The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: stars

The Mixed Multitude; The Motley Throng

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בְּנֵי בְלִיַּעַל (Benei veliyya’al), worthless men, have come out from your midst and they have thrust away the inhabitants of their town, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” that you do not know (Deuteronomy 13:14).

Those who ravage you, destroy you, shall issue from you (Isaiah 49:17).

“May it be Your will, YHWH my God and God of my fathers, that You break and destroy the yoke of the evil impulse from our heart. For You created us to do Your will, and we must do Your will; You desire it and we desire it. So who prevents it? The leaven in the dough [i.e., the עֵרֶב רַב (erev rav), mixed multitude, motley throng, cf. BT Qiddushin 71b: ‘Rabbi El’azar said: Ezra did not go up from Babylon (to the land of Israel) until he made it like pure sifted flour: then he went up’]” (JT Berakhot 4:2, 7d).

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

Moses said, ‘Master of the Universe! Now that they have seen Your power, they want to convert. Let them see Your power every day and they will know that there is no God but You.’ And Moses accepted them” (Zohar 2:191a, cf. ibid. 2:45b, 191a, 195a).

“Israel is recognized in these qualities to be the children of the blessed Holy One and His Shekhinah; that is, that there should be among them worthy men, as in the verse: A worthy woman is her husband’s crown [but like rot in his bones a shameful wife] (Proverbs 12:4), for they are bestowed with loving-kindness, such as those who fear God. Truthful men (Exodus 18:21)—and not men of falsehood, for the remnant of Israel shall do no offence, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth (Zephaniah 3:13). Haters of bribes (Exodus 18:21)as a man who rejoices in his portion [see M Avot 4:1]. And they are not as a motley throng [or: mixed multitude], the children of the wicked slavegirl [Lilit] who are as a serpent before whom is the whole land, as it is written: and dust shall be the serpent’s food (Isaiah 65:25)—he fears eating the dust until he is full, for he is afraid that there will not be enough for him. This is how it is with men of unjust gain, for even if they had all the money in the world, it would never be enough for them” (Zohar 3:229b, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

“And since the עֵרֶב רַב (erev rav), mixed multitude [or: motley throng], are the leaven in the dough [which עַרֵב (erev), mix, with Israel] and the nations of the world are like chaff, the mixed multitude detains Israel in exile more than the idolaters do, as the rabbis taught. But what prevents us? The mixed multitude [which] stick to Israel as does the leaven to the dough, but the nations of the world are no more than chaff that the wind drives away (Psalms 1:4)….

Furthermore, when the mixed multitude were intermingled with Israel, what is written? Her adversaries have become the chief (Lamentations 1:5)…. And not only that, but when the children of Israel are in exile it is said about them: What prevents [their redemption]? The yeast in the dough, for the Masters of Mishnah have taught: When the mixed multitude are the chiefs over Israel it is as though the rule of the blessed Holy One is removed and they come under the rule of the jurisdiction of the stars and planets. This is why they cry out, saying, O YHWH our God, other lords besides You have had dominion over us: but by You only will we make mention of Your Name (Isaiah 26:13)” (Zohar 3:232a, 237b, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

Above the Stars

IMG_0978“And those who do not know the mystery [of cycling souls] say: ‘Sons, life and sustenance do not depend on merit but מַזָּלא (mazzala), the flux of destiny’ (BT Mo’ed Qatan 28a). Take the case of Abram, who saw that he was not destined to have a son, and the blessed Holy One took him outside, as is written: And He took him outside and He said, ‘Look… (Genesis 15:5). And it has been taught that He said to him: ‘Leave your astrology!’ (Bereshit Rabbah 44:12) [cf. BT Shabbat 156b]. And He took him above the stars and said to him: Look up to the heavens and count the stars, if you can count them (Genesis 15:5). So much for the words of the Rabbis, for they must be interpreted in the way of the hidden!

Come and see: All creatures in the world, before the Torah was given to Israel, were dependent on מַזָּלא (mazzala), destiny, even ‘sons, life and sustenance.’ But after the Torah was given to Israel, He removed Israel from the influence of the stars and constellations [Thus says YHWH, ‘Learn not the way of the nations, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the nations are dismayed at them’ (Jeremiah 10:2)]. This we have learned from Abraham, since his children were destined to receive from אַבְרָהָם (Avraham), Abraham: ה (he)—ה״ (five) books of Torah, as is said: ‘These are the generations of heaven and earth 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. 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]. He said to Abraham ‘Because of that ה (he) which was added to your name, the heavens below you and all the stars and constellations that shine in ה (he) [Shekhinah] will be subservient to your will.’

Moreover, it is written: הֵא (he), look… here is seed for you, and sow the land (Genesis 47:23)—with ה (he). That is, For through Isaac shall your seed be acclaimed (Genesis 21:12). For this reason, everyone who engages in Torah is released from the influence of the stars and constellations. By learning Torah with the intention of keeping her commandments. If not, then he is as one who does not engage in Torah, and the stars and constellations do hold sway over him. Even more so the common people, who are likened to animals, about which it has been taught, Cursed be he who lies with any beast (Deuteronomy 27:21). The jurisdiction of the stars and constellations over them is certainly not annulled [cf. Maimonides’ teaching that divine providence delivers one from ‘the sea of chance’ Guide of the Perplexed 3:51]” (Zohar 3:215b–17a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

“Surely Jacob cleaved to truth. If so, then why did he act this way with Laban [using stratagems to increase the number of dark-colored sheep and white-spotted goats, see Genesis 30:32–43]? Because Jacob was examining the hour of his מַזָּלא (mazzala), zodiacal constellation, for one is permitted to examine his hour before returning to his country. If his constellation rises in accord with his undertaking, fine; if not, he should not take a step until it ascends favorably” (Zohar 1:161a).

“Why are the nations lustful? Because they did not stand at Mount Sinai. For when the serpent came upon Eve he injected filth into her: [as for] the Israelites who stood at Mount Sinai, their lustfulness departed; the nations, who did not stand at Mount Sinai, their lustfulness did not depart. Rabbi Aha son of Rabbah asked Rabbi Ashi. What about converts? Though they were not present, their guiding stars were present, as is written, [Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oathbut with him that stands here with us this day before YHWH our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day (Deuteronomy 29:15). Now he differs from Rabbi Abba son of Qahana, for Rabbi Abba son of Qahana said: Until three generations the filth did not disappear from our patriarchs: Abraham begat Ishmael, Isaac begat Esau, [but] Jacob begat the twelve tribes in whom there was no taint whatsoever” (BT Shabbat 145b–146a, cf. Yevamot 103b; Avodah Zarah 22b).

Leave Your Father’s House, Go to Yourself!

Image“[Abraham] already knew and tested all those rulers conducting the entire inhabited world; he already balanced and tested those who ruled throughout the world, conducting stars and constellations—who overpowered whom. He had succeeded in balancing the entire inhabited world, but when he reached this site [the land of Canaan] he saw an unbearable, impenetrable potency of depths.

Once the blessed Holy One saw his arousal and desire, He immediately revealed Himself to him, saying Go to yourself (Genesis 12:1), to know yourself to refine yourself. From your land—from that habitation to which you clung. From your birthplace—from that wisdom through which you envision and gauge your birth, the precise moment you were born, under which star and constellation. From your father’s house—do not consider your father’s house, whether you are rooted in your father’s house to succeed in the world. So, Go you forth!—from this wisdom, this speculation” (Zohar 1:78a).

“The emperor said to Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Ḥananiah, ‘I wish to behold your God.’ … He went and placed the emperor facing the sun during the summer solstice. He said to him, ‘Look at it.’ He replied, ‘I cannot.’ Rabbi Yehoshu’a said, ‘If at the sun—which is but one of the ministering servants of the blessed Holy One—you admit you cannot look, how much more so the Shekhinah” (BT Ḥullin 59b–60a).

“Rabbi Ya’aqov of the village of Naburaya in Tyre expounded: To You silence is praise, God, in Zion (Psalms 65:1)—silence sums it all up, as regarding a priceless pearl, all who attempt to praise it [merely] diminish its value’” (JT Berakhot 9:1, 4f).

“Rabbi Yose and Rabbi iyya were traveling on the road. As they were going along, night dusked; they sat down. While they were sitting, the day lightened. They said, ‘Let us rise and go on.’ They rose and went on; morning began to glow.

Rabbi iyya said, ‘Look at the face of the east, how it shines! Now all those children of the East, of mountains of light, are bowing to this light and worshiping it before the sun comes out. For once the sun comes out, how many there are who worship the sun! But these are those who worship this light, calling this light—which shines in the zone of the sun before it emerges—‘God of the shining pearl,’ and their oath is by ‘God of the shining pearl.’

‘Now, you might say, ‘This worship is in vain.’ But since ancient, primeval days they have thereby known wisdom. When the sun lightens, before emerging, the prince appointed over the sun emerges, with holy letters of the supernal holy Name inscribed above the head of the sun. By the powers of those letters, he opens all the windows of heaven, striking them and passing. That prince enters the radiance shining around the sun, and there he remains until the sun comes forth, spreading through the world. That prince is in charge of gold and all rubies, and they worship that image there. With points and signs inherited from the ancients, from primeval days, they come to know the points of the sun, enabling them to find the location of gold and gems.’

Rabbi Yose said, ‘How long will all these rites persist in the world! Surely falsehood has no pillars on which to stand [cf. BT Shabbat, 104a]!’

The other one opened, saying, ‘The lip of truth will be established forever, but the tongue of falsehood lasts only a moment (Proverbs 12:19). Come and see: If all inhabitants of the world worshiped falsehood, it would be so. But the light and shining radiance are surely true; stars aloft in the sky are true. If out of stupidity and deficiency, they call them ‘God,’ the blessed Holy One does not wish to destroy His own creation. Even in the time to come, the stars and luminaries of the world will not be destroyed. But who will be destroyed? Those who worship them [cf. BT Avodah Zarah 54b]” (Zohar 2:188a).