The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: destruction

Who Hardens his Heart will Fall into Harm

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“We have found that the Temple was destroyed the first time only because they worshiped idols, engaged in forbidden sexual relations, and shed blood. And the same with the Second [Temple].

Rabbi Yoḥanan son of Torta said: ‘We have found that Shiloh was destroyed only because they disgraced the holy days and profaned the sacrificial offerings. We have found that the First Temple was destroyed only because they worshiped idols, and they engaged in forbidden sexual relations, and they were shedders of blood. But with the Second [Temple], we know them as [people who] toiled in Torah and were careful with mitsvot and with  tithes, and every kind of good conduct was among them, only that they loved money and hated one another [with] שִׂנְאַת חִנָּם (sinat ḥinnam), baseless hatred. And baseless hatred is so severe that it is equal in weight to idolatry, forbidden sexual relations and shedding blood.

A story: Rabbi Ze’ora and Ya’aqov son of Aḥa and Rabbi Abonah were sitting and saying: ‘[Baseless hatred is] even more [severe] since in the [case of the] First [Temple, it] was rebuilt but in [the case of] the Second [Temple, it] was not rebuilt.’ Rabbi Ze’ora said: ‘The [people of the] First [Temple] repented, but the [people of the] Second did not repent.’

Rabbi El’azar said: ‘The first ones—their iniquity and their designated time were revealed; the second ones—their iniquity was revealed but their designated time was not revealed.

They asked Rabbi Eli’ezer: ‘Are the last generations more worthy than the first ones?’ He answered them: ‘Your witnesses, the Chosen House shall prove [this]. Our forefathers removed the ceiling: And the cover of Judah He exposed (Isaiah 22:8) but we have smashed the walls: Saying, Raze it, raze it, to its foundation! (Psalm 137:7).’

They said: ‘Each generation for whom [the Temple] is not built during its days is considered as if it [were the generation that] had destroyed it” (JT Yoma 1:1, 38c).

“Rabbi Yoḥanan said: What is, Happy the man who fears at all times, but who hardens his heart will fall into harm? (Proverbs 28:14). The destruction of Jerusalem came through קַמְצָא וּבָּר קַמְצָא (qamtsa u-bar qamtsa), Locust and Son of Locust; the destruction of Tur Malka came through a rooster and a hen [cf. Judges 4:6]; the destruction of Bethar came through the shaft of a leather.

The destruction of Jerusalem came through a Qamtsa and a Son of Qamtsa in this way. A certain man had a friend Qamtsa and an enemy, Son of Qamtsa. He once made a party and said to his servant, Go and bring Qamtsa. The servant went and brought Son of Qamtsa. [The host] found him sitting [at the banquet]. He said, ‘Since that one [i.e., you] are the enemy of that man [i.e., me], what are you doing here? Get up and leave!’ He said to him, ‘Since I am here, let me be, and I will pay you for what I eat and drink.’

He said to him, ‘No.’ He said to him, ‘I will pay for half the banquet.’ He said to him, ‘No.’ He said to him, ‘I will pay for the whole banquet.’ He said to him, ‘No.’ He grabbed him by the hand and put him out. He [Son of Qamtsa] said, ‘Since the Rabbis were sitting and did not intervene, I will go and inform against them at the king’s palace.’ He went and said to the emperor, ‘The Jews are rebelling against you.’ He said, ‘How can I tell?’ He said to him, ‘Send them a sacrifice and see if they offer it [on the altar].’ He sent with him a fine calf. While on the way he made a blemish on its upper lip, or as some say on the white of its eye, in a place where we [Jews] count it a blemish but they do not. The Rabbis were inclined to offer it for the sake of peace with the kingdom. Rabbi Zekhariyah son of Avqulos said to them, ‘Should they say that blemished animals are offered on the altar?!’ They then proposed to kill [Son of Qamtsa] so that he should not go and tell him [the emperor]. Rabbi Zekhariyah son of Avqulos said to them, ‘Should they say that one who causes a blemish [on consecrated animals] be put to death?’ Rabbi Yoḥanan said, ‘The humility [or: scrupulousness; meekness (Rashi)] of Rabbi Zekhariyah son of Avqolas destroyed our Temple and burnt our Sanctuary and exiled us from our Land [cf. Eikhah Rabbah 4:3; Josephus, Jewish Wars 2:17, 2]….

[Knowing that Rabban Yoḥanan son of Zakkai was prepared to ask Vespasian not to destroy the Temple, he said to him]: If there is a barrel of honey and a snake is wrapped round it, wouldn’t they break the barrel in order to [kill] the snake? [So you should have broken down the walls to get rid of the zealots. Rabban Yoḥanan son of Zakkai] was silent. Rav Yosef said of him, and some say Rabbi Akiva: [I am YHWH, Maker of all…] setting sages back on their heels and thwarting their devisings (Isaiah 44:25). [Rabban Yoḥanan son of Zakkai] should have said, ‘We take tongs, remove the snake, and kill it, and we leave the barrel'” (BT Gittin 55b–56a, 56b).

“Why was the First Temple destroyed? Because of three things which prevailed there: idolatry, forbidden sexual relations, and bloodshed…. But why was the Second Temple destroyed, seeing that in its time they were occupying themselves with Torah, mitsvot, and the practice of tsedaqah, social justice? Because therein prevailed hatred without cause. That teaches you that baseless hatred is considered as of equal weight with the three sins of idolatry, forbidden sexual relations, and bloodshed together. And [during the time of] the First Temple did no baseless hatred prevail? Surely it is written: Scream and howl, O man, for it was against My people, [it was against all Israel’s princes. Felled by the sword were My people, so clap upon the thigh] (Ezekiel 21:17). El’azar said: This refers to people who eat and drink together and then thrust each other through with the daggers of their tongue!—that [passage] speaks of the princes in Israel, for it is written, Cry and wail, son of man: for it is upon My people. One might have assumed [it is upon] all [Israel], therefore it goes on, Upon all the princes of Israel: [terrors by reason of the sword shall be upon My people: strike therefore upon your thigh] (ibid.)” (BT Yoma 9b).

“Long ago, as Rabban Gamaliel, Rabbi El’azar son of Azariyah, Rabbi Yehoshu’a and Rabbi Akiva were walking on the road, they heard the noise of the crowds at Rome [travelling] from Puteoli, twenty miles away. They all fell weeping, but Rabbi Akiva was laughing. They said to him: Why are you laughing? He said to them: Why are you weeping? They said: These heathens who bow down to images and burn incense to idols live in safety and ease, whereas our Temple, the ‘Footstool’ of our God is burnt down by fire, and should we then not weep? [on the Footstool of God, see 1 Chronicles 28:2; Lamentations 2:1; Psalms 99:5; 132:7; cf. Ezekiel 43:7]. He replied: That is why I am laughing. If it is so for they that offend Him, how much more so for they that do obey Him! Once again they were coming up to Jerusalem together, and just as they came to Mount Scopus they saw a fox emerging from the Holy of Holies. They fell weeping and Rabbi Akiva was laughing. They said to him, why are you laughing? He said: Why are you weeping? They said to him: A place of which it was once said, but the stranger that comes near shall be put to death (Numbers 1:51), has now become the haunt of foxes, and should we not weep? He said to them: That is why I am laughing, for it is written, And I enlisted for myself two trusty witnesses, Uriah the priest and Zachariah son of Jeberechiah (Isaiah 8:2).

Now what connection has this Uriah the priest with Zechariah? Uriah lived during the times of the First Temple, while [the other,] Zechariah lived [and prophesied] during the Second Temple; but Scripture linked the [later] prophecy of Zechariah with the [earlier] prophecy of Uriah, In the [earlier] prophecy [in the days] of Uriah it is written, Therefore, because of you, Zion shall be plowed like a field, [and Jerusalem become heaps of ruins and the Temple mount a high forest] (Micah 3:12; Jeremiah 26:18–20). In Zechariah it is written, Thus said YHWH of Armies: Again shall old men and old women sit in the squares of Jerusalem (Zechariah 8:4), so long as Uriah’s [threatening] prophecy had not had its fulfilment, I had misgivings lest Zechariah’s prophecy might not be fulfilled; now that Uriah’s prophecy has been [literally] fulfilled, it is quite certain that Zechariah’s prophecy also is to find its literal fulfilment. They said to him: Akiva, you have comforted us! Akiva, you have comforted us!” (BT Makkot 24a–b, cf. JT Berakhot 2:4, 5a).

You shall not Divine, nor Interpret Omens

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You shall not divine, nor interpret omens (Leviticus 19:26).

When you come into the land that YHWH your God is about to give you, you shall not learn to do like the abhorrent things of these nations. There shall not be found among you one who passes his son or his daughter through fire, a speller of charms, a soothsayer, or a diviner or a sorcerer, or a chanter of incantations or an inquirer of ghost or familiar spirit or one who seeks out the dead. For whosoever does these is YHWH’s abhorrence, and because of these abhorrent things YHWH your God is about to dispossess them before you. You shall be wholehearted with YHWH your God. For these nations which you are about to dispossess heed soothsayers and spellers of charms, but you, YHWH your God has not given such (Deuteronomy 18:10–14).

There shall not be found among you—so caution the court to be vigilant about it!…

קֹסֵם קְסָמִים (Qosem qesamim), a speller of charms—all the same is one who spells many charms and the speller of a few—he is held liable for each and every spell. Who is קוֹסֵם (qosem), a diviner? One who grabs his staff and says: shall I depart or not depart? [cf. M Shabbat 7:4: ‘Amorite custom’]. And in this vein, a verse says: My people consult their wood, and their staff advises them! (Hosea 4:12).

Another word: [he infers the portent of] a fox that passes on his right or his left.

Another word: one who passes his son or his daughter through fire—this refers to one who mounts a Aramean woman, and then raises with her a son, who becomes an enemy of the Omnipresent. We have heard the punishment [for this], but we haven’t heard the warning [against it]! The Law states: there shall not be found among you one who passes his son or his daughter through fire—[this is certainly sufficient warning]! Rabbi Yehudah says: This refers to one who passes his son or daughter through [the rite of] a foreign cult, and cuts a covenant with it. As it is said: When they cut the calf in two, and passed between its parts (Jeremiah 34:18) [cf. Genesis 15:9–19].

מְעוֹנֵן (Me’onen), a soothsayer—Rabbi Yishma’el says: This one passes his hand over his עַיִן (ayin), eye, before responding [cf. M Shabbat 7:14]. Rabbi Akiva says: These declare the times [i.e., which will be an auspicious עוֹנָה (onah), season; alt., one who reads עֲנָנָה (ananah), clouds]. For example, they might say: I sense that before the Sabbatical year the wheat harvest will be exceptional, but [trade in] uprooted beans will be bad. And sages say: These deceive the eyes [through apparitions].

Or מְנַחֵשׁ (me-naḥesh), diviner. What is diviner? For example, one of them might say: my bread has fallen from my mouth [and it’s not a good omen]! Or: my staff has fallen from my hand! Or: a נָחָשׁ (naḥash), snake, is passing to my right, or a fox to my left, or a deer is blocking my way! Or: don’t start with me—it’s too early in the morning! Or, it’s the New Moon today! Or, the Sabbath is over [cf. M Shabbat 7:13].

Or מְכַשֵּׁף (me-khashef), a sorcerer. This is one who tricks, but not by deceiving the eyes [through apparitions]. Rabbi Akiva says in the name of Rabbi Yehoshu’a: Two [sorcerers] are gathering squash—one gathers [the entire field] and is exempt [from suspicion of using sorcery,] while the other gathers [the entire field] and is liable. [Now why is this so?] The one actually performing the trick is liable, but the one who only deceives the eyes is exempt! [cf. M Sanhedrin 7:11].

חֹבֵר חָבֶר (Ḥover ḥaver), a chanter of incantations. Whether a חוֹבֵר (ḥover), collector, of snakes or scorpions.

שֹׁאֵל אוֹב (Sho’el ‘ov), an inquirer of ghost—a ventriloquist who produces speach from his armpit.

יִדְּעֹנִי (Yid’oni), familiar spirit—the speach is from his own mouth. They themselves are sentenced to stoning, and those who consult them are forewarned [cf. M Sanhedrin 7:7].

דֹרֵשׁ אֶל-הַמֵּתִים (Doresh el ha-metim), one who seeks out the dead—whether he raises [a spirit] with his member or consults a skull. What is the difference between the first and the second? When one raises with his member, it does not rise naturally, and is not consulted on the Sabbath. When he consults a skull, it rises naturally and is consulted on the Sabbath… one who starves himself and goes and sleeps in the cemetery so that a spirit of impurity rest on him. And when Rabbi Akiva came to this verse, he said: ‘Woe unto us! If a spirit of impurity rests on one who cleaves to uncleanliness, how much more so should the Holy Spirit rest upon one who cleaves to the Shekhinah! What brought this about? But your crimes have separated between you and your God, [and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear] (Isaiah 59:2).

And because of these abhorrent things YHWH your God is about to dispossess them before you. Rabbi Shim’on said: This teaches that the Canaanites were forewarned about all these practices—for they do not punish a person unless he has also been forewarned [cf. M Avodah Zarah 8:6]. When Rabbi Eli’ezer would reach this verse, he would say: More’s the pity! Just as a person who cleaves to uncleanliness—the stench of uncleanliness hovers over him, doesn’t reason demand that one who cleaves to the Shekhinah—the aroma of the spirit of the blessed Holy One hover over him? So what happened? But your crimes have separated between you and your God” (Sifre, Deuteronomy 171–173).

“[You yourself were shown to know that YHWH is the Elohim,] there is none besides Him (Deuteronomy 4:35)—Rabbi Ḥanina said: Even sorcery. A woman once attempted to take earth from under Rabbi Ḥanina’s feet [in order to cast a spell on him]. He said to her: Try as you will, you will not succeed, as is written: There is none besides Him. However, has not Rabbi Yoḥanan said: Why is it called כְּשָׁפִים (keshafim), sorcery? Because [it is short for:] מַכְּחִישִׁין פָמַלְיָא מַעְלָה (makḥishin famalya ma’alah), ‘weakening the council on high [or: denying the council on high].’ Rabbi Ḥanina was different, owing to his great merit” (BT Ḥullin 7b).

“אֵין עוֹד מִלְּבַדּוֹ (Ein od millvado), there is none besides Him (Deuteronomy 4:35)—[He is] without separation and without שִׁתּוּף (shittuf), partnership, at all” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 55, 88a).

“[Rav said:] Every נָחָשׁ (naḥash), divination, which is not of the sort pronounced by Eli’ezer, Abraham’s servant, or by Jonathan the son of Saul, is not considered a divination! … Rav used to regard a ferry-boat [as a sign]. Shemu’el a [passage in a] book, and Rabbi Yoḥanan [a verse quoted] by a child” (BT Ḥullin 95b).

[Eli’ezer, Abraham’s servant, said:] “Let it be that the young woman to whom I say, ‘Pray, tip down your jug that I may drink,’ if she says, ‘Drink, and your camels, too, I shall water,’ she it is whom You have marked for Your servant, for Isaac, and by this I shall know that You have done kindness with my master.” He had barely finished speaking when, look, Rebekah was coming out… (Genesis 24:14, cf. Zohar 1:182a).

“Rabbi Yoḥanan said: If one rises early and a verse falls into his mouth, behold: this is a minor prophecy” (BT Berakhot 55b).

“Rabbi Yehoshu’a said: He who sees ט (tet) in a dream [may regard it as] a good סִימָן (siman), omen, for himself. Why so? If because it is the initial letter of טוּב (tov), good, written in Scripture, why not say [on the contrary that it is also]: And I will sweep it with the besom of טֵאטֵאתִיהָ (teiteitiha), destruction (Isaiah 14:23)?—we are speaking [here of where he saw in a dream only] one ט (tet) [whereas טֵאטֵאתִיהָ (teiteitihadestruction, contains two such letters]. But still why not say [that it might have referred to the verse] Her טֻמְאָתָהּ (tumatah), filthiness, is in her skirts (Lamentations 1:9)?—we are speaking of [where he saw in a dream the letters] ט (tet) and ב (bet). But again why not say [that it might have referred to the verse], Her gates were טָבְעוּ (tavu), sunk, into the ground (ibid. 2:9)?—the real reason is that Scripture used this letter on the very first occasion to express something good, for from the beginning of Genesis until And God saw the light, [that it was good] (Genesis 1:4) no ט (tet) occurs. Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi similarly said: He who sees [the word] הֶספֵּד (hesfed), eulogy, in a dream [may take it as a sign that] compassion has been exercised towards him in Heaven, and that he will be released [from trouble] provided, however, [he saw it] in script” (BT Baba Qamma 55a).

“Said Rav Ammi: ‘When one wishes to know whether he will survive the coming year or not, let him take a burning lamp during the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and place it in a house where there is no draft; if the lamp burns out to the end, he will know that he will survive the year. And if one is about to engage in business and wishes to know whether he will succeed or not, let him get a rooster and feed it; if it grows fat and handsome, he will know that he will succeed. When one is about to go on a journey and wishes to know whether he will return home, let him enter a darkened room [alt., the house of his neighbour]; if he can perceive the reflection of his shadow, he will know that he will return home. But it is not the proper thing [to make these tests], for one might be discouraged and mar his מַזָּל (mazal), fortune. Abayye said: Since you hold that symbols are meaningful, every man should make it a habit to eat on New Year pumpkin, fenugreek, leek, beet and dates [since these are regarded as symbols of fertility, abundance and quick growth]” (BT Keritot 6a).

In the lap the lot is cast, but from YHWH is all the disposing…. The lot puts an end to strife, and separates the disputants (Proverbs 16:33, 18:18).