The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: cave

Bitter Almonds: One Can Sweeten Them in the Fire!

IMG_0977

“Why are large [bitter] almonds fit for [tithing]? Rabbi Yoḥanan said: Because one can sweeten them in the fire!” (BT Ḥullin 25b).

You are stationed here today [all of you before YHWH your God, your heads, your tribes, your elders, and your overseers, every man of Israel] (Deuteronomy 29:9:) This is what is said in the verse: הָפוֹךְ (Hafokh), overturn, the wicked and they are gone, but the house of the righteous will stand (Proverbs 12:7)—every time that the blessed Holy One looks at the works of the wicked and מְהַפֵּךְ (mehapek), turns [them] over, they do not remain standing [cf. Zohar 3:136a (IR): ‘Scrutinizing providence, not revealed except when the wicked must be called to account and their deeds examined’]. He looked over the works of the generation of the Flood, and there was no withstanding [it] for them, as is said: And He wiped out all existing things [from the face of the earth, from humans to cattle to crawling things to the fowl of the heavens, they were wiped out from the earth] (Genesis 7:23).

He looked over the works of the Sodomites, and there was no withstanding [it] for them, as is said: And He overthrew all those cities [and all the plain and all the inhabitants of the cities and what grew in the soil] (ibid. 19:25).

He looked over the works of the Egyptians, and there was no withstanding [it] for them, as said, not a single one of them remained (Exodus 14:28).

He looked over the works of Babylon, and there was no withstanding [it] for them, as is said: [And I will rise against them, says YHWH of Armies,] and I will cut off from Babylon name and remnant, kith and kin (Isaiah 14:22).

Of them all David said, There did the doers of mischief fall. They were toppled and could not rise (Psalms 36:13). But Israel falls and stands, as is said: Rejoice not, O my enemy. Though I fall, I will arise. [Though I sit in darkness, YHWH is a light for me] (Micah 7:8)—For I am YHWH, I have not changed [and you, sons of Jacob, have not come to an end] (Malachi 3:6).

Rabbi Ḥanina son of Pappa said: The blessed Holy One said, ‘I have never struck a people repeatedly [i.e., never have a people fallen and risen again], but you, sons of Jacob, have not כְלִיתֶם (kelitem), come to an end, as is said: [I will sweep down evils upon them,] My arrows אֲכַלֶּה (akhalleh), spending, against them [wasted with famine, withered by blight and bitter scourge, and the fang of beasts will I send against them, with the venom of creepers in the dust] (Deuteronomy 32:23–24). My arrows כָּלִין (kalin), are spent, yet [Israel] does not כָּלִים (kalim), come to an end. And so Assembly of Israel said: He bent His bow and stood me up as a target for the arrow. [He drove into my innards the shafts of His quiver] (Lamentations 3:12–13).

A parable: To what can the matter be compared? A man who stood a beam up and shot his arrows at it. The arrows are spent, but the beam stands. Thus with Israel: any time that sufferings overtook them the sufferings ended, and they were [left] standing in their place. As is said, Overturn the wicked and they are gone, [but the house of the righteous will stand].

Hezekiah the son of Rabbi Ḥiyya said, ‘Why is this portion [Nitsavim (Deuteronomy 29:9–30:20)] next to the portion about curses [i.e., Ki Tavo (ibid. 27:11–28:69)]? Because Israel heard a hundred curses less two in this portion, apart from the forty-nine which are mentioned in the priestly Torah [Leviticus]. Immediately their faces turned pale and they said, ‘Who is able to withstand these [curses]?’ Immediately Moses called to them and pacified them: What is written above? And Moses called to all Israel [and said to them, ‘You have seen all that YHWH did before your own eyes in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land….] The great trials [that your own eyes have seen, those great signs and portents….] And you came to this place, [and Sihon king of Heshbon and Og king of the Bashan sallied forth to meet us in battle, and we struck them down] (Deuteronomy 29:1–2, 6). And you did not heed My voice, and you spoke words before Me for which you deserved destruction. Still I did not wreak destruction upon you, when it is said: Our fathers in Egypt did not grasp Your wonders. [They did not call to mind Your many kindnesses and rebelled by the sea, at the Sea of Reeds] (Psalms 106:7). And not only that, but they said of the calf, These are your gods, O Israel, [who brought you up from the land of Egypt] (Exodus 32:4).

Now if you should say, ‘Why did the nations deserve destruction, while we remain standing?’ Because when sufferings overtake them, they thwart them and do not recall the name of the blessed Holy One, as is said, Pour out Your wrath on the nations that did not know You [and on the kingdoms that did not call on Your name] (Psalms 79:6). But Israel, when sufferings overtake them, surrender and מִתְפַּלְּלִין (mitpallelin), they pray [lit., make themselves the object of divine intervention], as is said, [The cords of death encircled me— and the straits of Sheol found me]—distress and sorrow did I find. And in the name of YHWH I called. [YHWH, pray, save my life] (ibid. 116:3–4) [cf. Bereishit Rabbah 92:1: ‘Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi said: All sufferings that overcome a man and prevent him from words of Torah are sufferings of rebuke, but sufferings that overcome a man and do not prevent him from words of Torah are sufferings of love. As is written: For whom YHWH loves He rebukes, [and like a father his son, regards him kindly] (Proverbs 3:12)’].

Therefore the blessed Holy One said, ‘Even though these curses overtake you, they stand you up [or: they are your endurance].’ And so He said: [Who feeds you manna in the wilderness, which your fathers did not know,] in order to afflict you and in order to try you, [to make it go well with you in your later time?] (Deuteronomy 8:16). So Moses said to Israel: Even though sufferings overtake you, you have the עֲמִידָה (amidah), Standing Prayer. As is said, You are stationed here today all of you [before YHWH your God] (ibid. 29:9)….

Another interpretation: You are stationed here today—why the day sometimes darkens and sometimes lightens, so it is with you. Although you have darkness, the blessed Holy One is going to shine on you with everlasting light, as said, [No more shall the sun be your light by day, nor the moon’s radiance shine for you,] but YHWH shall be your everlasting light [and your God become your splendor] (Isaiah 60:19). When? When you all become a single אֲגֻדָּה (aguddah), band [or: faction, bunch, bundle], as said, [But you, the ones clinging to YHWH your God,] are all of you alive today (Deuteronomy 4:4). According to the way of the world, if a person takes aguddah, a bunch, of reeds, will he be able to break them in a single stroke? But if he takes them one by one, even a child can break them! And so you find that Israel was not redeemed until they became one bunch, as is said, [In those days and in that time, said YHWH, the Israelites and the Judahites shall come together, [weeping as they walk shall they go, and YHWH their God they shall seek] (Jeremiah 50:4)—when they are united they welcome the face of Shekhinah” (Tanuma, Nitsavim 1).

You shall not תִתְגֹּדְדוּ (titgodedu), gash yourselves (Deuteronomy 14:1)—do not form אֲגֻדּוֹת (aguddot), factions. Rather, be a single אֲגֻדָּה (aguddah), band. And, similarly, He says: He has founded אֲגֻדָּתוֹ (aguddato), His vault, upon earth (Amos 9:6)” (SifreDevarim 96).

“And it shall be, if you do not heed the voice of YHWH your God to keep to do all His commands and His statutes that I charge you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you… 

Inasmuch as you will not have served YHWH your God in joy and with a good heart out of an abundance of all things, 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…

And YHWH will bring you back to Egypt in ships, on the way that I said to you, ‘You shall not see it again,’ and you will put yourselves up for sale there to your enemies as male slaves and slavegirls, and there will be no buyer” (Deuteronomy 28:15, 47–48, 68).

Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai fled to the wilderness of Lydda and hid in a cave—he and his son, Rabbi El’azar. A miracle occurred for them—a carob tree sprouted and a spring of water gushed forth. They ate from the carob tree and drank from the waters. Elijah, of blessed memory, visited them twice daily and taught them, without anyone knowing about it.

One day, the sages were in the beit midrash, questioning and debating: ‘The curses of Leviticus allude to the First Temple, while the curses of Deuteronomy allude to the Second Temple. The curses of Leviticus contain promises and the blessed Holy One’s affection for Israel, as is written: I will remember My covenant with Jacob (Leviticus 26:42), and Yet even this, too—when they are in the land of their enemies, [I will not reject them] (ibid., 44). The curses of Deuteronomy contain no promises nor any consolation at all such as are found in the first curses.’ And none of them could explain it.

Rabbi Yehudah son of Il’ai rose, saying, ‘Woe for the absence of Son of Yoḥai! No on knows his whereabouts; and even if they did, they could not divulge.’

Rabbi Yose son of Rabbi Yehudah arose one morning and saw birds flying—a turtledove trailing them. He stood up, saying, ‘Turtledove! Faithful Turtledove! Since the days of the flood, the form of the holy people has suited you and graced you [because the dove is distinctive among birds in that it does not mate with another bird, should its mate disappear during the season, cf. BT Berakhot 53b]. Go, serve as my messenger to Son of Yoḥai, wherever he is.’ The dove circled around and came before him. He wrote a note, recording what he had said. The dove arose and took it in its mouth, traveling to Rabbi Shim’on, carrying it under her wing [cf. Zohar 1:11b].

Rabbi Shim’on looked at the note and cried—he along with his son Rabbi El’azar. He said, ‘I weep because of our separation from the Companions; and I weep regarding these matters that have not been revealed to them! What will later generations do when they consider this!

Just then, Elijah, of blessed memory, arrived. He saw him weeping, and said, ‘I was ready for a different mission, but the blessed Holy One dispatched me to dry your tears. Oh, Rabbi, Rabbi! Now was not the time to reveal these matters to the righteous, but here is what the blessed Holy One explained. The first curses contain thirty-two verses, all corresponding to the paths of Torah. The latter curses contain fifty-three verses, corresponding to the parashot and routes of the Torah. In the first exile, from the First Temple, Israel passed along those concealed, secret paths. Their sins were revealed and their end was revealed, along with consolation and promises for them. In the latter exile—after the Second Temple—the people of Israel transgressed against fifty-three portions, revealed paths. Their sins were concealed and their ends were concealed—neither promises nor consolation were written [cf. BT Yoma  9b].’

Just then, a wind gusted by, separating them, sweeping Elijah up in a wheel of fire. Rabbi Shim’on remained, weeping. He fell asleep at the opening of the cave. Suddenly Elijah, of blessed memory, came saying, ‘Arise, Rabbi Shim’on! Wake up from your slumber. Happy is your portion, for the blessed Holy One is concerned for your honor! All the promises and consolations of Israel are written in these curses.

Go, see how a king loves his son, and even though he curses and lashes him, his deep love endures. When he displays severe wrath, his compassion for him prevails. Similarly, with the blessed Holy One—even though He curses, His words come from love. In their revealed form they appear to be curses, but they are great boons, because the curses came from love. This contrasts with the first ones, which all derived from harsh judgment. In these there is judgment and love—like a father who loves his son while gripping in his hand a switch for flogging. The child shrieks mightily, creating a din; but the lashes are lessened with love [cf. BT Berakhot 5a].

Most severe of all these curses—What’s more, every illness and every plague that is not mentioned in this Scroll of Torah YHWH will hide from you, that would have caused you to be wiped out (Deuteronomy 28:61). Here are promises of great love from father to son! It is not written יַעֲלֶה (ya’aleh), will bring [upon you], but rather יַעְלֵם (ya’lem), will hide [from you]. He will subdue them and nullify them in a pit—their place—so that they cannot venture forth; rather, they will be subdued and covered in their pit.

Until you are wiped out (ibid.)—which will never, ever happen, for the blessed Holy One took an oath that He would never destroy Israel, and that their memory will endure forever. This is as is written: so shall your seed and your name stand (Isaiah 66:22), and As I live, if the heavens above could be measured… (Jeremiah 31:37). Since it has been sworn by oath that Israel will never, ever be wiped out, it is fitting that plagues and illnesses should be concealed and covered, never emerging to harm them to the extent of annihilation—that will never, ever happen.

The end and conclusion of them all is YHWH will bring you back to Egypt in ships, by a route that I told you, ‘You shall not see it again.’ There you shall offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male slaves and slavegirls, but there will be no buyer (Deuteronomy 28:68)—promises and consolations that the blessed Holy One provides to Israel at the end of days! YHWH will bring you back to Egypt in ships—a promise to return them, and to perform miracles and signs that the blessed Holy One had enacted in Egypt in days of yore. This is as is said: As in the days of your coming out of the land of Egypt, I will show him wonders (Micah 7:15).

בָּאֳנִיּוֹת (Bo-oniyyot), In ships—but here its meaning is as you have said, expounding it as בַּעֲנִיּוּת (ba-aniyyut), in poverty, without a coin in one’s purse [cf. BT Sanhedrin 97a: ‘The (Messiah,) son of David, will not come until… the (last) coin has gone from the purse’]. Everyone in the world is poised to pounce upon Israel, aboard seafaring vessels, intending to annihilate them, but they will all drown in the sea just as was done in olden days, and joy abounded. Here it is written בָּאֳנִיּוֹת רִנָּתָם (bo-oniyyot rinnatam), raising their voice in ships (Isaiah 43:14)—just as joy is there, so is there joy here [cf. Ester Rabbah, Petiḥta 3].

By a route which I told you—since the day that the world was created the might of the blessed Holy One has not been seen in the world, nor the time of favor, other than on that route. For as you see the Egyptians today (Exodus 14:13)—on that same route, in that very manner, so shall He do for you.

Further, they will gather afterward from all sides against Israel, and the people of Israel will think then that they will be eliminated—sold to their foes—as is written: There you shall offer yourselves for sale. It is not written you shall be sold, but rather you shall offer yourselves for sale—in your hearts you will imagine that you have been sold. But this will not occur—it is written: none will buy. And there will be none who shall rule over them.

All this will occur at the end of days; and it is all dependent upon teshuvah. But it is all concealed, as is written: in order that you may prosper in all that you do (Deuteronomy 29:8)—one who has a heart should contemplate and will know to return to his Lord [on teshuvah as a prerequisite for redemption, see JT Ta’anit 1:1, 63d; BT Sanhedrin 97b; Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 43; Tanḥuma, Beḥuqqotai 3; Tanḥuma (Buber), Beḥuqqotai 5; Zohar 1:117b; 2:188b–189a; ZḤ 8a, 23c (both MhN)].

Rabbi Shim’on asked, ‘Where is Israel’s redemption revealed among these curses?’

Elijah replied, ‘Examine carefully and see the most horrific instance of them all—that is where it appears.’ He examined carefully, and found the verse Your life will dangle before you, and you will be terrified night and day and will have no faith in your life (Deuteronomy 28:66). Even though there are those who know that time, life dangles before them, and they are uncertain—even though this is the essence, and the words endure.

In the evening, Rabbi Shim’on wrote a note and placed it in the mouth of the turtledove, which journeyed back to Rabbi Yose—who had stayed put, his eyes expectant. Upon spotting [the dove], he said, ‘Turtledove, Turtledove, you are the most faithful bird in the skies!’ He proclaimed of it: the dove came back to him at eventide; and look, a plucked off olive leaf was in its bill (Genesis 8:11). He took the note and went to the Companions. He showed it to them, and they were astonished.

Rabbi Yehudah wept, saying, ‘Alas! Even though we do not know his whereabouts, the place where the tree falls, there it will be (Ecclesiastes 11:3) [cf. BT Bekhorot 57b; Eikhah Rabbah 1:37]. Where Son of Yoḥai is found, his companions are there with him, awakened by him, learning from him. Happy is the soul of Son of Yoḥai, for the blessed Holy One has performed miracles with him; he has decreed, and the blessed Holy One has fulfilled! [cf. BT Mo’ed Qatan 16b; Zohar 3:15a]. In the future, he will be the head of the righteous ones who sit in the Garden of Eden; he will receive the face of the Shekhinah and will see the blessed Holy One. Delighting with the righteous ones, he will call to them: Come, let us bow down kneel; let us bend the knee before YHWH our Maker (Psalms 95:6)” (Zohar Ḥadash 59c–60a).

Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai! Oy for the Generation that will be Orphaned without You!

Rashbi

“Our Rabbis taught: When our Rabbis entered the vineyard at Yavneh, they said, ‘Torah is destined to be forgotten in Israel, as is said: Look, days are coming, said YHWH, when I will let loose famine in the land, not famine for bread and not thirst for water but for hearing the words of YHWH (Amos 8:10). And it is written: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north to the east they shall roam to seek YHWH’s word, but they shall not find it (ibid., 11).’ … Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai said, ‘Perish the thought that Torah will be forgotten in Israel, as is said: But it shall not be forgotten in the mouth of his seed (Deuteronomy 31:21)” (BT Shabbat 138b).

“כִּי לֹא תִשָּׁכַח מִפִּי זַרְעו But it shall not be forgotten in the mouth of his seedיוֹחַאי (Yoḥai)….

עִיר וְקַדִּישׁ מִן שְׁמַיָּא נָחִת A holy emissary came down from the heavens (Daniel 4:10)—שִׁמְעוֹן (Shim’on)” (Rabbi Naḥman of Bratslav, Liqqutei MoharanLekhu Ḥazu, cf. BT Bava Batra 21a; Zohar 2:149b; 3:58a).

“It was said that Rabbi Akiva had twelve thousand pairs of disciples, from Gevat to Antipatris; and all of them died at the same time because they did not honor each other. The world remained desolate until Rabbi Akiva came to our Rabbis in the South and taught them. These were Rabbi Me’ir, Rabbi Yehudah, Rabbi Yose, Rabbi Shim’on and Rabbi El’azar son of Shammu’a; and it was they who upheld Torah at that time” (BT Yevamot 62b).

“Whoever separates from Torah is like one who separates from life, and one who separates from Rabbi Shim’on is as if he separates from all…. Woe to the generation from which Rabbi Shim’on departs! For when we are in the presence of Rabbi Shim’on, springs of the heart are open in every direction and all is revealed, but when we separate from him we know nothing and all springs are stopped. Rabbi Ḥizkiyah said, ‘Corresponding to what is written: He held back some of the spirit that was upon him and put it upon the seventy men, the elders (Numbers 11:25)—like a lamp from which many lamps are lit, while retaining its vitality. Similarly, Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai, Master of Lamps, illumines all, yet light does not depart from him and he retains vitality’” (Zohar 2:86b).

“Rabbi Ḥiyya prostrated himself on the ground, kissing the dust and weeping. He cried out, ‘Dust, dust, how stubborn you are, how impudent! All delights of the eye decay in you. All pillars of light in the world you consume and pulverize. How insolent you are! The Holy Lamp who has illumined the world, majestic ruler, prince, whose merit sustains the world, decays in you. O Rabbi Shim’on, radiance of the lamp, radiance of the worlds, you decompose in the dust, yet you subsist and guide the world!’

For a moment he was shocked, and then exclaimed, ‘Dust, dust, do not boast! The pillars of the world will not be surrendered to you. Rabbi Shim’on has not decayed in you! [since the bodies of the righteous do not decay, see BT Bava Metsi’a 84b]” (Zohar 1:4b, cf. ibid. 3:70a–71b).

“One of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai’s disciples forgot what he had learned and went weeping to the cemetery. After this Rabbi Shim’on appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘When you throw three kernels at me I will come to you.’ The disciple went to a dream interpreter, who told him, ‘repeat your chapter three times and Rabbi Shim’on will come to you and you will no longer forget what you have learned’” (Qohelet Rabbah 10:10).

“Wherever son of Yoḥai is found, his companions are there with him, awakened by him, and learning from him” (Zohar Ḥadash 60a).

“The name of Messiah was contemplated [before the creation of the world], as is written, As long as the sun may his name bear seed (Psalms 72:17)” (Bereshit Rabbah 1:4).

“בְּרֵאשִׁית (Bereshit), In the beginning (Genesis 1:1)—an acronym: א״ת רשב״י (or torat Rashbi), the light of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai’s teaching” (Rabbi Naftali Bacharach, Emeq ha-Melekh 63a, cf. Yehudah Leibes, Studies in the Zohar, p. 239–40, n. 68).

“The blessed Holy One has engraved the image of Rabbi Shim’on high above, and his voice ascends on high and is adorned with a holy crown, until the blessed Holy One is crowned with him in all worlds, glorying in him. Of him is written He said to me, ‘You are My servant, Israel, in whom I glory (Isaiah 49:3)….

It has been taught: Before coming to the world, all the righteous of the world are arrayed with their names. And ever since the day that the blessed Holy One created the world, Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai had been poised before the blessed Holy One and present with Him. Happy is his share above and below! Of him is written Your father and your mother will rejoice (Proverbs 23:25)—your father is the blessed Holy One; and your mother is Assembly of Israel” (Zohar 3:61b).

“If the Torah had not been given on Mount Sinai, but instead the blessed Holy One had said, ‘Here, the son of Yoḥai is My Torah and My secrets!’ it would have sufficed for the world. Woe when you depart from the world! Who will illumine lamps of Torah? All will darken from that day on. For until King Messiah comes, there will be no generation such as this one, in whose midst Rabbi Shim’on dwells!” (Zohar 3:241b).

“Ḥizkiyah said in the name of Rabbi Yirmeyah: Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai said, ‘I am able לִפְטוֹר (liftor), to exempt, the whole world from judgment from the day that I was born until now, and were El’azar, my son, to be [reckoned] with me from the day of the creation of the world to the present time, and were Jotham son of Uzziah with us, from the creation of the world to its final end…. Ḥizkiyah further stated in the name of Rabbi Yirmeyah who said it in the name of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai, I have seen בְּנֵי עֲלִיָּיה (bnei aliyyah), the sons of ascension, and they are few. If there be a thousand, I and my son are among them; if a hundred, I and my son are among them; and if only two, they are I and my son [cf. Rabbi El’azar of Worms, Ḥokhmah ha-Nefesh, p. 59: ‘He has seen either through a dream question, or as Rabbi Neḥunia son of ha-Qannah (who performed the ancient practice of placing the head between the knees in order to attain a vision of the Chariot, see 1 Kings 18:42 (and Rabbi David Kimḥi, ad loc.); BT Berakhot 34b, Avodah Zarah 17a; Zohar 3:166b; Rav Ḥai Gaon, Otsar ha-Geonim on Ḥagigah 14b; Teshuvot 14–15)]’” (BT Sukkah 45b).

“Rabbi Ḥizkiyah said in Rabbi Yirmeyah’s name: Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai said: If Abraham is willing, he can effectively intercede for [all generations] from his days until mine, while I can intercede for [all generations] from my time until the advent of Messiah. While if he is not willing, let Ahijah the Shilonite unite with me, and we can intercede for all from the days of Abraham until those of Messiah. Rabbi Ḥizkiyah said in Rabbi Yirmeyah’s name: Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai said: The world is unable to endure without thirty [men] righteous like Abraham our father. If there are thirty, my son and I are two of them; if ten, my son and I are two of them; if five, my son and I are two of them; if two, they are my son and I; and but one, I am he” (Bereshit Rabbah 35:2, cf. JT Berakhot 9:2, 13d; BT Sanhedrin 97b; Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana 11:5).

“Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘When I am among those Companions of Babylonia, they gather around me and learn subjects openly, and then insert them beneath an impregnable seal of iron, shut tight on all sides. How often have I described to them the pathways of the garden of the Holy King and the supernal pathways! How often have I taught them all those rungs of the righteous in that world! They are called stammerers, like one who stammers with his mouth. But I judge them favorably because they are frightened, for holy air and holy spirit have been withdrawn from them and they suck air and spirit of an alien domain [cf. BT Bava Batra 158b]. Furthermore, a rainbow appears above them and they are unworthy; but to their benefit, I am present in the world, I am the sign of the world, for in my lifetime the world does not dwell in suffering and is not punished by judgment above. After me there will not rise a generation like this one. The world is destined to lack anyone who can protect it, and all kinds of impudent faces will haunt above and below—above, on account of sins of those below and their impudence” (Zohar 1:224b–225a, cf. BT Sotah 49b).

“A band of outlaws cannot abide in the world, for Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai has nullified them. Happy are you, Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai, for your Master delights in your glory above all inhabitants of the world! Of Moses is written Moses implored [the presence of YHWH his God] (Exodus 32:21)—implying that he was seized with gout. Whereas you, Rabbi Shim’on, decree and the blessed Holy One fulfills; He decrees and you abolish!” (Zohar 3:15a, cf. BT Mo’ed Qatan 16b).

“Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘All lamps—you Companions, who are in this holy ring—I call the highest heaven and the highest holy earth as witness that I see now what no human has seen since the day that Moses ascended Mount Sinai the second time. I see my face shining like the light of the powerful sun that is destined to radiate healing for the world, as is written: For you who revere My name the sun of righteousness will shine, with healing in its wings (Malachi 3:20). Furthermore, I know that my face is shining, where as Moses did not know or see, as is written: Moses did not know that the skin of his face was radiant (Exodus 34:29)” (Zohar 3:132b, Idra Rabba, cf. BT Bava Batra 12a).

“Now, why is [Rabbi Yehudah son of Rabbi Ila’i] called the first speaker on all occasions? For Rabbi Yehudah, Rabbi Yose, and Rabbi Shim’on were sitting, and Yehudah son of converts, was sitting near them. Rabbi Yehudah opened, saying, ‘How fine are the works of this people! They have made streets, they have built bridges, they have erected baths.’ Rabbi Yose was silent. Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai answered and said, ‘All that they made they made for themselves; they built marketplaces, to set prostitutes in them; baths, to rejuvenate themselves; bridges, to levy tolls for them [cf. BT Bava Batra 10b].’ Now, Yehudah son of converts went and related their talk, which reached the government. They decreed: Yehudah, who exalted [us], shall be exalted, Yose, who was silent, shall be exiled to Sepphoris; Shim’on, who denounced, let him be executed.

He and his son went and hid themselves in the house of study, [and] his wife brought him bread and a mug of water and they dined. [But] when the decree became more severe he said to his son, ‘Women are of unstable temperament: she may be tortured and expose us.’ So they went and hid in a cave [cf. 1 Kings 19]. A miracle occurred and a carob-tree and a spring of water were created for them. They would strip their garments and sit up to their necks in sand. The whole day they studied; when it was time for prayers they robed, covered themselves, prayed, and then removed their garments again, so that they should not wear out. Thus they dwelt twelve years in the cave. Then Elijah came and stood at the opening to the cave and said, ‘Who will inform the son of Yoḥai that the Caesar is dead and his decree annulled?’ So they emerged.

Seeing men ploughing and sowing, they exclaimed, ‘They forsake life eternal and engage in needs of the hour!’ [cf. BT Berakhot 35b]. Every place they gazed upon was immediately burnt up. A heavenly echo came forth and cried out, ‘Have you emerged to destroy My world? Return to your cave!’ So they returned and dwelt there twelve months, saying, ‘The punishment of the wicked in Hell is [limited to] twelve months.’ An echo then issued, saying, ‘Go out from your cave!’ They emerged, and wherever Rabbi El’azar wounded, Rabbi Shim’on healed. He said to him, ‘My son! You and I are sufficient for the world’ [cf. Zohar 3:144b (IR): ‘They rose (from the great assembly), and no place they looked at failed to exude fragrance. Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘From this you can infer that the world is blessed because of us’].

On the eve of the Sabbath before sunset they saw an old man holding two sprigs of myrtle and running at twilight. They asked him, ‘What are these for?’ ‘They are in honor of the Sabbath,’ he replied. ‘Isn’t one enough for you?’ ‘One [is] for Remember [the Sabbath day] (Exodus 20:8), and one for Keep [the Sabbath day] (Deuteronomy 5:12). He said to his son, ‘See how precious the mitsvot are to Israel.’ There minds were set at ease.

Rabbi Pinḥas son of Ya’ir his son-in-law heard and went out to meet him. He took him into the baths and massaged his flesh. Seeing the clefts in his body he wept and the tears streamed from his eyes. ‘Woe to me that I see you in such a state!’ he cried out. He said, ‘Happy are you that you see me so, for if you did not see me in such a state you would not find me so [learned. See the similar expression by Naḥum of Gamzu, see BT Ta’anit 21a]. For originally, when Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai raised a difficulty, Rabbi Pinḥas son of Ya’ir would give him thirteen answers, whereas subsequently when Rabbi Pinḥas son of Ya’ir raised a difficulty, Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai would give him twenty-four answers. He said, ‘Since a miracle has occurred let me go and amend something, for it is written, and Jacob came in שָׁלֵם (shalem), peace [(lit., whole) to the town of Shechem] (Genesis 33:18).’ Rav interpreted: whole in his body, whole financially, and whole in his learning. [וַיִּחַן (Va-yiḥan), and he camped, before the town (ibid.)—read instead:] And he was חַנוּן (ḥanoon), gracious, to the town. Rav said: He instituted coinage for them. Shemu’el said: He instituted markets for them; Rabbi Yoḥanan said: He instituted baths for them. [Rabbi Shim’on asked:] Is there anything to fix?” (BT Shabbat 33b).

“Rabbi Pinḥas used to frequent Rabbi Reḥumai by the shore of Lake Ginnosar [the Sea of Galilee, Lake Kinneret]. He was distinguished, advanced in years, and his eyes had transcended seeing. He said to Rabbi Pinḥas, ‘Truly I have heard that our Companion Yoḥai has a pearl, a precious stone. I gazed at the light of that pearl, issuing like the radiance of the sun from its sheath, illumining the entire world [alluding to Rabbi Shim’on’s emergence from the cave]. That light extends from heaven to earth, illumining the entire world until the Ancient of Days comes and sits fittingly upon the throne. That light is contained totally in your house [since according to the Zohar, Rabbi Shim’on is married to the daughter of Rabbi Pinḥas and thus contained in his house], and from the light contained in your house emanates a fine, threadlike ray, radiating, illumining the entire world [namely Rabbi El’azar son of Rabbi Shim’on]. Happy is your share! Go, my son, go out after that pearl illuminating the world, for the time is ripe.’

He left him and was about to board a boat along with two other men, when he saw two birds come flying over the lake. He shouted to them, ‘Birds, birds, flying over the lake! Have you seen the site of the son of Yoḥai?’ He paused a while, and then said, ‘Birds, birds, go and bring me a reply!’ They flew off.

They embarked, setting off across the lake. Before he had disembarked, those birds returned, and in the mouth of one of them was a note on which was written: ‘The son of Yoḥai has emerged from the cave along with his son Rabbi El’azar.’ He went to him and found him transfigured, his body full of moldy sores. He wept together with him and said, ‘Alas, that I see you so!’ He replied, ‘Happy is my share that you see me so, for had you not seen me so, I would not be so” (Zohar 1:11a–b, cf. ZḤ 59c–60a).

“Our Rabbis have taught: Once Rabbi Yoḥanan was travelling to see Rabbi Shim’on, and Rabbi Yose was walking with him. Rabbi Yose asked him, ‘Where are you going?’ He replied, ‘To see Rabbi Shim’on.’ He said, ‘You are going to see your master of dissension?!’ He replied, ‘Conclude from this that Rabbi Shim’on dissents for the sake of heaven! Since it is so, the love of my heart abides with him’ [cf. M Avot 5:17]” (Zohar Ḥadash 10a–b [MhN]).

“Rabbi Ḥiyya and Rabbi Yose came and prostrated themselves before [Rabbi Shim’on] and kissed his hands. They wept and said ‘Higher and lower engravings raise their heads because of you! The blessed Holy One made Jerusalem below corresponding to the pattern above. Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai made the walls of the city and its gates! Whoever enters does not enter until the gates are opened. Whoever ascends does not ascend until the steps of the walls are firm. It is written: All your males shall appear in the presence of the Lord YHWH (Exodus 34:23)—this is Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai! For whoever is male of males must appear before him’” (Zohar 2:38a).

“Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi met Elijah at the opening of the cave of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai. He asked him: ‘Have I a portion in the world to come?’ He said, ‘If this lord desires.’ Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi said, ‘I saw two, but heard the voice of a third [the Shekhinah (Rashi)].’ He then asked him, ‘When will the Messiah come?’—‘Go and ask him himself,’ was his reply. ‘Where is he sitting?’—‘At the portal of the city [of Rome (Gra)].’ And by what sign may I recognize him?’—‘He is sitting among the ill, poor, and suffering: everyone of them untie all at once and rebandage them together, whereas he unties and rebandages each separately [before treating the next], thinking, should I be wanted, I must not be delayed [by having to bandage a number of sores].’ So he went to him and greeted him, saying, ‘Peace be upon you, Rabbi and Teacher.’ ‘Peace be upon you son of Levi,’ he replied. ‘When will you come Master?’ he asked, ‘Today,’ was his answer. On his returning to Elijah, he asked, ‘What did he say to you?’—‘Peace be upon you son of Levi,’ he answered. Thereupon he [Elijah] observed, ‘He thereby assured you and your father of [a portion in] the world to come.’ ‘He spoke a lie to me, saying that he would come today, but has not.’ He [Elijah] answered him, ‘This is what he said to you, Today, if you would only heed His voice!’ (Psalms 95:7)” (BT Sanhedrin 98a).

“Even children in the generation of Rabbi Shim’on are worthy of wisdom! Happy are you, Rabbi Shim’on! Woe to the generation from whom you depart!” (Zohar 1:93a).

“Come and enter! Gather for the wedding celebration of Rabbi Shim’on. He shall enter into peace; they shall rest upon their couches (Isaiah 57:2). As he entered the cave [of his burial site], they heard a voice inside: ‘This is the man who shook the earth, who made kingdoms tremble. How many open mouths of accusation in heaven subside today because of you! This is Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai, in whom his Lord glories every day. Happy is his share above and below! How many supernal treasures are preserved for him! Of him is said As for you, go on till the end, and you will rest, and arise for your destiny at the end of days (Daniel 12:13)’” (Zohar 3:296b, Idra Zuta).

“Because [the people of] Israel are destined to taste of this Tree of Life, namely this סֵפֶר הַזֹּהַר (Sefer ha-Zohar), Book of Radiance, they will thereby come forth from exile through [divine] compassion” (Zohar 3:124b, Ra’aya Meheimna Naso).