The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: sufferings

All the Time, Constantly, Chastening Them Little by Little

Hen“Rava said: What is written, אִם בְּפִידוֹ לָהֶן שִׁוֵּ֑עַ (Im befido lahen shivea’), but one would not reach out against a heap of ruins if in his disaster he screamed (Job 30:24)?—the blessed Holy One said to Israel, ‘When I judge Israel, I do not judge them as I do the nations, as is written, I will overturn, overturn, overturn it (Ezekiel 21:32) but I only exact payment from them as the hen does her כְּפִיד (kefid), picking’ [playing on בְּפִידוֹ (befido), in his disaster].

Another interpretation: Even if Israel does before Me but few mitsvot, like hens picking in a rubbish heap, I will make it accumulate לְחֶשְׁבּוֹן (le-ḥeshbon), to a (large) sum, as is said, If כְּפִידוּ (kefidu), they pick, לָהֶן שׁוּעַ (lahen shu’a), they are rescued (Job 30:24)….

Rabbi Abbahu praised Rav Safra to the sectarians as a learned man, and he was exempted by them from paying taxes for thirteen years. One day, on coming across him, they said to him: It is written Only with you was I intimate of all the clans of the earth. Therefore will I make a reckoning with you for all your crimes (Amos 3:2)—if one is in anger does he vent it on his friend? But [Rav Safra] was silent and did not reply, so they wound a scarf round his neck and tormented him. When Rabbi Abbahu came and found him he said to them: Why do you torment him? They said: Have you not told us that he is a great man? he cannot explain to us the meaning of this verse! He said: I told you that [with regards to the Oral Law and the teachings of the] Tanna’im; did I tell you [he was learned] in Scripture? They said: How is it then that you know it? He said: We who are among you, set ourselves the task of studying it thoroughly, but those [of Babylonia] do not study it as thoroughly. They said: Will you then tell us the meaning? He said: I will explain it with a parable. To what may the matter be compared? A man who is the creditor of two people, one of them a friend, the other an enemy; of his friend he will accept payment little by little, whereas of his enemy he will exact payment in one sum!” (BT Avodah Zarah 4a).

“Rabbi Eli’ezer said: It is like a king who became angry at his son, and who had in his hand a sword. The king swore he would pass the sword on his son because he angered him. But later the king said, If I do so, my son will no longer live. But also, he could not nullify the royal decree. What did the king do? He placed the sword into its sheath and passed the sword on his son’s head.

Rabbi Ḥanina said: It is like a king who became angry with his son. He had in front of him a boulder and swore that he would heave it at him. But later the king said: If I heave it at him he will no longer live. What did he do? He crushed the boulder into pebbles and tossed them at his son one at a time. It turned out that he neither hurt his son nor nullified his royal decree” (Midrash Tehillim 6:3).

“Rav Hamnuna the First, ‘Distress and affliction of Israel bring them many benefits and advantages. The ease of other nations brings them many evils. דְּחִיקוּ (Deḥiqu), distress, and affliction of Israel brings them benefit and advantage. What is that? כָּלָּה (Kallah), Bride—כֹּלָּא דָּחִיק (kolla daḥiq), all pointed [i.e., vocalized]. רִפְיוֹן (Rifyon), ease, of the other nations brings them rifyon, weakness, and evil. What is that? כָלָה (Khalah), complete destruction (Jeremiah 46:28). This is just what they deserve, for all the rifyon, ease—without deḥiqu, distress—that they had in this world causes them rifyon, weakness, afterward, without deḥiqu, pointing: כָלָה (khalah), complete destruction; For כָלָה וְנֶחֱרָצָה (khalah ve-neḥeratsah), a decreed destruction, I have heard (Isaiah 28:22); For I will make כָלָה (khalah), a complete destruction, all in rifyon, weakness. But for Israel, who had deḥiqu, distress, and affliction—כַּלָּה (Kallah), A bride, will adorn herself with her ornaments (ibid. 61:10). Who are her ornaments? Israel, who are the ornaments of this Bride.

For Israel, who endured distress and affliction, I will raise the fallen booth of David (Amos 9:11)—the booth of peace. For the other nations, who had rifyon, ease—torment, trouble and torment (Isaiah 30:6); כָלָה (khalah)complete destruction, in rifyon, weakness, as they had before. So, For I will make כָלָה (khalah)an end, of all the nations… but of you I will not make khalah, an end—since you were already deḥiqu, distressed, and כַּלָּה (Kallah), the Bride, will be deḥiqu, pointed [cf. BT Berakhot 6b, in the name of Abbaye; Zohar 3:239a (RM); TZ 12, 27a; ZḤ 118c (Tiq)].

I will chasten you לַמִּשְׁפָּט (la-mishpat), for justice (Jeremiah 46:28). This verse should be read I will chasten you בַמִּשְׁפָּט (va-mishpat), in justice—for when are chastenings? At the time of judgment. Yet here, not so; rather I will chasten you la-mishpat, for justice. However, it is written: YHWH will enter בְּמִשְׁפָּט (be-mishpat), into judgment, against the elders of His people (Isaiah 3:14). On that day, the blessed Holy One will provide a remedy for Israel in advance, before they appear for judgment, so that they will be able to endure. What is that? All the time, constantly, He chastens them little by little, so that when they appear for judgment, it will not prevail over them.

And I will surely not leave you unpunished (Jeremiah 46:28). What is meant by that? Well, when the people of Israel are by themselves—not appearing for judgment with the other nations—the blessed Holy One deals with them beyond the line of strict justice, atoning for them. When they appear for judgment among the other nations, what does He do? The blessed Holy One knows that Samael, the guardian [of the other nations], will come to call attention to Israel’s sins, all of which he has accumulated for himself for the Day of Judgment. So He provides a remedy for them in advance, and for every single sin He strikes them with chastening little by little. When they appear for judgment, Samael comes with many lists against them. The blessed Holy One takes out lists of the chastenings that Israel has endured for every single sin, and all the sins are expunged—without His showing them any leniency at all. Then [Samael’s] power and strength fade, and he cannot prevail against them” (Zohar 3:199a–b).

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He is Unclean, He shall Dwell Apart: Yet it was Our Sickness He was Bearing!

“Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi met Elijah at the opening of the cave of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai [cf. 1 Kings 19:8–9]. He asked him: ‘Do I have a portion in the world to come?’ He said, ‘If this lord desires.’ Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi said, ‘I saw two, but heard the voice of a third [i.e., the Shekhinah (Rashi)].’ He then asked him, ‘When will the Messiah come?’ ‘Go and ask him himself,’ he replied. ‘Where is he sitting?’ He said, ‘At the portal of the city [of Rome (GRA)].’ ‘And by what sign may I recognize him?’ He said, ‘He is sitting among the ill, poor, and suffering: everyone of them untie all at once and rebandage them together, whereas he unties and rebandages each separately [before treating the next], thinking, should I be wanted, I must not be delayed [by having to bandage a number of sores].’ So he went to him and greeted him, saying, ‘Peace be upon you, Rabbi and Teacher.’ ‘Peace be upon you son of Levi,’ he replied. ‘When will you come Master?’ he asked, ‘Today,’ he replied. On his returning to Elijah, he asked, ‘What did he say to you?’ ‘Peace be upon you Son of Levi,’ he replied. [Elijah] said, ‘He thereby assured you and your father of [a portion in] the world to come.’ ‘He spoke a lie to me, saying that he would come today, but has not.’ [Elijah] answered him, ‘This is what he said to you, Today, if you would only heed His voice!’ (Psalms 95:7)” (BT Sanhedrin 98a).

“The Rabbis said: [The Messiah,] his name is חִיוְורָא (ḥivvra), White, of the House of Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nasi], as is written, Indeed, he has borne our illness, and our sorrows he has carried. But we had reckoned him plagued, God-stricken and tormented (Isaiah 53:4) [i.e., the Messiah is as הַמְּצֹרָע (ha-metsora), the one afflicted with skin blanch—he is called unclean and dwells outside the camp (Rashi)]” (BT Sanhedrin 98b).

And the person afflicted with skin blanch, in whom the affliction is, his clothes shall be torn and his hair disheveled, and his moustache he shall cover, and he shall call out, “Unclean! Unclean!” All the days that the affliction is on him he shall remain unclean. He is unclean. He shall dwell apart. Outside the camp shall his dwelling be (Leviticus 13:45–46).

Indeed, he has borne our illness, and our sorrows he has carried. But we had reckoned him plagued, God-stricken and tormented. Yet he was wounded for our crimes, crushed for our transgressions. The chastisement that restored our well-being he bore, and through his bruising we were healed (Isaiah 53:4–5).

This shall be the teaching concerning הַמְּצֹרָע (ha-metsora), the one afflicted with skin blanch—הַמוֹצִיא רָע (ha-motsi ra), the one who utters evil. Rabbi Ḥiyya said, ‘If anyone produces evil speech, all his limbs are defiled and he deserves to be confined, for that evil word rises and arouses an impure spirit upon him, defiling him” (Zohar 3:53a).

“Yet he who [continually] declares [others] unclean is [himself] unclean and never speaks in praise [of people]. And Shemu’el said: With his own blemish he stigmatizes [others] as unclean” (BT Qiddushin 70a).

“When [the souls in the Garden of Eden below roam on every new moon and Sabbath] they tell the Messiah about the suffering of Israel in exile and about the wicked among them who do not seek to know their Lord, he weeps aloud over the wicked, as is written: But he was wounded for our sins, crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5). Those souls return and stand in their places.

In the Garden of Eden there is one chamber called the Chamber of the Ill. The Messiah then enters that chamber and calls for all the illnesses, all the pains, and all the sufferings of Israel to come upon him, and they all do so. And if he did not ease them off of Israel, taking them upon himself, no one could endure the sufferings of Israel from the punishments of Torah, as is written: Yet it was our sickness that he was bearing (Isaiah 53:4). Similarly, Rabbi El’azar on earth [see BT Bava Metsi’a 83b–84b].

For innumerable are the sufferings looming over a person every day, all of which descended into the world at the time when Torah was given. When the people of Israel were in the Holy Land, they eliminated all those illnesses and sufferings from the world through rituals and sacrifices. Now, the Messiah removes them from inhabitants of the world, until a person departs from this world and receives punishment, as has been said. Except for the extremely wicked, who are sent deep within Hell, into those other compartments, where they are punished severely for the extreme filth of the soul; then intense fire is kindled to consume that filth. Woe to the soul who suffers that punishment! Furthermore, angels of destruction harass them with rods of fire to shake out that filth. Woe to the soul who suffers that punishment! Happy are those who keep the commandments of Torah!” (Zohar 2:212a, cf. Zohar Ḥadash 56c).

For this command which I charge you today is not too wondrous for you nor is it distant. It is not in the heavens, to say, “Who will go up for us to the heavens and take it for us and let us hear it, that we may do it?” And it is not beyond the sea, to say, “Who will cross over for us beyond the sea and take it for us and let us hear it, that we may do it?” But the word is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it (Deuteronomy 30:11–14).

You are good and do good. Teach me Your statutes. The arrogant plaster me with lies—I with whole heart keep Your decrees. Their heart grows dull like fat—as for me, in Your teaching I delight. It was good for me that I was afflicted, so that I might learn Your statutes. Better for me Your mouth’s teaching than thousands of pieces of silver and gold (Psalms 119:68–72).

“Rabbi Abba said, ‘Yose, my son, I will tell you what happened to me with the Holy Lamp [Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai]. One day we were walking in the valley of Ono, delving into Torah that whole day. Due to the intensity of the sun, we sat ourselves down in the cleft of a certain rock [this recalls the cleft of the rock where God revealed His back to Moses (Exodus 33:22–23). Similarly, here, a profound mystery is revealed: the suffering of the righteous]. I said to him, ‘How is it that whenever the wicked proliferate in the world, the righteous among them are smitten on their account? For we have learned as follows: ‘For a generation’s חוֹבָא (ḥova), sin [lit., liability, debt], the righteous are seized.’ Why? If because they do not reprimand the world for their deeds, well, there are many who do reprimand but are not heeded, and the righteous are overwhelmed by them. And if it is so that there will be no one to protect the world, then let them not die and not be seized for the sins [of the world], since the righteous find joy in the destruction [of the wicked].’

He replied, ‘For a generation’s sin, the righteous are surely seized, and we have established these matters. But when the righteous are seized with illness or afflictions, it is in order to atone for the world; then all sins of the generation are purged. How do we know this? From all members of the body. When all the members are in distress—grave illness prevailing over them—one member must suffer so that all of them may be healed. Which one is it? The arm. The arm is struck and blood is drawn from it, and then all members of the body are healed.

Similarly, inhabitants of the world are bodily members, interlinked. When the blessed Holy One wishes to grant healing to the world, He strikes one righteous person among them, and through him provides healing to all. How do we know this? As is written: But he was wounded for our sins, crushed for our iniquities, and by his wound we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). And by his wound—bloodletting, like someone letting blood from his arm. By that wound we are healed—healing comes to us, to all members of the body.

Never is a righteous person smitten except to provide healing to the generation and to atone for them. This is the mystery of ‘a righteous one who suffers,’ for the Other Side prefers most of all that Judgment should overwhelm a righteous one—for then he does not care about the whole world and ignores them because of the joy of dominating him [cf. Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 1a–b]. Yet that righteous person attains supreme dominion in this world and in the world that is coming. As for ‘a righteous one who prospers,’ this is because the blessed Holy One does not care to atone for the world’” (Zohar 3:217b–18b).

Vitality of the World

Add. 27006“Rabbi Me’ir said, ‘When a person is in distress, what expression does the Shekhinah say? As it were: My head is lighter, my arm is lighter [a euphemism for feeling heaviness and pain].’

If so for the Omnipresent in distress on account of the blood of the wicked when it is shed, how much more so on account of the blood of the righteous!” (M Sanhedrin 6:5).

“We learned in the primary compisition: ‘The Other Side prefers most of all that Judgment should overwhelm a righteous one—for then he does not care about the [debts owed him by the] whole world and ignores them’ (Zohar 3:218a) [cf. Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 1a–b]. While [the Companions] were still discussing, a shade [the spirit of Rabbi Pinḥas son of Ya’ir] came upon them and asked: ‘How do we know? We know from Job. For the blessed Holy One, saw that generation was deserving of annihilation, and when the adversary came to denounce, the blessed Holy One said to him: Have you paid heed to My servant Job, for there is none like him on earth (Job 1:8) in order to save the whole generation through him. The matter can be likened to a shepherd when a wolf comes to devour his flock and destroy them. Being wise, what does the shepherd do? He gives the wolf a lamb that is stronger, fatter, and larger than the others, the leader of the flock, and the wolf, out of his desire to have control over the lamb, forgets about the rest of the flock. What does the shepherd do next? While the wolf is preoccupied with that lamb, he flees with the flock and brings them to safety. Later, he returns to the lamb and saves it from the wolf.

This is exactly what the blessed Holy One, did with the generation. He offered the righteous one for indictment in order to save the generation on his account. And if, like Jacob, he is strong, the verse says of him: and a man wrestled with him (Genesis 32:25). This is even more the case when he overcomes, until he says: Let me go (ibid., 27).’ He said: ‘O Shade! O Shade! It certainly must be so. Happy is the portion of that righteous man who is strong in suffering afflictions, and how much more so the one who, by means of his [afflictions], manages to overcome his denouncer who has his control over the whole generation, and it is accounted to him as though he had rescued them, and the blessed Holy One, appoints him as shepherd over them in place [of the adversary]. This was how the Faithful Shepherd [Moses] came to be the shepherd over Israel, and not only that, but he will lead them in the next world. And this was because he saved them that they should not be lost, for he guided them in Torah and mitsvot.’

While they were yet talking, the Faithful Shepherd himself came and said to them: ‘And why was the right arm afflicted? The way of all physicians is to draw blood initially from the right arm. Since the left arm is the one that is nearer the heart, why is blood not let from it [i.e., why is it that one righteous man is afflicted and not another (Sullam), cf. BT Mo’ed Qatan 28a]?’ He answered: ‘Because the blessed Holy One, does not wish overly to strike, and one suffices. But if the bile is serious and spreads throughout the members of the body, blood is drawn from the left arm [too].’

He said to him: ‘If the two of them were not [afflicted] at the same time, that would be fine, but what about the case of the two righteous men, one of whom suffers from diseases and troubles, while the other is treated with kindness? Why is it that if the bile spread, blood is not drawn from both of them who are the two arms, so that healing may be given to all members. And in the case where the bile does not become more serious, and does not spread throughout the members of the body, why is more blood let from the right arm than from the left?’ He said to him: ‘Why don’t you give the answer?’

‘Certainly the body and the two arms correspond to the three Patriarchs and the head to אָדָם קַדְמָאָה (adam qadma’ah), Primordial Man—the right arm corresponds to Abraham and the left arm corresponds to Isaac, the body corresponds to Jacob. Within the body, the liver is to the right, the spleen to the left—Esau and Ishmael. The heart is Jacob in the center. The lungs and kidneys correspond to Abraham and Isaac. Lungs—water—draw in all sorts of elixirs; kidneys—fire—cook the seed that descends from the brain.

And since Abraham [Ḥesed] is ‘water’ he places his children in the exile of Edom. This is why the liver and the gall that is in the liver are to the right of Abraham. [Edom’s] sword is the מְרֵרָה (mererah), gall, of which it is said: But in the end she’s as מָרָה (marah), bitter, as wormwood [sharp as a double-edged sword] (Proverbs 5:4) [cf. BT Avodah Zarah 20b]. And if the liabilities become greater in number among the children of Abraham, who are placed in the exile of Edom, and the מַרְעֵיהּ (mareih), bile, spreads over them from the side of the liver, they must be smitten and blood has to be drawn from the right arm. And ‘Whoever has his money taken is as though his blood was spilled’ (BT Bava Metsi’a 58b), for he remains poor, and a poor man is considered as dead [see BT Shabbat 129a–b; Gittin 70a. Cf. Zohar 3:227a (RM)].

But if the liabilities become greater in number among the children of Isaac they are exiled among Ishmael [see Zohar 2:17a (MhN)]. The bile spreads from the side of the spleen, on the left. And blood has to be drawn from the left arm, and not from any other.

And if liabilities become greater in number amongst the children of Jacob, who are scattered among the children of Esau and Ishmael, then the bile spreads over the body and blood has to be drawn from both arms [cf. Zohar 3:246a]. But if all three of them are afflicted as one, the bile then rises to the head and blood must be drawn from veins of the head. And these three became a chariot for Primordial Man and the Patriarchs, and acquire from them strength to suffer torments and protect the generation throughout the four directions of the world.

Woe to the generation that causes the Patriarchs and Primordial Man to be struck, for this includes also the righteous amongst them, for there is no difference between Primordial Man and the Righteous One and the Patriarchs and Primordial Man. This is because these are their נִשְׁמָתִין (nishmatin), souls, and their illnesses, pains, and sufferings reach the Patriarchs and Man. Just as when a number of rivers flow out from the Sea and return to Her murky and dirty, but the Sea removes their murkiness and dirtiness. And because of the Sea’s valor, for She is strong, She does not suffer from their filth, but expels it, and the rivers remain clear and pure, without that filth. Just as a mother cleans dirt from her little ones. Indeed, the Patriarchs remove the liabilities and the filth from their children, Israel, when there are people of righteous deeds among them who are strong enough to suffer torments for the sake of the generation [on the merit of the Patriarchs, see BT Shabbat 55a; BT Rosh ha-Shanah 11a]. At that time there is no difference between them [namely, the righteous of the generation and the Patriarchs].’ They all came and greeted him [Moses the Faithful Shepherd] and said to him: ‘Sinai! Sinai! Through whose mouth the blessed Holy One and His Shekhinah speak. Who is able to challenge Him in anything? Happy is our portion that we have merited to renew matters in the primary compostion [of Zohar] through you, so that the Shekhinah may give light in exile.’

He said to them: ‘Rabbis of every generation, those who have been [or will be] during their time, and how much more so the Holy Lamp whose wisdom will shine in all the generations that come after him: do not give the blessed Holy One, quiet in Torah until the Holy Spirit is poured out on us.’ …

None but you [Moses, Faithful Shepherd,] may employ great מְטַטְרוֹן שַׂר הַפָּנִים (Metatron Sar ha-Panim), Metatron, Prince of the Countenance, since your name [מֹשֶׁה‎ (Moshe), Moses] is intimated in the initials of his.

And now there is need of a physician to know by how many degrees the pulse of the patient, Israel, has increased in the exile of Edom, for it is said of him I am in a fever of love (Song of Songs 5:8). For a number of physicians gathered over him to check the pulse in order to know when his illness would come to an end, but not one of them could understand them, for no physician is competent to read the pulse of this particular patient, for there are beats of Teqiah Shevarim Teru’ah Teqiah, Teqiah Shevarim Teqiah, Teqiah Teru’ah Teqiah, as the prophet said of them: Like a woman with child, that draws near the time of her delivery, is in pain, and cries out in her pangs (Isaiah 26:17).

And all the ten shofar blasts are included in three תְּקִיעָה שְׁבָרִים תְּרוּעָה (Teqiah Shevarim Teru’ah). תְּקִיעָה (Teqiah)—the length of the exile. שְׁבָרִים (Shevarim), Moaning—the proximity of the exile. תְּרוּעָה (Teru’ah), Wailing Alarm—the coming redemption; teaching of the duress after duress with no respite between them [cf. BT Rosh ha-Shanah 33b–34a]. And clearly, since the other nations make Israel’s exile more difficult, it is the duress that they exert that brings redemption closer. And so too in our case of the patient’s pulse: beats come faster, one after the other, with no space between them, and the man’s נַפְשָׁא (nafsha), soul [or: breath], leaves him.

קשר״ק קש״ק קר״ק (Teqiah Shevarim Teru’ah, Teqiah Teqiah Shevarim, Teqiah Teqiah Teru’ah, Teqiah)—קֶשֶׁר (qesher), conspiracy, to remove שֶׁקֶר (sheqer), falsehood, from the world [cf. BT Rosh ha-Shanah 16b]. Concerning this was the oath: מִלְחָמָה לַיהוָה בַּעֲמָלֵק (milḥamah la-Adonai ba-Amaleq), War for YHWH against Amalek for all time [the intial letters of which are numerically equivalent to ע״ב (seventy-two), cf. TZ 67a; TZḤ 115a] (Exodus 17:16). A simple, double, triple and quadruple song will arise in the world, where the letters [יהוה (YHWH)] will ascend: י יה יהו יהוה (Y YH YHW YHWH) [numerically equivalent to seventy-two, cf. Ibn Ezra on Genesis 4:19]. At that time [the prayer] will be answered: ‘וּבְכֵן (U-vekhen), and therefore, the righteous shall see and be glad, the upright exult and the pious rejoice in song’ (Amidah for the Days of Awe). This additional ו״ (six) [of ‘וּבְכֵן (U-vekhen)’ alludes to]the Sixth Millennium. The Second Temple was destroyed קע״ב (one hundred and seventy-two) years before [the Sixth Millennium]. And following the completion of רע״ב (two hundred and seventy-two), as in the verse, At עֶרֶב (erev), evening, you shall know that it was YHWH who brought you out [of the land of Egypt] (Exodus 16.6). Also, For your servant became עָרַב (arev), pledge, for the lad (Genesis 44:32) [‘you should know that all these dates mentioned in the Zohar refer to an arousal from above, which occur at these times for redemption, however, certainly it depends on the people’s actions and repentance’ (Sullam)]” (Zohar 3:218a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

Vitality of the World (Daniel 12:7).