The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: faith

Hiding and Revealing the Face by Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag (Ba’al ha-Sullam)

canva-photo-editorYHWH, in your pleasure You made me stand mountain-strong. When You hid Your face, I was stricken (Psalms 30:8).

One portrait of the hiding

The blessed Holy One’s face is not revealed, that is, He does not act with one according to His name “The Good who does good” (Birkhat ha-Mazon) [cf. BT Ta’anit 31a]. Rather, to the contrary: he is afflicted by Him, suffers from a poor livelihood, and many wish to collect their debts from him and embitter his life. His entire day is filled with nothing but trouble and worry. He suffers from poor health and is disrespected by people. Any undertaking he starts he fails to finish, and he is constantly frustrated.

In this manner, of course he does not see the blessed Holy One’s good face, that is, if he believes that the blessed Holy One does these things to him, either as punishment for transgressions or to ultimately reward him. This follows the verse, For who YHWH loves He rebukes (Proverbs 3:12), and also, “The righteous begins with suffering” (Naḥmanides on Genesis 27:29), since the blessed Holy One wishes to eventually bestow abundant peace on him [cf. Psalms 126:5: They who sow in tears in glad song will reap; Zohar 2:187a: ‘All beginnings are hard, and their endings soft’].

Yet, he does not fail by exclaiming that all this befell him according to blind fate and nature without any reckoning or knowledge. Rather, he strengthens his trust in the blessed Holy One, whose providence caused him all this. Nevertheless, this is considered seeing the blessed Holy One’s back.

A second portrait of the hiding

The books refer to הַסְתֵּר בְּתוֹך הַסְתֵּר (ha-seter betokh ha-seter), “hiding within the hiding,” meaning one cannot see even the back of the blessed Holy One. Instead, he exclaims that the blessed Holy One has left him and no longer watches over him. He ascribes all the sufferings he feels to blind fate and to nature, since the ways of providence become exceedingly tangled in his eyes that they lead him to denial [of the blessed Holy One], perish the thought. This means that he prays and gives charity for his troubles but is not answered whatsoever. And precisely when he stops praying for his troubles, he is answered. Whenever he perseveres, trusts in providence, and improves his deeds, success turns away from him and he mercilessly declines. And when he abandons [the blessed Holy One] and begins to regress in his deeds, he becomes very successful and is greatly relieved [cf. Zohar 3:276b (RM)].

He does not find livelihood in a proper way, but through deceit or desecration of the Sabbath, and so on. All of his acquaintances who are masters of Torah and mitsvot suffer poverty, illness, and are despised by people. People who keep mitsvot seem to him lacking in דֶּרֶךְ אֶרֶץ (derekh erets), common decency, born fools, and so hypocritical that he cannot tolerate their company for even a moment [cf. M Avot 2:2].

But all his wicked acquaintances, who mock his faithfulness, are very successful, well to do, and healthy. They know no illness, are clever, virtuous, and well-mannered. They are without worry, confident, and calm the whole day, perpetually.

And when providence arranges things in this way for a man, it is called “hiding within the hiding.” For then, perish the thought, he collapses under his weight and cannot persevere in the trust that his suffering comes from the blessed Holy One for some indiscernible reason. Finally he fails, becomes a heretic, and, perish the thought, says that the blessed Holy One does not watch over His creatures whatsoever, and all that befalls him transpires according to blind fate and nature. This is not seeing even the back.

A portrait of revealing the Face

However, once he has completely revealed the תַבלִין (tavlin), spice—the light of Torah—which man inhales into his body by his strengthening of trust in the blessed Holy One, he becomes worthy of providence with His face revealed. This means that the blessed Holy One acts with him as  befits His name, “The Good who does good.”

He discovers that he receives abundant goodness and great peace from the blessed Holy One and is always satisfied. For he obtains his livelihood with ease and to the fullest, never experiencing trouble or pressure, knows no illness, is highly respected by people, effortlessly accomplishes any plan that enters his mind, and succeeds wherever he turns.

When he wishes for something, he prays and he is instantaneously answered, as He always answers anything that he demands of Him, and not a single prayer is denied. When he strengthens his good deeds, he succeeds even more, and when he is negligent, his success decreases proportionally.

All of his acquaintances are honest, have a good livelihood and good health. They are highly respected in the eyes of people and have no worries at all. They are at peace all day, perpetually. They are smart, men of truth, possess a good appearance, and he feels blessed to be in their midst. But all of his acquaintances who do not follow the way of Torah have a poor livelihood, are burdened by heavy debts, and fail to find even a single moment’s rest. They suffer illness in pain, and are loathsome in the eyes of people. They seem to him inane, lacking in common decency, wicked, cruel, and flatterers full of lies such that it is intolerable to keep their company.

His blessed Name shows us that He is good and does good to all His creatures in every manner of benefit, and sufficient for every type among Israel. Certainly, the pleasure of one is not like the pleasure of another. For example, one who engages in wisdom will not take pleasure in honor and wealth, and one who does not engage in wisdom will not take pleasure in great attainment and innovating in wisdom. Thus, He gives wealth and honor to one, and wondrous attainment in wisdom to another.

A man’s demand to become stronger in his trust in the blessed Holy One’s providence over the world during a time of hiding brings him to murmur in books of Torah [cf. Psalms 1:2: But YHWH’s teaching is his desire, and His teaching he murmurs day and night], and to take from there the insight and understanding of how to strengthen his trust in His providence. The insights that he receives are called תוֹרָה תַבלִין (torah tavlin), “antidote of Torah,” until they reach a certain measure, when the blessed Holy One has compassion on him and pours upon him the spirit from on high—supernal abundance.

In summary: A portrait of hiding the Face

  1. Suffering torments such as lack of livelihood, poor health, humiliations, failing to achieve plans, personal doubt, such that he keeps himself from troubling his companion.
  2. Praying without being answered. When he improves his deeds he declines, but when he regresses in his deeds he is very successful. There is no chance of earning a living in a proper way, only through deceit and theft, or by desecrating the Sabbath.
  3. All of his honest acquaintances suffer poverty, ill health, and humiliations of all kinds, and his wicked acquaintances mock him everyday and are successful, healthy, wealthy, and lead carefree lives.
  4. All of his righteous acquaintances who keep Torah and mitsvot seem cruel, egotistical, backwards, born fools, lacking in common decency, and great hypocrites. He finds them repulsive and cannot tolerate their company for a moment, even if in a veritable Garden of Eden.

A portrait of revealing the Face

  1. Receiving good, abundant peace, and earning his livelihood with ease and to the fullest. He never feels stress or ill health, he is respected wherever he turns, and successfully and easily accomplishes any plan that enters his mind.
  2. When he prays, he is answered immediately. When he improves his deeds, he is very successful, and if he regresses in his deeds, he loses his success.
  3. All his acquaintances who walk along the upright path are wealthy, healthy, know no sickness, are highly respected in the eyes of the world, and dwell in peace and quiet. His acquaintances who do not walk along the upright path are without livelihood, filled with troubles, grief, illness, and are loathsome in the eyes of people.
  4. He regards all his righteous acquaintances as clever, reasonable, well-mannered, men of truth, and possessing of a good appearance such that it is a great pleasure to be in their company.

I Endow those who Love Me with Three Hundred and Ten Worlds

“Rabbi Shim’on son of El’azar says: Greater is he who acts from love than he who acts from fear, because with the latter [the merit] remains effective for a thousand generations but with the former it remains effective for two thousand generations. Here it is written: And doing kindness to אֲלָפִים (alafim), thousands, for those that love Me and who keep My commands (Exodus 20:5) and elsewhere it is written: And keeping His commands to the אֶלֶף (elef), thousandth, generation (Deuteronomy 7:9). But in this latter passage it is likewise written: For those who love Him and keeping His commands to the thousandth generation!—in the first verse cited [thousands] is attached [to for those that that love Me,] whereas in the second verse [thousandth] is attached [to keeping His commands. So in the former the motive is love, in the latter fear of punishment]” (BT Sotah 31a).

“Rabbi Yehudah, son of Rabbi Shim’on, expounded: He who blackens his face for the sake of Torah study in this world, the blessed Holy One will make his lustre shine in the next, as is written: Like Lebanon he is choice as the cedars (Song of Songs 5:15) [לְּבָנוֹן (Levanon), Lebanon, is cognate with לָבָן (lavan), white]. Rabbi Tanḥuma son of Rabbi said: He who starves himself for the sake of Torah study in this world, the blessed Holy One will fully satisfy him in the next, as is written: They take their fill from the fare of Your house and from Your stream of delights You give them drink (Psalms 36:9).

When Rabbi Dimi came, he said: The blessed Holy One will give every righteous man His heap [of reward], for it is written: Blessed be the Master day after day. God heaps upon us our rescue. Selah (Psalms 68:20). Abayye demurred: But is it possible to say so? Is it not written: Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and measured out heaven with the span? [how then can man receive such a vast reward?] (Isaiah 40:12)—he replied, ‘Why are you not found familiar with the aggadah [the nonlegal contents of the Talmud and Midrash]?’ For it was said in the West, [i.e., the Land of Israel] in the name of Rabbah son of Mari: The blessed Holy One will give to every righteous person three hundred and ten worlds, as is written, So I may endow those who love Me with substance and fill their treasuries (Proverbs 8:21)—now the numerical value ofׁ יש (yesh), substance, is 310 [thus man’s receptive capacity will be enormously increased]” (BT Sanhedrin 100a, cf. M Uqtzin 3:12).

“[Son of Rav Safra] opened, saying, ‘For a mitsvah is a lamp and Torah is light, and reproofs of discipline are the way to life (Proverbs 6:23). For mitsvah is a lamp—Mishnah, as is said: the Torah and the mitsvah (Exodus 24:12); the Torah is Written Torah, and the mitsvah is Mishnah, which is a lamp, a lamp ready to be kindled.

A lamp—why is She called a lamp? When She receives, between two arms, 248 supernal members, and She opens Her two arms toward them, then those two arms are included with them and She is called נֵר (ner), lamp [numerically equivalent to 250].

And Torah is light—illumining that lamp, which is kindled by it from the side of primordial light, as is written: from His right hand, a fiery law for them (Deuteronomy 33:2)—given from the right side, although the left was included in it, for thus is perfection of all.

This light is absorbed by 207 worlds, which are hidden away on the side of that light, and it spreads through them all. Beneath the supernal concealed Throne dwell those worlds on that right side. There are 310: 207 on the right side and 103 on the left side, totalling 310. These are the ones that the blessed Holy One constantly prepares, and from these spread countless precious treasures all stored away for delighting the righteous in the world that is coming. Of these is written So I may endow those who love Me with יֵשׁ (yesh), substance, and fill their treasuries (Proverbs 8:21). Of these is written No eye has seen, O God, but You, what You will do for one who awaits You (Isaiah 64:3).

יֵשׁ (Yesh), substance—310 worlds treasured away beneath the World that is Coming. אוֹר (Or), light, primordial light, is named after those 207 on the right side, because even light of the left is called light, but primordial light is destined to generate offspring in the world that is coming. Now, you might say, ‘In the World that is Coming, and no more!’ But even every single day, because if not for this light, the world could not exist, as is written: I declare, ‘The world is built by חֶסֶד (ḥesed), love (Psalms 89:3).

This light was sown by the blessed Holy One in the garden of His delight, and He arranged it in rows by the hand of the Righteous One, who is the gardener of the Garden. He took this light and sowed it as seed of truth, arranging it row by row in the Garden, and it sprouted and grew and yielded fruit, by which the world is nourished, as is written: Light is sown for the righteous… (Psalms 97:11)” (Zohar 2:166b).

“What is יֵשׁ (yesh), substance? חָכְמָה מֵאַיִן (Ḥokhmah me-Ayin), Wisdom from Nothing (Job 28:12). For in the place of the upper Shekhinah [Binah] there is Ḥokhmah, as is said: So I may endow those who love Me with yesh, substance, and fill their treasuries (Proverbs 8:21); And doing kindness to the thousandth generation for those who love Me and for those who keep My commands (Exodus 20:5)—from the side of Ḥesed, Kindness, and this substance, which is Ḥokhmah, Wisdom, is on the right as has been taught: One who desires to become wise should turn to the south [which is at the right hand of one facing the east] (BT Bava Batra 25b). And that is why it is written: So I may endow those who love Me with yesh, substance, and fill their treasuries (Proverbs 8:21)” (Zohar 3:238b, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).