The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: sabbatical years

Are Your Days Like a Mortal’s Days, Your Years Like the Years of a Man?

Remember the sabbath day to hallow it. Six days you shall work and you shall do all your tasks, but the seventh day is a sabbath to YHWH your God. You shall do no task…. For six days did YHWH make the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in it, and He rested on the seventh day. Therefore did YHWH bless the sabbath day and hallow it (Exodus 20:8–11).

When you come into the land that I am about to give you, the land shall keep a sabbath to YHWH. Six years you shall sow your fields and six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its yield. And in the seventh year there shall be שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן (shabbat shabbaton), an absolute sabbath, for the land, a sabbath to YHWH…. And you shall count you seven sabbaths of years, seven years seven times, and the days of the seven sabbaths of years shall come to forty-nine years…. And you shall hallow the fiftieth year and call a release in the land to all its inhabitants. A jubilee it shall be for you, and you shall go back each man to his holding and each man to his clan, you shall go back (Leviticus 25:2–4, 8–10).

“The song that the Levites would say in the Temple on the first day: They would say, YHWH’s is the earth and its fullness, the world and the dwellers within it (Psalms 24:1). On the second they would say, Great is YHWH and highly praised in our God’s town, His holy mountain (ibid. 48:2). On the third they would say, God takes His stand in the divine assembly, in the midst of the gods He renders judgment (ibid. 82:1). On the fourth they would say, God of vengeance, O YHWH, God of vengeance, shine forth! (ibid. 94:1). On the fifth they would say, Sing gladly to God our strength, shout out to the God of Jacob (ibid. 81:2). On the sixth they would say, YHWH reigns, in triumph clothed, clothed is YHWH, [in strength He is girded. Yes, the world stands firm, not to be shaken] (ibid. 93:1). On the Sabbath they would say, A psalm, a song for Sabbath day (ibid. 92:1)—a psalm, a song for the time yet to come, for the day that is entirely שַׁבַּת מְנוּחָה לְחַיֵּי הָעוֹלָמִים (shabbat menuḥah le-ḥayye ha-olamim), a cessation of tranquility for the One who lives eternities [cf. Bahir §180: ‘In His hand is the breath of each living thing (Job 12:10)—He is חֵי הָעוֹלָמִים (ḥei ha-olamim), Vitality of the Worlds. And any expression of בְּרִיאָה (beri’ah), creation, is performed through Him. Of Him is said, He ceased and caught His breath (Exodus 31:17). He is the quality of the Sabbath day, of Him is said, Remember the Sabbath day to hallow it (ibid. 20:8)’]” (M Tamid 7:4; cf. BT Rosh ha-Shanah 31a).

“Rav Qattina said: Six thousand years is a world, and one [thousand years that are] חַרוּב (ḥaruv), desolate [or: ruined, withered], as is written, And YHWH alone shall be raised high on that day (Isaiah 2:11). Abbaye said: Two [thousand years are] desolate, as is said, He will revive us after two days, on the third day raise us up, that we may live in His presence (Hosea 6:2).

It has been taught like Rav Qattina: Just as the seventh is one מְשַׁמֶטֶת שָׁנָה (meshametet shanah), year of release, in seven years, so is a world: one thousand years out of seven shall be מְשַׁמֵּט (meshammet), fallow, as is written, And YHWH alone shall be raised high on that day, and it is further said, A psalm, a song for Sabbath day (Psalms 92:1)—the day that is entirely a cessation [of tranquility]. It is also said, For a thousand years in Your eyes are like yesterday gone (Psalms 90:4).

The Tanna debe Eliyyahu taught: Six thousand years is a world: two thousand תֹּהוּ (tohu), chaos; two thousand תּוֹרָה (torah), Law [and order]; two thousand years the days of Messiah” (BT Sanhedrin 97a).

“Rabbi Berekhiah said: It is written, And the earth was תֹהוּ (tohu), welter, and waste (Genesis 1:2). Was—what does it mean? Welter, already was” (Bahir §2).

And there was evening (Genesis 1:5). Rabbi Yehudah son of Rabbi Shim’on said: It is not written let there be evening, but rather and there was evening: hence we know that an order of time existed before this. Rabbi Abbahu said: The blessed Holy One kept creating worlds and destroying them until He created these [i.e., heavens and earth]. Then He declared, ‘These please Me, those do not.’ Rabbi Pinḥas said: This is Rabbi Abbahu’s reason: And God saw all that He had done, and, look, it was very good (Genesis 1:31): ‘These please Me, those do not’” (Bereshit Rabbah 3:7).

“Rabbi Tanḥuma opened: Everything He has עָשָׂה (asah), done, aptly in its time (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Rabbi Tanḥuma said: The world was created in its time, and the world was not fit to be created earlier. Rabbi Abbahu said: Hence we learn that the blessed Holy One was creating worlds and destroying them, creating worlds and destroying them, until He created these [i.e., the heavens and earth], and then He said: ‘These please Me, those do not.’ Rabbi Pinḥas said: This is Rabbi Abbahu’s reason: And God saw all that He had עָשָׂה (asah), done, and, look, it was very good (Genesis 1:31): ‘These please Me, those do not’ [cf. Zohar 1:24b–25a (TZ): ‘… it does not mean He destroyed His own makings as people might think’; 3:292b (IZ)]” (Bereshit Rabbah 9:2).

“ש (Shin)—this letter was of four prongs but now she is [only of] three…. The mystery of the root of unity [is] in her… without gain, or change, as is written, I am YHWH, I have not changed (Malachi 3:6)—from [the aspect of] Atsilut, Emanation, unity remains without joining or change in essence. The power of divinity acts, and His unity in Atsilut… [imbues] the shape [of the four-pronged shin with] a power to unite. For with this power the shape is comprised in Atsilut, [the world of] unity, to unite with Torah, commandments, and statutes, [according to] the need of שְׁמִטָּה (shemittah), the sabbatical year. And her Torah’s nature [is] to unite and to mend her way, with upright commandments unique to the need of healing for souls in exile. 

And in the future [the three-pronged shin] will transform and she will be of a square shape, [according] to the need of the shemittah. She came in her splendor with her Torah and statute in the mystery of unity befitting her in Atsilut and the unique order [of] the shemittah—for she already was, but her Torah passed and [there] came the power of the shape with three prongs in her place [cf. TZ 14a–b on Proverbs 30:23; Zohar 3:124b–25b (RM)]. Now, [according to] the need she gives Torah and statute—according to the quality of the way [of the shemittah]. For every matter and outside power come from her side, such as, You shall make you no carved likeness and no image [of what is in the heavens above or what is on the earth below or what is in the waters beneath the earth] (Exodus 20:4)—[this] quality overcomes [idolatry with her Torah of prohibitions], for all [that] is far [from holiness is] from her side…. Thus at the giving of Torah came ‘you shall do’ and ‘you shall not do’ in the 613 commandments….

Therefore, the letter was missing at the giving of Torah and Shekhinah [was] in her place. As with the creation of the world, Ḥesed, Kindness, [was missing from] the structure [of the six lower sefirot] and Shekhinah [was] with them to complete the structure [on justice as the basis of the world, see M Avot 1:18; Avot de-Rabbi Natan B, 43; Bereshit Rabbah 14:1; Shemot Rabbah 30:13; Zohar 1:180b; 2:22b, 122a; 3:30b, 32a; Rabbi Moshe de León, Sefer ha-Rimmon, 291, 345. Cf. Psalms 89:3: The world shall be built on kindness].

Now, in the days of Noah [it was] a time of grace and light—the quality which already came. He was a righteous and blameless man in his generation [which was totally evil and whose sustained existence was only by the grace and kindness of YHWH, see Genesis 6:5–8; cf. BT Sanhedrin 108b; Zohar 1:58a, 61b–62a]. There the letter was whole, enduring in his place…. And now the shape of [shin is of] three prongs [in] the second, harsh, shemittah [cf. Sefer Yetsirah §34: ‘He made ש (shin) king over אֵשׁ (esh), fire’]. In her is the need of the shemittah to remove every carved likeness and image. And all leavened dough comes from her side [cf. JT Berakhot 4:2, 7d]. And from her we will [ultimately] come to unite, to join with commandments of unity, in His emanation, such as tefillin, tsitsit, sukkah, lulav, and the like. For they [are meant] to unite [all] supernals as one. But הָפַךְ (hafakh), He overturned [the order]—this [shemittah] is not for joining, nor for unifying the singular Power, holy things [serve] the need of the profane [see BT Pesaḥim 50a; cf. Naḥmanides, Perush le-Sefer Yetsirah, 1:1, §1; Zohar 3:124b–25b (RM)]. For what is forbidden in this is permitted in that [cf. BT Niddah 61b; Midrash Tehillim 146:4]. Since from the power of the shape [of the four-pronged shin] we will understand [how] to join holies through the unity of Atsilut, and overturn forbidden [acts], such as eating of an offering…. The [three-pronged] shape of the letter [ש (shin) is] in [the shape of] a root—the [three] Patriarchs [cf. Bahir  §118]. And the Chariot [too is] in their shape, lacking the Shekhinah. Yet, the Shekhinah is with them, [and they are] with Her as one” (Sefer ha-Temunah 3, 61b–62a, cf. Rabbi Yitsḥaq Luria, Sha‘ar Ma’amarei Rashbi 46b).

“According to the way of Kabbalah: יוֹבֵל (Yovel), jubilee—from the language [of], And by יוּבַל (yuval), a stream, it sends forth its roots, [and it shall not see when the heat wave comes, and its leaves shall be lush, and in a drought year it shall have no care and never cease from yielding fruit] (Jeremiah 17:8). And it hints that all the generations יוּבְלוּ (yuvelu), will be led [back], to the First Cause, and therefore Jubilee is called דְּרוֹר (deror), Release [or: Freedom] (Leviticus 25:10), since it is Jubilee who sends forth הַדּוֹרוֹת (ha-dorot), the generations, and all those who are created [on Jubilee (Binah) and freedom, see Zohar 1:220b; 3:95b, 101a, 102b, 108a; Rabbi Moshe de León, Sefer ha-Rimmon, 167, 169]. For from there they emanate in בְּרִית עוֹלָם (berit olam), an eternal covenant, as is said, בְּרֵאשִׁית (bereshit), in the beginning, God created (Genesis 1:1) [—בְּרִית אֵשׁ (berit esh), covenant of fire; cf. Jeremiah 33:25: Were it not for My covenant day and night, I would not have established the laws of the heavens and earth]. And Her name, [תְּשׁוּבָה (teshuvah), Return, attests to] their return. And understand this, for every single one of the seven [sefirot] acts [on] seven thousand [years]. And, look, they are forty-nine—when forty-nine [shemittot, sabbatical years] are completed the world will be welter and waste (ibid., 2), and all will be restored to Jubilee, just as [all] emanates from there—understand this. And this is the language of: In this jubilee year you shall go back, each man to his holding (Leviticus 25:13). And the probing sages [i.e., philosophers], say in their language: All was from the First Cause, and all returns to the First Cause.

Now, if you understand the secret of הַשְּׁמִטָּה וְהַיּוֹבֵל (ha-shemittah ve-ha-yovel), the sabbatical year and the jubilee, you will not disregard that which was mentioned of the shemittahyour field… your vineyard… your harvest… your untrimmed vine (ibid., 3–5)—in the second person. For after the shemittah has passed Scripture called שַׁבַּת מְנוּחָה לְחַיֵּי הָעוֹלָמִים (shabbat menuḥah le-ḥayye ha-olamim), a cessation of tranquility for the One who lives eternities [or: … for the Vitality of the Worlds; cf. M Tamid 7:4], [and these] will be yours as before. Now, look at the emphasis of the verse, A psalm, a song for Sabbath day (Psalms 92:1), hinting to what will be after the sabbath, as is said, The righteous man springs up like the palm tree (ibid., 13). And it is written, May the righteous man flourish in his days—and abundant peace till the moon is no more (ibid. 72:7)—also hinting at: and they were completed (Genesis 2:1), after which is said, and God blessed the seventh day (ibid., 3) in order to make it known what will be after the seventh day, sealed with the word לַעֲשׂוֹת (la-asot), to do (ibid.), as if to say: acts [still left] to do [after the shemittah] and to call the generations from the beginning. And because of this it says of the mitsvah of shemittahyour field… your vineyard… your harvest… your untrimmed vine—[it says] your, while it did not say so of the jubilee, but rather, its aftergrowths… its untrimmed vines (Leviticus 25:11), accordingly, its and not yours.

And I already mentioned this in order [of the Torah portions] at Mishpatim. And from this is said, [In the jubilee year the field shall revert…to Him who has the holding of the land (ibid. 27:24)—it does not say, [to him whoinherits the land [cf. Exodus 23:30]. For the notion of inheritance is that which a man inherits in due time, yet it says, the holding, which is language mainly instructive of first owners, as is written, [If you see the oppression of the poor and the perversion of justice and right in the province, be not amazed at the matter,for he who is high has a higher one watching him, and still higher ones over them (Ecclesiastes 5:7). Now this is clarified” (Rabbenu Baḥya ben Asher on Leviticus 25:10).

“Said the small Yitsḥaq of Akko [circa 5065/1305 C.E.]: I saw [the need] to write a great secret which is fitting to conceal very well: Know that a day of the blessed Holy One is one thousand years of ours, as is said, For a thousand years in Your eyes are like a day (Psalms 90:4) [And: Are Your days like a mortal’s days, Your years like the years of a man? (Job 10:5)]. Now, our year is 365 and a quarter days. If so, a year above is 365,250 years of ours. And two years above are 730,500 years of ours. From now on go out and double, and [then] go out and double [again], until 49,000 years—that each day of the 365,250 above is a thousand years of ours, as is written, [The eyes of human haughtiness are brought down, and men’s righteousness is bowed low,] and YHWH alone shall be raised high on that day (Isaiah 2:11); Who can utter YHWH’s mighty acts, [can make heard all His praise?] (Psalms 106:2). Blessed be the name of the glory of His kingdom, forever and ever. And all of this is as Scripture said. Surely, its figure—[be it] twice as much, thousands upon thousands of thousands—is not in His eyes reckoned [as even] a moment.

Now, יֹצְרוֹ (yotsro), [the world’s] Fashioner, is צ״ע—צַדִּיק עֶלְיוֹן (tsaddiq elyon), the supernal Righteous One [cf. Proverbs 10:25: The Righteous One is the foundation of the world; JT Berakhot 1:5, 10b. Alt., Now, צִיּוּרוֹ (tsiuro), its figure (i.e., the duration of the world) צ״ע—צָרִיךְ עִיּוּן (tsarikh iyyun), requires speculation]. Surely, with אֵין סוֹף (ein sof), Infinity, it is enough for you to say ein sof, without end [and nothing more], if your wish [is] that your soul endure in her palace [i.e., her body]…. Glimpse at Him and you will be like Son of Azzai [who glimpsed and died]: Precious in the eyes of YHWH is the death of His faithful ones (Psalms 116:15) [see BT Ḥagigah 14b ad loc.; cf. Rabbi Yitsḥaq of Akko, Otsar Ḥayyim 161b]—the blessed Holy One has no desire that you kill [yourself] inasmuch as you were not permitted: You have no business with hidden and wondrous matters [see BT Ḥagigah 13a]. Do not inquire [of Ein Sof, Infinity, but rather] eat and you will be revived [cf. Rabbi Avraham Abulafia, Ḥayyei ha-Olam ha-Ba]. That you should know Him and serve Him, You shall be wholehearted with YHWH your God (Deuteronomy 18:13)—knowledge with intention [to serve Him]. Surely, the thought of your mind will be with Him, clinging perpetually, without imaginary fashionings [that are] not whole, [or] complete [cf. Bahir §47 on Deuteronomy 4:15]. For according to your watching over Him, so will be His watching over you [cf. Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed, 3:16–21]…. 

And clear proof concerning the duration of [this] world a great many years, for which the heart will be made weary tallying it, is from what Isaiah the prophet said, peace be upon him, [There shall not be there a tender babe or elder who will not live out his days. For like] a lad he shall die at a hundred, [and who misses a hundred shall be thought accursed] (Isaiah 65:20). Just as we say now of a baby aged three or younger who dies, so will be said in the time yet to come of a man who has lived [only] a hundred years and died, ‘a baby has died.’ For so great will be the human lifespan. And if one of little faith comes to deny this strange notion say to him that it already has been: Methuselah lived thirty [-one] shy of a thousand years [see Genesis 5:27]. For certainly the man who lived a hundred years and died in the days of Methuselah, of him Methuselah [must have] said, ‘A small baby has died.’

And now I will say a thing which requires speculation [or: contemplation], and that is that one hundred years of the blessed Holy One are thirty-six times 150,000 years of ours. And since we said that a year above is 365,250 years… go out and tally to one hundred years and to a thousand years and a man need not speculate further. Behold, our eyes see that the duration of the world is very long, to remove from the hearts of those who say its duration is only 49,000 years [of ours], which are seven שְׁמִטּוֹת (shemittot), sabbatical years” (Rabbi Yitsḥaq of Akko, Otsar Ḥayyim 86b–87b).

And She Shall Count for Herself Seven Days

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“Rabbi Abba and Rabbi Ḥiyya were walking along the way. Rabbi Ḥiyya said, ‘It is written: And you shall count you from the morrow of the sabbath, from the day you bring the elevation sheaf, [seven complete weeks shall they be] (Leviticus 23:15). What does this indicate?’

He replied, ‘The Companions have established this but come and see: When the people of Israel were in Egypt, they were under alien domination and were gripped by impurity, like a woman sitting in days of impurity. After they were circumcised, they entered the holy portion called Covenant. Once they were joined to this, their impurity ceased, as when a woman’s blood of impurity ceases. After [the blood] ceases, what is written? [When she becomes purified from her flux,] she shall count for herself seven days [and after shall be clean] (Leviticus 15:28). Similarly here, once they entered the holy portion, their impurity ceased, and the blessed Holy One said, ‘From now on, a counting for purity.’ You shall count for yourselvesyourselves, precisely, as said: She shall count for herself, for her own self. Here, too, for yourselves—for your own selves. Why? To be purified by supernal holy waters, and afterward to come join the King and receive His Torah.

It is written: She shall count for herself seven days (Leviticus 15:28); here, too, seven weeks. Why seven weeks? To attain being purified by waters of the flowing, gushing river, called ‘living waters’ [Binah]. From that river issue seven weeks—so seven weeks surely, to attain it.

‘Just as a woman’s purity takes effect at night [after immersing herself in a miqveh], to join conjugally with her husband, so it is written When the dew would descend on the camp at night (Numbers 11:9). It is written on the camp, and not, When the dew would descend at night. And when did this dew descend? When Israel approached Mount Sinai—then that dew descended perfectly and they were purified, their filth ceasing, and they joined the King and received the Torah and Assembly of Israel, as we have established. At that time surely, All the streams flow into the Sea (Ecclesiastes 1:7)—to be purified and washed—and all are sanctified and joined with the Holy King.’

‘Come and see: if anyone does not reckon this count—those seven weeks—to attain this purity, he is not called ‘pure’ and is not in the category of pure, nor is he worthy of having a share in Torah. But if one arrives pure on this day and has not lost count, when he reaches this night he should delve into Torah and join her, preserving the supernal purity that comes upon him on that night, purifying him” (Zohar 3:97a–b, cf. BT Menaot 65b–66a).

“Certainly, in your prayer and in your recital of the Shema, the Shekhinah is renewed before the blessed Holy One and this is why it is said: [Until the morrow of the seventh sabbath you shall count fifty days] and you shall bring forward a new grain offering to YHWH (Leviticus 23:16). By the prayers which are instead of the sacrifices. But in which sacrifices, [namely] prayers, is She renewed? In your Festival of Weeks (Numbers 28:26), namely Shavuoth, which is when Torah was given, and which is called fifty days of the counting of the Omer, and which comprises seven weeks, from the side of the one about whom it is said: Seven times daily I praise You (Psalms 119:164), which is Malkhut, who is כַּלָה (kalah), bride, and is composed of the seven sefirot and is composed of Binah; and it spreads out in five sefirot of fifty.

Yesod [which is called] כֹּל (Kol), All (1 Chronicles 29:11) is composed of these fifty, [namely Ḥesed, Gevurah, Tif’eret, Netsaḥ, and Hod, each of which is composed of ten. Malkhut is called כַּלָה (kalah), bride, [the letters of which can also be read]: כֹּל ה (kol he) [numerically equivalent to fifty and five, namely] five [sefirot] composed of fifty. Each of them is enclosed within the fifty. Ḥokhmah, which is upper י (yod) is enclosed within the fifty, for ה״ (five) times י״ (ten). ה (He) is Binah and י (yod) is Ḥokhmah, [and there are י (yod) and ה (he) in Ḥokhmah, which when multiplied by each other, make fifty, and there are י (yod) and ה (he) in Binah; and when] י״ (ten) is [multiplied] by ה״ (five), the result is fifty, and this is the sum of כֹּל (Kol), All, and the numerical value of יָם (Yam), Sea [for Binah is called Sea, whose sum is fifty]. And the reference is to the Sea of Torah [where from Binah, which is called ‘Sea,’ emerges Torah, which is Ze’eir Anpin]. Its origin is Keter, which is infinite. The remaining sefirot are named after it: Seven Seas. And Malkhut [is] the יָם סוּף (Yam Suf), Sea of Reeds, the סוֹף דְּכָל יָמִים (sof de-khal yamim), end of all seas.

And because [each one of the] the seven weeks is fifty: And their grain offering… three-tenths for the single bull, two-tenths for the single ram (Numbers 28:28), making altogether five [tenths] which are five times ten. And their grain offering mixed with oil, three-tenths for the single bull, two-tenths for the single ram. A tenth for every single lamb of the seven lambs (Numbers 29:9). Seven lambsseven whole Sabbaths shall they be (Leviticus 23:15) and each one has six days [sefirot] with it” (Zohar 3:255a–b, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

Primordial Kings were Destroyed: Would you ever Imagine that they were Nullified?

“‘The world was created through ten sayings’ (M Avot 5:1)…. And in three are these [sayings] included: YHWH through Wisdom founded earth, set heavens firm through Discernment. Through His Knowledge the deeps burst open (Proverbs 3:19–20)” (Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 17–18).

“[Mar Raḥmai son of Bibi’s] disciples asked: What is דָּלֶת (dalet)? He said to them: A parable: [To what can the matter be compared?] There were once עֲשָׂרָה (asarah), ten, kings in one place, and all of them rich, but one of them, though עָשִׁיר (ashir), rich, was not [as rich] as any of them. Even though his wealth was great, he was called דָּל (dal), ‘poor,’ compared to the others….

What are the ten kings? They are seven voices, and three sayings. But what sayings? And YHWH has proclaimed you today [to be to Him a treasured people, as He has spoken to you, and to keep all His commands, and to set you high above all the nations that He made, for praise and for reclaim and for glory, and for you to be a holy people to YHWH your God, as He has spoken] (Deuteronomy 26:18). But what three? The beginning of wisdom is—get חָכְמָה (ḥokhmah), wisdom, and in all that you get, get בִינָה (vinah), discernment (Proverbs 4:7), as is written, [Yet it is a spirit in man,] and Shaddai’s breath that grants discernment (Job 32:8)—Shaddai’s breath is תְּבִינֵם (tevinem), Discernment. What is third? As the old man said to the child, ‘What is too wondrous for you, do not expound; what is concealed from you, do not inquire. You have no business with hidden matters!’ (BT Ḥagigah 13a)” (Bahir §§27, 49).

“It has been taught: The Book of Concealment, a book on scales. For until there was a balance, they did not gaze face-to-face, and the primordial kings died and their weapons vanished and the earth was nullified. Until the head of Desire of all Desires arranged and bestowed garments of glory” (Zohar 2:176b, Sifra di-Tsni’uta).

“When Rabbi Shim’on opened, the earth quaked and the Companions trembled. He revealed in mystery, and opened, saying, ‘These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before a king reigned over the Children of Israel (Genesis 36:31). Happy are you, O righteous ones, to whom are revealed mysteries of mysteries of Torah, which have not been revealed to holy ones of the Highest. Who will examine this? Who will be worthy of this? It is testimony to faith of total faith. May the prayer be accepted, that it may not be considered a sin to reveal this.

‘And what will the Companions say? For this verse is difficult, since it should not have been written so, because we see that there were numerous kings before the Children of Israel appeared and before they had a king; so what is intended here? Well, it is mystery of mysteries, which humans cannot know or perceive or arouse in their minds.

‘It has been taught: Before the Ancient of Ancients, Concealed of the Concealed, had prepared adornments of the King and crowns of crowns, there was neither beginning nor end. He engraved and gauged within Himself, and spread before Himself one curtain, in which He engraved and gauged kings, but His adornments did not endure. As is written: These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before a king reigned—Primordial King—over the Children of Israel, the Primordial One (Genesis 36:31). All those who had been engraved were called by name, but they did not endure, so He eventually put them aside and concealed them. Afterward, He ascended in that curtain and was arrayed perfectly” (Zohar 3:128a, Idra Rabba).

“Until He Himself was arrayed in His enhancements, all those that He intended to arrange did not endure, and all those worlds were destroyed…. Would you ever imagine that they were nullified? Look, they are all included in [Primordial] Adam! Rather, they were nullified and removed from that arrangement, until the image of Adam appeared. When this image appeared they were all engraved and transformed into another existence. Some of them became fragrantly firm, some of them not entirely so, and some of them not at all.

Now, you might say, ‘But it is written He died… he died (Genesis 36:33–39)—implying that they were nullified completely.’ Not so! Rather, anyone who descends from his original rung of existence is said to have died, as is written: The King of Egypt died (Exodus 2:23)—meaning that he descended from the rung that he occupied. Once Adam was arrayed, they were called by different names and became fragrantly firm existing in Him, enduring in their places… transformed into another existence, settling securely” (Zohar 3:135b, Idra Rabba).

“Before the world was created, they did not gaze face-to-face, and therefore primordial worlds were destroyed, and primordial worlds were fashioned in disarray. That which is disarrayed is called ‘flashing sparks’—like a blacksmith pounding an iron tool, scattering sparks in every direction; and those flying forth flash and scintillate and are immediately extinguished. These are called Primordial Worlds. Thus they were destroyed and did not endure, until the Holy Ancient One was arrayed and the Artisan proceeded to His artistry” (Zohar 3:292b, Idra Zuta).

“Nothing in the world, be it ever so small, lacks a place in which to be hidden and absorbed; it is never lost” (Zohar 2:99b).

“Israel is the kernel of the world; Israel arose in thought. Other nations, who are the shell preceded, as is written: אֵלֶּה (elleh), these, are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned over the Children of Israel (Genesis 36:31). Yet the blessed Holy One intends to initiate the kernel without the shell, as is written: Holy is Israel to YHWH, the first fruits of His harvest (Jeremiah 2:3)—the kernel preceding the shell. Although the kernel will arise without a shell, who would dare to extend his hand to eat of it? All who eat of it will be held guilty; evil will befall them—declares YHWH (ibid.)” (Zohar 2:108b, Sava de-Mishpatim).

“אֵלֶּה (Elleh), these, are the generations of the heavens and the earth (Genesis 2:4). It has been established: ‘Wherever אֵלֶּה (elleh), these, is written it nullifies the preceding’ (Bereshit Rabbah 30:3). And these are the generations of תֹּהוּ (tohu) hinted at in the second verse: The earth then was tohu, welter (Genesis 1:2). Regarding those it is said the blessed Holy One created worlds and destroyed them [see Bereshit Rabbah 3:7; 9:2]. Thus, it is written: The earth then was welter and waste (Genesis 1:2). Why did the blessed Holy One create worlds to destroy them? It would have been better had He not created them at all! But this is certainly a great mystery. What is ‘and destroying them’? It cannot be that the blessed Holy One destroyed the makings of His own hands. Furthermore, these are the heavens of which is said, For the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, [but the earth shall grow old like a garment, and they that dwell in it shall die in like manner: but My redemption shall be forever, and My righteousness shall not be abolished] (Isaiah 51:6) [cf. Psalms 102:26–27]. If so, does the blessed Holy One [create] and shatter?

The mystery is that the blessed Holy One created the world by Torah, as is written: בְּרֵאשִׁית (Bereshit), with beginning (Genesis 1:1), about which is written: YHWH created me at the רֵאשִׁית (reshit), outset, of His way, [before His works of old] (Proverbs 8:22). And by this reshitbeginning, He created the [supernal] heavens and the earth [i.e., the six sefirot whose creation are hinted at by the permutation of בְּרֵאשִׁית (bereshit): בָּרָא שִׁית (bara shit), He created six]. He sustained them with the covenant which is in בְּרֵאשִׁית (bereshit) [i.e., בְּרִית אֵשׁ (berit esh), covenant of fire], as is written: Were it not for בְרִיתִי (veriti), My covenant, day and night, I would not have established the laws of the heavens and earth (Jeremiah 33:25). These are: The heavens are the heavens of YHWH (Psalms 115:16). And the land of the living comprises seven zones [lit., lands, see Zohar 3:10a], about which King David wrote, I will walk before YHWH in the lands of the living (Psalms 116:9).

Afterwards He created the heavens and the earth upon תֹּהוּ (tohu), welter, without any foundation—the covenant—to support them [cf. Job 26:7]. Because of this the blessed Holy One, wanted to give Torah—the covenant of circumcision—to the nations of the world but because they did not want to receive it the land remained parched and dry [see BT Avodah Zarah 2b–3b; Sifre Deuteronomy 33:2]. Thus: Let the waters under heaven be gathered together to one place, and let the dry land appear (Genesis 1:9). Waters—Torah. To one place—Israel, because the souls of Israel come from that Place, of which is written: Blessed be the glory of YHWH from His place (Ezekiel 3:12). The glory of YHWH—lower Shekhinah; from His place—upper Shekhinah. And since their souls come from there then certainly יהוה (YHWH) rests on them. Of them is written: Yes, YHWH’s portion is His people (Deuteronomy 32:9).

Torah is [for creating] יִשּׁוּבָא דְּעָלְמָא (yishuva de-alma), the civilized world. The nations of the world who did not accept her have remained wasted and dry. This is ‘The blessed Holy One created worlds and destroyed them’—those who did not keep the decrees of Torah. It does not mean He destroyed His own makings as people might think [see for example BT Sanhedrin 103a in the name of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai: ‘The blessed Holy One wished to hurl the world back into welter and waste on account of Jehoiakim, but that He gazed at (the rest of) his generation, and His mind was appeased’]. Why should He destroy His own children?! Of whom is written: ‘בְּהִבָּרְאָם, (Be-hibbare’am), when they were created (Genesis 2:4). Do not read בְּהִבָּרְאָם (be-hibbare’am), when they were created, but rather בְּה״ בְּרָאָם (be-he bera’am), with ה (heHe created them’ (BT Menaḥot 29b) [cf. ZḤ 2d]. Because of those converts from among the nations of the world the small ה (he) of אַבְרָהָם (Avraham), Abraham, fell during the Fifth Millennium [on the especially small ה (he) of Genesis 2:4, see Bereshit Rabbah 12:9; Zohar 1:91b, 93a, 105b, 128b, 154b, 230b; 3:117a]. [And the river was wasted and dried up (Isaiah 19:5):] Wasted—the First Temple; dried up—the Second Temple.

Moses wanted to bring them [i.e., the motley throng, the mixed multitude] under the wings of the Shekhinah and thought 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 the small ה (he) with awe of י (yod) and with the love of [the first] ה (he). So he fell from his rung, which is ו (vav)” (Zohar 1:24b–25a, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar).