The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

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You Created My Innermost Parts

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From behind and in front You shaped me, and You set your palm upon me… For You created my innermost parts…. My frame was not hidden from You… גָּלְמִי (galmi), My unformed shape, Your eyes did see, and in Your book all was written down…. As for me, how weighty are Your thoughts, O God, how numerous their sum. Should I count them, they would be more than the sand. I awake, and am still with You (Psalms 139:5; 13–18).

“Rabbi Yoḥanan son of Ḥanina said: The day consisted of twelve hours. In the first hour, his dust was gathered; in the second, it was made into גּוֹלֶם (golem), a lifeless clump. In the third, his limbs were extended; in the fourth, a נְשָׁמָה (neshamah), soul, was cast into him; in the fifth, he rose and stood on his feet; in the sixth, he gave [the animals] their names; in the seventh, Eve became his mate; in the eighth, they ascended to bed as two and descended as four [i.e., Cain and his twin sister were born]; in the ninth, he was commanded not to eat of the tree, in the tenth, he transgressed; in the eleventh, he was tried, and in the twelfth he was expelled and departed, as is written, Man will not rest in splendor (Psalms 49:13)” (BT Sanhedrin 38b).

“Rabbi El’azar said in the name of Rabbi Yose son of Zimra, ‘If all the nations assembled to create a single mosquito, they could not cast a soul into it!” (Bereshit Rabbah 39:14).

“Rava said: If the righteous desired it, they could create a world, as is written, 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). Rava created a man and sent him to Rav Zera [cf. Zohar 1:7b; 2:179b]. He spoke to him, but he would not answer. He said to him: ‘You of the חַבְרַיָּא (ḥavrayya), Companions [or: magicians], return to your dust!’

Rav Ḥanina and Rav Oshaya would sit every Sabbath eve and engage in the סֵפֶר יְצִירָה (sefer yetsirah), Book of Formation, and make for themselves a third-grown calf and eat it [i.e., a calf that has reached one third of its full growth; or: in its third year; third born, fat]” (BT Sanhedrin 65b).

“What [magic] is entirely permitted? Like Rav Ḥanina and Rav Oshaya, who would sit every Sabbath eve and engage in the הֲלָכוֹת יְצִירָה (halakhot yetsirah), laws of formation, and make for themselves a third-grown calf and eat it” (BT Sanhedrin 67b, cf. Rabbi Avraham Abulafia, Ner Elohim, 10, 172b).

“’Rava said: If the righteous desired it, they could create a world, as is written, But your crimes have separated (Isaiah 59:2)’ (BT Sanhedrin 65b). If not for your crimes, there would not be any separation between you and Him. We thus see that Rava created a גֶּבֶר (gever), man, and sent it to Rav Zera. He spoke to him but he did not answer. But if not for his crimes, he would have answered. And from what would he have answered? His soul. But does a human being have a soul to place in him? Yes, as is written, [YHWH Elohim fashioned the human, humus from the soil,] and He blew into his nostrils the נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים (nishmat ḥayyim), breath of life (Genesis 2:7)—thus a human being has the נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים (nishmat ḥayyim)soul of life [with which he might confer language], were it not for crimes, through which the soul ceases to be pure. This is the difference between you and Him, as is written, And You made him little less than Elohim (Psalms 8:6). Why a little less? Since he offends, while the blessed Holy One does not. Blessed be He and blessed be His Name forever and ever; He has no crimes” (Bahir §196).

And You made him little less than Elohim (Psalms 8:6)—this is Jacob, as is said, [And Jacob took himself moist rods of poplar and almond and plane-tree, and peeled white strips in them, laying bare the white on the rods. And he stood the rods he had peeled in the troughs, in the water channels from which the flocks came to drink—opposite the flocks… when they came to drink.] And the flocks went into heat at the rods (Genesis 30:39). Rabbi Hoshaya: He would carve a form, and just as he carved, the water became seed within them and thus they gave birth. This teaches that he lacked only [the power] to give them נֶפֶשׁוֹת (nefeshot), life-breath” (Bereshit Rabbati, Va-Yetse 129, cf. BT Avodah Zarah 24a; Zohar 1:161a–b).

Who can utter YHWH’s mighty acts, can make heard all His praise? (Psalms 106:2)—none can utter His mighty acts or make heard all His praise. Even the ministering angels cannot recount מִקְצָת (miqtsat), some of [or: the best of], His mighty acts or expound on what צִפָּה (tsipah), He envisioned, created and actualized. For at the beginning when the blessed Holy One created the world, He was alone [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 1:4 on Isaiah 44:24]. It arose in thought to create the world and He traced its foundations on the earth [cf. Isaiah 44:13; Proverbs 8:27], but they did not endure until He created with Torah Sefer Yetsirah—He gazed into it and understood in wisdom. Thus He fashioned the world: His eyes gazing into Sefer Yetsirah, and His hands roaming and building the world [cf. 2 Chronicles 16:9].

To divide [between the holy and the profane]: Like a man who builds buildings and possesses a book and he looks upon it, thus the blessed Holy One did. As soon as He fashioned His world and finished it, He placed it in Torah—treasured away at the start of the first things [of the earth] (Proverbs 8:23)—974 generations before the creation of the world [cf. BT Ḥagigah 13b]. Now, when Abraham our father was born the ministering angels said before the blessed Holy One: Master of the World: There is a friend to You in this world yet from him something is hidden? Immediately the blessed Holy One said: I hid [something] from Abraham! נִמְלַךְ בַּתּוֹרָה (Nimlak ba-torah), He sought the permission of Torah, and said: Come וּנַשִּׂיאךְ (u-nassik), and we shall marry you off, to Abraham My friend (Isaiah 41:8). She said before Him: Not until a humble man [Moses] will come and יִשָּׂא (yissa), lift up, [this] humble one. Immediately the blessed Holy One sought the permission of Sefer Yetsirah, and she said: Yes. He handed her on to Abraham.

Now, he sat alone and studied Sefer Yetsirah but he was unable to understand a thing until a heavenly echo issued saying to him: You seek to make yourself equal to Me? I am the One and I created Sefer Yetsirah. I delved into it and I performed all that is written in it and you will not be able to understand a single [thing]. Draw a companion near to yourself and you will look upon it and understand [cf. Ḥagigah 2:1]. Immediately Abraham went to Shem, his master, and sat with him three years and they looked upon it and they knew how to fashion the world. And to this day, there is none who can understand it alone—only two sages [can], even they will not understand it in less than three years. Yet when they [do] understand it, they are able to perform any wish of their hearts. And when Abraham understood it, he added more wisdom to it and learned the entire Torah.

Rava, too, wanted to understand it alone. Rabbi Zera said: But it is written: A sword against הַבַּדִּים (ha-baddim), the soothsayers, exposed as fools (Jeremiah 50:36)—a sword against Israel’s enemies who sit בַּד בְּבַד (bad be-vad), apart, occupied with Torah [see BT Berakhot 63b ad loc.: ‘The Torah is only acquired in company’; cf. Ta’anit 7a; Makkot 10a]. If so, let us go and occupy ourselves with Sefer Yetsirah. And so they sat together and occupied themselves with it for three years and understood it. Once a calf was created for them and they slaughtered it and enjoyed it for the completion of the book [see BT Sanhedrin 65b]. But when they slaughtered it, they forgot it. They sat another three years and produced it again.

Son of Sira, too, wanted to understand it alone. A heavenly echo issued saying: Two are better than one, [for they get good reward for their toil] (Ecclesiastes 4:9). He went [and sat] next to Jeremiah and they occupied themselves with it for three years and understood it and an individual was created before them [בֶּן סִירַא (Ben Sira), Son of Sira, is numerically equivalent to יִרְמְיָהוּ (Yirmeyahu), Jeremiah, and אַבּוּ אַהֲרוֹן (Abu Aharon), i.e., Aharon ben Shemu’el ha-Nasi]. Written on his forehead was: יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים אֱמֵת (Adonai Elohim Emet), YHWH Elohim [is] Truth. Now, in his hand was a knife and he was erasing א (alef) from אֱמֵת (emet), Truth [leaving, מֵת (met), “dead”]. [Jeremiah rent his clothes (JTS MS 1887, fol. 129b)] he said: Why are you doing that? For it can’t possibly be true! He said to them: I will fashion a parable for you: What is this like? A man who is a builder and a sage. And when the sons of man saw him they made him rule over them. Days later, others came and they learned the craft. They abandoned the first [ruler] and followed the others. Likewise, the blessed Holy One, exulted is His name, was gazing into Sefer Yetsirah and fashioned the world and ruled over all His creations. And when you have come and done like Him, what will be the end of the matter? All will leave Him and follow you. What will become of Him who fashioned you? They said to Him: If so what shall be done? He said to them: Turn him back. And that man returned to dust and ashes” (MS Vatican 299).

“[Son of Zoma said:] What labors the first man had to carry out before he obtained bread to eat! He ploughed, he sowed, he reaped, he bound [the sheaves], he threshed and winnowed and selected the ears, he ground [them], and sifted [the flour], he kneaded and baked, and then at last he ate; whereas I get up, and find all these things done for me. And how many labors the first man had to carry out before he obtained a garment to wear! He had to shear, wash [the wool], comb it, spin it and weave it, and then at last he obtained a garment to wear; whereas I get up and find all these things done for me. All kinds of people come early to the door of my house, and I rise in the morning and find all these before me” (BT Berakhot 58a).

The Power of Qaddish

“Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi said: He who responds [during the recital of Qaddish], ‘May His great Name be blessed forever and eternity’ with all his might his decreed sentence is torn up, as is written, When bonds were loosed in Israel, when the people answered the call, bless YHWH! (Judges 5:2). What is the reason for When bonds were loosed? Because of the bless YHWH!…. 

Resh Laqish said: He who responds אָמֵן (amen) with all his might, they open before him the gates of the Garden of Eden, as is written, Open the gates and let a righteous nation enter, keeping faith (Isaiah 26:2). Do not read שֹׁמֵר אֱמֻנִים (shomer emunim), keeping faith, but rather שֶׁאוֹמרִים אָמֶן (she’omrim amen), that say amen. What does אָמֵן (amen) mean? Rabbi Ḥanina said: אֶל מֶלֶך נֶאֶמָן (el melekh ne’eman), God steadfast King” (BT Shabbat 119b). 

“Come and see: There was a man who traveled to the mountain region of Qardunya—he and two others with him. He saw craters with fiery fissures—spewing smoke—and he heard a man moaning, ‘Woe, woe!’ He remarked, ‘This must be one of the chambers of Hell.’

He slept. In his dream he saw a man with a bundle of thistles on his shoulders. Two angels from Hell kindled the bundle from below; it ignited, and he shrieked. The two holy angels—messengers of the heavenly magistrate who judged him—admonished him, ‘You neglected the blessed Holy One and His angels who guarded you in this world and the world that is coming; instead, you obeyed the desires of the thistles—wicked ones—who come from the side of Samael and the serpent. The thistles will scorch you.’

He asked that sinner from Hell, ‘Who are you?’

He replied, ‘I am a Jewish sinner, but the officers of Hell won’t tell me my name. Three times a day they punish me, and twice at night.’

He asked him, ‘Do you know the name of your locale?’

‘Upper Galilee,’ he replied.

‘And did you leave a son behind?’

‘I did leave a child. I was a butcher; and on account of the many crimes I committed long ago, I am judged for my mouth, legs, and hands. The angel who is appointed over graves tells me while I am being judged, “Woe to one who has been adjured to fulfill the Torah and swore falsely! Woe to the skull that never put on tefillin! Woe to hands that dandled worldly trifles! Woe to legs that walked amid worldly frivolities!”

When they would flog me with the rebel’s lashes, I confessed all that I had done. My soul came, along with the angel appointed over it, and they submitted a writ, listing all I had done. My soul testified with the angel; and they said, By the word of two witnesses or three witnesses shall the one who dies be put to death (Deuteronomy 17:6). Of this is written From her who lies in your bosom guard the doors of your mouth (Micah 7:5). Who is this? The soul, for she testifies about a person at the time of death.

The man awoke from his sleep, and traveled to the Upper Galilee. He asked a man, ‘Have you seen a child, the son of a butcher who died at such-and-such a time?’

He replied, ‘The child you seek spends his time at the slaughterhouse—he is wicked like his father! May such-and-such happen to him, his father, and to the nursemaid who nursed him!’

He went to a study hall and heard a child reciting, ‘If you seek it like silver…‘ (Proverbs 2:4).

He proceeded to the slaughterhouse and saw the child sporting with the youths there. He said to him, ‘My son, come with me’; and the child went with him. The man clothed him, and handed him over to a particular rabbi who taught him Torah until the child grew up and learned to read Torah. He trained him to chant the haftarah in the synagogue and to pray, until he had learned to read from the Torah. He became ever more wise, and came to be called ‘Rabbi.’

The dead man—father of the child, the one who was being punished—came in a dream to the sage and said, ‘Rabbi, as you have consoled me, so should the blessed Holy One console you. When my son chanted the haftarah in the congregation, I was released from judgment. When he moved on to the Prayer and recited Qaddish, they tore up my decree completely. And when he became wise, they bestowed upon me a portion in the Garden of Eden—the portion referred to as a portion in the world that is coming, the portion given to each and every righteous one on his own. And they escorted me to be with the righteous in their academy. When he became wiser yet and they called him ‘Rabbi,’ they crowned me with the crowns bestowed upon the righteous. I was provided with food from that which benefits them—from the glow of the Shekhinah, as is said: ‘The righteous sit with their crowns on their heads, basking in the radiance of Shekhinah’ [see BT Berakhot 17a]. And anyone who benefits from the radiance of the Shekhinah, it is as if he had eaten and drunk.

It is on account of you, Rabbi, that I merited all this glory! Happy is your portion, for it is on account of this that you shall have a more elevated portion in this world and in the world that is coming! Happy is one who merits to leave a child in the world!” (Zohar Ḥadash 49a–b).

“Come and see: This Kedushah is not like other Kedushot, which we triple. Rather this Kedushah ascends on all sides above and below, in all aspects of Faith, smashing locks and seals of iron and evil shells, so that the glory of the blessed Holy One will be exalted above all. We must recite it in the language of the Other Side [Aramaic], and respond with mighty כֹּחַ (koaḥ), power: ‘Amen! May His great Name be blessed,’ so that the power of the Other Side is broken, the blessed Holy One ascends in glory and remembers His children and remembers His Name. Since the blessed Holy One is exalted in His glory by this Kedushah, it must be uttered only in the presence of ten” (Zohar 2:129b).

The enlightened (Daniel 12:3)—they know the letters, of them it says ‘Bezalel knew how to combine the letters by which the heavens and earth were created’ (BT Berakhot 55a) [cf. Zohar 2:152a]. They are the כ״ח (twenty-eight) letters [and seven words]. And another fourteen are hidden within them: בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ (bereshit bara elohim et ha-shamayim ve-et ha-erets), In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1), of which is said, the כֹּחַ (koaḥ), power, of His deeds He told His people (Psalms 111:6). But at the time of the exile, these כ״ח (twenty-eight) letters departed, as is said, And they go without כֹחַ (khoaḥ), strength, before the pursuer (Lamentations 1:6). Therefore, it is said in [the introduction to] Qaddish, ‘And now, may the כֹּחַ (koaḥ), power, of the Lord be magnified,’ corresponding to כ״ח (twenty-eight) other letters that form seven words, which are יְהֵא שְׁמֵהּ רַבָּא מְבָרַךְ לְעָלַם וּלְעָלְמֵי עָלְמַיָּא (yeheh shemeh rabba mevarakh le-alam ul-alemei alemaya), ‘May His great Name be blessed forever and eternity.’ Thus, the saying that whoever responds ‘May his great Name…’ with all his כֹּחַ (koaḥ), might, ‘becomes a partner with the blessed Holy One in the Work of Creation,’ and the giving of the Torah [see BT Shabbat 119b]. The other י״ד (fourteen) are the name יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה (Adonai Eloheinu Adonai), YHWH our God YHWH (Deuteronomy 6:4). The hint is the night before the fourteenth [of Nisan, i.e., Passover] we check for חָמֵץ (ḥamets), leavened bread, by the light of a candle, with these י״ד (fourteen) letters as He swore, כִּי יָד עַל כֵּס יָהּ (ki yad al kes Yah), For hand upon Yah’s throne [War for YHWH against Amalek from all time] (Exodus 17:16)” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar, Haqdamah, 13a).

Partners in Creation

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“Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi said: When Moses ascended on high, he found the blessed Holy One tying crowns on the letters [of the Torah]. He said to him, ‘Moses, there is no “[שָׁלוֹם [עֲלֵיכֶם (shalom aleikhem), peace [be upon you],” in your town?’ He said before Him: ‘Is there a servant who offers “peace [be upon you]” to his Master!’ He said to him, ‘Yet you should have helped Me.’ Immediately he said to Him, And so, let YHWH’s power, pray, be great, as you have spoken (Numbers 14:17)” (BT Shabbat 89a).

“The blessed Holy One rules humanity (2 Samuel 23:3); who rules the blessed Holy One? As it were, the righteous one (ibid.), for the blessed Holy One decrees and he abolishes” (Zohar 3:15a, cf. BT Mo’ed Qatan 16b).

“Do not read You are עַמִּי (ammi), My people (Jeremiah 30:3), but rather You are עִמִּי (immi), with Me, becoming My partner! Just as I made heaven and earth by speaking, as is said: By the word of YHWH, the heavens were made (Psalms 33:6), so do you. Happy are those engaged in Torah!” (Zohar 1:5a).

“Resh Laqish said, ‘Why is it written: There was evening and there was morning, יוֹם הַשִּׁשִּׁי (yom ha-shishi), the sixth day (Genesis 1:31)? Why the extra letter ה (he)? [the definite article he appears only in connection with the sixth day]. This teaches that the blessed Holy One stipulated a condition with the works of Creation, saying to them: ‘If Israel accepts Torah [given at Mount Sinai on the sixth day of Sivan], you will endure. If not, I will return you to welter and waste (Genesis 1:2)’” (BT Shabbat 88a, cf. BT Avodah Zarah 2b–3b; Zohar 1:47a; 2:63b).

“[Resh Laqish taught:] Greater is he that lends than he that gives gifts; but he that aids by taking part in a business undertaking is greater than either” (BT Shabbat 63a, cf. Mishneh Torah, Laws of Gifts to the Poor 10:7–14).

That God had created לַעֲשׂוֹת (la-asot), to make (Genesis 2:3). What is לַעֲשׂוֹת (la-asot)? That the bodies of demons remained, for the [seventh] day had been sanctified and they had not been made and they remained לַעֲשׂוֹת (la-asot), to be made—spirits with no body. Here, too: It is time לַעֲשׂוֹת (la-asot), to act, for YHWH (Psalms 119:126)—לַעֲשׂוֹת (la-asot), to actualize. [Because Creation] she is left unadorned and incomplete” (Zohar 2:155b).

“Once the world was created, not a single thing was firmly established until an impulse arose in the Will to create the human being, who would engage in Torah and for whose sake the world would endure. Now, whoever gazes upon Torah and engages in her, as it were, sustains the world. The blessed Holy One gazed into Torah and created the world; a human gazes into Torah and sustains the world” (Zohar 2:161a–b).