The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: neshamah

My Fathers Pray on My Behalf: Were it not for our Supplications on Behalf of the Living they would not Survive for even Half a Day!

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And they went up through the Negeb and he came to Hebron (Number 13:22)—it should read and they came!—Rabba said: It teaches that Caleb held aloof from the plan of the spies and went and prostrated himself upon the graves of the patriarchs, saying to them, ‘My fathers, pray on my behalf that I may be delivered from the plan of the spies.’ As for Joshua, Moses had already prayed on his behalf; as it is said: And Moses called Hosea the son of Nun יְהוֹשֻׁעַ (Yehoshu’a), Joshua (ibid., 16), [meaning], יָהּ יוֹשִׁיעַךָ (Yah yoshi’akha), May Yah save you, from the spies’ plan. That is the intention of what is written: But My servant Caleb, inasmuch as there was another spirit with him (ibid. 14:24)” (BT Sotah 34b).

“Why do they go to the cemetery? With regard to this there is a difference of opinion between Rabbi Levi son of Ḥama [alt., Rabbi Levi son of Laḥma] and Rabbi Ḥanina. One says: [To signify thereby], We are as the dead before You; and the other says: In order that the dead should intercede for mercy on our behalf. What is the difference between them? The difference is with regard to going to the cemetery of the nations” (BT Ta’anit 16a).

“The sons of Rabbi Ḥiyya went to the villages to cultivate their property, and they began to forget their learning. They tried very hard to recall it. One said to the other: Does our father know of our trouble? How should he know, replied the other, seeing that it is written, If sons grow great, he will not notice them (Job 14:21). The other said to him: But does he not know? Is it not written: But the flesh upon him will ache, נַפְשׁוֹ (nafsho), his own being, will mourn for him (ibid., 22). And Rabbi Yitsḥaq said [commenting on this]: The worm is as painful to the dead as a needle in the flesh of the living? [He replied]: It is explained that they know their own pain, they do not know the pain of others.

Is that so? Has it not been taught: It is related that a certain devout man gave a denar to a poor man on the eve of Rosh HaShanah in a year of drought, and his wife scolded him, and he went and passed the night in the cemetery, and he heard two רוּחוֹת (ruḥot), spirits, conversing with one another. One said to her companion: My dear, come and let us wander about the world and let us hear from behind הַפַּרְגּוֹד (ha-parggod), the curtain, what suffering is coming on the world [in the divine judgment pronounced on Rosh Hashanah]. Her companion said to her: I am not able, because I am buried in a matting of reeds [and not in a linen shroud]. But do go, and whatever you hear tell me.

So the other went and wandered about and returned. Her companion said to her: My dear, what have you heard from behind the curtain? She replied: I heard that whoever sows after the first rainfall [about the seventeenth of Heshvan (Rashi)] will have his crop destroyed by hail. So the man went and did not sow till after the second rainfall [which would be about six days after the first], with the result that everyone else’s crop was destroyed but his was not destroyed [not being sufficiently grown yet].

The next year he again went and passed the night in the cemetery, and heard the two spirits conversing with one another. One said to her companion: Come and let us wander about the world and hear from behind the curtain what punishment is coming upon the world. The other said to her: My dear, did I not tell you that I am not able because I am buried in a matting of reeds? But you go, and whatever you hear, come and tell me. So the other one went and wandered about the world and returned. She said to her: My dear, what have you heard from behind the curtain? She replied: I heard that whoever sows after the later rain will have his crop struck with blight. So the man went and sowed after the first rain with the result that everyone else’s crop was blighted but his was not blighted [being by now strong enough to resist]. His wife said to him: How is it that last year everyone else’s crop was destroyed but yours was not destroyed, and this year everyone else’s crop is blighted and yours is not blighted? So he related to her all his experiences.

The story goes that shortly afterwards a quarrel broke out between the wife of that devout man and the mother of the child [whose ruaḥ, spirit, the devout man had heard conversing], and the former said to the latter, Come and I will show you your daughter buried in a matting of reeds. The next year the man again went and spent the night in the cemetery and heard those conversing together. One said: My dear, come and let us wander about the world and hear from behind the curtain what suffering is coming upon the world. Said the other: My dear, leave me alone; our conversation has already been heard among the living. This would prove that they know?—perhaps some other man after his death went and told them.

Come and hear: for Ze’iri deposited some money with his landlady, and while he was away visiting Rav she died. So he went after her to the court of death and said to her, Where is my money? She replied to him: Go and take it from under the ground, in the hole of the doorpost, in such and such a place, and tell my mother to send me my comb and my tube of eye-paint by the hand of so-and-so who is coming here tomorrow. Does not this show that they know?—perhaps דוּמָה (Dumah) [lit., Silence, the angel presiding over the dead] announces to them beforehand [that so-and-so will die, but they know nothing else].

Come and hear: The father of Shemu’el had some money belonging to orphans deposited with him. When he died, Shemu’el was not with him, and they called him, ‘The son who consumes the money of orphans.’ So he went after his father to the cemetery, and said to them [the dead]. I am looking for Abba. They said to him: There are many of that name here. I want Abba son of Abba, he said. They replied: There are also several Abbas son of Abba here. He then said to them: I want Abba son of Abba the father of Shemu’el; where is he? They replied: He has gone up to the מְתִיבְתָּא רָקִיעַא (metivta raqia), celestial academy.

Meanwhile he saw Levi sitting outside. He said to him: Why are you sitting outside? Why have you not gone up? He replied: Because they said to me: For as many years as you did not go up to the academy of Rav Efes and hurt his feelings [see BT Ketubbot 13b], we will not let you go up to the celestial academy. Meanwhile his father came. Shemu’el observed that he was both weeping and laughing. He said to him: Why are you weeping? He replied: Because you are coming here soon. And why are you laughing? Because you are highly esteemed in this world. He thereupon said to him: If I am esteemed, let them take up Levi; and they did take up Levi. He then said to him: Where is the money of the orphans? He replied: Go and you will find it in the case of the millstones. The money at the top and the bottom is mine, that in the middle is the orphans’ He said to him: Why did you do like that? He replied: So that if thieves came, they should take mine, and if the earth destroyed any, it should destroy mine. Does not this show that they know?—perhaps Shemu’el was exceptional: as he was esteemed, they proclaimed beforehand, Make way [for him]!

Rabbi Yonatan also retracted his opinion. For Rabbi Shemu’el son of Naḥmani said in the name of Rabbi Yonatan: Whence do we know that the dead converse with one another? Because it says: And YHWH said to him, ‘This is the land that I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, [To your seed I will give it’] (Deuteronomy 34:4). What is the meaning of לֵאמֹר (lemor), saying? The blessed Holy One said to Moses: Say to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: The oath which I swore to you I have already carried out for your descendants.

Now if you maintain that the dead do not know, what would be the use of his telling them?—you infer then that they do know. In that case, why should he need to tell them?—so that they might be grateful to Moses. Rabbi Yitsḥaq said: If one makes remarks about the dead, it is like making remarks about a stone. Some say [the reason is that] they do not know, others that they know but do not care. Can that be so? Has not Rav Papa said: A certain man made derogatory remarks about Mar Shemu’el and a log fell from the roof and broke his skull?—a disciple of wisdom is different, because the blessed Holy One avenges his honor” (BT Berakhot 18b–19a).

“Rabbi Ḥiyya prostrated himself on the ground, kissing the dust and weeping. He cried out, ‘Dust, dust, how stubborn you are, how impudent! All delights of the eye decay in you. All pillars of light in the world you consume and pulverize. How insolent you are! The Holy Lamp who has illumined the world, majestic ruler, prince, whose merit sustains the world, decays in you. O Rabbi Shim’on, radiance of the lamp, radiance of the worlds, you decompose in the dust, yet you subsist and guide the world!’

For a moment he was shocked, and then exclaimed, ‘Dust, dust, do not boast! The pillars of the world will not be surrendered to you. Rabbi Shim’on has not decayed in you! [since the bodies of the righteous do not decay, see BT Bava Metsi’a 84b]” (Zohar 1:4b).

“Rabbi Yehudah son of Shalom was walking on the way, and Rabbi Abba was with him. They entered a certain אַתְרָא (atra), place and lodged there [alt., אִדְּרָא (iddera), threshing floor, from the Greek ἕδρᾱ (hedra), seat, implying a sacred site (see Meroz, ‘The Story in the Zohar about the Grieving Dead’)]. They ate. When they wished to lie down, they lay their heads on a mound of earth—where there was a grave. Before they fell asleep, a voice called out from the grave, saying, ‘A seed is earthbound. For twelve years I have not awakened, except now; I have just seen the countenance of my son!’

Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘Who are you?’ He replied, ‘I am a Jew and I sit reproached; I do not want to enter on account of my son’s sorrow, for a gentile kidnapped him when he was young, and he beats him every day. His sorrow prevents me from entering my site, and I have not awakened in this place until now.’ He said to him, ‘Are you aware of the sorrows of the living? He replied, ‘[By the life of] the denizens of the graves! Were it not for our supplications on behalf of the living, they would not survive for even half a day! Now I have awakened here, for today I was told that presently my son would be coming here, though I know not whether dead or alive [cf. BT Sanhedrin 104a].’

Rabbi Yehudah said to him, ‘What is your business in that world?’ The grave rumbled and said, ‘Arise, be gone! For now they are beating my son.’ They were stunned and fled from there about half a mile. They sat until the morning shone. They rose to walk on. They saw a person running and fleeing, his shoulders dripping blood. They grabbed him and he told them what had happened. They said to him, ‘What is your name?’

He replied, ‘Laḥma son of Levai.’ They said, ‘Was not that dead man Levai son of Laḥma?! We are afraid to speak with him anymore [cf. BT Ta’anit 16a]! They did not return. Rabbi Abba said, ‘Concerning what they said: that the prayers of the dead protect the living—how do we know? As is written: They went up through the Negeb, and he came as far as Hebron (Numbers 13:22) [cf. BT Sotah 34b]'” (Zohar 2:16a–b, Midrash ha-Ne’lam).

“Inhabitants of the world will one day cry out, and no one will care about them. They will turn their heads in every direction and turn back without a remedy. But one remedy I have found in the world and no more. In a place where there exist those who toil in Torah, if there exists among them a Torah scroll free of falsification—when they take this out, for its sake upper and lower beings arouse, especially if the Holy Name is written therein properly. We have already learned this matter.

Woe to the generation among whom the Torah scroll is exiled, yet beings above and below fail to arouse! Who will arouse for it when the world is in greater trouble and the Torah scroll must be exiled further because of the world’s distress? For when the world suffers and people pray for mercy at the graves, all the dead arouse for them. נֶפֶשׁ (Nefesh) hastens to inform רוּחַ (ruaḥ) that the Torah scroll is in exile—exiled because of the world’s distress—and the living are coming and pleading for mercy. Then ruaḥ informs נְשָׁמָה (neshamah), and neshamah informs the blessed Holy One. Then the blessed Holy One arouses and has compassion upon the upper world—all because the Torah scroll was exiled from its place and the living come to pray for mercy at the graves of the dead. Woe to the generation if the Torah scroll must be exiled from place to place—even from synagogue to synagogue—for they lack anything to stimulate caring for them! …

We have learned: For twelve months nefesh is bound to the body in the grave and they are judged as one, except for nefesh of the righteous, as we have established. She is present in the grave, aware of its suffering and of the suffering of the living, but she does not exert herself for them. After twelve months, she clothes herself in a certain garment and goes roaming through the world. She discovers from ruaḥ what she discovers and exerts herself for the suffering of the living.

Who arouses all this? A virtuous person—when there is one—who informs them fittingly; that virtuous one is recognized by them. Come and see: When a virtuous person endures, he is known among the living and among the dead, for every day he is proclaimed among them. When suffering intensifies in the world and he cannot protect the generation, he informs them of the world’s suffering. When there is no virtuous person to be proclaimed among them, when no one can be found to arouse them for the suffering of the world except for the Torah scroll, then upper and lower beings arouse over it. At that time, all must engage in teshuvah; if they do not, masters of judgment arouse against them—even ruḥot, spirits, in the Garden of Eden arouse against them.

I will lie down with my fathers (Genesis 47:30)—in body, nefeshruaḥneshamah, in a single chariot, on a supernal rung.

Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘How utterly stopped up are inhabitants of the world, neither knowing nor hearing nor contemplating matters of the world, and how the blessed Holy One hovers over them compassionately, constantly. No one is aware!

Three times a day, one spirit enters the cave of Machpelah and wafts upon the graves of the patriarchs; bones heal and stand vitally erect. That spirit draws down dew from above—from the head of the King, site of supernal patriarchs—and when that dew arrives from them, the patriarchs below awaken.

Come and see: That dew descends by certain levels, level after level, reaching the lower Garden of Eden, where it is infused by the spices of the Garden. One spirit arouses—composed of two others—rising, drifting among the spices, entering the opening of the cave. Then the patriarchs awaken, they and their spouses, and plead for mercy for their children.

When the world is in distress because they are asleep on account of the sins of the world, that dew does not flow or appear until a Torah scroll arouses fittingly in the world. Then nefesh informs ruaḥ, and ruaḥ neshamah, and neshamah the blessed Holy One. The King then sits on the throne of mercy, and there issues from the supernal Ancient One a flow of טַלָּא דִּבְדוֹלְחָא (talla di-vdulḥa), crystal dew, reaching the head of the King, and the patriarchs are blessed, and that dew flows to those sleepers, who then all conjoin, and the blessed Holy One has compassion upon the world.

Come and see: The blessed Holy One does not have compassion upon the world until He has informed the patriarchs, and for their sake the world is blessed” (Zohar 1:225a–b).

“Those [Egyptian] sorcerers would go to cemeteries and perform their sorcery and make an image of a human and slaughter before it one goat. Afterward they put that goat in a certain grave, break that image into four quarters, and place them in the four corners of the grave. Then they perform their sorcery, and an assemblage of those evil species gathers and brings that soul, which enters the grave and speaks to them.

Rabbi Yitsḥaq said, ‘Happy are the righteous in this world and in the world that is coming, for they are holy! Their body is holy, their nefesh is holy, their ruaḥ is holy, their neshamah is holy of holies—three rungs, corresponding to the pattern above. For it has been taught: Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘It is written Let the earth bring forth נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה (nefesh ḥayyah), a living soul (Genesis 1:24)—supernal soul of supernal Adam.

Come and see: There are three rungs, joining as one—nefesh, ruaḥ, neshamah—and highest of them is neshamah. For Rabbi Yose has said, ‘All people have nefesh, though one nefesh is superior to another. If a person proves worthy of this nefesh, a certain crown is infused in him, called ruaḥ, as is written: until רוּחַ (ruaḥ), is poured upon us from on high (Isaiah 32:15). Then the person is aroused by another sublime arousal to contemplate the ways of the Holy King. If the person proves worthy of that ruaḥ, he is adorned with a supernal holy crown encompassing all, called neshamah—called נִּשְׁמַת אֱלוֹהַּ (nishmat Eloah), soul of God (Job 4:9)….

One should not go there without teshuvah and without fasting, to plead before them. Rabbi Ḥiyya said, ‘Without three fasts.’ Rabbi Yose said, ‘Even one, on that day—but only if the world is plunged in great suffering. Then [the souls of the righteous] all join to plead for mercy over the world.’ …

Rabbi Yeisa said, ‘When the world is in need, why do we go to the dead? Is it not written or inquires of the dead (Deuteronomy 18:11)? So it is forbidden! He [Rabbi Ḥizkiyah] replied, ‘You have not seen the wings of the Bird of Eden [i.e., Shekhinah]. Or inquires of the dead—precisely, who are the wicked of the world, of the other nations, who are always dead. But as for Israel, who are truly righteous, Solomon declared over them, the dead, who have already died (Ecclesiastes 4:2)—another time, not now. Who have already died—and now they are alive.

Furthermore, when other nations visit their dead, they come with sorcery to arouse evil species [cf. Leqaḥ Tov on Deuteronomy 34:6]. But when the people of Israel does so, they come in great teshuvah before the blessed Holy One, with a broken heart, with fasting—and all so that those holy souls will plead before the blessed Holy One for mercy upon them.

Consequently we have learned: Even though a righteous person has departed from this world, he has not disappeared or vanished from all the worlds, since he exists in all those worlds more than in his lifetime [cf. BT Qetubbot 103a; Freud, Totem and Taboo]. During his life he exists only in this world; afterward he exists in three worlds and is welcome there, as is written: Therefore, maidens, love you (Song of Songs 1:3)—do not read עֲלָמוֹת (alamot), maidens, but rather עוֹלָמוֹת (olamot), worlds. Happy is their share!” (Zohar 3:70a–71b, cf. BT Bava Metsi’a 85b; Qohelet Rabbah on 10:10; Sefer Ḥasidim [ed. Margaliot] 450, 452).

The Earth Opened its Mouth and Swallowed Them Measure for Measure

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And the human knew Eve his woman and she conceived and bore קַיִן (qayin), Cain, and she said, “I have got me, a man with YHWH. And she bore as well his brother הֶבֶל (hevel), Abel, and Abel became a herder of sheep while Cain was a tiller of the soil. And it happened in the course of time that Cain brought from the fruit of the soil an offering to YHWH. And Able too had brought from the choice firstlings of his flock, and YHWH regarded Abel and his offering but He did not regard Cain and his offering, and Cain was very incensed, and his face fell…. And Cain said to Abel his brother, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field Cain rose against Abel his brother and killed him. And YHWH said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said,“I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” And He said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cry out to me from the soil. And so, cursed shall you be by the soil that gaped with its mouth to take your brother’s blood from your hand.” And Cain said to YHWH, “My punishment is too great to bear” (Genesis 4:1–11).

And Cain said to Abel his brother, ‘Let us go out to the field’ (Genesis 4:8). And it was when the two of them had gone out to the field, Cain said to Abel, ‘There is no judgment, and there is no judge, and there is no other world, and there is no gift of good reward for the righteous, and there is no punishment for the wicked. And the world was not created in compassion and it is not governed with compassion. For what reason was your offering accepted from you with favor, but from me it was not accepted with favor?!’ Abel said to him, ‘There is judgment and there is a Judge and there is another world, and there is a gift of good reward for the righteous, and punishment for the wicked. The world was created in compassion and it is governed with compassion. Because the fruits of [my] good deeds were better than yours, my offering was accepted from me with favor but from you it was not accepted with favor.’ And the two of them were arguing in the field and Cain rose against Abel his brother and killed him (ibid.)” (Fragment Targum).

“From the filth [injected into Eve by the primordial serpent] Cain came forth and killed Abel the shepherd, of whom it is written: For he is but flesh (Genesis 6:3). בְּשַׁגַּם (Beshagam), for (ibid.), is Abel, and he killed him, as is known. However, בְּשַׁגַּם (beshagam), for, [he is but flesh. Let his days be a hundred and twenty years] is certainly [a hint to] Moses and he was firstborn of the [primordial] human [בְּשַׁגַּם (beshagam), for, is numerically equivalent to מֹשֶׁה (moshe), Moses, see BT Ḥullin 139b].

And with all this, for the sake of covering the nakedness of his father, Moses took the daughter of Jethro to be his wife. Of Jethro, it is written: And the sons of the Kenite, the father-in-law of Moses (Judges 1:16)—this has already been explained [see Sifrei Bemidbar, Be-Ha’alotekha, 78; Shemot Rabbah 27:7; Mekhilta Yitro, Amaleq, 1; Tanḥuma, Shemot, 11; cf. BT Bava Batra 109b; Zohar 3:215b (RM)]. Why was Jethro called Kenite? Because he detached himself from Cain, as is written: And Heber הַקֵּינִי (ha-qeni), the Kenite, had separated from קַיִן (qayin), Cain (Judges 4:11) [on Jethro’s seven names, see Mekhilta de-Rabbi Yishma’el, Amaleq, 3]” (Zohar 1:28b, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar).

“And they taught about Jethro: Why is his name called ‘Kenite?’ Because הַקֵּינִי (ha-qeni), the Kenite, had separated from קַיִן (qayin), Cain (Judges 4:11). The Holy Lamp [Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai] rose and said: Therefore it is said: קָנִיתִי (Qaniti)I have got me, a man with YHWH (Genesis 4:1), for [Eve] saw through the Holy Spirit that in the future [Jethro’s] sons would sit in the Chamber of Hewn Stone [meeting place of the Sanhedrin, see BT Sotah 11a]” (Zohar 3:215b, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

He who sheds human blood by humans [his blood will be shed] (Genesis 9:6)—that very man himself. The one slain will kill the one who killed him, according to ‘Because you drowned [them], they drowned you…’ (M Avot 2:7). Thus Abel killed Cain in the days of Moses, and the death of Korah by swallowing, measure for measure, is known. Like Korah, test and demand with warp and woof and you will find a wondrous secret [i.e., comb the fabric of the text (Numbers 16:1) lengthwise and breadthwise. Cf. M Kil’ayim 9:8; BT Sanhedrin 110a]” (Rabbi Menaḥem Tsiyyoni, Sefer Tsiyyoni, Qoraḥ, 82):

וַיִּקַּח קֹרַח בֶּן יִצְהָר בֶּן קְהָת בֶּן לֵוִי (Va-yiqaḥ qoraḥ ben yitshar ben qehat ben levi), and Korah son of Izhar son of Kohath son of Levi, and Datham and Abiram sons of Eliab and On son of Peleth sons of Reuben, took up, and they rose before Moses, and two hundred fifty men of the Israelites, community chieftains, persons called up to meeting, men of renown. And they assembled against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, “You have too much! For all the community, they are all holy, and in their midst is YHWH, and why should you raise yourselves up over YHWH’s assembly?” And Moses heard and fell on his face…. The ground that was under them split apart, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households and every human being that was Korah’s, and all his possessions (Numbers 16:1–4, 32)—קַיִן (qayin), Cainהֶבֶל (hevel), Abel.

“‘Rabbi Akiva said: The company of Korah has no share in the world that is coming. Rabbi Eli’ezer said: YHWH kills and gives life, brings down to Sheol and raises up (1 Samuel 2:6)’ (M Sanhedrin 10:3). Our Rabbis taught: for it is said, And the earth covered over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly (Numbers 16:33)—this is Rabbi Akiva’s view. Rabbi Yehudah son of Batira said: They are as a lost article, which is sought, for it is said, I have wandered like a lost sheep. Seek Your servant, for Your commands I did not forget (Psalms 119:176).

Korah took (Numbers 16:1). Resh Laqish said: He took a bad bargain [or: purchase] for himself, being plucked out of Israel [קֵרֵחַ (qereaḥ), baldness, puns on קֹרַח (qora), Korah]. Son of יִצְהָר (yitshar), Izhar (ibid.)—a son who incensed the whole world with himself as the [heat of] צֹהַרִים (tsoharim), noon. Son of קְהָת (qehat)Kohath (ibid.)—a son who קֵהֶה (qeheh), set on edge, the teeth of his progenitors [i.e., who disgraced his parents]. Son of לֵוִי (levi), Levi (ibid.)—a son who joined the לְוָיָה (levayah), retinue, of Hell. Then why not say too ‘son of יַעֲקֹב (ya’aqov), Jacob,’ [implying] a son who עַקָב (eqev), marched, himself into Hell?—Rabbi Shemu’el son of Rabbi Yitsḥaq answered: Jacob supplicated for himself [not to be counted amongst Korah’s ancestors], as is written, In their council let me never set foot, their assembly my presence shun (Genesis 49:6): In their council let me never set foot—the spies [in no case is the genealogy of the spies traced to Jacob (Rashi)]; their assembly my presence shun—to the company of Korah. דָתָן (Datan), Datham [Korah’s ally], (ibid.)—stepped over the דָת (dat), law, of God; אֲבִירָם (Aviram), Abiram (ibid.)—stoutly refused to repent; אוֹן (on), On (ibid.)—he sat in אֹנינוֹת (oninot), lamentations; פֶּלֶת (pelet), Peleth (ibid.)—פֶּלֶאוֹת (pele’ot), wonders, were done for him [since he abandoned the conspiracy, and was miraculously saved from its fate]; son of רְאוּבֵן (reuven), Reuben—a son who רֵאָה (re’ah), saw, and הַבִין (havin), understood.

Rav said: On son of Peleth was saved by his wife. She said to him, ‘What does it matter to you? Whether the one [Moses] remains master or the other [Korah] becomes master, you are but a disciple.’ He replied, ‘But what can I do? I have taken part in their counsel, and they have sworn me [to be] with them.’ She said, ‘I know that they are all a holy community, as is written, For all the community, they are all holy (Numbers 16:3). Sit here, and I will save you.’ She gave him wine to drink, intoxicated him and laid him down within [the tent]. Then she sat down there at the entrance and loosened her hair. Whoever came [to summon him] saw her and retreated.

Meanwhile, Korah’s wife joined [the rebels] and said to him [Korah], ‘See what Moses has done. He himself has become king; his brother he appointed High Priest; his brother’s sons he has made the vice High Priests. If terumah is brought, he decrees, Let it be for the priest; if the tithe is brought, which belongs to you [being a Levite], he orders, Give a tenth part thereof to the priest. Moreover, he has had your hair cut off [in accordance with the purification rites of the Levites (see Numbers 8:7)], and makes sport of you as though you were dirt; for he cast his eyes on your hair [i.e., he is envious].’

He said to her, ‘But he has done likewise!’ She replied, ‘Since all the greatness was his, he said also, Let me die with the Philistines! (Judges 16:30) [this was used proverbially to denote readiness to suffer, so that others might suffer too—Moses, retaining all the greatness himself, did not mind shaving his own hair off, seeing that he had caused all the rest to do so, thus depriving them of their beauty]. Moreover, he has commanded you, Set [fringes] of indigo wool [in the corners of your garments (see Numbers 15:38)]; but if there is virtue in indigo wool, then bring forth indigo wool, and clothe your entire academy with it.’

Thus is written, Every wise woman has built her house (Proverbs 14:1)—wife of On son of Peleth; and Folly with her own hands destroys it (ibid.)—Korah’s wife” (BT Sanhedrin 109b–110a).

“Come and see: The Levites, who come from the side of Judgment, are not purified until their hair is removed, as is written: Thus you shall do to them to purify them: sprinkle on them expiation water and have them pass a razor over all their flesh (Numbers 8:7). And in order for them to be further assuaged, the priest, who comes from the side of Ḥesed, must elevate them, as is written: Aaron shall make of the Levites an elevation offering before YHWH (ibid., 11)….

Rabbi Yitsḥaq said, ‘The greatest of all Levites was Korah, whom the blessed holy One made below corresponding to the pattern above, calling him קֹרַח (qoraḥ), Korah…. He is קֵרֵחַ (qereaḥ), bald (Leviticus 13:40). When Korah saw his head hairless and saw Aaron bedecked with royal adornments, he felt belittled and was jealous of Aaron [cf. Tanḥuma, Qoraḥ 3; Tanḥuma (Buber), Qoraḥ 6; Bemibar Rabbah 18:4]. The blessed Holy One said to him, ‘I made you corresponding to the pattern above. You do not wish to ascend among those above? Go down and be among those below!—as is written: and they go down alive to Sheol (Numbers 16:30). What is Sheol? Hell, where the wicked cry out and no one has compassion on them. Yet they are destined to ascend and be revived when the blessed Holy One awakens His people and revives them, as is written: YHWH kills and gives life, brings down to Sheol and raises up (1 Samuel 2:6)” (Zohar 3:49a).

“Every conflict that is for the sake of heaven is destined to endure, while any conflict not for the sake of heaven is not destined to endure. Which conflict is for the sake of heaven? The conflict between Hillel and Shammai. Which conflict is not for the sake of heaven? The conflict of Korah and his entire band” (M Avot 5:17, cf. Liqqutei Moharan 64:4).

“Rabbi Abba said in the name of Shemu’el: For three years there was a conflict between the House of Shammai and the House of Hillel. These said, ‘The Halakhah accords with us.’ And the those said, ‘The Halakhah accords with us.’ Then an echo went forth announcing, ‘Both are the words of אֱלֹהִים חַיִּים (Elohim ḥayyim), the living God, but the Halakhah is in accord with the rulings of the House of Hillel.’ Since, however, both are the words of the living God, what was it that entitled the House of Hillel to have the Halakhah fixed in accord with their rulings? Because they were kindly and modest, they studied their own rulings and those of the House of Shammai [see for example BT Berakhot 10b], and were even so [humble] as to mention the words of the House of Shammai before theirs” (BT Eruvin 13b).

“[Rabbi Shim’on ha-Amsoni said:] Just as I received reward for the exposition, so I will receive reward for the retraction [to be defeated by the truth is a defeat which is also a victory]” (BT Pesaḥim 22b).

“Doubts make sages of men” (Midrash Shemu’el on M Avot 5:27).

“In the act of Creation a conflict arose between left and right, and in that conflict aroused by the left, Hell emerged, clinging there. The central pillar, who is the third day, entered between them, mediating the conflict, reconciling the two sides. Hell descended, left merged in right, and peace prevailed over all [cf. Zohar 1:87a].

Similarly the conflict between Korah and Aaron was left against right. Moses, contemplating the act of Creation, said, ‘It is fitting that I mediate the conflict between left and right.’ He endeavored to reconcile them, but the left was unwilling, and Korah stiffened his resistance. He [Moses] said, ‘Hell must certainly join in the heat of the conflict of the left. Since he does not want to join above, merging in the right, he will certainly descend below by the intensity of his rage.’ Korah did not want this conflict to be harmonized by Moses because it was not for the sake of heaven; he cared nothing about the supernal glory and denied the act of Creation. As soon as Moses saw that he had denied the act of Creation and been thrust outside, Moses became very angry (Numbers 16:5). Moses became very angry because they had denied the act of Creation. Korah denied everything above and below, as is written: who strove against Moses and Aaron as part of Korah’s band when they strove against YHWH (ibid. 26:9), below and above. So he joined what befitted him [i.e., Hell, Sheol].

A conflict arrayed as above, ascending, not descending, established rightly, is the conflict of Hillel and Shammai. The blessed holy One mediated between them, harmonizing them. This was a conflict for the sake of heaven, so Heaven [Tif’eret] mediated the conflict, and upon this conflict the world was established. This resembled the act of Creation, whereas Korah totally denied the act of Creation, disputing heaven, seeking to deny the words of Torah. He certainly adhered to Hell, so there he clung. This secret appears in The Book of Adam. When darkness aroused, it aroused intensely, thereby creating Hell, clinging to it in that conflict. As seething fury subsided, conflict of a different type arose: a conflict of love. There were two conflicts: one, beginning; one, ending. This is the way of the righteous: beginning harshly, ending gently [cf. BT Qiddushin 30b]. Korah was the beginning of the conflict: seething in wrath, he was compelled to cling to Hell. Shammai was the end of the conflict, when wrath subsides and one must arouse the conflict of love and be reconciled by heaven” (Zohar 1:17a–b).

“Rabbi Berekhiyah said: What is The words of the wise are כַּדָּרְבֹנוֹת (ka-darvonot), like goads… [given from one shepherd] (Ecclesiastes 12:11)? כַּדוּר שֶׁל בָּנוֹת (Kadur shel banot), a girls’ ball—one tosses it here, and the other tosses it there. So too the Sages, who delve into Talmud and engage in Torah: one gives his reasoning and the other his, one puts forward one account and the other another, but the words of all are from Moses, the shepherd, who received from the Singular One of the world. Since one gives one account and the other another, perhaps their words merely fly about. Therefore it is written, like nails driven in (ibid.)” (Pesiqta Rabbati 3:1).

Composers of collections (Ecclesiastes 12:11)—those who enter and sit assembled in assemblies, declaring what is impure [to be] impure, and what is pure [to be] pure; what is impure in its place, and what is pure in its place.

Should a man think to himself, ‘Since the House of Shammai declare impure and the House of Hillel declare pure, so-and-so forbids, and so-and-so permits, how then shall I learn Torah? Therefore it says [And God spoke] all these words (Exodus 20:1).

Given from one shepherd (Ecclesiastes 12:11)—one God created them. One Leader gave them. The blessed Master of Deeds spoke them. Therefore make of your heart chambers and chambers and bring into it the words of the House of Shammai and the words of the House of Hillel, the words of those who declare impure and the words of those who declare pure” (Tosefta Sotah 7:12, cf. Job 22:22; BT Ḥagigah 3b; Bemidbar Rabbah 14:4).

“One who sees a crowd says, ‘Blessed is He who knows secrets. Just as their faces are different one from the other, so are their opinions different one from the other” (JT Berakhot 9:1, 13b).

“Within Torah is power of the right, as is said: from His right hand, a fiery law for them (Deuteronomy 33:2), and left is included in right. Whoever makes right left, and left right, is as if he destroys the world.

Come and see: Aaron is right; Levites are left. Korah sought to change right into left, so he was punished. Furthermore, he possessed the לָשׁוֹן הָרַע (lashon ha-ra), evil tongue, and he was punished entirely.

Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘Left is always included in right. Korah sought to change the arrangement of above and below, so he was eliminated from above and below.

Korah took (Numbers 16:1). What is meant by took? He took evil counsel for himself. If anyone chases after something that is not his, it escapes him; and what is more, he loses what he has. Korah pursued that which was not his; he lost his own without attaining the other [cf. Tosefta Sotah 4:19; BT Sotah 9b; Bereshit Rabbah 20:5; Mishnat Rabbi Eli’ezer 18, p. 334].

Come and see: The world exists only by peace. When the blessed Holy One created the world, it could not endure until peace came and settled upon all. What is it? Sabbath, which is peace of those above and below. Then the world endured. And whoever quarrels with it will be eliminated from the world [cf. M Avot 1:18]” (Zohar 3:176a).

A Generation Goes and a Generation Comes

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YHWH, God of the spirits for all flesh (Numbers 27:16)—the verse tells us that all spirits go out only from Him. Rabbi Eli’ezer son of Rabbi Yose the Galilean says: Let this sign always be in your hand, that all during a man’s given life span נַפְשׁוֺ (nafsho), his life, is held in the hand of his Maker, as is written, In whose hand is נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh), the breath, of each living thing, [and רוּחַ (ruaḥ), the spirit, of all human flesh] (Job 12:10). When he dies, it is given to the אוֹצָר (otsar), treasury, as is written, My lord’s soul will be bound in צְרוֹר הַחַיִּים (tseror ha-ḥayyim), the bundle of the living (1 Samuel 25:29) [see Targum Yonatan ad loc.: My lord’s soul will be bound in the גְּנַז חַיֵי (genaz ḥayei), treasury of the livingtseror ha-ḥayyim may be rendered as purse of the living, see for example Genesis 42:35; Proverbs 7:20]. I might think both the righteous and the wicked, thus it is written, The souls of your enemies He will sling from the hollow of a sling (ibid.).

Appoint a man over the community (Numbers 27:16)—Joshua [for whom the manna descended over and against all of Israel], as is written, [And He charged the skies above, and the doors of the heavens He opened, and rained on them manna to eat and the grain of the heavens He gave to them.Princely bread a man did eat, provisions He sent them to sate them (Psalms 78:25) [cf. BT Ḥagigah 12b ad loc.]. And why did Scripture not specify [Joshua]? So as not to stir up controversy [over the appointment of Joshua] among [Moses’s] sons and the sons of his brother.

Who will go out before them and come in before them [and who will lead them in and out on the march so that YHWH’s community will not be like a flock that has no shepherd] (Numbers 27:16)—not in the manner of others who send troops [to the vanguard] while they come out towards the end [i.e., escape to the rear]. Rather as Moses did: And YHWH said to Moses, ‘Do not fear him, for into your hand I have given him (Numbers 21:34). And as Joshua did: And Joshua went toward him and said to him, Are you ours or our foes’? (Joshua 5:13). And as Phinehas did: And Moses sent them out, a thousand for the tribe to the army—them and Phinehas (ibid. 31:6).

Who will go out before them and come in before them—as chief: [And David said, ‘Whoever strikes down the Jebusite first shall be chief and commander.’] And Joab son of Zeruiah went up first and became chief (1 Chronicles 11:6). Who will go out before them—in a troop; and come in before them—in a troop. Who will go out before them—on the way; and come in before them—on the way. Who will go out before them—with his merits; and come in before them—with his merits. Who will go out before them—in counting; and come in before them—in counting, as is written, And they said to Moses, ‘Your servants have counted the heads of the men of war who are in our hands, and not a man of them is missing. [And we would offer up YHWH’s offering, each man what he found of gold ornaments, armband and bracelet, ring, earring, and pendant, to atone for our lives before YHWH] (Numbers 31:49). Now, why did they need atonement? Because they feasted their eyes on nakedness [i.e., on the Midianite women, see ibid., 16].

So that YHWH’s community will not be like a flock that has no shepherd (ibid. 27:17). Concerning this, [see] the interpretation of קַבָּלָה (qabbalah), tradition: Tell me, whom I love so, [where you pasture your flock at noon, lest I be כְּעֹטְיָה (ke’oteyah), as one that covers up, by the flocks of your companions] (Song of Songs 1:7)—corresponding to what is said, [And he shall set fire to the houses of the gods of Egypt, and he shall burn them and take them captive] and wrap round the land of Egypt as a shepherd יַעְטֶה (ya’eteh), wraps himself, in his garment (Jeremiah 43:12). By the flocks of your companions (Song of Songs ibid.)—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Go out and see: The blessed Holy One answers, Loveliest of women, if you lose your way, go follow in the עִקְבֵי (iqvei), tracks, of the sheep (Song of Songs 1:8)—what I am destined to do for them in עֲקֵבִים (aqevim), the end. And graze your goats by the shepherd’s shelters (ibid.)—how is it you say that YHWH showed Moses all the leaders who were destined to serve Israel from the day they left the wilderness until the revival of the dead? As is said, Go follow in the tracks of the sheep” (Sifrei Numbers 139).

“Our Rabbis taught: The spirit returns to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7)—give it back to Him as He gave it to you, in a state of purity. This may be compared to a mortal king who distributed royal robes to his slaves. The wise among them folded them up and put them away in a chest, while the fools among them went and worked in them. After some time, the king wanted his garments. The wise returned them clean, while the fools returned them soiled. The king was pleased with the wise; but he was angry with the fools. Concerning the wise he said, ‘Let the garments be returned to אוֹצָר (otsar), the storehouse, and they return to their homes in peace.’ Concerning the fools he said, ‘Let the garments be given to the laundry, while they be confined in jail.’ Similarly, the blessed Holy One. Concerning the bodies of the righteous He says, Yet he shall come in peace, they shall rest on their couches (Isaiah 57:2), and concerning their souls He says, My lord’s soul will be bound in the bundle of the living (1 Samuel 25:29). Concerning the bodies of the wicked He says, There is no well-being, said YHWH, for the wicked (Isaiah 48:22), and concerning their souls He says, The souls of your enemies He will sling from the hollow of the sling (1 Samuel 25:29).

It was taught, Rabbi Eli’ezer said: The souls of the righteous are treasured away under the כִּסֵּא (kisse), Throne, of Glory, as is said, My lord’s soul will be bound in the purse of the living (ibid.) [see BT Sanhedrin 97a: ‘Son of David will not come until the (last) coin goes out from כִּיס (kis), the purse’]. But those of the wicked continue to be bound, while one angel stands at one end of the world and a second stands at the other end, and they sling their souls to each other, as is said, The souls of Your enemies he will sling from the hollow of a sling” (BT Shabbat 152b).

They will perish and You will yet stand. They will all wear away like a garment. Like clothing You change them, and they pass away. But You—Your years never end (Psalms 102:26–27).

Rabbi Me’ir said: YHWH shall reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations (Psalm 146:10)—what is for all generations? Rabbi Papias said: A generation goes and a generation comes (Ecclesiastes 1:4). Rabbi Akiva said: The generation already came.

A parable: To what can the matter be compared? A king had slaves, and clothed them in garments of silk and embroidery in accordance with his wealth. They went astray, so he stripped them of their garments, and flung them from him. They went on their way. He took the garments and washed them well, until no stain remained, and he kept them with him, ready. He then bought other slaves and dressed them in those garments. Not knowing whether these slaves were good or not, they were worthy of garments that had already come into the world, and that others had worn before them. [A generation goes and a generation comes.] But the earth endures forever (Ecclesiastes 1:4)—the same as And dust returns to the earth as it was, and the רוּחַ (ruaḥ), life-breath, returns to God who gave it (ibid. 12:6)” (Bahir §§121–122).

“[Of the ten sefirot] seventh is east of the world, whence comes the seed of Israel. For the spinal cord draws from the brain of man and reaches to the ‘middle finger’ whence comes seed, as is written, From the east I will bring your seed (Isaiah 43:5) [cf. BT Bava Batra 25a: ‘Rabbi Abbahu said, Shekhinah (receives) in the west’]. When Israel is good before the Omnipresent: I will bring your seed and you will have new seed. But when Israel is bad, the seed is from that which has already come into the world, as is written, A generation goes and a generation comes (Ecclesiastes 1:4)—teaching it has already come” (Bahir §155).

“He is All, and in His hand is אוֹצַר הַנְּשָׁמוֹת (otsar ha-neshamot), the Treasury of Souls. And when Israel is good, souls are worthy to go out and come in (Deuteronomy 31:2)—to this world. But if they are not good, they do not go out. Therefore, we say, ‘Son of David will not come until all souls in the body have been consumed’ (BT Yevamot 62a)—they will be worthy that new ones go out. And then Son of David succeeds in being born. How so? Since his soul will go out anew with all the others. 

A parable: To what can the matter be compared? A king had an army. He sent them an abundance of food and bread, [but] they were sluggardly and did not eat it they did not even keep it—the bread became moldy and went to waste. [Now, the king] came to inquire and to take a census whether they had enough to eat. He found moldy bread and that they were ashamed to ask [of him] other bread, to say: We did not keep it, now we must ask for another. The king became angry, took the moldy bread and ordered that it be dried and improved as much as possible and swore, ‘I will not give these people any other bread until they have consumed all of this moldy bread.’ He sent it to them anew. What did they do? They settled to apportion it. Each one divided and took on his share. The nimble one put his share out in the air, kept it and ate well. The [sluggardly] one took and fed from it greedily, but left the rest and neglected to keep it. Now it became even worse and so moldy he could not eat of it at all—until he starved to death. 

The crime of his body was counted against him [at the court on high]. [They said to him,] ‘Why did you kill yourself, was it not enough that you ruined the bread before? I returned it improved for you, you apportioned it, but you ruined your share and neglected to keep it, and not only that you killed yourself!’ And he replied, ‘My lords what was I to do?’ They answered him, ‘It was for you to keep. And if you say you could not it was for you to watch your companions and your neighbors who shared the bread with you. And you would have seen what they did with it, how they kept it, and tried to keep like them.’ And they questioned him further, ‘Why did you kill yourself, was it not enough that you ruined the bread? But in addition you destroyed חוֹמֶר גּוּפְךָ (ḥomer gufkha), your body of clay [cf. Jeremiah 18:6; Zohar 1:178a], and shortened your days, or [at least] you caused [it unintentionally]. And perhaps a flawless building was to result from you and rescue you and your ruin and others and their ruin. Therefore, judgment will overtake you from all sides.’ 

He became frightened and answered, ‘But what was I to do after there was no bread for me, what could I have lived on?’ They said to him, ‘If you had toiled and strained in Torah you would not answer foolishly and impudently like this. [Indeed,] from the words of your answer it is evident that you did not toil and strain in Torah. And is it not written in Torah, [And He afflicted you and made you hunger and fed you the manna, which you did not know nor did your fathers know, in order to make you know that] not on bread alone does the human live but on all going out from YHVH’s mouth does the human live (Deuteronomy 8:3). Now how is it you [dare] ask and inquire and probe what it is on which man lives?’ 

And what is all motsa, going out, from YHVH’s mouth (Deuteronomy 8:3)? It was said: He will live by Torah—every motsa, utterance, of YHVH’s mouth. Therefore, they said, ‘An ignoramus cannot be devout’ (M Avot 2:5). And if a person does not act with חֶסֶד (ḥesed), kindness, toward himself, he cannot be called חָסִיד (ḥasid), devout [on not disparaging bread, see BT Pesaḥim 111b; Ḥullin 105b; Zohar 1:14b; 3:244b–245b, 273a–b (both RM). Cf. BT Berakhot 52b]. How can one act with kindness towards his Maker? Torah study. All Torah study renders kindness toward one’s Maker, as is written, Riding through heavens with your help (Deuteronomy 33:26)—’Alas, when you study Torah for her own sake, then you help Me and I ride through heavens.’ Then, In His triumph through the skies (ibid.) [cf. BT Ḥagigah 12b–13aBT Avodah Zarah 3b; Rabbi El’azar of Worms, Sodei Razaya 89]. And what is שְׁחָקִים (sheḥaqim), skies? Say בְּחַדְרֵי חֲדָרִים (be-ḥadrei ḥadarim), in chambers of chambers, as the Targum renders it: His command בִּשְׁמֵי שְׁמַיָּא (bi-shemei shemayya), in heavens of heavens. Therefore, Not on bread alone does the human live but on all going out from YHVH’s mouth does the human live. Yet, a fool answers impudently (Proverbs 18:23)—abandon impudence, do not answer in this manner! Therefore, he is punished. And what is his punishment? I have already explained” (Bahir §§184–185).

There are righteous to whom it befalls as though they did wickedly, and there are wicked to whom it befalls as though they did righteously (Ecclesiastes 8:14).

Why are there wicked to whom there is good and righteous to whom there is evil? Because the righteous was already wicked and is now punished [cf. BT Mo’ed Qatan 28a]. But [is there] punishment for [one’s] days of youth? Rabbi Simon said there is no punishment until the age of twenty and up. I am not speaking about the [same] life, I am saying that he already was in the past. His companions said to him, ‘How much longer will you conceal your words?’ He replied, ‘Go and see. This is like a person who has planted a vineyard in his garden to bring forth grapes, but it brought forth wild grapes. He saw that he was not succeeding, so he replanted it, placed a fence around it, repaired the breaches, pruned the wild grapes, and planted it a second time. He saw that he was not succeeding—he again fenced it off, and again replanted it after pruning.’ How many times? He said to them, ‘Until a thousand generations, as is written: The word He ordained for a thousand generations (Psalms 105:8).’ It is in relation to this that they said: 974 generations were lacking [since the Torah was not given until the twenty-sixth generation]. ‘The blessed Holy One stood up and planted them in each generation’ (BT Ḥagigah 14a)” (Bahir §195).

Inflicting the guilt of the fathers upon sons, upon the third and fourth generation (Exodus 20:5)—a single tree, planted once, twice, three times, and four times, and punished for its initial sins. Father, son, third, and fourth are one—when not mended and not caring to be mended [i.e., for My foes (ibid.)]. Correspondingly, the opposite of this, for a tree restored fittingly and standing firm” (Zohar 2:91b).

And he shall be like a tree planted by streams of water, that bears its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither—and in all that he does he prospers (Psalms 1:3).

“Since we have begun to reveal, now is the time to reveal all. Souls, issue from a grand and mighty tree of that river issuing from Eden, and all spirits issue from another, small tree. נְשָׁמָה (Neshamah), soul, from above; רוּחַ (ruaḥ), spirit, from below—joining as one, like male and female…. When joining as one, they shine supernal radiance, and in the joining of the two of them, they are called, נֵר (ner), lamp, of YHWH (Proverbs 20:27)” (Zohar 2:99b).