The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: hiding

Providence According to Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag (Ba’al ha-Sullam)


But your crimes have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear (Isaiah 59:2).

Introduction to the Study of the Ten Sefirot (45–66):

When we closely examine the attainment of providence which people come to sense we find four classes. Each class receives individual providence by the blessed Holy One. In fact, there are only two such classes: הַסְתֵּר פָּנִים (ha-seter panim), the hiding Face, and גִלוּי פָּנִים (gilui panim), the revealed Face, but they are divided into four facets.

There are two facets in providence of the hiding Face, which are “single hiding” and “hiding within the hiding,” and two facets in the providence of the revealed Face: providence of “reward and punishment,” and “eternal providence.”

The verse says: And My wrath will flare against them on that day, and I shall forsake them and hide My face from them, and they will become fodder, and many evils and troubles will find them, and they will say on that day, ‘Is it not because our God is not in our midst that these evils have found us?’ And as for Me, I will surely hide My face on that day for all the evil that they have done, for they turned to other gods (Deuteronomy 31:17–18) [cf. Psalms 104:29; Zohar 1:115a (MhN) ad loc.].

When you investigate these words, you find that in the beginning it says, And My wrath will flare… and I shall… hide My face—a single hiding. Afterwards, it says, and many evils and troubles will find them… and… I will surely hide My face [lit., הַסְתֵּר אַסְתִּיר (ha-seter astir), hide, I will hide…]—a double hiding. We must understand what “double hiding” is.

First we must understand the meaning of the “face” of the blessed Holy One, as is written, I shall hide My face. This is like a man who sees his friend’s face and recognizes him immediately. However, when he sees him from behind he is not sure of his identity. He wonders, saying “Perhaps he is not my friend.”

So too the matter before us: Everyone knows and senses that the blessed Holy One is good and that it is the conduct of the Good to do good. Therefore, when the blessed Holy One gives generously to His creatures, His face is regarded as revealed. This is because then everyone knows and senses Him, since He acts according to His name, as we have seen above concerning revealed providence [on “The Good who does good,” see BT Ta’anit 31a; Birkhat ha-Mazon].

Yet, when He acts with His creatures contrary to what we said above, meaning when they suffer affliction and torment in His world, it is regarded as the blessed Holy One’s “back.” This is because His face, meaning His quality of utter goodness, is entirely hidden from them, since this is not the conduct that befits His name. It is like a person who sees his friend from behind and may doubt, thinking “Perhaps he is another?”

It is written, And My wrath will flare… and I shall… hide My face. During the wrath, when people suffer trouble and pain, it means that the blessed Holy One is hiding His face, which is His utter goodness, and only His “back” is revealed. Then, great strengthening in one’s trust is needed to be vigilant against contemplating transgression, perish the thought, since it is difficult to recognize Him from behind. This is called “the first hiding.”

However, when troubles and grief accumulate to a great extent, it causes a second hiding, which the books call הַסְתֵּר בְּתוֹך הַסְתֵּר (ha-seter betokh ha-seter), “hiding within the hiding.” It means that even His back is unseen, perish the thought, meaning they do not believe that the blessed Holy One is angry with them and punishes them, but ascribe this to chance and nature, and come to deny His providence in reward and punishment. This is the meaning of, And as for Me, I will surely hide My face… for they turned to other gods—they speak heresy and turn to idol worshiping.

However, before that, when the verse speaks only from the perspective of one hiding, the verse ends, and they will say on that day, ‘Is it not because our God is not in our midst that these evils have found us?’ Meaning they still trust in the providence of reward and punishment, and say that the troubles and grief befall them because they do not cleave to the blessed Holy One, as is written, ‘Is it not because our God is not in our midst that these evils have found us?’ This is a facet of seeing the blessed Holy One, but only from behind. For that reason it is called “the first hiding,” merely hiding of the Face.

Now we have explained the two facets of apprehending hidden providence which people sense: “the first hiding” and “hiding within the hiding.” The first hiding relates only to hiding of the Face, while the back is revealed. This means that they trust that the blessed Holy One gave them the affliction as a punishment. And although it is hard for them to always know the blessed Holy One by His back, which causes them to transgress, even then they are considered “not completely wicked” [see BT Qiddushin 40b; Zohar 3:111a (RM)]. In other words, these transgressions are akin to being unintentional, because they befall them due to the increase in suffering, since, in general, they trust in reward and punishment.

“Hiding within the hiding” means that even the back of the blessed Holy One is hidden from them, as they do not trust in reward and punishment. Look, the transgressions in their hands are regarded as intentional wickedness. They are called “completely wicked” because they rebel and say that the blessed Holy One does not watch over His creatures at all, and turn to idolatry, as is written, for they turned to other gods, perish the thought.

We must know that the entire matter of the labor in keeping Torah and mitsvot by way of [freedom of] choice is mainly practiced according to the two aforementioned facets of hidden providence. And of that time: “Son of Heh-Heh said: According to the effort is the reward” (M Avot 5:26).

Since His providence is not revealed, it is impossible to see Him but only in hiding of the Face, from behind, as one who sees his friend from behind and may doubt and think he is another. In this way, the choice is always in the hands of man, either to fulfill the blessed Holy One’s will, or, perish the thought, to transgress it. This is because the troubles and the grief he suffers make him doubt the reality of His providence over His creatures, whether in the first facet—unintentional transgression; or in the second facet—intentional wickedness.

In any case, one is still in great pain and labor. Of this time it is written: All that your hand manages to do with your strength, do (Ecclesiastes 9:10). This is so because he will not be granted revealing the Face, the full degree of His goodness, before he exerts himself and does whatever is in his power to do, and “According to the effort is the reward.”

Indeed, after the blessed Holy One sees that man has completed his degree of attainment and completed all that he had to do with the power of his choice and his strengthening in trust of the blessed Holy One, he is assisted by Him and receives the attainment of revealed providence. Then, he is rewarded with perfect repentance, meaning he cleaves to the blessed Holy One once more with his heart, soul, and might [see recitation of Shema], as though drawn by itself in regard to the attainment of the revealed providence.

The above attainment and repentance come to a man by two rungs: The first is the attainment of providence according to absolute reward and punishment. Besides attaining the reward of each mitsvah in the world that is coming in utter clarity, he is also rewarded with the immediate attainment of wondrous pleasure in performing the mitsvah in this world.

Moreover, besides attaining the bitter punishment that extends from every transgression after his death, so too he is rewarded with sensing the bitter taste of every transgression while still alive.

Naturally, one who is imparted this revealed providence is certain that he will not offend again, just as one is quite sure he will not cut his own flesh and cause himself terrible suffering. In addition, one is certain that he will not neglect a mitsvah without performing it the instant it comes to his hand, as much as one is certain that he will not neglect any pleasure in this world or a great profit that comes to his hand.

Now you can understand the words of our Sages: What is repentance like? When the One who knows hidden things testifies about him that he will never return to his folly again [see Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Teshuva, 2]. These are seemingly perplexing words, for who would rise to the heavens to hear the testimony of the blessed Holy One? Also, before whom should the blessed Holy One testify? Is it not enough that the blessed Holy One Himself knows that the person repented and will not offend again?

From the explanation, the matter becomes quite clear. In truth, one is not absolutely certain that he will not offend again before he is rewarded with the aforementioned attainment of reward and punishment, meaning revealing the Face. And this revealing of the Face, from the perspective of the blessed Holy One’s rescue, is called עֵדוּת (edut), “testimony,” since His rescue in itself, the attainment of reward and punishment, assures him that he will no longer offend.

It is therefore considered that the blessed Holy One testifies for him. It is written, “What is repentance like?” In other words, when will one be certain that he has been granted perfect repentance? For this, one is given a clear sign: “When the One who knows hidden things testifies about him that he will never return to his folly again.” This means that he will attain revealing the Face, at which time his own rescue testifies that he will not return to folly.

This aforementioned repentance is called “repentance from fear.” This is because although he returns to the blessed Holy One with his heart and soul, until He who knows all mysteries testifies that he will not turn back to folly, that certainty that he will not offend again is due to his attainment and sensation of the terrible punishment and agony as a result of the transgressions. Because of that, he is certain that he will not offend, just as he is quite sure that he will not afflict himself with horrible suffering.

However, in the end, these repentances and certainty are only because of the fear of punishment that extends from the transgressions. It turns out that one’s repentance is only for fear of punishment. Because of that, it is called “repentance from fear.”

With this we understand the words of our Sages: One who repents from fear is rewarded with his intentional wickedness being unintentional [see BT Yoma 86b]. We must understand how this happens. According to what was said above, you can thoroughly understand that the offences one commits reach him from the reception of providence through a double hiding, namely “hiding within the hiding.” This means that one does not trust in providence of reward and punishment.

A single hiding means that he trusts in the providence of reward and punishment. Yet, due to the increase in suffering, he sometimes comes to thoughts of transgression. This is because even though he believes that the suffering came to him as a punishment, he is still like one who sees his friend from behind, and might doubt and mistake him for another. And these offences are only unintentional, since, as a whole, he trusts in providence of reward and punishment.

Hence, when one is granted repentance from fear, meaning a clear attainment of reward and punishment until he is certain that he will not offend again, the “hiding within the hiding” is entirely corrected in him. This is because now he sees evidently there is providence of reward and punishment. It is clear to him that all the suffering he had ever felt was a punishment from His providence for the offences he committed. In retrospect, he made a grave error. Hence, he uproots the intentional wickedness.

However, this is not entirely so, since they [still] become unintentional. In other words, it is like the transgressions he committed under one hiding, when he failed because of the confusion that came to him due to the multitude of torments that drive a person out of his mind. These are only regarded as unintentional.

Yet, according to this repentance, he did not at all correct the first hiding of the Face, which he had had before, but only from now on after he has attained revealing of the Face. In the past, however, before he had attained repentance, the hiding of the Face and all the unintentional offences remained as they were, without any change or repair whatsoever. This is so because then, too, he believed that the troubles and the suffering came to him as punishment, as is written, and they will say on that day, ‘Is it not because our God is not in our midst that these evils have found us?’

Therefore, he is still considered “not perfectly righteous” (BT Qiddushin 40b) because one who is awarded with revealing the Face, namely the full degree of His goodness, as befits His Name, is called “righteous.” This is so because he justifies His providence as it truly is, that He is utterly good and perfect with His creatures, that He is good to the good and to the bad.

Hence, since he has been awarded with revealing the Face, from here on he merits the name “righteous.” However, since he has not completed the correction, but only “hiding with the hiding,” and has not corrected the first hiding, but only from here on, that time, before he was awarded repentance, still does not merit the name “righteous.” This is because then he is left with the hidding Face, as before. For this reason, he is called “not completely righteous,” meaning one who still needs to correct his past.

He is also called “intermediate” (BT Qiddushin 40b), since after he attains repentance from fear he becomes qualified, through his completion in Torah and mitsvot, to attain repentance from love, as well. Then one attains being “completely righteous.” Hence, now one is the medium between Fear and Love, and is therefore called “intermediate.” However, prior to that, he was not completely qualified to even prepare himself for repentance from love.

This thoroughly explains the first rung of attainment of revealing the Face, the attainment and sensation of providence of reward and punishment in a way that “The One who knows hidden things testifies about him that he will never return to his folly again.” This is called “repentance from fear,” when his intentional wickedness becomes unintentional. This is also called “not perfectly righteous” and “intermediate.”

Now we shall explain the second rung of attaining revealing of the Face, which is the attainment of the complete, true, and eternal providence. It means that the blessed Holy One watches over His creations according to “The Good that does good to the good and to the bad.” Now one is regarded as “perfectly righteous” and “repentance from love,” when one is granted turning his intentional wickedness to merits [see BT Yoma 86b].

This explains all four facets of providence that pertain to the creatures. The first three facets, double hiding, single hiding, and attainment of providence of reward and punishment are but preparations by which one attains the fourth facet, which is the attainment of true, eternal providence.

But we have yet to understand why the third facet is not enough for a person, namely attainment of the providence of reward and punishment. We said that he has already been rewarded with “He who knows all hidden things” testifying that he will not offend again. Hence, why is he still called “intermediate” or “not perfectly righteous,” indicating that his service is still not desirable in the eyes of the blessed Holy One, and there is still a flaw and blemish in his Torah and service?

First, let us scrutinize what the commentators asked about the mitsvah of loving the blessed Holy One. How did the holy Torah oblige us to a mitsvah that we cannot keep at all? One can coerce and enslave oneself to anything, but no coercion or enslavement in the world will help with love.

They explained that by keeping all 612 mitsvot properly, love of the blessed Holy One emanates to him on its own. Hence, it is considered possible to observe, since one can enslave and coerce himself to keep the 612 mitsvot appropriately, and then he will also attain love of the blessed Holy One.

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.

He is Sleeping Among His People

And Haman said to King Ahasuerus: “There is a certain people scattered and separate from the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom, and their rules are different from every people’s and they do not observe the king’s rules, and it does not pay for the king to leave them in peace. If it please the king, let it be written to wipe them out, and ten thousand talents of silver will I measure out to the court overseers to bring into the king’s treasury.” And the king removed his ring from his hand and gave it to Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, foe of the Jews (Esther 3:8–9, cf. Exodus 1:8).

“Just as oil will not mix with other liquids, so Israel do not mix with the other peoples of the world, as is written, You shall not intermarry with them (Deuteronomy 7:3)” (Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah 1:21).

“[However,] Rabbi El’azar said: The blessed Holy One did not scatter Israel among the peoples except that converts be added to them, for it is said: And I will sow her [Israel] for Myself in the earth (Hosea 2:25); surely a man sows a se’ah in order to harvest many korin! And from this Rabbi Yoḥanan said: and I will have compassion upon her that had not obtained compassion [and I will say to them who were not My people, you are My people; and they shall say, You are my God] (ibid.)” (BT Pesaḥim 87b).

And Haman said to King Aheshurues: יֶשְׁנוֹ עַם אֶחָד (Yeshno am ead), there is one people (Esther 3:8), the very same of whom it is said, [Hear, O Israel! YHWH our God, YHWH is] אֶחָד (ead), One (Deuteronomy 6:4). [Do not read יֶשְׁנוֹ עַם אֶחָד (yeshno am eḥad), there is one people, but rather:] יָשֵׁן לוֹ מֵעַמּוֹ (yashen lo me-ammo), He is sleeping despite [or: among] His people” (Ester Rabbah 7:12, cf. BT Megillah 15b; Abba Guryon 5; Leqaḥ Tov 3:11, 5:14; Aggadat Ester 4:1, 17; Rabbi Ḥayyim Vital, Pri Ets Ḥayyim, Purim 5).

That night the sleep of the king was shaken (Esther 6:1). The heavens, the throne of the King of the King of Kings, the blessed Holy One, were shaken when He saw Israel in such distress. But is there sleep before הַמָּקוֹם (ha-maqom), the Omnipresent?! Is it not said, Behold, He neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalms 121:4)? Rather, in a time when Israel is in distress and the peoples of the world are at peace, it says, Awake, why sleep, O Master! [Rouse up, neglect not forever. Why do תַסְתִּיר (tastir), You hide, Your face, forget our affliction, our oppression?] (Psalms 44:24–25) [cf. BT Ḥullin 139b: ‘Where is אֶסְתֵּר (ester), Esther, in the Torah? Let Me אַסְתִּירָה (astirah), hide, My face from them (Deuteronomy 32:20)’].

King Ahasuerus’ sleep was also disturbed, because he saw in a dream Haman seizing a sword to kill him, and he awoke in terror from his sleep and told his scribes to bring [the royal annals] the Book of Acts to see what events had occurred, and they opened the book and found how Mordecai had informed against Bigthan and Teresh. So when they said to the king, Look, Haman is standing in the court (Esther 6:5), the king said: ‘What I saw in my dream is true; he has only come at this time of day to kill me’” (Ester Rabbah 10:1).

“[Preparing to impale Mordecai] Haman went about looking for a stake fifty cubits long, but could not find any, save that was in his house, which Parshandatha his son had brought from Kedronia, which is Kerdos. Because Haman’s son was ruler there; and there he saw the stake, which was from Noah’s ark. And Haman uprooted it from his house, so that the curse of Darius might be fulfilled in him, as is written, [Also I have made a decree, that] whosoever shall alter this word, let timber be pulled down from his house, and being set up, let him be impaled (Ezra 6:11). And this word found favor with Haman, and he prepared a gallows for himself; he erected it and perfected it. A heavenly voice called out saying, ‘How proper and fitting is this gallows for you.’

That night [the king could not sleep….] (Esther 6:1): On that night sleep [deserted] the carpenters who were preparing the gallows for Haman. On that night sleep deserted the smiths who were preparing the nails to be set in the gallows. On that night sleep deserted the King of Kings. Were in not written, one would dare not say it, as is written: Awake, why sleep, O Master! (Psalms 44:24); And the Master awoke as one sleeping, [like a warrior shaking off wine] (Psalms 78:65). On that very night the blessed Holy One was revealed. [And they impaled Haman on the stake that he had readied for Mordecai, and the king’s wrath subsided…. On the contrary, it was the Jews who dominated their foes (Esther 7:10, 9:1)]” (Targum Ester, see Kasher and Klein, New Fragments of Targum to Esther, p. 154–55).

“Secrecy within secrecy was prepared and arranged in a single skull filled with crystalline dew. Membrane of air, purified and sealed; those strands of clean fleece hanging evenly. Will of Wills is revealed through prayer of those below. Open-eyed watching, never sleeping, ever vigilant; supervision below by supervision of radiance above. Two nostrils of an official arousing breath for all [as a nose supervising commandingly]” (Zohar 2:176b, Sifra di-Tsni’uta).

“Eyes of the White Head are different from other eyes. There is no lid over the eye, nor any eyebrows. Why? Because it is written: Behold, He neither slumbers nor sleeps, the Guardian of Israel (Psalms 121:4)—Israel above. And it is written: that Your eyes may be open (1 Kings 8:52). And it has been taught: Whatever comes in Compassion has no lid over the eye, nor any eyebrows. All the more so, the White Head, which has no need.

Rabbi Shim’on said to Abba, ‘To what does this allude?’ He replied, ‘To fish, fish of the sea, whose eyes have neither lids nor brows, and they do not sleep and need no protection for the eye. All the more so, the Ancient of Ancients—who needs no protection; and all the more so, since He watches over all, and all is nourished by Him, and He does not sleep, as is written: Behold, He neither slumbers nor sleeps, the Guardian of Israel—Israel above.

It is written: Behold, the eye of YHWH is upon those who revere Him (Psalms 33:18), and it is written: The eyes of YHWH range over the whole earth (Zechariah 4:10). There is no contradiction. One refers to זְעֵיר אַנפִּין (Ze’eir Anpin), Small Countenance, and the other to אֲרִיך אַנְפִּין (Arikh Anpin), Elongated Countenance. Nevertheless, there are two eyes, turning into one. This eye is white within white, and a white including all whites” (Zohar 3:129b, Idra Rabba, cf. Zohar 3:137b–138a, Idra Rabba).

You May Say that Esther has a Bad Name yet She was Worthy that the Holy Spirit be Clothed by Her


“Rabbi Yoḥanan said in the name of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yehotsadaq: By a majority vote, it was resolved in the upper chambers of the house of Nitsa in Lydda that in every law of Torah, if a man is told, ‘Transgress and you will not be killed,’ he may transgress and not be killed, except for idolatry, incest [including adultery], and murder.… But Esther [her transgression] was public! Abbaye said: Esther was [merely] soil, and the self pleasure [of the aggressor] is different” (BT Sanhedrin 74a–b).

“Rabbi Zera said: Why was Esther compared to a doe [see 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” (BT Yoma 29b).

The king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she won his grace and favor more than all the other virgins (Esther 2:17). Rav said, ‘If he wished to taste the flavor of a virgin he tasted it; the flavor of a married woman, he tasted it’” (BT Megillah 13a, cf. Zohar 3:58b).

“[And it happened on the third day that Esther donned מַלְכוּת (malkhut), royal, garb] and stood in the inner court of the king’s house (Esther 5:1). Rabbi Levi said: When she reached the chamber of the idols, the Shekhinah [Malkhut] left her. She said, My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? (Psalms 22:2). Perhaps You judge an inadvertent offence as intentional, or one done under compulsion like one done willingly? Or is it because I called [Haman] ‘cur,’ as it says, Save from the sword my life, from the cur’s hand my person (ibid., 21). She immediately retracted and called him lion, as it says, Rescue me from the lion’s mouth (ibid., 22)” (BT Megillah 15b).

[The Faithful Shepherd said:] ‘Rabbis: We are commanded to punish whoever defames someone, as is written, And they shall fine him a hundred weights of silver and give it to the young woman’s father, for he put out a bad name for a virgin in Israel (Deuteronomy 22:19). This is after the wedding, since he says, ‘I found no signs of virginity for your daughter’ (ibid., 17). Not all bad names are alike, since the scouts who put out a bad name on the Land were punished for it by dying and not meriting her, and a woman is as soil [or: earth] like the explanation that Esther was [merely] soil.

You may say that Esther has a bad name, that she was defiled by Ahasuerus, yet she was worthy that the Holy Spirit be clothed by her, as is written, Esther donned מַלְכוּת (malkhut), royal, garb (Esther 5:1). Yet the blessed Holy One said, I am YHWH, that is My name, and My glory I will not give to another nor My acclaim to the idols (Isaiah 42:8). [And yet,] the Holy Spirit is the Shekhinah, a name that was clothed by Esther….’

The Masters of Mishnah say: It is said of the Matronita: And מַלְכוּתוֹ (malkhuto), His kingdom, rules over all (Psalms 103:19). After Esther donned [royal garb, i.e., Shekhinah/Malkhut] she ruled over Ahasuerus and his people, and it is said of them, [And the rest of the Jews who were in the king’s provinces assembled and defended their lives and had respite from their enemies] and killed of foes, [seventy-five thousand, but they did not lay hands on the spoils] (Esther 9:16). If you say that [Ahasuerus] coupled with her, perish the thought, though they were in the same house. Rather it was like Joseph [and the wife of Potiphar] of whom it says, and she laid out his garment by her (Genesis 39:16). בִּגְדוֹ (Bigdo), his garment—similarly traitors betrayed, בָּגָדוּ (bagadu), in betrayal, betrayed (Isaiah 24:16) [on the numerous parallels between the stories of Joseph and Esther, see BT Megillah 13b; Midrash Abba Guryon 11b; Panim Aherot B, 64, 66, 72; Ester Rabbah 7:7. Cf. Tanḥuma (Buber), Va-yiggash 11: ‘Come and see: All that befell Joseph befell Zion’].

There is a great סִתְרָא (sitra), mystery, here, which is why אֶסְתֵּר (Ester), Esther, is derived from סֵתֶר (seter), secret, as is written, You are seter, a hiding place, for me (Psalms 32:7) [cf. BT Ḥullin 139b], since the Shekhinah hid her from Ahasuerus and gave him a שִׁדָּה (shiddah), concubine, instead while she returned to Mordecai’s arm. And Mordecai, who knew the explicit Name and the seventy tongues, did all this with wisdom [on having the knowledge of seventy languages, see BT Megillah 13b; Sanhedrin 17a]. And thus the Masters of Mishnah said, even still, a man must coo with his wife before he unites with her, for perhaps she has been swapped with שֵׁידָה (sheidah), a demoness [see BT Nedarim 20b]” (Zohar 3:276a–b, Ra’aya Meheimna Ki Tetse, cf. Zohar 2:277a).

“יוֹם הַכִּפֻּרִים (Yom ha-Kippurim), the Day of Atonements (Leviticus 23:27)—in the future we will delight in that day and transform it from suffering to delight [i.e., יוֹם כִּפּוּר (Yom Kippur), the Day of Atonement, will become יוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים (yom ha-ki-Purim), the day like Purim (a joyous holiday)]…. and just as on that day [the priest (Ḥesed)] adorns himself with the garments of atonement so too, regarding Esther it is written, she donned royal garb (Esther 5:1). Just as with these [white garments of the priest] he enters the innermost sanctuary [hoping to obtain atonement for Israel], so too, she stood in the inner court of the king’s house… and she found favor in his eyes (ibid., 2) [cf. Zohar 3:67a; ibid., 109a: ‘And with each and every mere (mention of), הַמֶּלֶךְ (ha-melekh), the king (in the Book of Esther), this is the blessed Holy One’].

Now, what caused the Shekhinah to suffer exile? The mystery of the matter: And so, I shall come to the king not according to rule (Esther 4:16). Because she came without her husband, of whom it says, at His right hand was a fiery law (Deuteronomy 33:2). They abandoned Torah and this caused the destruction of the First Temple and the Second Temple, as is written, and if I perish, I perish! [alluding to two destructions] (Esther ibid.).

Nevertheless, even though she entered without her husband, [namely] words of Torah, she still entered with the [merit of the] Patriarchs [who are]: three days, night and day (ibid.), for which she fasted. They were witnesses that the young woman went before the king, as it says, and in this fashion would the young woman come to the king (ibid. 2:13). She who went in to the king indeed remained a virgin, for no man knew her other than her husband….

Regarding this it is written, and he became guardian to Hadassah (Esther 2:7) [cf. BT Megillah 13a]—[Mordecai] was faithful to her, and she was faithful to him, as is written: and Esther did what Mordecai said, for she was under his guardianship (ibid. 2:20)” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 21, 57b).