The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: lust

The Graves of Lust: When the Wise Attain this Place They Die with a Kiss

moths_woodcut

And the people became complainers of evil in the ears of YHWH, and YHWH heard and His wrath flared and YHWH’s fire burned against them and consumed along the edge of the camp…. And he called the name of that place Taberah, for YHWH’s fire had burned against them (Numbers 11:3).

“Why is the place called תַּבְעֵרָה (taverah), Burning? Because each and every light that reaches there is burned immediately by virtue of its great purity [or: merit]. However, they said in The Mystery of Souls, ‘One light is drawn out from the blessed Holy One, and when coupling is performed, and the souls sparkle and mate with this light, and this light extends until תַּבְעֵרָה (taverah), Burning, its name is צְבָאוֹת (tseva’ot), Armies.’ Therefore, I say that the souls in Burning endure. But as long as we have this wondrous wisdom we can understand what is written: And at Taberah and at Massah and at Kibroth-Hatta’avah [you infuriated YHWH] (Deuteronomy 9:22)—Ḥokhmah (Wisdom) is found there along the entire way. The blessed Holy One said in His Torah: And at Burning and at Trial and at Graves of Lust is a place in which human beings desire and תַאֲוָה (ta’avah), crave, to attain good and to attain evil. And Israel, seeing the greatness of these three ascents, in which seals were set to make known Who causes them to exist and Who sates them, began to say, ‘From this place descends [both] the good and the evil. But this site of great ascents, there is no ruler in it, since the majesty of the blessed Holy One does not oversee all. Rather, He left three to act in His place as they please.’ Hence, they tried the blessed Holy One in every matter [cf. Zohar 2:64b].

The Sages say three princes whose ascents are without end receive from those three places. From Burning descends the brilliance of Ḥokhmah to the place, נַחַל אַרְנוֹן (naḥal arnon), Wadi Arnon [lit., Ringing River, see Numbers 21:13–26; Deuteronomy 3:8; Judges 11:18. Cf. Zohar 2:56a]. Its name is deep: אַדִירִירוֹן (Adiriron) the place of רִנָּה (rinnah), glad song, portent, and wisdom. It is the organ which sustains the entire body [adirironfrom a root meaning, ‘mighty,’ see Margaliot, Mal’akhe Elyon (Jerusalem, 1964)].

When the host on high see Ḥokhmah shining they begin to sing, as it says, When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy (Job 38:7) [cf. ZḤ 5b–6a (MhN)]. Ḥokhmah reaches them and they rise, certainly receiving from there Ḥokhmah and Gevurah and Gedullah. Ḥokhmah reaches from Wadi Arnon to Wadi Abarim, and from there returns to its place again [on Mount Abarim, see Numbers 27:12–14, 33:47–48; Deuteronomy 32:48–52; Zohar 2:157a].

The thirty-two paths grow stronger, rising and covering all the spheres and all the ascents and the worlds and all the abysses, but next to the brilliance of Ḥokhmah appear as naught. And above, at a distance, a bowshot away (Genesis 21:16) of 600,000 [spans], they appear as a bowl [cf. Bemidbar Rabbah 13:14: ‘One silver bowl (Numbers 7:13)—the world He made is like a (mere) ball thrown from hand to hand’]. The thirty-two paths grow mighty, rising and covering all the spheres and all of their places.

They say Ḥokhmah is supernal man, known as Ezion Geber as I said before [see Numbers 33:35–36; Deuteronomy 2:8. Cf. Targum Yonatan: כְּרַך תַּרְנְגוֹלָא (kerakh tarnegola), City of the Rooster, i.e., a rooster-shaped city]. The Wadi Abarim, which we already mentioned, is called מִשְׁבְּצוֹת (mishbetsot), Brocade, (known with the permutation of the four letter Name, as I will explain with the vocalization of this matter) [on Brocade (or: Filigree), see Exodus 28:13; Psalms 45:14; Bahir §54, §63]. We said of this expansive matter—the Wadi Abarim—that in it certain sages erred grievously, such as Elisha son of Avuyah [see BT Ḥagigah 14b; Zohar 1:26b (TZ); 3:222b (RM); Berit Menuḥa: Eight Vowel. עֲבָרִים (Avarim), Abarim, alludes to עָבְרִים (averim), crossings, and עֲבֵרָה (averah), transgression]. However, the relic of the great and mighty Sages of Israel, heads of the generations, standing in venerable places, took to restore what was lost and to save the sons of man.

Behold the chapter headings of this wondrous wisdom: Three times a day the wisdom ascends higher and higher: at the first hour, at the sixth hour, and at the last hour [see BT Berakhot 26b. Cf. Zohar 2:21b; 3:196a; ZḤ 5b–6a (MhN)]. In these hours everyone of the thirty-two paths is rooted in the first letter of יהוה (YHWH)—in the lower tip [of י (yod)] looking downwards. Since it looks down so too does Ḥokhmah (Wisdom), great in Gevurah (Strength) and Raamim (Compassion). But if it faces upwards even the angels and sons of man cannot attain Ḥokhmah and are as beasts of the field. Therefore, it faces downwards and Ḥokhmah is received by creatures and as it saw, for it is vastly higher above all degrees and none are higher than it, it turns its face to three places. First towards the north, the place of Gevurah, lowering its pride, it remains bowed down in great trembling. This place is a place of awe, it is Burning. [The angel] אַגּלֹאֹ (AGLO) [אַתָּה גִבּוֹר לְעוֹלָם אֲדֹנָי (attah gibbor le-olam Adonai), ‘You are eternally mighty Lord,’ see ZḤ 42a], included in Torah, performs actions for the enlightened without purification by the line of awe. The second place is a place of humility, and its name is called מְנוּחָה (menuḥah), Rest, it is יחדריאל (YeḤiDRI’EL), אֱלֹהִי יִשְׂרָאֵל (Elohi Yisra’el), God of Israel. The third place is a place of שִׂמְחָה (simḥah), joy, and its name is called מַפְרִישְמִיָהְ (Mafrishmiyah) [see Rabbi Ḥayyim Vital, Sha’arei Qedushah, 4:1].

Whoever desires to learn wisdom should cleave to these three rungs: יִראָה (yirah), awe, עֲנָוָה (anavah), humility, and שִׂמְחָה (simḥah), joy—he יִראָה (yirah), fears, sin, is עָנָו (anav), humble, and שַׂמֵחַ (sameaḥ), happy, with his lot [cf. Deuteronomy 28:47]. When he attains the discernment of these three rungs he attains Ḥokhmah [cf. M Avot 3:11; 4:1; 5:19]. These three places are bound to each other, and one is no different than the other; they are all one [cf. M Sotah 9:15; BT Avodah Zarah 20b; Zohar 3:145a; Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 5b]. And the angels who receive from these three places are הויאל (HOVI’EL), גביאל (GaBI’EL), and גבריאל (GaVRI’EL), Gabriel [see Margaliot, Mal’akhe Elyon (Jerusalem, 1964), p. 42]. Names which bless and curse without need of purification and without need of permission from הָאֱלֹהִים (Ha-Elohim), the Judge, but act however they please. Yet they are names of goodness, for they are without inquiry and without limit. The first of these three places is daunting, it’s name is תַּבְעֵרָה שֶׂכֶל (taverah sekhel), Burning Intellect. The lights are fearful when they ascend lest it burn them with its great holiness. However, he who cleaves to the rung of awe escapes burning.

The second [rung] is humility [called:] מַסָּה (massah), Trial (Deuteronomy 9:22). Without limit to its holiness and strength this place is very great. For when all the lights and all the supernal army passes through this place it is known who conducts himself faithfully or not, thus it is called Trial.

The third [rung] is joy, the site of קִבְרוֹת הַתַּאֲוָה (kivrot-hatta’avah), the Graves of Lust (Numbers 11:34). Whoever does not reach this resting place, the Graves of Lust, does not see light and does not attain Ḥokhmah.

There is one place dwelling in the heavens [beyond the heavens…] (1 Kings 8:27), and there is אֵין סוֹף (ein sof), no end, to its discernment but its place is hidden because of the קַטנוּת (qatnut), puniness, of [our] intellect [cf. BT Eruvin 53aBahir §10]. And when the great lights grow mighty, ascending, and see the banner standing in the middle of the palace-chamber they declare ‘In this place is the power of מְנוּחָה (menuḥah), Rest.’ They endure hoping to glimpse its glorious brilliance. When this hidden light increases abundantly, expanding, and emanates its brilliance outside the palace-chamber then they incline to see more and they ascend and reach the place of חֶשְׁבּוֹן (ḥeshbon), Reckoning [see Numbers 21:27; Ecclesiastes 7:27; Song of Songs 7:5]. But when they reach its edge they are burned immediately by the purity of this great hidden light—they are all burned standing in it and none of them ever emerge, for this place is called, in the language of allegory, the Graves of Lust. Most of them that desired to know the essence were consumed in holiness and were not seen again [like moths to a flame, cf. Attar of Nishapur, Manṭeq al-ṭayr].

Numerous lights and princes, brave and powerful, were consumed in this place called the Graves of Lust, an expression of the essence of יהוה (YHWH). But let me tell you the angels and the lights which were consumed in this place since the time of the Formation [of the world] were numerous, great, strong, and perfect in their degrees. Big and mighty angels were consumed by this great light, those from the camp of שָׂרָפִים (serafim) and from the camp of תַּרְשִׁישִׁים‎‎ (tarshishim) [two classes of angels], since it arose in their minds to strengthen themselves and ascend until this place but there they were consumed, as is written of them, For there the people buried the ones who had been craving (Numbers 11:34). Do not let evil arise in your mind, however, and think that words of Torah only accord with their plain meaning, you are forbidden from believing this. Happy is the man who delves to know, to attain Ḥokhmah in this place called the Graves of Lust” (Berit MenuḥaFirst Way: The Way of Wisdom).

“The fifth נִקּוּד (niqqud), vowel, is the root of the נִקּוּדִים (niqqudim), punctiform lights. Growing mighty in strength and compassion, its din is heard from one end of the earth to the other (Deuteronomy 28:64). Growing mighty, climbing, spreading from its root—the root of the Tree of Life—rising over its rung, above the heads of the living beings, covering all [on the cosmic tree, see Daniel 4:7–9; Bahir §22, §95].

Rising to its place in tumult, utterly destroying various camps and breaking various dominions, the sound of its din is without compare, inconceivable. And in its growing mighty, ascending, it spreads its wings to the east, west, north, and south, above and below, to six קָצֶווֹת (qatse’ot), ends [cf. Sefer Yetsirah §15, §38, §47]. Next to it the upper and lower lights do not compare, as if they were not. [This bears on] the root and the branches too.

There is tumult to the root and to the branches, for it leads them only by its exceedingly great strength, without arms or legs [cf. Zohar 3:278b (RM)]. By beating its wings back and forth all the lights are bundled, tied, and stood up under it [cf. Ezekiel 1:24]. Leading them it is called King even though there are greater, more honored, lights than it. Yet it hastens to perform the matter for those who take refuge in its shadow, for those who know its source which is raised over its companions. And by its exalted radiance and majesty emanate a thousand myriad lights without end to their multitude. None endure its din and none are able to look and gaze at its beauty—there is no intellect, no wisdom to apprehend its greatness, for it is exceedingly magnified.

Emerging it is heeded by all the lights. When they smell its fragrance, a host of spheres ascend קָו הַמִישׁוֹר (qav ha-mishor), the median line, and are invigorated. For from the fragrance they take power, might, radiance, and wisdom according to its exceeding greatness.

Being most strengthened by its surge in pride this light divides into two parts. Upon being divided it is still known that it receives from one place. Next to its source it does not compare, for understanding it heeds words of wisdom; even though they are divided into two heads, both are found clinging to the power of their hidden source. Accordingly, you understand how powerful the source is, that even though they are divided in the supernal way they are both discovered bound, unable to escape from under the power of their source, to go and become mighty such and such, for dominion is not in their hands.

Even though they are conducted toward an honored and awesome power, power comes to them from elsewhere. Upon dividing, one faces upwards and grows mighty, ascending. From it emanate innumerable great lights, called הַצֹּבְאֹת (ha-tsove’ot), the women, who flock to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting (Exodus 38:8). And they are all bound with a sachet of myrrh, for this light facing upwards is called, in the language of allegory, a sachet of myrrh (Song of Songs 1:13).

When it grows mighty, ascending, it faces upwards, spreading its wings, and two lights receive from it. The first is called צְבָאוֹת (tseva’ot), Hosts [or: Armies], and the second is called שַׁדַּי (Shaddai). They [too] grow mighty, ascending, one on its right and one on its left. The song of these כְּנָפַיִם (kenafa’im), wings, can be heard from east to west, as is written, מִכְּנַף (mi-kenaf), from the edge of the earth, we have heard songs: splendor to the righteous (Isaiah 24:16). And this שִׁירָה (shirah), song, issuing from between the [throng of] wings reaches unto הַמְצִיאוּת הַנֶעֱלָם (ha-metsiut ha-ne’elam), the hidden reality, סִבָּת הַסִבּוֹת (Sibbat ha-sibbot), the Cause of Causes. And upon arriving, she turns round and undergoes fifteen more מַּעֲלוֹת הַשִׁיר (ma’alot ha-shir), ascents of the song [see Psalms 120–134; cf. TZ 75–76, 27b].

So it was in the Sanctuary: The Levi would ascend the first step and sing the song of the first sphere according to the vocalization I shall make known. And when the host of the first sphere heard their song they would tremble greatly. The priest would burn the Temple incense, the Levi would ascend the second step, sing the song of the second sphere, and so on until the tenth sphere.

When the Levi had ascended the ten steps, step by step, he would pronounce the Name according to its letters and its vocalization which I shall explain. The song was sung according to the movement of the inconceivable light without compare. Thus is the awesome light, and thus was the רִנָּה (rinnah), glad song, which the Levi sang when he stood at the top of the steps, pronouncing the name אֶהְיֶה (Ehyeh), I will be (Exodus 3:14) with awe inspiring expression [see M Sukkah 5:4; BT Sukkah 51a–b]. But if the offering was from a wicked man, resembling the righteous, but who performed his offence in secret—and the offering did not come to atone for such deeds—the smoke would coil up and the priest would tell the Levi to stop singing.

And who can name the strength and radiance and beauty of the light that faces upward? This light ascends to a known place, ascending from one place to another. First it ascends and faces קִבְרוֹת הַתַּאֲוָה (kivrot hatta’avah), the Graves of Lust. Then it faces תַּבְעֵרָה (taverah), Burning, where the channels are invigorated and filled abundantly, overflowing into the Sea Arabah [i.e., the Salt Sea; the Dead Sea, cf. Sefer ha-Temunah 25b] which is the name Tseva’ot, a light emanating from this great light. And from Taberah, Burning, it ascends to Mount Hor [death place of Aaron, see Numbers 20:23–29, cf. ibid. 33:37].

Two מְאוֹרוֹת מוּרכָּבִים (me’orot murkavim), compounded lights, ascend one over the other. When they reach this mountain they are burned entirely—when the wise attains this place he dies with a kiss on account of the great lust [see BT Bava Batra 17a; Mo’ed Qatan 28a; Zohar 2:124b]. From this place the light ascends to Mount Abarim [death place of Moses, see Numbers 27:12–14, 33:47–48; Deuteronomy 32:48–52; 34:1–8; Zohar 2:157a; 3:173b, 183a, 280b. Mount Abarim is probably the mountain range east of the Dead Sea, one of whose prominent peaks is Mount Nebo]. It is the way from which all lights pass when they emanate from the [hidden] reality. There in that place they grow most mighty, and from this place, they ascend to the Sea of Wisdom, lingering there. From there to the outer court (Ezekiel 40:17) and from the outer court to the inner court (1 Kings 6:36) [cf. Ezekiel 46:1; Zohar 1:75b ad loc.; 3:109a (RM); Esther 5:1–2; TZ 21, 57b ad loc.]. From the inner court to the place of the awesome reality, where being embraced she is raised back again to His place where her tent had been before (Genesis 13:3) [cf. BT Arakhin 16b ad loc.; ZḤ 24b (MhN) ad loc.].

From this awesome [hidden] light all lights emanate, endure, and are provided for. Its name: יְיָיִוְאֶשְעַבְיִוַאָיְהוּ. It is the י״ד (fourteen) letter name found in: כִּי יָ״ד עַל כֵּס יָהּ (ki yad al kes Yah), for hand upon Yah’s throne (Exodus 17:16). Happy is the man who knows this name for it acts in purity beyond compare and it issues from the Priestly Blessing, from the initial letters: יְבָרֶכְךָ יָאֵר יִשָּׂא וְשָׂמוּ אֶת שְׁמִי עַל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וַאֲנִי אֲבָרְכֵם (yevarekhekha ya’er yissa ve-samu et shemi al beni yisra’el), may He bless you… may He light up [His face to you…] and they shall set My name over the Israelites, and I Myself shall bless them (Numbers 6:24–27), and the name יהו (YHW) is affixed at the end. It is apparent from this task, for the light ascends fourteen rungs—the ten sefirot, and four chambers found above the ten sefirot: the chamber אַהֲבָה (ahavah), Love—יהה (YHH); the chamber שָׁלוֹם (shalom), Peace—יוה (YWH); the chamber עֹז (oz), Valor—יהו (YHW); [within] the chamber חֶמְדָּה (ḥemddah), Desire, הֲמְנוּחוֹת (ha-menuḥot), tranquility, abides—ייה (YYH) [cf. Zohar 2:252b (Heik)]. And above the י״ה (fifteenth) step is our God [יָהּ (Yah)]. We are His servants, He is our King, He provides for us and rescues us from the palm of our enemies [as is written, War for YHWH against Amalek from all time (Exodus 17:16)]” (Berit Menuḥa, Second Way: The Way of Love, Fifth Vowel).

Holding in Their Hand that Reptile

“Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘Woe to human beings who do not know, consider, or see! They are all obtuse, unaware how full the world is of strange, invisible creatures, of hidden things. If the eye were empowered to see, humans would be amazed how they themselves can endure. Come and see: This Na’amah was mother of demons. From her side issue all those inflamed by human beings, absorbing their spirit of lust, titillating them, turning them into casualties of ejaculation. Since such a casualty derives from the side of impure spirit, he must bathe to purify himself, as established by the Companions” (Zohar 1:55a, cf. Deuteronomy 23:11; BT Berakhot 6a).

“Come and see: All generations in the days of Noah exposed their sins to the world brazenly, in sight of all. One day Rabbi Shim’on was walking through the gates of Tiberias when he saw some men drawing the bow taut with the shaft of a centaur. He exclaimed, ‘What! Such brazen sin, provoking their Lord?’ He cast his eyes upon them; they were hurled into the sea and drowned” (Zohar 1:58a).

“Rabbi Yitsḥaq was in the presence of Rabbi Shim’on. He asked him: This verse, And the earth was corrupt before God (Genesis 6:11)—given that humans sinned, but how did the earth [do so]? He replied: Since it is written, for all flesh had corrupted their way [upon earth] (ibid., 12), as has been said. Similarly, The earth was defiled, and I inflicted her punishment upon her (Leviticus 18:25). It was human beings who sinned. But if you ask, ‘How did earth [sin]?’ the answer is: Human beings constitute the essence of earth—they ruin earth, and it is ruined. The verse proves it, as is written: God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth (Genesis, ibid.).

Come and see: All sins of a human being are entirely his ruination, yet are susceptible to return [i.e., may be atoned by repentance]; but the sin of spilling seed, wasting his way, emitting seed upon earth, ruining both himself and the earth—of this is written: stained is your iniquity before Me (Jeremiah 2:22). Similarly, You are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil cannot abide with you (Psalms 5:5), except through great returning. Similarly, Er, firstborn of Judah, was evil in the eyes of YHWH; and YHWH slew him (Genesis 38:7). This has already been explained.

Rabbi Yehudah asked: Why did the blessed Holy One punish the world with water, and not with fire or some other element? He [Rabbi Shim’on] replied: It is a mystery! For they wasted their ways, so that the upper waters and lower waters failed to unite fittingly; so did they ruin their ways, male and female waters. So they were punished by water, just like they sinned. The water was boiling, peeling off their skin, just as they wasted their ways with boiling water [cf. BT Sanhedrin 108b]. A fitting punishment, as is written: All the springs of the great abyss burst forth (ibid. 8:2)—lower waters; and the sluices of heaven opened (ibid.)—upper waters. Upper and lower waters” (Zohar 1:61b–62a).

What he did was evil in the eyes of YHWH (Genesis 38:10). Rabbi Ḥiyya opened, In the morning sow your seed… (Ecclesiastes 11:6). Come and see how greatly a person should beware his sins and be heedful in his actions before the blessed Holy One! For numerous messengers and officials populate the world, roaming around, observing human actions and testifying about them, all recorded in a book [see M Avot 2:1].

Come and see: Of all the sins by which a person is defiled in this world, this is the sin by which he is defiled both in this world and the world that is coming: spilling one’s seed fruitlessly [cf. BT Niddah 13a–b]—emitting seed in vain by hand or foot, and becoming defiled, as is written: For You are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil cannot abide with You (Psalms 5:5). He does not enter the curtain nor gaze upon the Countenance of Days, as we have learned, for it is written: Evil cannot abide with You, and similarly: Er, Judah’s firstborn, was evil (Genesis 38:7). Therefore, Your hands are full of blood (Isaiah 1:15). Happy is the share of a person in awe of his Lord, guarded from the evil path, purifying himself to persevere in the awe of his Lord!

Come and see: In the morning sow your seed. This verse has been established: in the morning—when a man is in his prime, in his youth; then he should strive to engender children, as is written: sow your seed. Then is the time, as is written: Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth (Psalms 127:4), since he can teach them the ways of the blessed Holy One and obtain a fine reward in the world that is coming, as is written: Happy is the man who fills his quiver with them; they will not be put to shame… (ibid., 5)—in that world, when masters of judgment come to accuse him; for you cannot find a better reward in that world than one who has taught his child the awe of his Lord and the ways of Torah.

Come and see from Abraham, of whom is written For I have known him, so that he will instruct his children… (Genesis 18:19). So the merit stands him well in that world against all masters of judgment; therefore, In the morning sow your seed. And at evening—even in old age, a time when a person wanes, what is written? Do not hold back your hand—one should not forsake engendering in this world. Why? For you do not know which will prosper… (Ecclesiastes, ibid.), so that they can stand up for him in that world. Therefore, Children are the heritage of YHWH (Psalms 127:3). Who is heritage of YHWH? Bundle of the soul [Shekhinah], aspect of the world that is coming. As for this heritage, who entitles one to enter the heritage of YHWH? Children—those children entitle him to the heritage of YHWH. So, happy is the person who attains them and teaches them the ways of Torah, as has been said” (Zohar 1:188a).

“Whoever emits his seed fruitlessly is called evil and does not see the face of Shekhinah, as is written: You are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil cannot abide with You (Psalms 5:5), and similarly: Er, firstborn of Judah, was evil in the eyes of YHWH (Genesis 38:7). Here too, Woe to the wicked! Evil!—woe to that wicked one, who is evil, who made himself evil. For what his hands have perpetrated will be requited to him—to include one who fornicates with his hands, emitting seed fruitlessly; this one is tormented in that world more than all.

Come and see! For it is written: Woe to the wicked! Evil! Since it is written Woe to the wicked, why evil? But as I have said: He made himself evil. And it is written: Evil cannot abide with You. All of them ascend, whereas this one does not. Now, you might ask, ‘What about other sinners who have killed people? Come and see: All of them ascend, but he does not. Why? Because they have killed other human beings, whereas he has killed his children—his very own children!—spilling much blood.

Come and see: Of other sinners of the world is not written It was evil in the eyes of YHWH, where as here is written What he did was evil in the eyes of YHWH (ibid., 10). Why? Because he wasted on the ground (ibid., 9).

We have learned: Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘There is nothing in the world for which one cannot repent, except for this [cf. Zohar 1:61b–62a]. There is no sinner who cannot see the face of Shekhinah, except for this one, as is written: Evil cannot abide with You—at all!” (Zohar 1:219b).

“Woe to him for that punishment, woe to him for tainting the sign of the holy covenant! Woe to him for that shame, for eternal vengeance will be wreaked upon him—vengeance of this world and vengeance for that taint. This is the mystery of what is written: For the rod of wickedness shall not rest on the portion of the righteous (Psalms 125:3)…. This pertains if one has not turned back completely in repentance, a turning capable of covering his deeds” (Zohar 2:214b).

“And we have learned: A man is forbidden to gaze at the beauty of a woman, so that he not have evil fantasies and be uprooted to something else. This is how Rabbi Shim’on acted when he was walking through town, followed by the Companions, and they saw beautiful women. He would lower his eyes and say to the Companions, ‘Do not turn to idols (Leviticus 19:4).’ For whoever gazes at a woman’s beauty during the day will have fantasies at night; and if they overwhelm him, he transgresses Do not make molten gods for yourselves (ibid.). Furthermore, if he has intercourse with his wife while those evil imaginings arise within him, the children they engender are called molten gods. Do not turn to idols. Rabbi Abba said, ‘A person is forbidden to look at idols of the nations or to derive benefit from them—all the more so, to look at a place that should not be seen” (Zohar 3:83b–84a).

You shall show them no grace. [You shall not intermarry with them. You shall not give your daughter to his son, nor shall you take his daughter for your son. For he will make your son swerve from following Me…] (Deuteronomy 7:2–4). For Rav said: One is forbidden to say, ‘How beautiful is this idolatress!’ The following objection was raised: It happened that Rabban Shim’on son of Gamaliel, while standing on a step on the Temple-mount, saw a heathen woman who was particularly beautiful, and he exclaimed: ‘How great are Your works, O YHWH!’ (Psalms 104:24). Likewise, when Rabbi Akiva saw the wife of the wicked Tyranus Rufus [Governor of Judea], he spat, then laughed, and then wept. ‘Spat’—because of her originating only from a fetid drop [see M Avot 3:1]; ‘laughed’—because he foresaw that she would become a convert and that he would take her to wife; ‘wept,’ that such beauty should [ultimately] decay in the dust.

What then about Rav’s ruling? [who holds that one must not admire the beauty of a genitle woman]. [He might say that] each of these rabbis merely offered thanksgiving. For a Master has said: He who beholds goodly creatures should say, ‘Blessed be He who has created such in His world’ [cf. BT Berakhot 58b]. But is even mere looking permitted? The following can surely be raised as an objection: [When you sally forth in a camp against your enemy,you shall keep yourself from every evil thing (Deuteronomy 23:10), that one should not look intently at a beautiful woman, even if she be unmarried, or at a married woman even if she be ugly, nor at a woman’s attractive dress, nor at male and female donkeys, or a pig and a sow, or at fowls when they are mating; even if one is all eyes like the Angel of Death!

It has been said of the Angel of Death that he is completely full of eyes. When a sick person is about to die, he stands above the head of the bed. In his hand is a drawn sword with a bitter drop suspended. When the sick person sees him, he is terrified and opens his mouth. The angel flings the drop inside [cf. Job 20:14: vipers’ bile in his gut]. From this drop he dies; from this drop he turns putrid; from this drop his face turns green [therefore the Angel of Death is called סָמָאֵל (sama’el), the Venom of God].

[What may have happened in the aforementioned case of Rabban Shim’on son of Gamaliel was that] the woman turned round a corner [and her face thus met his eyes unexpectedly]” (BT Avodah Zarah 20a).

“Our Rabbis taught: If a man counts out money from his hand into the hand of a woman so as to have the opportunity of gazing at her, even if he can vie in Torah and good deeds like Moses our teacher, he shall not escape the punishment of Hell, as it says, Hand to hand the evil will not go scot-free (Proverbs 11:21), he shall not escape from the punishment of Hell” (BT Berakhot 61a).

“Rabbi Meir used to mock עוֹבְרֵי עֲבֵירָה (overei aveirah), transgressors. One day Satan appeared to him in the guise of a woman on the opposite bank of the river. As there was no ferry, he seized the ‘rope’ and עֶבֶר (ever), crossed. When he had reached half way along the ‘rope,’ he let him go saying: ‘Had they not proclaimed in Heaven, ‘Take heed of Rabbi Meir and his learning,’ I would have valued your blood [i.e., life] at two ma’ahs.’ Rabbi Akiva used to mock transgressors. One day Satan appeared to him as a woman on the top of a palm tree. Grasping the tree, he went climbing up: but when he reached half-way up the tree he let him go, saying: ‘Had they not proclaimed in Heaven, ‘Take heed of Rabbi Akiva and his learning,’ I would have valued your blood at two ma’ahs.’

Peleimo used to say every day, ‘An arrow in the Adversary’s eyes!’ One day—it was the eve of Yom Kippur—he disguised himself as a poor man and went and called out at his door; so bread was taken out to him. He said, ‘On such a day, when everyone is within, shall I be without?’ He was taken in and bread was offered him. He said, ‘On a day like this, when everyone sits at the table, shall I sit alone!’ He was led and sat down at the table. As he sat, his body was covered with sores and puss, and he was behaving repulsively. ‘Sit properly,’ he rebuked him. He said, ‘Give me a cup,’ and one was given him. He coughed and spat his phlegm into it. They scolded him, he fainted and died. Then they [the household] heard people crying out, ‘Peleimo has killed a man, Peleimo has killed a man!’ Fleeing, he hid in a toilet; he followed him, and he fell before him. Seeing how he was suffering, he disclosed his identity and said to him, why have you spoken this way [provoking me by saying: An arrow in the Adversary’s eyes]? What then should I say? You should say: ‘The Compassionate rebuke Satan’ [cf. Zechariah 3:2: YHWH rebuke You, הַשָּׂטָן (ha-satan), the Accuser]” (BT Qiddushin 81a–b).

“Rav Yoḥanan said: Man has a small member—when he starves it, it is satisfied, and when he satisfies it, it is starving” (BT Sukkot 52b).

And I saw among the dupes, discerned among the young men a witless lad, passing through the streets, by the corner, on the way to her house he strides, at twilight, as evening descends, in pitch-black night and darkness. And, look, a woman to meet him, whore’s attire and hidden intent. Bustling she is and wayward, in her house her feet do not stay. Now outside, now in the square, and by every corner she lurks.

She seizes him and kisses him, impudently says to him: “I had to make well-being offerings, today I’ve fulfilled my vows. And so I’ve come out to meet you, to seek you, and I’ve found you. With coverlets I’ve spread my couch, dyed cloths of Egyptian linen. I’ve sprinkled my bed with myrrh, with aloes and cinnamon. Come, let us drink deep of loving till morn, let us revel in love’s delights….” She sways him with all her talk, with her smooth speech she leads him astray. He goes after her in a trice, as an ox goes off to the slaughter, as a stag prances into a halter. Till an arrow pierces his liver, as a bird hastens to the snare, not knowing the cost is his life.

And now, sons, listen to me, and attend to my mouth’s sayings. Let your heart not veer to her ways, and do not go astray on her paths. For many the victims she has felled, innumerable all whom she has killed. Through her house are the ways to Sheol, going down to the chambers of Death (Proverbs 7:7–18, 21–27).

“The secret of secrets: From the strength of the noon-flame of Isaac, from the dregs of wine, a naked shoot came forth, comprising together male and female, red like a lily, and they spread out on several sides, down several paths. The male is called Samael and his female is always included with him. Just as on the side of holiness there are male and female, so on the other side there are male and female, included one with the other. The female of Samael is called ‘serpent,’ ‘a wife of harlotry,’ ‘the end of all flesh,’ ‘the end of days.’

Two evil spirits are attached to one another. The male spirit is fine, the female spirit spreads out down several ways and paths, and is attached to the male spirit. She dresses herself in finery like an abominable harlot and stands at the corners of streets and highways in order to attract men. When a fool approaches her, she embraces him and kisses him, and mixes her dregs of wine with snake poison for him. Once he has drunk, אַסְטֵי (astei), he turns aside, after her. When she sees that he has turned aside after her from the way of truth, she takes off all the finery that she had put on for the sake of this fool [cf. Bahir §164].

This is the finery that she uses to seduce mankind: her hair is long, red like a lily; her face is white and pink; six pendants hang at her ears; her bed is made of Egyptian flax; all the ornaments of the East encircle her neck; her mouth is shaped like a tiny door, beautified with cosmetic; her tongue is sharp like a sword; her words smooth as oil; her lips beautiful, red as a lily, sweetened with all the sweetnesses in the world; she is dressed in purple, and attired in thirty-nine items of finery. This fool turns aside after her, and drinks from the cup of wine, and commits harlotry with her, completely enamored of her. What does she do? She leaves him asleep on the bed and ascends to the realms above, accuses him, obtains authority, and descends. The fool wakes up, thinking to sport with her as before, but she takes off her finery, and turns into a fierce warrior, facing him in a garment of flaming fire, a vision of dread, terrifying both body and soul, full of horrific eyes, a sharpened sword in his hand with drops of poison suspended and dripping from it. He kills the fool, and throws him into Hell” (Zohar 1:148a–b, Sitrei Torah, cf. Zohar 1:190a–b; 2:163a–b; 3:19a, 76b–77a).

“The Queen does not dwell in one’s כֹּחַ (koaḥ), power, [namely] the כ״ח (twenty-eight) finger joints, until all the filth of the wicked, unfit slavegirl, wife to the unfit, is removed. Therefore, the Masters of Mishnah explained that ‘filthy hands are unfit to make a blessing’ (BT Berakhot 53b). This water is for cleansing the hand upon which the hand of YHWH rests. The hand of YHWH is the water of Torah. The ignorant people are considered as unclean reptiles [see BT Pesaḥim 49b]. What good will immersing in water do them, holding in their hand that reptile, which is the wicked slavegirl, stolen goods in their possession, the stolen blessings they stole from the blessed Holy One. They do not know what a blessing is, or what filth is” (Zohar 3:273b, Ra’aya Meheimna Eqev).

Enjoyment & Pleasure: It is Torah and I Must Learn It

“Three things are a glimpse of the world to come: שַׁבָּת שֶׁמֶשׁ וְתַשְׁמִישׁ (Shabbat shemesh ve-tashmish), Sabbath, sun, and ‘service‘” (BT Berakhot 57b).

“Rabbi Ḥizqiyah said in the name of Rav: Man will one day give reckoning for everything his eye saw which, although permissible, he did not enjoy” (JT Qiddushin 4:12, 66d).

“Rav Kahana entered and lay down beneath the bed of Rav [Abba]. He heard that he was talking and laughing and having sexual intercourse. He said, ‘The mouth of Abba appears as if he never tasted this dish.’ He said to him, ‘Qahana, get out; this is not proper behavior!’ He said to him, ‘It is Torah, and I must learn it” (BT Ḥagigah 5b).

Shekhinah abides neither through gloom nor laziness nor frivolity nor levity nor talk nor idle chatter [or: vain pursuits], but only through the joy of mitsvah” (BT Shabbat 30b, cf. Zohar 1:50a).

“Rabbi Yoḥanan son of Dahavai said: The ministering angels told me four things: People are born lame because they overturned their table; dumb, because they kiss ‘that place;’ deaf, because they converse during cohabitation; blind, because they look at ‘that place.’ But this contradicts the following: Imma Shalom [wife of Rabbi Eli’ezer son of Hyrkanos, and sister to Rabban Gamaliel of Yavneh] was asked: Why are your children so exceedingly beautiful? She replied: [Because my husband]  ‘converses’ with me neither at the beginning nor at the end of the night, but at midnight; and when he ‘converses,’ he uncovers a hand breadth and covers a hand breadth, and is as though he were compelled by a שֵׁד (shed), demon [alt., שָׁד (shad), breast]. And when I asked him, What is the reason for this, he replied, ‘So that I may not think of another woman, lest my children be as bastards’—there is no difficulty: this refers to conjugal matters; the other refers to other matters.

Rabbi Yoḥanan said: The above is the view of Rabbi Yoḥanan son of Dehavai; but our Sages said: The Halakhah is not as Rabbi Yoḥanan son of Dehavai, but a man may do whatever he pleases with his wife [with her consent]: A parable; Meat which comes from the butcher, may be eaten salted, roasted, cooked or boiled; so with fish from the fishmonger. Amemar said: Who are the ‘ministering angels?’ The Rabbis. For should you maintain it literally, why did Rabbi Yoḥanan say that the Halakhah is not as Rabbi Yoḥanan son of Dehavai, seeing that the angels know more about the formation of the fetus than we? And why are they designated ‘ministering angels?’—because they are as distinguished as they.

A woman once came before Rabbi and said, ‘Rabbi! I set a table before my husband, but he overturned it.’ Rabbi replied: ‘My daughter! Torah has permitted you to him—what then can I do for you?’ A woman once came before Rav and complained. ‘Rabbi! I set a table before my husband, but he overturned it.’ Rav replied; Wherein does it differ from a fish?

And you shall not stray after your own heart (Numbers 15:39). [Deducing] from this Rabbi taught: One may not drink out of one goblet and think of another. Ravina said: This is necessary only when both are his wives” (BT Nedarim 20a–b).