a Bad Name yet She was Worthy that the Holy Spirit be Clothed by Her

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“Rabbi Yoḥanan said in the name of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yehotsadaq: By a majority vote, it was resolved in the upper chambers of the house of Nitsa in Lydda that in every law of Torah, if a man is told, ‘Transgress and you will not be killed,’ he may transgress and not be killed, except for idolatry, incest [including adultery], and murder.… But Esther [her transgression] was public! Abbaye said: Esther was [merely] soil, and the self pleasure [of the aggressor] is different” (BT Sanhedrin 74a–b).

“Rabbi Zera said: Why was Esther compared to a doe [see BT Megillah 15b]? To tell you that just as a doe has a narrow womb and is desirable to her mate at all times as at the first time, so was Esther precious to King Ahasuerus at all times as at the first time” (BT Yoma 29b).

The king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she won his grace and favor more than all the other virgins (Esther 2:17). Rav said, ‘If he wished to taste the flavor of a virgin he tasted it; the flavor of a married woman, he tasted it’” (BT Megillah 13a, cf. Zohar 3:58b).

“[And it happened on the third day that Esther donned מַלְכוּת (malkhut), royal, garb] and stood in the inner court of the king’s house (Esther 5:1). Rabbi Levi said: When she reached the chamber of the idols, the Shekhinah [Malkhut] left her. She said, My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? (Psalms 22:2). Perhaps You judge an inadvertent offence as intentional, or one done under compulsion like one done willingly? Or is it because I called [Haman] ‘cur,’ as it says, Save from the sword my life, from the cur’s hand my person (ibid., 21). She immediately retracted and called him lion, as it says, Rescue me from the lion’s mouth (ibid., 22)” (BT Megillah 15b).

[The Faithful Shepherd said:] ‘Rabbis: We are commanded to punish whoever defames someone, as is written, And they shall fine him a hundred weights of silver and give it to the young woman’s father, for he put out a bad name for a virgin in Israel (Deuteronomy 22:19). This is after the wedding, since he says, ‘I found no signs of virginity for your daughter’ (ibid., 17). Not all bad names are alike, since the scouts who put out a bad name on the Land were punished for it by dying and not meriting her, and a woman is as soil [or: earth] like the explanation that Esther was [merely] soil.

You may say that Esther has a bad name, that she was defiled by Ahasuerus, yet she was worthy that the Holy Spirit be clothed by her, as is written, Esther donned מַלְכוּת (malkhut), royal, garb (Esther 5:1). Yet the blessed Holy One said, I am YHWH, that is My name, and My glory I will not give to another nor My acclaim to the idols (Isaiah 42:8). [And yet,] the Holy Spirit is the Shekhinah, a name that was clothed by Esther….’

The Masters of Mishnah say: It is said of the Matronita: And מַלְכוּתוֹ (malkhuto), His kingdom, rules over all (Psalms 103:19). After Esther donned [royal garb, i.e., Shekhinah/Malkhut] she ruled over Ahasuerus and his people, and it is said of them, [And the rest of the Jews who were in the king’s provinces assembled and defended their lives and had respite from their enemies] and killed of foes, [seventy-five thousand, but they did not lay hands on the spoils] (Esther 9:16). If you say that [Ahasuerus] coupled with her, perish the thought, though they were in the same house. Rather it was like Joseph [and the wife of Potiphar] of whom it says, and she laid out his garment by her (Genesis 39:16). בִּגְדוֹ (Bigdo), his garment—similarly traitors betrayed, בָּגָדוּ (bagadu), in betrayal, betrayed (Isaiah 24:16) [on the numerous parallels between the stories of Joseph and Esther, see BT Megillah 13b; Midrash Abba Guryon 11b; Panim Aherot B, 64, 66, 72; Ester Rabbah 7:7. Cf. Tanḥuma (Buber), Va-yiggash 11: ‘Come and see: All that befell Joseph befell Zion’].

There is a great סִתְרָא (sitra), mystery, here, which is why אֶסְתֵּר (Ester), Esther, is derived from סֵתֶר (seter), secret, as is written, You are seter, a hiding place, for me (Psalms 32:7) [cf. BT Ḥullin 139b], since the Shekhinah hid her from Ahasuerus and gave him a שִׁדָּה (shiddah), concubine, instead while she returned to Mordecai’s arm. And Mordecai, who knew the explicit Name and the seventy tongues, did all this with wisdom [on having the knowledge of seventy languages, see BT Megillah 13b; Sanhedrin 17a]. And thus the Masters of Mishnah said, even still, a man must coo with his wife before he unites with her, for perhaps she has been swapped with שֵׁידָה (sheidah), a demoness [see BT Nedarim 20b]” (Zohar 3:276a–b, Ra’aya Meheimna Ki Tetse, cf. Zohar 2:277a).

“יוֹם הַכִּפֻּרִים (Yom ha-Kippurim), the Day of Atonements (Leviticus 23:27)—in the future we will delight in that day and transform it from suffering to delight [i.e., יוֹם כִּפּוּר (Yom Kippur), the Day of Atonement, will become יוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים (yom ha-ki-Purim), the day like Purim (a joyous holiday)]…. and just as on that day [the priest (Ḥesed)] adorns himself with the garments of atonement so too, regarding Esther it is written, she donned royal garb (Esther 5:1). Just as with these [white garments of the priest] he enters the innermost sanctuary [hoping to obtain atonement for Israel], so too, she stood in the inner court of the king’s house… and she found favor in his eyes (ibid., 2) [cf. Zohar 3:67a; ibid., 109a: ‘And with each and every mere (mention of), הַמֶּלֶךְ (ha-melekh), the king (in the Book of Esther), this is the blessed Holy One’].

Now, what caused the Shekhinah to suffer exile? The mystery of the matter: And so, I shall come to the king not according to rule (Esther 4:16). Because she came without her husband, of whom it says, at His right hand was a fiery law (Deuteronomy 33:2). They abandoned Torah and this caused the destruction of the First Temple and the Second Temple, as is written, and if I perish, I perish! [alluding to two destructions] (Esther ibid.).

Nevertheless, even though she entered without her husband, [namely] words of Torah, she still entered with the [merit of the] Patriarchs [who are]: three days, night and day (ibid.), for which she fasted. They were witnesses that the young woman went before the king, as it says, and in this fashion would the young woman come to the king (ibid. 2:13). She who went in to the king indeed remained a virgin, for no man knew her other than her husband….

Regarding this it is written, and he became guardian to Hadassah (Esther 2:7) [cf. BT Megillah 13a]—[Mordecai] was faithful to her, and she was faithful to him, as is written: and Esther did what Mordecai said, for she was under his guardianship (ibid. 2:20)” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 21, 57b).

All Nursing of Hatred of Israel is Based on This

Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons (Genesis 37:3).

Rabbi El’azar opened, ‘Go, My people, enter your rooms and shut your doors behind you. Hide yourself for the slightness of a moment, until wrath passes (Isaiah 26:20). Come and see how greatly the blessed Holy One loves Israel! Because of His love for them above all other nations, He warns them and seeks to protect them in whatever they do.

Come and see: There are times during the day when judgment looms over the world, and when such a time arrives, one must protect himself from being attacked by judgment. Those times are well known and have been established [see for example Zohar 1:132; 2:21a (MhN)]….

Moreover, when judgment arouses in the world and prevails in the city, one should not walk alone in the streets, as we have established; rather, he should shut himself in so that he does not venture out—as they have established concerning Noah, who shut himself within the ark so as not to be found in the presence of the Destroyer.

So, Go, my people, enter your rooms—shut yourself in; and shut your doors behind you, so as not to be exposed in the presence of the Destroyer. Hide yourself for the slightness of a moment, until wrath passes, for once judgment has passed, the Destroyer has no power to destroy.

Come and see: Because of the love Jacob felt for Joseph—more than for his brothers—even though they were all his own brothers, what is written? They conspired against him to kill him (Genesis 37:18). All the more so, other nations toward Israel!

Come and see the consequences of that excessive love! It caused him to be exiled from his father, and his father to be exiled along with him; it inflicted exile upon them all as well as upon Shekhinah, who was exiled among them. Although a decree was issued, they have established that because the ornamented tunic that he made for him extravagantly, what is written? His brothers saw that it was he their father loved… (Genesis 37:4) [cf. BT Shabbat 10b]” (Zohar 1:183a, cf. ibid. 3:221a–b).

“An Israelite is forbidden to teach Torah to a Gentile, as is written: He tells His words to Jacob…. He has not done so for any other nation… (Psalms 147:19–20) [cf. BT Sanhedrin 59a; Ḥagigah 13a]. Consequently, Jacob thrust him away and Samuel thrust him away, so that he would have no share in holiness. All nursing of hatred of Israel is based on this” (Zohar 2:111b–12a).

“Even a gentile, even a slave, and even a slavegirl who sit and learn Torah, the Shekhinah is with them” (Tanna debei Eliyyahu 9, cf. Ba’al ha-Sullam, Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag, A Slavegirl that is Heir to Her Mistress).

“Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai taught: ‘הֲלָכָה בְּיָדוּעַ (Halakhah be-yadu’a), the behavior is well-known: Esau hates Jacob [alt., וַהֲלאֹ יָדוּעַ (va-ha-lo yadu’a), isn’t it well-known, that Esau hates Jacob? Nevertheless, at that moment (Genesis 33:4) he was compassionate and kissed him wholeheartedly]’” (Sifrei, Numbers 59).

“One of the Rabbis asked Rabbi Kahana: Have you heard what הַר סִינַי (har sinai), Mount Sinai [implies]? He said: A mountain upon which נִסִּים (nissim), miracles, were performed for Israel. Then it should be called הַר נִיסַאי (har nisai), Mount Nisai? Rather, a mountain which made a good סִימָן (siman), sign, for Israel. Then it should be called, הַר סִימָנַאי (har simanai), Mount Simanai? He said to him: Why don’t you frequent [the academy of] Rav Pappa and Rav Huna son of Rabbi Yehoshu’a, who make a study of aggadah? For Rav Ḥisda and Rabbah son of Rav Huna both said: What is Mount Sinai? A mountain on which שִׂנְאָה (sin’ah), hatred, of peoples of the world descended [i.e., Israel’s hatred of the nations; alt., the nations’ hatred of Israel. Cf. BT Avodah Zarah 2b–3b; Zohar Ḥadash 28c]” (BT Shabbat 89a).

And Haman said to Ahasuerus: ‘There is a certain people, scattered and separate from the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom, and their rules are different from every people’s and they do not observe the king’s rules, and it does not pay for the king to leave them in peace. If it pleases the king, let it be written to wipe them out, and ten thousand talents of silver will I measure out to the king’s treasury.’ And the king removed his ring from his hand and gave it to Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, צֹרֵר הַיְּהוּדִים (tsorer ha-Yehudim), foe of the Jews (Esther 3:8–10).

“To what can we compare Ahasuerus and Haman at this point? To two men one of whom had a mound in the middle of his field and the other a ditch in the middle of his field. The owner of the ditch said, ‘I wish I could buy that mound,’ and the owner of the mound said, ‘I wish I could buy that ditch.’ One day they met, and the owner of the ditch said, ‘Sell me your mound,’ whereupon the other replied, ‘Take it for nothing, and I shall be only too glad.’ And the king removed his ring. Rabbi Abba son of Kahana said: This removal of the ring was more effective than forty-eight prophets and seven prophetesses who prophesied to Israel; for all these were not able to turn Israel to better courses, yet the removal of the ring did turn them to better courses” (BT Megillah 14a, cf. Sanhedrin 97b).

In the lap the lot is cast, but from YHWH is all the disposing (Proverbs 16:33).

Water-streams, a king’s heart in the hand of YHWH, wherever He desires, He diverts it (Proverbs 21:1)—Rabbi Yishma’el said: Water-streams—just as when you put water into a vessel you can tilt it to whatever side you wish, so also when flesh-and-blood is elevated to kingship, his heart is placed in the hand of the blessed Holy One. If the world merits it, the blessed Holy One tilts the king’s heart toward good decrees; if the world is guilty, the blessed Holy One tilts his heart toward evil decrees. Thus each and every decree that issues from the king’s mouth originates from the blessed Holy One; hence it is said, wherever He desires, He diverts it” (Midrash Mishlei).

Falling into the Hands of the Nations and being Ruled by Them

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I know that for my sake this great storm is upon you (Jonah 1:12).

“’What is the meaning of the verse Through you all families of the earth will be blessed (Genesis 12:3)?… Even the other families who live on the earth are blessed solely on account of Israel… even the ships that go from Gaul to Spain are blessed solely on account of Israel.’… Rabbi El’azar son of Avina said, ‘Punishment comes into the world solely on account of Israel, as is said, I have cut off nations, their corner-towers are devastated. I have destroyed their streets (Zephaniah 3:6): and it is written [after]: I said, ‘If you but fear Me, if you accept My reproof, [her abode will not be cut off, all that I had summoned against her] (ibid., 7)” (BT Yevamot 63a).

“[Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi said:] Scripture says: [Away, away, flee from the land of the north, said YHWH,] for like the four winds of the heavens did I spread you out, said YHWH (Zechariah 2:10). What did He say to them? Should you say that the blessed Holy One said to Israel as follows: I have spread you out to the four winds of the world, if so, why did He say like the four [winds]? He should have said to the four [winds]! Rather, this is what He meant: Just as the world cannot endure without winds, so too the world cannot exist without Israel” (BT Ta’anit 3b, cf. Zohar 2:5b [MhN]).

“בְּרֵאשִׁית (Bereshit), In the beginning (Genesis 1:1)—first saying of all, it includes the Ten Utterances, and it is the בְּרִית אֵשׁ (berit esh), covenant of fire. From the left side it was given—Gevurah, red fire. Therefore it says, in a flame of fire (Exodus 3:2). And Moses was from the side of Levi [i.e., the left side].

Why was it made known from the bush (Exodus 3:2)? To teach She is caught between the thorns but not consumed because the roses, which are Her children [the Assembly of Israel], in the future would be exiled among the nations which are thorns [cf. Rashi, ad loc.]. This is the secret of [As for you, do not fear, My servant Jacob— said YHWH— for I am with you.] I will make an end of all the nations where I have dispersed you, but of you I will not make an end, [yet I will chastise you in justice, will surely not leave you unblamed] (Jeremiah 46:28)” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 27a).

Many are the wicked’s pains, but he who trusts in YHWH kindness surrounds him (Psalms 32:10).

“Rabbi Abba said, ‘What is the meaning of the verse Is YHWH among us or אָיִן (ayin), not? (Exodus 17:7). Now, were the Israelites stupid, not knowing this? They saw Shekhinah in front of them, and clouds of glory above, surrounding them—and yet they said, Is YHWH among us or not? People who saw the radiant glory of their King at the sea—and we have learned: A maidservant at the sea saw what the eyes of the prophet Ezekiel never saw—would they be so stupid as to say, Is YHWH among us or not?

Rather, Rabbi Shim’on said as follows: They wanted to discern between the Ancient One—concealed of all concealed, called אָיִן (Ayin), Nothingness—and the Short-Tempered One. Therefore it is not written Is YHWH among us or לֹא (lo), not?—corresponding to what is written: whether they will follow My teaching or לֹא (lo), not (Exodus 16:4)—but rather, Is YHWH among us or אָיִן (Ayin), Nothingness?

If so, why were they punished? Well, because they caused a separation and acted by testing, as is written: and for their testing YHWH (Exodus 17:7). They said, ‘If it is this, we will ask in one way; if it is that, we will ask in another way.’ Immediately, Amalek came… (ibid., 8)‘” (Zohar 2:64b).

Amalek came [and did battle with Israel at Rephidim] (Exodus 17:8)—Rabbi Yehoshu’a and Rabbi El’azar Ḥisma say: this verse is to be explained according to Job: Will papyrus sprout with no marsh, reeds grow grand without water? (Job 8:11). Is it possible for papyrus to grow with no marsh, or is it possible for the reeds to exist without water? So also is it impossible for Israel to exist unless they busy themselves with the words of Torah. And because they separated themselves from Torah the enemy came upon them. For the enemy comes only because of sin and offence. In this sense it is said: And Amalek came [עֲמָלֵק (Amalek) and סָפֵק (safeq), doubt, are numerically equivalent, see Fragment Targum on Genesis 4:8: ‘(Cain said to his brother Abel:) There is no judgment, and there is no judge’; סִיטְרָא אַחְרָא (Sitra Aḥra), the Other Side, is numerically equivalent to עֲמָלֵקִי (Amaleqi), Amalekite, in its full spelling (עַיִן מֵם לָמֶד קוֹף יוֹד)]….

Others say: רְפִידִים (Rephidim) means only רִפיוֹן יָדַיִם (riphyon yadaim), slack hands [cf. 2 Samuel 17:2; רְפִידִים (Rephidim) and שְׁמָד (shemad), annihilation, are numerically equivalent]—because Israel relaxed their hold on words of Torah the enemy came upon them. For the enemy comes only because of slack hands in upholding Torah, as is said: And it came to pass, when Rehoboam had established the kingdom, and had strengthened himself, he forsook the law of YHWH, and all Israel with him (2 Chronicles 12:1). And what was the punishment for this thing? And it happened in the fifth year of Rehoboam’s reign that Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem. And he took the treasures of the house of YHWH and the treasures of the house of the king, and everything did he take, and he took all the gold bucklers that Solomon made (1 Kings 14:25–26)” (Mekhilta de-Rabbi Yishma’el, Amaleq 1).

“Come and see: When the truly virtuous engage in Torah, all those potencies of other nations and all their forces are overturned and no longer rule the world…. But if not, the donkey causes Israel to go into exile, falling into the hands of the nations and being ruled by them” (Zohar 1:243a, cf. BT Ketubbot 66b).