The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: one who seeks out the dead

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).

You shall not Divine, nor Interpret Omens

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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).