The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: Passover

For a Song of Desire God Created Heaven and Earth

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“The frog is singing, ‘Blessed be the name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever’ (BT Pesaḥim 56a)” (Pereq Shirah 4).

“Our Rabbis, of blessed memory, said, when King David completed the book of Psalms he became proud. He said before the blessed Holy One ‘Is there any creature You have created in Your world that utters more songs and praises than I?’ At the moment a frog appeared, saying, ‘David! Do not become proud, for I recite more songs and praises than you and every song I utter contains three thousand proverbs, as it says, And he spoke three thousand proverbs, and his poems came to five thousand (1 Kings 5:12) [צְפַרְדֵעַ (tsefarde’a), frog, is numerically equivalent to שְׁלֹמֹה בֶן דָּוִד (Shelomoh ben David), Solomon son of David (Rabbi Ya’aqov Emden)]. I am also busy with a great mitsvah, and this is the mitsvah with which I am busy: There is a certain creature by the edge of the sea whose sustenance is entirely from the water and when it is hungry it takes me and eats me, such that I fulfill, If your foe is hungry, feed him bread, and if he thirsts, give hime water, for you would heap live coals on his head, and YHWH will pay you back (Proverbs 25:21–22)—do not read יְשַׁלֶּם לָךְ (yishalem lakh), will pay you back, but יַשְׁלִימֵהוּ (yashlimehu), will make him at peace with you” (Yalqut Shimoni 150).

“Come and hear: Thaddeus of Rome taught: What [reason] did Ḥananyah, Misha’el and Azariyah see that they delivered themselves, for the sanctification of the Name, to the fiery furnace [of Nebuchadnezzar]? They argued a minori to themselves: If frogs, which are not commanded concerning the sanctification of the Name, yet it is written of them, [And the Nile will swarm with frogsand they will come up and come into your house… and into your ovens and into your kneading pans (Exodus 7:28). Now, when are kneading pans to be found near the oven? When the oven is hot. We, who are commanded concerning the sanctification of the Name, how much the more so” (BT Pesaḥim 53b).

“What is the path to love and fear Him? When a person contemplates His wondrous and great deeds and appreciates His infinite wisdom that surpasses all comparison, he will immediately love, praise, and glorify [Him]—yearning with tremendous desire to know the Great Name, as David said: My soul thirsts for God, the Living God (Psalms 42:3)” (Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Yesodei ha-Torah 2:2).

בְּרֵאשִׁית (Bereshit), In the beginning (Genesis 1:1). Rabbi El’azar opened, ‘שִׁיר הַמַּעֲלוֹת (shir ha-ma’alot), A song of degrees. In my distress I cried to YHWH, and He answered me (Psalms 120:1). The blessed Holy One created songs of desire at the creation of heaven and earth, so as to praise and glorify Him as the Creator of All. The heavens utter song in His presence, as is said: The heavens declare the glory of God (ibid. 19:2); and the earth utters song, as is said: Sing to YHWH all the earth (ibid. 96:1).

Furthermore, the entire world desires and delights to glorify their Creator, when they gaze upon His wonders in the heavens and on the earth. This is בְּרֵאשִׁית (Bereshit), In the beginning: contemplate the letters and you will see שִׁיר תָּאֵב (shir ta’ev), a song of desire; in other words, for a song of desire, God created heaven and earth—that every person will desire to utter song about His wonders in the heavens and the earth.’

What are those degrees that King David (peace be upon him) used to recite? They are the songs of those degrees comprising the heavens, as is said: Who constructs His degrees in heaven (Amos 9:6). David desired them and uttered them, and this is שִׁיר תָּאֵב (shir ta’ev), he desired song.

Rabbi El’azar also said, ‘It is written: When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy (Job 38:7). Who are the sons of God? They are the angels who every night chant song in the presence of the Creator of the Beginning, corresponding to the three watches of the night. In every single watch, each of the companies chants song. In the last watch, at night’s end just before morning, all the stars and constellations, and the angels called sons of God utter song, as is said: When the morning stars sang together; each company according to its degree, teaching that height upon height keeps guard (Ecclesiastes 5:7), for they arranged by degrees, one above the other. Therefore it is said: A song of degrees (Psalms 120:1)—of the degrees of the angels who utter song. This is בְּרֵאשִׁית (Bereshit), In the beginning—שִׁיר תָּאֵב (shir ta’ev), for desired song, God created heaven and earth” (Zohar Ḥadash 5d–6a [MhN], cf. Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 51, 24b).

And She Shall Count for Herself Seven Days

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“Rabbi Abba and Rabbi Ḥiyya were walking along the way. Rabbi Ḥiyya said, ‘It is written: And you shall count you from the morrow of the sabbath, from the day you bring the elevation sheaf, [seven complete weeks shall they be] (Leviticus 23:15). What does this indicate?’

He replied, ‘The Companions have established this but come and see: When the people of Israel were in Egypt, they were under alien domination and were gripped by impurity, like a woman sitting in days of impurity. After they were circumcised, they entered the holy portion called Covenant. Once they were joined to this, their impurity ceased, as when a woman’s blood of impurity ceases. After [the blood] ceases, what is written? [When she becomes purified from her flux,] she shall count for herself seven days [and after shall be clean] (Leviticus 15:28). Similarly here, once they entered the holy portion, their impurity ceased, and the blessed Holy One said, ‘From now on, a counting for purity.’ You shall count for yourselvesyourselves, precisely, as said: She shall count for herself, for her own self. Here, too, for yourselves—for your own selves. Why? To be purified by supernal holy waters, and afterward to come join the King and receive His Torah.

It is written: She shall count for herself seven days (Leviticus 15:28); here, too, seven weeks. Why seven weeks? To attain being purified by waters of the flowing, gushing river, called ‘living waters’ [Binah]. From that river issue seven weeks—so seven weeks surely, to attain it.

‘Just as a woman’s purity takes effect at night [after immersing herself in a miqveh], to join conjugally with her husband, so it is written When the dew would descend on the camp at night (Numbers 11:9). It is written on the camp, and not, When the dew would descend at night. And when did this dew descend? When Israel approached Mount Sinai—then that dew descended perfectly and they were purified, their filth ceasing, and they joined the King and received the Torah and Assembly of Israel, as we have established. At that time surely, All the streams flow into the Sea (Ecclesiastes 1:7)—to be purified and washed—and all are sanctified and joined with the Holy King.’

‘Come and see: if anyone does not reckon this count—those seven weeks—to attain this purity, he is not called ‘pure’ and is not in the category of pure, nor is he worthy of having a share in Torah. But if one arrives pure on this day and has not lost count, when he reaches this night he should delve into Torah and join her, preserving the supernal purity that comes upon him on that night, purifying him” (Zohar 3:97a–b, cf. BT Menaot 65b–66a).

“Certainly, in your prayer and in your recital of the Shema, the Shekhinah is renewed before the blessed Holy One and this is why it is said: [Until the morrow of the seventh sabbath you shall count fifty days] and you shall bring forward a new grain offering to YHWH (Leviticus 23:16). By the prayers which are instead of the sacrifices. But in which sacrifices, [namely] prayers, is She renewed? In your Festival of Weeks (Numbers 28:26), namely Shavuoth, which is when Torah was given, and which is called fifty days of the counting of the Omer, and which comprises seven weeks, from the side of the one about whom it is said: Seven times daily I praise You (Psalms 119:164), which is Malkhut, who is כַּלָה (kalah), bride, and is composed of the seven sefirot and is composed of Binah; and it spreads out in five sefirot of fifty.

Yesod [which is called] כֹּל (Kol), All (1 Chronicles 29:11) is composed of these fifty, [namely Ḥesed, Gevurah, Tif’eret, Netsaḥ, and Hod, each of which is composed of ten. Malkhut is called כַּלָה (kalah), bride, [the letters of which can also be read]: כֹּל ה (kol he) [numerically equivalent to fifty and five, namely] five [sefirot] composed of fifty. Each of them is enclosed within the fifty. Ḥokhmah, which is upper י (yod) is enclosed within the fifty, for ה״ (five) times י״ (ten). ה (He) is Binah and י (yod) is Ḥokhmah, [and there are י (yod) and ה (he) in Ḥokhmah, which when multiplied by each other, make fifty, and there are י (yod) and ה (he) in Binah; and when] י״ (ten) is [multiplied] by ה״ (five), the result is fifty, and this is the sum of כֹּל (Kol), All, and the numerical value of יָם (Yam), Sea [for Binah is called Sea, whose sum is fifty]. And the reference is to the Sea of Torah [where from Binah, which is called ‘Sea,’ emerges Torah, which is Ze’eir Anpin]. Its origin is Keter, which is infinite. The remaining sefirot are named after it: Seven Seas. And Malkhut [is] the יָם סוּף (Yam Suf), Sea of Reeds, the סוֹף דְּכָל יָמִים (sof de-khal yamim), end of all seas.

And because [each one of the] the seven weeks is fifty: And their grain offering… three-tenths for the single bull, two-tenths for the single ram (Numbers 28:28), making altogether five [tenths] which are five times ten. And their grain offering mixed with oil, three-tenths for the single bull, two-tenths for the single ram. A tenth for every single lamb of the seven lambs (Numbers 29:9). Seven lambsseven whole Sabbaths shall they be (Leviticus 23:15) and each one has six days [sefirot] with it” (Zohar 3:255a–b, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

The Abomination of Egypt

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“Rabbi Ḥiyya said, ‘Why is the Passover offering a lamb?’ Well, because it is written If we sacrifice the abomination of Egypt (Exodus 8:22). What is meant by the abomination of Egypt? Now, could it be that because they despise it the verse reads the abomination of Egypt? Rather, the Egyptians’ deity and god is called the abomination of Egypt. Thus it is written like the abominations of those nations (Deuteronomy 18:9)—the gods of the other nations.’

Come and see the wisdom of Joseph, as is written: From among all his brothers he took five men (Genesis 47:2), and he taught them to say Your servants are shepherds, we and our fathers as well (ibid., 3). Now, would a king ruling over the whole land and a father to the king do such a thing, making his brothers despicable and disreputable to them [for every shepherd is abhorrent to Egypt (Genesis 46:34)]? But surely, the abomination of Egypt is what their deity and god was called. Thus it is written If we sacrifice the abomination of Egypt….

Joseph said, ‘The best of the land is the land of Rameses, and that land they have set aside for their gods, to graze and wander to their hearts’ delight; and all the Egyptians esteem those who shepherd their gods as their very gods. I will enable my brothers to inherit that land, so the Egyptians will bow down to them and esteem them fittingly.’ This accords with what is written: For every shepherd is an abomination to Egypt (Genesis 46:34)—they esteem them as their gods.’

Rabbi Yose said, ‘But we have learned: Just as the blessed Holy One will punish idolators, so will He punish the idols themselves [cf. JT Ḥagigah 2:1, 77a; Bereshit Rabbah 96:5; Vayiqra Rabbah 26:7; Midrash Shemu’el 24:5; Tanḥuma, Vayḥi 3, Emor 2; Tanḥuma (Buber), Vayḥi 5; Emor; 4 BT Avodah Zarah 54b]. Now, did Joseph make his brothers into idols?’

He replied, ‘Joseph didn’t make his brothers into idols, but rather into rulers over the Egyptians’ idols, subduing their gods, chastising them with a rod. Joseph said, ‘If my brothers rule over their gods, they will certainly rule over the Egyptians themselves!’ That is why he settled them in the best of the land, giving them control over all the land.

So, why is the Passover offering a lamb? Well, because the lamb was the deity and god of Egypt. The blessed Holy One said, ‘From the tenth of the month, take the Egyptians’ deity and seize it, and let it be bound and held in your custody for one, two, three days. And on the fourth day, bring it out to be judged and assemble against it.’

When the Egyptians heard the voice of their deity, held in Israel’s custody, and they could not rescue it, they wept, and it was as hard on them as if they themselves had been bound for slaughter [cf. John 1:29–36]. The blessed Holy One said, ‘Let it be held in your possession day after day for four days, so that they will see it captured; and on the forth day bring it out to the field forum to be killed, and let the Egyptians see how you execute judgment on it.’ This was harder on them than all the plagues that the blessed Holy One had inflicted upon them—those judgements that they executed on their deities.

Afterward, they punished it with fire, for it is written: The images of their gods you shall burn in fire (Deuteronomy 7:25). The blessed Holy One said, Do not eat of it raw (Exodus 12:9)—so that [the Egyptians] will not say, ‘Out of craving for our deity, they are eating it like this.’ Nor cooked (ibid.)—for if it is cooked, it will be concealed, and [the Egyptians] will not see it. Rather, it should be prepared so that they see it being burned in fire, so that its odor will spread.

Furthermore, its head bent over its shank—so that [the Egyptians] will not say that it is a different animal or something else; rather, they will recognize it as their deity. Further, they should not eat it ravenously, but rather on a full stomach, showing disgrace and contempt.

Further, No bone shall you break in it (Exodus 12:46)—rather, [the Egyptians] should see its bone cast into the street and be unable to save it. Thus it is written [Upon all the gods of Egypt I will execute] judgments (Exodus 12:12)—many judgements.

Further, your staff in your hand (Exodus 12:11)—and not a sword or spear or any other weapon of war.

Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘It has already has been established that the Egyptians worshiped the constellation Aries, and that is why they worshipped a sheep.’

Rabbi Yose said, ‘If so, they should have worshipped a lamb and not a sheep’ [טָלֶה (taleh), lamb, is numerically equivalent to דָם (dam), blood, which alludes to מַאְדִים (Ma’adim), Mars]. He replied, ‘They worship them all. Actually, the constellation Aries descends and ascends, as a lamb and a sheep; so they worship them all.’ He said to him, ‘I have heard as follows: that all cattle were their deity, and so the blessed Holy One killed all the firstborn of the cattle (Exodus 12:29). As has been said, these are rungs on high, who are called so’” (Zohar 3:250b–251a).

This Doe has a Narrow Womb

Do you observe the calving of does? (Job 39:1)—this doe has a narrow vagina. When she crouches to give birth, I prepare a serpent which bites the vagina and she is loosened of her offspring. If it comes one second too soon or one second too late, she immediately dies” (BT Bava Batra 16b, cf. Zohar 2:111b; Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 43a).

At the tent flap sin crouches (Genesis 4:7). The serpent which bites the genitalia is the secret of ‘קַבֵּל רִנַּת עַמְּךָ שַׂגְּבֵנוּ טַהֲרֵנוּ נוֹרָא (Qabel rinnat Amekha saggvenu taharenu nora), accept Your people’s prayer. Strengthen us, purify us, You who are revered’ (Anna be-Khoaḥ)—קֶרַע שָׂטָן (qera satan), tear [of the] adversary” (Rabbi Ḥayyim Vital, Sefer ha-Liqqutim).

“נָחָשׁ (Naḥash), serpent, [שָׂטָן (satan), adversary,] and מָשִׁיחַ (mashiaḥ), Messiah, are numerically equivalent” (Rabbi Yitsḥaq ben Ya’aqov ha-Kohen, Madda’ei ha-Yahadut, 2 [1927] 273).

כְּמוֹ נָחָשׁ (Kemo naḥash), like a serpent (Psalms 140:4), and מָשִׁיחַ בֵּן דָּוִד (mashiaḥ ben david), Messiah son of David, are numerically equivalent.

“Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘There is one אַיֶּלֶת (ayyelet), doe, on earth, and the blessed Holy One does so much for her. When she cries out, the blessed Holy One hearkens to her anguish. And when the world is in need of mercy, for water, she cries aloud and the blessed Holy One listens and then feels compassion for the world, as is written As a hind longs for streams of water (Psalms 42:2). When she needs to give birth, she is totally constricted; then she puts her head between her knees, crying out and screaming, and the blessed Holy One feels compassion for her and provides her with a serpent who bites her genitalia, opening and tearing that place, and immediately she gives birth.’ Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘Concerning this matter, do not ask and do not test את יהוה (et YHWH)—so it is precisely!’” (Zohar 2:52b)

As a woman with child draws near to give birth, she shudders, she shakes in her pangs, so we were before You, O YHWH (Isaiah 26:17).

“In the first month (Numbers 28:16). Rabbi Abba opened, ‘As a hart craves for streams of water, so my soul craves for You, O God (Psalms 42:2). This verse has been established. But it is written אַיָּל (ayyal), hart, and it is written אַיֶּלֶת (ayyelet), hind (Psalms 22:1); and all is one, for there is male and female. Even though there is male and female, this אַיָּל (ayyal), hart, is called ‘male’ and is called ‘female,’ as is written: כְּאַיָּל תַּעֲרֹג (ke-ayyal ta’arog), as a hart craves, and it is not written יַעֲרוֹג (ya’arog), [he] craves.

And it is written אַיֶּלֶת (ayyelet), the hind of, dawn (Psalms 22:1). What is the hind of dawn? Well, this is a certain compassionate animal, more compassionate than any in the world—for when She needs food, She goes afar on a distant journey and brings back food, and does not want to eat until She returns to her place. Why? So that the other animals may gather by Her and She can share that food with them. When She comes, all the other animals gather by Her, and She stands in the middle, distributing to each one [and the sign is in: She gets up while it is still night and provides nourishment for her house and a portion for her young women (Proverbs 31:15) (Sullam)]. By when She distributes, She is satisfied, as if She had eaten more than all [cf. BT Pesaḥim 112a, in the name of Rabbi Akiva: ‘More than the calf wants to suck, the cow wants to suckle’].

When does She distribute to them? When morning is about to come—while it is still night, and darkness lifts, lightening [as is written: She gets up while it is still night and provides nourishment for her house (Proverbs 31:15)]. Once morning shines, they are all sated with Her food.

Then a voice is aroused in the middle of the sky, proclaiming aloud: ‘You who are near, enter your places; you who are far, depart! Let each one be gathered to his appropriate place.’

As soon as the sun shines, each one is gathered to his place, as is written: When the sun rises, they gather [and in their dens they crouch] (Psalms 104:22). She goes in the day, is revealed at night, and distributes in the morning; so She is called אַיֶּלֶת (ayyelet), the hind of, dawn. Afterward, She is invigorated like a warrior and goes—and is called אַיָּל (ayyal), a hart.

Where does She go? She goes sixty phrasings from the place that She left, and enters the Mountains of Darkness, where She catches the scent of food. She proceeds into that Mountain of Darkness, and a certain tortuous serpent catches the scent of Her foot and follows Her; and She climbs from there toward the Mountain of Light. Once She arrives there, the blessed Holy One summons for Her another serpent, who emerges and attacks the other one, and She is saved. From there She takes food, and returns to Her place at midnight, She begins to distribute until the darkness of morning lifts. Once the day dawns, She goes and is no longer seen, as has been said.

When the world needs rain, all the other animals gather toward Her, and She ascends to the top of a high mountain, and, wrapping Her head between Her knees, She lets out one low after another. And the blessed Holy One hears Her voice, and is filled with mercy, and takes pity on the world. She descends from the top of the mountain, and runs and hides Herself, and all the other animals run after Her, but do not find Her—as is written: As a hart craves for streams of water. What is meant by for streams of water? For those that have dried up, and the world is thirsting for water; so she craves.

When She is pregnant, She is stopped up. When the time comes for Her to give birth, She lows and cries out, cry after cry—up to seventy cries, equaling the number of words in May YHWH answer you on the day of distress (Psalms 20:2), which is the song for a pregnant woman. The blessed Holy One hears Her and is ready for Her: He brings forth a great serpent from the Mountains of Darkness, and it comes through the mountains, its mouth licking the dust. It reaches this hart and comes and bites Her twice in that place [cf. BT Gittin 69b].

The first time, blood comes out, and it licks it up. The second time, water comes out, and all those animals of the mountains drink, and She is opened and gives birth. Your mnemonic is: He struck the rock with his staff twice: and it is written and the community, with its beasts, drank (Numbers 20:11) [cf. Shemot Rabbah 3:13].

At the moment when the blessed Holy One takes pity on Her—through the act of this serpent—what is written? The voice of YHWH brings on the birth pangs of hinds… (Psalms 29:9). The voice of YHWH brings on the birth pangs of hinds—those pangs and pains, arousing those seventy cries. Immediately, and strips the forests bare (ibid.)—to remove that serpent, exposing it among them to go away” (Zohar 3:249a–b, cf. ibid. 2:219b–220a; 3:68b [RM]).

“One might suggest that after seventy [years] She will feel [birth-pangs], and in two years She will give birth one thousand and two hundred years after [the destruction of the Second Temple, that is to say, after the end of the Fifth Millennium, which is all destruction, and a further two hundred years into the Sixth Millennium, and seventy years for the birth-pangs, and two years for the birth itself] coming to the year 272 [of the Sixth Millennium]. But it is written: Before she travailed, she brought forth; [before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child] (Isaiah 66:7). And the secret of the matter is contained in the verse: And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear (ibid. 65:24). And what is the meaning of before? Before the completion of the seventy years and the two years following the passing of one thousand and two hundred years, the birth-pangs, two Messiahs will be revealed to the world. And at that time: And in His palace all says glory (Psalms 29:9). And it has already been taught: The wise inherit כָּבוֹד (kavod)glory (Proverbs 3:35).

And at that time, those Torah sages will be respected, those who suffered pangs and travails as a woman in labor, and who were despised by the ignorant; they will be honored. And immediately: YHWH was enthroned at the flood (Psalms 29:10) on account of the wicked. Flood—judgments of the flood, when All the wellsprings of the great deep burst [and the casements of the heavens were opened] (Genesis 7:11), at the time of the flood. So, too, judgments will rise over them above and below, with no end. And every contempt and disgrace shown by the idolatrous nations of the world towards YHWH and His people and the many insults that Israel suffered from them for the sake of YHWH’s Name—for all of them the blessed Holy One will exact vengeance, and therefore, as far as they are concerned, [God is jealous, and YHWH avenges;YHWH avenges, and is furious; [YHWH will take vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserves wrath for His enemies] (Nahum 1:2).

In the first month (Numbers 28:16). What is the first month? It is Nisan, which is when that animal gave birth, in accord with the teaching of the Masters of Mishnah: ‘In the month of Nisan they were redeemed, and in the month of Nisan they will be redeemed'[נִיסָן (Nisan) is the month of נִסִים (nisim), miracles] (BT Rosh ha-Shanah 11a). And this is with His יָד (yad), hand [which is numerically equivalent to fourteen, according to the secret of the verse:] And he said, ‘For יָד (yad), hand, upon Yah’s throne: [War for YHWH against Amalek from all time] (Exodus 17:16), when He swore to remove the seed of Esau, Amalek, from the world. At that time: Draw out and take yourselves sheep according to your clans and slaughter the Passover offering (Exodus 12:21), [where the meaning of] מִשְׁכוּ (mishkhu)draw out, is as in the verse: מָשַׁךְ יָדוֹ (mashak yado)he stretched out his hand, with scoffers (Hosea 7:5).

At that time, thus said YHWH: ‘To the rulers who transgressed against Me: neither shall they enter into the land of Israel (Ezekiel 13:9)—the shepherds of the flock, the supporters of the generation. Wherefore it is said about them: Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably to her (Hosea 2:16). And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I enter into judgment with you face to face. Like I entered into judgment with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I enter into judgment with you, says YHWH God (Ezekiel 20:35–36), [namely] whom He killed in the plague of darkness” (Zohar 3:249a–b, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineas).

“A voice issued… O low, sleeping ones, closed-eyed, awake! Who among you turns darkness into light, bitter into sweet before arriving here? Who among you awaits each day the light that shines when the King visits the doe and is glorified…? Whoever does not await this each day… has no portion here” (Zohar 1:4a).

“Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nasi] says: The rising column of the moon is different from that of the sun. The light column of the moon rises straight like a stick, the light column of the sun [the dawn] irradiates in all directions… Just as the antlers of the doe branch off this way and that way, so the light of the dawn is scattered in all directions—Rabbi Zera said: Why was Esther compared to a אַיֶּלֶת (ayyelet), doe [BT Megillah 15b]? To tell you that just as a doe has a narrow womb and is desirable to her mate at all times as at the first time, so was Esther precious to King Ahasuerus at all times as at the first time. Rabbi Assi said: Why was Esther compared to the dawn [see BT Eruvin 54b]? To tell you that just as the dawn is the end of the whole night, so is the story of Esther the end of all the miracles. But there is Ḥanukkah?—we refer to those included in Scripture” (BT Yoma 28b–29b).

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).

Evil Bread

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And He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? From the tree [I commanded you not to eat have you eaten?’] (Genesis 3:11). Rabbi Levi said: [A parable: To what can the matter be compared?] A woman borrowing חָמֵץ (ḥamets), yeast [alt., חֹמֶץ (ḥomets), vinegar], who went in to the wife of a snake-charmer and asked her, ‘How does your husband treat you?’ She said, ‘He treats me with every kindness, only he does not permit me to approach this jar which is full of serpents and scorpions. She said, ‘It contains all his finery. He wishes to marry another woman and give it to her.’ What did she do? She reached her hand into it, and they began biting her. When her husband came he heard her crying out. He said, ‘Have you touched that jar?’ Similarly, ‘From the tree I commanded you not to eat have you eaten?’” (Bereshit Rabbah 19:10).

“[Rabbi Tanḥum said:] May it be Your will, YHWH my God and God of my fathers, that You break and destroy the yoke of the evil impulse from our heart. For You created us to do Your will, and we must do Your will; You desire it and we desire it. So who prevents it? The leaven in the dough [i.e., the עֵרֶב רַב (erev rav), mixed multitude, motley throng, cf. BT Qiddushin 71b: ‘Rabbi El’azar said: Ezra did not go up from Babylon until he made it like pure sifted flour: then he went up (to the land of Israel)’]” (JT Berakhot 4:2, 7d).

“When Israel went out of Egypt, they left their domain—alien domain, the domain called חָמֵץ (ḥamets), evil bread. That is why idolatry is called so, and that is mystery of the evil impulse, alien worship, also called שְׂאוֹר (se’or), leaven. This is the evil impulse, for so it functions in the person, like leaven in dough: entering ones innards little by little and then increasing, until the whole body is permeated by it. This is idolatry, of which it is written there shall be no alien god in you (Psalms 81:10)—literally!” (Zohar 2:182a).

“Come and see: In Egypt [Lilit, that beast of the reed (Psalms 68:31)] reigned, and from her issued many kinds of dominion, all in the mystery of חָמֵץ (ḥamets), leavened stuff. Once the blessed Holy One broke her, He removed חָמֵץ (ḥamets) and brought in מַצָּה (matsah). How? By the thinnest thread of all, He broke the ח (ḥet) of this חַיָּה (ḥayyah), beast, and those letters turned into מַצָּה (matsah). Actually, He broke the ח (ḥet) of this חַיָּה (ḥayyah), beast, who is called חָמֵץ (ḥamets). So she is called חַיַּת (ḥayyat)beast, of the reed, for she is easy to break as a reed. How was she broken? By a thread as thin as a hair, He broke the ח (ḥet); it was displaced becoming מַצָּה (matsah). Thus it is written Rebuke חַיַּת (ḥayyat), the beast of, the reed—the blessed Holy One rebuked her, and the ח (ḥet) was broken, turning into ה (he)” (Zohar 3:252a).