The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: gold

All the Glory of the King’s Daughter is Inward

“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 does not darken for You, and the night lights up like the day, the dark and light are one (ibid. 139:12)” (Bahir §1).

He set darkness His hiding-place round Him, His abode darkness of water, the clouds of the skies (Psalms 18:12). But is there any darkness before Heaven? For behold it is written: He lays bare the deep and the hidden things, knows what is in darkness, and light dwells with Him (Daniel 2:22)—this is not difficult: the one refers to inner houses [in which there is only light], the other to outer houses [hidden in darkness of water, cloud and dense fog]” (BT Ḥagigah 12b–13a).

When you light up [the lamps, opposite the front of the lamp stand shall the seven lamps give light] (Numbers 8:2).

Darkness itself does not darken for You, and the night lights up like the day, the dark and light are one (Psalms 139:12). Yet to us He says When you light up!

To what may this be compared? To a king who had a beloved friend. The king said to him, ‘Know that I will eat with you [even though I am royalty]. Go and prepare for me!’ His beloved friend went and prepared a common couch, a common lamp, and a common table. When the king arrived there came with him ministers who encompassed him on this side and that, and a lamp of gold before him. When his beloved friend saw all the glory of the king, he felt ashamed and put away everything that he had prepared for him, since it was all common. The king said to him, ‘Did I not tell you that I would eat with you? Why have you not prepared anything for me?’ His beloved friend said to him, ‘I saw all the glory that accompanied you, and I felt ashamed and put away all that I had prepared for you, since they were common vessels.’ The king said to him, ‘By your life! I will discard all the vessels that I have brought, and for the sake of your love I will use none but yours!’

And so, the blessed Holy One is entirely light, as is said, He lays bare the deep and the hidden things, knows what is in darkness, and light dwells with Him (Daniel 2:22). Yet He says to Israel ‘Prepare for Me a lamp and lights.’ And why is it written, They shall make Me a Tabernacle, that I may abide in their midst (Exodus 25:8); And you shall make a lamp stand of pure gold (ibid., 31)? When they had completed everything שְׁכִינָה (Shekhinah), [divine] Presence, came.

Why is it written, [And the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting and the glory of YHWH filled the Tabernacle.And Moses could not come into the Tent of Meeting (ibid. 40:35)? Immediately He called to Moses: And when Moses came into the Tent of Meeting to speak with Him, he would hear the voice (Numbers 7:89). What did He say to him? When you light up [the lamps]” (Bemidbar Rabbah 15:8).

“Why is it called זָהָב (zahav), gold? Because three qualities are included in it. זָכָר (Zakhar), male—ז (zayin). הַנְּשָׁמָה (Ha-neshamah), the soul—ה (he), for ה״ (five) names of the soul [which are feminine nouns]: ruaḥḥayahyeḥidahneshamahnefesh. What is the function of he? She is a throne for zayin, as is written, For he who is high has a higher one watching him (Ecclesiastes 5:7). And ב (bet)? She is their existence, as is said, בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא (Bereshit bara), In the beginning created… (Genesis 1:1).

A parable: A king had a daughter who was good, sweet, lovely, and perfect. He married her to a royal prince—and clothed, crowned, and bejewelled her, giving her abundant wealth. Is it possible for the king to ever leave his daughter? Certainly not! Is it possible for him to remain with her constantly, the entire day? Certainly not! What then must he do? He places a חַלּוֹן (ḥallon), window, between the two, and whenever the father needs his daughter, or the daughter needs her father, they can unite through the window [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 74:7]. As is written, All the glory of the king’s daughter is inward, filigree of gold her raiment (Psalms 45:14) [on the association of this verse with the Sanctuary, see TanḥumaBemidbar 3; Tanḥuma (Buber), Bemidbar 3; Bemidbar Rabbah 1:3; Zohar 3:171a]” (Bahir §53–§54).

And YHWH spoke to Moses in the Wilderness of Sinai [in the Tent of Meeting] (Numbers 1:1).

Before the Tent of Meeting was set up, He spoke with him from the bush, as is said, And Elohim called out to him from the midst of the bush (Exodus 3:4). And afterward, He spoke to Moses in the land of Egypt, as is said, And YHWH said to Moses and to Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying… (ibid. 12:1).

He also spoke to him in Midian, as is said, And YHWH said to Moses in Midian (ibid. 4:19). He also spoke to him on Sinai, as is said, And YHWH spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying… (Leviticus 25:1). However, as soon as the Tent of Meeting was set up, [the blessed Holy One] said, ‘הַצְּנִיעוּת (Ha-tsninut), modesty, is beautiful,’ as is said, [He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does YHWH require of you, but to do justly, and to love kindness,and to walk הַצְנֵעַ (ha-tsne’a), humbly, with your God (Micah 6:8), [and so from now on] I will speak to him in the Tent of Meeting. Thus, David said, All the glory of the king’s daughter is פְּנִימָה (penimah), inward, filigree of gold her raiment (Psalms 45:14). 

The daughter of the king—[Torah of] Moses, as is said, And the Egyptians will I give over into the hand of harsh masters (Isaiah 19:4)—the plagues that came upon Egypt [called harsh אֲדֹנִים (adonim), masters]; and a fierce king shall rule over them, [says הָאָדוֹן (ha-Adon), the Lord, YHWH of armies] (ibid.)—Moses who was king of Torah which is called Strength, as is said, May YHWH give strength to His people (Psalms 29:11). Therefore: All the glory of the king’s daughter is inwardFiligree of gold her raiment—Aaron, as is said [of the priestly garments worn by the High Priest:] And you shall make a filigree of gold (Exodus 28:13).

From here they said: A woman who conducts herself with מַצְנַעַת (matsena’at), becoming modesty, even if she is an Israelite [i.e., her father is not a Cohen or a Levi], deserves to be married to a priest and to raise High Priests, as is said, filigree of gold her raiment. The blessed Holy One said, ‘So too it befits My honor that I should speak מִלִּפְנִים (millifenim), within,’ as is said, And when Moses came into the Tent of Meeting [to speak with Him…] (Numbers 7:89) [on the association of Psalms 45:14 with the Sanctuary, see TanḥumaBemidbar 3; Tanḥuma (Buber), Bemidbar 3; Zohar 3:171a]” (Bemidbar Rabbah 1:3, cf. Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana 1; Zohar 2:22b).

“What is, And from the west I will gather you (Isaiah 43:5)? From the same quality which perpetually inclines to the west. Why is it called מַּעֲרָב (ma’arav), the west? Because from there all seed is מִתעַרֵב (mit’arev), mixed. A parable: A king’s son had a lovely and modest bride in his chamber. He would take riches from his father’s house and come to her constantly and she would constantly take it all and hide it, mixing it all together. [After some time he] requested to see what he had gathered and stockpiled. Thus: from the west I will gather you. And what is it? His father’s house, since from the east I will bring your seed. To teach that He brings from the east and sows to the west. Afterwards, He gathers in what He has sown” (Bahir §156).

My lover is like a deer or like a stag. Oh, he stands behind our wall peering through the windows, peeping through the crannies (Song of Songs 2:9).

“Come and see: When a man builds a house and makes windows within he wants the light to enter. He makes windows narrow on the outside and broad on the inside. Why? So that the light will enter from the outside and shine on the inside. But when Solomon built the Temple, he did not make the windows in such a way. Rather, they were narrow on the inside and broad on the outside so that the light would emanate from the Temple and shine outside, as is written, And he made broad and narrow windows for the house (1 Kings 6:4)” (Tanḥuma [Buber], Beha’alotkha 2:1).

“Rabbi Ḥanina said: There were windows in the Temple, and from these light used to emanate for the world, as it says, And he made broad and narrow windows for the house (1 Kings 6:4). They were transparent and opaque; narrowing towards the inside and broadening towards the outside so as to let the light out to the world” (Vayiqra Rabbah 31:7).

And he made broad and narrow windows for the house (1 Kings 6:4). It was taught: Broad—without; narrow—within, for I am not in need of light” (BT Menaḥot 86b)

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).

“[There are] four רוּחוֹת (ruḥot), sides [lit., winds] (Ezekiel 42:20) in the world: A side facing the east, a side facing the south, a side facing the west, and a side facing the north. ‘A side facing the east’—from there light goes out to the world. ‘A side facing the south’—from there dews of blessing and rains of blessing go out to the world. ‘A side facing the west’—from there treasuries of snow and the treasuries of hail, and cold and heat and rains go out to the world. ‘A side facing the north’—from there darkness goes out to the world. Another interpretation: ‘A side facing the north’—He created but did not complete it. He said, ‘Whoever says that he is אֱלוֹהַּ (elo’ah), God, let him come and complete this corner which I have left alone and all will know that he is elo’ah, God. And there dwell destroyers, earthquakes, spirits, demons, lighting and thunder. From there Evil goes out to 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 3).

“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).

The Breath of Life

“To whom did David refer in these five verses beginning with ‘בָּרְכִי נַפְשִׁי (Barekhi nafshi), bless, O my being, YHWH‘? [see Psalms 103:1, 2, 22; 104:1, 35]. He was alluding only to the blessed Holy One and to the soul. Just as the blessed Holy One fills the whole world, so the soul fills the body. Just as the blessed Holy One, sees, but is not seen, so the soul sees but is not itself seen. Just as the blessed Holy One feeds the whole world, so the soul feeds the whole body. Just as the blessed Holy One is pure, so the soul is pure. Just as the blessed Holy One abides in the innermost chambers, so the soul abides in the innermost chambers. Let that which has these five things come and praise Him who has these five things” (BT Berakhot 10a).

“נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים (Nishmat ḥayyim), the breath of life (Genesis 2:7). She has five names: nefesh, ruaḥ, neshamah, yeḥidah, ḥayyah. Nefesh—blood, as is written, the blood is הַנָּפֶשׁ (ha-nafesh), the life (Deuteronomy 12:23). Ruaḥ—she ascends and descends [like the רוּחַ (ruaḥ), wind], as is written, Who knows whether man’s רוּחַ (ruaḥ), spirit, goes upward and the beast’s spirit goes down to earth (Ecclesiastes 3:21). Neshamah—הָאוֹפִיָּא (ha-ofiyya), the breath [or: temperament. Cf. אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם (erekh appayim), Long-suffering (lit., Long-nosed)]; as people say, ‘His temperament is good.’ Ḥayyah—all the limbs are lifeless, yet she is חַיָּה (ḥayyah), vitality, in the body. Yeḥidah—all the limbs [or: organs] are two by two (Genesis 7:9), yet she is יְחִידָה (yeḥidah), unique, in the body’ [cf. Psalms 22:21: Save from the sword נַפְשִׁי (nafshi), my life, from the cur’s power יְחִידָתִי (yeḥidati), my person].

It is written, Should He set His mind on man, if He would gather to Him רוּחוֹ וְנִשְׁמָתוֹ (ruḥo ve-nismato), his spirit and his breath, all flesh would expire together, man to the dust would return (Job 34:14–15). Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Rabbi Neḥemiah and the Rabbis discussed this. Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Rabbi Neḥemiah interpreted it: ‘Should God set His mind on this man—רוּחוֹ (ruḥo), his spirit, was already in His hand’; ‘If He would gather to him his breath, into his body, all humanity would expire together‘ [i.e., if He concentrated man’s soul in one part of his body instead of permitting her to pervade all his limbs]; but when man is sleeping the neshamah warms the body so that it should not shiver and die. Rabbi Bisni, Rabbi Aḥa, and Rabbi Yoḥanan in Rabbi Me’ir’s name said: The neshamah fills the body, and when man sleeps she ascends and draws life for him from above. Rabbi Levi said in Rabbi Ḥanina’s name: She repeatedly ascends. For every breath which a man takes he must give praise to the blessed Holy One. What is the reason? Let every הַנְּשָׁמָה (ha-neshamah), soul, praise Yah (Psalms 150:6)—let every הַנְּשִׁימָה (ha-neshimah), breath, praise Yah….

Rabbi Shemu’el, the son-in-law of Rabbi Ḥanina, the companion of the Rabbis, said: Here [Genesis 2:7] neshamah is identified with nesfesh, whereas in another text the neshamah is equated with ruaḥ [ibid. 7:22: all that had the נִשְׁמַת רוּחַ חַיִּים (nishmat ruaḥ ḥayyim), quickening breath of life, in its nostrils]. How do we know that the statement of the one text is applicable to that of the other and vice versa? Because ḥayyim, life, is written in both texts, proving that they are analogous [hence the neshamah is both nefesh and ruaḥ]” (Bereshit Rabbah 14:9).

“Why is it called זָהָב (zahav), gold? Because in it three qualities are included. זָכָר (Zakhar), male—ז (zayin). הַנְּשָׁמָה (Ha-neshamah), the soul—ה (he), for ה״ (five) names of the soul [which are feminine nouns]: ruaḥ, ḥayyah, yeḥidah, neshamah, nefesh. What is the function of he? She is a throne for zayin, as is written, For he who is high has a higher one watching him (Ecclesiastes 5:7). And ב (bet)? She is their sustained existence, as is said, בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא (Bereshit bara), In the beginning created… (Genesis 1:1).

What is her function here? A parable: A king had a daughter who was good, sweet, lovely, and perfect. He married her to a royal prince—and clothed, crowned, and bejewelled her, giving her abundant wealth. Is it possible for the king to ever leave his daughter? You would say not. Is it possible for him to remain with her constantly, the entire day? You would say not. What then must he do? He places a חַלּוֹן (ḥallon), window [or: screen], between the two, and whenever the father needs his daughter, or the daughter needs her father, they can unite through the window [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 74:7]. As is written, All the glory of the king’s daughter is inward, filigree of זָהָב (zahav), gold, her raiment (Psalms 45:14) [on the association of this verse with the sanctuary, see Tanḥuma, Bemidbar 3; Tanḥuma (Buber), Bemidbar 3; Bemidbar Rabbah 1:3; Zohar 3:171a]” (Bahir §§53–54).

“What prompted David to praise the blessed Holy One with his soul? Well, he said, ‘The soul fills the body, and the blessed Holy One fills His world, as is said: Do not I מָלֵא (male), fill, the heavens and earth? (Jeremiah 23:24); let the soul, which fills the body, come and praise the blessed Holy One, who fills all the world. The soul carries the body, and the blessed Holy One carries His world, as is said, I have made it and I will carry, I will bear it [and I will rescue] (Isaiah 46:4); let the soul, which carries the body, come and praise the blessed Holy One, who carries His world” (Vayiqrah Rabbah 4:8).

The Blessed Holy One Placed More Understanding in Women Than in Men

And YHWH Elohim cast a deep slumber on the human, and he slept… And YHWH Elohim built the rib He had taken from the human into a woman (Genesis 2:21).

“A [Roman] Matronita asked Rabbi Yose: ‘Why [was woman created] by theft? He replied, ‘Imagine a man depositing an ounce of silver with you in secret, and you return him a litra [twelve ounces] of gold openly; is that theft!’ ‘Yet why in secret?’ she replied. ‘At first He created her for him and he saw her full of discharge and blood; thereupon He removed her from him and created her a second time.’ ‘I can corroborate your words,’ she said. ‘It had been arranged that I should be married to my mother’s brother, but because I was brought up with him in the same home I became plain in his eyes and he went and married another woman, who was not as beautiful as I.’

It once happened that a devout man was married to a devout woman, and they did not produce children. They said, ‘We are of no use to the blessed Holy One,’ whereupon they arose and divorced each other. The former went and married a wicked woman, and she made him wicked, while the latter went and married a wicked man, and made him righteous. This proves that all depends on the woman….

[Rabbi Yehoshu’a asked:] ‘And why is a man easily appeased, but not a woman?’ ‘Man was created from the earth,’ he answered, and when you pour a drop of water on it, it absorbs it immediately; but Eve was created from bone which even if you soak many days in water does not become saturated” (Bereshit Rabbah 17:7–8).

And YHWH God יִּבֶן (yiven), built, the rib He had taken from the human into a woman (Genesis 2:21)—the blessed Holy One placed more בִּינָה (binah), understanding, in women than in men” (BT Niddah 45b).

“נָבוֹן (Navon), understanding, one thing שֶׁמֵבִין (she-mevin), from, another” (BT Sanhedrin 93b).

“Wherever a distinction is drawn [the feminine noun] דְּרָכִים (derakhim), ways, is taught. Wherever there is no distinction [the masculine noun], דְּבָרִים (devarim), things, is taught’” (BT Qiddushin 3a).

“He [Moses] searched throughout Israel and could not find understanding ones, as is written: I took the heads of your tribes, wise and knowledgeable men (Deuteronomy 1:15), whereas it is not written בִּינָה (binah), understanding. Now, if you say that בִּינָה (binah), understanding, is a higher rung than wise—certainly so!” (Zohar 2:201a, cf. BT Eruvin 100b).