The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

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Mother of Pearl and Black Marble: He Took a Thousandth of Her Radiance and from Her Built a Lovely Precious Stone

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“Was light created on the first day? For, behold, it is written: And God placed [the two great lights] in the vault of the heavens (Genesis 1:17), and it is written: And it was evening and it was morning, fourth day (ibid., 19)—this is according to Rabbi El’azar. For Rabbi El’azar said: With the light the blessed Holy One created on the first day one could gaze from one end of the universe to the other; but as soon as the blessed Holy One foresaw the generation of the Flood and the generation of the Dispersion [i.e., the generation which built the Tower of Babel], and saw that their actions were corrupt, He arose and hid it away from them, as is said: The light of the wicked is withheld (Job 38:15). And for whom did He hide it? For the righteous in the time to come, for it is said: And God saw the light, that it was good (Genesis 1:4); and good means only the righteous, for it is said: Say you to the righteous, that it shall be good: [for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds] (Isaiah 3:10). As soon as the light saw that it had been treasured away for the righteous, it rejoiced, as is said: The light of the righteous rejoices (Proverbs 13:9)” (BT Ḥagigah 12a).

“It was taught: The light which was created in the six days of Creation cannot shine during the day because it dims the orb of the sun, nor by night, because it was created only to shine by day. Then where is it? It is treasured away for the righteous in the time still to come, as it says, Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of the seven days, [in the day that YHWH binds up the hurt of His people, and heals the stroke of their wound] (Isaiah 30:26). Seven! surely there were only three, seeing that the luminaries were created on the fourth day! It is like a man who says, ‘I am providing so much for the seven days of my [wedding] feast. Rabbi Neḥemyah said: It refers to the seven days of mourning for Methuselah, when the blessed Holy One lavished light upon them [see BT Sanhedrin 108b]” (Bereshit Rabbah 3:6).

“Rabbi Yehudah son of Simon said, ‘With the light created by the blessed Holy One on the first day, one could gaze and see from one end of the universe to the other. When the Holy One foresaw the corruption of the generation of Enosh and the generation of the Flood, He hid it away from them, as is written: The light of the wicked is withheld (Job 38:15). Where did He hide it? In the Garden of Eden. אוֹר זָרֻעַ לַצַּדִּיק וּלְיִשְׁרֵי לֵב שִׂמְחָה (Or zaru’a la-tsaddiq u-le-yishrei simḥa), Light is sown for the righteous, joy for the upright in heart (Psalms 97:11) [ר עֲקִיבַה (R. Akiva)]” (Vayiqra Rabbah 11:7).

“God said, ‘Let there be light!’ And there was light (Genesis 1:3)—primordial, transcendent light, already existent. From here issued all powers and forces, so Earth turned firm and fragrant, generating Her potencies. As the light shone, its radiance blazed from one end of the universe to the other. When it gazed upon the wicked of the world, it hid itself away, emerging only by its paths, concealed, unrevealed….

God said, ‘Let there be light!’ This is the light that the blessed Holy One created at first. It is the light of the eye. This is the light that the blessed Holy One showed Adam, who gazed with it from one end of the universe to the other” (Zohar 1:30b, 31b).

“Look at what we have learned in our Mishnah: With the light that the blessed Holy One created at first, one could gaze and see from the beginning of the world to its end. Come and see: The light of the sun is a sixty-thousand-and-seventy-fifth of the light of the speculum of the concealed light. If even at this light of the sun a person cannot gaze, how much more so at that light!

Yet we have said that a person could see with it from the beginning of the world to the end of the world! Well, so have we decreed in our Mishnah: With that light, a person could know and see—with the radiance of wisdom—all that was and all that will be, from the beginning of the world to the end of the world, and it has been concealed for the righteous in the world to come. What is meant by ‘in the world to come’? When the holy soul leaves this world and enters the world to come [cf. Tanḥuma, Vayiqra, 8: ‘The wise call it הַעוֹלָם הַבּא (ha-olam ha-ba), the world to come, not because it does not exist now, but for us today in this world it is still to come’; Zohar 3:290b (IZ): ‘The world that is coming, constantly coming, never ceasing’]” (Zohar Ḥadash 15b, Midrash ha-Ne’lam).

Rabbi Neḥunia son of ha-Qannah said: One verse says, They have not seen the light, bright though it be in the skies (Job 37:21). And another verse says, He set darkness His hiding-place (Psalms 18:12); it is also written, Cloud and dense fog around Him (ibid. 97:2). This is difficult. However, a third verse comes to hold the balance: Darkness itself will not darken for You, and the night will light up like the day, the dark and light will be one (ibid. 139:12) [cf. Bemidbar Rabbah 15:8]” (Bahir §1).

Torah is light (Proverbs 6:23).

“Rabbi Boi said: What is In remote eons I was shaped, מֵרֹאשׁ (me-rosh), from the head (Proverbs 8:23)? [As you say, בַּת רֹאשִׁי (bat roshi), ‘Daughter of My head’]. What is מֵעוֹלָם (me-olam), in remote eons? A matter necessary לְהֵעָלֵם (le-he’alem), to conceal, from all the world, as is written, The world, too, He has put in their heart, [without man’s grasping at all what it is ha-Elohim has done from beginning to end] (Ecclesiastes 3:11)—do not read הָעֹלָם (ha-olam), the world, but rather הֶעְלֵם (he’elem), concealment. Torah says, ‘I preceded [all] to be רֹאשׁ לָעוֹלָם (rosh la-olam), head of the world,’ as is said, me-olam, in remote eons, I was shaped, me-rosh, from the head. And if you say: perhaps the earth preceded her, it says, before the earth (ibid.). As is the case elsewhere: In the beginning created Elohim (Genesis 1:1)—what created [Elohim]? The needs of all, then Elohim. And what is written next? The heavens and the earth (ibid.)” (Bahir §10, cf. Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 42, 82a).

“Rabbi Berekhiah said, ‘Why is it written, God said, ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light (Genesis 1:3), and not [simply] ‘And there was?’ This can be compared to a king who had a beautiful object and set it aside until he had prepared a place for it; then he placed it there, as is written: ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light—for it already was” (Bahir §25).

Unveil my eyes that I may look upon the wonders of Your Torah (Psalms 119:18).

“And Rabbi Yoḥanan said: There were two [iterations of] ‘light,’ as is written, [And God said, ‘Let there be light.’] And there was light (Genesis 1:3). Regarding both of them it is written, it was good (ibid., 4). The blessed Holy One took one and hid it for the righteous in the World that is Coming. Of this is written, How great Your goodness that You hid for those in awe of You. You have wrought for those who shelter in You [before the eyes of humankind] (Psalms 31:20). To teach that the primordial light cannot be seen by any creature, as is written, it was good [cf. Shemot Rabbah 35:1]. Furthermore it is written, And God saw that it was good (Genesis 1:21). The blessed Holy One saw all that He had made, and saw good—radiant בָּהִיר (bahir), brightness. He took of that good, and included in it the thirty-two paths of Wisdom, giving it to this world. This is the meaning of, For good learning I have given you, do not forsake My teaching (Proverbs 4:2). Alas, say this is treasury of Oral Torah.

The blessed Holy One said, ‘This quality is included in this world, and it is Oral Torah. If you guard this quality in this world, then you will be worthy of the World that is Coming, which is the good treasured away for the righteous.’ What is it? It is His strength, as is written, And His brilliance will be as the light (Habakkuk 3:4). The brilliance that was taken from the primordial light will be [manifest] light if His children keep the teaching and the commandments that I have written to instruct them (Exodus 24:12) [cf. Zohar 2:166b].’ Therefore it is written, Hear, My son, your father’s reproof, and do not forsake your mother’s teaching (Proverbs 1:8).

And it is written, He has rays at His side: and there is His strength hidden (Habakkuk 3:4). What is His strength hidden? The light that was concealed: that You hid for those in awe of You (Psalms 31:20). As is said: You have wrought for those who shelter in You (ibid.)—those who take refuge in Your shadow in this world, who keep Your teaching, and fulfill Your commandments. Who sanctify Your great Name, unifying it in private and in public, as it says: before the eyes of humankind (ibid.)” (Bahir §§147–148).

Rabbi Berekhiah sat and expounded: Each day we speak of הַעוֹלָם הַבָּא (ha-Olam ha-Ba) but do we know what we are saying? The Targum renders this as עָלְמָא דְאָתֵי (alma de-atei), the World that Came. But what is it? This teaches that before the world was created, it arose in thought to create a great light to illuminate and a great light was created which no creature was able to wield [see Tanḥuma, Shemini, 9]. The blessed Holy One foresaw that none could bear it, He took one-seventh and gave it to them in its place and the rest He treasured away for the righteous in the time yet to come, saying: If they prove worthy of this seventh and guard it, I will give them the rest in the other world. It is therefore called ha-Olam ha-Ba, the World that is Coming, since it is already [always] coming from the six days of creation. Of this is written: How great Your goodness that You hid for those in awe of You (Psalms 31:20)” (Bahir §160).

“And what is Awe of YHWH (Isaiah 33:6)? It is the primordial light. Thus Rabbi [Berekhiah] said: Why is it written, God said, ‘Let there be light.’ [And there was light]? (Genesis 1:3). Why does it not say, and it was? But this teaches that the light was so great that no creature could gaze upon it. The blessed Holy One therefore treasured it away for the righteous in the time still to come. This is the quality of all that is סְחֹרָה (seḥorah), valuable, in the world. It is also the power of the precious stones called סֹחָרֶת (soḥaret), Darkness [or: Black Marble], and דַּר (dar), Dweller [or: Mother-of-Pearl; see Esther 1:6; BT Megillah 12a ad loc. Perhaps the black marble called Darkness is the supernal sun, too blindingly bright, as it were, to gaze upon, cf. Job 10:22: You shine like darkness; Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed, 1:59; Zohar 2:188a]. And what is the quality of Soḥaret, Darkness? To teach you that the blessed Holy One took a thousandth of [Soḥaret’s, i.e., the World that is Coming’s] radiance and from Her בֹּנֶה (boneh), built [alluding to בִּינָה (Binah)] a lovely precious stone [cf. Tanuma, Pequdei 3]. In Her [namely, Dar, i.e., this world] He included all the mitsvot” (Bahir §190).

I am שְׁחוֹרָה (sheḥorah), dark, but desirable (Song of Songs 1:5), the speculum that does not shine but Father and Mother adorned Her so that Her husband be pleased with Her” (Zohar 1:49b).

And what is מִשָּׁם רֹעֶה (Misham ro’eh), from there the Shepherd, Israel’s Stone (Genesis 49:24)? That from There Israel’s Stone is sustained. What is מִשֶּׁם (mishem), it by name? Ah, say: צֶדֶק עֶלְיוֹן (tsedeq elyon), supernal Justice [upper ShekhinahBinah]. And what is it? The great צָּפוֹן (tsafon), hidden, light, called סֹחָרֶת (Soḥaret), Darkness [which סְחוֹר סְחוֹר (seḥor seḥor), surrounds, everything, cf. Zohar 3:120a], and the stone residing below is דַּר (dar), Dweller [i.e., lower שְׁכִינָה (Shekhinah), Presence, from לְשַׁכֵּן (le-shaken), ‘to dwell.’ Cf. Seder Rabba de-Vereshit, see Schäfer, Synopse zur Hekhalot-Literatur, §440: ‘Shekhinah is below just as Shekhinah is above’]. And what are the beams mentioned in the verse [The radiance is like light.] Beams from His hand He has, [and there His might is hidden] (Habakkuk 3:4)? These are the five fingers of the right hand” (Bahir §193). 

“A precious stone set in a crown, as is written, the stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone (Psalms 118:22). It ascends to the place from which it was hewn, as is written, from There feeds Israel’s Stone (Genesis 49:24)” (Bahir §91, cf. Zohar 1:231b).

He Will be like a Tree Planted by Water

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“Ulla Nahota was dying there [in Babylonia]. He began to cry. They said to him, ‘Why are you crying? We will bring you up to the land of Israel [for burial]. He said to them, ‘What benefit [is it] to me, I will lose מַרְגָּלִיתִי (marggaliti), my pearl, in an impure land [cf. Hymn of the Pearl]. Not like he who is delivered into his mother’s bosom is he who is delivered into the bosom of an alien woman [cf. Proverbs 2:16: To save you from a stranger-woman, from a smooth-talking alien woman]” (JT Kilayim 9:3, 32c).

“Rabbi Yirmeyah son of Abba said in the name of Rabbi Yoḥanan, ‘Whoever walks four cubits in the land of Israel is assured to be a son of the world to come.’ Now… aren’t the righteous outside the Land going to be revived? Rabbi Il’a said, ‘By גִּלְגּוּל (gilggul), rolling.’ Rabbi Abba Sala the Great objected, ‘Rolling will be painful to the righteous!’ Abbaye replied, ‘Tunnels will be made for them underground” (BT Ketubbot 111a, cf. Zohar 1:113b–114b [MhN], 131a).

“[Addressing the apparent contradiction between revival of the dead and גִּלְגּוּל הַנְשָׁמוֹת (gilggul ha-neshamot), rolling souls] Rabbi Ḥizkiyah said, ‘If you say that all bodies of the world will arise, aroused from the dust, what will become of those bodies sown in a single soul [cf. BT Gittin 58a: ‘two wicks in one flame’]? Rabbi Yose replied, ‘These bodies that have been virtuous and have not flourished are considered as if they never existed. As they were a withered tree in this world, so too at that time. The final body will arise, for once sown, it flourished and took root fittingly. Of this one is written: He will be like a tree planted by water… its leaves will be luxuriant… (Jeremiah 17:8), for it generated fruit, took root and flourished fittingly. Of that previous body is written: He will be like a shrub in the desert, and will not see when good comes… (ibid., 6). When good comes—revival of the dead, and it is written: For you will revere My name, the sun of victory will rise, with healing in its wings (Malachi 3:20). Then good will prevail in the world, and the one called Evil will be eliminated from the world, as we have said. Then those previous bodies will be as though they had never been” (Zohar 1:131a).

“Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘If a person obtains a recycled soul and fails to have it rectified within him, it is as though he falsifies the truth of the King; and I apply to him this verse: or if he finds something lost and denies it and swears falsely (Leviticus 5:22). And denies it—better for him if he had never been created [cf. BT Niddah 30b; Zohar 3:13a]!

We have learned: ‘A completely righteous person is not thrust aside; an incompletely righteous person is.’ Who is completely righteous, and who is incompletely righteous? Could it be that one whose deeds are flawed is called righteous? [cf. BT Berakhot 7a–b, Megillah 6b, Bava Metsi’a 71a, Avodah Zarah 4a].’

‘Well, a completely righteous person is clearly recognized, for he has not taken tortuous convolutions; and with his inheritance he builds a structure, erects walls, hews out wells, and plants trees.

An incompletely righteous person is one who builds a structure with another’s inheritance—digging into it, restoring the foundation stones as before, toiling over it; yet he does not know if it will remain his. Furthermore, regarding himself, he is considered good and righteous; but regarding that inheritance, not so.

This may be compared to a person who builds a beautiful and attractive building. But when he examines the foundation, he sees that it is sinking and distorted in all directions. The building is incomplete until he demolishes it and rebuilds it anew. Regarding his building itself, it was fine and beautiful; but regarding the foundation, it was bad and distorted. So it is not called a complete project; it is not called a complete building. Consequently, ‘an incompletely righteous person is thrust aside [at the revival of the dead].’ Thus, while the wicked swallows up the one more righteous than he (Habakuk 1:13) [cf. BT Berakhot 7b, Megillah 6b, Bava Metsi’a 71a]” (Zohar 3:213a–b).

Guardian of the Doors of Israel

mezuzah--061101-a“King Ardavan IV of Parthia sent a pearl of purest radiance to Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nasi] and requested: Send me something equally precious in return. Rabbi sent him a mezuzah. The king sent back word: I sent you something beyond price, and you sent me something that sells for a debased coin of no value! Rabbi replied: My desirable things and your desirable things are not to be compared. You sent me something that I have to guard; I sent you something that guards while you lie asleep, as is said: [Keep, my son, your father’s command, and do not abandon your mother’s teaching. Bind them on your heart at all times, garland them round your neck.When you walk about, it will guide you, when you lie down, it will guard you, [when you wake, it will converse with you] (Proverbs 6:22)” (JT Peah 1:1, 15d).

“[When] Onqelos the son of Qalonymus became a convert, the Emperor sent a contingent of Roman [guards] after him but he enticed them with scriptural verses and they became converted…. So they took hold of him; and as they were walking on he saw the mezuzah which was fixed on the doorpost and he placed his hand on it saying to them: ‘What is this?’ and they replied: ‘You tell us.’ He said, ‘According to the way of the world, a king of flesh and blood dwells within, and his servants keep guard on him without; but the blessed Holy One, it is His servants who dwell within while He keeps guard on them from without; as is said: YHWH guards your going and coming, now and for evermore (Psalms 121:8). Then they, too, were converted. [The Emperor] sent for him no more” (BT Avodah Zarah 11a).

שַׁדָּי (Shaddai)—שׁוֹמֶר דְלָתוֹת יִשְׂרָאֶל (Shomer delatot yisra’el), Guardian of the doors of Israel” (Kol Bo 90, 101:4).

He who dwells in the Most High’s shelter, in the shadow of שַׁדַּי (Shaddailies at night—I say of YHWH, “My refuge and bastion, my God in whom I trust.” For He will save you from the fowler’s snare, from disastrous plague. With His pinion He shelters you, and beneath His wings you take refuge, a shield and a buckler, His truth. You shall not fear from the terror of the night nor from the arrow that flies by day, from the plague that stalks in darkness nor from the scourge that rages at noon. Though a thousand fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, you it will not reach…. No harm will befall you, nor affliction near your tent (Psalms 91:1–7, 10).

Afflictions of the children of Adam (2 Samuel 7:14). These lure human beings at doorways, wells, and toilets. Therefore, if a person places the Holy Name at his doorway—if שַׁדָּי (Shaddai) is inscribed in its supernal crowns—they all flee far away from him, corresponding to what is written: No affliction will draw near your tent (Psalms 91:10). What is affliction? Afflictions of the children of Adam” (Zohar 3:76b).

“שַׁדָּי (Shaddai) of the מְזוּזָה (mezuzah), doorpost, chases away the שֵׁדִים (shedim), demons, and מַזִּיקִים (mazziqim), destroyers, at the gate” (Zohar 3:251b).

She is the gate by which one must enter all wisdom, and every [divine] appellation, and הֲוָיָה (Havayah), to enter each and every sefirah. She is the knowledge of everything, and without Her no creature has permission to ponder any knowledge in the world. Of Her it is said: זֶה (Zeh), This, is the gate of YHWH (Psalms 118:20)…. 

Shekhinah is the gate onto which the mezuzah is affixed [one of the many appellations of Shekhinah is זֶה (zeh), ‘This’ (masculine pronoun), or זֹאת (zot), ‘This’ (feminine pronoun), perhaps because as the Divine Presence She is constantly right here, see Zohar 1:49b; 2:11b–12a; 3:8b]” (Zohar 3:256b, 258a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

“Rava said, The proper performance of the mitsvah is to fix it in the handbreadth nearest to the street. Why?—the Rabbis say, So that one should יִפְגַּע (yifgga’), encounter, a mitsvah immediately [on one’s return home, cf. Genesis 32:1: And Jacob had gone on his way, and messengers of God יִּפְגְּעוּ (yifggu)accosted him]; Rabbi Ḥanina of Sura says, So that it should protect him [and his entire house from מַזִּיקִין (mazziqin), destroyers (Rashi)]. Rabbi Ḥanina said, Come and see how the way of the blessed Holy One differs from that of flesh and blood. According to the way of flesh and blood, the king dwells within, and his servants keep guard on him from without; but with the blessed Holy One it is not so, for it is His servants that dwell within and He keeps guard over them from without; as is said, [Look, He does not slumber nor does He sleep, Israel’s guardYHWH is your guard, YHWH is your shade at your right hand (Psalms 121:4–5)” (BT Menakhot 33b).

“Rabbi Yehudah son of Rabbi Yose said, ‘A doorway that bears a mezuzah: no demon—neither accuser nor evil spirit—can approach, because the blessed Holy One watches the doorway. Even when the destroying angel has permission to harm, he lifts his gaze and sees the name of the Omnipresent poised over the doorway, as it were—and He will not allow the Destroyer to enter your houses to strike (Exodus 12:23). Therefore, one should always be [enveloped] by a mezuzah….

From where do we know this? From its written form—מְּזוּזֹת (mezuzot), doorposts. Its letters demonstrate: זָז מָוֶת (zaz mavet), Death slinks off, for he is not given permission to attack, and he slinks away from the opening” (Zohar Ḥadash 84d–85a [MhN], cf. Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 25a, 66a).

“Our Rabbis taught: If one rents a house to another, the tenant must provide a mezuzah. But when he leaves, he must not take it with him, except [if he rented] from a gentile, [then] he must remove it when he leaves. And it once happened that a man took it away with him, and he buried his wife and two children” (BT Bava Metsi’a 102a).

“Our Rabbis taught: Children die as a punishment for [unfulfilled] vows….

[However,] Rabbi Me’ir and Rabbi Yehudah disagree: One maintains, It is for the neglect of mezuzah, while the other holds that it is for the neglect of tsitsit. Now, as for the view that it is for the neglect of mezuzah, it is well, as is written, And you shall write them on the מְזוּזוֹת (mezuzot), doorposts, of your house and in your gates, which is followed by, so that your days may be many, and the days of your children (Deuteronomy 11:20). But what is the reason of the view that it is for the neglect of tsitsit?—Rav Kahana, others say Shila Mari: because it is written, Also on your skirts is found the blood of the souls of the poor innocents (Jeremiah 2:34). Rav Naḥman son of Yitsḥaq said, The view that it is for the neglect of mezuzah is also [learnt] from this: Did I not find them tunneling in? (ibid.) [cf. Exodus 22:1: If while tunneling, a thief should be found and is struck down and dies, there is no bloodguilt for him]—they made their entrances like [nothing more than] caves [without doorposts]” (BT Shabbat 32b).

Missing the Mark and a Precious Pearl of Advice

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“There were once some hooligans in the neighborhood of Rabbi Me’ir who caused him a great deal of trouble. Rabbi Me’ir prayed for mercy on them, that they should die. Rabbi Me’ir’s wife, Beruria, said to him: What is your thinking? Because it is written Let חַטָּאִים (ḥatta’im), offences, vanish (Psalms 104:35). Is it written חוֹטּאִים (ḥott’im), offenders? It is written ḥatta’im, offences! Further, look at the end of the verse: and the wicked be no more. Since the offences will cease, there will be no more wicked men! Rather pray for them that they should return [to the right way], and there will be no more wicked. He did pray for them, and they returned” (BT Berakhot 10a).

Every one of them could sling a stone at a hair, and not יַחֲטִא (yaḥati), miss (Judges 20:16).

There is no man righteous on earth who does good and will not יֶחֱטָא (yaḥeta), miss the mark (Ecclesiastes 7:20).

There is no man who does not יֶחֱטָא (yeḥeta), offend (2 Chronicles 6:36).

For a nation lost in counsel are they (Deuteronomy 32:28)—Rabbi Yehudah explains the verse in reference to Israel, but Rabbi Neḥemiah explains it in reference to the nations of the world. Rabbi Yehudah explains the verse in reference to Israel: Israel has lost the good sense that had been given them. For, actually, counsel implies Torah, as is said: Mine is counsel and prudence, [I am Discernment, mine is might] (Proverbs 8:14).

There is no understanding among them (Deuteronomy 32:28)—there isn’t one of them clever enough to observe and wonder: Yesterday, one of us would pursue a thousand of the nations, and two of us would put 10,000 to flight. But now, one of the nations pursues a thousand of us, and two put 10,000 of us to flight—is it not Had not their Rock handed them over, [had YHWH not given them up] (ibid. 32:30)?

Rabbi Neḥemiah explains it in reference to the nations: The nations have lost the seven commandments that I gave them, there is no understanding among them.

In the days of Messiah, there won’t be one of them clever enough to observe and wonder: Now, one of them pursues a thousand of us, and two of them puts 10,000 of us to flight—is it not Had not their Rock handed them over?” (Sifrei, Deuteronomy 322).

“Our Rabbis taught: Beloved are Israel, for the blessed Holy One surrounded them with mitsvot: tefillin on their heads, tefillin on their arms, tsitsit on their garments, and mezuzot on their doorposts; concerning these David said, Seven times daily I praise you because of Your righteous laws (Psalms 119:164). And as David entered the bath and saw himself standing naked, he exclaimed, ‘אוֹי (Oy) that I stand naked without any mitsvah!’ But when he reminded himself of the circumcision in his flesh his mind was set at ease. And when he came out he sang a psalm of praise concerning it, as is written, To the lead player, on the eight, A David psalm (Psalms 12:1); that is, concerning circumcision which was given [for the] eighth [day].

Rabbi Eli’ezer son of Ya’aqov said, Whosoever has the tefillin on his head, the tefillin on his arm, the tsitsit on his garment, and the mezuzah on his doorpost, is in absolute security and will not יֶחֱטָא (yaḥeta), offend, as is written, [And if one should attack him, the two will stand against him.] And the triple cord will not quickly be snapped (Ecclesiastes 4:12); and it is also written, YHWH’s messenger encamps round those who fear Him and sets them free (Psalms 34:8)” (BT Menaḥot 43b).

“Rabbi Ḥanina and Rabbi Yonatan were walking on the road and came to a parting of ways, one led by the door of a place of idol-worship and the other led by a whore house. One said to the other: Let us go by the place of idolatry since the impulse for it has been abolished [see BT Sanhedrin 64a]. The other, however, said: Let us go by the whore house and defy our impulse and have our reward. As they approached the place they saw the whores withdraw at their presence. One said to the other: How did you know this? He said מְזִמָּה (Mezimmah) will watch over you, discernment will keep you, [to save you from a way of evil, from a man who speaks perversely] (Proverbs 2:11).

The Rabbis said to Rava: How is this word מְזִמָּה (mezimmah) to be understood [since it has the twofold meaning of cunning, and depravitity]? Shall it be rendered Torah since the word זִמָּה (zimmah) in Scripture is rendered in the Targum [Onqelos], She is counsel of the wicked (Leviticus 18:17); and Scripture has the phrase, Wonderful is His counsel, and excellent His wisdom (Isaiah 28:29)? But in that case the word should have been זִמָּה (zimmah). This, then, is how it is to be understood, ‘Against things of זִמָּה (zimmah), depravitity, She [מְזִמָּה (mezimmah), Cunning, i.e., Torah] will watch over you'” (BT Avodah Zarah 17b, cf. Sifrei, Deuteronomy 322; Midrash Tanna’im, Deuteronomy 32:28; Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana 12:12; Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah on 8:5).

“For one who puts wisdom before יִרְאַת חֶטְאוֹ (yirat ḥeto), his fear of missing the mark, wisdom does not endure” (M Avot 3:11).

“A king had a precious pearl, and it was the treasure of his kingdom” (Bahir §72).

“Torah, who offers advice to the whole world… and she warns the inhabitants of the world, saying, ‘Look how compassionately your Lord treats you! A precious pearl that He had, He has sold to you for nothing, that you might have dominion over it in the world” (Zohar 2:97a).

“For we have learned: Torah has given 613 types of advice to a person in order for him to be complete with his Lord, for his Lord wants to benefit him in this world and in the world that is coming—especially in the world that is coming” (Zohar 2:82b).

Leave Your Father’s House, Go to Yourself!

Image“[Abraham] already knew and tested all those rulers conducting the entire inhabited world; he already balanced and tested those who ruled throughout the world, conducting stars and constellations—who overpowered whom. He had succeeded in balancing the entire inhabited world, but when he reached this site [the land of Canaan] he saw an unbearable, impenetrable potency of depths.

Once the blessed Holy One saw his arousal and desire, He immediately revealed Himself to him, saying Go to yourself (Genesis 12:1), to know yourself to refine yourself. From your land—from that habitation to which you clung. From your birthplace—from that wisdom through which you envision and gauge your birth, the precise moment you were born, under which star and constellation. From your father’s house—do not consider your father’s house, whether you are rooted in your father’s house to succeed in the world. So, Go you forth!—from this wisdom, this speculation” (Zohar 1:78a).

“The emperor said to Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Ḥananiah, ‘I wish to behold your God.’ … He went and placed the emperor facing the sun during the summer solstice. He said to him, ‘Look at it.’ He replied, ‘I cannot.’ Rabbi Yehoshu’a said, ‘If at the sun—which is but one of the ministering servants of the blessed Holy One—you admit you cannot look, how much more so the Shekhinah” (BT Ḥullin 59b–60a).

“Rabbi Ya’aqov of the village of Naburaya in Tyre expounded: To You silence is praise, God, in Zion (Psalms 65:1)—silence sums it all up, as regarding a priceless pearl, all who attempt to praise it [merely] diminish its value’” (JT Berakhot 9:1, 4f).

“Rabbi Yose and Rabbi iyya were traveling on the road. As they were going along, night dusked; they sat down. While they were sitting, the day lightened. They said, ‘Let us rise and go on.’ They rose and went on; morning began to glow.

Rabbi iyya said, ‘Look at the face of the east, how it shines! Now all those children of the East, of mountains of light, are bowing to this light and worshiping it before the sun comes out. For once the sun comes out, how many there are who worship the sun! But these are those who worship this light, calling this light—which shines in the zone of the sun before it emerges—‘God of the shining pearl,’ and their oath is by ‘God of the shining pearl.’

‘Now, you might say, ‘This worship is in vain.’ But since ancient, primeval days they have thereby known wisdom. When the sun lightens, before emerging, the prince appointed over the sun emerges, with holy letters of the supernal holy Name inscribed above the head of the sun. By the powers of those letters, he opens all the windows of heaven, striking them and passing. That prince enters the radiance shining around the sun, and there he remains until the sun comes forth, spreading through the world. That prince is in charge of gold and all rubies, and they worship that image there. With points and signs inherited from the ancients, from primeval days, they come to know the points of the sun, enabling them to find the location of gold and gems.’

Rabbi Yose said, ‘How long will all these rites persist in the world! Surely falsehood has no pillars on which to stand [cf. BT Shabbat, 104a]!’

The other one opened, saying, ‘The lip of truth will be established forever, but the tongue of falsehood lasts only a moment (Proverbs 12:19). Come and see: If all inhabitants of the world worshiped falsehood, it would be so. But the light and shining radiance are surely true; stars aloft in the sky are true. If out of stupidity and deficiency, they call them ‘God,’ the blessed Holy One does not wish to destroy His own creation. Even in the time to come, the stars and luminaries of the world will not be destroyed. But who will be destroyed? Those who worship them [cf. BT Avodah Zarah 54b]” (Zohar 2:188a).

A Crown, Throne, and Footstool

the-praying-jew

A virtuous woman is a crown for her husband (Proverbs 12:4).

“Rabbi Avin son of Rabbi Adda said in the name of Rabbi Yitsḥaq, ‘How do we know that the blessed Holy One puts on tefillin? For it is said: YHWH has sworn by His right hand and by the arm of His strength (Isaiah 62:8). By His right hand—this is Torah, as is said: From His right hand was a fiery law for them (Deuteronomy 33:2). And by the arm of His strength—this is tefillin, as is said: YHWH will give strength unto His people (Psalms 29:11). How do we know that tefillin are a strength to Israel? For it is written: And all the peoples of the earth will see that the name of YHWH is called over you and they will fear you (Deuteronomy 28:10), and it has been taught: Rabbi Eli’ezer the Great says, ‘This refers to tefillin of the head.’ Rabbi Naḥman son of Yitsḥaq asked Rabbi Ḥiyya son of Avin, ‘These tefillin of the Master of the World—what is written in them? He replied, ‘Who is like Your people Israel, a unique nation on earth’ (1 Chronicles 17:2)” (BT Berakhot 6a).

I will take away My palm and you will see My back (Exodus 33:23). Rav Ḥana son of Bizna said in the name of Rabbi Shim’on the Devout, ‘This teaches us that the blessed Holy One showed Moses the knot of tefillin [at the back of His head]’” (BT Berakhot 7a).

He flung from the heavens to earth the beauty of Israel (Lamentations 2:1)…. A parable: A king had a lovely diadem upon his head and a lovely mantle upon his shoulder. An evil rumor came to him and he flung the diadem from upon his head and the mantle from before him [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 75:4]” (Bahir §§32–33).

“What was the King’s daughter? י (Yod) over הוה (HWH), included with the patriarchs. ה (He)—first with Abraham; he—second with Isaac; ו (vav)—with Jacob. Now, yod was head over them, as is said, The crown of our head has fallen (Lamentations 5:16). And the Rabbis compared this to a king who had a diadem on his head and a lovely mantle before him. An evil rumor came to him, [and] he flung the diadem from his head. And what was י (yod) over יהוה (YHWH)? Yod above became, הוהי (HWHY)—yod below. Thus David said, The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone (Psalms 118:22)” (Zohar 2:79b, Ra’aya Meheimna Ki Tetse).

“[Rabbi Akiva’s] disciples asked him: Why is ד (dalet) wide [open], at the side? He said to them: The segol which is פַּתָּח הַקָּטָן (pataḥ ha-qatan), the small pataḥ, as it says, [Lift up your heads, O gates, and rise up] פִּתְחֵי (pitḥei), portals, of the world, [that the king of glory may enter] (Psalms 24:7). He set ַ   (pataḥ) above and ֶ   (segol) below, and [thus] she came [to be] wide [open]. What is pataḥ? פֶּתַח (Petaḥ), an opening. Which opening? The north wind, open to all the world—the gate from which Evil emerges and Good emerges. And what is Good? He mocked them: Didn’t I tell you פֶּתַח קָטָן (petaḥ qatan), a small opening? They said to him: We have forgotten, repeat it for us. He said to them: A parable: To what can the matter be compared? A king had a throne. Sometimes he takes it in his arm, and sometimes on his head. They asked him: Why? [He said to them:] Because it was lovely and it was a pity to sit on it. They said to him: And where does he set it on the head? He said to them: On the open מ (mem), as is said: Truth from the earth will spring up, as justice from the heavens looks down (Psalms 85:12)” (Bahir §37).

Your deed, in the midst of years revive it (Habakkuk 3:2). A parable: To what can this be compared? To a king had a goodly pearl, beloved of his kingdom. In his time of joy, he would embrace it and kiss it, place it on his head and would love it. Habakkuk said to him: Even though the kings are with you, this pearl is the beloved of your world. Therefore, Your deed, in the midst of years revive it. What is years? As is written, And God said, ‘Let there be light’ (Genesis 1:3). Light—none other than day, as is written, The great light for dominion of day and the small light for dominion of night (Genesis 1:16). Years are [made up of] days, as is written, Your deed, in the midst of years revive it. In the midst of—this pearl that gives birth to years.

And [so] it is written, From the east I will bring your seed (Isaiah 43:5). The sun rises in the east yet you say that the pearl is day! [He replied,] I did not say [anything] except and it was evening and it was morning, first day (Genesis 1:5), as is written, On the day YHWH Elohim made earth and heavens (Genesis 2:4)” (Bahir §§72–73).

“’Israel are crowned with three crowns: the crown of priesthood, the crown of kingship, and the crown of Torah which is higher than both’ (M Avot 4:13). Indeed, there is a crown of priesthood, a crown of kingship, and the crown of Torah is above them both. To what may this be compared? To a king who had a lovely and fragrant vessel which he adored. Sometimes he puts it on his head—tefillin of the head. Sometimes he carried it in his hand—the knot of the tefillin of the hand. Sometimes he lends it to his son to sit with him. Sometimes it is called כִּסְאוֹ (kiso), ‘his throne,’ for he takes it in his hand as an amulet—like the appearance of כָּסָא (kasa), a cup [cf. Zohar 1:1a; Zohar 2:43a (RM)]” (Bahir §152).

“’On the heads of your new moons, [you shall present an ascent offering to YHWH] (Numbers 28:11). Now, how many heads does the moon have?’ (Zohar 3:248a)—there are two points, like so: ֶ  (segol)—Moon is the lower point. The two heads above are two points of segol over Her. First she was כֶּתֶר (keter), a crown, on two kings, like so:  ֒ (segolta). And following this was said, ‘Can two kings possibly wear one crown?’ (BT Ḥullin 60b). The blessed Holy One said, ‘Go, diminish yourself!’ (ibid.). She settled under the two kings’ feet. Like so: ֶ  (segol). What had been  ֒ (segolta) became ֶ  (segol)….

Consequently, ‘”Bring an atonement עָלַי (ali), for Me [because I diminished the moon]”‘ (BT Ḥullin 60b)—for Moon was surely כֶּתֶר (keter), a crown, ‘ali, over Me.’ Like so: ֹ  (ḥolem). And afterwards She was diminished and [came to] settle under His feet, like so: ֶ  (segol). And at the time of ‘bring an atonement for Me,’ it is said of Her, הִוא הָעֹלָה (hi ha-olah), she is the ascent offering (Leviticus 6:3). For She rises from [under] His feet, as is said, And the earth is My footstool (Isaiah 66:1), [that] it may be said of Her, The heavens are My throne (ibid.). And this is the mystery of [He who rules men,] צַדִּיק (Tsaddiq), the Righteous One, who rules in the fear of Elohim (2 Samuel 23:3). For He overturns Judgment for Compassion [see BT Yevamot 64a]. And the mystery of the matter, The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone (Psalms 118:22)” (Zohar 3:248a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

Pearls, Drop by Drop, All Linking as One

“Come and see: There are three souls, ascending by certain rungs, and as for their being three, they are four. One: transcendent soul that cannot be grasped. The supreme royal treasurer is unaware of it, let alone the lower one. This is soul of all souls, concealed, eternally unrevealed, unknowable—and all of them depend upon it. This envelops itself in a wrapping of crystal radiance within radiancy, and drips pearls, drop by drop, all linking as one, like joints of limbs of one body—one. It enters them, displaying through them its activity; this and they are one, inseparable. This supernal soul is hidden to all. Another soul: female concealing herself within her forces. She is their soul, and out of them a body is woven, to display activity through them to the whole world—like the body, which is an instrument for the soul to convey action. These correspond to those hidden joints above” (Zohar 1:245b).

“This Holy Spirit becomes like a body so that another spirit may be continued within it—supernal, subtle, luminous. So all is embraced and contained, one in another, entering one another, until finally embraced within this world, the last external shell. The hard shell is within the shell of this world—like a nut, whose outer shell is not hard but whose inner shell is. So too above: the hard shell is the other spirit ruling the body; within it is a thin shell, and within that the kernel” (Zohar 2:141a).

“Three courts are four; four courts above, four below, as is written: You shall not commit perversion in justicein measure, in weight, or in capacity (Leviticus 19:35). Harsh judgment, judgment that is not harsh; balanced judgment, judgement that is not balanced; mild judgement, judgment not even this or that” (Zohar 2:179a, Sifra di-Tsni’uta).

Come and see: How many hidden causes are clothed and conveyed by the sefirot! The sefirot are but chariots to them, for they are concealed from human thought. Of them is written: [If you see the oppression of the poor and the perversion of justice and right in the province, be not amazed at the matter,for he who is high has a higher one watching him, and still higher ones over them (Ecclesiastes 5:7)—נְהוֹרִין מְצוּחְצָחִין (nehorin metsuḥtsaḥin), glaring white lights, these above those, but those that are receptacles are darkness compared to the others above them. And their is no light that can exist before the עִלַּת הָעִלּוֹת (illat ha-illot), Cause of Causes, all lights are darkened before Him” (Zohar 1:23a, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar).

“The Holy Ancient One, concealed of all concealed. Separate, separated from all, yet not separate; for all are joined to it, and it is joined to all. It itself is all!” (Zohar 3:288a, Idra Zuta).