The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: psalms

King David: כְּלִי-זֶמֶר (Keli-Zemer), Vessel of Song

980

“Rabbi Yehudah said, The lyre of the Temple had seven strings, as is written: A satiety of joys in Your presence (Psalms 16:11); do not read, שֹׂבַע (sova), satiety, but שֶׁבַע (sheva), seven! In the days of the Messiah eight, as is said: For the leader player, on הַשְּׁמִינִית (ha-sheminit), the eight-stringed lyre (ibid. 12:1). Of the world that is coming ten, as is said: On ten-stringed instrument and on lute, on the lyre with chanted sound (ibid. 92:4). Furthermore, it is said: Acclaim YHWH with the lyre, with ten-stringed lute hymn to Him. Sing Him a new song, play deftly with joyous shout (ibid. 33:2). You could say also that [our Mishnah will be] in accord with Rabbi Yehudah: Since, in the world that is coming, it will have more strings and its sound will be stronger, like that of a lute” (BT Arakhin 13b).

“Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi said: The Book of Psalms was uttered with ten expressions of שֶׁבַח (sheva), praise, namely: נִיצוּחַ (nitsua), leading [Netsaḥ], נִגּוּן (niggun), melody [Ḥesed], מַשְׂכִּיל‎ (maskil), insight [Binah], מִזְמוֹר (mizmor), psalm [Gevurah], שִׁיר (shir), song [Ḥokhmah]; with אַשְׁרֵי (ashrei), happiness [Keter], תְהִלָּה (tehillah), praise [Malkhut], תְּפִלָּה (tefillah), prayer [Yesod]; הוֹדָאָה (hoda’ah), thanksgiving [Hod]; with הַלְלוּיָהּ (haleluyah), hallelujah [Tif’eret]. The greatest of them all is hallelujah, which includes the Name [יָהּ (Yah)] and praise [הַלְלוּ (halelu)] simultaneously.

Rav Yehudah said in Shemu’el’s name: the Song in Torah was uttered by Moses and Israel when they ascended from the Sea [see Exodus 15:1–18]. And who recited this הַלְל (halel), praise? The prophets among them ordained that Israel should recite it at every important epoch and at every misfortune—may it not come upon them! And when they are redeemed they recite [in gratitude] for their redemption….

Our Rabbis taught: As for all the songs and praises to which David gave utterance in the Book of Psalms, Rabbi Eli’ezer said: He spoke them in reference to himself; Rabbi Yehoshu’a said: He spoke them with reference to the community; while the Rabbis maintain: Some of them refer to the community, while others refer to himself. [Thus:] those which are couched in the singular bear upon himself, while those which are couched in the plural allude to the community. נִיצוּחַ (Nitsua), leading, and נִגּוּן (niggun), melody, [introduce psalms] relating to the future; מַשְׂכִּיל‎ (maskil), insight [indicates that it was spoken] through an interpreter [since it shares a root with שָׂכַל (sakhal), instructive]; [the superscription] לְדָוִד מִזְמוֹר (le-David mizmor), David psalm, intimates that the Shekhinah rested upon him and then he uttered [that] song; mizmor le-David, a David psalm, intimates that he [first] uttered [that particular] song and then the Shekhinah rested upon him. This teaches you that the Shekhinah rests [upon man] neither in indolence nor in gloom nor in frivolity nor in levity, nor in vain pursuits, but only in the joy of a mitsvah, for it is said, ‘But now, fetch me a lyre-player.’ And it happened, as the lyre-player played, the hand of YHWH was upon him (2 Kings 3:15)” (BT Pesaim 117a, cf. Rabbi Naḥman of Bratslav, Tiqqun ha-Kelali).

And this great fire let me not see again, that I may not die (Deuteronomy 18:16)—the blessed Holy One’s left [hand]. And what is that? The holy ḥayyot, living beings [whirling angels, wheels of the Chariot], and the holy seraphs, from the right and from the left. They are הַנְּעִימִים (ha-ne’imim), sweet melodies, which [ascend] high above, as is written, and still higher ones over them (Ecclesiastes 5:7). And it is also written, [… and their look and their fashioning as when a wheel is within a wheel….] As for their rims, they were high and they were fearsome, and their rims were filled with עֵינַיִם (einaim), eyes, all round the four of them […. And I heard the sound of their wings like the sound of many waters…] (Ezekiel 1:18). And around Him are angels. Those around them also bow down before them, kneeling and declaring: YHWH He is God! YHWH He is God!” (Bahir §145, cf. Zohar Ḥadash 5d–6a [MhN]).

“Rise, Rabbi Shim’on, and let us hear new matters from you on this verse [For the lead player, on shushan-edut, a David mitam]. First: לַמְנַצֵּחַ (la-menatseaḥ), For the lead player (Psalms 60:1), contains נֵצַח (Netsaḥ), Victory—נִגּוּן צַח (niggun tsaḥ), pure melody [lit., shining white melody], and by it יהוה (YHWH) is called a Man of War towards the nations of the world, but of Mercy and Justice towards Israel. And the mystery of the matter is contained in: and when the wicked perish—רִנָּה (rinnah), glad song (Proverbs 11:10) [thus when the blessed Holy One is menatseaḥ, victorious, over the wicked there is niggun tsaḥ, pure melody]. מ (Mem) and ל (lamed) are the secret of the seventy names that He has. Together with Netsaḥ and Hod they amount to seventy-two, which is numerically equivalent to חֶסֶד (Ḥesed). And the mystery of the matter: delights in Your right hand נֶצַח (netsaḥ), forever (Psalms 16:11).

הוֹד (Hod): הוֹדוּ לַיהוָה (Hodu l’Adonai), Give thanks to YHWH (1 Chronicles 16:8). צַדִּיק (Tsaddiq), Righteous One [Yesod], it is written: רַנְּנוּ צַדִּיקִים בַּיהוָה (rannenu tsaddiqim ba-Adonai), sing gladly, O righteous, of YHWH (Psalms 33:1), and also: רָנּוּ לְיַעֲקֹב שִׂמְחָה (rannu le-Ya’aqov simḥah), sing with gladness [Malkhut] for Jacob [Tif’eret] (Jeremiah 31:6). תִּפְאֶרֶת (Tif’eret) in Him: הַלְלוּ אֵל (hallelu El), praise God; הַלְלוּיָהּ (halleluyah): hallelu Yah, praise Yah (Psalms 150:1)—the Name of יְהֹוָה (YHWH). In נִגּוּן (niggun), melody, and in זֶמֶר (zemer), plucked song [cf. Song of Songs. 2:12]—Ḥesed and Gevurah. In שִׁיר (shir), song, and בְרָכָה (berakhah), blessing—Ḥokhmah and Binah. In אַשְׁרֵי (ashrei), happy—Keter. In תְהִלָּה (tehillah), praise—Malkhut.

מִזְמוֹר (Mizmor), a psalm [Gevurah], that has in it: רָז (raz), secret, and מוּם (moom), blemish, from the side of the זֶמֶר דְּאוֹרַיְיתָא (zemer de-orayyita), song of Torah, and זֶמֶר דִּצְלוֹתָא (zemer de-tselota), the song of prayer [cf. BT Sanhedrin 98b]. A zemer, plucked song, of the Other Side contains: זָר מוּם (zar moom), foreign blemish—‘Zemer in the house is destruction in the house’ (BT Sotah 48a). A menstruate, a slavegirl, a daughter of star and constellation worshipers, a prostitute—these are the letters of mizmor, a psalm [alluding to the offspring of any of these relations, namely, מַמזֵר (mamzer), bastard]. נִגּוּן (Niggun), melody [Ḥesed]—containing גַן (gan), garden [Malkhut]. And such is the beauty of the niggun, melody, which has in it הַלֵּל (hallel), praise, like: it is הוּא הַלַּיְלָה (hu-hallaylah), a night of watch, to YHWH, for His taking them out of the land of Egypt (Exodus 12:42) [in other words, not the whole melody is Loving-kindness but only the beauty of the melody tends towards it, which is the mystery of Hallel of the Exodus from Egypt]. אַשְׁרֵי (Ashrei), happy—with which everyone begins to offer praises [at the start of the AmidahAshrei, happy, is Keter, since א (alef) like Keter, is the beginning of the alefbet and the sefirot]. Ashrei, happy, the people who has it thus (Psalms 144:15). Of בְּרָכָה (berakhah), blessing, it is as in: אֲבָרְכָה (avarkhah), let me bless, YHWH at all times (Psalms 34:2) [בְּרָכָה (berakhah), blessing, is Binah, since the emanation of Binah is unceasing as blessings should be, see Zohar 3:290b (IR): ‘The world that is coming (Binah), constantly coming, never ceasing’]. תְהִלָה (Tehillah), praise: Always תְּהִלָּתוֹ (tehillato), His praise, in my mouth [Malkhut] (ibid.).

[For the lead player] עַל שׁוּשַׁן עֵדוּת (Al shushan-edut), on shushan-edut (Psalms 60:1)—Hod, a שׁוֹשַׁן (shoshan), rose, in which the red dominates the white, while with Netsaḥ the white dominates the red. But what is עֵדוּת (edut), testimony? The Righteous One [Yesod]—the covenant held by the heavens [Tif’eret/Ze’eir Anpin] and the earth [Malkhut]. As is written: הַעִידֹתִי (Ha-eidoti), I have called to witness, against you this day the heavens and the earth (Deuteronomy 4:26). What is מִכְתָּם (mikhtam), writ (Psalms 60:1)? It forms two words מָך (makh), humble, and תָם (tam), simple [alt., complete, consummate. Cf. Zohar 3:101a]. Humble—the Righteous One [Yesod]. Simple—the middle pillar [Tif’eret] on the rung of and Jacob was a אִישׁ תָּם (ish tam), simple man (Genesis 25:27). We consider the body and the covenant [Tif’eret and Yesod] to be one [which is why מָך (makh) and תָם (tam) are written as one word: מִכְתָּם (mikhtam), writ]. לְלַמֵד (Le-lamed), to teach—Ḥesed and Gevurah, for from there Torah was given ‘לִלמוֹד (Lilmod), to study, and לְלַמֵד (le-lamed), to teach’ (M Avot 4:5).

[Moses the Faithful Shepherd] said to him: What you say is all very well, however: To the lead player, הַשְּׁמִינִית (ha-sheminit), the eight-stringed (Psalms 12:1)—Netsaḥ should not move from Hod, which is the eighth sefirah, and that is why he says: לַמְנַצֵּחַ (la-menatseaḥ), To the lead player, the eight-stringed [rather than To the lead player on shushan-edut as you have it]. The Holy Lamp [Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai] responded: If that is so [i.e., if you want to be pedantic, one can ask an even more profound question]. Your rung is that of Binah; why, then, was it taught that ‘He gave Hod to Moses, as is written: And you shall set something of מֵהוֹדְךָ (me-hodekha), your grandeur, upon him (Numbers 27:20)?’

That is a good question that you have asked. The letter ה (he) ascends by the י (yod), five times ten, the fifty gates of Binah, expanding from esed to Hod. Indeed in each sefirah there are ten making fifty. Therefore, just one expansion from Binah to Hod [in other words Binah is included in Hod]. Subsequently the Righteous One [Yesod] comes and by himself takes all fifty gates, it being equivalent to all five [sefirot]. And it is called כֹּל (Kol), All [numerically equivalent to fifty], because it takes all fifty gates. And so too the כַּלָּה (kallah), bride [Malkhut], takes all of them [כֹּל (Kol), All, with the addition of ה (he) is feminine, i.e., kallah, bride]. He said ‘Now surely everything is falling into place.’

Moreover, לַמְנַצֵּחַ (la-menatseaḥ) can be rearranged as מַל עִם נֶצַח (mal im Netsaḥ), sputter within Netsaḥ. And that mal, sputter, is from חַשְׁמַל (ḥashmal), amber, from ח ש (ḥet, shin) [which are the first and last letters of חַיּוֹת אֵשׁ (ḥayyot esh), beings of fire]. And these are Hod and Netsaḥ, which correspond to two lips. Therefore lips are called חֵיוָן אֶשָּׁא מְמַלְּלָן (ḥeyvan esha memallelan), fiery beings speaking. And in Ḥagigah [12a–13b] the question is asked: ‘Until where is the Account of the Chariot?’ And the answer was given: From וָאֵרֶא (va-ere), and I looked (Ezekiel 1:4) until ḥashmal, amber (ibid., 27) [cf. Septuagint: ἠλέκτρου (elektron); Arabic: كهرباء (anbar)]. [חַשְׁמַל (Ḥashmal), amber, is an acronym for:] חַיּוֹת אֵשׁ מְמַלְּלוֹת (ḥayyot esh memallelot), fiery beings speaking. For from the side of Gevurah, they are called חֵיוָן אֶשָּׁא (ḥeyvan esha), beings of fire, and the river that flows from the humidity [lit., perspiration] of these living beings is Yesod. All three of them [Netsaḥ, Hod, and Yesod] form a chariot for the תִפְאֶרֶת אָדָם (Tif’eret Adam), Beauty of Man [Ze’eir Anpin]….

David removed [the shell called whirlwind] from his heart-mind and killed it, as is written: And my heart is חָלַל (ḥalal), pierced, within me (Psalms 109:22). And for this reason, he was privileged that a north wind should blow on his lyre [Malkhut], and about it is said: ‘Thus says YHWH God; Come from the four winds, O breath, [and breathe upon these slain, that they may live] (Ezekiel 37:9). And he used to play through it four kinds of melody on his lyre: a simple song, which is the secret of י (yod); a double song, which is the secret of יָהּ (Yah); a triple song, יהו (yod, he, vav); and, a quadruple song, יהוה (YHWH)” (Zohar 3:222b–227a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineas).

And as you come into town there, you shall encounter a band of prophets coming down from the high place, preceded by harp and drum and flute and lyre, and they will be speaking in ecstasy. And the spirit of YHWH shall seize you, and you shall go into ecstasy with them and you shall turn into another man (1 Samuel 10:5).

And so, when the spirit of God was upon Saul, David would take up the lyre and play, and Saul would find relief, and it would be well with him, and the evil spirit would turn away from him (1 Samuel 16:23)

A Prayer of the Lowly When He Joins in Her Sorrow

Tisha bAv

If the prayer is not whole many demons pursue it, as is written: All her persecutors overtook her in her distress (Lamentations 1:3). This is why people pray: Yet He is compassionate… (Psalms 78:38). [He atones for] Crime (ibid.)—Samael, who is the Serpent; and does not destroy (ibid.)—the Angel of Destruction; and abundantly takes back His wrath and does not arouse all His fury (ibid.). And we pray that these four [namely: crime, destruction, wrath, and fury] do not pursue the prayer, as many demons are attached to these. There are seven ministers, who have seventy more attached to them. Those seventy bring allegations in each and every firmament through which the prayer passes and seven-hundred myriad demons are attached to them.

If the prayer ascends whole, with the mitsvah of wrapping tallit and tefillin of the head and of the hand, it is said of them: 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). The name of YHWH—this has already been explained as tefillin of the head. Whoever sees the name יהוה (YHWH) over the head in prayer, which is the name אֲדֹנָי (Adonai), shall immediately flee, as is written: A thousand fall at Your side (Psalms 91:7).

Because Jacob saw through the Holy Spirit the oppression of the last exile, in the end of days, it is said of him, And Jacob was greatly afraid, and he was distressed (Genesis 32:8). As a result, he divided the holy nation in exile into three parts, as is written: And he placed the slavegirls and their children first (ibid. 33:2). This means at first in the exile of Edom: and Leah and her children after them, and Rachel and Joseph last (ibid.). Because he saw their eventual poverty and suffering, he prayed for them: if… I return safely to my father’s house (ibid. 28:21), so that they may have the merit to be redeemed and return to the Temple. He said in prayer: and give me bread to eat and clothing to wear (ibid.).

Because of this exile, David described Shekhinah as hungry and exhausted and thirsty in the wilderness (2 Samuel 17:29), because he saw Shekhinah desolate and withering and then joined in Her sorrow. After he saw that the children of Israel repented with joy, he composed ten types of psalms [cf. Zohar 3:283a (RM); TZ Haqdamah, 3a–b]. At the end of them all, he said: A prayer of the lowly when he grows faint (Psalms 102:10). This prayer encompasses all other prayers and ascends before all other prayers [see Vayiqra Rabbah 3:2; Zohar 3:195a]. The other prayers, sung with a melody, are delayed in being presented before the King, and do not enter, until the prayer of the poor does.

Which is the prayer of the lowly? It is the evening prayer. Since She is without Her husband She is lowly and faint and may be taken freely by anyone. The Righteous One is withered and lowly under the rule of all peoples of the world, every people enslaves them and rules over them. This is similar to the evening prayer, because it is the aspect of the night of exile.

The prayer of Sabbath is a charity given to the lowly as the Masters of Mishnah explained that the sun during Sabbath is charity given to the poor [see BT Ta’anit 8b: ‘Rabbi Yitsḥaq further said: Sunshine on the Sabbath is an act of kindness towards the poor, as is said, But unto you that fear My name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and you shall go forth, and grow up like calves of the stall (Malachi 4:2)’]. Therefore, on every weekday a person should make himself a pauper at the gate of the King during the prayer of Amidah for the sake of Shekhinah, that he participate in the sorrow of Shekhinah as did David. He should cover himself with the proper vestments, namely tallit with tassels, as a poor man stands at the gate to the palace of the King, Adonai, because אֲדֹנָי (Adonai) is numerically equivalent to that of הֵיכָל (heikhal), palace. This is why it is said [at the beginning of the Amidah prayer:] Adonai open my lips (Psalms 51:17).

When a person opens his lips during the weekdays at Arvit [the evening prayer], an eagle descends to carry the prayer of the night upon its wings. This eagle is called Nuriel. It is called Uriel from the aspect of Ḥesed and Nuriel from the aspect of Gevurah, which is a burning fire about which is written: A river of fire was flowing and went out before Him (Daniel 7:10) [cf. BT Ḥagigah 13b ad loc.].

During Shaḥarit (Morning Service), the lion descends to receive the prayer with its arms and wings—every living being has four wings—this is the angel Michael. During Minḥah (Afternoon Service), the ox descends to receive the prayer with its horns and wings, and this is the angel Gabriel.

On Sabbath, the blessed Holy One descends with the three Patriarchs [Ḥesed, Gevurah, and Tif’eret] to receive His only Daughter [Shekhinah] through them. This is the secret of the Sabbath which consists of ש (shin) and בַּת (bat), daughter. The three lines of ש (shin) refer to the three Patriarchs. Through them, the blessed Holy One receives the prayer of Sabbath. At that time, the celestial living beings that are called by the name יהוה (YHWH) say, as is written: Lift up your heads, O gates, and lift up, eternal portals, that the King of glory may enter (Psalms 24:9).

At this time, seven הֵיכָלִין (heikhalin), chambers, are opened. The first chamber is the chamber of Love, the second is the chamber of Fear, the third is the chamber of Compassion, the fourth is the chamber of Prophecy from the aspect of the speculum that shines, the fifth is the chamber of Prophecy from the aspect of the dim glass, the sixth is the chamber of Justice and the seventh is in the chamber of Judgment. These chambers correspond to the seven sefirot. The chamber of Love is Ḥesed, Fear is Gevurah, Compassion is Tif’eret, the speculum that shines is Netsaḥ, the dim glass is Hod, Justice is Yesod and Judgment is Malkhut.

Of them is written: בְּרֵאשִׁית (Bereshit), In the beginning, which consists of בָּרָא שִׁית (bara shit), created six; אֱלֹהִים (Elohim) is in the seventh chamber. There are seven chambers below, and seven chambers above. The seven voices that correspond to them appear in the psalm, Grant to YHWH (Psalms 29:1), which includes eighteen [iterations of] יהוה (YHWH). By these the blessed Holy One sails through eighteen worlds according to the mystery of: The chariots of Elohim are myriads, thousands of thousands (Psalms 68:18) and there are 18,000 worlds [see BT Avodah Zarah 3b]. Many guardians of the gates stand before the chambers to receive the prayers and no prayer enters without being measured and weighed.

None can stand before the gate of prayers and prevent any prayer from entering. Of such a one is written: [Like arrows in the warrior’s hand, thus are sons born in youth. Happy the man who fills his quiver with them.] They shall not be shamed when they speak with their enemies at the gate (Psalms 127:5). This is the gate of the King. Since the prayer is a mitsvah and Shekhinah and Torah is the blessed Holy One they must not be separated. Torah and the mitsvah should be elevated with Love and Fear.

There are the 248 words in the recitation of Shema that were given in love and fear, and that are contained in the ה (he) of יהוה (YHWH). Therefore, the blessing: ‘He Who chooses His people Israel with love,’ is recited before the recitation of Shema to indicate that we draw solely from the aspect of Love, which is the mystery of the 248 positive mitsvot. These 248 positive mitsvot are included within Abraham [because אַבְרָהָם (Avraham), Abraham, is numerically equivalent to 248, and his is the quality of Loving-kindness]. It is written of him: The seed of Abraham My friend (Isaiah 41:8).

Tefillin are strength, as they were given from the aspect of Fear, which is the left. This is the Terror of Isaac, because all the prosecutors ascend to demand all the Judgments throughout the worlds. Thus, it is written: And by the arm of His strength (Isaiah 62:8). This is why it is written: Love אֶת יְהוָה (et-Adonai), YHWH, all His faithful (Psalms 31:24). But Tif’eret of יהוה (YHWH) comprises all, as it is the middle pillar. Hence it says of Jacob, And, look, YHWH was poised over him (Genesis 28:13). This was not mentioned in relation to Abraham or Isaac, because Jacob is the aspect of Tif’eret, which includes all, since it is the middle pillar. When called by the name Jacob, He includes the quality of Abraham, וה (vav, he), and the 248 positive mitsvot. Later, when he was called Israel, he rose by יוֹד הֵא וְאוֹ הֵא (Yod He Vav He). The mystery of יוֹד הֵא וְאוֹ הֵא (Yod He Vav He) appears in the expression ‘Israel arose in thought’ (Bereshit Rabbah 1:4) to be created because מַחֲשָׁבָה (maḥshavah), thought, consists of: מַה חַשָׁב (mah ḥashav), ‘What thought.’ מַה (Mah)—יוֹד הֵא וְאוֹ הֵא (Yod He Vav He) [numerically equivalent to מַה (mah)], in which the Holy Name lies. Because of Jacob, who is called Israel, it is written: And Elohim created the human in his image (Genesis 1:27) after the likeness of his Master.

Sons, life and sustenance are drawn down to the lower beings only through the aspect of the middle pillar, of which is written: My son, My firstborn is Israel (Exodus 4:22) [on ‘sons, life, and sustenance,’ see BT Mo’ed Qatan 28a]. This is the Tree of Life, as is written: The tree [grew and became mighty, and its top reached the heavens and its branches to the end of all the earth. Its foliage was lovely and its fruit great, and there was] food for all [in it] (Daniel 4:8–9). As for Shekhinah—Israel below are Her life; Torah—Her sustenance; and prayer—an offering which offers Shekhinah for coupling [with Ze’eir Anpin]. During the exile, it is said that Shekhinah said to Her husband: Give me sons, for if You don’t, I am a dead woman! (Genesis 30:1).

Shekhinah is an offering for the blessed Holy One which He receives with both the right and the left arm, and with the body. His coupling with Her is accomplished by the Righteous One [Yesod, called ‘sign’]. This is the sign of the tefillin, of Sabbath and of the holidays. So when prayer [Shekhinah] ascends [to Ze’eir Anpin] She should be joined with Him with all ten sefirot [because there can be no holiness with fewer than ten] which is His own holiness, His blessing and unity. Therefore, when a person wishes his prayer to ascend, he should raise it with all its movement, the musical intonations and the vowels, since the letters are horses, the vowels horsemen, and the musical intonations weapons. If the serpent aims to seize the prayer, one must prepare a sling against it, and the mystery of the matter lies in זַרְקָא (zarqa), מַקַּף (maqqaf), שׁוֹפָר הוֹלֵךְ (shofar holekh), and סְגוֹלְתָּא (segolta)” (Zohar 1:23a, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar, cf. Zohar 2:86b).