The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: synesthesia

No Image did You See Except the Sound

“[Rabbi Akiva said:] All the people were seeing the thunderings (Exodus 20:15)…. They were seeing the fiery word issuing from the mouth of Power and being engraved on the tablets” (Mekhilta, Baḥodesh 9).

“[Rabbi Amorai] said: What is written: And all the people were seeing the thunderings, and the flashes (Exodus 20:15)—is thunder, visible? But and all the people were seeing אֶת הַקּוֹלֹת (et ha-qolot), the thunderings, are those קוֹלוֹת (qolot), voicesof which King David spoke:

YHWH’s voice is over the waters. The God of glory thunders (Psalms 29:3). 

YHWH’s voice in power (ibid., 4), and it says, By the power, of My hand I have done it (Isaiah 10:13); Indeed My hand also has laid the foundation of the earth, [and My right hand has spread out the heavens: when I call to them, they stand up together] (ibid. 48:13).

YHWH’s voice in majesty (Psalms 29:4); Glory and grandeur His acts and His bounty stands for all time (ibid. 111:3).

YHWH’s voice breaking cedars (ibid. 29:5)—the bow that breaks cypress trees and cedar trees.

YHWH’s voice hews flames of fire (ibid., 7)—making peace between water and fire, hewing the power of fire and preventing it from evaporating water. Preventing water from extinguishing fire.

YHWH’s voice makes the wilderness shake (ibid., 8), as is said, And doing kindness with His anointed, for David and his seed forever (ibid. 18:51)—more than in the wilderness [when the Israelites were miraculously fed manna].

YHWH’s voice brings on the birth-pangs of does and lays bare the forests. And in His Temple all says glory (Psalms 29:9), as is written, I make you swear, O daughters of Jerusalem by the deer or the gazelles of the field, [that you shall not rouse not stir love until it pleases] (Song of Songs 2:7). To teach you that with seven קוֹלוֹת (qolot), voices, Torah was given. With each of them the Master of the Universe revealed Himself over them, and they saw Him. Thus it is written, And all the people were seeing אֶת הַקּוֹלֹת (et ha-qolot), the sounds.

One verse says: He tilted the heavens, came down, dense mist beneath His feet (2 Samuel 22:10). Another verse says: And YHWH came down on Mount Sinai, to the mountaintop (Exodus 19:20). However, still another verse says, From the heavens I spoke with you (Exodus 20:22). How is this so? And on the earth His great fire (Deuteronomy 4:36)—one voice. The other voices were in the heavens, as is written, From the heavens He made you hear His voice to reprove you, and on the earth He showed you His great fire, and His words you heard, from the midst of the fire (ibid.). But what was it? Great fire. From where did דִבּוּר (dibbur), Speech, emanate? From fire, as is written, and His words you heard, from the midst of the fire

What is but no image did you see except the voice (Deuteronomy 4:12)? As Moses said to Israel: for you saw no whole image [on the day YHWH spoke to you from the midst of the fire, lest you act ruinously and make you a sculpted image of any likeness…] (Deuteronomy 4:15)—an image, but not כָּל תְּמוּנָה (kal temunah), a whole image [cf. Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed, 1:3].

A parable: A king stood over his slaves wrapped in a white covering—is this not enough to hold הַמַּלְכוּת (ha-malkhut), the kingship, in awe?—that they gaze upon his garment. Though the king was at a distance they heard his voice [see Exodus 20:19–20; Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 41]. Were they able to see his throat? You must say not. This teaches that they saw an image, but not a whole image. Thus it is written, but no image did you see except the קוֹל (qol), sound [or: voice]. It is also written, קוֹל דְּבָרִים (Qol devarim), the sound of words, you did hear.

One verse says: And all the people were seeing אֶת הַקּוֹלֹת (et ha-qolot), the sounds (Exodus 20:15). However, another verse says: קוֹל דְּבָרִים (Qol devarim), the sound of words, you did hear (Deuteronomy 4:12). How? At first they saw the voices. What did they see? The seven voices spoken of by David. But in the end they heard דִבּוּר (dibbur), Speech, emanating from the midst of them all. But we have learned that there were ten. Our Rabbis taught that they were all uttered with a single word [see Tanḥuma, Yitro 11]. But we have said that there were seven. There were seven voices. Of three of them is written: The sound of words you did hear but no image did you see except the sound (Deuteronomy 4:12). To teach you that they were all uttered with a single word. This is so that Israel should not err and say, ‘Others helped Him. Perhaps one of the angels, since His voice alone could not be so powerful.’ Thus on their account He returned and included them [in a single word].

Another interpretation: It was so that the world should not say that since there were עֲשָׂרָה מַאֲמָרוֹת (asarah ma’amarot), ten sayings, for ten kings it might be that He could not speak for them all through one. He therefore said אָנֹכִי (Anokhi), I (Exodus 20:2), which included all ten. What are the ten kings? They are the שֶׁבַע קּוֹלֹת (sheva qolot), seven voices, and שְׁלֹשָׁה אֹמְרִים (sheloshah omrim), three sayings. But what sayings? And YHWH has proclaimed you today [to be to Him a treasured people, as He has spoken to you…] (Deuteronomy 26:18). But what are three? The beginning of wisdom is—get חָכְמָה (ḥokhmah), wisdom, and in all that you get, get בִינָה (binah), discernment (Proverbs 4:7) [cf. Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 17–18]. Therefore it is written [Yet it is a spirit in man,] and Shaddai’s breath that grants insight (Job 32:8)—Shaddai’s breath is תְּבִינֵם (tevinem), insight. What is third? As the old man said to the child, ‘Seek not things that are too hard for you, and search not things that are hidden from you. Reflect on the things that have been permitted you; you have no business with mysteries’ (BT Ḥagigah 13a) [see Ben Sira 3:21–22]” (Bahir §§45–49).

“This is the mystery of All the people saw the sounds and the flashes, and the sound of the shofar (Exodus 20:15). The sounds—these are the other letters that emerged from those sounds (as we have said), appearing in the air before the eyes of all, as is written: the sounds. It is not written all the people saw הַקּוֹלֹת (ha-qolot), sounds, but rather אֶת הַקּוֹלֹת (et ha-qolot), the sounds, alluding to the [entire sequence of] letters [from א (alef) to ת (tav)] that issued from them” (Zohar Ḥadash 41c).

“[Rabbi Yoḥanan said:] The voice went forth and split into seven voices, and from seven voices into seventy languages, so that all the nations would hear. Each and every nation heard His voice in its own language [see Rabbi Avraham Abulafia, Or ha-Sekhel 7: ‘שִׁבעִים לָשׁוֹנוֹת (Shevi’im lashonot), seventy languages, is numerically equivalent to צֵירוּף הָאוֹתִיּוֹת (tseruf ha-otiyyot), permutation of the letters’]” (TanḥumaShemot 25).

There were thunderings and lighting (Exodus 19:16). Rabbi Abba said, ‘It is spelled קֹלֹת (qolot), thunderings, deficiently [i.e., spelled without a ו (vav)]—two קָלִין (qalin), voices, turning back into one, issuing from one another: air from water, and water from air. It has been taught: Two that are one; one, an entirety encompassing two.

Rabbi Yose said, ‘קֹלֹת (Qolot)—one that is great and mighty, never ceasing. For it has been taught: In four cycles in the year the voice ceases, and then judgments arouse in the world; but this voice, comprising other voices, never ceases and is never deprived of its full existence and potency. This voice is voice of voices, a voice containing other voices.’

Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘Voice issues only from the aspect of air and water, and voice generates voice, intermingling, and it is spelled קֹלֹת (qolot).’

And lighting (Exodus 19:16). Rabbi Yose said, ‘This corresponds to what is written: He makes lightning for the rain (Psalms 135:7)—a flame in diadems, cluster of compassion, in unsubsiding love. It has been taught: Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘Torah was given from the side of Gevurah. Rabbi Yose said, ‘If so, it is on the left side!’ He replied, ‘It returned to the right, as is written: From His right hand, a fiery law for them (Deuteronomy 33:2), and it is written Your right hand, O YHWH, glorious in power (Exodus 15:6). We find left turning into right, and right into left; thus Gevurah is on the left.’

And a heavy cloud on the mountain (Exodus 19:16)—a mighty cloud settling in its place, not moving. וְקֹל (Ve-qol), And the voice of, a shofar, very strong (ibid.)—out of this mighty cloud issues that voice, as is said: when you heard the voice from the midst of the darkness (Deuteronomy 5:20).

Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘There were three types of darkness, as is written: darkness, cloud, and dense fog (ibid. 4:11), and that voice issued as inmost of all.’ Rabbi Yose said, ‘Inmost of all, of which is written a mighty voice, unceasing (ibid. 5:19).

Rabbi Abba said, ‘It is written: All the people were seeing הַקּוֹלֹת (ha-qolot), the voices (Exodus 20:15). Were seeing—the verse should read were hearing. However, we have learned as follows: Those קָלִין (qalin), voices, were engraved in that darkness, cloud, and dense fog, and were visible in them as a body is visible, and they saw what they saw and heard what they heard from within that darkness, dense fog, and cloud. From within the vision they saw, they were illumined by the supernal radiance and knew what later generations coming after them would not know. They all saw face-to-face, as is written: Face-to-face YHWH spoke [with you]… (Deuteronomy 5:4).’

What did they see? Rabbi Yose taught, ‘Radiance of those voices—for there was not a single voice that did not shine radiantly, enabling them to gaze upon all hidden, concealed treasures and all generations that will appear until King Messiah. Therefore, All the people were seeing הַקּוֹלֹת (ha-qolot), the voices—actually seeing!” (Zohar 2:81a–b).

“When the blessed Holy One revealed Himself on Mount Sinai, when Torah was given to Israel in ten utterances, each and every utterance generated a voice, and that voice branched into seventy voices, all shining and sparkling before the eyes of all Israel, who saw eye-to-eye the splendor of His Glory, as is written: All the people were seeing הַקּוֹלֹת (ha-qolot), the voices (Exodus 20:15)—actually seeing!

That voice warned every single Israelite, saying to him, ‘Will you accept me upon yourselves with such-and-such commands of Torah?’ They replied, ‘Yes.’ It returned, circling round his head, and warned him, saying, ‘Will you accept me upon yourselves with such-and-such penalties of Torah?’ Each one said, ‘Yes.’ Afterward, that voice returned and kissed him on the mouth, as is written: O that he would kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! (Song of Songs 1:2)” (Zohar 2:146a).

Wherever the Preparation of the Incense is Uttered with Intention and Heartfelt Devotion No One can be Harmed

“Rabbi Zutra son of Tovi’ah said in the name of Rav: From where do we learn that a blessing should be said over sweet aromas? Because it says, Let all that has breath praise Yah (Psalms 150:6). What is that which gives enjoyment to the soul and not to the body? You must say that this is fragrance” (BT Berakhot 43b).

“Three things restore one’s mind: sounds, sights, and smells” (BT Berakhot 57b).

“Whoever smelled the smoke, as a column rose from the smoke-raiser [in the Temple], became cleansed of heart, refined in radiant joy to serve his Lord. The filth of the evil impulse disappeared from him, leaving him with only one heart toward his Father in heaven [cf. M Berakhot 9:5]; for incense actually disintegrates the evil impulse in all aspects… nothing in the world breaks the Other Side except incense.

Come and see what is written: Take the fire-pan and place fire upon it from the altar and put in incense. Why? For the fury has gone forth from before YHWH, the plague has begun! (Numbers 17:11). For look, nothing breaks that side except incense, since nothing is as beloved to the blessed Holy One as incense! Consequently, it can eliminate sorcery and evil elements from the home. If the fragrance and smoke of incense prepared by people for that purpose has the power to eliminate, all the more so [holy] incense.

This matter is an established decree before the blessed Holy One: Whoever contemplates and reads every day פִּטּוּם הַקְּטֹרֶת (Pittum ha-Qetoret), Preparation of the Incense, will be saved from all elements of sorcery in the world, from all mishaps, evil fantasies, and pestilence. He will not be harmed that entire day, for the Other Side has no power over him—but he must focus his intention on it.

Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘If human beings knew how exalted the Preparation of the Incense was in the eyes of the blessed Holy One, they would take every single word and raise it as a crown upon their heads, like a crown of gold. Whoever engages in the Preparation of the Incense and concentrates upon it every day has a share in this world and in the world that is coming. Pestilence will disappear from him and from the world, and he will be delivered from all judgments and all evil aspects of this world, from the judgment of the alien kingdom, and even from the judgment of Hell….

The Preparation of the Incense is more beloved than all rituals and devotions in the world. Even though prayer is most exalted of all [the commandments], the Preparation of the Incense is precious and beloved to the blessed Holy One.

Come and see: What is the difference between prayer and the Preparation of the Incense? Prayer was instituted to replace the sacrifices that Israel used to offer [in the time when the Temple stood], and none of those sacrifices that they offered was as important as the incense. Furthermore, what is the difference between this and that? Well, prayer is restoration, restoring as needed. Incense does more: restoring, forging links, and producing radiance greater than all. What is that? Removing filth and purifying the Dwelling—all is illumined, restored, and linked as one. Therefore we must remove filth from the world, thereby restoring all, every single day—like that beloved offering, in which the blessed Holy One delighted” (Zohar 2:218b–19a).

And YHWH said to Moses, “Take you the סַמִּים (samim), fragrances, balsam and onycha and galbanum, fragrances, and clear frankincense, equal part for part shall it be. And you shall make of it incense, a perfume compound, perfumer’s work, tinctured with salt, pure, sacred. And you shall pound it to fine powder and place some of it before the Ark of the Covenant in the Tent of Meeting where I shall meet you. Holy of holies it shall be to you (Exodus 30:34–38).

And Aaron shall burn upon it the aromatic incense morning after morning, when he tends the lamps he shall burn it. And when Aaron lights the lamps at twilight he shall burn it, a perpetual incense before YHWH for your generations. You shall not offer up on it strange incense (Exodus 30:7–8).

“The Rabbis taught: How was the incense prepared? It weighed 368 manehs, 365 corresponding to the number of days in a solar year, a maneh for each day, half to be offered in the morning and half in the afternoon, and three additional manehs from which the High Priest took handfuls on Yom Kippur. These were put back into the mortar on the day before Yom Kippur and ground again very thoroughly so as to be extremely fine. The incense contained eleven kinds of spices [אֲדֹנָי (Adonai), Lord, times eleven equals הַקְטֹרֶת (ha-qetoret), the incense]: balsam, onycha, galbanum and frankincense, each weighing seventy manehs; myrrh, cassia, spikenard and saffron, each weighing sixteen manehs; twelve manehs of costus, three of aromatic bark; nine of cinnamon; nine kabs of Carsina lye; three seahs and three kabs of Cyprus wine. If Cyprus wine was not available, old white wine might be used. A quarter of a kab of Sodom salt, and a minute amount of smoke-raising herb. Rabbi Natan the Babylonian says: also a minute amount of Jordan amber. If one added honey to the mixture, he rendered it unfit for sacred use. If he omitted any one of its ingredients, he is guilty of a capital offence.

Rabban Shim’on son of Gamliel says: ‘Balsam’ refers to the sap that drips from the balsam tree. The Carsina lye was used for bleaching the onycha to improve it. The Cyprus wine was used to soak the onycha in it to make it pungent. Though urine is suitable for this purpose, it is not brought into the Temple out of respect.

It was taught, Rabbi Natan says: While it was being ground, another would say הָדֵק הֵיטֵב הֵיטֵב הָדֵק (hadeq heitev, heitev hadeq), ‘Grind carefully, carefully grind,’ because the [rhythmic] sound is good for [those who grind] spices. If it was mixed in half-quantities, it is fit for use, but we have not heard whether this applies to a third or a quarter. Rabbi Yehudah said: The general rule is that if it was made in the correct proportions, it is fit for use even if made in half-quantity, but if he omitted any one of its ingredients, he is guilty of a capital offence” (BT Karetot 6a).

“It was taught, Son of Qappara says: Once every sixty or seventy years, the accumulated surpluses amounted to half the yearly quantity. Son of Qappara also taught: If a minute quantity of honey had been mixed into the incense, no one could have resisted the scent. Why did they not put honey into it? Because Torah says, For you shall not turn to smoke any leaven nor any honey from it as a fire offering to YHWH (Leviticus 2:11)” (JT Yoma 4:5).

And Moses said to Aaron, “Take the fire-pan and place fire upon it from the altar and put in incense and carry it quickly to the community and atone for them, for the furry has gone out from before YHWH, the scourge has begun.” And Aaron took as Moses had spoken, and he ran into the midst of the assembly, and, look, the scourge had begun against the people, and he put in incense and atoned for the people. And he stood between the dead and the living, and the scourge was held back (Numbers 17:11–13).

“The Angel of Death confided his secret to him [Moses], for it is said, and he put in incense and atoned for the people (Numbers 17:11); and it is said, And he stood between the dead and the living, [and the scourge was held back] (ibid. 13). Had he not told it to him, where had he known it? [Since this act of intervention to save the people is not dictated by God but is a device Moses on his own initiative orders Aaron to implement]” (BT Shabbat 89a).

Take the fire-pan… and put in incense (Numbers 17:11)—a specific fire-pan [since the noun has the definite article]. [However,] it does not say and put in the incense. The intelligent will understand [i.e., the burning of incense was a sanitary technique used to drive off the plague]” (Ibn Ezra, Perush al ha-Torah).

“What atonement is there which obtains evenly for oneself, his household, his brethren, the priests, and the whole assembly of the house of Israel? It is the burning of the incense. But does the incense obtain atonement?—indeed, for Rabbi Ḥananiah cited: We learn that the incense obtains atonement for what was said: And he put in incense and atoned for the people (Numbers 17:12). And the school of Rabbi Yishma’el taught: Why does incense obtain atonement for evil speech? Let that which is in secret [i.e., since none but the high priest may enter the Holy of Holies] come and obtain atonement for what is committed in secret!” (BT Yoma 44a).

“Rabbi Aḥa traveled to כְפַר טַרְשָׁא (Kefar Tarsha), Clod Village; he arrived at his inn. All the town’s residences spoke in hushed tones about him, saying, ‘A great man has arrived here. Let us go to him. They went to him. They said to him, ‘Is the master’s heart anguished by the destruction?’ He said to them, ‘What do you mean?’ They said to him, ‘For seven days, a plague has been hovering over the town. Each day it grows stronger and does not desist.’ He said to them, ‘Let us go to the synagogue and implore mercy from the blessed Holy One.’

While they were walking, [some people] arrived and said, ‘So-and-so and so-and-so have died, and so-and-so and so-and-so are about to die.’ Rabbi Aḥa said to them, ‘Now is not the time to stand by—the hour is pressing! Rather, set aside forty of the most righteous people, in four groups of ten, and I with you; ten for one corner of the town, ten for another corner of the town, so on for the four corners of the town; and recite with soulful devotion the passages of the aromatic incense that the blessed Holy One gave Moses, accompanied by the passages of the sacrifices [cf. BT Shabbat 89a].’

They did so three times—and passed through all four directions of the town, reciting accordingly [cf. M Makkot 3:2: ‘These are liable to be flogged: … one who mixes the ingredients for the [anointing] oil, or the ingredients for the incense’; Zohar 2:219a: It is forbidden to burn incense anywhere else except in the fire-pan (of the Temple)]. Afterward, he said to them, ‘Let us go to those verging on death. Set aside [other righteous people] for their houses and let them recite in a similar fashion. When you finish, recite these verses loudly three times: Moses said to Aaron, ‘Take the fire-pan and place fire upon it…’ (Numbers 17:11); Aaron took… (ibid., 12); He stood between the dead… (ibid., 13).’

They did so and the plagued ceased. They heard a voice saying, ‘Secret striker, primal striker, wait on high; the judgment of heaven does not hover here, for they know how to nullify it.’

Rabbi Aḥa’s heart was faint. He fell asleep. He heard that they were telling him, ‘Just as you accomplished that, accomplish this! Go and tell them to return in teshuvah, for they are wicked before Me.’

He arose and returned them in complete teshuvah, and they accepted upon themselves never to desist from Torah; and they changed the name of the city to מָאתָא מַחְסֵיָא (Mata Meḥseya), Town of Compassion [cf. BT Ketubbot 4a; Horayot 12a; Zohar 1:72a, 94b]” (Zohar 1:100b–101b, Midrash ha-Ne’lam).

May my prayer stand as incense before You (Psalms 141:2).

“Come and see: Incense binds bonds, spreading joy from above and below. This eliminates death, accusation, and wrath, which cannot prevail in the world” (Zohar 1:230a, cf. Bahir §109).

“And when the highest point and the world that is coming ascend, they know only the aroma, as one inhaling an aroma is sweetened” (Zohar 2:239a).

Come and Listen, Come and See

“Our Rabbis taught: שְׁמַע (shema), Hear, O Israel! YHWH our God, YHWH is One (Deuteronomy 6:4): this was Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nasi’s recitation of Shema. Rav said once to Rabbi Ḥiyya: I do not see Rabbi accept upon himself the yoke of the kingdom of heaven. In the moment when he passes his hand over his eyes, he accepts upon himself the yoke of the kingdom of heaven” (BT Berakhot 13b).

שְׂאוּ מָרוֹם עֵינֵיכֶם (Se’u marom eineikhem), lift up your eyes on high, and see, who created these? (Isaiah 40:26).

Unveil my eyes that I may look upon the wonders of Your teaching (Psalms 119:18).

“Rabbi Abba said, ‘It is written: All the people were seeing הַקּוֹלֹת (ha-qolot), the thunderings (Exodus 20:15). Were seeing—the verse should read were hearing. However, we have learned as follows: Those הַקּוֹלֹת (ha-qolot), voices, were engraved in that darkness, cloud, and dense fog, and were visible in them as a body is visible, and they saw what they saw and heard what they heard from within that darkness, dense fog, and cloud. From within the vision they saw, they were illumined by the supernal radiance and knew what later generations coming after them would not know. They all saw face-to-face, as is written: Face-to-face YHWH spoke [with you…] (Deuteronomy 5:4)” (Zohar 2:81a–b).

“Light Not Existing in Light, engraves, and the Spark of All Sparks bursts forth, striking within the Will of Wills, secreted within it, unknown. When this Will desires to ramify, this Spark—concealed within Will, befitting and not befitting to exist as color—shoots out. When this Will ramifies, this Spark—splaying color and no color—strikes, entering into that extension, splaying forth in its colors. It ascends, becoming actualized through its ascent within Will and its emanation. Will strikes its extension in concealment, unknown—emitting gossamer lights, coalescing as one. When they seek to emerge, that Spark, imbued with colors, strikes the extension and it becomes constricted. On account of the pressure, those diaphanous lights emerge, audible as one” (Zohar Ḥadash 57a).