The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: repentance

Bitter Almonds can Surely be Sweetened by the Fire!

roastingalmonds“Our rabbis taught: Small bitter almonds are subject to tithing, but the large are exempt; large sweet almonds are subject to tithing, but the small are exempt. Rabbi Yishma’el son of Rabbi Yose says in the name of his father: Both are exempt. Others have the reading: Both are subject to tithing. Rabbi Il’ai said that Rabbi Ḥanin ruled in Sepphoris in accordance with the view of him who maintains that both are exempt. But according to him who maintains that both are subject to tithing [it will be asked]: What use can be made of large bitter almonds?—Rabbi Yoḥanan answered: They can surely be sweetened by [roasting in] the fire!” (BT Ḥullin 25b).

“And it shall be, if you do not heed the voice of YHWH your God to keep to do all His commands and His statutes that I charge you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you… 

Inasmuch as you will not have served YHWH your God in joy and with a good heart out of an abundance of all things, you will serve your enemies whom YHWH will send against you in hunger and in thirst and in nakedness and in the lack of all things, and he will put an iron yoke on your neck until you are destroyed…

And YHWH will bring you back to Egypt in ships, on the way that I said to you, ‘You shall not see it again,’ and you will put yourselves up for sale there to your enemies as male slaves and slavegirls, and there will be no buyer” (Deuteronomy 28:15, 47–48, 68).

Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai fled to the wilderness of Lydda and hid in a cave—he and his son, Rabbi El’azar. A miracle occurred for them—a carob tree sprouted and a spring of water gushed forth. They ate from the carob tree and drank from the waters. Elijah, of blessed memory, visited them twice daily and taught them, without anyone knowing about it.

One day, the sages were in the beit midrash, questioning and debating: ‘The curses of Leviticus allude to the First Temple, while the curses of Deuteronomy allude to the Second Temple. The curses of Leviticus contain promises and the blessed Holy One’s affection for Israel, as is written: I will remember My covenant with Jacob (Leviticus 26:42), and Yet even this, too—when they are in the land of their enemies, [I will not reject them] (ibid., 44). The curses of Deuteronomy contain no promises nor any consolation at all such as are found in the first curses.’ And none of them could explain it.

Rabbi Yehudah son of Il’ai rose, saying, ‘Woe for the absence of Son of Yoḥai! No on knows his whereabouts; and even if they did, they could not divulge.’

Rabbi Yose son of Rabbi Yehudah arose one morning and saw birds flying—a turtledove trailing them. He stood up, saying, ‘Turtledove! Faithful Turtledove! Since the days of the flood, the form of the holy people has suited you and graced you [because the dove is distinctive among birds in that it does not mate with another bird, should its mate disappear during the season, cf. BT Berakhot 53b]. Go, serve as my messenger to Son of Yoḥai, wherever he is.’ The dove circled around and came before him. He wrote a note, recording what he had said. The dove arose and took it in its mouth, traveling to Rabbi Shim’on, carrying it under her wing.

Rabbi Shim’on looked at the note and cried—he along with his son Rabbi El’azar. He said, ‘I weep because of our separation from the Companions; and I weep regarding these matters that have not been revealed to them! What will later generations do when they consider this!

Just then, Elijah, of blessed memory, arrived. He saw him weeping, and said, ‘I was ready for a different mission, but the blessed Holy One dispatched me to dry your tears. Oh, Rabbi, Rabbi! Now was not the time to reveal these matters to the righteous, but here is what the blessed Holy One explained. The first curses contain thirty-two verses, all corresponding to the paths of Torah. The latter curses contain fifty-three verses, corresponding to the parashot and routes of the Torah. In the first exile, from the First Temple, Israel passed along those concealed, secret paths. Their sins were revealed and their end was revealed, along with consolation and promises for them. In the latter exile—after the Second Temple—the people of Israel transgressed against fifty-three portions, revealed paths. Their sins were concealed and their ends were concealed—neither promises nor consolation were written [cf. BT Yoma  9b].’

Just then, a wind gusted by, separating them, sweeping Elijah up in a wheel of fire. Rabbi Shim’on remained, weeping. He fell asleep at the opening of the cave. Suddenly Elijah, of blessed memory, came saying, ‘Arise, Rabbi Shim’on! Wake up from your slumber. Happy is your portion, for the blessed Holy One is concerned for your honor! All the promises and consolations of Israel are written in these curses.

Go, see how a king loves his son, and even though he curses and lashes him, his deep love endures. When he displays severe wrath, his compassion for him prevails. Similarly, with the blessed Holy One—even though He curses, His words come from love. In their revealed form they appear to be curses, but they are great boons, because the curses came from love. This contrasts with the first ones, which all derived from harsh judgment. In these there is judgment and love—like a father who loves his son while gripping in his hand a switch for flogging. The child shrieks mightily, creating a din; but the lashes are lessened with love [cf. BT Berakhot 5a].

Most severe of all these curses—What’s more, every illness and every plague that is not mentioned in this Scroll of Torah YHWH will hide from you, that would have caused you to be wiped out (Deuteronomy 28:61). Here are promises of great love from father to son! It is not written יַעֲלֶה (ya’aleh), will bring [upon you], but rather יַעְלֵם (ya’lem), will hide [from you]. He will subdue them and nullify them in a pit—their place—so that they cannot venture forth; rather, they will be subdued and covered in their pit.

Until you are wiped out (ibid.)—which will never, ever happen, for the blessed Holy One took an oath that He would never destroy Israel, and that their memory will endure forever. This is as is written: so shall your seed and your name stand (Isaiah 66:22), and As I live, if the heavens above could be measured… (Jeremiah 31:37). Since it has been sworn by oath that Israel will never, ever be wiped out, it is fitting that plagues and illnesses should be concealed and covered, never emerging to harm them to the extent of annihilation—that will never, ever happen.

The end and conclusion of them all is YHWH will bring you back to Egypt in ships, by a route that I told you, ‘You shall not see it again.’ There you shall offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male slaves and slavegirls, but there will be no buyer (Deuteronomy 28:68)—promises and consolations that the blessed Holy One provides to Israel at the end of days! YHWH will bring you back to Egypt in ships—a promise to return them, and to perform miracles and signs that the blessed Holy One had enacted in Egypt in days of yore. This is as is said: As in the days of your coming out of the land of Egypt, I will show him wonders (Micah 7:15).

בָּאֳנִיּוֹת (Bo-oniyyot), In ships—but here its meaning is as you have said, expounding it as בַּעֲנִיּוּת (ba-aniyyut), in poverty, without a coin in one’s purse [cf. BT Sanhedrin 97a: ‘The (Messiah,) son of David, will not come until… the (last) coin has gone from the purse’]. Everyone in the world is poised to pounce upon Israel, aboard seafaring vessels, intending to annihilate them, but they will all drown in the sea just as was done in olden days, and joy abounded. Here it is written בָּאֳנִיּוֹת רִנָּתָם (bo-oniyyot rinnatam), raising their voice in ships (Isaiah 43:14)—just as joy is there, so is there joy here [cf. Ester Rabbah, Petiḥta 3].

By a route which I told you—since the day that the world was created the might of the blessed Holy One has not been seen in the world, nor the time of favor, other than on that route. For as you see the Egyptians today (Exodus 14:13)—on that same route, in that very manner, so shall He do for you.

Further, they will gather afterward from all sides against Israel, and the people of Israel will think then that they will be eliminated—sold to their foes—as is written: There you shall offer yourselves for sale. It is not written you shall be sold, but rather you shall offer yourselves for sale—in your hearts you will imagine that you have been sold. But this will not occur—it is written: none will buy. And there will be none who shall rule over them.

All this will occur at the end of days; and it is all dependent upon teshuvah. But it is all concealed, as is written: in order that you may prosper in all that you do (Deuteronomy 29:8)—one who has a heart should contemplate and will know to return to his Lord [on teshuvah as a prerequisite for redemption, see JT Ta’anit 1:1, 63d; BT Sanhedrin 97b; Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 43; Tanḥuma, Beḥuqqotai 3; Tanḥuma (Buber), Beḥuqqotai 5; Zohar 1:117b; 2:188b–189a; ZḤ 8a, 23c (both MhN)].

Rabbi Shim’on asked, ‘Where is Israel’s redemption revealed among these curses?’

Elijah replied, ‘Examine carefully and see the most horrific instance of them all—that is where it appears.’ He examined carefully, and found the verse Your life will dangle before you, and you will be terrified night and day and will have no faith in your life (Deuteronomy 28:66). Even though there are those who know that time, life dangles before them, and they are uncertain—even though this is the essence, and the words endure.

In the evening, Rabbi Shim’on wrote a note and placed it in the mouth of the turtledove, which journeyed back to Rabbi Yose—who had stayed put, his eyes expectant. Upon spotting [the dove], he said, ‘Turtledove, Turtledove, you are the most faithful bird in the skies!’ He proclaimed of it: the dove came back to him at eventide; and look, a plucked off olive leaf was in its bill (Genesis 8:11). He took the note and went to the Companions. He showed it to them, and they were astonished.

Rabbi Yehudah wept, saying, ‘Alas! Even though we do not know his whereabouts, the place where the tree falls, there it will be (Ecclesiastes 11:3) [cf. BT Bekhorot 57b; Eikhah Rabbah 1:37]. Where Son of Yoḥai is found, his companions are there with him, awakened by him, learning from him. Happy is the soul of Son of Yoḥai, for the blessed Holy One has performed miracles with him; he has decreed, and the blessed Holy One has fulfilled! [cf. BT Mo’ed Qatan 16b; Zohar 3:15a]. In the future, he will be the head of the righteous ones who sit in the Garden of Eden; he will receive the face of the Shekhinah and will see the blessed Holy One. Delighting with the righteous ones, he will call to them: Come, let us bow down kneel; let us bend the knee before YHWH our Maker (Psalms 95:6)'” (Zohar Ḥadash 59c–60a).

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I will Betroth You to Myself with Faithfulness

72343_636x945-cb1381332520.jpg“בְּתוּלָה (Betulah), Virgo, Elul, the left kidney [Hod (Zohar 2:123b)]” (Sefer Yetsirah §59b).

“The Rabbis taught: The kidneys advise [i.e., they are thought to be the seat of conscience]” (BT Berakhot 61a, cf. Psalms 7:10).

“Rabbi Yoḥanan says: Why is there no נ (nun) in the אַשְׁרֵי (Ashrei) prayer [composed mostly of Psalms 145, which is arranged alphabetically, save that the verse beginning with the letter נ (nun) is missing]? Because the fall of Israel’s enemies [euphemistic for Israel Herself] begins with it. For it is written: נָפְלָה לֹא תוֹסִיף קוּם בְּתוּלַת יִשְׂרָאֵל נִטְּשָׁה עַל-אַדְמָתָהּ אֵין מְקִימָהּ (Nafelah lo tosif qum Betulat Yisra’el), Fallen, not to rise again, is Virgin Israel (Amos 5:2). In the West [i.e., Palestine] this verse is interpreted: נָפְלָה וְלֹא תוֹסִיף לִנְפּוֹל עוֹד—קוּם בְּתוּלַת יִשְׂרָאֵל (Nafelah [ve-]lo tosif [linpol od]. Qum, Betulat Yisra’el), She is fallen [—but] She will not [fall] again. Rise, O Virgin Israel!” (BT Berakhot 4b).

“Rabbi Aḥa was walking on the road, accompanied by Rabbi Yehudah. While they were going, Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘As for what we have learned: בְּתוּלַת יִשְׂרָאֵל (Betulat Yisra’el), Virgin Israel, who is blessed by seven and is called בַּת שֶׁבַע (Bat Sheva), Bathsheba, Daughter of Seven, as we have established in many places, and a virgin inherits seven blessings [under the wedding canopy, see Zohar 2:102b, 169a-b, 255b (Heikh); 3:44b, 124a, 266b; ZḤ 88d–89a (MhNRut)]—look at what is written: And you, O son of man, raise a lament for Virgin Israel, which is surely utter for Her, for Assembly of Israel! And this is most difficult of all: Fallen, not to rise again, is Virgin Israel (Amos 5:2). Now, that which the Companions have said concerning this statement is fine [see BT Berakhot 4b]. [However, this radical rereading is not convincing because] if the passage had been spoken by way of consolation, we would agree; yet here lamentation and dirge are uttered, as demonstrated by the verse! [cf. Rabbi Naḥman of Bratslav, Liqqutei Moharan 1:247].’

He replied, ‘Certainly so! This matter troubled me greatly, and I came before Rabbi Shim’on with a darkened face. He said to me, ‘From the look on your face, your heart is revealed!’ I said to him, ‘Surely, for my heart and my face are equivalent [cf. M Terumot 3:8].’ He said to me, ‘Utter your word!’

I said, ‘It is written: Fallen, not to rise again, is Virgin Israel. One who is angry with his wife, and she leaves him—she will never return. If so, woe to the children who have been cast out with her!’ He said to me, Are you not satisfied with what all the Companions have said? I said, They render the words compassionate, but it does not correspond. He said, Whatever the Companions say is fine and fitting, but woe to the generation when shepherds are nowhere to be found and the flock wanders, not knowing whether to go to the right or to the left! Surely this verse needs to be known, and all is revealed to those who see!

Come and see: In all the exiles suffered by Israel, He set a time and termination; and in all of them, Israel turned back to the blessed Holy One and Virgin Israel returned to Her place at the time decreed. Yet now, in this last exile, it is not so, for She has not returned as on the other occasions—as demonstrated by this verse, for it is written Fallen, not to rise again, is Virgin Israel. It is not written Fallen, and I will not raise Virgin Israel.

This may be compared to a king who became angry with the matrona and cast her out of his palace for a certain time. When that time arrived, the matrona immediately returned and came before the king. And so it happened once, twice, and thrice. Finally, she went far away from the king’s palace and was cast out for a distant time. He said, ‘This time is not like the other times, that she should come before me; rather, I myself will go with my retinue to woo her.’

When he reached her and saw her lying on the ground—who has seen the glory of the matrona at that time and the king pleading to her? Eventually, he grasped her in his hands and raised her and brought her to his palace, swearing to her that he would never part from her or be distant.

Similarly, with the blessed Holy One. All those times when Assembly of Israel was in exile, when the time arrived She returned and came before the King. Yet now, in this exile, it is not so; rather, the blessed Holy One will grasp Her hand and raise Her and reconcile with Her and return Her to His palace.

Come and see that it is so, for it is written Fallen, not to rise again, as in other times; but I myself will raise Her—I, YHWH, will raise Her booth; I will raise the fallen booth of David (Amos 9:11), Virgin Israel. The fallen—as is written: Fallen, [not to rise again]. This is the glory of Virgin Israel and Her praise. This I learned at that time.

Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘You have surely spoken to my heart, and now it is tranquil. This is lucidity of the word, and it accords with a word that I recently gained. Rabbi Yose said, The blessed Holy One will one day proclaim over Assembly of Israel, Shake off the dust, arise; sit enthroned, O Jerusalem! (Isaiah 52:2)—like someone grasping his friend’s hand and saying, Shake yourself free and rise! So will the blessed Holy One grasp Her and say, Shake yourself free, arise!

Rabbi Aḥa said to him, ‘Happy are all those members of the royal palace, who open with this expression, as is written: Arise, shine, for your light has come! (Isaiah 60:1)—see, the King is surely here! Then is the glory and joy of all, when the King reconciles with Her.

It is written: Bathsheba came to the king in his chamber (1 Kings 1:15). Similarly, all those times She came to the King and stood before Him, as is written: She came before the king and stood before the king (ibid., 28). But this time, not so; rather, the King comes to Her to reconcile with Her, as is written: See, your king is coming to you! (Zechariah 9:9)—precisely, not You to Him. Is coming to you—to mollify You. Is coming to you—to raise You. Is coming to you—to restore You completely. Is coming to you—to bring You into His palace and unite with You eternally, as is said: I will betroth you to Myself with faithfulness; I will betroth you forever (Hosea 2:22, 21)'” (Zohar 3:6a–b).

If the King has No Army and No Camp, Over What does He Rule?

ImageAnd the gain of the land is in everything—a king is subject to the field (Ecclesiastes 5:8).

“Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai taught: ‘You are My witnesses,’ says YHWH, ‘and I am God’ (Isaiah 43:12). When you are My witnesses, I am God. When you are not My witnesses, I am not, as it were, God” (Sifrei Deuteronomy 346).

“If the king has no army and no camp, over what does he rule? And if there is no people praising the king, what is that king’s glory?” (Pirqe de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 3, cf. Zohar 3:69a).

“Whoever acquires a Hebrew slave acquires for himself a master” (BT Qiddushin 20a).

 

A Sojourner have I been in a Foreign Land: A Prisoner cannot Free Himself from Jail

20150502-crime-compensaIn his day you shall give his wages (Deuteronomy 24:15). The Faithful Shepherd opened ‘The following decree is to give a hired worker his hire in time. This is the meaning of, In his day you shall give his wages, and the sun shall not set on him (ibid.). Listen, heads of the Academy high and low. Metatron is the hire of the hired worker, a messenger from the eighteen worlds [Yesodto receive the eighteen blessings of the Amidah prayer [for Malkhut] every day, three times a day. For that reason, In his day you shall give his wages—the Shaḥarit service; and the sun shall not set on himMinḥa service, for if the day is past, the offering is no longer valid. For he is poor (ibid.)—surely he is poor in exile and has nothing but what he is given in prayer [see Zohar 1:179b: ‘(Metatron) the youth who is a poor child, possessing nothing at all of his own’]. For that reason his prayer is, A תְּפִלָּה (tefillah), prayer, for the lowly when יַעֲטֹף (ya’atof), he is faint (Psalms 102:1), namely the יַעֲטֹף (ya’atof), wrap, of the tsitsit and the hand tefillin [playing with two senses of the root עטף (‘tf), which can mean both ‘to be faint’ and ‘to cover oneself, wrap,’ as in ‘wrapping oneself in a tallit’ before binding tefillin, cf. Zohar 3:113b, TZ 6, 22a-b, 11, 26b; 21, 55b].

And his heart counts on it (Deuteronomy 24:15)—the Arvit (evening) service, which [corresponds to] the parts of the sacrifice and the fatty parts that are left from the offerings of the day [prayer replaces sacrifice, see BT Berakhot 6b on Psalms 141:2, cf. Psalms 69:31-32; Hosea 14:3]. They are like single grapes of the vineyard and the edge of your field (Leviticus 19:9) of which we learned leaving things [over for the poor] is a mitsvah and hinders [divine] punishment. For the poor [Shekhinah and Metatron] and for the sojourner you shall leave them (ibid. 10). For the middle pillar [Tif’eret], when He is outside His place is called a sojourner. For that reason, I [Moses the Faithful Shepherd, my rung being of the middle pillar], called myself a sojourner in the first exile. This is the meaning of, A sojourner have I been in a foreign land (Exodus 2:22), for He [Ze’eir Anpin] lies in exile for Her sake.’

The Masters of Mishnah asked him, ‘Faithful Shepherd, yet Israel performed this decree in the land of Israel? He said to them, this is in order to invoke compassion on those driven away from their place. For a man outside his place is called a sojourner, and all the more so the נִשְׁמָתִין (nishmatin), souls, that walk naked from that world and come into this world. Of them the verse says, Like a bird wandering from its nest is a man wandering from his place (Proverbs 27:8). The soul from, which the Shekhinah does not move, is a man (ibid.), of whom it says, YHWH is a man of war (Exodus 15:3), wandering from his place (Proverbs 27:8), roaming and roving from His place, which is the World that is Coming, Binah. And He wanders after her in this world, until the days that the soul needs to go outside her place are completed. He guards her until He returns her to her place and swears He shall not return to His place before He returns her to her own. [Therefore] whoever repents is as if he returned the blessed Holy One, and His Shekhinah to His place. This is the mystery of redemption as it said, If you would only heed His voice! (Psalms 95:7)” (Zohar 3:278a-b, Ra’aya Meheimna Ki Tetse).

If you should lend money to My people, to the pauper among you, you shall not be to him like a creditor, you shall not impose interest on him. If you should indeed take in pledge your fellow man’s cloak, before the sun comes down you shall return it to him. For it is his sole covering, it is his cloak for his skin—in what can he lie? (Exodus 22:24-26).

“Woe to the sons of man who imprison the blessed Holy One with them in exile. The Shekhinah is imprisoned with them too, as it says, ‘A prisoner cannot free himself from jail’ (BT Berakhot 5b). Release is תְּשׁוּבָה (teshuvah), Repentance [lit., Returning], supernal Mother [Binah], which does depend on them. The fifty gates of freedom are with Her [cf. Leviticus 25:54], for the fifty times going out of Egypt is mentioned in the Torah [see Zohar 3:262a]. This is: and he turned כֹּה וָכֹה (koh va-khoh), this way and that way (Exodus 2:12). Through these fifty letters one unifies twice every day in the recitation of Shema which has כ״ה וכ״ה (twenty-five and twenty-five) letters. And saw that no man was about (ibid.)—to awaken Her inside of them.

She watches from the windows, it says about them And now, I pray you, beseech אֵל (El), God, that He will be gracious to us (Malachi 1:9)—to Her. About Her it is said, אֵל (El), God, pray, heal her, pray (Numbers 12:13), and the healing is through His hands, which is the spread hand to receive the penitents. And saw that no man was about—this is: through the window she looked out, and moaned (Judges 5:28), like teru’ah [of the ram’s horn], which is moaning. As it says, Noah opened the window of the ark he had made (Genesis 8:6)—on the day of Atonement, because the ark of Noah is supernal Mother, its window was the middle pillar, through it came the light, and Torah is light, and it is אוֹר הַגָּנוּז (or ha-ganuz), the hidden light.

And he turned this way and that way (Exodus 2:12). Peeping through the crannies (Song of Songs 2:9)—the ten days of repentance. And saw that no man was about (Exodus ibid.). Furthermore: Peering through the windows (Song of Songs ibid.)—the windows of the house of assembly. Father [Abba] and son [Ze’eir Anpin] are in the house of prisoners, and every day He [Arikh Anpin] watches over them and gives them sustenance.

And he turned this way and that way—if there might be someone who stirred to return and break his prison. As it is written, That You may say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Show yourselves (Isaiah 49:9). And he turned this way and that way and saw that no man was about (Exodus 2:12). We have turned everyone to his own way (Isaiah 53:6); they all look to their own way, everyone for his gain, from his own quarter (ibid. 56:11). To gain more in this world, to inherit this world, and they are not from that place of which it says, God-fearing men, truthful men, haters of bribes (Exodus 18:21). Rather all were howling in prayers on the day of Atonement like dogs. ‘Give! Give! Money, forgiveness, atonement, and life. Seal us for life!’ And these are the greedy, like dogs [cf. Isaiah 56:1; Proverbs 30:15]. They are the nations of the world, that moan for themselves, and they are not shamefaced [see BT Sotah 49b: ‘In the heels of Messiah, חוּצפָּה (ḥutspah), impudence, will increase… The face of the generation is like the face of a dog]. There are none who call to Him in repentance, to return the Shekhinah to the blessed Holy One, who is far from Him, to return Her to Him. They resemble dogs, as it says, And they mingled with the nations and learned their deeds (Psalms 106:35). These are the motley throng. Every good deed they do is only to benefit themselves [cf. BT Shabbat 33b; Bava Batra 10b].

Furthermore, they [only] ask for food, clothing, and time, which is time for coupling, as it says, he should not stint for this one her flesh, כְּסוּתָהּ (kesutah), her wardrobe, and her conjugal rights (Exodus 21:10) [cf. BT Ketubbot 48a]. There is nobody who asks for food of Torah, clothing of the Shekhinah, upper Mother [Binah], as it says, And do not forsake your mother’s teaching (Proverbs 1:8). ‘Clothing’ is the covering of tsitsit, and its cloak, and the tefillin of the hand as it says, A prayer for the lowly when he covers (Psalms 102:1). ‘And time’ is recitation of Shema in its proper time. With these three they did not act for the Shekhinah, [And if he does not do these three for her,] she shall go free without payment, with no כֶּסֶף (kesef), money (Exodus 21:11)—they have no כִּסּוּפָא (kissufa), shame, for the Shekhinah [who is like a pauper], they are brazen. Furthermore: with no כָּסֶף (kesef), money—they will not have any portion in the כִּסּוּפָא (kissufa), hidden, world that is coming [cf. Zohar 2:97a (SdM)].

Look, all this God performs twice or thrice with a גָּבֶר (gaver), man [to bring back his being from the Pit, to glow in the light of life] (Job 33:29). Because of this: for it is his sole כְסוּתֹה (khesutoh), covering (Exodus 22:26)—the first [life] cycle. It is his cloak for his skin (ibid.)—his second [life] cycle. In what can he lie? (ibid.)—his third [life] cycle. These are the three garments, the three coverings of the three colors of the eye, which are garments for the pupil of the eye which is the נְשָׁמָה (neshamah), soul” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 22a-b).

Wherever the Preparation of the Incense is Uttered with Intention and Heartfelt Devotion No One can be Harmed

Jerusalem-Incense“Rabbi Zutra son of Tobiah said in the name of Rav: From where do we learn that a blessing should be said over sweet aromas? Because it says, Let all that has breath praise Yah (Psalms 150:6). What is that which gives enjoyment to the soul and not to the body?—you must say that this is fragrance” (BT Berakhot 43b).

“Three things restore a man’s good spirits: [beautiful] sounds, sights, and smells” (BT Berakhot 57b).

“Whoever smelled the smoke, as a column rose from the smoke-raiser [in the Temple], became cleansed of heart, refined in radiant joy to serve his Lord. The filth of the evil impulse disappeared from him, leaving him with only one heart toward his Father in heaven [cf. M Berakhot 9:5]; for incense actually disintegrates the evil impulse in all aspects… nothing in the world breaks the Other Side except incense.

Come and see what is written: Take the fire-pan and place fire upon it from the altar and put in incense. Why? For the fury has gone forth from before YHWH, the plague has begun! (Numbers 17:11). For look, nothing breaks that side except incense, since nothing is as beloved to the blessed Holy One as incense! Consequently, it can eliminate sorcery and evil elements from the home. If the fragrance and smoke of incense prepared by people for that purpose has the power to eliminate, All the more so [holy] incense.

This matter is an established decree before the blessed Holy One: Whoever contemplates and reads every day פִּטּוּם הַקְּטֹרֶת (Pitum ha-Qetoret), Preparation of the Incense, will be saved from all elements of sorcery in the world, from all mishaps, evil fantasies, and pestilence. He will not be harmed that entire day, for the Other Side has no power over him—but he must focus his intention on it.

Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘If human beings knew how exalted the Preparation of the Incense was in the eyes of the blessed Holy One, they would take every single word and raise it as a crown upon their heads, like a crown of gold. Whoever engages in the Preparation of the Incense and concentrates upon it every day has a share in this world and in the world that is coming. Pestilence will disappear from him and from the world, and he will be delivered from all judgments and all evil aspects of this world, from the judgment of the alien kingdom, and even from the judgment of Hell…

The Preparation of the Incense is more beloved than all rituals and devotions in the world. Even though prayer is most exalted of all [the commandments], the Preparation of the Incense is precious and beloved to the blessed Holy One.

Come and see: What is the difference between prayer and the Preparation of the Incense? Prayer was instituted to replace the sacrifices that Israel used to offer [in the time when the Temple stood], and none of those sacrifices that they offered was as important as the incense. Furthermore, what is the difference between this and that? Well, prayer is restoration, restoring as needed. Incense does more: restoring, forging links, and producing radiance greater than all. What is that? Removing filth and purifying the Dwelling—all is illumined, restored, and linked as one. Therefore we must remove filth from the world, thereby restoring all, every single day—like that beloved offering, in which the blessed Holy One delighted” (Zohar 2:218b-19a).

And YHWH said to Moses, “Take you the סַמִּים (samim), fragrances, balsam and onycha and galbanum, fragrances, and clear frankincense, equal part for part shall it be. And you shall make of it incense, a perfume compound, perfumer’s work, tinctured with salt, pure, sacred. And you shall pound it to fine powder and place some of it before the Ark of the Covenant in the Tent of Meeting where I shall meet you. Holy of holies it shall be to you (Exodus 30:34-38).

And Aaron shall burn upon it the aromatic incense morning after morning, when he tends the lamps he shall burn it. And when Aaron lights the lamps at twilight he shall burn it, a perpetual incense before YHWH for your generations. You shall not offer up on it strange incense (Exodus 30:7-8).

“The rabbis taught: How was the incense prepared? It weighed 368 manehs, 365 corresponding to the number of days in a solar year, a maneh for each day, half to be offered in the morning and half in the afternoon, and three additional manehs from which the High Priest took handfuls on Yom Kippur. These were put back into the mortar on the day before Yom Kippur and ground again very thoroughly so as to be extremely fine. The incense contained eleven kinds of spices [אֲדֹנָי (Adonai), Lord, times eleven equals הַקְטֹרֶת (ha-qetoret), the incense]: balsam, onycha, galbanum and frankincense, each weighing seventy manehs; myrrh, cassia, spikenard and saffron, each weighing sixteen manehs; twelve manehs of costus, three of aromatic bark; nine of cinnamon; nine kabs of Carsina lye; three seahs and three kabs of Cyprus wine. If Cyprus wine was not available, old white wine might be used. A quarter of a kab of Sodom salt, and a minute amount of smoke-raising herb. Rabbi Nathan the Babylonian says: also a minute amount of Jordan amber. If one added honey to the mixture, he rendered it unfit for sacred use. If he omitted any one of its ingredients, he is guilty of a capital offence.

Rabban Shim’on son of Gamliel says: ‘Balsam’ refers to the sap that drips from the balsam tree. The Carsina lye was used for bleaching the onycha to improve it. The Cyprus wine was used to soak the onycha in it to make it pungent. Though urine is suitable for this purpose, it is not brought into the Temple out of respect.

It was taught, Rabbi Nathan says: While it was being ground, another would say הָדֵק הֵיטֵב הֵיטֵב הָדֵק (hadeq heitev, heitev hadeq), ‘Grind well, well grind,’ because the [rhythmic] sound is good for [those who grind] spices. If it was mixed in half-quantities, it is fit for use, but we have not heard whether this applies to a third or a quarter. Rabbi Yehudah said: The general rule is that if it was made in the correct proportions, it is fit for use even if made in half-quantity, but if he omitted any one of its ingredients, he is guilty of a capital offence (BT Karetot 6a).

“It was taught, Bar Qappara says: Once every sixty or seventy years, the accumulated surpluses amounted to half the yearly quantity. Bar Qappara also taught: If a minute quantity of honey had been mixed into the incense, no one could have resisted the scent. Why did they not put honey into it? Because Torah says, For you shall not turn to smoke any leaven nor any honey from it as a fire offering to YHWH (Leviticus 2:11)” (JT Yoma 4:5).

And Moses said to Aaron, “Take the fire-pan and place fire upon it from the altar and put in incense and carry it quickly to the community and atone for them, for the furry has gone out from before YHWH, the scourge has begun.” And Aaron took as Moses had spoken, and he ran into the midst of the assembly, and, look, the scourge had begun against the people, and he put in incense and atoned for the people. And he stood between the dead and the living, and the scourge was held back (Numbers 17:11-13).

“The Angel of Death confided his secret to him [Moses], for it is said, and he put in incense and atoned for the people (Numbers 17:11); and it is said, And he stood between the dead and the living, [and the scourge was held back] (ibid. 13). Had he not told it to him, where had he known it? [Since this act of intervention to save the people is not dictated by God but is a device Moses on his own initiative orders Aaron to implement]” (BT Shabbat 89a).

Take the fire-pan… and put in incense (Numbers 17:11)—a specific fire-pan [since the noun has the definite article]. [However,] it does not say and put in the incense. The intelligent will understand [i.e., the burning of incense was a sanitary technique used to drive off the plague]” (Ibn Ezra, Perush al ha-Torah).

“What atonement is there which obtains evenly for oneself, his household, his brethren, the priests, and the whole assembly of the house of Israel? It is the smoking of the incense. But does the incense obtain atonement?—indeed, for Rabbi Ḥananiah cited: We learn that the incense obtains atonement for what was said: And he put in incense and atoned for the people (Numbers 17:12). And the school of Rabbi Yishma’el taught: Why does incense obtain atonement for evil speech? Let that which is in secret [i.e. since none but the high priest may enter the Holy of Holies] come and obtain atonement for what is committed in secret!” (BT Yoma 44a).

“Rabbi Aḥa traveled to כְפַר טַרְשָׁא (Kefar Tarsha), Clod Village; he arrived at his inn. All the town’s residences spoke in hushed tones about him, saying, ‘A great man has arrived here. Let us go to him. They went to him. They said to him, ‘Is the master’s heart anguished by the destruction?’ He said to them, ‘What do you mean?’ They said to him, ‘For seven days, a plague has been hovering over the town. Each day it grows stronger and does not desist.’ He said to them, ‘Let us go to the synagogue and implore mercy from the blessed Holy One.’

While they were walking, [some people] arrived and said, ‘So-and-so and so-and-so have died, and so-and-so and so-and-so are about to die.’ Rabbi Aḥa said to them, ‘Now is not the time to stand by—the hour is pressing! Rather, set aside forty of the most righteous people, in four groups of ten, and I with you; ten for one corner of the town, ten for another corner of the town, so on for the four corners of the town; and recite with soulful devotion the passages of the aromatic incense that the blessed Holy One gave Moses, accompanied by the passages of the sacrifices [cf. BT Shabbat 89a].’

They did so three times—and passed through all four directions of the town, reciting accordingly [cf. Zohar 2:219a: It is forbidden to burn incense anywhere else except in the fire-pan (of the Temple)]. Afterward, he said to them, ‘Let us go to those verging on death. Set aside [other righteous people] for their houses and let them recite in a similar fashion. When you finish, recite these verses loudly three times: Moses said to Aaron, ‘Take the fire-pan and place fire upon it…’ (Numbers 17:11); Aaron took… (ibid., 12); He stood between the dead… (ibid., 13).’

They did so and the plagued ceased. They heard a voice saying, ‘Secret striker, primal striker, wait on high; the judgment of heaven does not hover here, for they know how to nullify it.’

Rabbi Aḥa’s heart was faint. He fell asleep. He heard that they were telling him, ‘Just as you accomplished that, accomplish this! Go and tell them to return in teshuvah, for they are wicked before Me.’

He arose and returned them in complete teshuvah, and they accepted upon themselves never to desist from Torah; and they changed the name of the city to מָאתָא מַחְסֵיָא (Mata Meḥseya), Town of Compassion [cf. BT Ketubbot 4a; Horayot 12a; Zohar 1:72a, 94b]” (Zohar 1:100b-101b, Midrash ha-Ne’lam).

May my prayer stand as incense before You (Psalms 141:2).

“Come and see: Incense binds bonds, spreading joy from above and below. This eliminates death, accusation, and wrath, which cannot prevail in the world” (Zohar 1:230a, cf. Bahir §109).

“And when the highest point and the world that is coming ascend, they know only the aroma, as one inhaling an aroma is sweetened” (Zohar 3:26b).

Healing for the Soul: All the Protection a Doctor Should Provide for One who is Ill

rav_ashlag_640x360“Up to here was written in that book of Dr. Kirtena. Afterward, traced in this verse, was all the protection a doctor should provide for one who is ill, lying in the King’s prison, so that he may serve the Master of the World.

For when a wise doctor goes to him, he finds him in a wilderness land and in tohu, emptiness—the illnesses imposed upon him. He finds him in royal captivity.

Now, you might say, ‘Since the blessed Holy One commanded to seize him, no person should attend to him [cf. BT Berakhot 60a, Bava Qamma 85a-b; Midrash Shemu’el 4:1; Nahmanides on Leviticus 26:11].’ Not so! For David has said, Happy is one who keeps an eye on the helpless; on the day of evil YHWH will deliver him (Psalms 41:2). The helpless—the one lying on his sickbed. And if he is a wise doctor, the blessed Holy One provides him blessings for the one he is attending to.

And that doctor, if he finds him in a wilderness land, lying on his sickbed; and in the emptiness of a howling desert, for that sickness oppresses him—what should he do? יְסֹבְבֶנְהוּ (Yesovevenhu), He will encircle him (Deuteronomy 32:10)—יְסוֹבֵב לֵיהּ סִבּוֹת (yesovev leih sibbot), he should revolve the turn of events for him, and bring about causes, so that those things harming him will be thwarted [cf. Zohar 1:109a, 110a-b, 191b]. He should let and draw out from him bad blood.

Give mind to him (ibid.)—he should examine and understand the origin of that illness, scrutinizing so that it does not intensify; he should diminish it.

Afterward, guard him like the pupil of His eye (ibid.)—so that he will be protected properly with those potions, with those remedies that he needs. And he must not fail to distinguish between them, for if he errs in even one element, the blessed Holy One considers that doctor as if he spilled his blood and killed him. For although that person is in the King’s prison, confined there, the blessed Holy One wants someone to attend to him and help him, to take him out of prison.

[Dr. Kirtena] said as follows: The blessed Holy One renders judgment above upon inhabitants of the world, whether by death, uprooting, confiscation of property, or imprisonment (Ezra 7:26). One who deserves confiscation of property falls onto his sickbed and is not healed until he gives all that was decreed, he is healed and leaves prison [cf. BT Avodah Zarah 55a; Leqaḥ Tov, Deuteronomy 28:59; Zohar 1:227a-b; ZḤ 10d (MhN)]. Therefore, one must attend to him, so that he will pay his penalty and leave.

One who deserves uprooting will be seized and confined in prison until he is uprooted entirely, and sometimes he will be uprooted of his limbs, or of one of them, and afterward he will be released from prison.

One who deserves death, so it is. For if he gives all the ransom and money in the world, he will not be saved.

Even so, there must be a wise doctor to attend to him. If he can provide him with healing of the body, fine; if not, he will provide him with healing for his soul and attend to his soul’s healing. Such is a doctor whom the blessed Holy One will attend to in this world and in the world that is coming.

Rabbi El’azar said, ‘Until now I have never heard of this doctor or this book—except one time when a certain wandering donkey-driver told me that he heard from his father that in his time there was a certain doctor who, when he looked at a person on his sickbed, would say, This one will live, or This one will die. They said of him that he was truly virtuous and sin-fearing, and if anyone could not obtain what he needed, he himself would purchase it, giving of his own. And they said that there was no one in the world as wise as him, and his prayer accomplished more than the work of his hands, and it seems to me that this was the doctor!’

That Jew said, ‘His book is in my hands, because I inherited it from my grandfather. And all the words in that book are all based on mysteries of Torah, and in it I discovered concealed mysteries and many matters of healing, of which he said that it is not proper for anyone to perform them unless he is sin-fearing.

And those were what Balaam used, for he murmured incantations over illness; he spoke with his mouth, and [the person] was instantly healed [cf. M Sanhedrin 10:1; Tosefta Sanhedrin 12:10; JT Sotah 1:4, 16d; Sanhedrin 10:1, 28a-b; Vayiqra Rabbah 9:9; BT Sanhedrin 101a, Shevu’ot 15b; Avot de-Rabbi Natan A, 36; Devarim Rabbah 5:15; Bemidbar Rabbah 9:20].

All of them he clarified in that book, and he said, ‘This is forbidden, and this is permitted for one who is sin-fearing.’ For he mentioned many illnesses who’s cure depends on murmuring of the mouth, deriving from the side of sorcery and some from the side of wizardry. And all those forbidden to be uttered by the mouth and forbidden to be enacted, he discussed. Eventually I found there that for certain illnesses one must say such and such, and expel that illness by banishment and excommunication. That is quite amazing to me!’

Rabbi El’azar rejoiced, and the Companions rejoiced. Rabbi El’azar said, ‘If we had that book, we could see what it really is!’ He replied, ‘I’ll entrust it to you, in order to show it to the Holy Lamp [Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai].’ And we have learned: Rabbi El’azar said, ‘That book was in my hands twelve months, and in it I discovered many sublime precious lights. When we reached those sealed mysteries concerning Balaam, I was astounded.

One day I was whispering incantations in a certain place, and the letters were ascending and descending, until I saw in a dream, and they said to me, What are you doing entering and enquiring in a domain that is not yours, where you need not be?

I awoke, and I was distressed over those sealed mysteries that were there. I sent for that Jew, who is named Rabbi Yose son of Rabbi Yehudah, and I gave him that book. And in the mysteries of Balaam, I found some of those names of angels, sent to him by Balak, though they were not arranged correctly. But in it I found many types of remedies, prepared according to configurations of Torah and her sealed mysteries. And I saw that it depends on kindness, and prayers and please to the blessed Holy One.

Now if you say that he performed healing with verses of Torah—perish the thought! Rather, he would speak mysteries of Torah, and based on that mystery he would produce mysteries of healing, the likes of which I have never seen. I said, Blessed is the Compassionate One who has enlightened human beings by wisdom above.

I grasped some of those matters relating to Balaam, and from them I saw that in the whole world there was no one as wise in sorcery as he. I said, Blessed is the Compassionate One, who has abolished these sorceries from the world, so that human beings will not stray from revering the blessed Holy One [cf. Rashi on BT Pesaḥim 56a; Guide of the Perplexed 3:37]’” (Zohar 3:306a, cf. Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 69, 106a).

“Rabbi Abba was traveling to Cappadocia, accompanied by Rabbi Yose. As they were going, they saw a man approaching who had a mark on his face. Rabbi Abba said, ‘Let us turn off the road, for this one’s face testifies to sexual licentiousness of the Torah, on account of which his face is stigmatized. Rabbi Yose said to him, ‘If he has had this mark since childhood, what licentiousness inheres in him? He replied, ‘I see in his face, which testifies to licentiousness of Torah.’

Rabbi Abba called to him, and said, ‘Tell me something. What is this mark on your face?’ He said to them, ‘I beg of you, don’t punish me any more than what my sins have brought upon me!’

Rabbi Abba said, ‘How is that?’ He replied, ‘One day I was travelling on the road—me and my sister. We stayed at an inn and I got drunk, and all that night I embraced my sister. In the morning I got up, and the innkeeper was quarreling with another man. I got between them and they grappled me, one from this side and one from that, and this wound penetrated my forehead [lit., brain]. I was saved by a certain doctor who was staying with us.’

He asked him, ‘Who was that doctor?’ He replied, ‘It was Rabbi Simlai.’ He said, ‘And what cure did he give you?’ He replied, ‘A cure for the soul. From that day on, I have engaged in teshuvah. And every day I look at my face in a mirror and I weep for that sin before the blessed Holy One, and with those tears I wash my face [cf. Zohar 2:12b: There is no gate that those tears cannot enter].

Rabbi Abba said, ‘Were it not for your becoming deprived of teshuvah, I would remove that mark from your face. But I proclaim over you, Your iniquity is removed and your sin purged (Isaiah 6:7). He said to him, ‘Rabbi say it three times!’ He said it three times and the mark disappeared. Rabbi Abba said, ‘Surely your Lord wished to remove it from you, for you were certainly engaged in teshuvah.’ He said to him, ‘I vow that from this day onward I will engage in Torah day and night.’ He asked him, ‘What is your name?’ He replied, ‘אֶלְעָזָר (El’azar)’ He said, ‘Surely, the name was decisive, for אֵל עָזַר (El azar), God has helped, and assisted you [cf. Tanḥuma Ha’azinu 7: One should always be careful to choose for his child a name that denotes righteousness, for at times the name itself can be an influence for good or an influence for bad].’ Rabbi Abba sent him off with a blessing” (Zohar 3:75b-76a).

“The academy of Rabbi Yishma’el taught: וְרַפֹּא יְרַפֵּא (ve-rapo yerape), he shall surely cure him (Exodus 21:19)—authorization was granted to the doctor to cure” (BT Bava Qamma 85a, cf. Ibn Ezra, ad loc).

If you really heed the voice of YHWH your God, and do what is right in His eyes, and hearken to His commands and keep all His statutes, all the sickness that I put upon Egypt I will not put upon you, for I am YHWH your healer (Exodus 15:26).

Israel Make Merry

IMG_0427.JPG“Come and see: There are times in the year when favor is found, and times in the year when Judgment looms. There are times in the month when favor is found, and times in the month when judgments loom over all. There are times in the week when favor is found, and times in the week when judgments appear in the world. There are times in the day when favor is found and the world is fragrant, and times in the day when judgments loom—and even in the hour. Thus it is written: [For everything there is a season,] and a time for every matter (Ecclesiastes 3:1), and similarly: [As for me, may my prayer to You, O YHWH, come] at a time of favor… (Psalms 69:14), and similarly: Why, YHWH, do You stand far off, and hide in times of trouble? (Psalms 10:1), and similarly: From afar, YHWH appeared to me (Jeremiah 31:3). And times when He is near, as is written: Seek YHWH when He may be found, call to Him when He is near (Isaiah 55:6); YHWH is near to all who call Him (Psalms 145:18). Therefore, that he not enter at all times into the sanctuary (Leviticus 16:2)” (Zohar 3:58a–b).

“Rabbi Ḥelbo said in the name of Rav Huna: A man should always be conscientious [or: careful] about the afternoon prayer, since Elijah was answered only during this prayer, as is said: And it happened at the hour of the afternoon offering that Elijah the prophet approached and said… Answer me, YHWH, answer me (1 Kings 18:36–37). Answer me—that the fire may descend from heaven; answer me—that they may not say it is the work of sorcery [cf. Zohar 2:191b]” (BT Berakhot 6b).

“In the ninth [month, Sivan,] Israel was answered by the Sea. And the ninth [seasonal] hour is the time of merriment, blessing, and joy [‘when He is feeding the whole world, from the horned ox to the brood of vermin’ (BT Avodah Zarah 3b)]. It is the hour of the [small] afternoon prayer in which Elijah was answered, as is written: And it happened at the hour of the afternoon offering that Elijah the prophet approached (1 Kings 18:36) [on the time of the small afternoon prayer, see BT Berakhot 26b]. It is received tradition for you that the ninth year of the jubilee is the most auspicious year [see Leviticus 25:20–22], the ninth month is a month of favor, and it is the most auspicious of months. The ninth day of the month is the most auspicious day of the month, and the ninth hour of the day is the most auspicious hour of hours. And the same occurs above, among the highest ones—the ninth is most auspicious” (Berit Menuḥa: Second Way: The Way of Love, Ninth Vowel).

“From the beginning of the month [of Tishrei] books are opened and judges sit in judgment. Every single day courts are empowered to open proceedings, until the day called ‘ninth of the month.’ On that day judgments all ascend to the Master of Judgment, and a supernal holy throne is prepared for the King. On that day Israel below should rejoice before their Lord, who is ready to sit over them on the holy Throne of Mercy, the Throne of Leniency… Consequently, eating and drinking on the ninth more than on any other day ” (Zohar 3:67a, 69b).

“[Rabbi Shim’on son of Gamliel taught:] No days were as festive in Israel as Yom Kippur” (M Ta’anit 4:8).

“On this day two radiances shine as one—Supernal Mother illumines Lower Mother. Thus it is written יוֹם הַכִּפֻּרִים (Yom ha-Kippurim), the Day of Atonements (Leviticus 23:27), as has been said…

There is one day a year to examine and inspect them, and when this day comes to pass, Supernal Mother—in whose hand is all freedom—appears, to observe Israel. And they gird themselves on this day with many rituals, prayers, and self-afflictions—all of them virtuous… Then She couples with the King in radiance, in joy, in perfection, in rapture, for She has raised children fittingly for the supernal King” (Zohar 3:102a–b).

“On Rosh Hashanah, the left arm is aroused to welcome the Matronita. The whole world is then in fear of Judgment, and the whole world has to be in complete repentance before the blessed Holy One. Later, on the ninth of the month [of Tishrei], the Matronita comes and the palace retinue, Israel, make merry and immerse themselves in the river to purify themselves for the mating of the Matronita, on the next day [Yom Kippur]. For Her mating is accomplished by His placing His left hand under Her head, in accordance with, His left hand beneath my head, [his right hand embracing me] (Song of Songs 2:6).

Then, on the tenth day Israel fast for their sins and are forgiven. For the supernal Mother [Binah] looks kindly on Malkhut in the coupling and makes atonement for all of the retinue of the Temple, Israel, since the left welcomes Her on this day, for the head of Malkhut rests on the left [hand]” (Zohar 3:213b, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).