The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: omens

It is Prudent to Regard Your Name: The Name Determines Destiny Entirely

Anthony Weiner

“It was taught: A man is called three names: one he is called by his father and mother, and one he is called by others, and one he is called in the book of the lineage of man [i.e., his remembrance; cf. Genesis 5:1]” (Qohelet Rabbah 7:1).

“Rabbi Shim’on said: There a three crowns: a crown of Torah, a crown of priesthood, and a crown of kingship. And the crown of a good name is above them all” (M Avot 4:13).

וְתוּשִׁיָּה יִרְאֶה שְׁמֶךָ (Ve-tushiyyah yireh shemekha), And it is prudent to regard your name (Micah 6:9).

“The name determines destiny entirely” (Zohar 1:60a).

“From where do we know that a name proves decisive? Rabbi El’azar said, ‘For Scripture states: Go, gaze upon the acts of YHWH, who has brought שַׁמּוֹת (shammot), desolations, on earth (Psalms 46:9)—do not read שַׁמּוֹת (shammot), desolations, but שֵׁמּוֹת (shemot), names’” (BT Berakhot 7b).

“Rabbi Yitsḥaq said, ‘Four things tear up a person’s verdict: charity, crying out, change of name, and change of conduct” (BT Rosh ha-Shanah 16b).

“Names… with which people may be adorned and with which they may perform action in the world” (Zohar 2:223a).

“Six were called by their name before they were born, and they are: Ishmael, Isaac, Moses, Solomon, Josiah, and King Messiah” (Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 32, cf. JT Berakhot 1, 4a; Mekhilta, Bo 21:16; Bereshit Rabbah 45:11).

“The name proves decisive, and the combination of letters with one another causes a phenomenon, either for good or for evil. Based upon this mystery is the permutation of letters of holy names, and letters themselves cause holy mysteries to appear—like the Holy Name, whose letters themselves cause holy mysteries to appear within them” (Zohar 2:179b).

“We have said that everything that the blessed Holy One brought into His world is a name [derived] from its task. Concerning this it is written, And whatever the human called a living creature, that was its name (Genesis 2:19)—its body was so. And how do we know that its name is its body? As is written: The memory of the righteous is for a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot (Proverbs 10:7)—what rots, his name or his body? Here too, its body. What is an example of this? שׁוֹרֶשׁ (Shoresh), root—the letter ש (shin) looks like the roots of a tree, and the root of every tree is bent [thus the ר (resh) is bent]” (Bahir §§80–81).

“Concerning former ones it is said: The memory of the righteous is for a blessing (Proverbs 10:7), with regard to Son of Kamzar and his like it is said: But the name of the wicked will rot (ibid.)—Rabbi El’azar said: Rottenness enters their names, none name their children after them.

Ravina raised an objection: The story of Do’eg son of Yosef whom his father left to his mother when he was a young child [this דֹּאֵג (Do’eg), lit., son of ‘worry,’ was named so in spite of Do’eg the Edomite who was responsible for the deaths of a large number of priests, see 1 Samuel 21–22, cf. Psalms 52]: Every day his mother would measure him by handbreadths and would give his [extra] weight in gold to the Sanctuary. But when the enemy prevailed, she slaughtered him and ate him [cf. Leviticus 26:29], and concerning her Jeremiah lamented: Shall the women eat their fruit, the children of their tender care? (Lamentations 2:20, cf. ibid. 4:10). Whereupon the Holy Spirit replied: Shall the priest and the prophet be slain in the sanctuary of YHWH? (ibid.)—see what happened to him! [normally, none would name their child after a wicked person, because of a bad omen, or because one should help the name of the wicked to rot by being forgotten; look what this deviation from custom brought upon the child]” (BT Yoma 38b).

“Once Rabbi Me’ir and Rabbi Yehudah and Rabbi Yose were on a journey together. Now Rabbi Me’ir deduced from names but Rabbi Yehudah and Rabbi Yose did not deduce from names. They came to a certain place and looked for lodging, and as they were given it, they said to him [the innkeeper]: What is your name?—He replied: Kidor. Then he [Rabbi Me’ir] said: From this it is evident that he is a wicked man, for it is said: כִּי דוֹר תַּהְפֻּכֹת (kidor tahpukhot), for a wayward brood are they, [children with no trust in them] (Deuteronomy 32:20). Rabbi Yehudah and Rabbi Yose entrusted their purses to him [since the Sabbath was approaching]; Rabbi Me’ir did not entrust his purse to him, but went and placed it on the grave of that man’s father. Thereupon the man had a vision in his dream [saying]: Go, take the purse lying at the head of this man! In the morning he [the innkeeper] told them about it, saying: This is what appeared to me in my dream. They replied to him: There is no substance in the dream of the Sabbath night. Rabbi Me’ir went, waited there all day, and then took the purse with him. In the morning they [the rabbis] said to him: ‘Give us our purses.’ He said: There never was such a thing! Rabbi Me’ir then said to them: Why don’t you deduce from names? They said: Why have you not told this [before]. He answered: consider this but a suspicion. I would not consider that a definite presumption!

Thereupon they took him [the innkeeper] into a shop and gave him wine to drink. Then they saw lentils on his moustache. They went to his wife and gave her that as a sign, and thus obtained their purses and took them back [telling her that her husband had sent them for the purses and giving her as a proof the fact that lentils had been the last meal in her house]. Whereupon he went and killed his wife…. At the end they, too, paid close attention to people’s names. And when they called to a house whose [owner’s] name was בָּלָה (Balah), they would not enter, saying: He seems to be a wicked man, as it is written: Then said I לַבָּלָה (la-balah), to her, that was old in adulteries, [Will they now commit prostitutions with her, and she with them?] (Ezekiel 23:43)” (BT Yoma 83b).

Urim and Thummim

“It is written: And you shall place in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and Thummim (Exodus 28:30), and this has been established: The Urim—that shine, mystery of the speculum that shines, and this is engraving of the letters of the Holy Name, in mystery of forty-two, by which worlds were created, and they were embedded in it. And the Thummim—mystery of those letters contained in the place of the speculum that does not shine, which is conducted by seventy-two engraved letters, mystery of the Holy Name. All of them are called Urim and Thummim” (Zohar 2:234b).

And Saul inquired of God, “Shall I go down after the Philistines? Will you give them in the hand of Israel?” And He did not answer him on that day… And Saul said, “YHWH, God of Israel! Why did You not answer Your servant today? If there is guilt in me or in Jonathan my son, O YHWH God of Israel, show Urim, and if it is Your people Israel, show Thummim” (1 Samuel 14:37).

You shall not Divine, nor Interpret Omens


You shall not divine, nor interpret omens (Leviticus 19:26).

When you come into the land that YHWH your God is about to give you, you shall not learn to do like the abhorrent things of these nations. There shall not be found among you one who passes his son or his daughter through fire, a speller of charms, a soothsayer, or a diviner or a sorcerer, or a chanter of incantations or an inquirer of ghost or familiar spirit or one who seeks out the dead. For whosoever does these is YHWH’s abhorrence, and because of these abhorrent things YHWH your God is about to dispossess them before you. You shall be wholehearted with YHWH your God. For these nations which you are about to dispossess heed soothsayers and spellers of charms, but you, YHWH your God has not given such (Deuteronomy 18:10–14).

There shall not be found among you—so caution the court to be vigilant about it!…

קֹסֵם קְסָמִים (Qosem qesamim), a speller of charms—all the same is one who spells many charms and the speller of a few—he is held liable for each and every spell. Who is קוֹסֵם (qosem), a diviner? One who grabs his staff and says: shall I depart or not depart? [cf. M Shabbat 7:4: ‘Amorite custom’]. And in this vein, a verse says: My people consult their wood, and their staff advises them! (Hosea 4:12).

Another word: [he infers the portent of] a fox that passes on his right or his left.

Another word: one who passes his son or his daughter through fire—this refers to one who mounts a Aramean woman, and then raises with her a son, who becomes an enemy of the Omnipresent. We have heard the punishment [for this], but we haven’t heard the warning [against it]! The Law states: there shall not be found among you one who passes his son or his daughter through fire—[this is certainly sufficient warning]! Rabbi Yehudah says: This refers to one who passes his son or daughter through [the rite of] a foreign cult, and cuts a covenant with it. As it is said: When they cut the calf in two, and passed between its parts (Jeremiah 34:18) [cf. Genesis 15:9–19].

מְעוֹנֵן (Me’onen), a soothsayer—Rabbi Yishma’el says: This one passes his hand over his עַיִן (ayin), eye, before responding [cf. M Shabbat 7:14]. Rabbi Akiva says: These declare the times [i.e., which will be an auspicious עוֹנָה (onah), season; alt., one who reads עֲנָנָה (ananah), clouds]. For example, they might say: I sense that before the Sabbatical year the wheat harvest will be exceptional, but [trade in] uprooted beans will be bad. And sages say: These deceive the eyes [through apparitions].

Or מְנַחֵשׁ (me-naḥesh), diviner. What is diviner? For example, one of them might say: my bread has fallen from my mouth [and it’s not a good omen]! Or: my staff has fallen from my hand! Or: a נָחָשׁ (naḥash), snake, is passing to my right, or a fox to my left, or a deer is blocking my way! Or: don’t start with me—it’s too early in the morning! Or, it’s the New Moon today! Or, the Sabbath is over [cf. M Shabbat 7:13].

Or מְכַשֵּׁף (me-khashef), a sorcerer. This is one who tricks, but not by deceiving the eyes [through apparitions]. Rabbi Akiva says in the name of Rabbi Yehoshu’a: Two [sorcerers] are gathering squash—one gathers [the entire field] and is exempt [from suspicion of using sorcery,] while the other gathers [the entire field] and is liable. [Now why is this so?] The one actually performing the trick is liable, but the one who only deceives the eyes is exempt! [cf. M Sanhedrin 7:11].

חֹבֵר חָבֶר (Ḥover ḥaver), a chanter of incantations. Whether a חוֹבֵר (ḥover), collector, of snakes or scorpions.

שֹׁאֵל אוֹב (Sho’el ‘ov), an inquirer of ghost—a ventriloquist who produces speach from his armpit.

יִדְּעֹנִי (Yid’oni), familiar spirit—the speach is from his own mouth. They themselves are sentenced to stoning, and those who consult them are forewarned [cf. M Sanhedrin 7:7].

דֹרֵשׁ אֶל-הַמֵּתִים (Doresh el ha-metim), one who seeks out the dead—whether he raises [a spirit] with his member or consults a skull. What is the difference between the first and the second? When one raises with his member, it does not rise naturally, and is not consulted on the Sabbath. When he consults a skull, it rises naturally and is consulted on the Sabbath… one who starves himself and goes and sleeps in the cemetery so that a spirit of impurity rest on him. And when Rabbi Akiva came to this verse, he said: ‘Woe unto us! If a spirit of impurity rests on one who cleaves to uncleanliness, how much more so should the Holy Spirit rest upon one who cleaves to the Shekhinah! What brought this about? But your crimes have separated between you and your God, [and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear] (Isaiah 59:2).

And because of these abhorrent things YHWH your God is about to dispossess them before you. Rabbi Shim’on said: This teaches that the Canaanites were forewarned about all these practices—for they do not punish a person unless he has also been forewarned [cf. M Avodah Zarah 8:6]. When Rabbi Eli’ezer would reach this verse, he would say: More’s the pity! Just as a person who cleaves to uncleanliness—the stench of uncleanliness hovers over him, doesn’t reason demand that one who cleaves to the Shekhinah—the aroma of the spirit of the blessed Holy One hover over him? So what happened? But your crimes have separated between you and your God” (Sifre, Deuteronomy 171–173).

“[You yourself were shown to know that YHWH is the Elohim,] there is none besides Him (Deuteronomy 4:35)—Rabbi Ḥanina said: Even sorcery. A woman once attempted to take earth from under Rabbi Ḥanina’s feet [in order to cast a spell on him]. He said to her: Try as you will, you will not succeed, as is written: There is none besides Him. However, has not Rabbi Yoḥanan said: Why is it called כְּשָׁפִים (keshafim), sorcery? Because [it is short for:] מַכְּחִישִׁין פָמַלְיָא מַעְלָה (makḥishin famalya ma’alah), ‘weakening the council on high [or: denying the council on high].’ Rabbi Ḥanina was different, owing to his great merit” (BT Ḥullin 7b).

“אֵין עוֹד מִלְּבַדּוֹ (Ein od millvado), there is none besides Him (Deuteronomy 4:35)—[He is] without separation and without שִׁתּוּף (shittuf), partnership, at all” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 55, 88a).

“[Rav said:] Every נָחָשׁ (naḥash), divination, which is not of the sort pronounced by Eli’ezer, Abraham’s servant, or by Jonathan the son of Saul, is not considered a divination! … Rav used to regard a ferry-boat [as a sign]. Shemu’el a [passage in a] book, and Rabbi Yoḥanan [a verse quoted] by a child” (BT Ḥullin 95b).

[Eli’ezer, Abraham’s servant, said:] “Let it be that the young woman to whom I say, ‘Pray, tip down your jug that I may drink,’ if she says, ‘Drink, and your camels, too, I shall water,’ she it is whom You have marked for Your servant, for Isaac, and by this I shall know that You have done kindness with my master.” He had barely finished speaking when, look, Rebekah was coming out… (Genesis 24:14, cf. Zohar 1:182a).

“Rabbi Yoḥanan said: If one rises early and a verse falls into his mouth, behold: this is a minor prophecy” (BT Berakhot 55b).

“Rabbi Yehoshu’a said: He who sees ט (tet) in a dream [may regard it as] a good סִימָן (siman), omen, for himself. Why so? If because it is the initial letter of טוּב (tov), good, written in Scripture, why not say [on the contrary that it is also]: And I will sweep it with the besom of טֵאטֵאתִיהָ (teiteitiha), destruction (Isaiah 14:23)?—we are speaking [here of where he saw in a dream only] one ט (tet) [whereas טֵאטֵאתִיהָ (teiteitihadestruction, contains two such letters]. But still why not say [that it might have referred to the verse] Her טֻמְאָתָהּ (tumatah), filthiness, is in her skirts (Lamentations 1:9)?—we are speaking of [where he saw in a dream the letters] ט (tet) and ב (bet). But again why not say [that it might have referred to the verse], Her gates were טָבְעוּ (tavu), sunk, into the ground (ibid. 2:9)?—the real reason is that Scripture used this letter on the very first occasion to express something good, for from the beginning of Genesis until And God saw the light, [that it was good] (Genesis 1:4) no ט (tet) occurs. Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi similarly said: He who sees [the word] הֶספֵּד (hesfed), eulogy, in a dream [may take it as a sign that] compassion has been exercised towards him in Heaven, and that he will be released [from trouble] provided, however, [he saw it] in script” (BT Baba Qamma 55a).

“Said Rav Ammi: ‘When one wishes to know whether he will survive the coming year or not, let him take a burning lamp during the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and place it in a house where there is no draft; if the lamp burns out to the end, he will know that he will survive the year. And if one is about to engage in business and wishes to know whether he will succeed or not, let him get a rooster and feed it; if it grows fat and handsome, he will know that he will succeed. When one is about to go on a journey and wishes to know whether he will return home, let him enter a darkened room [alt., the house of his neighbour]; if he can perceive the reflection of his shadow, he will know that he will return home. But it is not the proper thing [to make these tests], for one might be discouraged and mar his מַזָּל (mazal), fortune. Abayye said: Since you hold that symbols are meaningful, every man should make it a habit to eat on New Year pumpkin, fenugreek, leek, beet and dates [since these are regarded as symbols of fertility, abundance and quick growth]” (BT Keritot 6a).

In the lap the lot is cast, but from YHWH is all the disposing…. The lot puts an end to strife, and separates the disputants (Proverbs 16:33, 18:18).