The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: election of Israel

Chosen to Become for Him a Treasured People: Why was the Torah Given to Israel?

Hear this word that YHWH has spoken concerning you, O Israelites, concerning the entire clan that I brought up from Egypt, saying: Only with you was I intimate of all the clans of the earth. Therefore will I make a reckoning with you for all your crimes (Amos 3:1–2).

“A Tanna taught in the name of Rabbi Me’ir: Why was the Torah given to Israel? Because they are עֹזִין (ozin), impudent [like עִזִּין (izzin), she-goats]. The academy of Rabbi Yishma’el taught: [YHWH from Sinai came and from Seir He dawned upon them, He shone from Mount Paran and appeared from Ribeboth-Kodesh,from His right hand was a fiery law for them (Deuteronomy 33:2); the blessed Holy One said: These are worthy to be given a law of fire [cf. Exodus 32:9: And YHWH said to Moses, ‘I see this people and, look, it is a stiff-necked people’]. Some say: The laws of these are like fire, for had not Torah been given to Israel no people or tongue could withstand them. And this is what Rabbi Shim’on son of Laqish said: There are three impudent ones: Israel among the peoples, the dog among animals, [and] the cock among birds. Some say: Also the goat among small cattle. And some say: Also the caper-bush among trees [because of its rapid growing, for as soon as it is plucked it grows again, see BT Shabbat 30b]” (BT Beitsah 25b).

Not because you are more numerous than all the peoples did YHWH desire you and choose you [for you are the fewest of all peoples] (Deuteronomy 7:7). The blessed Holy One said to Israel, I love you because even when I bestow greatness upon you, you humble yourselves before Me. I bestowed greatness upon Abraham, yet he said to Me, I am but dust and ashes (Genesis 18:27); Upon Moses and Aaron, yet they said: And what are we? [i.e., we are nothing!] (Exodus 16:8); upon David, yet he said: But I am a worm and no man (Psalm 22:7). But with the nations it is not so. I bestowed greatness upon Nimrod, and he said: Come, let us build us a city [and a tower with its top in the heavens, that we may make us a name…] (Genesis 11:4); upon Pharaoh, and he said: Who is YHWH, [that I should heed His voice? …] (Exodus 5:2). Upon Sennacherib, and he said: Who is there of all the gods of the lands [that saved their land from my hand…] (2 Kings 18:35); upon Nebuchadnezzar, and he said: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; [I will be like the most High] (Isaiah 14:14); upon Hiram king of Tyre, and he said: I sit in the seat of God, in the midst of the seas (Ezekiel 28:2)” (BT Ḥullin 89a).

“כִּי יַעֲקֹב בָּחַר לוֹ יָהּ יִשְׂרָאֵל לִסְגֻלָּתוֹ (Ki Ya’aqov baḥar lo Yah, Yisra’el lisgullato), For Jacob, chose for himself Yah, Israel as his own treasure (Psalms 135:4).

Come and see: Ki Ya’aqov baḥar lo Yah, For Jacob, chose for himself Yah. So far, we don’t know who chose whom: if the blessed Holy One chose Jacob, or Jacob chose the blessed Holy One! However, from what a verse reveals, we know that the blessed Holy selected Jacob for His share, as is written: for YHWH’s share is His people, Jacob His allotted inheritance (Deuteronomy 32:9). Come and see: Similarly, Jacob selected his allotted portion as his share, ascending above all rungs” (Zohar 1:161b, cf. Sifrei Devarim 312).

“Rabbi Ḥiyya opened, ‘For Yah has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel as His own treasure (Psalms 135:4). How beloved are Israel to the blessed Holy One, who desires them and wants to cleave to them and be joined with them! He made them a unique nation in the world, as is written Who is like Your people Israel, a nation unique on earth? (2 Samuel 7:23). And they desired Him and linked themselves with Him as is written: For Jacob has chosen Yah for himself. And it is written: For YHWH’s share is His people (Deuteronomy 32:9)—He entrusted other nations to princely rulers appointed over them, while for His own share He took Israel (Zohar 2:126a–b).

“Rabbi Yoḥanan said, ‘Why are the people of the princes protected, while the people of the blessed Holy One are not?’ Rabbi Yitsḥaq replied, ‘The poor man is not like the wealthy man. The poor man must guard what is his; the wealthy man does not guard what is his! All the more so since Israel hail from a King who loves truth and justice, and the first judgment He renders is on the members of His household, for He wishes them to be protected from sin more than anyone else, as is written: You alone have I known of all the families of the earth—that is why I call you to account for all your iniquities (Amos 3:2) [cf. BT Avodah Zarah 4a ad loc.]” (Zohar 2:17b [MhN]).

“The blessed Holy One invited the other nations to receive the Torah. Now, was it not revealed before Him that they did not want it? However, so that they would have no excuse: if only He had given them the Torah, they would have kept it” (Zohar 3:20a).

“Rabbi Ḥiyya opened, ‘YHWH, when You came forth from Seir, when You strode from the field of Edom, the earth trembled, the heavens poured… (Judges 5:4). Come and see: Happy are Israel in this world and in the world that is coming, for the blessed Holy One delights in them and they cleave to Him and are called holy, Nation of YHWH. He has even elevated them to a supernal rung called Holiness, as is written: Holiness is Israel to YHWH (Jeremiah 2:3), as we have established. For from the eighth day the people of Israel cleave to His Name and are His, inscribed with His Name below, as is written: Who is like your people Israel, a unique nation on earth? (1 Chronicles 17:21). All the other nations do not cleave to Him nor follow His laws, and the holy insignia is lacking from them, so they cleave to the unholy Other Side.

Come and see: When the blessed Holy One wished to give the Torah to Israel, He summoned the people of Esau and said to them, ‘Do you want to receive the Torah? At that moment, the Holy Land quaked and sought to enter the Hollow of the Great Abyss. She said before Him, ‘Joyous splendor, two thousand years before the world was created—will I be snatched away to the uncircumcised who are not inscribed with Your covenant?’

The blessed Holy One replied, ‘O throne, throne, may a thousand such nations perish, yet the covenant of holy Torah will not be presented to them!’ As is written: YHWH, when You came forth from Seir, when You strode from the field of Edom, the earth trembled—surely, for Torah, who is the holy covenant, is given only to one who bears the holy covenant. And whoever conveys Torah and the covenant of Righteous One and Assembly of Israel, for Torah is given to this place and to no other.’

Rabbi Abba said, ‘He betrays three supernal places—betraying Torah, betraying the Prophets, and betraying the Writings. He betrays Torah, as is written: This is the Torah that Moses set before the Children of Israel (Deuteronomy 4:44). He betrays the Prophets, as is written: All your sons are disciples of YHWH (Isaiah 54:13)—they are disciples of YHWH, not others. And it is written: Seal Torah among My disciples (ibid., 8:16)—among them, not among others. He betrays the Writings, as is written: He established a testimony in Jacob, and ordained a teaching in Israel, which He commanded to our fathers to make them known to their children (Psalms 78:5). And it is written: Surely the righteous will acclaim Your name (ibid., 140:14). Who are the righteous? Righteous One and Assembly of Israel. For whoever is not circumcised and has not entered their covenant must not acclaim His Holy Name, which is Torah [cf. Deuteronomy 30:6: And YHWH your God shall circumcise your heart].

Rabbi Ḥiyya said, ‘Once the blessed Holy One revealed Himself on Mount Sinai to give Torah to Israel, the earth turned calm and tranquil again, as is written: The earth feared, and was still (Psalms 76:9)” (Zohar 3:91a–b).

“Come and see: It is written O YHWH, when You came forth from Seir, when You strode from the field of Edom, the earth trembled, the very heavens dripped, the clouds, O they dripped water (Judges 5:4). When the blessed Holy One wished to give the Torah to Israel, He went and invited the children of Esau, and they did not accept it—as is said: YHWH from Sinai came and He shone from Seir upon them (Deuteronomy 33:2), and they refused to accept it. He went to the children of Ishmael, and they refused to accept it, as is written: He radiated from Mount Paran (ibid.). Since they refused, He returned to Israel; so we have learned.

Now a question should be raised—and we have already learned that it is no sin when a person scrutinizes the details of Torah and asks his questions to elucidate its words. This verse is unsettled, and one should ask: When the blessed Holy one came to Seir, to which of their prophets did He appear? If you say that He revealed Himself to all of their people, we never find this except for Israel alone and through Moses. And, as has already been said, the verse should read as follows: YHWH to Sinai came and He shone to Seir upon them; He radiated to Mount Paran. Why from Seir upon them, and why from Mount Paran? All must be known and examined. I have already asked and have not heard and do not know.

When Rabbi Shim’on came, [Rabbi Yose] approached and asked about the matter as before. He replied, ‘This question has already been discussed. YHWH from Sinai came—as is said: Look, I am coming to you in the utmost cloud (Exodus 19:9), and from Sinai He came and revealed Himself to them. And He shone from Seir upon them—from what the children of Seir said, refusing to accept it; from this He illumined Israel, lavishing them with light and great love. Similarly, He radiated and illuminated from Mount Paran—from what the children of Paran said, refusing to accept it. From this, Israel gained greater love and radiance fittingly.

As for your asking ‘Through whom did He reveal Himself to them?’—come and see: it is a sublime mystery, and through you the matter is revealed. Torah issued from the supernal mystery of the head of the concealed King. When it reached the left arm, the blessed Holy One saw bad blood accumulating in that arm. He said, ‘I must purge and cleanse this arm; if that bad blood does not diminish, it will damage all. Surely, every defect must be eliminated from here.’

What did He do? He summoned Samael, who then came before Him. He said to him, ‘Do you want My Torah?’ He asked, ‘What’s written in it?’ He replied, ‘You shall not murder (Exodus 20:13).’ The blessed Holy One skipped to the necessary place. He said, ‘Heaven forbid! This Torah is Yours, and Yours it will remain. I don’t want this Torah.’

He went on pleading before Him, saying, ‘Master of the Universe, if You give it to me, my whole dominion will vanish, for look, my dominion is over killing—and there will be no wars—and my dominion is over the planet Mars. If so, all this will be abolished from the world! Master of the Universe, take Your Torah, and let me have no share or portion in it! But, if it pleases You, here is the people descended from Jacob—for them it is fitting.’ And he thought he was uttering slander against them.

This is He shone from Seir upon themfrom Seir, precisely, light radiated to Israel. Samael thought, ‘Surely, if Jacob’s children accept this, they will vanish from the world and never gain dominion! [Samael] responded to Him several times similarly. [The blessed Holy One] said to him, ‘You are the firstborn, and for you it is fitting.’ He replied, ‘Look, my birthright is his! It was sold to him, and I consented [see Genesis 25:29–34].’ He said to him, ‘Since you want no share in it, remove yourself from it entirely’ [even from the seven Noahide commandments, see BT Bava Qamma 38a, Avodah Zarah 2b–3a]. He replied, ‘Fine.’ He said to him, ‘Since it is so, give Me advice about what I should do, so that Jacob’s children will accept it, as you say.’ He replied, ‘Master of the Universe, they must be bribed. Take some light from the radiance of the powers of heaven and bestow it upon them, and thereby they will accept it—and here, mine will be first.’

He stripped off the radiance covering him and gave it to Him to give to Israel, as is written: He shone מִשֵּׂעִיר (mi-se’ir), from Seir, upon themfrom Seir, precisely, namely Samael, as is written: הַשָּׂעִיר (Ha-sa’ir), The goat, shall bear upon it [all their iniquities] (Leviticus 16:22). Upon them—upon Israel. Once He eliminated this, removing the bad blood from the left arm, He turned to the right arm and saw that it was similar. He said, ‘This arm, too, must be cleansed of bad blood.’ He summoned Rahab, and said to him, ‘Do you want My Torah?’ [Rahab, the sea monster, is sometimes used as a poetic epithet for Egypt (see Psalms 87:4), and here the prince of Ishmael, cf. Zohar 2:170b; 3:246b (RM); ZḤ 30d]. He replied, ‘What’s written in it?’ He skipped ahead and said, ‘You shall not commit adultery (Exodus 20:13).’ He replied, ‘Woe, if the blessed Holy One transmits this legacy to me—an evil legacy, which will eliminate my whole dominion; for I have obtained a blessing of waters, a blessing of the fish of the sea, as is written: פְּרוּ וּרְבוּ (Peru urvu), Be fruitful and multiply [and fill the water in the seas] (Genesis 1:22), and similarly: He will be פֶּרֶא (pere), a wild ass, of a man (ibid. 16:12).’

He began to plead before Him, saying, ‘Master of the Universe, we issued as two sons from Abraham! Here are the children of Isaac; give it to them, for whom it is fitting.’ He replied, ‘I cannot, for you are the first born, and for you it is fitting.’ He began to plead, saying, ‘Master of the Universe, my birthright will be his; and this light that I have thereby inherited, take and give to them.’ And so He did, as is written: הוֹפִיעַ (Hofi’a), He radiated, from Mount Paran.

Why is it written concerning Samael, וְזָרַח (Ve-zaraḥ), and He shone, whereas concerning Rahab it is written differently: Hofi’aHe appeared? Well, with the light that Samael stripped from himself, He took the sword and the killing [cf. Genesis 27:40: By your sword shall you live]—to kill by judicial sentencing, to kill properly—as is written: your triumphant sword (Deuteronomy 33:29) [cf. ZḤ 14a (MhN)], although it was not yours. And with the blessing that Rahab stripped from himself, He took a little, like someone to whom a little of his blessing appears, to enable [Israel] to be fruitful and multiply. Thus, hofi’aHe appeared, from Mount Paran, and it is not written ve-zaraḥ, and He shone. Once He had obtained these gifts for Israel from those ruling princes, He came and summoned all the myriads of holy ones (Deuteronomy 33:2), appointed over the other nations. They replied to Him similarly, and from all of them He received and obtained gifts to bestow upon Israel.

This may be compared to a doctor who had one vial full of vivifying drug, which he kept for his son. He wanted to give his son that vivifying ointment. The doctor was wise, and he said, ‘There are bad servants in my house. If they know that I am giving this present to my son, it will be evil in their eyes, and they will seek to kill him.’ What did he do? He took a little bit of deadly poison and put it on the opening of the vial. Then he called his servants and said to them, You are faithful to me; would you like this drug?

They said, Let’s see what it is. They took a bit to taste, and before even smelling it, they felt that they were about to die. They said to themselves, If he gives this drug to his son, he will die, and we will inherit our master. They said to him, Our master, this drug is fitting only for your son. Here are the wages of our labor; we leave them for you—give them to him as a bribe so that he will take this drug.

Similarly, the blessed Holy One is a wise doctor. He knew that if He gave the Torah to Israel before informing [the heavenly princes], they would pursue Israel every day on account of it and kill them. But He did this, and they gave Him gifts and presents so that [Israel] would accept it. All of these Moses received to give to Israel, as is written: You ascended the heights, you seized captives, you took gifts for humans (Psalms 68:19). Consequently, Israel inherited the Torah without any challenge or any accusation at all. Blessed is He and blessed is His name forever and forever!” (Zohar 3:192a–193a).

The Blessed Holy One Invited the other Nations to Receive the Torah

O YHWH, when You came forth from Seir… (Judges 5:4)—what did He seek in Seir, and what did He seek in Mount Paran? [cf. Deuteronomy 33:2: YHWH from Sinai came and from Seir He dawned upon them, He shone from Mount Paran…]—Rabbi Yoḥanan says: This teaches us that the blessed Holy One, offered the Torah to every nation and every tongue, but none accepted it, until He came to Israel who received it. [The nations] will say: ‘Did we accept it and fail to observe it? But surely: ‘Then why did you not accept it?’—the nations will then say, ‘Master of the Universe, did You suspend the mountain over us like a cask as You have done to Israel and did we still decline to accept it?’ For Rabbi Dimi son of Ḥama said: And they stood under the mountain (Exodus 19:17)—this teaches us that the blessed Holy One suspended the mountain over Israel like a cask, saying to them: ‘If you accept the Torah, it will be well with you, but if not, there will you find your grave.’ Thereupon the blessed Holy One will say to them: ‘Let us then consider the happenings of old,’ as is said, Who among them can declare this, and show us former things (Isaiah 43:9), ‘There are seven commandments which you did accept, did you observe them?’ [How do we know that they did not observe them?]—for Rabbi Yosef learned: He stood, and shook the earth: He beheld, וַיַּתֵּר (va-yater), and caused to tremble, the nations (Habakkuk 3:6) [cf. BT Bava Qamma 38a]: what did He see? He saw that the nations did not keep even the seven commandments which the sons of Noah had taken upon themselves, and seeing that they did not keep them, He stood up and released them [וַיַּתֵּר (va-yater) also means, ‘he releases,’ cf. מוּתָר (mutar), permitted]. Then they benefited by it; according to this it pays to be a sinner!

The release from those commandments only means that even if they kept them they would not be rewarded. But why should they not? Is it not taught: Rabbi Meir would say: How do we know that even a heathen who engages in Torah study is like the high priest? From the verse And you shall keep My statutes and My laws which a person shall do and live through them (Leviticus 18:5). It does not say If a Priest, Levite, or Israelite do, and live through them, but a person; here, then, you can learn that even a heathen who studies Torah is equal to a High Priest!—what is meant, then, is that they are rewarded not as greatly as one who does a thing which he is commanded to do, but as one who does a thing uncommanded. For, Rabbi Ḥanina said: He who is commanded and does, stands higher then he who is not commanded and does.

The nations will then say, ‘Master of the Universe, has Israel, who accepted the Torah, kept it? The blessed Holy One will reply, ‘I can give evidence that they kept the Torah.’ They said ‘O Master of the Universe can a father give evidence in favor of his son? For it is written, My son, My firstborn, is Israel (Exodus 4:22). Then will the blessed Holy One say: ‘Heaven and earth can bear witness that Israel has fulfilled the entire Torah.’ But they will [object], saying: ‘Master of the Universe, heaven and earth are partial witnesses, for it is said, If not for My covenant with day and with night, I should not have appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth’ (Jeremiah 33:25). [And Rabbi Shim’on son of Laqish further said:] What is conveyed by the phrase, And it was evening and it was morning, the sixth day? (Genesis 1:31). It teaches us that God made a condition with the works of creation, saying: ‘If Israel accept My Torah it will be well, but if not, I shall reduce you to welter;’ which accords with the comment of Rabbi Ḥizqiyah on the verse, From the heavens You made judgment heard, the earth was afraid and fell silent (Psalms 76:9). If the earth trembled, how could it be still, and if it was still, how could it tremble? But at first it trembled, and then it became still.

The blessed Holy One will then say, ‘Some of yourselves shall testify that Israel kept the entire Torah. Let Nimrod come and testify that Abraham did not [consent to] worship idols; let Laban come and testify that Jacob could not be suspected of theft [cf. Genesis 31:37]; let Potiphar’s wife testify that Joseph was above suspicion of immorality; let Nebuchadnezzar come and testify that Ḥanania, Mishael and Azariyah did not bow down to an image; let Darius come and testify that Daniel never neglected the prayers [his windows were open in his upper chamber towards Jerusalem, and he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before God, see Daniel 6:11, the earliest record of the practice]; let Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Na’amathite, and Eliphaz the Temanite [and Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite (see Job 32:2; cf. BT Bava Batra 15b)] testify that Israel has kept the whole Torah; as  is said, Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: who among them can declare this, and show us former things? let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified: or let them hear, and say, It is truth (Isaiah 43:9).

The nations will then plead. ‘Offer us the Torah anew and we shall obey it.’ But the blessed Holy One will say to them, ‘You foolish ones among peoples, he who took trouble [to prepare] on the eve of the Sabbath can eat on the Sabbath, but he who has not troubled on the eve of the Sabbath, what shall he eat on the Sabbath? Nevertheless, I have an easy command which is called סֻּכֹּת (sukkot), Huts (Leviticus 23:42); go and carry it out.’ [But how can you say so:] does not Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi say: What is, And you shall keep what is commanded and the statutes and the laws that I charge you today to do (Deuteronomy 7:11)? It is that only this day is the time to do them,’ they cannot be done tomorrow [cf. Bahir §81: ‘Each day has its own power’]; this day is the time in which to do them, but not in which to be rewarded for them. [Why then should they be offered this observance in the days of the Messiah?]—because the blessed Holy One does not deal imperiously with His creatures. And why does He call it an easy command?—because it does not affect one’s purse. Immediately every one of them will take himself and go and make a hut on the top of his roof; but the blessed Holy One will cause the sun to blaze forth over them as at the cycle of Tammuz [i.e., summer solstice] and every one of them will trample down his hut and go away, as is said, Let us tear off their fetters, let us fling away their bonds! (Psalms 2:3). [But you have just said] ‘The blessed Holy One does not deal imperiously with His creatures?—true! but with the Israelites, too, it occasionally happens that the cycle of Tammuz extends till the Festival [Sukkot] and they are vexed [by the heat, the test is therefore not exceptional or harsh]. But does not Rava say: He who is vexed thereby is freed from dwelling in the סוּכָּה (sukkah), hut? (BT Sukkah 26a)—granted, they would [in such circumstances] be freed, but would Israelites contemptuously trample it down? Thereupon the blessed Holy One will laugh at them, as is said, He who dwells in the heavens will laugh [the Master derides them] (Psalms 2:4). Rabbi said Yitsḥaq: ‘Only on that day is there laughter for the blessed Holy One!’

Some connected that comment of Rabbi Yitsḥaq with the following teaching: Rabbi Yose says, ‘In time to come the nations will come and offer themselves as converts.’ But will such be accepted? Has it not been taught that in the days of the Messiah converts will not be accepted [see BT Yevamot 24a]; likewise none were accepted in the days of David or of Solomon?—well, they will be self-made converts [lit., ‘dragged-in converts’ a class of converts who judaize en masse under the impulsion of fear], and will place tefillin on their foreheads and on their arms, fringes in their garments, and a mezuzah on their doorposts, but when the battle of Gog and Magog will come about [see Ezekiel 39:12] they will be asked, ‘For what purpose have you come?’ and they will answer: ‘Against God and His Messiah,’ as is said, Why are the nations aroused, and the people’s murmur vain things? (Psalms 2:1). Then each of the converts will throw aside his religious token and get away, as is said, Let us break their bands asunder (ibid.), and the blessed Holy One will sit and laugh, as is said: He who dwells in the heavens will laugh (Psalms 2:4).

[It was on this that] Rabbi Yitsḥaq remarked that there is no laughter for the blessed Holy One except on that day. But is there not, indeed? Yet Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav: ‘The day consists of twelve hours; during the first three hours the blessed Holy One is occupying Himself with the Torah, during the second three He sits in judgment on the whole world, and when He sees that the world is so guilty as to deserve destruction, He transfers Himself from the seat of Justice to the seat of Mercy; during the third quarter, He is feeding the whole world, from the horned buffalo to the brood of vermin [cf. BT Shabbat 107b]; during the fourth quarter He is sporting with the Leviathan, as is said, There the ships go, this Leviathan You fashioned to play with’? (Psalms 104:26). Rabbi Naḥman son of Yitsḥaq said: Yes, He sports with His creatures, but does not laugh at His creatures except on that day” (BT Avodah Zarah 2b–3b, cf. Zohar 3:20a, 192a–193a).

God’s Honor is to Hide a Word, the Honor of Kings, to Probe a Word

Torah-Scroll-text-silver-yad“Six things preceded the creation of the world; some of them were actually created, while the creation of others was already contemplated. Torah and the Throne of Glory were created. Torah, as is written, [In remote eons I was shaped, at the start of the first things of earth.I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, before the earth was (Proverbs 8:22–3). The Throne of Glory, as is written, Your throne stands firm from old (Psalms 93:2)….

Israel arose in thought, as is written, Remember Your cohort You took up of old (Psalms 74:2)….

Rav Huna and Rabbi Yirmeya in the name of Rabbi Shemu’el son of Rabbi Yitsḥaq, they said: The thought to create Israel preceded everything else. This is like: A king who was married to a certain lady, and had no son by her. On one occasion the king was found going through the marketplace and giving orders: ‘Take this ink, inkwell, and pen for my son,’ at which people remarked: ‘He has no son: what does he want with ink and pen? Strange indeed!’ Subsequently they concluded: ‘The king is an astrologer, and has actually foreseen that he is destined to beget a son!’ Thus, had not the blessed Holy One foreseen that after twenty-six generations Israel would receive the Torah, He would not have written therein, Charge the Israelites (Numbers 28:2)” (Bereshit Rabbah 1:4).

“Israel is the kernel of the world; Israel arose in thought. Other nations, who are the shell, preceded, as is written: These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned over the Children of Israel (Genesis 36:31)” (Zohar 2:108b, Sifra di-Tsni’uta).

וַיְהִי עֶרֶב וַיְהִי בֹקֶר יוֹם הַשִּׁשִּׁי וַיְכֻלּוּ הַשָּׁמַיִם וְהָאָרֶץ וְכָל צְבָאָם וַיְכַל אֱלֹהִים בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי מְלַאכְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה וַיִּשְׁבֹּת בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי מִכָּל מְלַאכְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה וַיְבָרֶךְ אֱלֹהִים אֶת יוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי וַיְקַדֵּשׁ אֹתוֹ כִּי בוֹ שָׁבַת מִכָּל מְלַאכְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים לַעֲשׂוֹת

And it was evening and it was morning the sixth day. Then the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their array. And God completed on the seventh day the task He had done, and He ceased on the seventh day from all the task He had done. And God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, for on it He had ceased from all His task that He had created to do (Genesis 1:31–2:3)—יִשְׂרָאֵל (yisra’el), Israel.

“Resh Laqish said, ‘Why is it written: There was evening and there was morning, יוֹם הַשִּׁשִּׁי (yom ha-shishi), the sixth day (Genesis 1:31)? Why the extra letter ה (he)? [the definite article ה (he) appears only in connection with the sixth day]. This teaches that the blessed Holy One stipulated a condition with the works of Creation, saying to them: ‘If Israel accepts Torah [given at Mount Sinai on the sixth day of Sivan], you will endure. If not, I will return you to welter and waste (ibid. 1:2)’” (BT Shabbat 88a, cf. BT Avodah Zarah 2b–3b; Zohar 1:47a; 2:63b).

“Rabbi Shim‘on said, ‘Whatever the blessed Holy One does is intended to revolve revolutions to fulfill the covenant of existence’” (Zohar 1:196a).