The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: evil impulse

The Devisings of the Human Heart are Evil from Youth

Xl30yZ9FAntoninus inquired of Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nasi], ‘From what time does the evil impulse hold sway over man; from the formation [of the embryo] or from issuing forth?—‘From the formation [of the embryo],’ he replied. ‘If so,’ he objected, ‘it would rebel in its mother’s womb and go forth. But it is from when it issues.’ Rabbi said: This thing Antoninus taught me, and Scripture supports him, for it is said, at the tent flap sin crouches (Genesis 4:7)” (BT Sanhedrin 91b, cf. BT Yevamot 69a; Niddah 30b–31a).

“Rabbi Naḥman son of Rabbi Ḥisda expounded: What is meant by, Then YHWH God יִּיצֶר (yiytser), fashioned, the human (Genesis 2:7)—written with two י (yods)? To show that God created two impulses, one good and the other evil. Rabbi Naḥman son of Yitsḥaq demurred. According to this, he said, animals, of which it is not written יִּיצֶר (yiytser), fashioned [with two י (yods), see Genesis 2:19: and YHWH God יִּצֶר (yitser), fashioned, from the soil each beast of the field…], should have no evil impulse, yet we see that they injure and bite and kick? In truth it is as stated by Rabbi Shim’on son of Pazzi; for Rabbi Shim’on son of Pazzi said: Woe is me because of יוֹצֵרִי (Yotseri), my Maker, woe is me because of יִצֶרִי (yitseri), my urge! Or again as explained by Rabbi Yirmiyahu son of El’azar; for Rabbi Yirmiyahu son of El’azar said: God created דוּ פַּרְצוּפִין (du partsufin), two faces, in the first man, as it says, From behind and in front You shaped me (Psalms 139:5)….

Rav said: The evil impulse resembles a fly and dwells between the two openings of the heart [cf. BT Sukkah 52b], as it says, A dead fly makes the perfumer’s oil chalice stink (Ecclesiastes 10:1). Shemu’el said: It is like a kind of חִטָּה (ḥittah), wheat, as it says, At the tent flap חַטָּאת (ḥattat), sin, crouches (Genesis 4:7). Our Rabbis taught: Man has two kidneys, one of which prompts him to good, the other to evil; and it is natural to suppose that the good one is on his right side and the bad one on his left, as is written, A wise man’s mind [lit., heart] is at his right, and the fool’s mind at his left (Ecclesiastes 10:2)” (BT Berakhot 61a).

“Here is a mystery. In all actions performed by the blessed Holy One, He begins with the external, and then the kernel within…. The Other Side always precedes: growing, developing, protecting the fruit. Once it has grown, it is cast aside; What the wicked will prepare, the righteous will wear (Job 27:17)—that קְלִפָּה (qelipah), shell, is thrown away and the Righteous One of the world is blessed” (Zohar 2:108b).

“Rabbi Ammi son of Abba said: What is the meaning of, There is a little town… (Ecclesiastes 9:14)? A little town—the body; and few people within it (ibid.)—the limbs; and a great king came against it and went round it (ibid.)—the יֵצֶר הָרָע (yetser ha-ra), evil impulse; and built against it great siegeworks (ibid.)—for sin; But he found within it a poor wise man (ibid.)—the יֵצֶר טוֹב (yetser tov), good impulse; and that person saved the town through his wisdom (ibid.)—to repentance and good deeds; but no one recalled that poor man (ibid.), for when the evil impulse gains dominion, none remember the good impulse. Wisdom is stronger for the wise than ten rulers who are in the town (ibid. 7:19). Wisdom is stronger for the wise—repentance and good deeds; than ten rulers—two eyes, two ears, two hands, two feet, head of the torso [i.e., penis] and mouth” (BT Nedarim 32b).

“Rabbi Ḥiyya opened, ‘Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but YHWH delivers him from them all (Psalms 34:20). Come and see how intensely a person is attacked, from the day that the blessed Holy One endows him with a soul to exist in this world! For as soon as a human emerges into the atmosphere the evil impulse lies ready to conspire with him, as has been said; for it is written: At the tent flap sin crouches (Genesis 4:7)—right then the evil impulse partners with him.

Come and see that it is so! For animals all protect themselves from the day they are born fleeing from fire and all menacing sites; yet a human being is ready at once to fling himself into the fire, because the evil impulse dwells within him, instantly luring him into evil ways.

We have established what is written: Better a poor and wise child than an old and foolish king who no longer knows how to heed warning (Ecclesiastes 4:13). Better a child—the good impulse, who is a child, just recently with a person, accompanying him only from the age of thirteen, as had been said [see Avot de-Rabbi Natan B, 16; Qohelet Rabbah on 4:13; Midrash Tehillim 9:5; Zohar 1:78a–b (ST), 110b (MhN)].

Than a king—the evil impulse, who is called king, ruling over humanity in the world. Old and foolish, for he is surely old, as already established, since as soon as a person is born, emerging into the atmosphere, he accompanies that person. So he is an old and foolish king [on the link between foolishness and sin, see Numbers 12:11; BT Sotah 3a].

Who no longer knows how לְהִזָּהֵר (le-hizzaher), to heed warning. It is not written לְהַזְהִיר (le-hazhir), to give warning, but rather le-hizzaher, to heed warning—because he is a fool, of whom Solomon said The fool walks in darkness (ibid. 2:14), for he issues from dregs of darkness, deprived of light forever [but he who does not know how to take care of others is not yet considered foolish (Sullam)]….’

Than an old king—the evil impulse, as has been said, for since the first day he existed, he has never escaped defilement. And he is foolish—all his ways evil, leading humans astray, not knowing how to heed warning. He sidles up to people with ploys, luring them from the good way to the evil.

Come and see: This is why he hastens to be with a person from the day he is born, so that he will trust him. For look, when the good impulse arrives, the person cannot believe him—and considers him a burden! Similarly we have learned: Who is cunningly wicked? One who pleads his case in front of the judge before the other party arrives, as is said: The first to plead his case seems right… (Proverbs 18:17) [cf. BT Sotah 21b]. Similarly this cunning wicked one, as is said: The serpent was cunning (Genesis 3:1)—he arrives first, dwelling with a person before his counterpart comes to rest upon him. Since he appears first, pleading his case with him, when his counterpart—the good impulse—arrives, the person finds him obnoxious and cannot raise his head [cf. Zohar 2:199a: ‘The good impulse, who guides all… said to him, ‘What are you doing sound asleep?’… Repent of your sins!’], as if he loaded on his shoulders all the burdens of the world, because of that cunning wicked one who reached him first. Concerning this, Solomon said, The poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heeded (Ecclesiastes 9:16), because the other anticipated him.

So whoever accepts a person’s words before his counterpart arrives, acts as if he accepts belief in another, false god [see BT Shabbat 105b]. Rather, till the other comes and examines him (Proverbs 18:17). This is the way of the righteous, for a righteous person does not believe that cunningly wicked evil impulse before his counterpart, the good impulse, arrives. Because of this, people stumble in the world to come.

However, one who is righteous, in awe of his Lord, endures many afflictions in this world so as not to trust and consort with that evil impulse, and the blessed Holy One delivers him from them all, as is written: Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but YHWH delivers him from them all. It is not written Many are רָעוֹת לַצַּדִּיק (ra’ot la-tsaddiq), the afflictions for the righteous, but rather צַדִּיק (tsaddiq), [of] the righteous, because the blessed Holy One אִתְרְעֵי (itre’ei), delights, in that human being and delivers him from everything in this world and in the world that is coming [because the afflictions he suffers alienate him from the evil impulse (Sullam)]. Happy is his share!” (Zohar 1:179a–b, cf. Bahir §163–§164).

For He knows יִצְרֵנוּ (yitsrenu), our devisings, recalls that we are dust (Psalms 103:14).

“In the time to come the blessed Holy One will bring the evil impulse and slay it in the presence of the righteous and the wicked. To the righteous it will have the appearance of a towering hill, and to the wicked it will have the appearance of a thread of hair. Both the former and the latter will weep; the righteous will weep saying, ‘How were we able to overcome such a towering hill!’ The wicked also will weep saying, ‘How is it that we were unable to conquer this thread of hair!’ And the blessed Holy One will also marvel together with them, as is said, Thus says YHWH of Hosts, If it is marvelous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, would it also be marvelous in My eyes? (Zechariah 8:6) [cf. Zohar 1:190b].

Rav Assi said, ‘The evil impulse is at first like the thread of a spider, but ultimately becomes like cart ropes, as is said, Woe unto them that draw guilt with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope (Isaiah 5:18).’ 

Rabbi Avira or, as some say, Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi, made the following exposition: The evil impulse has seven names. The blessed Holy One called it Evil, as is said, For the יֵצֶר (yetser), devisings, of the human heart are evil from youth (Genesis 8:21). Moses called it the Uncircumcised, as is said, Circumcise the foreskin of your heart (Deuteronomy 10:16). David called it Impure, as is said, A pure heart create for me God (Psalms 51:12) which implies that there is an impure one. Solomon called it the Foe, as is said, If your foe is hungry, feed him bread, and if he thirsts, give him water, for you would heap live coals on his head, and YHWH will pay you back (Proverbs 25:21); read not, יְשַׁלֶּם לָךְ (yeshalem-lakh), will pay you back, but יַשׁלִימֶנוּ לָךְ (yashlimenu-lakh), will cause it to be at peace with you. Isaiah called it the Stumbling-block, as is said, Heap it up, heap it up, prepare the way, take up the stumbling-block out of the way of My people (Isaiah 57:14). Ezekiel called it Stone, as is said, And I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). Joel called it צְּפוֹנִי (Tsefoni), Hidden One, as is said, But I will remove far off from you אֶת הַצְּפוֹנִי (et-ha-tsefoni), the hidden one (Joel 2:20) [cf. Jeremiah 1:14: Out of צָּפוֹן (tsafon), the north, an evil shall break forth].

Our Rabbis taught: But I will remove far off from you the hidden one—the evil impulse which is constantly צָפוּן (tsafun), hidden, in the heart of man.…

The school of Rabbi Yishma’el taught, If this repulsive wretch meets you, drag him to the House of Study. If he is of stone, he will dissolve, if of iron he will shatter  [cf. BT Qiddushin 30a]. ‘If he is of stone he will dissolve’—for it is written, Ho, everyone that thirsts, come you to the waters (Isaiah 55:1) and it is written, Water wears away stones (Job 14:19). ‘If he is of iron, he will shatter’—for it is written, Is not My word like a fire? says YHWH; and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? (Jeremiah 23:29).

Rabbi Shemu’el son of Naḥman said in the name of Rabbi Yonatan: the evil impulse seduces you in this world and bears witness against you in the world that is coming, as is said, Who pampers his slave from youth, in the end there will be מָנוֹן (manon)  [alt., מָנוֹד (manod), dismay(Proverbs 29:21), for according to the [method of letter permutation] א״ט ב״ה (at bah) Rabbi Ḥiyya [teaches] סָהֵדַה (sahadah), witness, is called מָנוֹן (manon). Rav Ḥuna pointed out an incongruity: It is written, For the spirit of harlotry has caused them to err (Hosea 4:12), but is it not also written, [for the spirit of harlotry] is in the midst of them (ibid., 5:4)? First it only causes them to err, but ultimately it enters into them. Rabba observed, ‘First the evil impulse is a wayfarer in the street, then he is called guest, and finally he is called man [of the house], for it is said, And a wayfarer came to the richman, and it seemed a pity to him to take from his own sheep and cattle to prepare for the traveler who had come to him, and he took the poor man’s ewe and prepared it for the man who had come to him [ doomed is the man who has done this! And the poor man’s ewe he shall pay back fourfold, in as much as he has done this thing, and because he had no pity!] (2 Samuel 12:4–6)” (BT Sukkah 52b).

“Rabbi Yeisa said, ‘At the moment he departs from the world, every inhabitant of the world sees Adam to bear witness that due to his own sins he is departing, not because of Adam—except for those three who departed due to the incitement of the primordial serpent, namely, Amram, Levi, and Benjamin; some say: also Jesse. They never sinned; no trace of a sin could be found upon them to warrant their death, but that incitement of the serpent was brought to bear upon them, as we have said” (Zohar 1:57b, cf. BT Shabbat 55b).

“It has been taught in the name of Rabbi Me’ir: Man enters the world with clenched hands saying, ‘The whole world is mine; I shall inherit it!’ But when man leaves the world his hands are open, saying, ‘I have not taken anything from [this] world’” (Qohelet Rabbah 5:14).

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The Binding: Now I Know that You Fear God

And it happened after these things that God tested Abraham. And He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ and he said, ‘Here I am.’ And He said, ‘Take, pray, your son, your only one, whom you love, Isaac, and go forth to the land of Moriah and offer him up as a burnt offering, on one of the mountains which I shall say to you.’ And Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey and took his two lads with him, and Isaac his son, and he split wood for the offering, and rose and went to the place that God had said to him (Genesis 22:1–3).

“Abraham our father was tested with ten trials and he withstood all of them, to make known how great is His love for our father Abraham” (M Avot 5:3).

It came to pass after these things that God נִסָּה (nissah), tested, Abraham (Genesis 22:1). It is written: You have given נֵּס (nes), a banner, to those in awe of You לְהִתְנוֹסֵס (le-hitnoses), to be unfurled (Psalms 60:6)—trial upon trial, elevation above elevation, to test them in the world, to elevate them in the world like a ship’s banner” (Bereshit Rabbah 55:1).

And He said to him, ‘Abraham! Take, pray, your son (Genesis 22:2). And Abraham, having pity upon Isaac, said before Him: Master of all Worlds concerning which son do You decree upon me? Is it concerning the son lacking circumcision, or the son born for circumcision? He answered him: Your only one. He rejoined: This one is the only son of his mother, and the other son is the only son of his mother. He said to him: whom you love. He said to Him: I love both of them. He said to him: Isaac” (Bereshit Rabbah 31:38).

“And what is the purpose [of the Binding]? אֶמֶת (Emet), truth: in order that the equity of God’s justice may be מְאוּמָת (me’umat), verified, in the world. Thus, if one says, ‘Whom He wishes to enrich, He enriches; to impoverish, He impoverishes; whom He desires, He makes a king; when He wished, He made Abraham wealthy, and when He wished He made him king,’ then you can answer, ‘Can you do what Abraham did?’ Abraham was a hundred years old when Isaac his son was born to him (Genesis 21:5). And after all this anguish [i.e., Sarah’s childlessness], it was said to him, ‘Take your son…’ (Genesis 22:2). And he did not refuse.

Rabbi Yonatan said, ‘A potter does not test a weak vessel, for if he hits it just once, he will break it….’ Rabbi Yose son of Ḥaninah said, ‘When a flax maker knows that the flax is in good shape, then the more he beats it, the more it will improve and glisten….’ Rabbi El’azar said, ‘The matter may be compared to a householder who has two heifers, one strong, one weak. On whom does he place the yoke? So the blessed Holy One does not try the wicked but the righteous: YHWH probes the righteous (Psalms 11:5)….

One said, ‘I am more beloved than you, for I was circumcised when I was thirteen years old.’ The other said, ‘I am more beloved than you, for I was circumcised sooner, namely, on the eighth day.’ Ishmael said to him, ‘I am more beloved than you, because I could have objected but didn’t.’ At that moment Isaac said, ‘Would the blessed Holy One appear to me and tell me to cut off one of my limbs I would not object.’ The blessed Holy One said to him, ‘If I should tell you to offer yourself up to Me, you would not refuse’” (Bereshit Rabbah 55:1–4).

“[And Abraham made a great feast on the day Isaac was weaned (Genesis 21:8)]the adversary said to the Almighty, ‘Master of the Universe! To this old man did You graciously vouchsafe the fruit of the womb at the age of a hundred, yet of all that banquet which he prepared, he did not have one turtle-dove or pigeon to sacrifice to You! He only acted in honour of his son! Rabbi Shim’on son of Abba said: [Take,] pray, [your son, your only one, whom you love, Isaac…] (Genesis 22:2)—נָא (na), pray, can only denote entreaty. This may be compared to a king of flesh and blood who was confronted by many wars, which he won by the aid of a great warrior. Subsequently he was faced with a severe battle. Thereupon he said to him, ‘I pray you assist me in battle that people may not say, there was no reality in the earlier ones.’ So also did the blessed Holy One say to Abraham, ‘I have tested you with many trials and you withstood them all. Now, be firm, for My sake in this trial, that men may not say, there was no reality in the earlier ones….’

[The adversary said to Abraham on his way to Mount Moriah:] Look, you reproved many, and slack hands you strengthened. The stumbler your words lifted up, and bended knees you bolstered. But now it comes to you and you cannot stand it, it reaches you and you are dismayed (Job 4:2–5). He replied, I will walk in my wholeness (Psalms 26:2). ‘But,’ said [the adversary] to him, Is not your reverence your safety? (Job 4:6). ‘Remember,’ he retorted, What innocent man has died? (Job 4:6). Seeing that he [Abraham] would not listen, he said to him, And to me came a word in secret (Job 4:12) thus have I heard from behind the curtain, ‘the lamb will be for a burnt-offering, while Isaac will not be the burnt-offering.’ He [Abraham] replied, ‘It is the penalty of a liar, that should he even tell the truth, he is not listened to’” (BT Sanhedrin 89b, cf. Midrash Vayyosha 1:36).

“וַיְהִי (Vayhi), it came to pass, after these דְּבָרִים (devarim), things (Genesis 22:1). Rabbi Shim’on said: We have learned that the expression It came to pass in the days of denotes sorrow, while the phrase וַיְהִי (Vayhi), it came to pass—even without in the days of—is tinged with sorrow [see BT Megillah 10b; Bereshit Rabbah 41 (42):3].

It came to pass after—the lowest of all upper rungs. Who is that? דְּבָרִים (Devarim) [Shekhinah], as is said: I am not a man of דְּבָרִים (devarim), words (Exodus 4:10) [at the beginning of his career, Moses was heavy of mouth and heavy of tongue (Exodus 4:10), not yet filled with the divine word, not yet intimate with Shekhinah]. Who came after this rung? And Elohim tested Abraham (Genesis, ibid.) for the evil impulse came to accuse in the presence of the blessed Holy One. Here we should contemplate: Elohim tested Abraham. The verse should read: tested Isaac, since Isaac was already thirty-seven years old, and his father was no longer responsible for him. If Isaac had said, ‘I refuse,’ his father would not have been punished. So why is it written, Elohim tested Abraham, and not Elohim tested Isaac?

But Abraham, precisely! For he had to be encompassed by judgment [or: crowned by rigor], since previously Abraham had contained no judgment at all. Now water was embraced by fire. Abraham had been incomplete until now, when he was crowned to execute judgment, arraying it in its realm. His whole life long he had been incomplete until now, when water was completed by fire, fire by water.

So Elohim tested Abraham—not Isaac—calling him to be embraced by judgment. When he did so, fire entered water, becoming complete. One was judged, one executed judgment—encompassing one another. Therefore the evil impulse came to accuse Abraham, who was incomplete until he executed judgment upon Isaac. For the evil impulse appears after דְּבָרִים (devarim), coming to accuse.

Come and see the mystery of the word: Although we have said that Abraham is written, not Isaac, Isaac is encompassed by this verse through the mysterious wording: Elohim tested אֶת (et) Abraham. It is not written tested לְאַבְרָהָם (le-Avraham), Abraham, but rather נִסָּה אֶת אַבְרָהָם (nissah et-Avraham)—tested et Abraham, precisely! This is Isaac, for at that time he dwelled in low power. As soon as he was bound on the altar, initiated into judgment fittingly by Abraham, he was crowned in his realm alongside Abraham—fire and water encompassing one another, ascending. Then division became apparent: water versus fire.

Who would have created a compassionate father who turned cruel? It was only so that division would manifest: water versus fire, crowned in their realms, until Jacob appeared, and everything harmonized—triad of patriarchs completed above, and below arrayed” (Zohar 1:119b).

“Isaac said to Abraham his father, My father!… (Genesis 22:7). Why didn’t he answer him at all? Because he had withdrawn from a father’s mercy for his son, so it is written: Here I am my son (ibid.). Here I am—mercy [i.e., Abraham (Ḥesed)] has vanished, transformed into judgement [i.e., Isaac (Gevurah)]. Abraham said, and it is not written: His father said, for he did not appear as a father but rather as an adversary” (Zohar 1:120a).

“Son honors his father—Isaac to Abraham. When did he honor him? When he bound him on the altar, intending to offer him up as a sacrifice. Isaac was thirty-seven years old, while Abraham was an old man, so if he had kicked with one foot he could not have withstood him. Yet he honored his father, allowing himself to be bound like a lamb to fulfill his father’s will” (Zohar 1:103a).

Do not reach out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him, for now I know that you fear God and you have not held back your son, your only one, from Me (Genesis 22:12).

Abraham My servant (Genesis 26:24).

Wherever the Preparation of the Incense is Uttered with Intention and Heartfelt Devotion No One can be Harmed

Jerusalem-Incense“Rabbi Zutra son of Tobiah said in the name of Rav: From where do we learn that a blessing should be said over sweet aromas? Because it says, Let all that has breath praise Yah (Psalms 150:6). What is that which gives enjoyment to the soul and not to the body?—you must say that this is fragrance” (BT Berakhot 43b).

“Three things restore one’s mind: sounds, sights, and smells” (BT Berakhot 57b).

“Whoever smelled the smoke, as a column rose from the smoke-raiser [in the Temple], became cleansed of heart, refined in radiant joy to serve his Lord. The filth of the evil impulse disappeared from him, leaving him with only one heart toward his Father in heaven [cf. M Berakhot 9:5]; for incense actually disintegrates the evil impulse in all aspects… nothing in the world breaks the Other Side except incense.

Come and see what is written: Take the fire-pan and place fire upon it from the altar and put in incense. Why? For the fury has gone forth from before YHWH, the plague has begun! (Numbers 17:11). For look, nothing breaks that side except incense, since nothing is as beloved to the blessed Holy One as incense! Consequently, it can eliminate sorcery and evil elements from the home. If the fragrance and smoke of incense prepared by people for that purpose has the power to eliminate, All the more so [holy] incense.

This matter is an established decree before the blessed Holy One: Whoever contemplates and reads every day פִּטּוּם הַקְּטֹרֶת (Pitum ha-Qetoret), Preparation of the Incense, will be saved from all elements of sorcery in the world, from all mishaps, evil fantasies, and pestilence. He will not be harmed that entire day, for the Other Side has no power over him—but he must focus his intention on it.

Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘If human beings knew how exalted the Preparation of the Incense was in the eyes of the blessed Holy One, they would take every single word and raise it as a crown upon their heads, like a crown of gold. Whoever engages in the Preparation of the Incense and concentrates upon it every day has a share in this world and in the world that is coming. Pestilence will disappear from him and from the world, and he will be delivered from all judgments and all evil aspects of this world, from the judgment of the alien kingdom, and even from the judgment of Hell….

The Preparation of the Incense is more beloved than all rituals and devotions in the world. Even though prayer is most exalted of all [the commandments], the Preparation of the Incense is precious and beloved to the blessed Holy One.

Come and see: What is the difference between prayer and the Preparation of the Incense? Prayer was instituted to replace the sacrifices that Israel used to offer [in the time when the Temple stood], and none of those sacrifices that they offered was as important as the incense. Furthermore, what is the difference between this and that? Well, prayer is restoration, restoring as needed. Incense does more: restoring, forging links, and producing radiance greater than all. What is that? Removing filth and purifying the Dwelling—all is illumined, restored, and linked as one. Therefore we must remove filth from the world, thereby restoring all, every single day—like that beloved offering, in which the blessed Holy One delighted” (Zohar 2:218b–19a).

And YHWH said to Moses, “Take you the סַמִּים (samim), fragrances, balsam and onycha and galbanum, fragrances, and clear frankincense, equal part for part shall it be. And you shall make of it incense, a perfume compound, perfumer’s work, tinctured with salt, pure, sacred. And you shall pound it to fine powder and place some of it before the Ark of the Covenant in the Tent of Meeting where I shall meet you. Holy of holies it shall be to you (Exodus 30:34–38).

And Aaron shall burn upon it the aromatic incense morning after morning, when he tends the lamps he shall burn it. And when Aaron lights the lamps at twilight he shall burn it, a perpetual incense before YHWH for your generations. You shall not offer up on it strange incense (Exodus 30:7–8).

“The Rabbis taught: How was the incense prepared? It weighed 368 manehs, 365 corresponding to the number of days in a solar year, a maneh for each day, half to be offered in the morning and half in the afternoon, and three additional manehs from which the High Priest took handfuls on Yom Kippur. These were put back into the mortar on the day before Yom Kippur and ground again very thoroughly so as to be extremely fine. The incense contained eleven kinds of spices [אֲדֹנָי (Adonai), Lord, times eleven equals הַקְטֹרֶת (ha-qetoret), the incense]: balsam, onycha, galbanum and frankincense, each weighing seventy manehs; myrrh, cassia, spikenard and saffron, each weighing sixteen manehs; twelve manehs of costus, three of aromatic bark; nine of cinnamon; nine kabs of Carsina lye; three seahs and three kabs of Cyprus wine. If Cyprus wine was not available, old white wine might be used. A quarter of a kab of Sodom salt, and a minute amount of smoke-raising herb. Rabbi Natan the Babylonian says: also a minute amount of Jordan amber. If one added honey to the mixture, he rendered it unfit for sacred use. If he omitted any one of its ingredients, he is guilty of a capital offence.

Rabban Shim’on son of Gamliel says: ‘Balsam’ refers to the sap that drips from the balsam tree. The Carsina lye was used for bleaching the onycha to improve it. The Cyprus wine was used to soak the onycha in it to make it pungent. Though urine is suitable for this purpose, it is not brought into the Temple out of respect.

It was taught, Rabbi Natan says: While it was being ground, another would say הָדֵק הֵיטֵב הֵיטֵב הָדֵק (hadeq heitev, heitev hadeq), ‘Grind carefully, carefully grind,’ because the [rhythmic] sound is good for [those who grind] spices. If it was mixed in half-quantities, it is fit for use, but we have not heard whether this applies to a third or a quarter. Rabbi Yehudah said: The general rule is that if it was made in the correct proportions, it is fit for use even if made in half-quantity, but if he omitted any one of its ingredients, he is guilty of a capital offence (BT Karetot 6a).

“It was taught, Son of Qappara says: Once every sixty or seventy years, the accumulated surpluses amounted to half the yearly quantity. Son of Qappara also taught: If a minute quantity of honey had been mixed into the incense, no one could have resisted the scent. Why did they not put honey into it? Because Torah says, For you shall not turn to smoke any leaven nor any honey from it as a fire offering to YHWH (Leviticus 2:11)” (JT Yoma 4:5).

And Moses said to Aaron, “Take the fire-pan and place fire upon it from the altar and put in incense and carry it quickly to the community and atone for them, for the furry has gone out from before YHWH, the scourge has begun.” And Aaron took as Moses had spoken, and he ran into the midst of the assembly, and, look, the scourge had begun against the people, and he put in incense and atoned for the people. And he stood between the dead and the living, and the scourge was held back (Numbers 17:11–13).

“The Angel of Death confided his secret to him [Moses], for it is said, and he put in incense and atoned for the people (Numbers 17:11); and it is said, And he stood between the dead and the living, [and the scourge was held back] (ibid. 13). Had he not told it to him, where had he known it? [Since this act of intervention to save the people is not dictated by God but is a device Moses on his own initiative orders Aaron to implement]” (BT Shabbat 89a).

Take the fire-pan… and put in incense (Numbers 17:11)—a specific fire-pan [since the noun has the definite article]. [However,] it does not say and put in the incense. The intelligent will understand [i.e., the burning of incense was a sanitary technique used to drive off the plague]” (Ibn Ezra, Perush al ha-Torah).

“What atonement is there which obtains evenly for oneself, his household, his brethren, the priests, and the whole assembly of the house of Israel? It is the smoking of the incense. But does the incense obtain atonement?—indeed, for Rabbi Ḥananiah cited: We learn that the incense obtains atonement for what was said: And he put in incense and atoned for the people (Numbers 17:12). And the school of Rabbi Yishma’el taught: Why does incense obtain atonement for evil speech? Let that which is in secret [i.e. since none but the high priest may enter the Holy of Holies] come and obtain atonement for what is committed in secret!” (BT Yoma 44a).

“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).

May my prayer stand as incense before You (Psalms 141:2).

“Come and see: Incense binds bonds, spreading joy from above and below. This eliminates death, accusation, and wrath, which cannot prevail in the world” (Zohar 1:230a, cf. Bahir §109).

“And when the highest point and the world that is coming ascend, they know only the aroma, as one inhaling an aroma is sweetened” (Zohar 3:26b).

Holding in Their Hand that Reptile

“Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘Woe to human beings who do not know, consider, or see! They are all obtuse, unaware how full the world is of strange, invisible creatures, of hidden things. If the eye were empowered to see, humans would be amazed how they themselves can endure. Come and see: This Na’amah was mother of demons. From her side issue all those inflamed by human beings, absorbing their spirit of lust, titillating them, turning them into casualties of ejaculation. Since such a casualty derives from the side of impure spirit, he must bathe to purify himself, as established by the Companions” (Zohar 1:55a, cf. Deuteronomy 23:11; BT Berakhot 6a).

“Come and see: All generations in the days of Noah exposed their sins to the world brazenly, in sight of all. One day Rabbi Shim’on was walking through the gates of Tiberias when he saw some men drawing the bow taut with the shaft of a centaur. He exclaimed, ‘What! Such brazen sin, provoking their Lord?’ He cast his eyes upon them; they were hurled into the sea and drowned” (Zohar 1:58a).

“Rabbi Yitsḥaq was in the presence of Rabbi Shim’on. He asked him: This verse, And the earth was corrupt before God (Genesis 6:11)—given that humans sinned, but how did the earth [do so]? He replied: Since it is written, for all flesh had corrupted their way [upon earth] (ibid., 12), as has been said. Similarly, The earth was defiled, and I inflicted her punishment upon her (Leviticus 18:25). It was human beings who sinned. But if you ask, ‘How did earth [sin]?’ the answer is: Human beings constitute the essence of earth—they ruin earth, and it is ruined. The verse proves it, as is written: God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth (Genesis, ibid.).

Come and see: All sins of a human being are entirely his ruination, yet are susceptible to return [i.e., may be atoned by repentance]; but the sin of spilling seed, wasting his way, emitting seed upon earth, ruining both himself and the earth—of this is written: stained is your iniquity before Me (Jeremiah 2:22). Similarly, You are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil cannot abide with you (Psalms 5:5), except through great returning. Similarly, Er, firstborn of Judah, was evil in the eyes of YHWH; and YHWH slew him (Genesis 38:7). This has already been explained.

Rabbi Yehudah asked: Why did the blessed Holy One punish the world with water, and not with fire or some other element? He [Rabbi Shim’on] replied: It is a mystery! For they wasted their ways, so that the upper waters and lower waters failed to unite fittingly; so did they ruin their ways, male and female waters. So they were punished by water, just like they sinned. The water was boiling, peeling off their skin, just as they wasted their ways with boiling water [cf. BT Sanhderin 108b]. A fitting punishment, as is written: All the springs of the great abyss burst forth (ibid. 8:2)—lower waters; and the sluices of heaven opened (ibid.)—upper waters. Upper and lower waters” (Zohar 1:61b–62a).

What he did was evil in the eyes of YHWH (Genesis 38:10). Rabbi Ḥiyya opened, In the morning sow your seed… (Ecclesiastes 11:6). Come and see how greatly a person should beware his sins and be heedful in his actions before the blessed Holy One! For numerous messengers and officials populate the world, roaming around, observing human actions and testifying about them, all recorded in a book [see M Avot 2:1].

Come and see: Of all the sins by which a person is defiled in this world, this is the sin by which he is defiled both in this world and the world that is coming: spilling one’s seed fruitlessly [cf. BT Niddah 13a–b]—emitting seed in vain by hand or foot, and becoming defiled, as is written: For You are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil cannot abide with You (Psalms 5:5). He does not enter the curtain nor gaze upon the Countenance of Days, as we have learned, for it is written: Evil cannot abide with You, and similarly: Er, Judah’s firstborn, was evil (Genesis 38:7). Therefore, Your hands are full of blood (Isaiah 1:15). Happy is the share of a person in awe of his Lord, guarded from the evil path, purifying himself to persevere in the awe of his Lord!

Come and see: In the morning sow your seed. This verse has been established: in the morning—when a man is in his prime, in his youth; then he should strive to engender children, as is written: sow your seed. Then is the time, as is written: Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth (Psalms 127:4), since he can teach them the ways of the blessed Holy One and obtain a fine reward in the world that is coming, as is written: Happy is the man who fills his quiver with them; they will not be put to shame… (ibid., 5)—in that world, when masters of judgment come to accuse him; for you cannot find a better reward in that world than one who has taught his child the awe of his Lord and the ways of Torah.

Come and see from Abraham, of whom is written For I have known him, so that he will instruct his children… (Genesis 18:19). So the merit stands him well in that world against all masters of judgment; therefore, In the morning sow your seed. And at evening—even in old age, a time when a person wanes, what is written? Do not hold back your hand—one should not forsake engendering in this world. Why? For you do not know which will prosper… (Ecclesiastes, ibid.), so that they can stand up for him in that world. Therefore, Children are the heritage of YHWH (Psalms 127:3). Who is heritage of YHWH? Bundle of the soul [Shekhinah], aspect of the world that is coming. As for this heritage, who entitles one to enter the heritage of YHWH? Children—those children entitle him to the heritage of YHWH. So, happy is the person who attains them and teaches them the ways of Torah, as has been said” (Zohar 1:188a).

“Whoever emits his seed fruitlessly is called evil and does not see the face of Shekhinah, as is written: You are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil cannot abide with You (Psalms 5:5), and similarly: Er, firstborn of Judah, was evil in the eyes of YHWH (Genesis 38:7). Here too, Woe to the wicked! Evil!—woe to that wicked one, who is evil, who made himself evil. For what his hands have perpetrated will be requited to him—to include one who fornicates with his hands, emitting seed fruitlessly; this one is tormented in that world more than all.

Come and see! For it is written: Woe to the wicked! Evil! Since it is written Woe to the wicked, why evil? But as I have said: He made himself evil. And it is written: Evil cannot abide with You. All of them ascend, whereas this one does not. Now, you might ask, ‘What about other sinners who have killed people? Come and see: All of them ascend, but he does not. Why? Because they have killed other human beings, whereas he has killed his children—his very own children!—spilling much blood.

Come and see: Of other sinners of the world is not written It was evil in the eyes of YHWH, where as here is written What he did was evil in the eyes of YHWH (ibid., 10). Why? Because he wasted on the ground (ibid., 9).

We have learned: Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘There is nothing in the world for which one cannot repent, except for this [cf. Zohar 1:61b–62a]. There is no sinner who cannot see the face of Shekhinah, except for this one, as is written: Evil cannot abide with You—at all!” (Zohar 1:219b).

“Woe to him for that punishment, woe to him for tainting the sign of the holy covenant! Woe to him for that shame, for eternal vengeance will be wreaked upon him—vengeance of this world and vengeance for that taint. This is the mystery of what is written: For the rod of wickedness shall not rest on the portion of the righteous (Psalms 125:3)… This pertains if one has not turned back completely in repentance, a turning capable of covering his deeds” (Zohar 2:214b).

“And we have learned: A man is forbidden to gaze at the beauty of a woman, so that he not have evil fantasies and be uprooted to something else. This is how Rabbi Shim’on acted when he was walking through town, followed by the Companions, and they saw beautiful women. He would lower his eyes and say to the Companions, ‘Do not turn to idols (Leviticus 19:4).’ For whoever gazes at a woman’s beauty during the day will have fantasies at night; and if they overwhelm him, he transgresses Do not make molten gods for yourselves (ibid.). Furthermore, if he has intercourse with his wife while those evil imaginings arise within him, the children they engender are called molten gods. Do not turn to idols. Rabbi Abba said, ‘A person is forbidden to look at idols of the nations or to derive benefit from them—all the more so, to look at a place that should not be seen” (Zohar 3:83b–84a).

You shall show them no grace. [You shall not intermarry with them. You shall not give your daughter to his son, nor shall you take his daughter for your son. For he will make your son swerve from following Me…] (Deuteronomy 7:2–4). For Rav said: One is forbidden to say, ‘How beautiful is this idolatress!’ The following objection was raised: It happened that Rabban Shim’on son of Gamaliel, while standing on a step on the Temple-mount, saw a heathen woman who was particularly beautiful, and he exclaimed: ‘How great are Your works, O YHWH!’ (Psalms 104:24). Likewise, when Rabbi Akiva saw the wife of the wicked Tyranus Rufus [Governor of Judea], he spat, then laughed, and then wept. ‘Spat’—because of her originating only from a fetid drop [see M Avot 3:1]; ‘laughed’—because he foresaw that she would become a convert and that he would take her to wife; ‘wept,’ that such beauty should [ultimately] decay in the dust.

What then about Rav’s ruling? [who holds that one must not admire the beauty of a genitle woman]. [He might say that] each of these rabbis merely offered thanksgiving. For a Master has said: He who beholds goodly creatures should say, ‘Blessed be He who has created such in His world’ [cf. BT Berakhot 58b]. But is even mere looking permitted? The following can surely be raised as an objection: [When you sally forth in a camp against your enemy,you shall keep yourself from every evil thing (Deuteronomy 23:10), that one should not look intently at a beautiful woman, even if she be unmarried, or at a married woman even if she be ugly, nor at a woman’s attractive dress, nor at male and female donkeys, or a pig and a sow, or at fowls when they are mating; even if one is all eyes like the Angel of Death!

It has been said of the Angel of Death that he is completely full of eyes. When a sick person is about to die, he stands above the head of the bed. In his hand is a drawn sword with a bitter drop suspended. When the sick person sees him, he is terrified and opens his mouth. The angel flings the drop inside [cf. Job 20:14: vipers’ bile in his gut]. From this drop he dies; from this drop he turns putrid; from this drop his face turns green [therefore the Angel of Death is called סָמָאֵל (sama’el), the Venom of God].

[What may have happened in the aforementioned case of Rabban Shim’on son of Gamaliel was that] the woman turned round a corner [and her face thus met his eyes unexpectedly]” (BT Avodah Zarah 20a).

“Our Rabbis taught: If a man counts out money from his hand into the hand of a woman so as to have the opportunity of gazing at her, even if he can vie in Torah and good deeds like Moses our teacher, he shall not escape the punishment of Hell, as it says, Hand to hand the evil will not go scot-free (Proverbs 11:21), he shall not escape from the punishment of Hell” (BT Berakhot 61a).

“Rabbi Meir used to mock עוֹבְרֵי עֲבֵירָה (overei aveirah), transgressors. One day Satan appeared to him in the guise of a woman on the opposite bank of the river. As there was no ferry, he seized the ‘rope’ and עֶבֶר (ever), crossed. When he had reached half way along the ‘rope,’ he let him go saying: ‘Had they not proclaimed in Heaven, ‘Take heed of Rabbi Meir and his learning,’ I would have valued your blood [i.e., life] at two ma’ahs.’ Rabbi Akiva used to mock transgressors. One day Satan appeared to him as a woman on the top of a palm tree. Grasping the tree, he went climbing up: but when he reached half-way up the tree he let him go, saying: ‘Had they not proclaimed in Heaven, ‘Take heed of Rabbi Akiva and his learning,’ I would have valued your blood at two ma’ahs.’

Peleimo used to say every day, ‘An arrow in the adversary’s eyes!’ One day—it was the eve of Yom Kippur—he disguised himself as a poor man and went and called out at his door; so bread was taken out to him. He said, ‘On such a day, when everyone is within, shall I be without?’ He was taken in and bread was offered him. He said, ‘On a day like this, when everyone sits at the table, shall I sit alone!’ He was led and sat down at the table. As he sat, his body was covered with sores and puss, and he was behaving repulsively. ‘Sit properly,’ he rebuked him. He said, ‘Give me a cup,’ and one was given him. He coughed and spat his phlegm into it. They scolded him, he fainted and died. Then they [the household] heard people crying out, ‘Peleimo has killed a man, Peleimo has killed a man!’ Fleeing, he hid in a toilet; he followed him, and he fell before him. Seeing how he was suffering, he disclosed his identity and said to him, why have you spoken this way [provoking me by saying: An arrow in the adversary’s eyes]? What then should I say? You should say: ‘The Compassionate rebuke Satan’ [cf. Zechariah 3:2: YHWH rebuke you, the adversary]” (BT Qiddushin 81a–b).

“Rav Yoḥanan said: Man has a small member—when he starves it, it is satisfied, and when he satisfies it, it is starving” (BT Sukkot 52b).

And I saw among the dupes, discerned among the young men a witless lad, passing through the streets, by the corner, on the way to her house he strides, at twilight, as evening descends, in pitch-black night and darkness. And, look, a woman to meet him, whore’s attire and hidden intent. Bustling she is and wayward, in her house her feet do not stay. Now outside, now in the square, and by every corner she lurks.

She seizes him and kisses him, impudently says to him: “I had to make well-being offerings, today I’ve fulfilled my vows. And so I’ve come out to meet you, to seek you, and I’ve found you. With coverlets I’ve spread my couch, dyed cloths of Egyptian linen. I’ve sprinkled my bed with myrrh, with aloes and cinnamon. Come, let us drink deep of loving till morn, let us revel in love’s delights….” She sways him with all her talk, with her smooth speech she leads him astray. He goes after her in a trice, as an ox goes off to the slaughter, as a stag prances into a halter. Till an arrow pierces his liver, as a bird hastens to the snare, not knowing the cost is his life.

And now, sons, listen to me, and attend to my mouth’s sayings. Let your heart not veer to her ways, and do not go astray on her paths. For many the victims she has felled, innumerable all whom she has killed. Through her house are the ways to Sheol, going down to the chambers of Death (Proverbs 7:7–18, 21–27).

“The secret of secrets: From the strength of the noon-flame of Isaac, from the dregs of wine, a naked shoot came forth, comprising together male and female, red like a lily, and they spread out on several sides, down several paths. The male is called Samael and his female is always included with him. Just as on the side of holiness there are male and female, so on the other side there are male and female, included one with the other. The female of Samael is called ‘serpent,’ ‘a wife of harlotry,’ ‘the end of all flesh,’ ‘the end of days.’

Two evil spirits are attached to one another. The male spirit is fine, the female spirit spreads out down several ways and paths, and is attached to the male spirit. She dresses herself in finery like an abominable harlot and stands at the corners of streets and highways in order to attract men. When a fool approaches her, she embraces him and kisses him, and mixes her dregs of wine with snake poison for him. Once he has drunk, אַסְטֵי (astei), he turns aside, after her. When she sees that he has turned aside after her from the way of truth, she takes off all the finery that she had put on for the sake of this fool [cf. Bahir §164: ‘הַשָּׂטָן (Ha-satan), the adversary, turns aside, since he weighs down the whole world on the scale of liability. How do we know? As is written, וַיֵּט (va-yet), and he turned aside, to her (Genesis 38:16), and the Targum renders this וּסְטָא (u-seta). It is likewise written שְׂטֵה (seteh), turn away, from it and pass on (Proverbs 4:15)’].

This is the finery that she uses to seduce mankind: her hair is long, red like a lily; her face is white and pink; six pendants hang at her ears; her bed is made of Egyptian flax; all the ornaments of the East encircle her neck; her mouth is shaped like a tiny door, beautified with cosmetic; her tongue is sharp like a sword; her words smooth as oil; her lips beautiful, red as a lily, sweetened with all the sweetnesses in the world; she is dressed in purple, and attired in thirty-nine items of finery. This fool turns aside after her, and drinks from the cup of wine, and commits harlotry with her, completely enamored of her. What does she do? She leaves him asleep on the bed and ascends to the realms above, accuses him, obtains authority, and descends. The fool wakes up, thinking to sport with her as before, but she takes off her finery, and turns into a fierce warrior, facing him in a garment of flaming fire, a vision of dread, terrifying both body and soul, full of horrific eyes, a sharpened sword in his hand with drops of poison suspended and dripping from it. He kills the fool, and throws him into Hell” (Zohar 1:148a–b, Sitrei Torah, cf. Zohar 1:190a–b; 2:163a–b; 3:19a, 76b–77a).

“The Queen does not dwell in one’s כֹּחַ (koaḥ), power, [namely] the כ״ח (twenty-eight) finger joints, until all the filth of the wicked, unfit slavegirl, wife to the unfit, is removed. Therefore, the Masters of Mishnah explained that ‘filthy hands are unfit to make a blessing’ (BT Berakhot 53b). This water is for cleansing the hand upon which the hand of YHWH rests. The hand of YHWH is the water of Torah. The ignorant people are considered as unclean reptiles [see BT Pesaḥim 49b]. What good will immersing in water do them, holding in their hand that reptile, which is the wicked slavegirl, stolen goods in their possession, the stolen blessings they stole from the blessed Holy One. They do not know what a blessing is, or what filth is” (Zohar 3:273b, Ra’aya Meheimna Eqev).

The Power is in our Hands

35_2053“Our Rabbis taught: Rabbi Akiva  was once confined in a prison-house and Rabbi Yehoshua the grits-maker was attending on him. Every day, a certain quantity of water was brought in to him. On one occasion he was met by the prison keeper who said to him, ‘Your water today is rather much; do you perhaps require it for undermining the prison?’ He poured out a half of it and handed to him the other half. When he came to Rabbi Akiva the latter said to him, ‘Yehoshua, do you not know that I am an old man and my life depends on yours?’ When he told him all that had happened [Rabbi Akiva] said to him, ‘Give me some water to wash my hands.’ ‘It will not suffice for drinking, will it suffice for washing your hands?’ ‘What can I do when one is liable to death? It is better that I should die my own death than neglect the knowledge of my Companions [who ordained the washing of hands before meals].’ It was related that he tasted nothing until the other had brought him water and he washed his hands. When the sages heard of this incident they remarked: ‘If he was so in his old age how much more must he have been so in his youth; and if he was so in a prison-house how much more when not in a prison-house'” (BT Eruvin 21b).

“There is one who fears without knowing what he fears, because of sins that he did not recognize as sin, that he did not consider. It is he who fears days of evil (Psalms 49:6)—those days designated for the evil one. And who are they? This is the evil impulse, called evil one, who has certain days on which he is authorized in the world to lead astray all those who defile their ways, for one who comes to defile himself, they defile. So these are called days of evil, and they are assigned to those sins people trample underfoot [i.e., the iniquity of my heels (ibid.)].

Come and see: All those who defile their ways encounter bands of dazzling demons, defiling them. On the path one wishes to take, on precisely that path he is conducted. If a person comes to purify himself, how many are those who assist him [see BT Makkot 10b]!

We have learned that when a person rises in the morning, he should wash his hands from a receptacle of water—a vessel for pouring water—by means of someone who has already washed his hands, as has been established. Come and see: On account of this receptacle, we have established this matter [of ‘sins that people trample under foot’ i.e., seemingly insignificant misdeeds, peccadilloes, see BT Avodah Zarah 18a (in the name of Rabbi Shim’on son of Laqish); Tanḥuma, Eqev 1].

Further, a person should wash the right hand with the left; this is the purpose of washing. So one who washes his hands should wash right with left, so as not to provide any opening for the evil impulse to dominate, as we have established” (Zohar 1:198a–b).

“Water is from the right and it is joy. It immediately gives to the left, where that water cleaves, bringing joy. Then it is included in the right and arouses the Female with that joy. Your sign: one who takes water in a vessel with his right hand; the first to pour water is the left—and not from left to right, since water is received from the right by the left. Therefore, water is found only on the left….

After a person has eaten and enjoyed himself, he should give part of the remnants to that side. What is that? Fingerbowl water—that filth of the hands—for one must give that side the portion that he needs…. Consequently, one should not bless at all, for there is no blessing on that side” (Zohar 2:154b).

Afflictions of the children of Adam (2 Samuel 7:14). These lure human beings at doorways, wells, and toilets. Therefore, if a person places the Holy Name at his doorway—if שַׁדַּי (Shaddai) is inscribed in its supernal crowns—they all flee far away from him, corresponding to what is written: No affliction will draw near your tent (Psalms 91:10). What is affliction? Afflictions of the children of Adam” (Zohar 3:76b).

“To wash the hands to the extent that the sages decreed, namely five knots, which contain fourteen joints. Similarly there are fourteen joints in the left [יָד (yad), hand, is numerically equivalent to י״ד (fourteen)], making twenty-eight joints. And against these כ״ח (twenty-eight) ‘the כֹּחַ (koaḥ), power, of YHWH,’ and these are the twenty-eight letters of the first verse in the Works of Creation [see Genesis 1:1], and of them is written: And so, let the Lord’s כֹּחַ (koaḥ), power, pray, be great (Numbers 14:17). The ten fingers correspond to the ten acts of speech at the creation of the world [וַיֹּאמֶר (va’yomer), and He said, is counted ten times in Genesis 1, see M Avot 5:1]: For this reason, the Masters of Mishnah taught: ‘Whoever is careless over the washing of the hands is uprooted from the world’ (BT Sotah 4b). Why is this? It is because the ten fingers of the hands and the twenty-eight joints of the fingers contain the mystery of the ten acts of speech and the twenty-eight letters with which the world was created” (Zohar 3:244b, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

“Rabbi Pinḥas son of Ya’ir said: Study leads to precision, precision leads to zeal, zeal leads to cleanliness, cleanliness leads to restraint, restraint leads to purity, purity leads to holiness, holiness leads to meekness, meekness leads to fear of sin, fear of sin leads to saintliness, saintliness leads to the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit leads to revival of the dead” (BT Avodah Zarah 20b).

First Born Ox

1470280480024“I have ox and donkey (Genesis 32:6). Ox—מָשׁוּחַ מִלחָמָה (mashuaḥ milḥamah), Anointed for War, as is said, His first born ox is His glory (Deuteronomy 33:17). Donkey—מֶלֶך הַמָשִׁיחַ (Melekh ha-Mashia), the King Messiah, as is said, He is lowly and rides a donkey (Zechariah 9:9)” (Bereshit Rabbah 75:6, cf. Tanḥuma [Buber] 1:54, 179).

Rejoice with all your heart, daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, daughter of Jerusalem! Look! Your King is coming to you: He is righteous and victorious. He is lowly and rides on a donkey, on a colt, a young pack animal (Zechariah 9:9).

“The Masters of Mishnah taught: ‘Who is mighty? He who conquers his [evil] impulse’ (M Avot 4:1). And there are those for whom it becomes a חֲמוֹר (ḥamor), donkey, that causes no trouble for its rider, and they are the ones who exert themselves in קַל וָחוֹמֶר (qal va-ḥomer), inference from minor to major. And this is why it is written of Abraham: And saddled his donkey (Genesis 22:3). And this is also why it is said about Messiah: He is lowly and rides on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9)” (Zohar 3:237b, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

He is lowly and rides on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9)—עָנִי (ani), lowly, stands for the Mishnah orders of עֵרוּבִין (eruvin), Mixture [i.e., Sabbath borders], נִדָּה (niddah), Separated [i.e., laws of the menstruate] and יְבָמוֹת (yevamot), Levirates [i.e., laws of marriage between a widow and her brother-in-law]. The rest of the orders of the Mishnah are comprised in these but one is not considered a king until he rides on a horse, which is the Assembly of Israel [cf. Song of Songs 1:9: To my mare among Pharaoh’s chariots I likened you, my friend]….

And when the gulf is open, whoever falls there does not come up. And Messiah the Son of David fell there together with Messiah son of Joseph, of whom one is written: He is lowly and rides on a donkey, and the other is, His first born ox (Deuteronomy 33:17). This is the meaning of: If a man shall dig a pit, and not cover it, and an ox or a donkey fall into it (Exodus 21:33). For that reason Messiah is called בַּר נַפְלֵי (bar nafli), Son of the Fallen [see BT Sanhedrin 96b–97a], and She [Shekhinah] fell with them, and of Her it says, Fallen, not to rise again, is Virgin Israel (Amos 5:2). And you [Faithful Shepherd], the owner of the pit shall pay silver, shall make good to its owner, and the carcass shall be his (Exodus 21:34). The dead refers to Messiah son of Joseph who in the future will be slain [… censored passage]. Joseph, His first born ox is His glory (Deuteronomy 33:17), of whom it says, And they… cast him into a pit (Genesis 37:24)—the evil female. And the pit was empty (ibid.)—the male which is empty, without Torah, but instead has snakes and scorpions in it. This is the fourth exile [of Esau] which is a wicked generation, full of snakes and scorpions, scoundrels like snakes and who are עַקְרַבִּֽים (aqrabim), scorpions, since they עָקוּר (aqoor), uproot, the words of the Rabbis and give false sentence. Of them it says: Her adversaries have become the chief (Lamentations 1:5)” (Zohar 3:276b–279b, Ra’aya Meheimna Ki Tetse).

And the land shall mourn, every clan apart; the clan of the house of David apart, and their wives apart (Zechariah 12:12)…. what is the cause of the mourning?—Rabbi Dosa and the Rabbis disagree. One explained, The cause is the slaying of Messiah son of Joseph [in the war of Gog from the land of Magog prior to the ultimate redemption with the coming of Messiah son of David], and the other explained, The cause is the slaying of the evil impulse. It is well according to him who explains that the cause is the slaying of Messiah son of Joseph, since that well agrees with: And they shall look upon Me because they have thrust him through, and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for his only son (ibid., 10); but according to him who explains the cause to be the slaying of the evil impulse, is this an occasion for mourning? Is it not rather an occasion for rejoicing? Why then should they weep?—as Rabbi Yehudah expounded: In the time yet to come the blessed Holy One will bring the evil impulse and slay it in the presence of the righteous and the wicked. To the righteous it will have the appearance of a towering hill, and to the wicked it will have the appearance of a hair thread. Both the former and the latter will weep; the righteous will weep saying, ‘How were we able to overcome such a towering hill!’ The wicked also will weep saying, ‘How is it that we were unable to conquer this hair thread!’ And the blessed Holy One will also marvel together with them, as is said, Thus says YHWH of armies; If it is marvelous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, would it also be marvelous in My eyes? says YHWH of armies (ibid. 8:6). 

Rav Assi said, ‘The evil impulse is at first like the thread of a spider, but ultimately becomes like cart ropes, as is said, Woe unto them that draw guilt with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope (Isaiah 5:18).’

Our Rabbis taught, the blessed Holy One will say to the Messiah, Son of David (May he reveal himself speedily in our days), ‘Ask of Me anything, and I will give it to you,’ as is said, Let me tell as is due of YHWH. He said to me: ‘You are My son. I Myself today did beget you. Ask of Me, and I shall give nations as your estate (Psalms 2:7–8). But when he will see that the Messiah son of Joseph is slain, he will say to Him, ‘Master of the World, I ask of You only the gift of life.’ As to life, He would answer him, ‘Your father David has already prophesied this concerning you’, as is said, Life he asked You—You gave him, [length of days for time without end] (Psalms 21:4)” (BT Sukkah 52a).

“And two Messiahs arouse before them. Messiah son of David parallels נֶצַח (Netsaḥ), and is connected with the morning of Abraham [Ḥesed, see Zohar 1:182b on Genesis 22:3] which is: At Your right hand are pleasures for נֶצַח (netsaḥ), evermore (Psalms 16:11). Hod to Gevurah, since to it is attached Messiah the son of Ephraim [synonymous with Messiah son of Joseph]. You [Moses the Faithful Shepherd], are in the center, and your rung is Tif’eret, for the middle pillar is connected with you, and also Yesod, the Vitality of the Worlds, is on your rung. Ḥokhmah is on the right: ‘Let him who wants to be wise turn south’ (BT Berakhot 30a). Binah is on the left: ‘Let him who wants to be rich turn to the north’ (ibid.)” (Zohar 3:242b, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

“From the right of Abraham, whose rung is Ḥesed, He takes vengeance on Ishmael and his prince, and from the left of Isaac, whose rung is פַּחַד (paḥad), Terror, He takes vengeance on Esau and his appointed prince by means of two Messiahs, one of whom, Messiah son of David, is from the right, while the other, Messiah son of Joseph, is from the left. And the rung of Jacob that corresponds to them, in the mystery of changing his hands (Genesis 48:14)—the lion, to the left, and the ox to the right, to Ishmael. And since Judah was exiled in Esau, it follows that the right of holiness is with the left of Esau, and likewise the left of holiness is with the impure right of Ishmael. Until שִׁילֹה (Shiloh), come (Genesis 49:10) [cf. BT Sanhedrin 98b]—Shiloh, who is [Moses] the Faithful Shepherd [since the numerical value of שִׁילֹה (Shiloh), is equal to מֹשֶׁה (moshe), Moses], whose rung is Tif’eret Israel [the middle pillar]. He will take vengeance from the motley throng. In these three rungs כֹּהֲנִים לְוִיִּם וְיִשְׂרְאֵלִים (kohanimlevi’im, ve-yisraelim), Priests, Levites, and Israelites, will be recalled from the Exile, and with them [His כְּלִי (keli), weapon] He takes vengeance upon Esau, Ishmael, and the motley throng. Just as the motley throng is intermixed with Esau and Ishmael, so Jacob is composed of Abraham and Isaac for he is a mixture of the two of them. So too, Shiloh [Moses the Faithful Shepherd] is intermixed with Messiah son of David and Messiah son of Joseph and he will be the link between the two of them, as at the time that Bilaam saw in his prophecy [see Genesis 49:10]. For thus the two Messiahs are connected with the Faithful Shepherd, like the three patriarchs, in the final exile” (Zohar 3:246a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

“Since they brought it on you and did good things for you, you have suffered for their sakes many troubles so that Messiah son of Joseph shall not be killed, of whom it says, the face of an ox on the left side (Ezekiel 1:10), who is a descendant of Joseph, of whom it says, His first born ox is His glory (Deuteronomy 33:17). That is because he and his descendants shall not be violated among the heathen nations because of the sin of Jeroboam who worshipped idols [cf. 1 Kings], for which he and his seed were to be violated among the idol worshiping nations. For Jeroboam the son of Nebat is a descendant of Joseph and it is because of him that it says of you: But he was wounded because of our transgressions… and by his injury we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). And since Israel include right and left where Your ה (he) and י (yod) are in a state of completion, it behooves You to unite with Her between them. Because he [Jeroboam] has brought out an evil name upon a virgin of Israel, it says of her, and she shall be his wife; he may not put her away all his days (Deuteronomy 22:19), in exile he may not be away from her all his days….

But the Masters of Mishnah do not know the Faithful Shepherd [Moses]. Elijah, an oath upon you in the Name of YHWH and in the explicit Name, reveal him to all the heads of the Masters of Mishnah so they will recognize him and he shall no more יִתְחַלֵּל (yitḥalal), be violated, And he מְחוֹלָל (meḥolal), was wounded, for our transgressions, (Isaiah 53:5). You do not have to receive permission because I am a messenger from the Master of the World, and I know that if you do that, the blessed Holy One will thank you for it and your descendants shall be exalted for it above and below. Do not tarry in doing it, neither a week nor a month, nor a year, but do it immediately!” (Zohar 3:277a–283a, Ra’aya Meheimna Ki Tetse).

“What is meant by, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie (Habakkuk 2:3)?—Rabbi Shemu’el son of Naḥmani said in the name of Rabbi Yonatan: Blasted be the bones of those who calculate the end. For they would say, since the predetermined time has arrived, and yet he has not come, he will never come. But [even so], wait for him, as it is written, Though he tarry, wait for him (ibid.). Should you say, ‘We look forward [to his coming] but He does not’: therefore Scripture says, And therefore will YHWH wait, that He may be gracious unto you, and therefore will He be exalted, that He may have mercy upon you: [for YHWH is a God of justice] (Isaiah 30:18). But since we look forward to it, and He does likewise, what delays [his coming]?—the quality of Justice delays it [because we are not yet worthy]. But since the quality of Justice delays it, why do we await it?—to be rewarded [for hoping], as it is written, blessed are all they that wait for Him (Isaiah 30:18)” (BT Sanhedrin 97b).

Evil Bread

image“[Rabbi Tanḥum said:] May it be Your will, YHWH my God and God of my fathers, that You break and destroy the yoke of the evil impulse from our heart. For You created us to do Your will, and we must do Your will; You desire it and we desire it. So who prevents it? The leaven in the dough [i.e., the עֵרֶב רַב (erev rav), mixed multitude, motley throng, cf. BT Qiddushin 71b: ‘Rabbi El’azar said: Ezra did not go up from Babylon until he made it like pure sifted flour: then he went up (to the land of Israel)’]” (JT Berakhot 4:2, 7d).

“When Israel went out of Egypt, they left their domain—alien domain, the domain called חָמֵץ (ḥamets), evil bread. That is why idolatry is called so, and that is mystery of the evil impulse, alien worship, also called שְׂאוֹר (se’or), leaven. This is the evil impulse, for so it functions in the person, like leaven in dough: entering ones innards little by little and then increasing, until the whole body is permeated by it. This is idolatry, of which it is written there shall be no alien god in you (Psalms 81:10)—literally!” (Zohar 2:182a).

“Come and see: In Egypt [Lilit, that beast of the reed (Psalms 68:31)] reigned, and from her issued many kinds of dominion, all in the mystery of חָמֵץ (ḥamets), leavened stuff. Once the blessed Holy One broke her, He removed חָמֵץ (ḥamets) and brought in מַצָּה (matsah). How? By the thinnest thread of all, He broke the ח (ḥet) of this חַיָּה (ḥayyah), beast, and those letters turned into מַצָּה (matsah). Actually, He broke the ח (ḥet) of this חַיָּה (ḥayyah), beast, who is called חָמֵץ (ḥamets). So she is called חַיַּת (ḥayyat)beast, of the reed, for she is easy to break as a reed. How was she broken? By a thread as thin as a hair, He broke the ח (ḥet); it was displaced becoming מַצָּה (matsah). Thus it is written Rebuke חַיַּת (ḥayyat), the beast of, the reed—the blessed Holy One rebuked her, and the ח (ḥet) was broken, turning into ה (he)” (Zohar 3:252a).