The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: Rome

All who are Merciful to the Cruel in the End Become Cruel to the Merciful: The Best of Serpents—Crush its Head!

“How strong is the power of the Other Side that it managed to hide from the eyes of our holy patriarchs the danger of the קְלִפּוֹת (qelipot), shells: from the eyes of our father Abraham, the shell of Ishmael; from the eyes of our father Isaac, the shell of Esau; and from the eyes of our father Jacob, the shell of the תְּרָפִים (terafim), household gods (Genesis 31:19). During the footsteps of Messiah, the Other Side becomes even stronger, in order to strike the disciples of the wise with blindness” (Rabbi Hillel Rivlin of Shklov, in the name of the Gaon of VilnaQol ha-Tor 5:9):

And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, מְצַחֵק (mestaeq), laughing. And she said to Abraham, “Drive out this slavegirl and her son, for the slavegirl’s son shall not inherit with my son, with Isaac.” And the thing seemed evil in Abraham’s eyes because of his son. And God said to Abraham, “Let it not seem evil in your eyes on account of the lad and on account of your slavegirl. Whatever ever Sarah says to you, listen to her voice, for through Isaac shall your seed be acclaimed. But the slavegirl’s son, too, I will make a nation, for he is your seed” (Genesis 21:9–13) [cf. the Code of Hammurabi, 146].

“Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai said, ‘Rabbi Akiva used to offer four explanations, and mine follows from his. Rabbi Akiva said that  מְצַחֵק (mestaeq) refers solely to idolatry, as is written, And the people came back from eating and drinking and they rose up לְצַחֵק (letsaḥeq), to play. [And YHWH said to Moses, ‘Quick, go down, for your people (i.e., the motley throng, mixed multitude) that I brought up from Egypt has acted ruinously] (Exodus 32:6) [cf. M Avot 3:17: ‘Rabbi Akiva said: שְׂחוֹק (Seḥoq), mocking, and frivolity lead to immorality’]. From this we learn that Sarah saw Ishmael building idolatrous altars, catching locusts, and sacrificing them.

Rabbi Eli’ezer, son of Rabbi Yose of Galilee, said מְצַחֵק (mestaeq) was none other than illicit sexual relations. Sarah saw Ishmael molesting and assaulting the women, as is written, there was Isaac מְצַחֵק (mestaeq), playing, with Rebekah his wife (Genesis 26:8) [cf. ibid. 39:17: The Hebrew slave came into me, whom you bought us, לְצַחֶק (letsaeq), to play, with me)].

Rabbi Yishma’el said מְצַחֵק (mestaeq) refers to bloodshed, as is written: And Abner said to Joab, ‘Pray, let the lads arise and ישַׂחֲקוּ (yesaḥaqu), play, before us.’… And they arose and crossed over—twelve in number… And each man grasped the head of the other with his sword at the side of the other, and they fell together  (2 Samuel 2:14–16). From this we learn that Sarah saw Ishmael taking his bow and arrow and shooting towards Isaac, as is written Like a lunatic shooting deadly firebrands is a man who deceives his neighbor and says, ‘Why, I was joking’ (Proverbs 26:18–19).

But I say, perish the thought such a person be in the house of so righteous a man! How could there be idolatry, sexual licentiousness and bloodshed in the home of him, of whom it is said, For I have embraced him so that he will charge his sons [and his household after him to keep the way of YHWH to do righteousness and justice, that YHWH may bring upon Abraham all that He spoke concerning him’]  (Genesis 18:19). Therefore מְצַחֵק (mestaeq) here can refer only to the matter of inheritance; for when Isaac was born to Abraham, everyone rejoiced, saying, ‘Abraham has had a son, a son who shall inherit the world and take a double portion!’ And Ishmael was מְצַחֵק (mestaeq), sneering, saying, ‘Fools I am the firstborn, and I shall take a double portion.’ Indeed, [we may infer this] from Sarah’s response: for the slavegirl’s son shall not inherit with my son. My interpretation is more sound than that of Rabbi Akiva” (Tosefta Sotah 6:6, cf. Bereshit Rabbah 53:11).

“Rabbi Ḥiyya said, ‘Since the day Isaac was born, as long as Ishmael remained in Abraham’s house he did not attain a name. Wherever gold is found, scoria goes unmentioned. So, the son of Hagar the Egyptian, a male unworthy of being mentioned in the presence of Isaac.

Rabbi El’azar said, ‘Sarah saw. She saw him through a contemptuous eye, eyeing him not as the son of Abraham but as the son of Hagar the Egyptian. So, Sarah saw. Sarah saw him with that eye—not Abraham, since in relation to Abraham it is not written: son of Hagar the Egyptian, but rather: his son

Now, would you ever imagine that Sarah was jealous of her [namely, Hagar] or her son [Ishmael]? If so, the blessed Holy One would not have consented to her, as is written: Whatever Sarah tells you, hearken to her voice. Rather, because she saw him engaging in idolatry and because his mother taught him idolatrous customs, Sarah said, ‘For the son of this maidservant will not inherit! I know he will never inherit the share of faith, nor will he share a portion with my son—neither in this world nor in the world that is coming.’ Therefore the blessed Holy One consented” (Zohar 1:118b).

The children jostled each other with in her (Genesis 25:22), for there that wicked Esau waged battle against Jacob. וַיִּתְרֹצְצוּ (Va-yitrotsetsu), They jostled each other—they crushed each other, as we say: רָצַץ (Ratsats), Crush, its head! Crushing one another, they split apart.

Come and see: This one, the side riding the serpent; that one, the side riding the sacred, perfect throne, on the side of the sun [Tif’eret] performing with the moon [Shekhinah]” (Zohar 1:138a).

And Isaac loved Esau for the game that he brought him, but Rebekah loved Jacob… And it happened when Isaac was old, that his eyes grew too bleary to see, and he called to Esau his elder son and said to him, “My son!” and he said, “Here I am.” And he said, “Look, I have grown old; I know not how soon I shall die. So now, take up, pray, your gear, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field, and hunt me some game, and make me a dish of the kind that I love and bring it to me that I may eat, so that I may solemnly bless you before I die.” And Rebekah was listening as Isaac spoke to Esau his son… (Genesis 25:28; 27:1–5).

And Laban had gone to shear his flocks, and Rachel stole his household gods that were her father’s. And Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean, in not telling him he was fleeing… And Laban said to Jacob, “What have you done, deceiving me, and driving my daughters like captives of the sword? Why did you flee in stealth and deceive me and not tell me? I would have sent you off with festive songs, with timbrel and lyre. And you did not let me kiss my sons and my daughters. O, you have played the fool!.. why did you steal my gods?” And Jacob answered and said to Laban, “For I was afraid, for I thought, you would rob me of your daughters. With whomever you find your gods, that person shall not live…  But Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them… (Genesis 31:19–20; 31–32).

“Rabbi Yose said, ‘What are תְּרָפִים (terafim) (Genesis 31:19)? They were idolatry. Why are they called תְּרָפִים (terafim)? Out of disgrace, as we have learned: ‘place of תּוֹרֶף (toref), pudenda…’ [תְּרָפִים (Terafim), household gods] speak constantly, offering evil counsel to one’s soul. Rachel feared they would offer advice on how to harm Jacob, so to disgrace idolatry she placed them underneath her and they could not speak… Now Rachel, even though she acted to uproot her father from idolatry, was punished; for she never raised Benjamin or existed with him for even an hour [see Genesis 35:16–20]—all on account of her father’s suffering, despite her good intentions” (Zohar 1:164b).

“Come and see! It is written: The people saw that Moses lagged [in coming down from the mountain, and the people assembled against Aaron and said to him, ‘Rise up, make us gods that will go before us, for this man Moses who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what happened to him] (Exodus 32:1). Who are the people? The עֵרֶב רַב (erev rav), mixed multitude [see Exodus 12:38; 32:7]. Who are the עֵרֶב רַב (erev rav), mixed multitude? Were they Lydians, Ethiopians, Cretans or Togarmans, that they are called עֵרֶב רַב (erev rav), ‘mixed multitude’? Were they not Egyptians, journeying from Egypt? If they were a mixture of many nations, it should have been written A mixed multitude ּעַלו (alu), went up, with them, corresponding to their mixture. Rather, A mixed multitude עָלָה (alah), went up, with them [written with the collective singular verb] (Exodus 12:38)—they were one nation, with one language, but consisting of all the sorcerers of Egypt and all its soothsayers, of whom is written and they too, the soothsayers of Egypt, did [thus with their spells] (Exodus 7:11), wanting to confront the wonders of the blessed Holy One. Once they saw the miracles and wonders that Moses performed in Egypt, they returned to Moses. The blessed Holy One said to Moses, ‘Do not accept them!’

Moses said, ‘Master of the Universe! Now that they have seen Your power, they want to convert. Let them see Your power every day and they will know that there is no God but You.’ And Moses accepted them [cf. Exodus 32:11; BT Pesaim 87b: ‘The blessed Holy One scattered Israel amongst the heathens only so that they may accumulate converts’]” (Zohar 2:191a, cf. ibid. 2:45b, 191a, 195a).

“Moses wanted to bring these converts under the wings of the Shekhinah and presumed that they too were drawn down from ה (he). Thus he caused the fall of ה (he) of אַבְרָהָם (Avraham), Abraham. This brought upon him descent, as is written: Go, get you down, for your people… have become corrupt (Exodus 32:7). They did not receive small ה (he) with the awe of י (yod) and with the love of [the first] ה (he). So he fell from his rung, which is ו (vav)” (Zohar 1:25a, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar).

“All the exile and the destruction of the Temple and all the suffering, all of it came through Moses’ acceptance of the עֵרֶב רַב (erev rav), motley throng, and all the wicked ones and evildoers in every generation come from them, and this is what is referred to: [Once Shabbatai son of Marinus came to Babylon and entreated them to provide him with facilities for trading and they refused this to him; neither did they give him any food. He said:] ‘These are the descendants of the motley throng’ (BT Beitza 32b)” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 97a).

Everything has a season, and a time for every matter under the heavens. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to rip down and a time to build. A time to weep and a time to laugh. A time to mourn and a time to dance. A time to fling stones and a time to gather stones in. A time to embrace and a time to pull back from embracing. A time to seek and a time to lose. A time to keep and a time to fling away. A time to tear and a time to sew. A time to keep silent and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace (Ecclesiastes 3:1–8).

“[And Saul came up to the city of Amalek] and lay in wait in the ravine. [And Saul said to the Kenite, ‘Go, turn away, come down from amidst the Amalekite, lest I sweep you away together with him, for you did kindness to all the Israelites when they came up from Egypt] (1 Samuel 15:5).

Rabbi Mani said: Because of what happens in the ravine: When the blessed Holy One said to Saul: ‘Now, go and strike down Amalek, [and put under the ban everything that he has, you shall not spare him, and you shall put to death man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and donkey’] (ibid., 3), [Saul] said: If on account of one person Torah said: Perform the ceremony of the heifer whose neck is to be broken [in atonement for an unidentified homicide, see Deuteronomy 21:1–9], how much more [ought consideration to be given] to all these persons! And if human beings sinned, what has the cattle committed; and if the adults have sinned, what have the little ones done?

A divine voice came forth and said: do not be over-righteous (Ecclesiastes 7:16). And when Saul said to Doeg: ‘You, then, turn round [and stab the priests.’ … and he struck down Nob the priests’ town with the edge of the sword, man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and donkey and sheep, all by the edge of the sword] (1 Samuel 22:18), a divine voice came forth to say: don’t be over-wicked (Ecclesiastes ibid., 17)” (BT Yoma 22b, cf. Mekhilta, Beshalla 1; Guide of the Perplexed 3:39).

“As they say, ‘Do no good to an evil person and harm will not come to you; for if you do good to an evil person, you have done wrong'” (Qohelet Rabbah on 5:8).

Do not be overrighteous and do not be overwise. [Why should you be dumbfounded? Don’t be overwicked and don’t be a fool. Why should you die before your time?] (Ecclesiastes 7:16). Do not be more righteous—than your Creator, spoken of Saul, as is written, And Saul came up to the city of Amalek [and lay in wait in the ravine] (1 Samuel 15:5). Rabbi Huna and Rabbi Benaiah say: He began to argue against his Creator, saying, ‘So has the blessed Holy One said to you, Now, go and strike down Amalek, and put under the ban [everything that he has, you shall not spare him,] and you shall put to death man and woman, infant and suckling, [ox and sheep, camel and donkey] (ibid., 3). [Saul said to himself:] If the men חָטְאוּ (ḥateu), offended [or: missed the mark], how have the women, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and donkey offended?! A heavenly voice went forth, saying, Do not be overrighteous, more than your Creator! …

Rabbi Shim’on son of Laqish says, ‘All who become merciful in a cruel place in the end become cruel in a merciful place.’ Now when did he become cruel in a merciful place? As is said, And he struck down Nob the priests’ town with the edge of the sword, man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and donkey and sheep, all by the edge of the sword (ibid. 22:19)—Nob should not have become like the seed of Amalek. And the Rabbis say: All who become merciful in a cruel place in the end the quality of Judgment strikes him, as is said, And Saul died, and his three sons [and his armor bearer, and all his men as well, together on that day] (ibid. 31:6)(Qohelet Rabbah on 7:16, cf. Midrash Zuta; Tanḥuma, Mezora 1; Yalkut Shimoni, 1 Samuel, 121).

“Rav Yehudah said in Shemu’el’s name: When Solomon married Pharaoh’s daughter, she brought him a thousand musical instruments and said to him, ‘Thus we do in honor of that idol, thus in honour of that idol,’ yet he did not forbid her.

Rav Yehudah said in Shemu’el’s name: When Solomon married Pharaoh’s daughter, Gabriel descended and planted a reed in the sea, and it gathered a bank around it, on which the great city of Rome was built [i.e., Solomon’s unfaithfulness laid the seeds for the dissolution of the Jewish State]. In a barraita it was taught: On the day that Jeroboam brought the two golden calves, one into Bethel and the other into Dan, a hut was built, and this developed into Magna Graecia [Greek Italy, i.e., Rome]” (BT Shabbat 56b, cf. Sanhedrin 21b; Shir HaShirim Rabbah 1, 1:10).

Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai! Oy for the Generation that will be Orphaned without You!

Rashbi

“Our Rabbis taught: When our Rabbis entered the vineyard at Yavneh, they said, ‘Torah is destined to be forgotten in Israel, as is said: Look, days are coming, said YHWH, when I will let loose famine in the land, not famine for bread and not thirst for water but for hearing the words of YHWH (Amos 8:10). And it is written: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north to the east they shall roam to seek YHWH’s word, but they shall not find it (ibid., 11).’ … Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai said, ‘Perish the thought that Torah will be forgotten in Israel, as is said: But it shall not be forgotten in the mouth of his seed (Deuteronomy 31:21)” (BT Shabbat 138b).

“כִּי לֹא תִשָּׁכַח מִפִּי זַרְעו But it shall not be forgotten in the mouth of his seedיוֹחַאי (Yoḥai)….

עִיר וְקַדִּישׁ מִן שְׁמַיָּא נָחִת A holy emissary came down from the heavens (Daniel 4:10)—שִׁמְעוֹן (Shim’on)” (Rabbi Naḥman of Bratslav, Liqqutei MoharanLekhu Ḥazu, cf. BT Bava Batra 21a; Zohar 2:149b; 3:58a).

“It was said that Rabbi Akiva had twelve thousand pairs of disciples, from Gevat to Antipatris; and all of them died at the same time because they did not honor each other. The world remained desolate until Rabbi Akiva came to our Rabbis in the South and taught them. These were Rabbi Me’ir, Rabbi Yehudah, Rabbi Yose, Rabbi Shim’on and Rabbi El’azar son of Shammu’a; and it was they who upheld Torah at that time” (BT Yevamot 62b).

“Whoever separates from Torah is like one who separates from life, and one who separates from Rabbi Shim’on is as if he separates from all…. Woe to the generation from which Rabbi Shim’on departs! For when we are in the presence of Rabbi Shim’on, springs of the heart are open in every direction and all is revealed, but when we separate from him we know nothing and all springs are stopped. Rabbi Ḥizkiyah said, ‘Corresponding to what is written: He held back some of the spirit that was upon him and put it upon the seventy men, the elders (Numbers 11:25)—like a lamp from which many lamps are lit, while retaining its vitality. Similarly, Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai, Master of Lamps, illumines all, yet light does not depart from him and he retains vitality’” (Zohar 2:86b).

“Rabbi Ḥiyya prostrated himself on the ground, kissing the dust and weeping. He cried out, ‘Dust, dust, how stubborn you are, how impudent! All delights of the eye decay in you. All pillars of light in the world you consume and pulverize. How insolent you are! The Holy Lamp who has illumined the world, majestic ruler, prince, whose merit sustains the world, decays in you. O Rabbi Shim’on, radiance of the lamp, radiance of the worlds, you decompose in the dust, yet you subsist and guide the world!’

For a moment he was shocked, and then exclaimed, ‘Dust, dust, do not boast! The pillars of the world will not be surrendered to you. Rabbi Shim’on has not decayed in you! [since the bodies of the righteous do not decay, see BT Bava Metsi’a 84b]” (Zohar 1:4b, cf. ibid. 3:70a–71b).

“One of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai’s disciples forgot what he had learned and went weeping to the cemetery. After this Rabbi Shim’on appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘When you throw three kernels at me I will come to you.’ The disciple went to a dream interpreter, who told him, ‘repeat your chapter three times and Rabbi Shim’on will come to you and you will no longer forget what you have learned’” (Qohelet Rabbah 10:10).

“Wherever son of Yoḥai is found, his companions are there with him, awakened by him, and learning from him” (Zohar Ḥadash 60a).

“The name of Messiah was contemplated [before the creation of the world], as is written, As long as the sun may his name bear seed (Psalms 72:17)” (Bereshit Rabbah 1:4).

“בְּרֵאשִׁית (Bereshit), In the beginning (Genesis 1:1)—an acronym: א״ת רשב״י (or torat Rashbi), the light of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai’s teaching” (Rabbi Naftali Bacharach, Emeq ha-Melekh 63a, cf. Yehudah Leibes, Studies in the Zohar, p. 239–40, n. 68).

“The blessed Holy One has engraved the image of Rabbi Shim’on high above, and his voice ascends on high and is adorned with a holy crown, until the blessed Holy One is crowned with him in all worlds, glorying in him. Of him is written He said to me, ‘You are My servant, Israel, in whom I glory (Isaiah 49:3)….

It has been taught: Before coming to the world, all the righteous of the world are arrayed with their names. And ever since the day that the blessed Holy One created the world, Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai had been poised before the blessed Holy One and present with Him. Happy is his share above and below! Of him is written Your father and your mother will rejoice (Proverbs 23:25)—your father is the blessed Holy One; and your mother is Assembly of Israel” (Zohar 3:61b).

“If the Torah had not been given on Mount Sinai, but instead the blessed Holy One had said, ‘Here, the son of Yoḥai is My Torah and My secrets!’ it would have sufficed for the world. Woe when you depart from the world! Who will illumine lamps of Torah? All will darken from that day on. For until King Messiah comes, there will be no generation such as this one, in whose midst Rabbi Shim’on dwells!” (Zohar 3:241b).

“Ḥizkiyah said in the name of Rabbi Yirmeyah: Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai said, ‘I am able לִפְטוֹר (liftor), to exempt, the whole world from judgment from the day that I was born until now, and were El’azar, my son, to be [reckoned] with me from the day of the creation of the world to the present time, and were Jotham son of Uzziah with us, from the creation of the world to its final end…. Ḥizkiyah further stated in the name of Rabbi Yirmeyah who said it in the name of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai, I have seen בְּנֵי עֲלִיָּיה (bnei aliyyah), the sons of ascension, and they are few. If there be a thousand, I and my son are among them; if a hundred, I and my son are among them; and if only two, they are I and my son [cf. Rabbi El’azar of Worms, Ḥokhmah ha-Nefesh, p. 59: ‘He has seen either through a dream question, or as Rabbi Neḥunia son of ha-Qannah (who performed the ancient practice of placing the head between the knees in order to attain a vision of the Chariot, see 1 Kings 18:42 (and Rabbi David Kimḥi, ad loc.); BT Berakhot 34b, Avodah Zarah 17a; Zohar 3:166b; Rav Ḥai Gaon, Otsar ha-Geonim on Ḥagigah 14b; Teshuvot 14–15)]’” (BT Sukkah 45b).

“Rabbi Ḥizkiyah said in Rabbi Yirmeyah’s name: Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai said: If Abraham is willing, he can effectively intercede for [all generations] from his days until mine, while I can intercede for [all generations] from my time until the advent of Messiah. While if he is not willing, let Ahijah the Shilonite unite with me, and we can intercede for all from the days of Abraham until those of Messiah. Rabbi Ḥizkiyah said in Rabbi Yirmeyah’s name: Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai said: The world is unable to endure without thirty [men] righteous like Abraham our father. If there are thirty, my son and I are two of them; if ten, my son and I are two of them; if five, my son and I are two of them; if two, they are my son and I; and but one, I am he” (Bereshit Rabbah 35:2, cf. JT Berakhot 9:2, 13d; BT Sanhedrin 97b; Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana 11:5).

“Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘When I am among those Companions of Babylonia, they gather around me and learn subjects openly, and then insert them beneath an impregnable seal of iron, shut tight on all sides. How often have I described to them the pathways of the garden of the Holy King and the supernal pathways! How often have I taught them all those rungs of the righteous in that world! They are called stammerers, like one who stammers with his mouth. But I judge them favorably because they are frightened, for holy air and holy spirit have been withdrawn from them and they suck air and spirit of an alien domain [cf. BT Bava Batra 158b]. Furthermore, a rainbow appears above them and they are unworthy; but to their benefit, I am present in the world, I am the sign of the world, for in my lifetime the world does not dwell in suffering and is not punished by judgment above. After me there will not rise a generation like this one. The world is destined to lack anyone who can protect it, and all kinds of impudent faces will haunt above and below—above, on account of sins of those below and their impudence” (Zohar 1:224b–225a, cf. BT Sotah 49b).

“A band of outlaws cannot abide in the world, for Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai has nullified them. Happy are you, Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai, for your Master delights in your glory above all inhabitants of the world! Of Moses is written Moses implored [the presence of YHWH his God] (Exodus 32:21)—implying that he was seized with gout. Whereas you, Rabbi Shim’on, decree and the blessed Holy One fulfills; He decrees and you abolish!” (Zohar 3:15a, cf. BT Mo’ed Qatan 16b).

“Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘All lamps—you Companions, who are in this holy ring—I call the highest heaven and the highest holy earth as witness that I see now what no human has seen since the day that Moses ascended Mount Sinai the second time. I see my face shining like the light of the powerful sun that is destined to radiate healing for the world, as is written: For you who revere My name the sun of righteousness will shine, with healing in its wings (Malachi 3:20). Furthermore, I know that my face is shining, where as Moses did not know or see, as is written: Moses did not know that the skin of his face was radiant (Exodus 34:29)” (Zohar 3:132b, Idra Rabba, cf. BT Bava Batra 12a).

“Now, why is [Rabbi Yehudah son of Rabbi Ila’i] called the first speaker on all occasions? For Rabbi Yehudah, Rabbi Yose, and Rabbi Shim’on were sitting, and Yehudah son of converts, was sitting near them. Rabbi Yehudah opened, saying, ‘How fine are the works of this people! They have made streets, they have built bridges, they have erected baths.’ Rabbi Yose was silent. Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai answered and said, ‘All that they made they made for themselves; they built marketplaces, to set prostitutes in them; baths, to rejuvenate themselves; bridges, to levy tolls for them [cf. BT Bava Batra 10b].’ Now, Yehudah son of converts went and related their talk, which reached the government. They decreed: Yehudah, who exalted [us], shall be exalted, Yose, who was silent, shall be exiled to Sepphoris; Shim’on, who denounced, let him be executed.

He and his son went and hid themselves in the house of study, [and] his wife brought him bread and a mug of water and they dined. [But] when the decree became more severe he said to his son, ‘Women are of unstable temperament: she may be tortured and expose us.’ So they went and hid in a cave [cf. 1 Kings 19]. A miracle occurred and a carob-tree and a spring of water were created for them. They would strip their garments and sit up to their necks in sand. The whole day they studied; when it was time for prayers they robed, covered themselves, prayed, and then removed their garments again, so that they should not wear out. Thus they dwelt twelve years in the cave. Then Elijah came and stood at the opening to the cave and said, ‘Who will inform the son of Yoḥai that the Caesar is dead and his decree annulled?’ So they emerged.

Seeing men ploughing and sowing, they exclaimed, ‘They forsake life eternal and engage in needs of the hour!’ [cf. BT Berakhot 35b]. Every place they gazed upon was immediately burnt up. A heavenly echo came forth and cried out, ‘Have you emerged to destroy My world? Return to your cave!’ So they returned and dwelt there twelve months, saying, ‘The punishment of the wicked in Hell is [limited to] twelve months.’ An echo then issued, saying, ‘Go out from your cave!’ They emerged, and wherever Rabbi El’azar wounded, Rabbi Shim’on healed. He said to him, ‘My son! You and I are sufficient for the world’ [cf. Zohar 3:144b (IR): ‘They rose (from the great assembly), and no place they looked at failed to exude fragrance. Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘From this you can infer that the world is blessed because of us’].

On the eve of the Sabbath before sunset they saw an old man holding two sprigs of myrtle and running at twilight. They asked him, ‘What are these for?’ ‘They are in honor of the Sabbath,’ he replied. ‘Isn’t one enough for you?’ ‘One [is] for Remember [the Sabbath day] (Exodus 20:8), and one for Keep [the Sabbath day] (Deuteronomy 5:12). He said to his son, ‘See how precious the mitsvot are to Israel.’ There minds were set at ease.

Rabbi Pinḥas son of Ya’ir his son-in-law heard and went out to meet him. He took him into the baths and massaged his flesh. Seeing the clefts in his body he wept and the tears streamed from his eyes. ‘Woe to me that I see you in such a state!’ he cried out. He said, ‘Happy are you that you see me so, for if you did not see me in such a state you would not find me so [learned. See the similar expression by Naḥum of Gamzu, see BT Ta’anit 21a]. For originally, when Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai raised a difficulty, Rabbi Pinḥas son of Ya’ir would give him thirteen answers, whereas subsequently when Rabbi Pinḥas son of Ya’ir raised a difficulty, Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai would give him twenty-four answers. He said, ‘Since a miracle has occurred let me go and amend something, for it is written, and Jacob came in שָׁלֵם (shalem), peace [(lit., whole) to the town of Shechem] (Genesis 33:18).’ Rav interpreted: whole in his body, whole financially, and whole in his learning. [וַיִּחַן (Va-yiḥan), and he camped, before the town (ibid.)—read instead:] And he was חַנוּן (ḥanoon), gracious, to the town. Rav said: He instituted coinage for them. Shemu’el said: He instituted markets for them; Rabbi Yoḥanan said: He instituted baths for them. [Rabbi Shim’on asked:] Is there anything to fix?” (BT Shabbat 33b).

“Rabbi Pinḥas used to frequent Rabbi Reḥumai by the shore of Lake Ginnosar [the Sea of Galilee, Lake Kinneret]. He was distinguished, advanced in years, and his eyes had transcended seeing. He said to Rabbi Pinḥas, ‘Truly I have heard that our Companion Yoḥai has a pearl, a precious stone. I gazed at the light of that pearl, issuing like the radiance of the sun from its sheath, illumining the entire world [alluding to Rabbi Shim’on’s emergence from the cave]. That light extends from heaven to earth, illumining the entire world until the Ancient of Days comes and sits fittingly upon the throne. That light is contained totally in your house [since according to the Zohar, Rabbi Shim’on is married to the daughter of Rabbi Pinḥas and thus contained in his house], and from the light contained in your house emanates a fine, threadlike ray, radiating, illumining the entire world [namely Rabbi El’azar son of Rabbi Shim’on]. Happy is your share! Go, my son, go out after that pearl illuminating the world, for the time is ripe.’

He left him and was about to board a boat along with two other men, when he saw two birds come flying over the lake. He shouted to them, ‘Birds, birds, flying over the lake! Have you seen the site of the son of Yoḥai?’ He paused a while, and then said, ‘Birds, birds, go and bring me a reply!’ They flew off.

They embarked, setting off across the lake. Before he had disembarked, those birds returned, and in the mouth of one of them was a note on which was written: ‘The son of Yoḥai has emerged from the cave along with his son Rabbi El’azar.’ He went to him and found him transfigured, his body full of moldy sores. He wept together with him and said, ‘Alas, that I see you so!’ He replied, ‘Happy is my share that you see me so, for had you not seen me so, I would not be so” (Zohar 1:11a–b, cf. ZḤ 59c–60a).

“Our Rabbis have taught: Once Rabbi Yoḥanan was travelling to see Rabbi Shim’on, and Rabbi Yose was walking with him. Rabbi Yose asked him, ‘Where are you going?’ He replied, ‘To see Rabbi Shim’on.’ He said, ‘You are going to see your master of dissension?!’ He replied, ‘Conclude from this that Rabbi Shim’on dissents for the sake of heaven! Since it is so, the love of my heart abides with him’ [cf. M Avot 5:17]” (Zohar Ḥadash 10a–b [MhN]).

“Rabbi Ḥiyya and Rabbi Yose came and prostrated themselves before [Rabbi Shim’on] and kissed his hands. They wept and said ‘Higher and lower engravings raise their heads because of you! The blessed Holy One made Jerusalem below corresponding to the pattern above. Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai made the walls of the city and its gates! Whoever enters does not enter until the gates are opened. Whoever ascends does not ascend until the steps of the walls are firm. It is written: All your males shall appear in the presence of the Lord YHWH (Exodus 34:23)—this is Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai! For whoever is male of males must appear before him’” (Zohar 2:38a).

“Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi met Elijah at the opening of the cave of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai. He asked him: ‘Have I a portion in the world to come?’ He said, ‘If this lord desires.’ Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi said, ‘I saw two, but heard the voice of a third [the Shekhinah (Rashi)].’ He then asked him, ‘When will the Messiah come?’—‘Go and ask him himself,’ was his reply. ‘Where is he sitting?’—‘At the portal of the city [of Rome (Gra)].’ And by what sign may I recognize him?’—‘He is sitting among the ill, poor, and suffering: everyone of them untie all at once and rebandage them together, whereas he unties and rebandages each separately [before treating the next], thinking, should I be wanted, I must not be delayed [by having to bandage a number of sores].’ So he went to him and greeted him, saying, ‘Peace be upon you, Rabbi and Teacher.’ ‘Peace be upon you son of Levi,’ he replied. ‘When will you come Master?’ he asked, ‘Today,’ was his answer. On his returning to Elijah, he asked, ‘What did he say to you?’—‘Peace be upon you son of Levi,’ he answered. Thereupon he [Elijah] observed, ‘He thereby assured you and your father of [a portion in] the world to come.’ ‘He spoke a lie to me, saying that he would come today, but has not.’ He [Elijah] answered him, ‘This is what he said to you, Today, if you would only heed His voice!’ (Psalms 95:7)” (BT Sanhedrin 98a).

“Even children in the generation of Rabbi Shim’on are worthy of wisdom! Happy are you, Rabbi Shim’on! Woe to the generation from whom you depart!” (Zohar 1:93a).

“Come and enter! Gather for the wedding celebration of Rabbi Shim’on. He shall enter into peace; they shall rest upon their couches (Isaiah 57:2). As he entered the cave [of his burial site], they heard a voice inside: ‘This is the man who shook the earth, who made kingdoms tremble. How many open mouths of accusation in heaven subside today because of you! This is Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai, in whom his Lord glories every day. Happy is his share above and below! How many supernal treasures are preserved for him! Of him is said As for you, go on till the end, and you will rest, and arise for your destiny at the end of days (Daniel 12:13)’” (Zohar 3:296b, Idra Zuta).

“Because [the people of] Israel are destined to taste of this Tree of Life, namely this סֵפֶר הַזֹּהַר (Sefer ha-Zohar), Book of Radiance, they will thereby come forth from exile through [divine] compassion” (Zohar 3:124b, Ra’aya Meheimna Naso).