The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: evil

Go, My People, Come into Your Chambers and Shut Your Doors Behind You

And they provoked Him through their acts, and the scourge broke out among them (Psalms 106:29).

“Rabbi Shemu’el son of Naḥmani said that Rabbi Yonatan said: Punishment comes upon the world only when there are wicked in the world, and it begins only with the righteous first, as is said: Should a fire go forth and catch in thorns (Exodus 22:5). When does fire break out? When thorns are found. And it begins only with the righteous first, as is said: or standing grain… be consumed, [he who set the fire shall surely pay] (ibid.). It does not say and consumes standing grain, but standing grain… be consumed—it already was consumed.

Rabbi Yosef taught: What is And as for you, none of you shall go out from the entrance of his house till morning (Exodus 12:22)? Once permission has been granted to the Destroyer, he does not distinguish between righteous and wicked, as is said, [Thus said YHWH: Here I am against you,] and I will take out My sword from its sheath and cut off from you the righteous and the wicked (Ezekiel 21:8)….

Our Rabbis taught: A plague in town? Keep your feet indoors, as it says, And as for you, none of you shall go out from the entrance of his house till morning, and it says, Go, my people, come into your chambers and shut your doors behind you. [Hide but a moment until the wrath passes. For YHWH is about to come out from His place to punish the crime of the dwellers on earth, and the earth shall lay bare its bloodguilt and no longer cover its slain] (Isaiah 26:20). And it says: Outside will the sword bereave and within chambers—terror. [Both youth and virgin, suckling and gray-haired man] (Deuteronomy 32:25). Why? Lest you say these words [apply] only to the night, but not to the day.

Come and hear: Go, my people, come into your chambers and shut your doors behind you. And should you say this matter [applies only] where there is no such terror within, whereas where there is terror within it is much better to go out and sit among people in one company, again come and hear: Outside will the sword bereave and within chambers—terror—that [even where] the terror is within the sword will destroy [more] outside.

In the time of a plague Rava used to keep the windows shut, as is written, For death has come up through our windows, [has entered our citadels, to cut off the babe from the street, the young man from the squares] (Jeremiah 9:20).

Our Rabbis taught: A plague in town? One should not walk in the middle of the road, because the Angel of Death walks there—for as soon as permission has been granted him, he strides brazenly. But when there is peace in the town, one should not walk at the sides of the road, for since he has no permission he slinks along in hiding.

Our Rabbis taught: A plague in town? Nobody should enter the synagogue alone, as the Angel of Death keeps his tools there. However, this is the case only where no children are being taught there or where ten [men] do not pray there [together].

Our Rabbis taught: When dogs howl the Angel of Death has come to town. But when dogs frolic Elijah the prophet has come to town—only if there is no female among them” (BT Bava Qamma 60a–b, see Mekhilta, Pisḥa 11; Zohar 1:63a, 68a–b, 69a, 107b, 113a, 182b, 197b; 2:196a, 227a).

“Our Rabbis taught: There are four signs: A sign of transgression is swelling [due to the build-up of excess fluid in the body’s tissues i.e., edema]; a sign of baseless hatred is jaundice; a sign of arrogance is poverty [cf. BT Qiddushin 49b]; a sign of לָשׁוֹן הָרַע (lashon ha-ra), the evil tongue [i.e., slander], is diphtheria.

Our Rabbis taught: Diphtheria comes to the world on account of [neglect of] tithes. Rabbi El’azar son of Rabbi Yose said: On account of the evil tongue [cf. BT Yevamot 62b]. Rava, some say Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi, said: What verse [teaches this]? But the king will rejoice in God, all who swear by him will revel, for the mouth of the liars יִסָּכֵר (yissakher), is muzzled [playing on אַסְכָּרָה (askarah), diphtheria, an acute bacterial disease that can infect the body in the tonsils, nose, or throat] (Psalms 63:12).

It was asked by them: Does Rabbi El’azar son of Rabbi Yose say, [Only] on account of slander, or perhaps on account of slander too?

Come and hear: For when our Rabbis entered the ‘vineyard’ in Yavneh [the famous town north west of Jerusalem, the seat of the Sanhedrin and Rabbi Yoḥanan son of Zakkai’s academy after the destruction of the Temple. Sittings were held in a ‘vineyard,’ i.e., members sat in rows similar to vines in a vineyard], Rabbi Yehudah, Rabbi El’azar son of Rabbi Yose and Rabbi Shim’on [son of Yoḥai] were present, and this question was raised before them: why does this affliction start in the bowels and end in the throat? Rabbi Yehudah son of Rabbi Ila’i, the first speaker on all occasions answered and said: Though the kidneys counsel, the heart gives understanding [kidneys were thought to be the seat of conscience, see Psalms 16:7; the heart is imagined as the seat of understanding, see Isaiah 6:10], and the tongue cuts [a word], yet the mouth finishes it.

Rabbi El’azar son of Rabbi Yose answered and said: Because they eat impure food with it. ‘Impure food!’ does it enter your mind? Rather [say] because they eat unfit food [i.e., which was not tithed]. Rabbi Shim’on answered and said: As a punishment for the neglect of study. They said to him. Let women prove it! [since they are not obligated to study (see BT Qiddushin 29b), and yet suffer from diphtheria (cf. M Sotah 3:4)]. That is because they restrain their husbands [from study]. Let Gentiles prove it! [since they are not obligated to study Torah, and are yet subject to it]. That is because they restrain Israel. Let children prove it! That is because they make their fathers to neglect [study]. Then let school children prove it! There it is as Rabbi Guryon. For Rabbi Guryon, some say Rav Yosef son of Rabbi Shemaya, said: When there are righteous men in the generation, the righteous are seized [by death] for the [sins of the] generation; when there are no righteous in a generation, school children are seized for the generation. Rabbi Yitsḥaq son of Ze’iri, some say Rabbi Shim’on son of Nezira, said: Which verse [teaches this]? If you do not know, O fairest of women, go out in the tracks of the sheep [and graze your goats by the shepherd’s מִשְׁכְּנוֹת (mishkenot), shelters (Song of Songs 1:8) and we interpret this as [referring to] the goats which are הַמְמוּשְׁכָּנִין (ha-memushkanin), taken as collateral, for the [debts of the] shepherds. Thus this proves that he said on account of slander too. This proves it” (BT Shabbat 33a–b).

“Rabbi Aḥa traveled to כְפַר טַרְשָׁא (Kefar Tarsha), Clod Village; he arrived at his inn. All the town’s residences spoke in hushed tones about him, saying, ‘A great man has arrived here. Let us go to him. They went to him. They said to him, ‘Is the master’s heart anguished by the destruction?’ He said to them, ‘What do you mean?’ They said to him, ‘For seven days, a plague has been hovering over the town. Each day it grows stronger and does not desist.’ He said to them, ‘Let us go to the synagogue and implore mercy from the blessed Holy One.’

While they were walking, [some people] arrived and said, ‘So-and-so and so-and-so have died, and so-and-so and so-and-so are about to die.’ Rabbi Aḥa said to them, ‘Now is not the time to stand by—the hour is pressing! Rather, set aside forty of the most righteous people, in four groups of ten, and I with you; ten for one corner of the town, ten for another corner of the town, so on for the four corners of the town; and recite with soulful devotion the passages of the aromatic incense that the blessed Holy One gave Moses, accompanied by the passages of the sacrifices [cf. BT Shabbat 89a].’

They did so three times—and passed through all four directions of the town, reciting accordingly [cf. Zohar 2:219a: It is forbidden to burn incense anywhere else except in the fire-pan (of the Temple)]. Afterward, he said to them, ‘Let us go to those verging on death. Set aside [other righteous people] for their houses and let them recite in a similar fashion. When you finish, recite these verses loudly three times: Moses said to Aaron, ‘Take the fire-pan and place fire upon it…’ (Numbers 17:11); Aaron took… (ibid., 12); He stood between the dead… (ibid., 13).’

They did so and the plagued ceased. They heard a voice saying, ‘Secret striker, primal striker, wait on high; the judgment of heaven does not hover here, for they know how to nullify it.’

Rabbi Aḥa’s heart was faint. He fell asleep. He heard that they were telling him, ‘Just as you accomplished that, accomplish this! Go and tell them to return in teshuvah, for they are wicked before Me.’

He arose and returned them in complete teshuvah, and they accepted upon themselves never to desist from Torah; and they changed the name of the city to מָאתָא מַחְסֵיָא (Mata Meḥseya), Town of Compassion [cf. BT Ketubbot 4a; Horayot 12a; Zohar 1:72a, 94b]” (Zohar 1:100b–101b, Midrash ha-Ne’lam).

“Whoever is careless over washing hands is uprooted from the world” (BT Sotah 4b).

 

From the North Wind Gold Flows

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Silver has a crucible and gold a kiln, and YHWH tries hearts (Proverbs 17:3).

“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’” (Bereshit Rabbah 55:1).

“This world is like a mustard seed in a heap. Why? Because of the רוּחָא (ruḥa), wind, that beats it and sustains it. If this wind were to stop, the world would wither in an instant” (Bahir §179).

The grass withers, the flower fades: because רוּחַ (ruaḥ)the breath, of YHWH blows upon it: surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades: but the word of our God shall stand forever (Isaiah 40:7–8).

Should He set His mind on man, רוּחוֹ וְנִשְׁמָתוֹ (ruaḥo ve-nishmato)his living breath, He would gather to Him. All flesh would expire together, man to the dust would return (Job 34:14).

Man’s days are like grass, like the bloom of the field, thus he blooms—when the wind passes by him, he is gone, and his place will no longer know him (Psalms 103:15–16, cf. Zohar 3:133a [IR], ad loc.).

When You hide Your face, they panic, You withdraw their breath and they perish, and to the dust they return (Psalms 104:29–30).

Thus says YHWH God: From רוּחוֹת בֹּאִי הָרוּחַ (ruḥot boi ha-ruaḥ), the four winds, come O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live (Ezekiel 37:9).

“Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Ḥananiah said, ‘When a wind comes upon the earth, the blessed Holy one breaks it up on the mountains, and weakens it on the hills and says to it, ‘Make sure not to harm My creatures.’ Why? For רוּחַ (ruaḥ), wind, before Me is faint (Isaiah 57:16). He weakens it, as it says, When My wind faints upon Me (Psalms 142:4). And why does He do all this? Rav Huna in the name of Rabbi Aḥa said, ‘On behalf of the souls which I have made (Isaiah ibid.)’” (JT Berakhot 9:2, 13c–d).

“Rav Ḥanan son of Abba has said in the name of Rav: Four winds blow every day and the north wind with all of them, for without this the world could not endure a single moment. The דָרוֹם (darom), south, wind is the most harsh, and were it not that the [angel] Son of Hawk stays it with his wings it would destroy the world, as it says, The hawk wing opens by Your understanding, spreads his wings toward the south (Job 39:26)—no; what it means is that it is the תְּדִירָה תְּדִירָה (tedirah tedirah), constant abode, of Shekhinah [שְׁכִינָה (shekhinah), Divine Presence, from לְשַׁכֵּן (le-shaken), ‘to dwell.’ She is also called הַדַּר (dar), the Dweller, see BT Sukkah 35a; Bahir §175]. For so said Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi: Let us be grateful to our ancestors for showing us the place of prayer, as is written, the heaven of heavens, with all their armies bow down to You (Nehemiah 9:6).

Rav Aḥa son of Ya’aqov protested: Perhaps, [the sun and moon bow down to the east], like a servant who has received a reward from his master and retires backwards, bowing as he goes [i.e., the verse refers to the sun and moon at their setting and not at their rising, and hence the Shekhinah is in the east]. This [indeed] is a difficulty. Rabbi Oshaya expressed the opinion that the Shekhinah is בְּכָל מָקוֹם (ba-khol maqom), omnipresent. For Rabbi Oshaya said: What is the meaning of the verse, You, even You, are YHWH alone; You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, [with all their armies, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and You enliven them all] (ibid.). Your messengers are not like the messengers of flesh and blood. Messengers of flesh and blood return to the place from which they have been sent, but Your messengers return [and report on] their mission from the [very same] place which they have been sent, as it says, You send lighting bolts on their way, and they say to You, ‘Here we are!’ (Job 38:35). It does not say, they will come and say, but rather, on their way and they say, which shows that Shekhinah is omnipresent.

Rabbi Yishma’el also holds that Shekhinah is omnipresent, since the academy of Rabbi Yishma’el taught: From where do we know that Shekhinah is omnipresent? Because it says, And, behold, the messenger that talked with me went forth, and another messenger went out to meet him (Zechariah 2:7). It does not say, went out after him, but went out to meet him. This shows that Shekhinah is omnipresent. Rav Sheshet [the blind] also held Shekhinah is omnipresent, because [when desiring to pray] he used to say to his attendant: Set me facing any way except the east. And this was not because Shekhinah is not there, but because the sectarians advise turning to the east. Rabbi Abbahu, however, said that Shekhinah is in the west; for so said Rabbi Abbahu: What is אוֹרִיָּה (oriyyah) [a Persian word meaning ‘evening,’ and by extension ‘west’]? It is equivalent to אֲוִיר יָהּ (avir Yah), divine air.

Rav Yehudah said: What is, Let my teaching יַעֲרֹף (ya’arof), drop, like rain (Deuteronomy 32:2)?—the west wind which comes מֵעָרפּוֹ (me-arpo), from the back, of the world [i.e., the sea, which is at the western side of the land of Israel]. My saying תִּזַּל (tizzal), flow, like dew (ibid.): this is the north wind which מַזָּלֶת אֶת הַזָּהָב (mazzalet et ha-zahav), makes gold flow, and so it says: הַזָּלִים זָהָב (Ha-zalim zahav), who pours gold, from the purse (Isaiah 46:6). Like שְׂעִירִם (se’irim), showers, on the green (Deuternomy ibid.): this is the east wind which rages through the world like a שָׂעִיר (sa’ir), goat-demon. And like cloudbursts on the grass (ibid.): this is the south wind which brings up showers and causes the grass to grow.

It has been taught: Rabbi Eli’ezer says that the world is like an exedra, and the north side is not enclosed, and so when the sun reaches the north-west corner, it swings round and returns [to the east] above the firmament. Rabbi Yehoshu’a, however, says that the world is like a tent, and the north side is enclosed [cf. Genesis 4:7: at the tent flap sin crouches], and when the sun reaches the north-west corner it circles and goes back behind the dome [till it reaches the east], as it says, [The sun rises and the sun sets, and to its place it glides, there it rises.It goes to the south and swings round to the north (Ecclesiastes 1:5–6): it goes to the south—by day, and swings round to the north—by night. Round and round goes the wind, and on its rounds the wind returns (ibid.): this refers to the eastern and western sides of the heavens, of which the sun sometimes goes round them and sometimes traverses [i.e., it goes round them in winter when it is below the horizon, and it traverses them in summer when it is above the horizon].

He [Rabbi Yehoshu’a] used to say: We have arrived at the view of Rabbi Eli’ezer, [since we have learnt]: From the sky-chamber comes the tempest (Job 37:9): this is the south wind; and from the wind’s dispersal the cold (ibid.): this is the north wind. From the breath of אֵל (El) the ice is made (ibid., 10): this is the west wind: and wide waters turn solid (ibid.): this is the east wind.’ But doesn’t the Master say that it is the south wind which brings showers and makes the grass grow?—there is no contradiction; when the rain falls gently [it is from the south], and when it falls heavily [it is from the east].

Rav Ḥisda said: What is meant by the verse, From the north gold comes (Job 37:22)? This refers to the north wind which makes gold flow; and so it says: Who pours gold from the purse (Isaiah 46:6).

Rafram son of Papa said in the name of Rav Ḥisda: Since the day when the Temple was destroyed the south wind has not brought rain, as it says, And he decreed on the right hand, and there was hunger; and he devoured on the left hand, and they were not satisfied: [they shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm] (Isaiah 9:19); and it is written, The north and the south, You created them (Psalms 89:13).

Rafram son of Papa also said in the name of Rav Ḥisda: Since the day when the Temple was destroyed, rain no longer comes down from the ‘good treasury,’ as it says, YHWH will open for you His goodly treasure (Deuteronomy 28:12): When Israel act according to the will of the Omnipresent and are settled in their own land, then rain comes down from a ‘good treasury,’ but when Israel are not settled on their own land, then the rain does not come down from a ‘good treasury’ [cf. BT Yevamot 62a; Bahir §155; Zohar 2:161b].

Rabbi Yitsḥaq said: He who desires to become wise should turn to the south [when praying], and he who desires to become rich should turn to the north. And your mnemonic is that the table [in the Tabernacle] was to the north of the altar and the candlestick to the south [the table being the symbol of plenty, and the candlestick of knowledge]. Rabbi Yehoshu’a son Levi, however, said that he should always turn to the south, because through obtaining wisdom he will obtain wealth, as it says, length of days are in her right hand, in her left hand wealth and honor (Proverbs 3:16). But was it not Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi who said that Shekhinah is in the west?—[he means that] one should turn aside [slightly] to the south. Rabbi Ḥanina said to Rav Ashi [of Babylon]: Those like you who live to the north of the land of Israel should turn to the south. How do we know that Babylon is to the north of the land of Israel?—as is written [in a prophecy concerning the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians:] From the north evil will be let loose on the inhabitants of the land (Jeremiah 1:14)” (BT Bava Batra 25a–b).

“Four רוּחוֹת (ruḥot), winds [or: directions] in the world; the east wind, the south wind, the west wind and the north wind. From the east wind light goes out to the world. From the south wind dews of blessing and rains of blessing go out to the world. From the west wind are the treasuries of snow and the treasuries of hail, and from there cold and heat and rains come into the world. From the north wind darkness goes out to the world. He created the north wind but He did not complete it, for He said, Anyone who says: I am a God, let him come and complete this wind which I have left [incomplete] and all will know that he is God. There [in the north] is the abode of destroying spirits, earthquakes, winds, demons, lightning and thunder; from there evil issues into the world, as is said, From the north evil will be let loose on the inhabitants of the land (Jeremiah 1:14)” (Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 17).

“They asked [Rabbi Akiva]: Why is the form of ח (ḥet) פֶּתַח (petaḥ), an opening, yet her vowel is a פַּתַח קָטָן (pataḥ qatan), small pataḥ? He said: Because all the winds are closed, except for the north, she is פְּתוּחָה (petuḥah), open, to good and to evil. They said to him: To good? And yet it is written, And I saw, and, look, a storm wind was coming from the north, a great cloud, and fire engulfing itself (Ezekiel 1:4). Fire—nothing but flaring anger, as is said, And fire came out from before YHVH and consumed them (Leviticus 10:2). He said: There is no difficulty. One [speaks of] a time when they do His will, while the other [speaks of] a time when they do not do His will. When they do not do His will, then the fire draws near. And when they do His will, then the quality of רַחֲמִים (raḥamim), Mercy, engulfs them, as is written, [Who is a God like You] dismissing crime and forgiving trespass [for the remnant of His estate?] (Micah 7:18).

A parable: A king wanted to whip and chastise his servants. One hegmon stood up and asked: For what? The king answered him: Because of such and such. He replied, ‘Never have your servants done this! I vouch for them, you investigate them.’ In any case, the king’s wrath subsided (Esther 7:10) [cf. BT Megillah 16a ad loc.; Zohar 3:133a (IR) ad loc.]” (Bahir §34–§35).

From the north, evil will be תִּפָּתַח (tipataḥ), let loose, on the inhabitants of the land (Jeremiah 1:14).

“What is פַּתַח‬ (pataḥ)? It is an פֶּתַח (petaḥ), opening. Which opening? The north wind, open to all the world. It is the gate from which good and evil emerge. And what is good? [Rabbi Akiva] mocked them, saying: ‘Did I not tell you that it is a small pataḥ?’ They said: ‘We have forgotten, teach us a second time.’ He reviewed, saying: ‘A parable: A king had a throne. Sometimes he carried it on his arm, and sometimes on his head.’ ‘Why?’ they asked. ‘Because it was lovely and it was a pity to sit on it.’ They asked: ‘And where did he place it on his head?’ He replied: ‘In the open מ (mem), as is written, Truth from the earth will spring up, as justice from the heavens looks down (Psalms 85:12).’

Rabbi Amora sat and expounded: What is the meaning of YHWH loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob (Psalms 87:2)? שַׁעֲרֵי (Sha’arei), the gates, of Zion, are the פִּתְחֵי (pitḥei), portals, of the world (ibid. 24:7). Now a gate is nothing but an פֶּתַח (petaḥ), opening. 

Therefore we say, ‘Open the gates of Compassion for us.’ Thus the blessed Holy One said: I love the gates of Zion when they are open. Why? Because they are on the side of evil. But when Israel does good before the blessed Holy One and are worthy that good be opened for them, then He loves them—more than all the dwellings of Jacob. They are all peace, as is written, Jacob was a peaceful man, a dweller in tents [cf. Zohar 1:167b: ‘a consummate man’] (Genesis 25:27).

This is like two men, one who is driven to do evil but does good, and the other who is driven to do good but does evil. Who is more praiseworthy? The one who is driven to do evil and does good, for he may do good again. It is therefore written: YHWH loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. They are all peace, as is written, Jacob was a peaceful man, a dweller in tents” (Bahir §§37–39).

“And what is from there is the Shepherd, Israel’s Stone (Genesis 49:24)? That from There Israel’s Stone is sustained. What is it by name? Indeed, say: Supernal Justice [Binah]. What is it? The great צָפוּן (tsafun), hidden, light, called סֹחָרֶת (soḥaret), Darkness. And the stone below is called דַּר (dar), Mother-of-Pearl” (Bahir §193).

“As for [Binah] being called צְפוֹנִית (tsefonit), north, this is because She is supernally concealed, and from Her side issues north and judgments are aroused from Her side—even though She is compassion and joy, as we have already established. When She emerges, north emerges within Her, included and connected with דָרוֹם (darom), south” (Zohar 3:120a).

“He said to them: Until here there are five. [They said to him:] What is from here on? He said to them: First I will explain gold. What is זָהָב (zahav), gold? From it Judgment issues: If you incline your ways to the right or left, נִזְהָב (nizhav), it vanishes, immediately” (Bahir §56).

How abundant Your goodness that you have hidden for those who revere You, that You have wrought, for those who shelter in You! (Psalms 31:20).

That You have hidden. What is meant by צָפַנְתָּ (tsafanta), You have hidden? Now, who could rob or seize from His hands what He wishes to give, that it would be written You have hidden? But go and see the compassionate deeds performed by the blessed Holy One! With that by which He strikes, He provides healing. With what does He strike? With the left. With the right, He draws near [see BT Sotah 47a]; with the left, He strikes. Yet with that by which He strikes, he provides healing to the world! מִצָּפוֹן (Mi-tsafon), From the north, evil will be let loose (Jeremiah 1:14)—from the north He strikes, since from there issue all judgments and all harsh decrees; yet there abide all the fine rewards and benefits that the blessed Holy One intends to bestow upon Israel. In the time to come, the blessed Holy One will call on the north, saying to it, ‘In you I have placed all the benefits and fine rewards for My children who have suffered so many calamities in this world for the sanctification of My Name. Give the fine rewards that I entrusted to you!’

As is said: I will say לַצָּפוֹן (la-tsafon), to the north, ‘Give’ and to the south, ‘Do not withhold!…’ (Isaiah 43:6). Now, is this the correct manner? Surely, all blessings are from the south [Ḥesed], and all goodness of the world issues from the south, yet He says Do not withhold?…” (Zohar 3:173b).

Mother of Pearl and Black Marble: He Took a Thousandth of Her Radiance and from Her Built a Lovely Precious Stone

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“Was light created on the first day? For, behold, it is written: And God placed [the two great lights] in the vault of the heavens (Genesis 1:17), and it is written: And it was evening and it was morning, fourth day (ibid., 19)—this is according to Rabbi El’azar. For Rabbi El’azar said: With the light the blessed Holy One created on the first day one could gaze from one end of the universe to the other; but as soon as the blessed Holy One foresaw the generation of the Flood and the generation of the Dispersion [i.e., the generation which built the Tower of Babel], and saw that their actions were corrupt, He arose and hid it away from them, as is said: The light of the wicked is withheld (Job 38:15). And for whom did He hide it? For the righteous in the time to come, for it is said: And God saw the light, that it was good (Genesis 1:4); and good means only the righteous, for it is said: Say you to the righteous, that it shall be good: [for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds] (Isaiah 3:10). As soon as the light saw that it had been treasured away for the righteous, it rejoiced, as is said: The light of the righteous rejoices (Proverbs 13:9)” (BT Ḥagigah 12a).

“It was taught: The light which was created in the six days of Creation cannot shine during the day because it dims the orb of the sun, nor by night, because it was created only to shine by day. Then where is it? It is treasured away for the righteous in the time still to come, as it says, Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of the seven days, [in the day that YHWH binds up the hurt of His people, and heals the stroke of their wound] (Isaiah 30:26). Seven! surely there were only three, seeing that the luminaries were created on the fourth day! It is like a man who says, ‘I am providing so much for the seven days of my [wedding] feast. Rabbi Neḥemyah said: It refers to the seven days of mourning for Methuselah, when the blessed Holy One lavished light upon them [see BT Sanhedrin 108b]” (Bereshit Rabbah 3:6).

“Rabbi Yehudah son of Simon said, ‘With the light created by the blessed Holy One on the first day, one could gaze and see from one end of the universe to the other. When the Holy One foresaw the corruption of the generation of Enosh and the generation of the Flood, He hid it away from them, as is written: The light of the wicked is withheld (Job 38:15). Where did He hide it? In the Garden of Eden. אוֹר זָרֻעַ לַצַּדִּיק וּלְיִשְׁרֵי לֵב שִׂמְחָה (Or zaru’a la-tsaddiq u-le-yishrei simḥa), Light is sown for the righteous, joy for the upright in heart (Psalms 97:11) [ר עֲקִיבַה (R. Akiva)]” (Vayiqra Rabbah 11:7).

“God said, ‘Let there be light!’ And there was light (Genesis 1:3)—primordial, transcendent light, already existent. From here issued all powers and forces, so Earth turned firm and fragrant, generating Her potencies. As the light shone, its radiance blazed from one end of the universe to the other. When it gazed upon the wicked of the world, it hid itself away, emerging only by its paths, concealed, unrevealed….

God said, ‘Let there be light!’ This is the light that the blessed Holy One created at first. It is the light of the eye. This is the light that the blessed Holy One showed Adam, who gazed with it from one end of the universe to the other” (Zohar 1:30b, 31b).

“Look at what we have learned in our Mishnah: With the light that the blessed Holy One created at first, one could gaze and see from the beginning of the world to its end. Come and see: The light of the sun is a sixty-thousand-and-seventy-fifth of the light of the speculum of the concealed light. If even at this light of the sun a person cannot gaze, how much more so at that light!

Yet we have said that a person could see with it from the beginning of the world to the end of the world! Well, so have we decreed in our Mishnah: With that light, a person could know and see—with the radiance of wisdom—all that was and all that will be, from the beginning of the world to the end of the world, and it has been concealed for the righteous in the world to come. What is meant by ‘in the world to come’? When the holy soul leaves this world and enters the world to come [cf. Tanḥuma, Vayiqra, 8: ‘The wise call it הַעוֹלָם הַבּא (ha-olam ha-ba), the world to come, not because it does not exist now, but for us today in this world it is still to come’; Zohar 3:290b (IZ): ‘The world that is coming, constantly coming, never ceasing’]” (Zohar Ḥadash 15b, Midrash ha-Ne’lam).

Rabbi Neḥunia son of ha-Qannah said: One verse says, They have not seen the light, bright though it be in the skies (Job 37:21). And another verse says, He set darkness His hiding-place (Psalms 18:12); it is also written, Cloud and dense fog around Him (ibid. 97:2). This is difficult. However, a third verse comes to hold the balance: Darkness itself will not darken for You, and the night will light up like the day, the dark and light will be one (ibid. 139:12) [cf. Bemidbar Rabbah 15:8]” (Bahir §1).

Torah is light (Proverbs 6:23).

“Rabbi Boi said: What is In remote eons I was shaped, מֵרֹאשׁ (me-rosh), from the head (Proverbs 8:23)? [As you say, בַּת רֹאשִׁי (bat roshi), ‘Daughter of My head’]. What is מֵעוֹלָם (me-olam), in remote eons? A matter necessary לְהֵעָלֵם (le-he’alem), to conceal, from all the world, as is written, The world, too, He has put in their heart, [without man’s grasping at all what it is ha-Elohim has done from beginning to end] (Ecclesiastes 3:11)—do not read הָעֹלָם (ha-olam), the world, but rather הֶעְלֵם (he’elem), concealment. Torah says, ‘I preceded [all] to be רֹאשׁ לָעוֹלָם (rosh la-olam), head of the world,’ as is said, me-olam, in remote eons, I was shaped, me-rosh, from the head. And if you say: perhaps the earth preceded her, it says, before the earth (ibid.). As is the case elsewhere: In the beginning created Elohim (Genesis 1:1)—what created [Elohim]? The needs of all, then Elohim. And what is written next? The heavens and the earth (ibid.)” (Bahir §10, cf. Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 42, 82a).

“Rabbi Berekhiah said, ‘Why is it written, God said, ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light (Genesis 1:3), and not [simply] ‘And there was?’ This can be compared to a king who had a beautiful object and set it aside until he had prepared a place for it; then he placed it there, as is written: ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light—for it already was” (Bahir §25).

Unveil my eyes that I may look upon the wonders of Your Torah (Psalms 119:18).

“And Rabbi Yoḥanan said: There were two [iterations of] ‘light,’ as is written, [And God said, ‘Let there be light.’] And there was light (Genesis 1:3). Regarding both of them it is written, it was good (ibid., 4). The blessed Holy One took one and hid it for the righteous in the World that is Coming. Of this is written, How great Your goodness that You hid for those in awe of You. You have wrought for those who shelter in You [before the eyes of humankind] (Psalms 31:20). To teach that the primordial light cannot be seen by any creature, as is written, it was good [cf. Shemot Rabbah 35:1]. Furthermore it is written, And God saw that it was good (Genesis 1:21). The blessed Holy One saw all that He had made, and saw good—radiant בָּהִיר (bahir), brightness. He took of that good, and included in it the thirty-two paths of Wisdom, giving it to this world. This is the meaning of, For good learning I have given you, do not forsake My teaching (Proverbs 4:2). Alas, say this is treasury of Oral Torah.

The blessed Holy One said, ‘This quality is included in this world, and it is Oral Torah. If you guard this quality in this world, then you will be worthy of the World that is Coming, which is the good treasured away for the righteous.’ What is it? It is His strength, as is written, And His brilliance will be as the light (Habakkuk 3:4). The brilliance that was taken from the primordial light will be [manifest] light if His children keep the teaching and the commandments that I have written to instruct them (Exodus 24:12) [cf. Zohar 2:166b].’ Therefore it is written, Hear, My son, your father’s reproof, and do not forsake your mother’s teaching (Proverbs 1:8).

And it is written, He has rays at His side: and there is His strength hidden (Habakkuk 3:4). What is His strength hidden? The light that was concealed: that You hid for those in awe of You (Psalms 31:20). As is said: You have wrought for those who shelter in You (ibid.)—those who take refuge in Your shadow in this world, who keep Your teaching, and fulfill Your commandments. Who sanctify Your great Name, unifying it in private and in public, as it says: before the eyes of humankind (ibid.)” (Bahir §§147–148).

Rabbi Berekhiah sat and expounded: Each day we speak of הַעוֹלָם הַבָּא (ha-Olam ha-Ba) but do we know what we are saying? The Targum renders this as עָלְמָא דְאָתֵי (alma de-atei), the World that Came. But what is it? This teaches that before the world was created, it arose in thought to create a great light to illuminate and a great light was created which no creature was able to wield [see Tanḥuma, Shemini, 9]. The blessed Holy One foresaw that none could bear it, He took one-seventh and gave it to them in its place and the rest He treasured away for the righteous in the time yet to come, saying: If they prove worthy of this seventh and guard it, I will give them the rest in the other world. It is therefore called ha-Olam ha-Ba, the World that is Coming, since it is already [always] coming from the six days of creation. Of this is written: How great Your goodness that You hid for those in awe of You (Psalms 31:20)” (Bahir §160).

“And what is Awe of YHWH (Isaiah 33:6)? It is the primordial light. Thus Rabbi [Berekhiah] said: Why is it written, God said, ‘Let there be light.’ [And there was light]? (Genesis 1:3). Why does it not say, and it was? But this teaches that the light was so great that no creature could gaze upon it. The blessed Holy One therefore treasured it away for the righteous in the time still to come. This is the quality of all that is סְחֹרָה (seḥorah), valuable, in the world. It is also the power of the precious stones called סֹחָרֶת (soḥaret), Darkness [or: Black Marble], and דַּר (dar), Dweller [or: Mother-of-Pearl; see Esther 1:6; BT Megillah 12a ad loc. Perhaps the black marble called Darkness is the supernal sun, too blindingly bright, as it were, to gaze upon, cf. Job 10:22: You shine like darkness; Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed, 1:59; Zohar 2:188a]. And what is the quality of Soḥaret, Darkness? To teach you that the blessed Holy One took a thousandth of [Soḥaret’s, i.e., the World that is Coming’s] radiance and from Her בֹּנֶה (boneh), built [alluding to בִּינָה (Binah)] a lovely precious stone [cf. Tanuma, Pequdei 3]. In Her [namely, Dar, i.e., this world] He included all the mitsvot” (Bahir §190).

I am שְׁחוֹרָה (sheḥorah), dark, but desirable (Song of Songs 1:5), the speculum that does not shine but Father and Mother adorned Her so that Her husband be pleased with Her” (Zohar 1:49b).

And what is מִשָּׁם רֹעֶה (Misham ro’eh), from there the Shepherd, Israel’s Stone (Genesis 49:24)? That from There Israel’s Stone is sustained. What is מִשֶּׁם (mishem), it by name? Ah, say: צֶדֶק עֶלְיוֹן (tsedeq elyon), supernal Justice [upper ShekhinahBinah]. And what is it? The great צָּפוֹן (tsafon), hidden, light, called סֹחָרֶת (Soḥaret), Darkness [which סְחוֹר סְחוֹר (seḥor seḥor), surrounds, everything, cf. Zohar 3:120a], and the stone residing below is דַּר (dar), Dweller [i.e., lower שְׁכִינָה (Shekhinah), Presence, from לְשַׁכֵּן (le-shaken), ‘to dwell.’ Cf. Seder Rabba de-Vereshit, see Schäfer, Synopse zur Hekhalot-Literatur, §440: ‘Shekhinah is below just as Shekhinah is above’]. And what are the beams mentioned in the verse [The radiance is like light.] Beams from His hand He has, [and there His might is hidden] (Habakkuk 3:4)? These are the five fingers of the right hand” (Bahir §193). 

“A precious stone set in a crown, as is written, the stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone (Psalms 118:22). It ascends to the place from which it was hewn, as is written, from There feeds Israel’s Stone (Genesis 49:24)” (Bahir §91, cf. Zohar 1:231b).

The Devisings of the Human Heart are Evil from Youth

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Antoninus 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? He said, ‘From the formation [of the embryo].’ He said, ‘If so he would rebel in his mother’s womb and go forth. But it is from when he issues.’ Rabbi said: This thing Antoninus taught me, and Scripture supports him, as 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, וַיִּיצֶר (Va-yiytser), then fashioned, YHWH God, the human (Genesis 2:7)—written with two יוּדִין (yudin), yods? To show that the blessed Holy One created two impulses, one good and the other evil. Rabbi Naḥman son of Yitsḥaq objected. He said: according to this animals, of which it is not written יִּיצֶר (yiytser), fashioned [with two 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! It is as expounded by Rabbi Shim’on son of Pazzi; for Rabbi Shim’on son of Pazzi said: אוֹי לִי מִיּוֹצְרִי (Oy li mi-yotsri), Woe is me because of my Maker, אוֹי לִי מִיִּצְרִי (oy li mi-yitsri), woe is me because of my urge! Or again as explained by Rabbi Yirmiyahu son of El’azar; for Rabbi Yirmiyahu son of El’azar said: The blessed Holy One 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 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.)—crimes; 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 control], 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 said YHWH of Armies: Does it seem beyond the remnant of this people in these days? So it would be beyond Me (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, who haul crime with the cords of falseness and like the ropes of a cart, offense (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 him Evil, as is said, For the יֵצֶר (yetser), devisings, of the human heart are evil from youth (Genesis 8:21). Moses called him Uncircumcised, as is said, Circumcise the foreskin of your heart (Deuteronomy 10:16). David called him Impure, as is said, A pure heart create for me God (Psalms 51:12)—implying that there is an impure one. Solomon called him 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)—do not read יְשַׁלֶּם לָךְ (yeshalem-lakh), will pay you back, but יַשׁלִימֶנוּ לָךְ (yashlimenu-lakh), will cause it to be at peace with you. Isaiah called him Stumbling-block, as is said, Build up, build up, clear a road, take away stumbling blocks from My people’s road (Isaiah 57:14). Ezekiel called him Stone, as is said, And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit will I put within you, and I will take away the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). Joel called him Northerner, as is said, And the northerner I will put far from you (Joel 2:20) [cf. Jeremiah 1:14: From the north evil will be let loose on all the inhabitants of the land].

Our Rabbis taught: And אֶת הַצְּפוֹנִי (et-ha-tsefoni), the northerner, I will put far from youthe evil impulse which is always 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, Oh, every one who thirsts go to the water (Isaiah 55:1) and it is written, Water wears away stones (Job 14:19). ‘If he is of iron, he will shatter,’ as is written, Is not My word like fire, said YHWH, and like a hammer splitting rock? (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 a spirit of whoring made them stray, [and they played the whore against their God] (Hosea 4:12), but is it not also written, [For the spirit of whoring] is within 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).

All who are Merciful to the Cruel in the End Become Cruel to the Merciful: The Best of Serpents—Crush its Head!

“How strong is the power of the Other Side that it managed to hide from the eyes of our holy patriarchs the danger of the קְלִפּוֹת (qelipot), shells: from the eyes of our father Abraham, the shell of Ishmael; from the eyes of our father Isaac, the shell of Esau; and from the eyes of our father Jacob, the shell of the תְּרָפִים (terafim), household gods (Genesis 31:19). During the footsteps of Messiah, the Other Side becomes even stronger, in order to strike the disciples of the wise with blindness” (Rabbi Hillel Rivlin of Shklov, in the name of the Gaon of VilnaQol ha-Tor 5:9):

And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, מְצַחֵק (mestaeq), laughing. And she said to Abraham, “Drive out this slavegirl and her son, for the slavegirl’s son shall not inherit with my son, with Isaac.” And the thing seemed evil in Abraham’s eyes because of his son. And God said to Abraham, “Let it not seem evil in your eyes on account of the lad and on account of your slavegirl. Whatever ever Sarah says to you, listen to her voice, for through Isaac shall your seed be acclaimed. But the slavegirl’s son, too, I will make a nation, for he is your seed” (Genesis 21:9–13) [cf. the Code of Hammurabi, 146].

“Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai said, ‘Rabbi Akiva used to offer four explanations, and mine follows from his. Rabbi Akiva said that  מְצַחֵק (mestaeq) refers solely to idolatry, as is written, And the people came back from eating and drinking and they rose up לְצַחֵק (letsaḥeq), to play. [And YHWH said to Moses, ‘Quick, go down, for your people (i.e., the motley throng, mixed multitude) that I brought up from Egypt has acted ruinously] (Exodus 32:6) [cf. M Avot 3:17: ‘Rabbi Akiva said: שְׂחוֹק (Seḥoq), mocking, and frivolity lead to immorality’]. From this we learn that Sarah saw Ishmael building idolatrous altars, catching locusts, and sacrificing them.

Rabbi Eli’ezer, son of Rabbi Yose of Galilee, said מְצַחֵק (mestaeq) was none other than illicit sexual relations. Sarah saw Ishmael molesting and assaulting the women, as is written, there was Isaac מְצַחֵק (mestaeq), playing, with Rebekah his wife (Genesis 26:8) [cf. ibid. 39:17: The Hebrew slave came into me, whom you bought us, לְצַחֶק (letsaeq), to play, with me)].

Rabbi Yishma’el said מְצַחֵק (mestaeq) refers to bloodshed, as is written: And Abner said to Joab, ‘Pray, let the lads arise and ישַׂחֲקוּ (yesaḥaqu), play, before us.’… And they arose and crossed over—twelve in number… And each man grasped the head of the other with his sword at the side of the other, and they fell together  (2 Samuel 2:14–16). From this we learn that Sarah saw Ishmael taking his bow and arrow and shooting towards Isaac, as is written Like a lunatic shooting deadly firebrands is a man who deceives his neighbor and says, ‘Why, I was joking’ (Proverbs 26:18–19).

But I say, perish the thought such a person be in the house of so righteous a man! How could there be idolatry, sexual licentiousness and bloodshed in the home of him, of whom it is said, For I have embraced him so that he will charge his sons [and his household after him to keep the way of YHWH to do righteousness and justice, that YHWH may bring upon Abraham all that He spoke concerning him’]  (Genesis 18:19). Therefore מְצַחֵק (mestaeq) here can refer only to the matter of inheritance; for when Isaac was born to Abraham, everyone rejoiced, saying, ‘Abraham has had a son, a son who shall inherit the world and take a double portion!’ And Ishmael was מְצַחֵק (mestaeq), sneering, saying, ‘Fools I am the firstborn, and I shall take a double portion.’ Indeed, [we may infer this] from Sarah’s response: for the slavegirl’s son shall not inherit with my son. My interpretation is more sound than that of Rabbi Akiva” (Tosefta Sotah 6:6, cf. Bereshit Rabbah 53:11).

“Rabbi Ḥiyya said, ‘Since the day Isaac was born, as long as Ishmael remained in Abraham’s house he did not attain a name. Wherever gold is found, scoria goes unmentioned. So, the son of Hagar the Egyptian, a male unworthy of being mentioned in the presence of Isaac.

Rabbi El’azar said, ‘Sarah saw. She saw him through a contemptuous eye, eyeing him not as the son of Abraham but as the son of Hagar the Egyptian. So, Sarah saw. Sarah saw him with that eye—not Abraham, since in relation to Abraham it is not written: son of Hagar the Egyptian, but rather: his son

Now, would you ever imagine that Sarah was jealous of her [namely, Hagar] or her son [Ishmael]? If so, the blessed Holy One would not have consented to her, as is written: Whatever Sarah tells you, hearken to her voice. Rather, because she saw him engaging in idolatry and because his mother taught him idolatrous customs, Sarah said, ‘For the son of this maidservant will not inherit! I know he will never inherit the share of faith, nor will he share a portion with my son—neither in this world nor in the world that is coming.’ Therefore the blessed Holy One consented” (Zohar 1:118b).

The children jostled each other with in her (Genesis 25:22), for there that wicked Esau waged battle against Jacob. וַיִּתְרֹצְצוּ (Va-yitrotsetsu), They jostled each other—they crushed each other, as we say: רָצַץ (Ratsats), Crush, its head! Crushing one another, they split apart.

Come and see: This one, the side riding the serpent; that one, the side riding the sacred, perfect throne, on the side of the sun [Tif’eret] performing with the moon [Shekhinah]” (Zohar 1:138a).

And Isaac loved Esau for the game that he brought him, but Rebekah loved Jacob… And it happened when Isaac was old, that his eyes grew too bleary to see, and he called to Esau his elder son and said to him, “My son!” and he said, “Here I am.” And he said, “Look, I have grown old; I know not how soon I shall die. So now, take up, pray, your gear, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field, and hunt me some game, and make me a dish of the kind that I love and bring it to me that I may eat, so that I may solemnly bless you before I die.” And Rebekah was listening as Isaac spoke to Esau his son… (Genesis 25:28; 27:1–5).

And Laban had gone to shear his flocks, and Rachel stole his household gods that were her father’s. And Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean, in not telling him he was fleeing… And Laban said to Jacob, “What have you done, deceiving me, and driving my daughters like captives of the sword? Why did you flee in stealth and deceive me and not tell me? I would have sent you off with festive songs, with timbrel and lyre. And you did not let me kiss my sons and my daughters. O, you have played the fool!.. why did you steal my gods?” And Jacob answered and said to Laban, “For I was afraid, for I thought, you would rob me of your daughters. With whomever you find your gods, that person shall not live…  But Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them… (Genesis 31:19–20; 31–32).

“Rabbi Yose said, ‘What are תְּרָפִים (terafim), household gods (Genesis 31:19)? They were idolatry. Why are they called תְּרָפִים (terafim)? Out of disgrace, as we have learned: ‘place of תּוֹרֶף (toref), pudenda…’ [תְּרָפִים (Terafim), household gods] speak constantly, offering evil counsel to one’s soul. Rachel feared they would offer advice on how to harm Jacob, so to disgrace idolatry she placed them underneath her and they could not speak… Now Rachel, even though she acted to uproot her father from idolatry, was punished; for she never raised Benjamin or existed with him for even an hour [see Genesis 35:16–20]—all on account of her father’s suffering, despite her good intentions” (Zohar 1:164b).

“Come and see! It is written: The people saw that Moses lagged [in coming down from the mountain, and the people assembled against Aaron and said to him, ‘Rise up, make us gods that will go before us, for this man Moses who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what happened to him] (Exodus 32:1). Who are the people? The עֵרֶב רַב (erev rav), mixed multitude [see Exodus 12:38; 32:7]. Who are the עֵרֶב רַב (erev rav), mixed multitude? Were they Lydians, Ethiopians, Cretans or Togarmans, that they are called עֵרֶב רַב (erev rav), ‘mixed multitude’? Were they not Egyptians, journeying from Egypt? If they were a mixture of many nations, it should have been written A mixed multitude ּעַלו (alu), went up, with them, corresponding to their mixture. Rather, A mixed multitude עָלָה (alah), went up, with them [written with the collective singular verb] (Exodus 12:38)—they were one nation, with one language, but consisting of all the sorcerers of Egypt and all its soothsayers, of whom is written and they too, the soothsayers of Egypt, did [thus with their spells] (Exodus 7:11), wanting to confront the wonders of the blessed Holy One. Once they saw the miracles and wonders that Moses performed in Egypt, they returned to Moses. The blessed Holy One said to Moses, ‘Do not accept them!’

Moses said, ‘Master of the Universe! Now that they have seen Your power, they want to convert. Let them see Your power every day and they will know that there is no God but You.’ And Moses accepted them [cf. Exodus 32:11; BT Pesaim 87b: ‘The blessed Holy One scattered Israel amongst the heathens only so that they may accumulate converts’]” (Zohar 2:191a, cf. ibid. 2:45b, 191a, 195a).

“Moses wanted to bring these converts under the wings of the Shekhinah and presumed that they too were drawn down from ה (he). Thus he caused the fall of ה (he) of אַבְרָהָם (Avraham), Abraham. This brought upon him descent, as is written: Go, get you down, for your people… have become corrupt (Exodus 32:7). They did not receive small ה (he) with the awe of י (yod) and with the love of [the first] ה (he). So he fell from his rung, which is ו (vav)” (Zohar 1:25a, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar).

“All the exile and the destruction of the Temple and all the suffering, all of it came through Moses’ acceptance of the עֵרֶב רַב (erev rav), motley throng, and all the wicked ones and evildoers in every generation come from them, and this is what is referred to: [Once Shabbatai son of Marinus came to Babylon and entreated them to provide him with facilities for trading and they refused this to him; neither did they give him any food. He said:] ‘These are the descendants of the motley throng’ (BT Beitza 32b)” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 97a).

Everything has a season, and a time for every matter under the heavens. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to rip down and a time to build. A time to weep and a time to laugh. A time to mourn and a time to dance. A time to fling stones and a time to gather stones in. A time to embrace and a time to pull back from embracing. A time to seek and a time to lose. A time to keep and a time to fling away. A time to tear and a time to sew. A time to keep silent and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace (Ecclesiastes 3:1–8).

“[And Saul came up to the city of Amalek] and lay in wait in the ravine. [And Saul said to the Kenite, ‘Go, turn away, come down from amidst the Amalekite, lest I sweep you away together with him, for you did kindness to all the Israelites when they came up from Egypt] (1 Samuel 15:5).

Rabbi Mani said: Because of what happens in the ravine: When the blessed Holy One said to Saul: ‘Now, go and strike down Amalek, [and put under the ban everything that he has, you shall not spare him, and you shall put to death man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and donkey’] (ibid., 3), [Saul] said: If on account of one person Torah said: Perform the ceremony of the heifer whose neck is to be broken [in atonement for an unidentified homicide, see Deuteronomy 21:1–9], how much more [ought consideration to be given] to all these persons! And if human beings sinned, what has the cattle committed; and if the adults have sinned, what have the little ones done?

A divine voice came forth and said: do not be over-righteous (Ecclesiastes 7:16). And when Saul said to Doeg: ‘You, then, turn round [and stab the priests.’ … and he struck down Nob the priests’ town with the edge of the sword, man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and donkey and sheep, all by the edge of the sword] (1 Samuel 22:18), a divine voice came forth to say: don’t be over-wicked (Ecclesiastes ibid., 17)” (BT Yoma 22b, cf. Mekhilta, Beshalla 1; Guide of the Perplexed 3:39).

“As they say, ‘Do no good to an evil person and harm will not come to you; for if you do good to an evil person, you have done wrong'” (Qohelet Rabbah on 5:8).

“All who are merciful to the cruel in the end become cruel to the merciful” (Qohelet Rabbah on 7:16, cf. Midrash Zuta; Tanḥuma, Mezora 1; Yalkut Shimoni, 1 Samuel, 121).

“Rav Yehudah said in Shemu’el’s name: When Solomon married Pharaoh’s daughter, she brought him a thousand musical instruments and said to him, ‘Thus we do in honour of that idol, thus in honour of that idol,’ yet he did not forbid her.

Rav Yehudah said in Shemu’el’s name: When Solomon married Pharaoh’s daughter, Gabriel descended and planted a reed in the sea, and it gathered a bank around it, on which the great city of Rome was built [i.e., Solomon’s unfaithfulness laid the seeds for the dissolution of the Jewish State]. In a barraita it was taught: On the day that Jeroboam brought the two golden calves, one into Bethel and the other into Dan, a hut was built, and this developed into Magna Graecia [Greek Italy, i.e., Rome]” (BT Shabbat 56b, cf. Sanhedrin 21b; Shir HaShirim Rabbah 1, 1:10).

Better a Thing’s End than Its Beginning

IMG_0957Each act of YHWH has its own end; even the wicked for an evil day (Proverbs 16:4).

“There is no evil that does not contain some good… there is nothing evil in its proper place” (Rabbi Yosef Gikatilla, Sod Sha’atnez, 278 [Gottlieb]).

“[Son of Azzai] used to say: Do not scorn any person and do not disdain anything; for there is no person who does not have his hour, and there is no thing that does not have its place” (M Avot 4:3).

And the gain of the land is in everything (Ecclesiastes 5:8). Rabbi Yehudah said: [Even] obscure things which you see are a benefit in the world, [indeed] they are needed for the world’s existence” (Qohelet Rabbah on 5:8).

“Once Rabbi El’azar was walking on the way, accompanied by Rabbi Ḥizkiyah. They saw a snake, and Rabbi Ḥizkiyah was about to kill it. Rabbi El’azar said to him, ‘Leave it alone, don’t kill it!’ He replied, but it’s an evil thing that kills people.’ He said to him, ‘Ḥizkiyah, look at what is written: Does the snake bite without a whisper? (Ecclesiastes 10:11). A snake does not bite a person until it is whispered to from above and told, Go and kill so-and-so!

And sometimes, just as it does this, so it saves a person from other things, and thereby the blessed Holy One generates a miracle for people. All is in the hands of the blessed Holy One, and all is the work of His hands, needed by the world. If the world did not need them, the blessed Holy One would not have created them. Therefore, one must not disdain anything in the world or the acts of the blessed Holy One’” (Zohar 2:68b, cf. Mekhilta Beshallaḥ 1; BT Shabbat 121b; Berakhot 33a).

“Rabbi Shim’on was walking on the way, accompanied by Rabbi El’azar, Rabbi Abba, Rabbi Yehudah, Rabbi Ḥiyya, and Rabbi Yose. They came to a certain obstructive watercourse [of the sort which people make in their fields (Sullam), see BT Bava Batra 54a], and Rabbi Yose slipped into the water fully clothed. He said, ‘This construction of measured water—I wish that it didn’t exist!’ Rabbi Shim’on said to him, ‘You are forbidden! This serves the world, and one must not treat contemptuously those who are of service to the blessed Holy One, especially since they are fashioned genuinely [i.e., this has a corresponding root above (Sullam)].

He opened, saying, ‘God saw all He had made, and look, it was very good (Genesis 1:31)—existing according to the laws of supernal authority. God saw all that He had made—without qualification: even snakes, scorpions, and mosquitoes, and even that which seems to harm the world. Concerning all of them, it is written and look, it was very good. All of them serve the world, conduct the world, though people do not know [cf. Shemot Rabbah 10:1].’

As they were walking along, they saw a snake leading the way. Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘Surely, this one is about to perform a miracle for us!’ That snake slithered quickly in front of them and tangled with a viper diametrically across the road. They fought one another and died. When they reached them, they saw them both lying on the road. Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘Blessed is the Compassionate One who has performed a miracle for us! For if anyone looks at this [viper] while it is alive, or is looked upon by it, he is doomed, all the more so if he approaches it.’ He proclaimed over himself, ‘No evil will befall you, nor affliction draw near your tent. For His angels He will command for you, to guard you on all your ways (Psalms 91:10–11). By all things the blessed Holy One fulfills His commission, and we must not treat contemptuously anything He has made. Thus it is written YHWH is good to all, and His compassion is over all His creatures, and similarly: All your creatures, YHWH, acclaim You (ibid. 145:9–10)’ [cf. BT Shabbat 121b: ‘Our Rabbis taught: If one chances upon snakes and scorpions, and he kills them, it is manifest that he had chanced upon them in order to kill them; if he does not kill them, it is manifest that he had chanced upon them that they should kill him, but that a miracle was performed by Heaven on his behalf. ‘Ulla said:—others state, Rabbah son of Son of Hanah said in Rabbi Yoḥanan’s name—That is when they hiss at him’]” (Zohar 3:107a).

“It is related of Naḥum of Gamzu that he was blind in both his eyes, his two hands and legs were amputated—and his whole body was covered with boils and he was lying in a dilapidated house on a bed the feet of which were standing in bowls of water in order to prevent the ants from crawling on to him.

On one occasion his disciples desired to remove the bed and then clear the things out of the house, but he said to them, My children, first clear out the things [from the house] and then remove my bed for I am confident that so long as I am in the house it will not collapse. They first cleared out the things and then they removed his bed and the house [immediately] collapsed. Thereupon his disciples said to him, Rabbi, since you are wholly righteous, why has all this befallen you? And he replied, I have brought it all upon myself. Once I was journeying on the road and was making for the house of my father-in-law and I had with me three donkeys, one laden with food, one with drink and one with all kinds of delicacies, when a poor man met me and stopped me on the road and said to me, Rabbi, give me something to eat. I replied to him, Wait until I have unloaded something from the donkey; I had hardly managed to unload something from the donkey when the man died [from hunger]. I then went and laid myself on him and exclaimed, May my eyes which had no pity upon your eyes become blind, may my hands which had no pity upon your hands be cut off, may my legs which had no pity upon your legs be amputated, and my mind was not at rest until I added, may my whole body be covered with boils.

Thereupon his disciples exclaimed, ‘Alas! that we see you in such a sore plight.’ To this he replied, ‘Woe would it be to me did you not see me in such a sore plight’ [cf. BT Shabbat 33b: (Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai said:) If you did not see me in such a state you would not find me thus (learned)]. Why was he called Naḥum of Gamzu?—because whatever befell him he would declare, גַם זוֹ לְטוֹבַה (gam zo le-tovah), ‘This also is for the best.’

Once the Jews desired to send to the Emperor a gift and after discussing who should go they decided that Naḥum of Gamzu should go because he had experienced many miracles. They sent with him a bagful of precious stones and pearls. He went and spent the night in a certain inn and during the night the people in the inn arose and emptied the bag and filled it up with earth. When he discovered this next morning he exclaimed, This also is for the best. When he arrived at his destination and they undid his bag they found that it was full of earth. The king thereupon desired to put them to death saying, The Jews are mocking me. Naḥum then exclaimed, This also is for the best.

Whereupon Elijah appeared in the guise of one of them and remarked, Perhaps this is some of the earth of their father Abraham, and when [he threw] stubble it changed into arrows, for it is written, [Who raised up the righteous man from the east, called him to his feet, gave the nations before him, and made him rule over kings? He gave them as the dust to] his sword, and as driven stubble to his bow (Isaiah 41:2). Now there was one province which [the emperor had hitherto] not been able to conquer but when they tried some of this earth [against it] they were able to conquer it. Then they took him [Naḥum] to the royal treasury and filled his bag with precious stones and pearls and sent him back with great honour. When on his return journey he again spent the night in the same inn he was asked, What did you take [to the king] that they showed you such great honour? He replied, I brought there what I had taken from here. [The innkeepers] thereupon razed the inn to the ground and took of the earth to the king and they said to him, The earth that was brought to you belonged to us. They tested it and it was not found to be [effective] and the innkeepers were thereupon put to death” (BT Ta’anit 21a, cf. Rabbi Menaḥem Azariyah de Fano, Gilgulie Neshamot, 95).

Better a things end than its beginning (Ecclesiastes 7:8).

“Rabbi Akiva walked down the road of a village. He asked for a place to stay, but none was offered. He said, ‘All that the Merciful does is for the best.’ He went and slept in a field in which there was a rooster, wine, and a lamp. A wind came and blew out the lamp, a cat came and ate the rooster and a lion came and drank the wine. He said, ‘All that the Merciful does is for the best.’ That night an army came and took the town captive. Rabbi Akiva said, ‘Didn’t I tell you that all that the blessed Holy One does is for the best!’” (BT Berakhot 60b).

“This is the sin of the primordial serpent: he joined below and it separated above. So he caused what he caused to the world. For one should separate below and join above… one should realize that יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים (YHWH Elohim) is entirely one, indivisible. יְהוָה (YHWH) is הָאֱלֹהִים (Ha-Elohim). Once one realizes all is one and does not impose division, even that Other Side will disappear from the world, not be drawn below” (Zohar 1:12b, cf. Guide of the Perplexed 3:10: “The true reality of the act of God in its entirety is good”).

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, הַשָּׂטָן (ha-satan), the Accuser]” (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].

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).