The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: sin

Do Not Make the Fence Excessive Lest it Collapse and Cut the Shoots

IMG_1063“The Men of the Great Assembly said three things: Be careful in judgment; raise up many disciples; and make a fence for the Torah” (M Avot 1:1).

“Rabbi Akiva said: Mocking and frivolity lead to immorality. The oral tradition is a fence for Torah; tithes are a fence for wealth; vows are a fence for abstinence. The fence for wisdom is silence” (M Avot 3:17).

“‘Make a fence for the Torah.’ And make a fence for your words, in the way that the blessed Holy One made a fence for His words, and the first human made a fence for his words. Torah made a fence for her words. Moses made a fence for his words. So too, Job as well as the Prophets, the Writings, and the sages—all of them made a fence for their words [on Job’s ‘fence,’ see Job 31:1]” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan A, 1).

He who breaches a fence, a snake will bite him (Ecclesiastes 10:8).

Now the serpent was most cunning (Genesis 3:1).

For in much wisdom is much worry, and he who adds wisdom adds pain (Ecclesiastes 1:18): Because man increases his wisdom he increases worry against himself, and because he increases his knowledge he adds to his pain. Solomon said: Because I increased my wisdom I increased my worry, and because I increased my knowledge I increased my pain. Did you ever hear anybody say: ‘This donkey went out and caught the sun, or caught a fever? And where is suffering prevalent? With human beings. Rabbi said: A תַּלְמִיד חָכָם (talmid ḥakham), disciple of wisdom, does not require a warning [cf. BT Sanhedrin 8b]. Rabbi Yoḥanan said: It is like the fine linen garments which come from Bet Shean: if they are even slightly blackened they are ruined; but as for the [coarse] linen garments which come from Arbel, what is their value altogether?

Rabbi Yishma’el taught: According to the camel so is its load. It often happens that two people enter a tavern; one orders, ‘Bring me roast meat, white bread, and good wine,’ while the other orders, ‘Bring me bread and beets’: the former eats and suffers afterwards, while the latter eats and does not suffer. Thus human ills weigh heavily upon the one but not upon the other.

It was taught in Rabbi Me’ir’s name: According to the greatness of the serpent so was his downfall: because he was most cunning, he was [most] cursed of all (Genesis 3:14). Now the serpent was most cunning of all the beasts of the field. Rabbi Hoshaya the Elder said: He stood out distinguished like a reed, and he had feet. Rabbi Yirmeyah son of El’azar said: He was an אֶפִּיקוֹרֶס (epiqores), unbeliever. Rabbi Shim’on son of El’azar said: He was like a camel. He deprived the world of much good, for had this not happened, one could have sent goods through him, and he would have gone and returned [cf. BT Sanhedrin 59b]….

But from the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden God has said, “You shall not eat from it and you shall not touch it, lest you die” (Genesis 3:3). Thus it is written, Add nothing to His words, lest He rebuke you and you be given the lie (Proverbs 30:6) [cf. Deuteronomy 4:2: You shall not add… neither shall you take away from it]. Rabbi Ḥiyya taught: Do not make the fence excessive, lest it collapse and cut the shoots. Thus, the blessed Holy One had said, For on the day you eat from it, you are doomed to die (Genesis 2:17); whereas she did not say so, but rather, God has said, “You shall not eat from it and you shall not touch it, lest you die”; when he [the serpent] saw her lying so, he took and thrust her against it. ‘Have you then died?’ he said to her; ‘just as you were not stricken through touching it, so will you not die when you eat it, For God knows that on the day you eat of it [your eyes will be opened and you will become as gods knowing good and evil] (ibid., 5).

Rabbi Tanḥuma said: I was asked this question in Antioch. I answered: It is not written, יוֹדְעִים אֱלֹהִים (yod’im elohim), knowing gods, but rather, יֹדֵעַ אֱלֹהִים (yode’a Elohim), God knows. Rabbi Yehoshu’a of Sikhnin said in Rabbi Levi’s name: He [the serpent] began speaking לָשׁוֹן הָרַע (lashon ha-ra), slander, of his Creator, saying, ‘Of this tree did He eat and then create the world; hence He orders you, You shall not eat from it, so that you may not create other worlds, for every person hates his fellow craftsmen.’ Rabbi Yehudah son of Rabbi Simon said: He argued: ‘Whatever was created after its companion dominates it. Thus: the heavens were created on the first day and the firmament on the second: does it not bear its weight? The firmament was created on the second and herbs on the third: do they not interrupt its waters? Herbs were created on the third day and the luminaries on the fourth [and through the heat of the sun plant life matures and ripens]; the luminaries on the fourth and the birds on the fifth. Rabbi Yehudah son of Rabbi Simon said: The זִיז (ziz) is a clean bird, and when it flies it obscures the orb of the sun [thus it dominates the sun, as it were]. Now you were created after everything in order to rule over everything; make haste and eat before He creates other worlds which will rule over you. Hence it is written, And the woman saw that the tree was good [for eating and that it was lust to the eyes and the tree was lovely to look at, and she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave to her man, and he ate…] (Genesis 3:6): she saw [how plausible were] the words of the serpent” (Bereshit Rabbah 19:1, 3–4).

“Rabbi Shemu’el son of Naḥman said, ‘The serpent was asked, Why are you generally to be found among fences?’ He replied, ‘Because I made a breach in the fence of the world.’ Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai taught: The serpent was the first to make a breach in the world’s fence, and so he has become the executioner of all who make breaches in fences” (Vayiqra Rabbah 26:2).

“Rabbi Levitas the visionary opened, ‘Enmity I will set between you and the woman, between your seed and hers (Genesis 3:15)—abundant hatred from the day the world was created, on account of the incitement of the serpent. From the moment it was cursed, driven out from the gate of the King, it lies in ambush constantly amid fences in the world, amid those fences of the Torah, biting all who trample those fences underfoot [see BT Avodah Zarah 18a (in the name of Rabbi Shim’on son of Laqish); Tanḥuma, Eqev 1; Zohar 1:198a–b]. Woe to one who is caught! Woe to one who is bitten! Woe for the persistence of the vile enmity, for the snake’s wicked hatred for Her, the one called woman of valor (Proverbs 31:10). Malevolent animus it nursed for Her from the day the world was created until it ravaged Her, pulverizing Her until She lay in the dust (Zohar Ḥadash 91c [MhN]).

“Four died through the incitement of the serpent, namely: Benjamin the son of Jacob, Amram the father of Moses, Jesse the father of David, and Chileab the son of David” (BT Shabbat 55b).

“On the eve of the Passover Jesus the Nazarene was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, ‘He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and incited [or: enticed] Israel. Any one who can say anything in his favor, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.’ But since nothing was brought forward in his favor he was hanged on the eve of the Passover!—Ulla said: ‘Do you suppose that he was one for whom a defense could be made? Was he not an enticer concerning whom Scripture says, you shall not pity him and shall not shield him (Deuteronomy 13:9)? With Jesus however it was different, for he was connected with the government‘” (BT Sanhedrin 43a).

“What is different about an inciter [that the court does not seek to deem him innocent]? Rabbi Ḥama son of Ḥaninah says: I heard at the lecture of Rabbi Ḥiyya son of Abba: An inciter is different, as the Compassionate One says, [Should your brother, your mother’s son… incite you in secret, saying, ‘Let us go and worship other gods’ that you did not know, neither you nor your fathers…] you shall not spare him and you shall not pity him and shall not shield him. [But you shall surely kill him] (Deuteronomy 13:7–10).

Rabbi Shemu’el son of Naḥman said in Rabbi Yonatan’s name: Whence do we know that we do not plead on behalf of a inciter? From the primordial serpent. For Rabbi Simlai said: The serpent had many pleas to put forward but did not do so. Then why did the blessed Holy One not plead on its behalf? Because it offered none itself. What could it have said? ‘The words of the master or those of the disciple, whose words should be listened to? Surely the master’s!’

Ḥizqiyyah said: How do we know that whoever increases, decreases? From, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it and you shall not touch it [lest you die’] (Genesis 3:3).

Rav Mesharshiyya said: From: אַמָּתַיִם (ammatayim), two, and a half cubits its length (Exodus 25:10) [if אַמָּתַיִם (ammatayim), two, were spelled without א (alef) it would read מָתַיִם (matayim), two hundred. Thus by adding א (alef) the number is reduced]. Rav Ashi said: From: עַשְׁתֵּי עֶשְׂרֵה (ashtei esreh), eleven, curtains (ibid. 26:7) [if עַשְׁתֵּי עֶשְׂרֵה (ashtei esreh), eleven, were spelled without ע (ayin) it would read שְׁתֵּי עֶשְׂרֵה (shetei esreh)twelve. Thus by adding ע (ayin) the number is reduced]” (BT Sanhedrin 29a, cf. Zohar 2:233b).

“The נִשְׁמַת (nishmat), inspiration, of the female comes from the Female, and the inspiration of the male comes from the Male. This is the reason the serpent followed Eve [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 20:11]. He said, ‘Her inspiration is drawn from the north, and so I will soon seduce her.’ And how did he seduce her? By mounting her.

The wicked Samael made a bond with the entire army on high against his Master. This was because the blessed Holy One said, To hold sway over the fish of the sea and the winged creature of the heavens (Genesis 1:26) [cf. Deuteronomy 14:20]. He said, ‘How can we cause him to offend and be driven from before His presence?’ He descended with all his army, and sought a suitable mate on earth. At last he found the serpent, which looked like a camel, and he rode on it [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 19:1; Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 13; Zohar 1:228a]. He then went to the woman and said to her, ‘Though God said, you shall not eat from any tree of the garden… (Genesis 3:1)—I, however, will seek more, I will add in order that she detract.’ She replied, ‘From the fruit of the garden’s trees we may eat. He did not prevent us, other than: the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden God has said, You shall not eat from it and you shall not touch it, lest you die‘ (Genesis 3:2).

She added two things: the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden—He only said, From the tree (Genesis 2:17); and you shall not touch it, lest you die [while He only spoke of eating]. What did Samael do? He went and touched the tree. The tree cried out and said, ‘Wicked one, do not touch me!’ Therefore it is written: Let no haughty foot overtake me, nor the hand of the wicked repel me. There did the doers of mischief fall. They were toppled and could not rise (Psalms 36:12–13).’

He then said to the woman, ‘See, I touched the tree and did not die. You too can touch and not die.’ The woman went and touched the tree. She saw the Angel of Death approaching her and said, ‘אוֹי (Oy), woe! Now I will die and the blessed Holy One will make another woman and give her to Adam. I will therefore cause him to eat with me. If we die, we will both die, and if we live, we will both live.’ She took the fruit of the tree and ate it, and she also gave to her husband. Their eyes opened and their teeth were set on edge. He said, ‘What is this that you have given me to eat? Just as my teeth were set on edge, so will the teeth of all generations be set on edge’ [cf. Jeremiah 31:29: The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children’s teeth are set on edge].

He sat in true judgement, as is written: For You upheld my justice, my right, You sat on the throne of the righteous judge (Psalm 9:5). He called to Adam, and said ‘Why do you hide from Me?’ He replied, ‘I heard Your sound in the garden (Genesis 3:10). I heard Your sound in the garden—and my bones trembled. And I was afraid, for I was naked, and I hid—I was naked of works, I was naked of mitsvot, and I was naked of actions.’ Therefore it is written: and I was afraid, for I was naked, and I hid.

What was Adam’s garment? It was a skin of fingernail. As soon as he ate of the fruit of the tree, this skin of fingernail was removed from him, and he saw himself naked. Therefore it is written: Who told you that you were naked? (Genesis 3:11). Adam said to the blessed Holy One, ‘Master of all Worlds: When I was alone, did I once offend before You? But the woman that You gave me lured me from Your word.’ Therefore it is written: The woman whom you gave me, [she gave me from the tree, and I ate] (Genesis 3:12). The blessed Holy One said to her, ‘Is it not enough that you offended? But you also caused man to offend.’ She answered, ‘Master of all Worlds: The serpent deceived me to offend before You.’

He took the three of them, and decreed upon them a sentence of nine curses and death [see Genesis 3:14–19]. He then cast the wicked Samael and his band from their holy place in the heavens. He cut off the feet of the serpent and cursed it more than all the other creatures and beasts of the field. He also decreed that it shed its skin every seven years [see BT Bekhorot 8a; Bereshit Rabbah 20:4; Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 14; Zohar 1:18a]. Samael was punished and made prince over the wicked Esau.

In the future, when the blessed Holy One uproots the kingdom of Edom, He will lower him first. Therefore it is written: YHWH will punish the army of the exalted ones that are on high (Isaiah 24:21). This statement [of Eve’s], death and punishment all came because she added to the command of the blessed Holy One. Regarding this it is said, ‘Whoever increases, decreases’ (BT Sanhedrin 29a) [cf. Zohar 2:233b]” (Bahir §199–§200).

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A Man Should Always Regard Himself as though He were Half Liable and Half Meritorious

il_fullxfull.654477583_8ktu“Rabbi Akiva used to say: All is given on collateral, and a net is spread over all the living. The shop is open, the shopkeeper extends credit, the ledger is open, and the hand records. Whoever wishes to borrow may come and borrow. The collectors regularly make their daily rounds and collect payment from a person, whether he realizes it or not. They have [a record] on which they can rely; the judgment is just; and all is prepared for the banquet” (M Avot 3:20).

Our Rabbis taught: A man should always regard himself as though he were half liable and half meritorious: if he performs one mitsvah, happy is he for weighting himself down in the scale of merit; if he commits one offence woe to him for weighting himself down in the scale of liability, for it is said, yet a single offender destroys much good (Ecclesiastes 9:18)—on account of a single offence which he commits much good is lost to him.

Rabbi El’azar son of Rabbi Shim’on said: Because the world is judged by its majority, and an individual [too] is judged by his majority, if he performs one mitsvah, happy is he for turning the scale both of himself and of the whole world on the side of merit; if he commits one offence, woe to him for weighting himself and the whole world in the scale of liability, for it is said: yet a single offender—on account of the single offence which this man commits he and the whole world lose much good.

Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai said: Even if he is perfectly righteous all his life but rebels in the end, he destroys the former, for it is said: The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his offence (Ezekiel 33:12) [cf. Numbers 20:24]. And even if one is completely wicked all his life but performs תְשׁוּבָה (teshuva), repentance, in the end, he is not reminded of his wickedness, for it is said, As for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall by it in the day that שׁוּבוֹ (shuvo), he turns, from his wickedness (ibid.). Yet, let it be regarded as half offences and half merits!—said Resh Laqish: It means that he regretted his former [in that case his righteous past is completely disregarded]” (BT Qiddushin 40b).

“Rabbi Shemu’el son of Naḥmani said in the name of Rabbi Yonatan: ‘Whoever fulfills a single mitsvah in this world—it ushers him into the world that is coming… and whoever commits a single transgression in this world—it clasps him and ushers him into the day of Judgment” (BT Sotah 3b).

“According to his merits and liabilities. As we have explained, he who does one mitsvah is treated well. He who is average, is a person whose merits and liabilities are balanced, the half of merits is below and the half of liabilities below. This is the secret of What is your petition, and it shall be granted to you, and what is your request? Up to half the kingdom, and it shall be done! (Esther 5:6). In the case of a completely righteous man, all his merits are above and his liabilities below. For a completely wicked man, his liabilities are above and his merits are below” (Zohar 3:111a, Ra’aya Meheimna Behar).

“Rabbi Yosef, the son of Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi, became ill and fell into a coma. When he recovered, his father asked him, ‘What did you see?’ He replied, ‘I saw a upside-down world: the upper below and the lower above.’ He said to him, ‘My son, you saw a clear world. And how are we [situated] there?’ He replied, ‘Just as we are here, so are we there’” (BT Pesaḥim 50a).

“If his offences are many and his mitsvot few, then he receives his reward in this world, [and this] is a wicked man who prospers…. The Masters of Mishnah taught: ‘Woe to him for whom the hour smiles’ [for he receives his reward during his lifetime] (BT Berakhot 7b)” (Zohar 3:230b, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

“Rabbi El’azar said, ‘If the scale is evenly balanced—sins on this side, merits on that—what does the blessed Holy One do? He tips it toward love, as is said: Love is Yours, O YHWH (Psalms 62:13).’ Rabbi Yose son of Rabbi Ḥanina said, ‘What does the blessed Holy One do? He snatches one bond of debt from the sins, and instantly the merits tip the scales, as is said: He lifts iniquity and passes over transgression (Micah 7:18)'” (Midrash Tehillim 30:4).

“The son of David will not come until the [last] coin has gone from the purse [i.e., until all debts have been paid]” (BT Sanhedrin 97a).

Rabbi Shim’on replied: If the blessed Holy One had not created the evil impulse and the good impulse, which are light and darkness, there would not have been any merit or liability for the man of בְּרִיָּה (Beri’ah), Creation. So man was created with both, as it is written: See, I have set before you today life and good and death and evil, that I charge you today to love YHWH your God, to go in His ways and to keep His commands and His statutes and His Laws (Deuteronomy 30:15). They asked him: Why all this? Better He had not created darkness. Then man would have no reward or punishment as opposed to being created and having to offend, thereby causing much [damage].

He said to them: It was right to create him in this way because Torah was created for his sake, for it contains punishments for the offenders and rewards for the righteous. Thus, there can be no reward for the righteous or punishment for the offenders without the man of בְּרִיָּה (Beri’ah), Creation. He did not create it a wasteland. He formed it to be inhabited (Isaiah 45:18). They said, ‘Indeed, we have certainly now heard what we had never heard before. It is now clear that the blessed Holy One did not create anything that he did not require’” (Zohar 1:22a, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar).

“If a man strikes many coins from one stamp they all resemble one another, but the Supreme King of the Kings of Kings, the blessed Holy One, fashioned every man in the stamp of the first man, and yet not one of them resembles his fellow. Therefore every single person is obliged to say: ‘The world was created for my sake’” (BT Sanhedrin 37a).

Like a Woman who Mixes Her Dough with Water and Separates a Portion Precisely from the Middle

Sesame Challah_1 “Rabbi Yoḥanan son of Ḥanina said: The day consisted of twelve hours. In the first hour, his dust was gathered; in the second, it was kneaded into a shapeless mass. In the third, his limbs were shaped; in the fourth, a soul was infused into him; in the fifth, he arose and stood on his feet; in the sixth, he gave [the animals] their names; in the seventh, Eve became his mate; in the eighth, they ascended to bed as two and descended as four; in the ninth, he was commanded not to eat of the tree, in the tenth, he sinned; in the eleventh, he was tried, and in the twelfth he was expelled and departed, as is written, A man will not rest in splendor (Psalms 49:13)” (BT Sanhedrin 38a, cf. M Avot 1:1).

[A king makes a land stand firm through justice.] But a man of תְּרוּמוֹת (terumot), donationsdestroys it (Proverbs 29:4)—Adam, who was the completion of the world, and ḥallah is designated תְּרוּמָה (terumah), a donation [or: an elevation offering]…. Rabbi Yose son of Ketsarta said: Like a woman who mixes her dough with water and separates ḥallah precisely from the middle, even so, at first, wetness would well from the earth to water all the surface of the soil, then YHWH God fashioned the human, humus from the soil (Genesis 2:6) [on the phrase “precisely from the middle,” cf. Rabbi Ḥayyim Vital, Liqqutim Ḥadashim, 17–23]” (Bereshit Rabbah 14:1, cf. JT Shabbat 2:6, 5a).

בְּרֵאשִׁית (Bereshit), In the beginning, this is ḥallah as is written, רֵאשִׁית (reshit), the first, yield of your kneading troughs, חַלָּה (ḥallah), a round loaf, you shall present in donation (Numbers 15:20), as we have said, ‘Adam was חַלָּה (ḥallah) of the world…’ What is ḥallah? It is these seven species: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olive oil of the land, and honey, which is honey of dates. חִטָּה (Ḥittah), wheat, is the tree from which the first man ate, and since he did not separate ḥallah, [holiness] did not descend upon ה (he), but dwelled upon ח (ḥet) and ט (tet) [which together with ה (he) spell, חִטָּה (ḥittah), wheat, and allude to חֵטְא (ḥet), sin], causing death [cf. BT Berakhot 40a].

And the ḥallah is the Shekhinah, it includes these seven species [which hint at the lower seven sefirot]. In this was the sin of the first man—the drop, which is the י (yod). Dough must have ḥallah taken from it. Immediately they fell upon that drop, and he gave seed that was included with both which is the ו (vav) and the mystery of the matter, הֵא (he), here, is seed for you, [and sow the land] (Genesis 47:23).

Because of this, ḥallah is certainly a decree for the wife, because of her Adam who was the ḥallah of the world died. She must separate ḥallah, to take it from her dough, which is her drop, to return it to man” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 31a).

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

Rabbi_Ashlag_Passport“Up to here was written in that book of Dr. Kirtena. Afterward, traced in this verse, was all the protection a doctor should provide for one who is ill, lying in the King’s prison, so that he may serve the Master of the World.

For when a wise doctor goes to him, he finds him in a wilderness land and in tohu, emptiness—the illnesses imposed upon him. He finds him in royal captivity.

Now, you might say, ‘Since the blessed Holy One commanded to seize him, no person should attend to him [cf. BT Berakhot 60a, Bava Qamma 85a–b; Midrash Shemu’el 4:1; Nahmanides on Leviticus 26:11].’ Not so! For David has said, Happy is one who keeps an eye on the helpless; on the day of evil YHWH will deliver him (Psalms 41:2). The helpless—the one lying on his sickbed. And if he is a wise doctor, the blessed Holy One provides him blessings for the one he is attending to.

And that doctor, if he finds him in a wilderness land, lying on his sickbed; and in the emptiness of a howling desert, for that sickness oppresses him—what should he do? יְסֹבְבֶנְהוּ (Yesovevenhu), He will encircle him (Deuteronomy 32:10)—יְסוֹבֵב לֵיהּ סִבּוֹת (yesovev leih sibbot), he should revolve the turn of events for him, and bring about causes, so that those things harming him will be thwarted [cf. Zohar 1:109a, 110a–b, 191b]. He should let and draw out from him bad blood.

Give mind to him (ibid.)—he should examine and understand the origin of that illness, scrutinizing so that it does not intensify; he should diminish it.

Afterward, guard him like the pupil of His eye (ibid.)—so that he will be protected properly with those potions, with those remedies that he needs. And he must not fail to distinguish between them, for if he errs in even one element, the blessed Holy One considers that doctor as if he spilled his blood and killed him. For although that person is in the King’s prison, confined there, the blessed Holy One wants someone to attend to him and help him, to take him out of prison.

[Dr. Kirtena] said as follows: The blessed Holy One renders judgment above upon inhabitants of the world, whether by death, uprooting, confiscation of property, or imprisonment (Ezra 7:26). One who deserves confiscation of property falls onto his sickbed and is not healed until he gives all that was decreed, he is healed and leaves prison [cf. BT Avodah Zarah 55a; Leqaḥ Tov, Deuteronomy 28:59; Zohar 1:227a–b; ZḤ 10d (MhN)]. Therefore, one must attend to him, so that he will pay his penalty and leave.

One who deserves uprooting will be seized and confined in prison until he is uprooted entirely, and sometimes he will be uprooted of his limbs, or of one of them, and afterward he will be released from prison.

One who deserves death, so it is. For if he gives all the ransom and money in the world, he will not be saved.

Even so, there must be a wise doctor to attend to him. If he can provide him with healing of the body, fine; if not, he will provide him with healing for his soul and attend to his soul’s healing. Such is a doctor whom the blessed Holy One will attend to in this world and in the world that is coming.

Rabbi El’azar said, ‘Until now I have never heard of this doctor or this book—except one time when a certain wandering donkey-driver told me that he heard from his father that in his time there was a certain doctor who, when he looked at a person on his sickbed, would say, This one will live, or This one will die. They said of him that he was truly virtuous and sin-fearing, and if anyone could not obtain what he needed, he himself would purchase it, giving of his own. And they said that there was no one in the world as wise as him, and his prayer accomplished more than the work of his hands, and it seems to me that this was the doctor!’

That Jew said, ‘His book is in my hands, because I inherited it from my grandfather. And all the words in that book are all based on mysteries of Torah, and in it I discovered concealed mysteries and many matters of healing, of which he said that it is not proper for anyone to perform them unless he is sin-fearing.

And those were what Balaam used, for he murmured incantations over illness; he spoke with his mouth, and [the person] was instantly healed [cf. M Sanhedrin 10:1; Tosefta Sanhedrin 12:10; JT Sotah 1:4, 16d; Sanhedrin 10:1, 28a–b; Vayiqra Rabbah 9:9; BT Sanhedrin 101a, Shevu’ot 15b; Avot de-Rabbi Natan A, 36; Devarim Rabbah 5:15; Bemidbar Rabbah 9:20].

All of them he clarified in that book, and he said, ‘This is forbidden, and this is permitted for one who is sin-fearing.’ For he mentioned many illnesses who’s cure depends on murmuring of the mouth, deriving from the side of sorcery and some from the side of wizardry. And all those forbidden to be uttered by the mouth and forbidden to be enacted, he discussed. Eventually I found there that for certain illnesses one must say such and such, and expel that illness by banishment and excommunication. That is quite amazing to me!’

Rabbi El’azar rejoiced, and the Companions rejoiced. Rabbi El’azar said, ‘If we had that book, we could see what it really is!’ He replied, ‘I’ll entrust it to you, in order to show it to the Holy Lamp [Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai].’ And we have learned: Rabbi El’azar said, ‘That book was in my hands twelve months, and in it I discovered many sublime precious lights. When we reached those sealed mysteries concerning Balaam, I was astounded.

One day I was whispering incantations in a certain place, and the letters were ascending and descending, until I saw in a dream, and they said to me, What are you doing entering and enquiring in a domain that is not yours, where you need not be?

I awoke, and I was distressed over those sealed mysteries that were there. I sent for that Jew, who is named Rabbi Yose son of Rabbi Yehudah, and I gave him that book. And in the mysteries of Balaam, I found some of those names of angels, sent to him by Balak, though they were not arranged correctly. But in it I found many types of remedies, prepared according to configurations of Torah and her sealed mysteries. And I saw that it depends on kindness, and prayers and please to the blessed Holy One.

Now if you say that he performed healing with verses of Torah—perish the thought! Rather, he would speak mysteries of Torah, and based on that mystery he would produce mysteries of healing, the likes of which I have never seen. I said, Blessed is the Compassionate One who has enlightened human beings by wisdom above.

I grasped some of those matters relating to Balaam, and from them I saw that in the whole world there was no one as wise in sorcery as he. I said, Blessed is the Compassionate One, who has abolished these sorceries from the world, so that human beings will not stray from revering the blessed Holy One [cf. Rashi on BT Pesaḥim 56a; Guide of the Perplexed 3:37]’” (Zohar 3:306a, cf. Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 69, 106a).

“Rabbi Abba was traveling to Cappadocia, accompanied by Rabbi Yose. As they were going, they saw a man approaching who had a mark on his face. Rabbi Abba said, ‘Let us turn off the road, for this one’s face testifies to sexual licentiousness of the Torah, on account of which his face is stigmatized. Rabbi Yose said to him, ‘If he has had this mark since childhood, what licentiousness inheres in him? He replied, ‘I see in his face, which testifies to licentiousness of Torah.’

Rabbi Abba called to him, and said, ‘Tell me something. What is this mark on your face?’ He said to them, ‘I beg of you, don’t punish me any more than what my sins have brought upon me!’

Rabbi Abba said, ‘How is that?’ He replied, ‘One day I was travelling on the road—me and my sister. We stayed at an inn and I got drunk, and all that night I embraced my sister. In the morning I got up, and the innkeeper was quarreling with another man. I got between them and they grappled me, one from this side and one from that, and this wound penetrated my forehead [lit., brain]. I was saved by a certain doctor who was staying with us.’

He asked him, ‘Who was that doctor?’ He replied, ‘It was Rabbi Simlai.’ He said, ‘And what cure did he give you?’ He replied, ‘A cure for the soul. From that day on, I have engaged in teshuvah. And every day I look at my face in a mirror and I weep for that sin before the blessed Holy One, and with those tears I wash my face [cf. Zohar 2:12b: There is no gate that those tears cannot enter].

Rabbi Abba said, ‘Were it not for your becoming deprived of teshuvah, I would remove that mark from your face. But I proclaim over you, Your iniquity is removed and your sin purged (Isaiah 6:7). He said to him, ‘Rabbi say it three times!’ He said it three times and the mark disappeared. Rabbi Abba said, ‘Surely your Lord wished to remove it from you, for you were certainly engaged in teshuvah.’ He said to him, ‘I vow that from this day onward I will engage in Torah day and night.’ He asked him, ‘What is your name?’ He replied, ‘אֶלְעָזָר (El’azar)’ He said, ‘Surely, the name was decisive, for אֵל עָזַר (El azar), God has helped, and assisted you [cf. Tanḥuma, Ha’azinu 7: ‘One should always be careful to choose for his child a name that denotes righteousness, for at times the name itself can be an influence for good or an influence for bad’].’ Rabbi Abba sent him off with a blessing” (Zohar 3:75b–76a).

Let Us Make a Human in Our Image by Our Likeness

IMG_0436I am the first, and I am the last; and besides Me there is no god (Isaiah 44:6). I am the first—I do not have a father; I am the last—I do not have a brother; and besides Me there is no god—I do not have a son” (Shemot Rabbah 29:4).

And God said, ‘Let us make a human’ (Genesis 1:26). It is not written הַאָדָם (ha-adam), the human, but rather אָדָם (adam), a human, indefinite—excluding the one above [namely, הַאָדָם קַדְמוֹן (ha-adam qadmon), the Primordial Human], who was made with a complete name [i.e., יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים (YHWH Elohim) (Genesis 2:7)]” (Zohar 2:178a, cf. ibid. 2:70a–b).

And אֱלֹהִים (Elohimsaid, ‘Let us make a human’ (Genesis 1:26). The secret of יְהוָה (YHWHis for those who fear Him (Psalms 25:14).

The Elder of Elders opened, saying, ‘Shim’on, Shim’on, who is He who said, ‘Let us make a human’—who is this Elohim? Meanwhile, the Elder of Elders vanished. When Rabbi Shim’on heard that he called him Shim’on and not Rabbi Shim’on, he said to the Companions: This is indeed the blessed Holy One of whom is said, And the Ancient of Days took His seat (Daniel 7:9). Now is the time to reveal this secret which was previously forbidden, and permission has now been given to reveal it.

He opened, saying: A king had many buildings to build and he had an אוּמָן (uman), artisan. That artisan did not do anything without the permission of the king, as is written, I was by Him, an אָמוֹן (amon), intimate (Proverbs 8:30) [cf. Guide of the Perplexed 2:4]. The king is most certainly supernal Ḥokhmah above, and the middle pillar is the king below. Elohim, the artisan above is supernal Mother. Elohim, the artisan below, is Shekhinah.

A wife is not permitted to do anything without the permission of her husband. Of all the structures [that emerged] by way of emanation Father would say to Mother, ‘Let there be’ such and such and so it was, immediately. As is written: And said, ‘Elohim let there be light’ and there was light (Genesis 1:3). And said—spoken to Elohim‘Let there be light.’ So Father uttered the words and immediately the artisan, Mother, faithfully performed the task. And this was the same with every structure by way of emanation—Father, would say, ‘Let there be a firmament’ or ‘Let there be lights, and all was performed immediately.

When the world of separation came, which is the world of those divided [see Zohar 1:158a], the artisan said to the architect‘Let us make a human in our image, by our likeness’ (Genesis 1:26). The architect said, ‘It is indeed good that man be made, but he will offend before you, because he is foolish, as is written, A wise son gladdens his father, but a foolish son is his mother’s sorrow (Proverbs 10:1).’

She said, ‘Because his crimes depend on Mother, and not Father, I wish to create him in My own image,’ as is written, And Elohim created the human in His image (Genesis 1:27). She did not want Father, to have any share [although often called Mother, Binah is also ‘World of the Male,’ encompassing the entire configuration of the sefirot from Ḥesed through Yesod. Together they constitute a masculine entity ready to join Shekhinah, see Zohar 1:147a, 149a, 96a, 160b, 246a–247a, 248b; 2:127b; ZḤ 72b (ShS)].

What is written at the time of the sin? For your crimes, your mother was sent away (Isaiah 50:1). The King said to Mother, ‘Did I not tell you that he was destined to offend?’ [cf. BT Shabbat 55a–bZohar Ḥadash 18c]. It was then that he exiled him and exiled Mother with him. Therefore, it is written: A wise son gladdens his father, but a foolish son is his mother’s sorrow. A wise son—man of אֲצִילוּת (atsilut), Emanation. A foolish son—man of בְּרִיָּה (beriah), Creation.

All the Companions rose and said ‘Rabbi! Rabbi! could there be such separation between Father and Mother, [so much so that] from the side of Father he is by way of Atsilut, but from the side of Mother by [way of] Beriah?! He said to them, ‘Companions, Companions, it is not so, because man of Atsilut is male and female, from the aspect of Father and from Mother. This is why Elohim said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light. ‘Let there be light’—from the side of Father; and there was light—from the side of Mother. So man had דוּ פַּרְצוּפִין (du partsufin), two faces [see BT Eruvin 18a].

But to him [of Beri’ah] there is neither image nor likeness [of Father or Mother]. Supernal Mother has but one appellation: Light and… Darkness (Isaiah 45:7), which amounts to eighty-six: Elohim [כִּנּוּי (kinnui), appellation, אֱלֹהִים (Elohim), and הַטֶבַע (ha-teva), Nature, are each numerically equivalent to eighty-six, cf. Rabbi Avraham Abulafia, Get ha-Shemot, 101b (MS Oxford, 1682)]. And that appellation is Light and Darkness [אוֹר וּחֹשֶׁךְ (or u-ḥoshek), Light and Darkness, is numerically equivalent to יִשְׂרָאֵל (yisra’el), Israel]. And because of that appellation of darkness, Father said that man of Beri’ah [Adam Rishon (First Man)], was destined to offend because he is light of the supernal garment.

Light—which the blessed Holy One created on the first day, hiding it away for the righteous alone [see BT Ḥagigah 12a; Bereshit Rabbah 3:6; Vayiqra Rabbah 11:7; Zohar 1:30b–31b; ZḤ 15b (MhN)]. Darkness—created on the first day for the wicked: And the wicked in darkness turn dumb (1 Samuel 2:9). On account of darkness, which would cause light to offend, Father did not wish to partake in his creation. Therefore, Mother said, ‘Let us make a human in our image, by our likeness. In our imagelight. By our likenessdarkness which is a garment for light, just as the body is a garment for the soul, as is written: With skin and flesh You clothed me (Job 10:11). They all rejoiced, saying, ‘How happy is our share that we had the privilege to hear words that were not to be heard until now.’

Rabbi Shim’on delved further, saying, See now that I, I am He, and no אֱלֹהִים (elohim), god, is by My side (Deuteronomy 32:39). Companions, listen to ancient words I wish to reveal since permission from above has been granted. Who is He who said, See now that I, I am He?’ He replied: The עִלַּת עַל כָּל עִלָּאִין (illat al kal illa’in), Cause above all Causes. He that is called עִלַּת הָעִלּוֹת (illat ha-illot), the Cause of Causes, is not high above all the supernal beings, but rather, is a cause among all the rest. Accordingly, every single one of these causes cannot act unless permission comes down from the cause above him, as I said before with, Let us make a human

Let us make—two rungs, and each lower rung said to the one above him, Let us make a human. The lower rung cannot act without permission from the one over him and the one over him cannot act until counsel comes down from the one over him. But He who is called עִלַּת עַל כָּל עִלּוֹת (illat al kal illot), Cause above all Causes, has no equal above nor below, as is written: To whom then will you liken Me, or shall I be equal? says the Holy One (Isaiah 40:25). He said, ‘See now that I, I am He, and no אֱלֹהִים (elohim), god, is by My side’—from whom to take counsel, unlike him of whom is written: And Elohim said, ‘Let us make a human.’

All the Companions rose and said, ‘Rabbi grant us permission to speak. Did you not already say that the Cause of Causes, said to Keter, ‘Let us make a human.’ He said to them: ‘Let your ears hear what your mouth speaks! Have I not just told you that He who is called the Cause of Causes is not He who is called the Cause above all Causes, for the Cause above all Causes has no second from whom He can take counsel. He is Singular, prior to all, and He has no partner [cf. Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles of Jewish Faith].

Accordingly, He said, ‘See now that I, I am He, and no god is by My side’ (Deuteronomy 32:39), from whom to take counsel [cf. BT Sanhedrin 38b; Bereshit Rabbah 8:8]; for He has no second, no partner, and no reckoning. [However,] there is a [certain] oneness in partnership in the manner of male and female, of whom it is said, [Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bore you:] for one I called him [and blessed him, and increased him] (Isaiah 51:2). But He is one without reckoning and without partnership, thus, He says, no god is by My side.’ They all rose, bowed before him and said, ‘Happy is the man whose Master gives him consent to reveal hidden mysteries that were not even revealed to the holy angels.’

He said to them, ‘Companions, we should complete this verse because it contains many mysteries. I put to death and give life (Deuteronomy 32:39)—I put to death and give life by the sefirot. From the right-side life, and from the left-side death. But if both do not agree by mediation of the middle pillar—unless all three settle together—Judgment cannot endure.

At times, all three agree to execute Judgement. Then appears an outstretched יַ״ד (yad), hand, receiving those who return. It is the הֲוָיָה (havayah), Being: יוד הא ואו הא (Yod He Vav He). This is Shekhinah, the right hand from the side of Ḥesed and the left hand from the the side of Gevurah. It is the Hand of YHWH from the aspect of the middle pillar. When a person repents, this יַ״ד (yad), hand, saves him from Judgement. However, when Judgment of the Cause above all Causes: [I smash and I also heal and] none rescues from My hand (Deuteronomy 32:39).

Furthermore, three times it has been said, אֲנִי אֲנִי אֲנִי (ani, ani, ani), I, I, I. [Three iterations of] א (alef) [at its beginning, and three iterations of] י (yod) [at its ending]. Here is the hint: יוד הי ואו הי (Yod He Vav He); יוד הא ואו הא (Yod He Vav He). [The verse also employs] three וָוִין (vavin), ands: וַאֲחַיֶּה (va-aḥayeh), and I give life... וַאֲנִי (va-ani), and I… וְאֵין (ve-ayin), and none They are also hinted at by these [two] names.

Despite all this the Companions have explained it concerning other אֱלֹהִים (elohim), gods, as is written: See now that I, I am He—the blessed Holy One and His Shekhinah. Of His Female is said, אֲנִי (ani), I am, הוּא (hu), He. And no god is by My side—[neither] Samael nor the serpent. I put to death and give lifeI put to death with My Shekhinah whoever is guilty and give life with Her to whoever is righteous. And none rescues from My hand—the יָד (yad), hand, of יהוה (YHWH) [numerically equivalent to י״ד (fourteen)]. יוד הא ואו הא (Yod He Vav He); and it is כוזו במוכסז כוזו (KWZWBMWKSZKWZW) [permutations of the Name]. All these explanations are true. But what we said before is that He is the Cause of Causes—the Cause above all others. And this mystery was not revealed to every sage and prophet [but only the select few among them].

Come and see: How many hidden causes are clothed and conveyed by the sefirot! The sefirot are but chariots to them, for they are concealed from human thought. Of them is written: For he who is high has a higher one watching him, and still higher ones over them (Ecclesiastes 5:7)—glaring white lights, these above those, but those that are receptacles are darkness compared to the others above them. And their is no light that can exist before עִלַּת הָעִלּוֹת (illat ha-illot), the Cause of Causes, all lights are darkened before Him.

Another explanation of the Companions: Let us make a human in our image, by our likenessthe ministering angels spoke this. He [Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai] said to them: Since the angels already know the past and future, they already knew that he was destined to offend. Why would they want to make him? [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 8:6]. 

Not only that, but Aza and Azael also opposed [see Bereshit Rabbati, (Albeck) 29:14–31:8]. When Shekhinah said to the blessed Holy One, Let us make a human, they protested: What is a human creature that You should know him, [the son of man, that You pay him mind?] (Psalms 144:3). Why do You wish to create man when You know that he is destined to offend before You, with her who is darkness, since light is male and darkness female—left, darkness of Creation [see Bahir §13]. At that moment, Shekhinah said to them: You will fall by the same reasoning that you denounce! [cf. BT Qiddushin 70a: ‘And he who declares unfit is unfit and never speaks in praise. And Shemu’el said: With his own blemish he stigmatizes as unfit’]. As is written: The sons of God saw that the daughters of men were comely, and they took themselves wives whomsoever they chose (Genesis 6:2), so they went astray after them. Fittingly Shekhinah caused them to fall from their holiness.

The Companions said, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi, Aza and Azael did not lie! For man was certainly destined to offend with the female.’ He replied: This is what Shekhinah said, ‘You have made accusations before me that go beyond those of all the hosts above. If you were better than humans in your actions, you would have had a right to accuse him, but man will offend with only one woman, while you [are destined to offend] with many women. Therefore, your offences surpass those of man, as is written: The sons of God saw that the daughters of men were comely, and they took themselves wives whomsoever they chose (Genesis 6:2). It is not written: the daughter of men, but rather the daughters of men. If man is liable, I have prepared תְּשׁוּבָה (teshuvah), repentance, for him to repair the offence.’

The Companions asked, ‘If so, why all this?’ Rabbi Shim’on replied: If the blessed Holy One had not created [the] good and evil [impulses], which are light and darkness, there would not have been any merit or liability for the man of Beri’ah. So man was created with both, as is written: See, I have set before you today life and good and death and evil, that I charge you today to love YHWH your God, to go in His ways and to keep His commands and His statutes and His Laws (Deuteronomy 30:15). They asked him [yet again]: Why all this? Better had He not created darkness. Then man would have no reward and no punishment [cf. Zohar 3:159a].

He said to them: It was right to create him in this way because Torah was created for his sake, since it contains punishments for the wicked and rewards for the righteous. Thus, there can be no reward for the righteous nor punishment for the wicked without the man of Beri’ahHe did not create it a wasteland. He formed it to be inhabited (Isaiah 45:18). They said, ‘Indeed, now we have certainly heard what we had never heard before. It is now clear that the blessed Holy One did not create anything that was unnecessary’ [cf. M Avot 4:3].

Furthermore, Torah of Beri’ah is the garment of Shekhinah. If man had not been created, She would have remained without clothing, just like a pauper. Therefore, whoever offends strips Shekhinah of Her garments [cf. Leviticus 18:7]. This is the punishment for man. And whoever performs decrees of Torah clothes Shekhinah in Her garments. Accordingly, about the garments of tsitsit and tefillin it says, For it is his sole covering, it is his cloak for his skin—in what can he lie? (Exodus 22:26). This applies during exile when Shekhinah is stripped of Her garments.

Come and see: Darkness is black [fire, or ink] of Torah. Light is the white [fire, or negative space] of Torah [see Zohar 2:84a, 226b]” (Zohar 1:22a–23a, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar).

Missing the Mark and a Precious Pearl of Advice

684px-Shepherd_boy_slinging_(LC-DIG-matpc-05262)“There were once some hooligans in the neighbourhood of Rabbi Me’ir who caused him a great deal of trouble. Rabbi Me’ir prayed for mercy on them, that they should die. Rabbi Me’ir’s wife, Berurya, said to him: What is your thinking? Because it is written Let חַטָּאִים (ḥatta’im), offences, vanish (Psalms 104:35). Is it written חוֹטּאִים (ḥott’im), offenders? It is written ḥatta’im (offences)! Further, look at the end of the verse: and the wicked be no more. Since the offences will cease, there will be no more wicked men! Rather pray for them that they should return [to the right way], and there will be no more wicked. He did pray for them, and they returned” (BT Berakhot 10a).

Every one of them could sling a stone at a hair, and not יַחֲטִא (yaḥati), miss (Judges 20:16).

There is no man righteous on earth who does good and will not יֶחֱטָא (yaḥeta), offend (Ecclesiastes 7:20).

For a nation lost in counsel are they (Deuteronomy 32:28)—Rabbi Yehudah explains the verse in reference to Israel, but Rabbi Neḥemiah explains it in reference to the nations of the world. Rabbi Yehudah explains the verse in reference to Israel: Israel has lost the good sense that had been given them. For, actually, counsel implies Torah, as is said: Mine is counsel and prudence, [I am Discernment, mine is might] (Proverbs 8:14).

There is no understanding among them (Deuteronomy 32:28)—there isn’t one of them clever enough to observe and wonder: Yesterday, one of us would pursue a thousand of the nations, and two of us would put 10,000 to flight. But now, one of the nations pursues a thousand of us, and two put 10,000 of us to flight—is it not Had not their Rock handed them over, [had YHWH not given them up] (ibid. 32:30)?

Rabbi Neḥemiah explains it in reference to the nations: The nations have lost the seven commandments that I gave them, there is no understanding among them.

In the days of Messiah, there won’t be one of them clever enough to observe and wonder: Now, one of them pursues a thousand of us, and two of them puts 10,000 of us to flight—is it not Had not their Rock handed them over?” (Sifrei, Deuteronomy 322).

“Our Rabbis taught: Beloved are Israel, for the blessed Holy One surrounded them with mitsvot: tefillin on their heads, tefillin on their arms, tsitsit on their garments, and mezuzot on their doorposts; concerning these David said, Seven times daily I praise you because of Your righteous laws (Psalms 119:164). And as David entered the bath and saw himself standing naked, he exclaimed, ‘אוֹי (Oy) that I stand naked without any mitsvah!’ But when he reminded himself of the circumcision in his flesh his mind was set at ease. And when he came out he sang a psalm of praise concerning it, as is written, To the lead player, on the eight, A David psalm (Psalms 12:1); that is, concerning circumcision which was given [for the] eighth [day].

Rabbi Eli’ezer son of Ya’aqov said, Whosoever has the tefillin on his head, the tefillin on his arm, the tsitsit on his garment, and the mezuzah on his doorpost, is in absolute security and will not יֶחֱטָא (yaḥeta), offend, as is written, [And if one should attack him, the two will stand against him.] And the triple cord will not quickly be snapped (Ecclesiastes 4:12); and it is also written, YHWH’s messenger encamps round those who fear Him and sets them free (Psalms 34:8)” (BT Menaḥot 43b).

“Rabbi Ḥanina and Rabbi Yonatan were walking on the road and came to a parting of ways, one led by the door of a place of idol-worship and the other led by a whore house. One said to the other: Let us go by the place of idolatry since the impulse for it has been abolished [see BT Sanhedrin 64a]. The other, however, said: Let us go by the whore house and defy our impulse and have our reward. As they approached the place they saw the whores withdraw at their presence. One said to the other: How did you know this? He said מְזִמָּה (Mezimmah) will watch over you, discernment will keep you, [to save you from a way of evil, from a man who speaks perversely] (Proverbs 2:11).

The Rabbis said to Rava: How is this word מְזִמָּה (mezimmah) to be understood [since it has the twofold meaning of cunning, and depravitity]? Shall it be rendered Torah since the word זִמָּה (zimmah) in Scripture is rendered in the Targum [Onqelos], She is counsel of the wicked (Leviticus 18:17); and Scripture has the phrase, Wonderful is His counsel, and excellent His wisdom (Isaiah 28:29)? But in that case the word should have been זִמָּה (zimmah). This, then, is how it is to be understood, ‘Against things of זִמָּה (zimmah), depravitity, She [מְזִמָּה (mezimmah), Cunning, i.e., Torah] will watch over you'” (BT Avodah Zarah 17b, cf. Sifrei, Deuteronomy 322; Midrash Tanna’im, Deuteronomy 32:28; Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana 12:12; Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah on 8:5).

“A king had a precious pearl, and it was the treasure of his kingdom” (Bahir §72).

“Torah, who offers advice to the whole world… and she warns the inhabitants of the world, saying, ‘Look how compassionately your Lord treats you! A precious pearl that He had, He has sold to you for nothing, that you might have dominion over it in the world” (Zohar 2:97a).

“For we have learned: Torah has given 613 types of advice to a person in order for him to be complete with his Lord, for his Lord wants to benefit him in this world and in the world that is coming—especially in the world that is coming” (Zohar 2:82b).

 

The Righteous Who Suffer, the Wicked Who Prosper

There are righteous to whom it befalls as though they did wickedly, and there are wicked to whom it befalls as though they did righteously (Ecclesiastes 8:14).

Please, let me know Your ways (Exodus 33:13). [Moses] said before Him, ‘Master of the Universe, why do some of the righteous prosper while others suffer? And why do some of the wicked prosper while others suffer? He replied, ‘Moses, a righteous one who prospers is righteous born of righteous; a righteous one who suffers is righteous born of wicked. A wicked one who prospers is wicked born of righteous; a wicked one who suffers is wicked born of wicked'” (BT Berakhot 7a).

“What is the meaning of the verse Why do You tolerate traitors, and keep silent while the wicked swallows up the one more righteous than he? (Habakkuk 1:13). Can the wicked swallow up the righteous?… This means, however: He swallows up the one who is only more righteous than he, but he cannot swallow up the one who is completely righteous” (BT Berakhot 7b).

“Sons, life and sustenance do not depend on merit but מַזָּלא (mazzala), the flux of destiny. For [take] Rabbah and Rav Ḥisda. Both were saintly; one master prayed for rain and it came, the other master prayed for rain and it came. Rav Ḥisda lived to the age of ninety-two, Rabbah lived to the age of forty. In Rav Ḥisda’s house sixty marriage feasts were held, at Rabbah’s house there were sixty bereavements. At Rav Ḥisda’s house there was the purest wheaten bread for dogs, and it was not wanted; at Rabbah’s house there was barley bread for human beings and that not to be had” (BT Mo’ed Qatan 28a).

For there is no man righteous on earth who does good and will not offend (Ecclesiastes 7:20).

“According to his merits and liabilities. As we have explained, he who does one mitsvah is treated well. He who is average, is a person whose merits and liabilities are balanced, the half of merits is below and the half of debts below. This is the secret of What is your petition, and it shall be granted to you, and what is your request? Up to half the kingdom, and it shall be done! (Esther 5:6). In the case of a completely righteous man, all his merits are above and his liabilities below. For a completely wicked man, his liabilities are above and his merits are below” (Zohar 3:111a, Ra’aya Meheimna Behar).

“If his offences are many and his mitsvot few, then he receives his reward in this world, [and this] is a wicked man who prospers… The masters of Mishnah taught: ‘Woe to him for whom the hour smiles’ [for he receives his reward during his lifetime] (BT Berakhot 7b)” (Zohar 3:230b, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

When the wicked spring up as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed forever (Psalms 92:8).