The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: etrog

I Will Climb into the Palm Tree and Take Hold of its Branches

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Make me know the path of life. Joys overflow in Your presence, delights in Your right hand forever (Psalms 16:11).

Israel said before the blessed Holy One: ‘Master of the Universe! Teach me the path of life [חַיִּים (ḥayyim), life, is numerically equivalent to לוּלָב (lulav), palm branch]!’ He said to them, ‘Here are the Ten Days of Repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur: שֹׂבַע שְׂמָחוֹת (sova’a semaot), joys overflow, in Your presence—read not thus, but rather: שֶׁבַע שְׂמָחוֹת (sheva semaot), these are the sevenmitsvot of the festival, and what are they? The four species, plus סֻכָּה (sukkah), hut, the Ḥagigah (festal) offering, and rejoicing. What is delights in Your right hand נֶצַח (netsaḥ), forever? Rabbi Abin said, ‘This is the palm branch, like one who is מְנַצֵחַ (menatseaḥ), victorious, holds a wand. What is this like? Two who entered before the judge, but we do not know who won, unless we see one of them holding a wand in his hand and then we know that he won. Similarly, Israel and the nations of the world go in and contend with the blessed Holy One on Rosh Hashanah, and we do not know who won, but when Israel depart from His presence with their לֻלַּבּין (lulabin), palm branches, and אֶתְרוֹגִין (etrogin), citrons, in their hands, we know that Israel came out victorious [cf. BT Sukkah 55b]” (Vayiqrah Rabbah 30:2).

“And all the holy forms oversee all the nations. But Israel is holy [of Holies], taking the body of the אִילָן (illan), tree, and its heart. The heart is the stately fruit of the body. Similarly, Israel takes fruit of a stately tree (Leviticus 23:40). The date palm is surrounded by its branches all around it and has its sprout in the middle. Similarly, Israel takes the body of this tree, which is its heart. And paralleling the body is the spinal cord, which is the main part of the body. What is the לוּלָב (lulav), palm branch? לוֹ לֵב (Lo lev), heart to it. The heart is also given over to it. And what is this לֵב (lev), heart? It is the ל״ב (thirty-two) hidden paths of Wisdom that are hidden in it. In each of their paths there is also a form watching over it. Therefore it is written, To guard the way to the tree of life (Genesis 3:24)” (Bahir §98, cf. Zohar 3:104a).

Rabbi Beraḥiah sat and expounded: What is the לוּלָב (lulav), palm branch, that we discussed? It is the ל״ו (thirty-six), given over to ל״ב (thirty-two). And how? He replied: There are three princes, the תָּלִי (Tali) [alt., תְלִי (Theli)], the Wheel, and the Heart. Each one is twelve, and the three therefore constitute a sum of thirty-six, through which the world is sustained [see BT Sanhedrin 97b; Sukkah 45b]. Therefore it is written: The Righteous One is foundation of the world (Proverbs 10:25)” (Bahir §101).

A king had an idea to plant ten male trees in a garden. All of them were date palms. He said, ‘Since they are all the same kind, it is impossible for them to endure.’ What did he do? He planted a אֶתְרוֹג (etrog), citron, among them. This was one of those which he had intended to be male. And why is the citron, female? Because it is written, The fruit of a stately tree, fronds of palm trees, [and a branch of a leafy tree and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before YHWH your god seven days] (Leviticus 23:40). What is the פְּרִי עֵץ הָדָר (pri ets hadar), fruit of a stately tree? The Targum renders this, פֵּרֵי אִילָנָא אֶתְרוֹגִין וְלֻלַּבּין וַהֲדַסִּין וְעַרְבִין (pri illana etrogin ve-lulabin va-hadassin ve-arvin), Fruit of the citron tree, palm branches, [myrtles and willows]” (Bahir §172).

What is this that is holy? It is the אֶתְרוֹג (etrog), citron, which is the stateliness of them all. Why is it called stately? Do not read הָדָר (hadar), stately, but הַדַר ­(ha-dar), the guest [from the root לָדוּר (la-dur), to dwell, sojourn]. This refers to the אֶתְרוֹג (etrog), citron, which is not bound together with the לוּלָב (lulav), palm branch. [Yet] without it the mitsvah of לוּלָב (lulav), palm branch, cannot be fulfilled. It is also bound with them all. It is with each one of them, and is unified with them all.

What does the לוּלָב (lulav), palm branch, parallel? It is the spine. Therefore it is written, [Fronds of palm trees,] and a branch of a leafy tree and willows of the brook (Leviticus 23:40). The branches must cover the majority [of the bunch]. If its branches do not cover its majority, it is invalid. Why? What is this like? A man has arms, and with them he protects his head. He has two arms, and his head makes three: a branch of a leafy tree. A branch is to the left, and the leaves are to the right. It then comes out that the tree is in the centre. And why is it called a tree? Because it is the root of the Tree.

What are willows of the brook (Leviticus 23:40)? There are two [willow branches in the לוּלָב (lulav), palm branch], and these parallel the two legs in man. Why are they called עַרְבֵי-נָחַל (arvei naḥal), willows of the brook? Because the greater of the two is inclined toward the מַעֲרֵב (ma’arev), west, and draws its power from there. The one to the north is smaller than it by a journey of five hundred years. It is on the northwest side, through which it functions. It is named after it, since they are both עֲרָבִים (aravim), mixed” (Bahir §175-77).

Why was she called תָמָר (Tamar), Date Palm, and not any other name? Because she was female. Can we then say that she was female [i.e., was this something extraordinary]? But it is because she included both male and female. For every date palm includes both male and female. How is this? The לוּלָב (lulav), palm branch, is male. The fruit is male on the outside and female on the inside. And how so? The pit of a date is cracked like a woman. Parallel to it is the power of the moon above” (Bahir §198).

“A אַמָּה (ammah), cubit [lit., arm], is the measure of the body in four directions and up and down, making six cubits. And each arm has three joints, making eighteen joints in the six cubits, being the secret of the eighteen wavings with the lulav in six directions, three in each direction. Of them it is said: קוֹמָתֵךְ (Qomatekh), Your stature, is like a palm tree (Song of Songs 7:8). And this is the שִׁיעוּר קוֹמָה (shi’ur qomah), measure of the stature, the מִקְוֵה יִשְׂרָאֵל (Miqveh Yisra’el), Gathering of Israel (Jeremiah 14:8) in Shekhinah” (Zohar 3:228a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

“She [Malkhut] is raised with the four species up to Thought [Ḥokhmah], as is written: I thought: אֶעֱלֶה (e’eleh), I will climb, the palm, [I will grasp its stalks] (Song of Songs 7:9). אֶעֱלֶה (E’eleh), I will climb, is a sign: אֶתְרוֹג (etrog), citron, עֲרָבָה (arabah), willow, לוּלָב (lulav), palm branch, and הֲדָס (hadas), myrtle” (Zohar 3:283b, Ra’aya Meheimna Ki Tetse, cf. Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 29b).

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

??????????“Rabbi Yoḥanan said in the name of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yehotsadaq: By a majority vote, it was resolved in the upper chambers of the house of Nitza in Lydda that in every law of Torah, if a man is commanded: ‘Transgress and do not suffer death’ he may transgress and not suffer death, except for idolatry, incest [including adultery], and murder… But did not Esther transgress publicly?—Abbaye answered: Esther was merely soil [i.e., only the passive object of the king’s embraces]. But their personal pleasure is different; so here too [the king made Esther transgress for his personal pleasure, not because he desired her to violate her religion]” (BT Sanhedrin 74a-b).

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

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

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

You may say that Esther has a bad reputation, that she was defiled with Ahasuerus, yet she was worthy that the Holy Spirit be clothed by her, as is written, Esther donned מַלְכוּת (Malkhut), royal, garb (Esther 5:1). Yet the blessed Holy One said, I am YHWH: that is My Name: and My glory will I not give to another, neither My praise to graven images (Isaiah 42:8). [And yet,] the Holy Spirit is the Shekhinah, a name that was clothed by Esther.’

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

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

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

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

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

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