The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: food

We Eat anything We Want and We are Strong and Healthy and Our Limbs are Fit

image“Rabbi Pinḥas son of Ya’ir said: Zeal leads to cleanliness, cleanliness leads to purity, purity leads to restraint, restraint leads to holiness, holiness leads to humility, humility leads to fear of sin, fear of sin leads to חֲסִידוּת (ḥasidut), devotion, ḥasidut leads to Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit leads to revival of the dead, revival of the dead comes through Elijah, remembered for good” (M Sotah 9:15, cf. BT Avodah Zarah 20b).

“Abraham observed laws of purity and impurity so vigilantly that an impure person could not even approach” (Zohar 1:102b).

“Resh Laqish said: ‘… If one comes to defile himself, the door is opened to him; if one comes to purify himself, he is assisted.’ … It was taught in the school of Rabbi Yishma’el: ‘Sin dulls [or: obstructs] a person’s heart, as is said: Do not become impure with them, וְנִטְמֵתֶם (ve-nitmetem), becoming impure, through them (Leviticus 11:43). Do not read וְנִטְמֵתֶם (ve-nitmetem), becoming impure, but rather וְנִטַּמְתֶּם (ve-nitamtem), becoming dulled [or: obstructed]’” (BT Yoma 38b).

“It is written: You shall sanctify yourselves and be holy… (Leviticus 11:44). If one comes to defile himself, he is surely defiled. And it is written: וְנִטְמֵתֶם (ve-nitmetem), becoming impure, through them (ibid., 43)—[spelled unconventionally] without an א (alef): totally obstructed impurity, which cannot be purified as can other types of impurity. Furthermore, he is terrified of dangerous beasts, for in their eyes he appears as a kid and he is vulnerable, being divested of the human image [see BT Sanhedrin 38b: ‘Rami son of Ḥama said: A wild beast has no dominion over man unless he appears to it as a brute, as is written, He is likened to beasts that are doomed (Psalms 49:13).’ Cf. BT Shabbat 151b; Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah on 3:7]. Rabbi Yeisa permitted the eating of chicken with dairy cheese [see BT Shabbat 130a]. Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘This is surely forbidden to you! One should not provide an opening for evil species. ‘Go, O Nazarite,’ one says, ‘around; do not approach the vineyard!’ This is surely forbidden to you, since it entails the same stricture as cattle. What is written of one who permits this? You gave the Nazarites wine to drink (Amos 2:12)—permitting this is like permitting that. And it is written: You shall not eat any abhorrent thing (Deuteronomy 14:3)—any includes everything” (Zohar 2:125b).

“Now, you might say, ‘What about the goat, upon which settles an impure spirit? Not so! For if an impure spirit settled upon it, we would be forbidden to eat it. Rather, they pass through them and manifest in front of them, yet do not settle within them; for as they settle, another spirit passes over them and they disengage from their bodies. So they appear in front of them and harass within them, yet do not possess their bodies—which we are therefore permitted to eat. Whether cattle, beasts, birds, or fish of the sea—among all of them appear right and left, Compassion and Judgment. Whatever comes from the side of the right, the side of Compassion, we are permitted to eat; and all those coming from the side of the left, the side of Judgment, we are forbidden to eat [i.e., predators, scavengers, and bottom feeders]—for all their bodies are impure and they all defile; an impure spirit settles within them, dwelling in them. Therefore, the holy spirit of Israel must not mingle with them nor be defiled by them, so that they may remain holy and be recognized above and below. Happy is their share, for the Holy King delights in them and seeks to purify and sanctify them above all, for they are linked to Him!…

Whoever eats of those forbidden foods clings to the Other Side and makes his soul and his body loathsome. An impure spirit settles upon him, and he demonstrates that he has no share in the supernal King and does not come from His side nor cleave to Him. If he departs like this from the world, he is seized by all those linked to the side of impurity, who defile him—punishing him as a person loathed by his Lord, loathed in this world and loathed in the world that is coming. Of this is written וְנִטְמֵתֶם (ve-nitmetem), becoming impure, through them (Leviticus 11:43)—without an א (alef), for there is no remedy for his loathsomeness, and he never emerges from impurity. Woe to them, woe to their souls, for they will never cling to the Bundle of Life because they have been defiled! Woe to their bodies, of which is written For their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be a horror to all flesh (Isaiah 66:24). What is a horror? A stench. Who causes this? That side to which they clung” (Zohar 3:41b).

“Rabbi Abba said, I remember something that I heard from the Holy Lamp, who heard it in the name of Rabbi Eli’ezer [son of Hyrcanus]. One day, a certain clever Gentile came to him and said, Old man, old man… you say that you’re closer to the supernal King than all other nations. Well, one who is close to the King is always happy, free from sorrow and distress; but you are in greater sorrow, distress, and agony than all other nations. As for us, no sorrow, distress, or agony even comes near us. We are close to the supernal King, and you are far from Him, which is why you suffer sorrow and distress, mourning and agony, which we do not!

Furthermore, you don’t eat any animal that has not been slaughtered properly or is diseased or defective, so that you will be healthy and your bodies will be fit. Well, we eat whatever we want, and we are vigorous and healthy, all our limbs enduring firmly; whereas you—who don’t eat—are all weak, sickly, and broken more than all other peoples [cf. Guide of the Perplexed 3:48]. A people hated by your God entirely!

[The Gentile] said, ‘Old man, old man, don’t say anything to me, because I won’t listen to you or accept it! [cf. Proverbs 18:2: A fool does not care for discerning but for exposing his inner thoughts; ibid., 26:4–5: Do not answer a dolt by his folly, lest you, too, be like him. Answer the dolt by his folly, lest he seem wise in his own eyes].’

Rabbi Eli’ezer raised his eyes and gazed at him, and he turned into a heap of bones.

When his wrath subsided, he turned his head and wept. He said, YHWH our Lord, how majestic is Your name throughout the earth! (Psalms 8:2). How mighty is the holy power throughout the earth! There is not a single tiny word appearing in the Torah that has not issued from the mouth of the blessed Holy One. These things asked by that wicked man I asked Elijah one day, and he said that they had been presented in the Heavenly Academy before the blessed Holy One….

Surely we are closer to the supernal King than all other nations! Surely it is so, for the blessed Holy One made Israel the heart of the whole world. So is Israel among the other nations: the heart among the limbs of the body. All inhabitants of the world are the limbs, while Israel is the heart in their midst; and if Israel did not exist in the world, no nations could endure for even a moment—like limbs without a heart. Therefore they are in the middle of the whole world—the heart within the limbs.

Israel conducts herself among the other nations like the heart among the limbs. The heart is tender and weak, yet it is the vitality of all the limbs. None of the limbs knows pain, distress, and agony at all, only the heart, containing vitality and intelligence. [Pain] comes nowhere near the other limbs, since they have no vitality and know nothing. None of the other limbs come near the king—who is intelligence and wisdom located in the brain—only the heart. The other limbs are far from him and know nothing about him. Similarly, Israel is close to the Holy King, whereas the other nations are far from Him [cf. Kuzari 2:25–44; Tanḥuma, Qedoshim 10].

As for the other question—that Israel eats no animal that has not been slaughtered properly or is diseased or defective, or the dirty filth of detestable and creeping things, as do other nations—so it is. For, in fact, the heart—which is tender and weak, yet king and vitality of all the other limbs—takes for its nourishment only the purest and clearest of all blood, so its food is cleanest and most refined of all, whereas the remaining refuse it leaves for all the other limbs. These other limbs do not care about this; rather, they take the refuse and the worst and most foul of all—and they are fittingly strong [cf. Kuzari 2:41].

Consequently, among the other limbs there are blisters, inflammation, rash, and scaly affliction; whereas for the heart, none of these at all. Rather, it is cleanest and purest of all, with no blemish whatsoever. Concerning this it is written: You are wholly beautiful, my love; there is no blemish in you (Song of Songs 4:7).

Rabbi Yose came and kissed his hands. He said, ‘If I have come into the world just to hear this, it is enough!'” (Zohar 3:221a–b).

This Doe has a Narrow Womb

Do you observe the calving of does? (Job 39:1)—this doe has a narrow vagina. When she crouches to give birth, I prepare a serpent which bites the vagina and she is loosened of her offspring. If it comes one second too soon or one second too late, she immediately dies” (BT Bava Batra 16b, cf. Zohar 2:111b; Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 43a).

At the tent flap sin crouches (Genesis 4:7). The serpent which bites the genitalia is the secret of ‘קַבֵּל רִנַּת עַמְּךָ שַׂגְּבֵנוּ טַהֲרֵנוּ נוֹרָא (Qabel rinnat Amekha saggvenu taharenu nora), accept Your people’s prayer. Strengthen us, purify us, You who are revered’ (Anna be-Khoaḥ)—קֶרַע שָׂטָן (qera satan), tear [of the] adversary” (Rabbi Ḥayyim Vital, Sefer ha-Liqqutim).

“נָחָשׁ (Naḥash), serpent, [שָׂטָן (satan), adversary,] and מָשִׁיחַ (mashiaḥ), Messiah, are numerically equivalent” (Rabbi Yitsḥaq ben Ya’aqov ha-Kohen, Madda’ei ha-Yahadut, 2 [1927] 273).

כְּמוֹ נָחָשׁ (Kemo naḥash), like a serpent (Psalms 140:4), and מָשִׁיחַ בֵּן דָּוִד (mashiaḥ ben david), Messiah son of David, are numerically equivalent.

“Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘There is one אַיֶּלֶת (ayyelet), doe, on earth, and the blessed Holy One does so much for her. When she cries out, the blessed Holy One hearkens to her anguish. And when the world is in need of mercy, for water, she cries aloud and the blessed Holy One listens and then feels compassion for the world, as is written As a hind longs for streams of water (Psalms 42:2). When she needs to give birth, she is totally constricted; then she puts her head between her knees, crying out and screaming, and the blessed Holy One feels compassion for her and provides her with a serpent who bites her genitalia, opening and tearing that place, and immediately she gives birth.’ Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘Concerning this matter, do not ask and do not test את יהוה (et YHWH)—so it is precisely!’” (Zohar 2:52b)

As a woman with child draws near to give birth, she shudders, she shakes in her pangs, so we were before You, O YHWH (Isaiah 26:17).

“In the first month (Numbers 28:16). Rabbi Abba opened, ‘As a hart craves for streams of water, so my soul craves for You, O God (Psalms 42:2). This verse has been established. But it is written אַיָּל (ayyal), hart, and it is written אַיֶּלֶת (ayyelet), hind (Psalms 22:1); and all is one, for there is male and female. Even though there is male and female, this אַיָּל (ayyal), hart, is called ‘male’ and is called ‘female,’ as is written: כְּאַיָּל תַּעֲרֹג (ke-ayyal ta’arog), as a hart craves, and it is not written יַעֲרוֹג (ya’arog), [he] craves.

And it is written אַיֶּלֶת (ayyelet), the hind of, dawn (Psalms 22:1). What is the hind of dawn? Well, this is a certain compassionate animal, more compassionate than any in the world—for when She needs food, She goes afar on a distant journey and brings back food, and does not want to eat until She returns to her place. Why? So that the other animals may gather by Her and She can share that food with them. When She comes, all the other animals gather by Her, and She stands in the middle, distributing to each one [and the sign is in: She gets up while it is still night and provides nourishment for her house and a portion for her young women (Proverbs 31:15) (Sullam)]. By when She distributes, She is satisfied, as if She had eaten more than all [cf. BT Pesaḥim 112a, in the name of Rabbi Akiva: ‘More than the calf wants to suck, the cow wants to suckle’].

When does She distribute to them? When morning is about to come—while it is still night, and darkness lifts, lightening [as is written: She gets up while it is still night and provides nourishment for her house (Proverbs 31:15)]. Once morning shines, they are all sated with Her food.

Then a voice is aroused in the middle of the sky, proclaiming aloud: ‘You who are near, enter your places; you who are far, depart! Let each one be gathered to his appropriate place.’

As soon as the sun shines, each one is gathered to his place, as is written: When the sun rises, they gather [and in their dens they crouch] (Psalms 104:22). She goes in the day, is revealed at night, and distributes in the morning; so She is called אַיֶּלֶת (ayyelet), the hind of, dawn. Afterward, She is invigorated like a warrior and goes—and is called אַיָּל (ayyal), a hart.

Where does She go? She goes sixty phrasings from the place that She left, and enters the Mountains of Darkness, where She catches the scent of food. She proceeds into that Mountain of Darkness, and a certain tortuous serpent catches the scent of Her foot and follows Her; and She climbs from there toward the Mountain of Light. Once She arrives there, the blessed Holy One summons for Her another serpent, who emerges and attacks the other one, and She is saved. From there She takes food, and returns to Her place at midnight, She begins to distribute until the darkness of morning lifts. Once the day dawns, She goes and is no longer seen, as has been said.

When the world needs rain, all the other animals gather toward Her, and She ascends to the top of a high mountain, and, wrapping Her head between Her knees, She lets out one low after another. And the blessed Holy One hears Her voice, and is filled with mercy, and takes pity on the world. She descends from the top of the mountain, and runs and hides Herself, and all the other animals run after Her, but do not find Her—as is written: As a hart craves for streams of water. What is meant by for streams of water? For those that have dried up, and the world is thirsting for water; so she craves.

When She is pregnant, She is stopped up. When the time comes for Her to give birth, She lows and cries out, cry after cry—up to seventy cries, equaling the number of words in May YHWH answer you on the day of distress (Psalms 20:2), which is the song for a pregnant woman. The blessed Holy One hears Her and is ready for Her: He brings forth a great serpent from the Mountains of Darkness, and it comes through the mountains, its mouth licking the dust. It reaches this hart and comes and bites Her twice in that place [cf. BT Gittin 69b].

The first time, blood comes out, and it licks it up. The second time, water comes out, and all those animals of the mountains drink, and She is opened and gives birth. Your mnemonic is: He struck the rock with his staff twice: and it is written and the community, with its beasts, drank (Numbers 20:11) [cf. Shemot Rabbah 3:13].

At the moment when the blessed Holy One takes pity on Her—through the act of this serpent—what is written? The voice of YHWH brings on the birth pangs of hinds… (Psalms 29:9). The voice of YHWH brings on the birth pangs of hinds—those pangs and pains, arousing those seventy cries. Immediately, and strips the forests bare (ibid.)—to remove that serpent, exposing it among them to go away” (Zohar 3:249a–b, cf. ibid. 2:219b–220a; 3:68b [RM]).

“One might suggest that after seventy [years] She will feel [birth-pangs], and in two years She will give birth one thousand and two hundred years after [the destruction of the Second Temple, that is to say, after the end of the Fifth Millennium, which is all destruction, and a further two hundred years into the Sixth Millennium, and seventy years for the birth-pangs, and two years for the birth itself] coming to the year 272 [of the Sixth Millennium]. But it is written: Before she travailed, she brought forth; [before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child] (Isaiah 66:7). And the secret of the matter is contained in the verse: And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear (ibid. 65:24). And what is the meaning of before? Before the completion of the seventy years and the two years following the passing of one thousand and two hundred years, the birth-pangs, two Messiahs will be revealed to the world. And at that time: And in His palace all says glory (Psalms 29:9). And it has already been taught: The wise inherit כָּבוֹד (kavod)glory (Proverbs 3:35).

And at that time, those Torah sages will be respected, those who suffered pangs and travails as a woman in labor, and who were despised by the ignorant; they will be honored. And immediately: YHWH was enthroned at the flood (Psalms 29:10) on account of the wicked. Flood—judgments of the flood, when All the wellsprings of the great deep burst [and the casements of the heavens were opened] (Genesis 7:11), at the time of the flood. So, too, judgments will rise over them above and below, with no end. And every contempt and disgrace shown by the idolatrous nations of the world towards YHWH and His people and the many insults that Israel suffered from them for the sake of YHWH’s Name—for all of them the blessed Holy One will exact vengeance, and therefore, as far as they are concerned, [God is jealous, and YHWH avenges;YHWH avenges, and is furious; [YHWH will take vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserves wrath for His enemies] (Nahum 1:2).

In the first month (Numbers 28:16). What is the first month? It is Nisan, which is when that animal gave birth, in accord with the teaching of the Masters of Mishnah: ‘In the month of Nisan they were redeemed, and in the month of Nisan they will be redeemed'[נִיסָן (Nisan) is the month of נִסִים (nisim), miracles] (BT Rosh ha-Shanah 11a). And this is with His יָד (yad), hand [which is numerically equivalent to fourteen, according to the secret of the verse:] And he said, ‘For יָד (yad), hand, upon Yah’s throne: [War for YHWH against Amalek from all time] (Exodus 17:16), when He swore to remove the seed of Esau, Amalek, from the world. At that time: Draw out and take yourselves sheep according to your clans and slaughter the Passover offering (Exodus 12:21), [where the meaning of] מִשְׁכוּ (mishkhu)draw out, is as in the verse: מָשַׁךְ יָדוֹ (mashak yado)he stretched out his hand, with scoffers (Hosea 7:5).

At that time, thus said YHWH: ‘To the rulers who transgressed against Me: neither shall they enter into the land of Israel (Ezekiel 13:9)—the shepherds of the flock, the supporters of the generation. Wherefore it is said about them: Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably to her (Hosea 2:16). And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I enter into judgment with you face to face. Like I entered into judgment with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I enter into judgment with you, says YHWH God (Ezekiel 20:35–36), [namely] whom He killed in the plague of darkness” (Zohar 3:249a–b, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineas).

“A voice issued… O low, sleeping ones, closed-eyed, awake! Who among you turns darkness into light, bitter into sweet before arriving here? Who among you awaits each day the light that shines when the King visits the doe and is glorified…? Whoever does not await this each day… has no portion here” (Zohar 1:4a).

“Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nasi] says: The rising column of the moon is different from that of the sun. The light column of the moon rises straight like a stick, the light column of the sun [the dawn] irradiates in all directions… Just as the antlers of the doe branch off this way and that way, so the light of the dawn is scattered in all directions—Rabbi Zera said: Why was Esther compared to a אַיֶּלֶת (ayyelet), doe [BT Megillah 15b]? To tell you that just as a doe has a narrow womb and is desirable to her mate at all times as at the first time, so was Esther precious to King Ahasuerus at all times as at the first time. Rabbi Assi said: Why was Esther compared to the dawn [see BT Eruvin 54b]? To tell you that just as the dawn is the end of the whole night, so is the story of Esther the end of all the miracles. But there is Ḥanukkah?—we refer to those included in Scripture” (BT Yoma 28b–29b).

The Maids Who Grind Grow Idle, for They are Now Few

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“This קְלִפָּה (qelipah), shell… is thin and corresponds to the bran of  wheat, for here it sticks to the wheat and cannot be separated from there without grinding it in the mill-stones, which are correspond to the grinding molar in a man’s jaw, with which matters of Torah have to be ground until they are as fine flour. And in a sieve, which is the lips, the waste matter, which is the bran of Torah, is sorted out until the Halakhah is as pure fine flour. At that time, the heart and the brain and all those parts of the body through which the soul spreads, take that and the soul lives on it just as the body lives on things from this world. One against the other God has set (Ecclesiastes 7:14)—just as food for the body, so food for the soul, as is written: Come, partake of my bread (Proverbs 9:5).

And this shell, is like the shell that sticks to the kernel of the nut, for when the nut is soft the shell separates from the kernel without difficulty, but when the nut is dry, it is difficult for man to remove it from there, and the difficult problem still remains. For this reason the blessed Holy One commanded man to return [in repentance] during his youth, before the evil impulse makes him old, as is written: Before a gray head you shall rise (Leviticus 19:32)—before your own old age. And this shell, is fire, about which is written: [And after the fire,] a sound of minute stillness (1 Kings 19:12). [Another shell: darkness over the] deep (Genesis 1:2)—the space that is in the nut about which is written: [And after the fire,] a sound of minute stillness (1 Kings 19:12), for this is where the King comes: [And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud,] and a fire engulfing itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of its midst as the color of חַשְׁמַל (ḥashmal), amber, out of the midst of the fire (Ezekiel 1:4)….

And all the people of the world on the outside know not how they eat nor do they know their secret, but the sages that are inside do know and they take from them. For the esophagus cannot be examined from the outside, for they do not know, but on the inside they do know and take until it enters the mill and is pulverized and cooked [cf. BT Behorot 45a; Berakhot 61a]. And the liver takes everything, as we had learnt, but from those offerings by fire issue forth stages that take before the liver. And what are they? They are the molar which eat and grind the sacrifices. Therefore, on the destruction of the Temple, it is written: And the maids who grind grow idle, for they are now few (Ecclesiastes 12:3). These are the first to grind….

Netsaḥ and Hod are the two halves of a body, like two twins, which is why they are called skies (Psalms 78:23). The two of them together are וו (vav, vav) of וֵשֶׁט (veshet), esophagus, from the left side, and they are the two molar teeth from the right side [cf. Exodus 30:36: And שָׁחַקְתָ (shaḥaqta), you shall pound it to fine powder. שְׁחָקִים (Sheḥaqim), skies, and שָׁחַקְתָ (shaḥaqta), you shall pound it to fine powder, share the root שָׁחַקְ (shaḥaq) ‘(to) powder’]….

And from the side of וֵשֶׁט (veshet), esophagus [before which there is grinding in the teeth it is said]: The people would שָׁטוּ (shatu), go about, and gather it (Numbers 11:8). It—the collection of decisions in Mishnah. שָׁטוּ (Shatu), go about [is an anagram of וֵשֶׁט (veshet), esophagus]. And grind it between millstones or pound it in a pestle and cook it in a cauldron and make it into cakes (ibid.). It follows that whoever brings out words of Torah, must grind them in his teeth in order to express words that are called שָׁלֵם (shalem), complete. But as for the others that are scorned, these words are swallowed when eaten greedily, without being ground in their molars and their teeth about them it is written: The meat was still between their teeth, it had not yet been chewed, when the wrath of YHWH flared against the people [i.e., the motley throng] (Numbers 11:33). From the root of him who said: Let me gulp down some of this red red stuff, for I am famished (Genesis 25:30) [עָיֵף (ayef), famished, is numerically equivalent to קַיִן (Qayin), Cain, who is the root of Esau]” (Zohar 3:226b–235a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

Soul Food

“You can mend the cosmos by anything you doeven eating…. So when you are about to eat bread, say הַמּוֹצִיא (ha-motsi), ‘who brings forth’: ‘Blessed are you, YHWH our God, sovereign of the world, who brings forth bread from the earth.’ Then by eating, you bring forth sparks that cleave to your soul” (Kavvanah, a spiritual “intention,” of Rabbi Yitsḥaq Luria, recorded by Rabbi Yosef Don Don, ca. 1570, translated in Matt, The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism, p. 149).

The righteous man eats for the sating of נַפְשׁוֹ (nafsho), his gullet [or: his soul], but the belly of the wicked will want (Proverbs 13:25).

“When a person eats he must direct his thought so that it roam (2 Chronicles 16:9) with the blessed Holy One over each and every bite, as is written, And they beheld God and ate and drank (Exodus 24:11)” (Rabbenu Baḥya ben Asher, Shulḥan shel Arba).

“Whoever wants bread, let him eat by the mouth of the sword” (Zohar 3:188b).

Evil Bread

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And He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? From the tree [I commanded you not to eat have you eaten?’] (Genesis 3:11). Rabbi Levi said: [A parable: To what can the matter be compared?] A woman borrowing חָמֵץ (ḥamets), yeast [alt., חֹמֶץ (ḥomets), vinegar], who went in to the wife of a snake-charmer and asked her, ‘How does your husband treat you?’ She said, ‘He treats me with every kindness, only he does not permit me to approach this jar which is full of serpents and scorpions. She said, ‘It contains all his finery. He wishes to marry another woman and give it to her.’ What did she do? She reached her hand into it, and they began biting her. When her husband came he heard her crying out. He said, ‘Have you touched that jar?’ Similarly, ‘From the tree I commanded you not to eat have you eaten?’” (Bereshit Rabbah 19:10).

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

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

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

YHWH Saves both Man and Beast

“Before Adam sinned, what was written? God said, ‘Look, I have given you every [seed-bearingplant…’ (Genesis 1:29), and to you it shall be for food (ibid.), but nothing more. After he sinned and the evil impulse had been absorbed into his body and that of his descendants, He executed judgment upon them.

Afterward, Noah came and perceived that the body was built upon the pervasive evil impulse. He offered a sacrifice just as Adam did. What is written? YHWH smelled the pleasing aroma… since the devisings of the human heart are evil from youth (Genesis 8:21). The blessed Holy One said, ‘From now on, since his body has been imbued with the evil impulse, let the body enjoy as much as a person sees fit—let him eat meat [cf. Deuteronomy 12:20: when your appetite craves eating meat, wherever your appetite’s craving may be, you shall eat meat].

Like the green plants, I have given all to you (ibid. 9:3). When he eats meat, his own flesh delights from that flesh, and they intermingle. His body swells as a result; and on account of the pleasure the body sins copiously. Thus, the blessed Holy One said, atonement for the body—with flesh. Meat that a person eats produces blood for the body. Blood remaining from that meat—drained—is designated for atonement for blood, manufactured from its own flesh. This is as is written: it is the blood that gains atonement through the soul (Leviticus 17:1)” (Zohar 1:89b, Sitrei Torah, cf. BT Sanhedrin 59b).

“[Suffering] came to Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nasi] through a certain incident. What was it?—a calf was being lead to the slaughter, when it broke away, hid his head under Rabbi’s coat tails, and lowed [in terror]. ‘Go,’ he said, ‘for this were you created.’ Thereupon they said [in the heavenly court], ‘Since he has no pity, let us bring suffering upon him.’

And [suffering] departed likewise. How so?—One day Rabbi’s maid servant was sweeping the house; [seeing] some young weasels lying there, she went to sweep them away. ‘Let them be,’ he said to her; ‘It is written, His mercy is over all His works (Psalms 145:9).’ They said, ‘Since he is compassionate, let us be compassionate to him.’ Whereupon suffering departed from him (BT Bava Metsi’a 85a).

“Why did God deem it necessary for man to slaughter animals for his food? Is it not written: YHWH is good to all and His mercy is over all His works (Psalms 145:9). And if He is merciful, how could He command that animals be slaughtered for food? Where is His mercy? The essence of the verse is contained in the first clause: YHWH is good to all—absolutely good! Therefore His Mercy is over all His works.

This is the interpretation: in the Work of Creation it is predetermined if a particular animal is destined to be slaughtered, and the animal says ‘good.’ What is the reason for this? The animal does not have a נְשָׁמָה (neshamah), soul [but only a נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh), life-breath, see Genesis 1:24, cf. Leviticus 17:11], with which to grasp the deeds and might of God, and so God says to them: ‘Do you wish to be slaughtered and eaten by man and by doing so ascend from the rung of an ignorant animal to the rung of a human who knows and recognizes YHWH, may He be blessed?’ The animals answered, ‘good, and mercy will be upon us.’ For when man eats from parts of an animal that animal in turn becomes part of man’s body, so the animal turns into man and it’s slaughter is an act of mercy, for it has left the reality of the animal and entered the reality of the human.

Thus the death of the human is life for the animal, for it ascends to the heights of angels and this is the essence of the verse YHWH saves man and beast (Psalms 36:8). If this is so, understand the essence of [ritual animal] slaughter: it is done as an act of His abundant mercy and compassion upon all His creatures, thus you should contemplate what the Sages have taught in Pesaḥim: ‘An ignoramus is forbidden to eat meat [for it is said, This is the תּוֹרַת (torat), teaching, about beast and bird (Leviticus 11:46); whoever engages in Torah may eat the flesh of beast and bird, but he who does not engage in Torah may not eat the flesh of beast and bird]’ (BT Pesaḥim 49b) [cf. Sefer ha-Qanah 120r]—slaughtering animals is only a commandment for those who know what the Law says regarding domesticated animals, wild animals, and foul.

All who are involved in Torah are permitted to eat meat, and all who are not are forbidden. Therefore a man unlettered is forbidden to eat meat, for he is like a domesticated animal without a נְשָׁמָה (neshamah), soul. He is not allowed to slaughter an animal for the benefit of another animal, unless it has already become unfit for [ritual] slaughter” (Rabbi Yosef Gikatilla, Sha’arei Orah, Sha’ar ha-Shishi, Sefirah ha-Ḥamishit).

“Flesh is garment of the human, as is written everywhere: flesh of a human (Exodus 30:32)—human, within; flesh, garment of the human, it’s body.

Specters below, melted in the smelting of this spirit, were figured into figures clothed in another garment, such as figures of pure animals: ox, sheep, goat, deer, gazelle, roebuck, wild goat, ibex, antelope, and mountain sheep (Deuteronomy 14:4–5), who desire to be interwoven in the garment of the human, flesh of the human” (Zohar 1:20b).