The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: repentance

Master of Repentance: There is No Gate that Tears Cannot Enter

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“Seven things were created before the world was created: The Torah, repentance, the Garden of Eden, Hell, the Throne of Glory, the Temple, and the name of the Messiah…. תְשׁוּבָה (Teshuvah), repentance, as is written, Before mountains were spawned (Psalms 90:2), and it is written, You bring man back to the dust and say, שׁוּבוּ (shuvu), ‘Turn back, humankind’ (ibid., 3)” (BT Pesaḥim 54a).

“Rabbi Ḥama son of Ḥanina said: Great is repentance, for it brings healing to the world, as is said: I will heal their rebellion, I will love them freely (Hosea 14:5). Rabbi Ḥama son of Ḥanina raised [a difficulty]: It is written, Turn back, rebellious children (Jeremiah 3:22)—at first you were rebellious; and it is written, I will heal your rebellion (ibid.). This is not difficult: here out of love; there, out of fear.

Rav Yehudah raised [a difficulty]: It is written: Turn back, rebellious children—I will heal your rebellion, and it is written: For I have claimed possession of you and have taken you, one from a town and two from a clan, [and brought you to Zion] (ibid., 14). This is not difficult: Here out of love or fear; there, through suffering.

Rabbi Levi said: Great is repentance, for it reaches up to the Throne of Glory, as is said: Turn back, O Israel, to YHWH your God (Hosea 14:2). Rabbi Yoḥanan said: Great is repentance, for it overrides a prohibition of Torah, as is said: [And the word of YHWH came to me,] saying: Look, should a man send away his wife, and she go from him and become another man’s, can he go back to her again? Would not that land be wholly polluted? And you, you have whored with many lovers, and would you come back to Me? said YHWH (Jeremiah 3:1) [cf. Deuteronomy 24:4].

Rabbi Yonatan said: Great is repentance, because it brings about redemption, as is said, And a redeemer shall come to Zion, and to those who turn back from crime in Jacob (Isaiah 59:20). A redeemer shall come to Zion—why? Because of those who turn back from crime in Jacob. Resh Laqish said: Great is repentance, because through it rebellious deeds are counted as errors, as is said, Turn back, O Israel, to YHWH your God, for you have stumbled in your crime (Hosea 14:2). Crime—[surely] rebellious deeds, yet the prophet calls it ‘stumbling!’ Resh Laqish also said: Great is repentance, because through it rebellious deeds are counted as though they were merits, as is said, And when the wicked turns back from his wickedness and does justice and righteousness, for it he shall live (Ezekiel 33:19). This is not difficult: Here out of love; there, out of fear.

Rabbi Shemu’el son of Naḥmani said in the name of Rabbi Yonatan: Great is repentance, because it prolongs the [days and] years of man, as is said: And when the wicked man turns back from his wickedness that he has done and does justice and righteousness, he shall preserve himself in life (ibid. 18:27). Rabbi Yitsḥaq said: In the West [i.e., the land of Israel] they said in the name of Rabbah son of Mari: Come and see how different from the character of one of flesh and blood is the action of the blessed Holy One. As to the character of one of flesh and blood, if one angers his fellow, it is doubtful whether he will be appeased by him or not. And even if you would say, he can be appeased, it is doubtful whether he will be appeased by mere words. But with the blessed Holy One if a man commits a transgression in secret, He is appeased by mere words, as is said: Take words with you and turn back to YHWH (Hosea 14:3). And not only that: It is held by Him good, as is said: And take what is good (ibid.). And not only that: The verse ascribes to him as if he had offered up bulls, as is said: And we shall offer our speech instead of bulls (ibid.). Lest you say ‘obligatory bulls,’ it says: I will heal their rebellion, I will love them freely (ibid., 5).

It was taught: Rabbi Me’ir used to say, Great is repentance, for the entire world is forgiven on account of a single individual who repents, as is said: I will heal their rebellion, I will love them freely, for My wrath has turned back from him (Hosea 14:5). It does not say from them, but from him. What is בַּעַל תְּשׁוּבָה (ba’al teshuvah), a master of repentance, like? Rav Yehudah said: If the forbidden thing came to his hand a first time and a second time, and he escapes to the right in protest. Rav Yehudah [added]: With the same woman, at the same time, in the same place.

Rav Yehudah said: Rav raised [the following difficulties]: It is written: Happy, of sin forgiven, absolved of offense (Psalms 32:1); and it is also written: Who covers his crimes will not prosper, [but who admits and leaves off will be granted mercy] (Proverbs 28:13)? This is not difficult. Here, offenses that have become known; there, offenses that have not become known. Rav Zutra son of Toviah in the name of Rav Naḥman said: Here we speak of offenses committed by a man against his fellow, there of offenses committed by man against the Omnipresent.

It was taught: Rabbi Yose son of Yehudah said: If a man commits a transgression, the first, second and third time he is forgiven, the fourth time he is not forgiven, as is said: Thus said YHWH: For three trespasses of Israel, and for four, I will not turn it back (Amos 2:6); and it says: Look, all this God performs twice or thrice with a man, [to bring back his being from the Pit, to glow in the light of life] (Job 33:29). What is ‘and it says’ [i.e., why the additional proof text]? Lest you say this applies only to a community, but not to an individual. Come and hear: Look, all this God performs twice or thrice with a man.

Our Rabbis taught: As for the transgressions which one has confessed on one Yom Kippur, he should not confess them on another Yom Kippur; but if he repeated them, then he should confess them, on another Yom Kippur. And if he had not committed them again, yet confessed them again, of him is written: Like a dog going back to his vomit a dolt repeats his folly (Proverbs 26:11). Rabbi Eli’ezer son of Ya’aqov said: He is more praiseworthy, as is said: For my crimes I know, and my offense is before me always (Psalms 51:5). How then do I [explain], Like a dog going back to his vomit? In accord with Rav Huna, for Rav Huna said: Once a man has committed a transgression once and twice, it is permitted to him. ‘Permitted’—can it enter your mind that it is permitted to him?! Rather, it appears to him as if it were permitted.

One must confess the offense in detail, as is said, This people has committed a great offense, they have made themselves gods of gold (Exodus 32:31). These are the words of Rav Yehudah son of Bava. Rabbi Akiva said: [This is not necessary], as is said: Happy, of sin forgiven, absolved of offense. [Happy, the man to whom YHWH reckons no crime, in whose spirit is no deceit] (Psalms 32:1). Then why did Moses say: they have made themselves gods of gold? That accords with Rabbi Yannai, for Rabbi Yannai said [see BT Berakhot 32a]: Moses said before the blessed Holy One: Master of the Universe! [It is] the silver and gold that you gave to Israel in abundance, until they said: דַי (Dai), enough, [which] caused them to make gods of gold [a play on the name of a place called דִי זָהָב (di zahav), Di-Zahab (Deuteronomy 1:1)]” (BT Yoma 86a–b).

“Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘Everything in the world depends upon repentance and upon the prayer that one offers to the blessed Holy One—especially one who sheds tears in his prayer, for there is no gate that those tears cannot enter. What is written? She opened it and saw the child (Exodus 2:6). She openedShekhinah, who stands over Israel like a mother over her children, and She always opens in their defense. As soon as She opened she saw the child—a child of delight (Jeremiah 31:20), Israel, who sin before their King in everything and immediately turn back in repentance, crying before Him like a son before his father. What is written? And look, a boy crying! (Exodus 2:6)—once he cries, all evil decrees of the world are annulled. What is written? She had compassion on him—aroused in mercy for him, taking pity on him. She said, ‘This is one of the children of the Hebrews’ (ibid.)—not one of the children of the other nations, who are stiff-necked and hard-hearted. One of the children of the Hebrews—tender-hearted from their fathers and mothers, to return to their Lord. She called the child’s mother (Exodus 2:8)—who was weeping, as is written: A voice is heard on a height—wailing, bitter weeping—Rachel weeping for her children… (Jeremiah 31:14). He is crying, and the child’s mother is crying. Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘Of the time to come, what is written? With weeping they will come, and with consolations I will guide them (ibid., 9). What does this mean: With weeping they will come? By virtue of the weeping of the child’s mother, who is Rachel, they will come and be gathered in from exile” (Zohar 2:12b).

Thus says YHWH: A voice is heard in Ramah—wailing, bitter weeping—Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for her children, because they are no more (Jeremiah 31:15).

“Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘Until the day that Shekhinah returns to that site together with the exiles of Israel, as is said: There is no hope for your future, declares YHWH: children will return to their land (Jeremiah 31:17). The blessed Holy One swore this oath to her, and as they return from exile, Israel are destined to stand by Rachel’s grave and weep there, just as she wept over Israel’s exile. So it is written: With weeping they will come (ibid., 9), and: There is reward for your labor (ibid., 16). At that moment, Rachel—who is by the road—is destined to rejoice along with Israel and Shekhinah, as the Companions have established” (Zohar 1:175a–b, cf. Bereshit Rabbah 82:10; Mekhilta, Pisḥa 14; BT Megillah 29a; Zohar 1:203a).

Sheol

“We learned Rabbi Eli’ezer says: Repent one day before your death. Rabbi Eli’ezer’s disciples asked him: But does a person know the day he will die? He said to them: All the more so he should repent today lest he die tomorrow; and one will find all his days [are spent] in repentance. And Solomon also said in his wisdom: At every season let your garments be white, and let oil on your head not be lacking (Ecclesiastes 9:8).

Rabban Yoḥanan son of Zakkai said: A parable: A king summoned his servants to a banquet and did not set a time for them. The wise among them adorned themselves and sat at the entrance to the king’s house. They said, ‘Is anything lacking in the house of the king?’ The fools among them went to their work, saying, ‘Is there such a thing as a banquet without [the] trouble [of preparations]?’ All of a sudden the king asked for his servants. The wise among them entered before him adorned and the fools entered before him soiled. The king rejoiced to greet the wise and was furious to greet the fools. He said, ‘These who adorned themselves for the banquet shall sit and eat and drink. Those who did not adorn themselves for the banquet will stand and watch. Rabbi Me’ir’s son-in-law said in the name of Rabbi Me’ir: Also, they look like servants. Rather, these and those sit. These eat, and those are hungry; these drink, and those are thirsty, as is said, [Therefore,thus said YHWH: Look, My servants shall eat and you shall hunger. Look, My servants shall drink and you shall thirst. [Look, My servants shall rejoice and you shall be shamed.Look, My servants shall sing gladly with a cheerful heart, and you shall cry out for heart’s pain and from a broken spirit howl (Isaiah 65:13–14)” (BT Shabbat 153a).

“In truth, to some of them it was a פַּרדֵס (pardes), paradise, and to others it was שְׁמָד (shemad), destruction. And the secret depends on the secret of the שֵׁם ד״ (shem dalet), Four Letter Name [of God]” (Rabbi Yosef Gikatilla, Perush ha-Niqqud).

“[Yet] see how great is the compassion of the blessed Holy One for His creatures! For even if he is extremely wicked, and contemplates teshuvah but cannot do it and dies, he surely receives punishment for having left without teshuvah, but afterwards that desire he felt to perform teshuvah does not depart from the presence of the supernal King, and the blessed Holy One prepares a place for that wicked one in the abode of Sheol, and there he chirps teshuvah. For that desire descends from before the blessed Holy One and breaks all the beams of the gates of the divisions of Hell and reaches the place where that wicked one lies. It knocks him, arousing in him that desire as before, and then that soul twitters and rises from the abode of Sheol” (Zohar 2:150b).

Like a Rose Among Thorns

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Like a rose among the thorns so is my friend among the young women (Song of Songs 2:2)…. Rabbi Azariah in the name of Rabbi Yehudah son of Rabbi Simon said, ‘A parable: A king had פַּרְדֵּס (pardes), an orchard. He planted a row of fig trees and a row of vines and a row of pomegranates and a row of apples. He handed it over לְאָרִיס (le-aris), to a land tenant, a tiller of the soil, and went from him. After [some] days the king came and peeped at the orchard to know what he did, and he found it full of thorns and thistles. [So] he brought wood-cutters to cut it down. Now, he saw in the orchard a single rose blossom, and he took her, וְהֵרִיחַ בָּהּ וְשָׁבַת נַפְשׁוֹ עָלָיו (ve-heriaḥ bah ve-shavat nafsho ‘alav), and smelled her and his very self was restored to him [or: and his soul rested, i.e., and he was calmed; alt., and he came to his senses]. The king said, ‘For the sake of this rose the orchard will be rescued.

Thus the entire world was created only for the sake of Torah. After twenty-six generations the blessed Holy One peeped at His world to know what it had done, and He found it was full of water with water [cf. BT Sanhedrin 108b; Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 23 on Genesis 7:19]. The generation of Enosh—water with water. The generation of the Flood—water with water. The generation of the Dispersion—water with water. [So] he brought wood-cutters to cut it down, as is said, YHWH יָשָׁב (yashav), was enthroned, at the flood [וַיֵּשֶׁב יְהוָה (va-yeshev Adonai), and YHWH is enthroned, as king for all time] (Psalms 29:10). He saw in it a single rose blossom—Israel—and he took her and smelled her at the time when Israel was given the Ten Utterances, and his very self was restored to him when they said, we will do and we will heed (Exodus 24:7). The blessed Holy One said, ‘For the sake of this rose, the orchard will be rescued; for the merit of Torah and Israel [who study her] the world will be rescued!” (Vayiqra Rabbah 23:3).

“Rabbi Ḥizkiyah opened, ‘Like a rose among thorns, so is my beloved among the maidens’ (Song of Songs 2:2). Who is a rose? Assembly of Israel. For there is a rose, and then there is a rose! Just as a rose among thorns is colored red and white, so Assembly of Israel includes judgment and compassion. Just as a rose has thirteen petals, so Assembly of Israel has thirteen qualities of compassion surrounding Her on every side [see Exodus 34:6–7]. Similarly, from the moment אֱלֹהִים (Elohim) is mentioned, it generates thirteen words to surround Assembly of Israel and protect Her; then it is mentioned again. Why again? To produce five sturdy leaves surrounding the rose. These five are called Salvation; they are five gates. Concerning this mystery it is written: I raise the cup of salvation (Psalms 116:13). This is the cup of blessing, which should rest on five fingers—and no more—like the rose, sitting on five sturdy leaves, paradigm of five fingers. This rose is the cup of blessing. From the second אֱלֹהִים (Elohim) till the third, five words appear. From here on: light—created, concealed, contained in the covenant, entering the rose, emitting seed into Her. This is the tree bearing fruit with its seed in it (Genesis 1:12)” (Zohar 1:1a).

“He opened, saying, Like a rose among thorns, so is my beloved among the maidens (Song of Songs 1:2). The blessed Holy One wished to fashion Israel according to the supernal pattern, to be one rose on earth corresponding to what is above. A rose emitting fragrance, choicest of all roses in the world, is solely one rising among thorns—this one wafts fittingly. Therefore He sowed seventy couples, who were seventy souls, and inserted them among thorns. As soon as those couples were there, the thorns sprouted branches and leaves, ruling over the world; and then the rose bloomed among them.

Once the blessed Holy One sought to pluck the rose, picking it from among them, the thorns withered and were thrown away, destroyed, and considered worthless. When He went to pick the rose, to bring out His firstborn son, the King proceeded—among many hosts, princes, and chieftains with banners flying. He delivered His firstborn son with many mighty deeds, and brought him to His palace, where he dwelled for long.

When he sinned, as before, and rebelled against his Father, He expelled him from His house. What did Israel do? Seeing that they had been scattered to Babylon, they mingled among the nations, married foreign women, and engendered children with them. Even so, Holy Mother was their guardian.

Because they had acted so, the blessed Holy One said, ‘Since it is a disgrace, let My son come by himself; because he has defiled My honor, it is unseemly for Me to go there and bring him out, performing miracles and mighty deeds as before.’ So they returned without the assistance befitting them, without wonders and miracles; rather, all dispersed, all weary in poverty, returning to the King’s palace in shame, with Holy Mother responsible for them.

They sinned as before. What did the blessed Holy One do? He expelled this son from His palace and his Mother with him, saying, ‘From here on, mother and son, you will suffer much evil together’—as is written: For your crimes, your mother was sent away (Isaiah 50:1). Of this is written When you are in distress and all these things find you בְּאַחֲרִית הַיָּמִים (be-aḥarit ha-yamim), with the end of days (Deuteronomy 4:30). What is with the end of days? Well, this is Holy Mother, who is the end of days, and with Her they suffered all that they suffered in exile. And if they engage in תְשׁוּבָה (teshuvah), repentance, even one evil or one affliction will be considered equivalent to their having suffered everything, and as if the evil extremity had been terminated with all its generations—as the Holy Lamp said, for it is written: irreversibly to its buyer throughout his generations (Leviticus 25:30). All this depends on teshuvah.

Rabbi Ḥiyya said, ‘Certainly so! And therefore exile persists” (Zohar 2:189b).

I am the lily of Sharon (Song of Songs 2:1)—Assembly of Israel who is called lily, planted in radiant beauty in the Garden. שָּׁרוֹן (Sharon)—for She שַׁרַה (sharah), sings, and offers praise to the supernal King. Alternatively, I am the lily of Sharon—for She desires to be saturated by the flow of the deep stream, bubbling stream of rivers, as is said: Sharon shall become a pond of water [a conflation of verses from Isaiah].

A rose of הַעֲמַקִּים (ha-amaqqim), the valleys—abiding in עֲמִיקְתָא (amiqta), the depth, of all. A rose of ha-amaqqim, the valleys—who are those amaqqim, valleys? As is said: מִמַּעֲמַקִּים (Mi-ma’amaqqim), from the depths, I call You, YHWH (Psalms 130:1).

A lily of Sharon—from that place where the saturating flow of streams issues, never ceasing. A rose of ha-amaqqim, the valleys—a rose from that place called עֲמִיקָא (Amiqa), Depth, of All, sealed on all sides.

Come and see: At first, greenish—green like a lily with green leaves. Afterward, a red rose, colored white and red. שׁוֹשַׁנַּת (Shoshannat), A Rose—with שִׁית (shit), six, leaves. A rose—for שַׁנִיאַת (shaniyat), She varies, Her colors, וְאִשׁתֶּנִיאָת (ve-ishteni’at), and changes, from color to color.

A rose—first a lily; when She seeks to couple with the King She is called a lily. After She unites with the King, by those kisses, She is called a rose—for it is written His lips are like roses (Song of Songs 5:13).

A rose of the valleys—for She varies and changes, Her colors: sometimes for good, sometimes for evil; sometimes for Judgment, sometimes for Compassion” (Zohar 3:107a).

“Behold, Shekhinah is shut to Him during the weekdays, like a sealed rose” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 22a, cf. Zohar 1:75b on Ezekiel 46:1).

“Similarly with Israel. As long as they are hard-hearted, not opening with תְשׁוּבָה (teshuvah), they do not emit fragrance; and He does not deliver them from among the thorns—among other nations. When they open with teshuvah, they immediately emit fragrance, and He delivers them from among the thorns, and Assembly of Israel delights in them. As is written: Open to me, my sister, my love (Song of Songs 5:2)—for as long as the rose is closed, it has no fragrance and cannot rise from amid the thorns, but dwells among them, as has been said. And the blessed Holy One sent us to walk this path only for this: to learn these matters!

So it is with Israel. As long as they are hard-hearted and do not initiate תְשׁוּבָה (teshuvah), returning, they do not emit fragrance, and there is none to remove them from among the thorns (Song of Songs 2:2). But when they open their hearts in teshuvah they immediately emit fragrance, and He removes them from among the thorns. And Assembly of Israel [Shekhinah] benefits from them, as is written, Open to me, my sister, my beloved (Song of Songs 5:2). For as long as the rose is closed, it emits no fragrance and does not rise above the thorns but sits among them, as they have said. And the only reason the blessed Holy One sent us along this path was that we should illuminate these matters” (Zohar 3:233a).

Return to Me, and I will return to you, says YHWH of armies (Malachi 3:7).