The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

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

“Rabbi Zutra son of Tovi’ah 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 one’s mind: 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 (Pittum 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 Natan 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 Natan says: While it was being ground, another would say הָדֵק הֵיטֵב הֵיטֵב הָדֵק (hadeq heitev, heitev hadeq), ‘Grind carefully, carefully 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, Son of Qappara says: Once every sixty or seventy years, the accumulated surpluses amounted to half the yearly quantity. Son of 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 burning 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. M Makkot 3:2: ‘These are liable to be flogged: … one who mixes the ingredients for the [anointing] oil, or the ingredients for the incense’; 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 2:239a).

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

“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; Naḥmanides 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 Olive does not Produce Oil Until it is Crushed

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A leafy olive tree beautiful with shapely fruit; amid the sound of great commotion He has set fire to it and its branches were broken (Jeremiah 11:16). Yehoshu’a son of Levi said: Just as the olive tree’s leaves do not fall neither in winter or summer so too Israel will always remain in this and the world to come [cf. Zohar 1:116a]….

Why is Israel compared to an olive? To teach that just as the olive does not produce its oil until it is crushed, so too Israel does not return except through suffering” (BT Menakhot 53b).

“Rabbi Shim’on son of Laqish said: Covenant is mentioned with regards to salt, and covenant is said with regard to suffering: Covenant is said with regards to salt, as is written: And every offering of your grain you shall season with salt (Leviticus 2:13). Covenant is said with regard suffering, as is written: [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… (Deuteronomy 28:15).] These are the words of the Covenant (ibid., 69). Just as the covenant said with regard to salt, the salt sweetens meat, so too the covenant mentioned with regard to suffering, the suffering washes away all the crimes of man.

It has been taught: Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai says: The blessed Holy One gave Israel three precious gifts, and all of them were given only through suffering: Torah, the land of Israel, and the World that is Coming. How do we know this of Torah? As is said: Happy the man whom Yah chastises, and whom מִתּוֹרָתְךָ (mitoratekha), from His teaching, He instructs (Psalms 94:12). The land of Israel—as is written: As a man chastises his son YHWH your God chastises you (Deuteronomy 8:5), and after that it is written: For YHWH your God is about to bring you to a goodly land (ibid.). The World that is Coming—as is written: For a mitsvah a lamp and a teaching a light, and the way of life—stern rebukes (Proverbs 6:23)” (BT Berakhot 5a).

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).