The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Secret of Torah Must Be Closed Up and Sealed

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YHWH’s secret is for those who fear Him (Psalms 25:14).

“As the thigh is concealed, so are the words of Torah concealed” (BT Mo’ed Qatan 16a–b).

“What is meant by [But her trade and her whore’s pay shall be consecrated to YHWH. It shall not be stocked and shall not be stored, but her trade shall be for those dwelling before YHWH, eating their fill, and] לִמְכַסֶּה עָתִיק (limkhasseh athiq), for covering themselves in rich attire (Isaiah 23:18)? This refers to one who מְכַסֶּה (mekhasseh), conceals, things that עָתִּיק (Attiq), the Ancient of, Days concealed. What are those? Secrets of Torah. And some say: This refers to one who reveals things that the Ancient of Days concealed. What are those? Reasons of Torah [lit., Flavors of Torah]” (BT Pesaḥim 119a).

“May your feet run to hear the words of the Ancient of Days” (BT Berakhot 17a).

“Rav Huna in the name of Son of Qappara opened: Let lying lips תֵּאָלַמְנָה (te’alamnah), be silent (Psalms 31:19)—let them be bound, made dumb, and silenced. ‘Let them be bound’—as in the verse, And, look, we were מְאַלְּמִים אֲלֻמִּים (me’allemim alummim), binding sheaves, in the field, and, look my sheaf rose (Genesis 37:7); ‘Made dumb’—as you read, Or who makes him אִלֵּם (illem), mute, or deaf, or sighted or blind? Is it not I, YHVH (Exodus 4:11); ‘and silenced’—as understood. That speak עָתָק (ataq), haughty, against the just in arrogance and contempt (Psalms ibid.)—against the Righteous One, חַי הָעוֹלָמִים (ḥai ha-olamim), Vitality of the Worlds, on matters which הֶעְתִּיק (he’ettiq), which He has covered, from His creatures. In arrogance—in order to be arrogant and say, ‘I expound on the Account of Creation.’ And contempt—to hold My glory in contempt! For Rabbi Yose son of Ḥanina said: Whoever honors himself by disgracing his fellow has no share in the World to Come. How much more so the Omnipresent’s glory! And what is written after it? How great Your goodness that You hid for those who fear You (ibid., 20)—Rav said: Let him have nothing of Your great goodness. When a king of flesh and blood builds palaces on a site of sewers, dunghills, and garbage, if one says, ‘This palace is built on a place of sewers, on a place of dunghills, and on a place of decay does he not disgrace it? Thus, whoever comes to say that this world was created out of welter and waste, does he not disgrace [Omnipresent’s glory]! Rav Huna said in Son of Qappara’s name: If the matter were not written, it would be impossible to say it: In the beginning Elohim created (Genesis 1:1); out of what? And the earth was תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ (tohu va-vohu), welter and waste (ibid., 2)” (Bereshit Rabbah 1:5).

Wine that gladdens the heart of man (Psalms 104:15). This is the wine of Torah, for יַיִן (yayin), wine, is numerically equivalent to סוֹד (sod), secret [cf. BT Sanhedrin 38a]. Just as wine has to be kept sealed so that it should not be used in a libation for idol worship, so also must the secret of Torah be closed up and sealed, and not be disclosed other than to those who fear Him. And it is not for nothing that several decrees are performed בַּיַיִן (ba-yayin), with wine, and blessings to the blessed Holy One are said with it. Wine comes in ב״ (two) colors: white and red, which are Judgment and Compassion. And this is why we have the added ב (bet) in בַּיַיִן (ba-yayin), with wine [ב (bet) is numerically equivalent to two and alludes to the two qualities of Judgment and Compassion]. It is like the rose which has in it both white and red, white from the right side, and red from the left side.

Why does it say לְבַב (le-vav), the heart, of man? It should have said לֵב (lev), heart? There is one heart [Binah] hidden within another heart [Shekhinah]. They are ל״ב (thirty-two) [iterations of] אֱלֹהִים (Elohim) in the Work of Creation. And the ב (bet) of בְּרֵאשִׁית (bereshit), in the beginning (Genesis 1:1), and the ל (lamed) of לְעֵינֵי כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל (le-einei kal yisra’el), before the eyes of all Israel (Deuteronomy 34:12) [i.e., the first verse and the last verse of the Five Books of Moses]. Twice לֵב (lev), heart, is sixty-four, which is eight less than seventy-two; [seventy-two is numerically equivalent to:] וַיְכֻלּוּ (va-yekhulu), and were completed (Genesis 2:1). These are the seven days of Creation. What of the eighth [to complete the seventy-two]? The seven days of Creation together with This is the book of the lineage of Adam (Genesis 5:1) [which is also considered to be a day of Creation]. And this seventy-two is also the sum of בַּיַיִן (ba-yayin), ‘with wine’” (Zohar 3:215b, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas, cf. Zohar 2:124b).

A Crown, Throne, and Footstool

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A virtuous woman is a crown for her husband (Proverbs 12:4).

“Rabbi Avin son of Rabbi Adda said in the name of Rabbi Yitsḥaq, ‘How do we know that the blessed Holy One puts on tefillin? For it is said: YHWH has sworn by His right hand and by the arm of His strength (Isaiah 62:8). By His right hand—this is Torah, as is said: From His right hand was a fiery law for them (Deuteronomy 33:2). And by the arm of His strength—this is tefillin, as is said: YHWH will give strength unto His people (Psalms 29:11). How do we know that tefillin are a strength to Israel? For it is written: And all the peoples of the earth will see that the name of YHWH is called over you and they will fear you (Deuteronomy 28:10), and it has been taught: Rabbi Eli’ezer the Great says, ‘This refers to tefillin of the head.’ Rabbi Naḥman son of Yitsḥaq asked Rabbi Ḥiyya son of Avin, ‘These tefillin of the Master of the World—what is written in them? He replied, ‘Who is like Your people Israel, a unique nation on earth’ (1 Chronicles 17:2)” (BT Berakhot 6a).

I will take away My palm and you will see My back (Exodus 33:23). Rav Ḥana son of Bizna said in the name of Rabbi Shim’on the Devout, ‘This teaches us that the blessed Holy One showed Moses the knot of tefillin [at the back of His head]’” (BT Berakhot 7a).

He flung from the heavens to earth the beauty of Israel (Lamentations 2:1)…. A parable: A king had a lovely diadem upon his head and a lovely mantle upon his shoulder. An evil rumor came to him and he flung the diadem from upon his head and the mantle from before him [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 75:4]” (Bahir §§32–33).

“What was the King’s daughter? י (Yod) over הוה (HWH), included with the patriarchs. ה (He)—first with Abraham; he—second with Isaac; ו (vav)—with Jacob. Now, yod was head over them, as is said, The crown of our head has fallen (Lamentations 5:16). And the Rabbis compared this to a king who had a diadem on his head and a lovely mantle before him. An evil rumor came to him, [and] he flung the diadem from his head. And what was י (yod) over יהוה (YHWH)? Yod above became, הוהי (HWHY)—yod below. Thus David said, The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone (Psalms 118:22)” (Zohar 2:79b, Ra’aya Meheimna Ki Tetse).

“[Rabbi Akiva’s] disciples asked him: Why is ד (dalet) wide [open], at the side? He said to them: The segol which is פַּתָּח הַקָּטָן (pataḥ ha-qatan), the small pataḥ, as it says, [Lift up your heads, O gates, and rise up] פִּתְחֵי (pitḥei), portals, of the world, [that the king of glory may enter] (Psalms 24:7). He set ַ   (pataḥ) above and ֶ   (segol) below, and [thus] she came [to be] wide [open]. What is pataḥ? פֶּתַח (Petaḥ), an opening. Which opening? The north wind, open to all the world—the gate from which Evil emerges and Good emerges. And what is Good? He mocked them: Didn’t I tell you פֶּתַח קָטָן (petaḥ qatan), a small opening? They said to him: We have forgotten, repeat it for us. He said to them: A parable: To what can the matter be compared? A king had a throne. Sometimes he takes it in his arm, and sometimes on his head. They asked him: Why? [He said to them:] Because it was lovely and it was a pity to sit on it. They said to him: And where does he set it on the head? He said to them: On the open מ (mem), as is said: Truth from the earth will spring up, as justice from the heavens looks down (Psalms 85:12)” (Bahir §37).

Your deed, in the midst of years revive it (Habakkuk 3:2). A parable: To what can this be compared? To a king had a goodly pearl, beloved of his kingdom. In his time of joy, he would embrace it and kiss it, place it on his head and would love it. Habakkuk said to him: Even though the kings are with you, this pearl is the beloved of your world. Therefore, Your deed, in the midst of years revive it. What is years? As is written, And God said, ‘Let there be light’ (Genesis 1:3). Light—none other than day, as is written, The great light for dominion of day and the small light for dominion of night (Genesis 1:16). Years are [made up of] days, as is written, Your deed, in the midst of years revive it. In the midst of—this pearl that gives birth to years.

And [so] it is written, From the east I will bring your seed (Isaiah 43:5). The sun rises in the east yet you say that the pearl is day! [He replied,] I did not say [anything] except and it was evening and it was morning, first day (Genesis 1:5), as is written, On the day YHWH Elohim made earth and heavens (Genesis 2:4)” (Bahir §§72–73).

“’Israel are crowned with three crowns: the crown of priesthood, the crown of kingship, and the crown of Torah which is higher than both’ (M Avot 4:13). Indeed, there is a crown of priesthood, a crown of kingship, and the crown of Torah is above them both. To what may this be compared? To a king who had a lovely and fragrant vessel which he adored. Sometimes he puts it on his head—tefillin of the head. Sometimes he carried it in his hand—the knot of the tefillin of the hand. Sometimes he lends it to his son to sit with him. Sometimes it is called כִּסְאוֹ (kiso), ‘his throne,’ for he takes it in his hand as an amulet—like the appearance of כָּסָא (kasa), a cup [cf. Zohar 1:1a; Zohar 2:43a (RM)]” (Bahir §152).

“’On the heads of your new moons, [you shall present an ascent offering to YHWH] (Numbers 28:11). Now, how many heads does the moon have?’ (Zohar 3:248a)—there are two points, like so: ֶ  (segol)—Moon is the lower point. The two heads above are two points of segol over Her. First she was כֶּתֶר (keter), a crown, on two kings, like so:  ֒ (segolta). And following this was said, ‘Can two kings possibly wear one crown?’ (BT Ḥullin 60b). The blessed Holy One said, ‘Go, diminish yourself!’ (ibid.). She settled under the two kings’ feet. Like so: ֶ  (segol). What had been  ֒ (segolta) became ֶ  (segol)….

Consequently, ‘”Bring an atonement עָלַי (ali), for Me [because I diminished the moon]”‘ (BT Ḥullin 60b)—for Moon was surely כֶּתֶר (keter), a crown, ‘ali, over Me.’ Like so: ֹ  (ḥolem). And afterwards She was diminished and [came to] settle under His feet, like so: ֶ  (segol). And at the time of ‘bring an atonement for Me,’ it is said of Her, הִוא הָעֹלָה (hi ha-olah), she is the ascent offering (Leviticus 6:3). For She rises from [under] His feet, as is said, And the earth is My footstool (Isaiah 66:1), [that] it may be said of Her, The heavens are My throne (ibid.). And this is the mystery of [He who rules men,] צַדִּיק (Tsaddiq), the Righteous One, who rules in the fear of Elohim (2 Samuel 23:3). For He overturns Judgment for Compassion [see BT Yevamot 64a]. And the mystery of the matter, The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone (Psalms 118:22)” (Zohar 3:248a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

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).