The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: Diphtheria

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).

 

No Image did You See Except the Sound

“[Rabbi Akiva said:] All the people were seeing the thunderings (Exodus 20:15)…. They were seeing the fiery word issuing from the mouth of Power and being engraved on the tablets” (Mekhilta, Baḥodesh 9).

“[Rabbi Amorai] said: What is written: And all the people were seeing the thunderings, and the flashes (Exodus 20:15)—is thunder, visible? But and all the people were seeing אֶת הַקּוֹלֹת (et ha-qolot), the thunderings, are those קוֹלוֹת (qolot), voicesof which King David spoke:

YHWH’s voice is over the waters. The God of glory thunders (Psalms 29:3). 

YHWH’s voice in power (ibid., 4), and it says, By the power, of My hand I have done it (Isaiah 10:13); Indeed My hand also has laid the foundation of the earth, [and My right hand has spread out the heavens: when I call to them, they stand up together] (ibid. 48:13).

YHWH’s voice in majesty (Psalms 29:4); Glory and grandeur His acts and His bounty stands for all time (ibid. 111:3).

YHWH’s voice breaking cedars (ibid. 29:5)—the bow that breaks cypress trees and cedar trees.

YHWH’s voice hews flames of fire (ibid., 7)—making peace between water and fire, hewing the power of fire and preventing it from evaporating water. Preventing water from extinguishing fire.

YHWH’s voice makes the wilderness shake (ibid., 8), as is said, And doing kindness with His anointed, for David and his seed forever (ibid. 18:51)—more than in the wilderness [when the Israelites were miraculously fed manna].

YHWH’s voice brings on the birth-pangs of does and lays bare the forests. And in His Temple all says glory (Psalms 29:9), as is written, I make you swear, O daughters of Jerusalem by the deer or the gazelles of the field, [that you shall not rouse not stir love until it pleases] (Song of Songs 2:7). To teach you that with seven קוֹלוֹת (qolot), voices, Torah was given. With each of them the Master of the Universe revealed Himself over them, and they saw Him. Thus it is written, And all the people were seeing אֶת הַקּוֹלֹת (et ha-qolot), the sounds.

One verse says: He tilted the heavens, came down, dense mist beneath His feet (2 Samuel 22:10). Another verse says: And YHWH came down on Mount Sinai, to the mountaintop (Exodus 19:20). However, still another verse says, From the heavens I spoke with you (Exodus 20:22). How is this so? And on the earth His great fire (Deuteronomy 4:36)—one voice. The other voices were in the heavens, as is written, From the heavens He made you hear His voice to reprove you, and on the earth He showed you His great fire, and His words you heard, from the midst of the fire (ibid.). But what was it? Great fire. From where did דִבּוּר (dibbur), Speech, emanate? From fire, as is written, and His words you heard, from the midst of the fire

What is but no image did you see except the voice (Deuteronomy 4:12)? As Moses said to Israel: for you saw no whole image [on the day YHWH spoke to you from the midst of the fire, lest you act ruinously and make you a sculpted image of any likeness…] (Deuteronomy 4:15)—an image, but not כָּל תְּמוּנָה (kal temunah), a whole image [cf. Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed, 1:3].

A parable: A king stood over his slaves wrapped in a white covering—is this not enough to hold הַמַּלְכוּת (ha-malkhut), the kingship, in awe?—that they gaze upon his garment. Though the king was at a distance they heard his voice [see Exodus 20:19–20; Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 41]. Were they able to see his throat? You must say not. This teaches that they saw an image, but not a whole image. Thus it is written, but no image did you see except the קוֹל (qol), sound [or: voice]. It is also written, קוֹל דְּבָרִים (Qol devarim), the sound of words, you did hear.

One verse says: And all the people were seeing אֶת הַקּוֹלֹת (et ha-qolot), the sounds (Exodus 20:15). However, another verse says: קוֹל דְּבָרִים (Qol devarim), the sound of words, you did hear (Deuteronomy 4:12). How? At first they saw the voices. What did they see? The seven voices spoken of by David. But in the end they heard דִבּוּר (dibbur), Speech, emanating from the midst of them all. But we have learned that there were ten. Our Rabbis taught that they were all uttered with a single word [see Tanḥuma, Yitro 11]. But we have said that there were seven. There were seven voices. Of three of them is written: The sound of words you did hear but no image did you see except the sound (Deuteronomy 4:12). To teach you that they were all uttered with a single word. This is so that Israel should not err and say, ‘Others helped Him. Perhaps one of the angels, since His voice alone could not be so powerful.’ Thus on their account He returned and included them [in a single word].

Another interpretation: It was so that the world should not say that since there were עֲשָׂרָה מַאֲמָרוֹת (asarah ma’amarot), ten sayings, for ten kings it might be that He could not speak for them all through one. He therefore said אָנֹכִי (Anokhi), I (Exodus 20:2), which included all ten. What are the ten kings? They are the שֶׁבַע קּוֹלֹת (sheva qolot), seven voices, and שְׁלֹשָׁה אֹמְרִים (sheloshah omrim), three sayings. But what sayings? And YHWH has proclaimed you today [to be to Him a treasured people, as He has spoken to you…] (Deuteronomy 26:18). But what are three? The beginning of wisdom is—get חָכְמָה (ḥokhmah), wisdom, and in all that you get, get בִינָה (binah), discernment (Proverbs 4:7) [cf. Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 17–18]. Therefore it is written [Yet it is a spirit in man,] and Shaddai’s breath that grants insight (Job 32:8)—Shaddai’s breath is תְּבִינֵם (tevinem), insight. What is third? As the old man said to the child, ‘Seek not things that are too hard for you, and search not things that are hidden from you. Reflect on the things that have been permitted you; you have no business with mysteries’ (BT Ḥagigah 13a) [see Ben Sira 3:21–22]” (Bahir §§45–49).

“This is the mystery of All the people saw the sounds and the flashes, and the sound of the shofar (Exodus 20:15). The sounds—these are the other letters that emerged from those sounds (as we have said), appearing in the air before the eyes of all, as is written: the sounds. It is not written all the people saw הַקּוֹלֹת (ha-qolot), sounds, but rather אֶת הַקּוֹלֹת (et ha-qolot), the sounds, alluding to the [entire sequence of] letters [from א (alef) to ת (tav)] that issued from them” (Zohar Ḥadash 41c).

“[Rabbi Yoḥanan said:] The voice went forth and split into seven voices, and from seven voices into seventy languages, so that all the nations would hear. Each and every nation heard His voice in its own language [see Rabbi Avraham Abulafia, Or ha-Sekhel 7: ‘שִׁבעִים לָשׁוֹנוֹת (Shevi’im lashonot), seventy languages, is numerically equivalent to צֵירוּף הָאוֹתִיּוֹת (tseruf ha-otiyyot), permutation of the letters’]” (TanḥumaShemot 25).

There were thunderings and lighting (Exodus 19:16). Rabbi Abba said, ‘It is spelled קֹלֹת (qolot), thunderings, deficiently [i.e., spelled without a ו (vav)]—two קָלִין (qalin), voices, turning back into one, issuing from one another: air from water, and water from air. It has been taught: Two that are one; one, an entirety encompassing two.

Rabbi Yose said, ‘קֹלֹת (Qolot)—one that is great and mighty, never ceasing. For it has been taught: In four cycles in the year the voice ceases, and then judgments arouse in the world; but this voice, comprising other voices, never ceases and is never deprived of its full existence and potency. This voice is voice of voices, a voice containing other voices.’

Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘Voice issues only from the aspect of air and water, and voice generates voice, intermingling, and it is spelled קֹלֹת (qolot).’

And lighting (Exodus 19:16). Rabbi Yose said, ‘This corresponds to what is written: He makes lightning for the rain (Psalms 135:7)—a flame in diadems, cluster of compassion, in unsubsiding love. It has been taught: Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘Torah was given from the side of Gevurah. Rabbi Yose said, ‘If so, it is on the left side!’ He replied, ‘It returned to the right, as is written: From His right hand, a fiery law for them (Deuteronomy 33:2), and it is written Your right hand, O YHWH, glorious in power (Exodus 15:6). We find left turning into right, and right into left; thus Gevurah is on the left.’

And a heavy cloud on the mountain (Exodus 19:16)—a mighty cloud settling in its place, not moving. וְקֹל (Ve-qol), And the voice of, a shofar, very strong (ibid.)—out of this mighty cloud issues that voice, as is said: when you heard the voice from the midst of the darkness (Deuteronomy 5:20).

Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘There were three types of darkness, as is written: darkness, cloud, and dense fog (ibid. 4:11), and that voice issued as inmost of all.’ Rabbi Yose said, ‘Inmost of all, of which is written a mighty voice, unceasing (ibid. 5:19).

Rabbi Abba said, ‘It is written: All the people were seeing הַקּוֹלֹת (ha-qolot), the voices (Exodus 20:15). Were seeing—the verse should read were hearing. However, we have learned as follows: Those קָלִין (qalin), voices, were engraved in that darkness, cloud, and dense fog, and were visible in them as a body is visible, and they saw what they saw and heard what they heard from within that darkness, dense fog, and cloud. From within the vision they saw, they were illumined by the supernal radiance and knew what later generations coming after them would not know. They all saw face-to-face, as is written: Face-to-face YHWH spoke [with you]… (Deuteronomy 5:4).’

What did they see? Rabbi Yose taught, ‘Radiance of those voices—for there was not a single voice that did not shine radiantly, enabling them to gaze upon all hidden, concealed treasures and all generations that will appear until King Messiah. Therefore, All the people were seeing הַקּוֹלֹת (ha-qolot), the voices—actually seeing!” (Zohar 2:81a–b).

“When the blessed Holy One revealed Himself on Mount Sinai, when Torah was given to Israel in ten utterances, each and every utterance generated a voice, and that voice branched into seventy voices, all shining and sparkling before the eyes of all Israel, who saw eye-to-eye the splendor of His Glory, as is written: All the people were seeing הַקּוֹלֹת (ha-qolot), the voices (Exodus 20:15)—actually seeing!

That voice warned every single Israelite, saying to him, ‘Will you accept me upon yourselves with such-and-such commands of Torah?’ They replied, ‘Yes.’ It returned, circling round his head, and warned him, saying, ‘Will you accept me upon yourselves with such-and-such penalties of Torah?’ Each one said, ‘Yes.’ Afterward, that voice returned and kissed him on the mouth, as is written: O that he would kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! (Song of Songs 1:2)” (Zohar 2:146a).