The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: Kabbalah

Just as Big Fish Swallow Up Small Fish

Talmud Teacher

Tanna’im and Amora’im, you come from the aspect of the qualities of the blessed Holy One. You have labored much to purify my daughter the Halakhah [Malkhut] from the husks of the mixed multitude, which are the evil questions that cannot be interpreted or explained away. Of them it says: The crooked cannot תְקֹן (teqon), turn, straight nor can the lack be counted (Ecclesiastes 1:15). But תִּיקוּ (tiqu), ‘It is undecided,’ applies to them [a phrase employed in the Gemara and interpreted as an acronym: תִּשְׁבִּי יְתָרֵץ קֻשְׁיוֹת וְאִבַּעְיוֹת (Tishbi yetarets qushyot ve-iba’eyot), the Tishbite (i.e., Elijah) will resolve difficult questions and problems]. Anything undecided concerning a prohibition is handled as a stricture. It is a תִּיקּוּן (tiqqun), correction, without final ן (nun), [indicating] it can not be corrected, since it lacks final ן (nun), which is the World that is Coming [namely, Binah and Her ן״ (fifty) gates]. For תִּיקוּ (tiqu), undecided, in the World that is Coming is שְׁתִיקָה (shetiqah), silence, as in ‘שְׁתוֹק (shetoq), Silence! For so it arose in thought.’

There are questions that are the garments of the Halakhah of which it says filigree of gold—as is written: All the princess’s treasure is pearls, filigree of gold her raiment. [In embroidered stuff she is led to the king, maidens in train, her companions] (Psalms 45:14). You [Amorai’m], cut into several legal sentences and later fix and explain them away using various arguments.

If one chapter of the Mishnah is missing, and it has been maintained that something is missing from the Mishnah, you מְתַקְּנִין (me-taqqnin), repair it. [For example, where it is stated in the Gemara: ‘A clause has been omitted, for this is the way we have learned it’] such is a lack that can be counted. If a simpleton comes and spreads an evil report of the craftsman that cuts the garments, saying: The Torah is lacking, yet, it is written: The תּוֹרַת (torat), teaching, of YHWH is perfect (Psalms 19:8). Perfect—in all the members of the body, the 248 positive decrees, as is written: You are all beautiful, my love, and there is no flaw in you (Song of Songs 4:7); perfect—in Her garments. How can anything be lacking in the Mishnah?

Say to him: Look carefully and find the [missing] piece. You may find it mixed with other verses and Mishnahyot [meaning, it is the custom of Torah to be lacking in one place and abundant in another], for it is the way of the craftsman to cut garments into several pieces [and that which is missing in one place is filled out in another]. The disciples, inexperienced in connecting the Halakhah to those pieces confuse the sentences and questions, and cannot explain the dilemmas until the craftsman comes and explains all the doubts they have. At that time, Halakhah, the princess [Malkhut], rises before the King, perfect in everything, in body, garments and jewelry. And in it is fulfilled: And I will see it, to remember the everlasting covenant (Genesis 9:16). Sometimes the craftsman has an experienced disciple whom he sends to correct them.

They all rose and said: Faithful Shepherd, surely you are the craftsman, for it says of you, ‘Moses received the Torah at Sinai’ (M Avot 1:1). From that time onward, everyone is your disciple, from Joshua to the end of all generations. This is what we learned, that he ‘handed it on to Joshua; Joshua to the elders; the elders to the prophets; [and the prophets handed it on to the men of the Great Assembly]’ to the end of all (ibid.). And who is your skilled disciple? We see that it has been said to let everything wait until Elijah comes” (Zohar 3:27b, Ra’aya Meheimna Tsav).

“We learned that fish and locusts do not require [ritual] slaughter [in order to be eaten, rather, it is their gathering which makes them permissible, see BT Ḥullin 27b]. Such are the Masters of Mishnah. They are consumed without slaughter [by the Angel of Death]. It says of them, And was gathered to his kinfolk (Genesis 49:33). Like fish of the sea live in the sea, so do the disciples of sages and Masters of Mishnah live in the sea—if they are separated from Torah they immediately die. תַּנִּינָא דְּמַתְנִיתִין (Tannina de-matnitin), Rehearser of Mishnah, wherein proliferate תַנִינֵי יַמָּא (taninei yamma), sea monsters. If those [beasts] who live on dry land [i.e., those without Torah and mitsvot] fall into the water but cannot swim they die. However, [only] the Masters of Kabbalah who are above all are אָדָם (adam), human [and know how to tread deep water, i.e., the sea of Torah and Her hidden depths, cf. BT Bava Metsi’a 114b; Keritot 6b]. Of them it says Hold sway over the fish of the sea and the fowl of the heavens (Genesis 1:26), who are מָארֵי מַתְנִיתִין תַּנִּינָיָּא (marei Matnitin tanninayya), Masters of Mishnah—sea monsters [who prey on small fish]. הַתַּנִּינִם הַגָּדוֹל (Ha-tanninim ha-gadol), the great sea monster (Genesis 1:21), is the נָחָשׁ בָּרִחַ (naḥash bariaḥ), fleeing serpent (Isaiah 27:1), corresponding to: וְהַבְּרִיחַ (ve-ha-beriaḥ), and the crossbar, in the middle board [shall מַבְרִחַ (maberiaḥ), shoot through, from end to end] (Exodus 26:28).

When תַּנִּינִם (tanninim), sea monsters [punning on תַּנָּאִים (tanna’im), Rehearsers]—the Masters of Mishnah—have a disagreement among them, asking each other difficult questions, [one then] swallows his colleague [as large fish swallow small fish]. This refers to a disciple unqualified to teach who teaches, which is punishable by death [cf. BT Sotah 22a: ‘Rav said, What is the meaning of the verse Many are those she has struck dead, numerous are her slain (Proverbs 7:26)? Many are those she has struck dead—this refers to a disciple unqualified to teach [to decide questions of law] who teaches. Numerous are her slain—this refers to a disciple qualified to teach who does not’; Zohar 1:5a; 3:84b–85b]. But if they are matched [both being big fish] and have an argument or difficulty, it says of them in the end, וָהֵב בְּסוּפָה (waheb be-sufah), against Waheb in a whirlwind (Numbers 21:14), which has been interpreted: אַהֲבָה בְּסוֹפָהּ (ahava be-sofah), love at its end (BT Qiddushin 30b) [cf. Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 6a].

In the meantime a נוּנָא רַבָּא (nuna rabba), great fish, came [namely, Rav Hamnuna Saba], saying, ‘[Moses] Faithful Shepherd, אֵיתָן (etan), Staunch, is your settlement, and set in the rock your nest (Numbers 24:21). [The תַּנָּאִים (tanna’im), Rehearsers, say] תַּנְיָ (tanya), ‘It was taught‘ [and this] assists you because the fish have their nest in the Rock [Malkhut]. אֵיתָן (Eitan), staunch, is [the letters of] תַּנְיָ (tanya), ‘It was taught,’ rearranged; אֵתָנִים (etanim), Mighty (Job 12:19), is [the letters of] תַּנָּאִים (tanna’im), Rehearsers, rearranged. Beware of them, because you are heavy-mouthed and heavy-tongued (Exodus 4:10). And whoever wishes to attack the fish of the sea in the Rock—Masters of Mishnah, the תַּנָּאִים (Tanna’im)—needs to be fierce and of a sharp and polished tongue to bore to the great abyss which lies there.

For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end he shall speak, and not lie: [though he tarries, wait for him; because he will surely come, he will not delay] (Habakkuk 2:3). It has been explained ‘This verse pierces and descends to the very abyss’ (BT Sanhedrin 97b). Who is it that shall descend to the great abyss to find that time [of the End] but You, of whom it says, Your justice like the unending mountains, Your judgment, the great abyss (Psalms 36:7). Many Masters of Mishnah wanted to penetrate the depth of Halakhah to find there the time of the coming of redemption, but went down and did not come up [הֲלָכָה (halakhah), ‘ways of conduct,’ alludes to הַכַּלָה (ha-kalah), the Bride, i.e., Malkhut, Shekhinah]. Though their tongue was Like a hammer that shatters the rock in pieces (Jeremiah 23:29), their hammer was too weak and could not penetrate that Rock [to discover the End]. Whoever penetrates that Rock without permission, a serpent will come to bite him; others bore into Her until they reach the great abyss but do not come up from there [cf. Ecclesiastes 10:8: He who digs a pit will fall in it, and he who breaches a wall, a snake will bite him].’ …

And you [Moses, Faithful Shepherd] aid yourself by תַּנְיָא (tanya), ‘it was taught,’ more than all of them, since you are the Leviathan of the sea of Torah. For the master of all fishes is called לִוְיָתָן (Livyatan), Leviathan, named after Torah, of which it says, For they are a לִוְיַת (livyat), garland of grace, on your head (Proverbs 1:9). Because of you Man and beast YHWH rescues (Psalms 36:7). Man—of him it has been said [The Torah (is maintained by)] a man who dies in a tent (Numbers 19:14), and the Masters of Mishnah have taught that Torah does not remain except for one who kills himself for Her, and death is only poverty [cf. M Avot 6:4; BT Tamid 32a: ‘What shall a man do to live? Let him kill himself. What should a man do to kill himself? Let him keep himself alive’]. Beast—the ignorant, who are submissive like horses and mules to the Masters of Mishnah” (Zohar 3:278a–80b, Ra’aya Meheimna Ki Tetse).

Seven Crowns, Seven Firmaments, and Seven Planets: These Corresponding to those in Concealment of Words

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“Sevenths are always beloved. [With the firmaments] above, the seventh is beloved: שָׁמַיִם (shamayim), Heavens, שְׁמֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם (shemei ha-shamayim), Heavens beyond the Heavens, רָקִיעַ (raqi’a), Firmament, שְׁחָקִים (sheḥaqim), Skies, זְבוּל (zevul), Loft, מָעוֹן (ma’on), Dwelling, and עֲרָבוֹת (aravot), Clouds—and it is written, Pave the way for the Rider of Clouds, for Yah is His name (Psalms 68:5). With the earths [below] the seventh is beloved: אֶרֶץ (erets), Earth, אֲדָמָה (adamah), Ground, אַרְקָא (arqa), Earth [Aramaic], גַּיְא (gai), Valley, צִיָּה (tsiyyah), Dry Region, נְשִׁיָּה (neshiyyah), Oblivion, תֵּבֵל (tevel), Firm Land [or: World]—and it is written, And He judges תֵּבֵל (tevel), the world, in righteousness, lays down law to the peoples in truth (Psalms 9:9). With generations the seventh is beloved: Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch—and it is written, And Enoch walked with God (Genesis 5:24). With fathers the seventh is beloved: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Levi, Kohath, Amram, and Moses—and it is written, And Moses had gone up to God (Exodus 19:3). With sons the seventh is beloved, as is said, David the seventh (1 Chronicles 2:15). With kings the seventh is beloved: Saul, Ish-Bosheth, David, Solomon, Rehoboam, Abijah, and Asa—and it is written, And Asa called to YHWH [his God…] (2 Chronicles 14:10). With years the seventh is beloved, as is said, But in the seventh you shall let it go and let it lie fallow (Exodus 23:11). With שְׁמִטִּין (shemittin), years of release, the seventh is beloved, as is said, And you shall hallow the fiftieth year (Leviticus 25:10). With days the seventh is beloved, as is said, And God blessed the seventh day [and hallowed it…] (Genesis 2:3). With months the seventh is beloved, as is said, ‘In the seventh month on the first of the month [you shall have a sabbath’] (Leviticus 23:24)” (Vayiqra Rabbah 29:11).

He counts the number of stars, to all of them gives names (Psalms 147:4).

“Rabbi Yehudah said: There are two firmaments, as is said: Look, YHWH your God’s are the heavens and the heavens beyond the heavens (Deuteronomy 10:14). Resh Laqish said: [There are] seven, namely, וִילוֹן (vilon), Curtain; רָקִיעַ (raqi’a), Firmament; שְׁחָקִים (sheḥaqim), Skies; זְבֻל (zevul), Loft; מָעוֹן (ma’on), Dwelling; מָכוֹן (makhon), Site; and עֲרָבוֹת (aravot), Clouds. The one called Vilon, Curtain, serves no purpose except that it enters in the morning and goes forth in the evening and renews every day the work of creation, as is said: [He is enthroned on the rim of the earth, and its dwellers are like grasshoppers.] He spreads out the heavens like gauze and stretches them like a tent to dwell in (Isaiah 40:22).

The one called Raqi’a, Firmament, is that in which sun and moon, stars and constellations are set, ast is said: And Elohim set them in the firmament of the heavens to light up the earth (Genesis 1:17).

The one called Sheḥaqim, Skies, is that in which millstones stand and grind manna for the righteous, as is said: And He charged the skies above, and the doors of the heavens He opened, and rained on them manna to eat (Psalms 78:23–24).

The one called Zevul, Loft, is that in which [the heavenly] Jerusalem [see BT Ta’anit 5a] and the Temple and the Altar are built, and Michael, the great prince [over Israel, see Daniel 12:1; BT Yoma 77a], stands and offers up an offering there, as is said: I indeed have built You a lofty house, a firm place for Your dwelling forever (1 Kings 8:13). And whence do we derive that it is called שָׁמָיִם (shamayim), Heavens? For it is written: Look מִשָּׁמַיִם (mi-shamayim), from the heavens, and see, from Your holy and glorious זְבֻל (zevul), abode (Isaiah 63:15).

The one called Ma’on, Dwelling, is that in which there are groups of ministering angels, who utter song by night, and are silent by day for the sake of Israel’s honor, as is said: By day YHWH ordains His kindness and by night His song is with me (Psalms 42:9) [cf. BT Avodah Zarah 3b ad loc.]…. And whence do we derive that [Ma’on, Dwelling,] is called shamayim, Heavens? As is said: Look down from Your holy dwelling place, from the heavens, [and bless your people Israel…] (Deuteronomy 26:15).

The one called Makhon, Site, is that in which there are storehouses of snow and storehouses of hail [see Job 38:22], and the upper recess of harmful dew and the upper recess of rain-pellets [to strike down produce (Rashi)], the chamber of the storm and whirlwind, and the cave of vapor, and their doors are of fire, as is said: YHWH will open for you His goodly treasure (Deuteronomy 28:12). But are these to be found in the Raqi’a, Firmament? Surely, they are to be found on the earth, for it is written: Praise YHWH from the earth, sea monsters and all you deeps. Fire and hail, snow and smoke, stormwind that performs (Psalms 148:7–8). Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav: David entreated concerning them, and caused them to come down to the earth. He said before Him: Master of the Universe, Not a god desiring wickedness are You, no evil will sojourn by You (ibid. 5:5); righteous are You, O Lord, [let not] evil sojourn in Your abode. And how do we know that [Makhon, Site,] is called shamayim, Heavens? As is written: And You shall hearken in the heavens, מְכוֹן (mekhon), the firm place, of Your dwelling (1 Kings 8:39).

The one called Aravot, Clouds, in which there are righteousness, justice, charity, גִנְזֵי (ginzei), treasuries, of life, treasuries of peace, treasuries of blessings, the neshamot, souls, of the righteous, and the ruḥot, spirits, and neshamot, souls, that are to be created in the future, and the dew with which the blessed Holy One will revive the dead….

There are [also] the ofannim and the serafim, and the holy living beings, and the ministering angels, and the Throne of Glory; and the King, the Living God, lofty and holy (Isaiah 57:15), dwells over them in Aravot, Clouds, as is said: Sing to God, hymn His name. Pave the way for the Rider of Clouds, for Yah is His name (Psalms 68:5). And how do we know that [Aravot which is also means ‘plains, steppes, willows’] is called shamayim, Heavens? From ‘riding,’ which is iterated in two verses. Here it is written: Sing to… the Rider of Clouds. And elsewhere it is written: Riding through heavens as your help (Deuteronomy 33:26). And darkness and cloud and thick darkness surround Him, as is said: 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 cloud and dense fog, cf. Tanḥuma (Buber), Beha’alotkha 2:1; Bemidbar Rabbah 15:8].

And Rav Aḥa son of Ya’aqov said: There is still another firmament above the heads of the living beings, for it is written: And there was a likeness over the heads of the beasts—a platform like the appearance of the fearsome ice stretched over their heads above (Ezekiel 1:22). Until here, you have permission to speak; from here forward you do not have permission to speak, for so it is written in the Book of Ben Sira: What is too wondrous for you, do not expound; what is concealed from you, do not inquire. You have no business with hidden matters! [see Ben Sira 3:21–22]” (BT Ḥagigah 12b–13a).

“Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘The blessed Holy One is called שָׁמַיִם (shamayim), Heavens. And because He is called Heavens, all those firmaments included in this name number seven, and when they join as one they are called Heavens, and are called the Name of the blessed Holy One. Who are those firmaments? As we have learned: וִילוֹן (vilon), Curtain, רָקִיעַ (raqi’a), Firmament, שְׁחָקִים (sheḥaqim), Skies, זְבֻל (zevul), Loft, מָעוֹן (ma’on), Dwelling, מָכוֹן (makhon), Site, and עֲרָבוֹת (aravot), Clouds. So we have learned in the Aggadta of the House of Rav Sava.

Rabbi Yitsḥaq said, ‘These are barraitas of the House of Rav Sava, and there are many such treating all these aspects, as we have learned.’

Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘I have learned an outside barraita—that corresponding to all these seven crowns [sefirot] of the King are found seven firmaments and seven planets running back and forth. They are called by names for their names although all those thrones of firmaments and seven planets are equivalent. שַׁבְתַאִי (Shabbtai), Saturn; צֶדֶק (tsedeq), Jupiter; מַאְדִים (ma’adim), Mars; חַמָּה (ḥammah), Sun; נוֹגַה (nogah), Venus; כּוֹכָב (kokhav); Mercury, לְבָנָה (levanah), Moon. These are equivalent to those, in concealment of words, regarding those of whom is written Let them stand and save you—the astrologers, the stargazers (Isaiah 47:13). All those matters are concealed, although these are not ways of Torah.

As for us, we follow ways of Torah, as is written: He gave them names like the names his father had called them (Genesis 26:18). We follow what the blessed Holy One spoke; and we follow Him, as is written: Walk in His ways (Deuteronomy 28:9).

Rabbi Yose said, ‘Matters are simple for the Companions and well known, although concealed.’

He said to him, ‘We have learned as follows—as Rabbi Yehudah said in the name of Rabbi Ḥiyya in our presence, and as they taught from those barraitas—’In the days of King Solomon, the moon assumed fullness.’ In many places, the words of those barraitas are well known’ [cf. Zohar 1:243b; Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana 5:12; Shemot Rabbah 15:26; Berit Menuḥa, The Second Way: The Way of Love, Eight Vowel].

Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘I raise my hands in prayer to the supernal Holy One, that these matters may be revealed by me in that world as they were concealed in my heart. We do not follow the ways of those barraitas; the ways of Torah we grasp!’

It has been taught: Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘Who can you find as great in wisdom as King David and King Solomon, within this crown known in those barraitas? The moon King David called Righteousness, since it is his, as is written: Open for me the gates of righteousness (Psalms 118:19). So too, King Solomon. It is called Righteousness, and the sun—who is called My Covenant—is called Justice; and they are Thrones of Glory for the King, as is written: Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne (ibid. 89:15). Righteous One and Righteousness, similarly, are on a single rung.’

It has been taught: Seven crowns, as established, are called nine; and even in those barraitas those seven firmaments are nine.

Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘How long will the Companions read these words? Look, we follow the blessed Holy One, and we know matters; through us has been revealed what was not revealed to the ancient ones!

From here on, all these words and all these barraitas—put them aside for those who have not entered and emerged. Thereby, they will come to inquire; and when they inquire, the Companions will say, Woe to the generation from which Rabbi Shim’on has departed! But come and see: From here on, there will be no generation like this—nor Torah being revealed to the Companions’” (Zohar 3:287a–b).

“The Faithful Shepherd began by saying: It is written: ‘Though our lips were full of praise like the expansive firmament’ [Morning Service for Sabbath and Festivals]. And the firmaments are seven in number. Vilon, Curtain; Raqi’a, Firmament; Sheḥaqim, Skies, are so called because therein the millstones grind mannah for the Righteous One in the World that is Coming. And the basis for the name שְׁחָקִים (sheḥaqim), Skies, is: וְשָׁחַקְתָּ (ve-shaḥaqta), and you shall pound it, to fine powder (Exodus 30:36). And they are Netsaḥ and Hod, about which it is said: And שְׁחָקִים (sheḥaqim), skies, stream justice (Isaiah 45:8), which is the lower Shekhinah.

Curtain—for it pours in the evening, and brings out in the morning. FirmamentYesod, for in it the sun [Tif’eret] and the moon [Malkhut] give light, for they are the middle pillar and the lower Shekhinah, as is written: And אֱלֹהִים (Elohim), set them in the firmament of the heavens to light up the earth (Genesis 1:17). And the Righteous One [Yesod] is a sign (Exodus 13:16) when uniting Netsaḥ and Hod, and testimony (Psalms 60:1) when uniting Tif’eret and Malkhut.

Netsaḥ and Hod are the two halves of a body, like תְּאוֹמִים (te’omim), twins [alluding to the angels Sandalfon and Metatron, and the מַּזַּל תְּאוֹמִים (mazzal te’omim), constellation of Twins (Gemini). Cf. Exodus 31:18; Song of Songs 4:5, 5:2; BT Ḥagigah 12b], which is why they are called Sheḥaqim, Skies. The two of them together are ו ו (vav, vav) of וֶשֶׁט (veshet), esophagus, from the left side, and they are the two molar teeth from the right side [וֶשֶׁט (veshet) according to its expanded spelling contains two of the letter ו (vav)]” (Zohar 3:235b–236a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

“The King’s Daughter [Malkhut] is bound by ropes in the prison of Her exile. She is a nest to Samael among the stars and the blessed Holy One swears Though you exalt yourself as the eagle, and though you set your nest among the stars, from there will I bring you down, says YHWH (Obadiah 1:4). And Shekhinah is נוֹגַה (nogah), Venus: The fire had נוֹגַה (nogah), a radiance (Ezekiel 1:13). Hence the בֵּית כְּנֶסֶת (beit kenesset), House of Assembly, is called אֵשׁנוֹגַה (eshnogah), radiant fire [i.e., ‘synagogue,’ in a foreign tongue].

The fire of מַאְדִים (ma’adim), Mars, derives from אוֹדֶם (odem), redness: A row of אוֹדֶם (odem), ruby, topaz, and malachite, the first row (Exodus 28:17). נוֹגַה (Nogah), Venus, is a white fire, and both are the face of the sun [Tif’eret], and the face of the moon [Malkhut]. Netsaḥ and Hod receive the whiteness from Ḥesed and the אוֹדֶם (odem), redness, from Gevurah; Aaron and David came from there; one received Compassion and the other received Judgment. David came from the left side: and he was ruddy (1 Samuel 16:12). Aaron is a man of Ḥesed, and the two true prophets [Netsaḥ and Hod] are from them. The face of Moses shines with prophecy from Binah [see Zohar 3:247b], which is the supernal חַמָּה (ḥammah), Sun, whence his prophecy came.

In them are Esau the wicked, [who is the] the servant אֱדוֹם (edom), Edom, and his female מַאְדִים (ma’adim), Mars, which is שְׁפִיכוּת דָּמִים (shefikhut damim), bloodshed, in Israel. She caused it to be fulfilled in the MatronitaHe has made me desolate and faint all the day (Lamentations 1:13). הוֹד (Hod), turned דָּוָה (davah), faint [הוֹד (Hod), read backwards is דָּוָה (davah), faint], and they [שֹׁמֵמָה (shomemah), desolate, and דָּוָה (davah), faint] correspond to Netsaḥ and Hod. Jachin and Boaz on both of which the House is supported, since a house of assembly is named after them אֵשׁנוֹגַה (eshnogah), bright fire, as we said” (Zohar 3:282b, Raaya Meheimna Ki Tetse).

Who Does Not Taste a Dish?

“Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nasi] said: A person can learn only from a place which his heart desires, as is said, But YHWH’s teaching is his desire (Psalms 1:2).

Levi and Rabbi Shim’on son of Rabbi were once sitting before Rabbi and were expounding a part of Scripture. When the book was concluded, Levi said: Let them bring us Proverbs. Rabbi Shim’on son of Rabbi said: Let them bring us Psalms; [he] pushed Levi and Psalms were brought. When they came to But YHWH’s teaching is his desire, Rabbi said: A person can only learn from a place which his heart desires. Levi said: Rabbi, you have given permission to rise [and leave, since my heart desires Proverbs and not Psalms]” (BT Avodah Zarah 19a, cf. ZḤ 107a [Tiq]).

Taste and see that YHWH is good (Psalms 34:8).

“Rabbi Yitsḥaq said, ‘Well, there are many verses in Torah that seem as if they need not have been written, yet we see that all of them are sublime mysteries.’ Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘As for this verse, whoever sees it and does not contemplate it is like someone who does not taste a dish” (Zohar 2:217b).

“This may be compared to a man who dwelled among the cliffs and knew nothing of those dwelling in the town. He sowed wheat, and ate the wheat in its natural condition [i.e., פְּשָׁט (peshat), plain]. One day he went into town and was offered fine bread [i.e., דְּרַשׁ (derash), enquiry]. The man asked: What’s this for? They replied: It’s bread, to eat! He asked: And what’s it made of? They replied: Of wheat. Afterwards they brought him cakes kneaded with oil [i.e., רֶמֶז (remez), hint]. He tasted them, and asked: And what are these made of? They replied: Of wheat. Later they brought him royal pastry kneaded with honey and oil [i.e., סוֹד (sod), secret]. He asked: And what are these made of? They replied: Of wheat. He said: Surely I am master of all these, since I eat the essence of all of these! And because of that view, he knew nothing of the delights of the world, which were lost to him. So it is with one who grasps the principle but is unaware of all those delectable delights deriving, diverging from that principle [פַּרדֵס (Pardes), Orchard, is the acronym for four levels of interpreting Torah; cf. BT Shabbat 63a: ‘(Rav Kahana said:) A verse cannot depart from its plain meaning’]” (Zohar 2:176a–b, cf. BT Berakhot 64a).

“Rabbi Yoḥanan said: There is a difference of opinion between Rabbi Shim’on son of Gamaliel and the Rabbis. One said that a well-read scholar is superior and the other said that the keen dialectician is superior. Rabbi Yosef was a well-read scholar [lit., סִינָי (Sinai), a Sinai]; Rabbah was a keen dialectician [lit., עוֹקֵר הָרִים (oqer harim), uprooter of mountains]. An enquiry was sent up to the land of Israel: Who of these should take precedence? They sent them word in reply: ‘A well-read scholar is to take precedence;’ for the Master said, ‘All are dependent on the owner of the wheat’” (BT Horayot 14a, cf. BT Berakhot 64a).

“What is meant by [Her profit and fee shall be consecrated to YHWH. They shall not be treasured or stored; rather shall her profit go to those who abide before YHWH, that they may eat their fill and] לִמְכַסֶּה עָתִיק (limkhasseh athiq), cover themselves elegantly? (Isaiah 23:18). This refers to one who מְכַסֶּה (mekhasseh), conceals, things that עָתִּיק (attiq), the Ancient of, Days concealed. What are those? Secrets of Torah. And some say: This refers to one who reveals things that עָתִּיק (attiq), the Ancient of, Days concealed. What are those? Flavors of Torah” (BT Pesaḥim 119a).