The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: withdrawal

When Love was Strong We could have Made Our Bed on the Blade of a Sword

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And they shall make an ark of acacia wood (Exodus 25:10). Thus it is written, Shaddai, whom we find not, is lofty in power (Job 37:23). Our great teacher [Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nasi] said: We are indebted to Job, because he added to everything Elihu said. Job said to his companions: ‘Do you imagine that even all you have said exhausts His praise? Who can declare all the praises and mighty deeds of the blessed Holy One? All the things you have said, Why, these are but the least of His ways [the tag-end of the word that is heard of Him] (ibid. 26:14).

Elihu said: Shaddai, whom we find not lofty in power. He that hears this verse may say: ‘Perhaps, perish the thought, this is blasphemy!’ But this is what Elihu meant: We will never find the blessed Holy One’s power [fully] displayed towards any of His creatures, for He does not visit His creatures with burdensome laws, but comes to each one according to his strength. For know that if blessed Holy One had come upon Israel with the full force of His strength when He gave them the Torah, they would not have been able to withstand it, as it says, If we hear again the voice of YHWH our God, we shall die (Deuteronomy 5:22). However, He came upon them according to their individual strength, for it says, YHWH’s voice in power (Psalms 29:4). It does not say בְּכֹחוֹ (be-khoḥo), in His power, but בַּכֹּחַ (ba-koaḥ), in power, that is, according to the strength of each individual [cf. Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana 12:25].

Another interpretation: Shaddai, whom we find not, is lofty in power—when the blessed Holy One said to Moses, Make Me a Tabernacle, [that I may abide in their midst] (Exodus 25:8), he said in amazement, ‘The Glory of the blessed Holy One fills the heavens and earth, and yet He commands Make Me a Tabernacle! Moreover, he foresaw that Solomon would one day build a Temple, much larger than the Tabernacle, and yet would say before the blessed Holy One: But can אֱלֹהִים (Elohimreally dwell on earth? Look, the heavens and the heavens beyond the heavens cannot contain You. How much less this house that I have built (1 Kings 8:27).

If Solomon said this of the Temple which was so much greater than the Tabernacle, then how much more could this be said of the Tabernacle? For this reason Moses said: He who dwells in the Most High’s shelter (Psalms 91:1), which Rabbi Yehudah son of Rabbi Shim’on expounded: He who dwells in the shelter is Most High above all His creatures. Now what is בְּצֵל (be-tsel), in the shadow of, Shaddai (ibid.)? בְּצַלְ אֵל (Be-tsal El), in the shadow of God. It does not say In the shadow of the Compassionate, or In the shadow of the Gracious, but In the shadow of Shaddai; in the shadow which בְּצַלְאֵל (Betsalel), Bezalel, constructed. And for this reason it says, In the shadow of Shaddai lies at night. The blessed Holy One said, ‘Not as you think do I think: twenty boards on the north, twenty on the south and eight in the west [is enough for Me]. Moreover, I will descend וַאֲצַמְצֵם (va-atsamtsem), and contract, My Shekhinah within one square cubit [cf. BT Berakhot 8a: ‘Rabbi Ḥiyya son of Ammi in the name of ‘Ulla: Since the day that the Temple was destroyed, the blessed Holy One has nothing in this world but the four cubits of Halakhah alone’]’” (Shemot Rabbah 34:1).

“When love was strong, we could have made our bed on the blade of a sword. Now that our love has grown weak, a bed of sixty [cubits] is not large enough for us. Rav Huna said: This is alluded to in the verses: At first [when Israel was loyal] it is said: And I shall meet with you there and speak with you, from above the covering [between the two cherubim that are on top of the Ark of the Covenant] (Exodus 25:22); and it is taught: The Ark measured nine handspans high and the cover one handspan, i.e., ten in all. Again it is written: And the house that King Solomon built was sixty cubits in length and twenty in width and thirty cubits in height (1 Kings 6:2). But in the end it is written: Thus said YHWH: The heavens are My throne and the earth is My footstool. What house would you build for Me [and what place for My resting, when all these My hand has made and Mine all these are?—said YHWH—But to this do I look, to the poor man and to the broken of spirit who trembles at My word] (Isaiah 66:1)” (BT Sanhedrin 7a).

Close is YHWH to all who call Him, to all who call to Him in truth (Psalms 145:18).

“Rabbi Pinḥas said in the name of Rabbi Yehudah son of Shim’on, ‘An idol appears to be near, but is actually far… the blessed Holy One appears to be far yet nothing is closer than He… like a person who speaks into his fellow’s ear and he hears him. And is it possible that a god could be closer to his creatures than this? For He is so close to His creatures it is as if they speak directly into His ear” (JT Berakhot 9:1, 13b).

“An idol is near but far. The blessed Holy One is far but near” (Devarim Rabbah 2:6).

From afar YHWH appeared to me: With everlasting love do I love you, therefore did I draw you in kindness (Jeremiah 31:2).

“Rabbi Shim’on son of Azzai said: The Glory of which is written, The heavens and earth do not I מָלֵא (male), fill? (Jeremiah 23:24)—see how love for Israel caused the Glory to דָחָק (daḥaq), compress, in order to appear over the cover [of the Ark of the Covenant] between the two cherubim!” (Sifra, Nedavah 2, cf. Tanḥuma, Vayakhel, 7).

I am אֵל שַׁדַּי (El Shaddai). Walk in My presence and be blameless, and I will grant My covenant between Me and you (Genesis 17:1).

“Rabbi Yehudah raised a contradiction: [And the cherubim sheltered the Ark and its poles from above. And the poles extended, andthe ends of the poles could be seen [from the Holy Place in front of the sanctuary] (1 Kings 8:8), and it is written but they could not be seen from without (ibid.)—how is that possible? They were seen and not seen. Therefore it was also taught: ‘The ends of the poles could be seen—one might have assumed that they did not protrude from their place, thus it says: And the poles extended. One might assume that they tore the פָּרוֹכֶת (parokhet), curtain, and emerged, thus it says: but they could not be seen from without. How then? They pressed forth and protruded as the two breasts of a woman, as is said: A sachet of myrrh is my lover to me, all night between שָׁדַי (shaddai), my breasts (Song of Songs 1:13)’” (BT Yoma 54a).

“[A certain Samaritan] said to [Rabbi Me’ir]: Is it possible that He of whom is written, The heavens and earth do not I fill? (Jeremiah 23:24) spoke to Moses from between the two poles of the Ark? He said to him: Bring me large mirrors. When he brought them he said to him, ‘Look at your reflection,’ and he saw it large. ‘Bring me a small mirror.’ He brought it. ‘Look at your reflection in it.’ He saw it small. He said to him: If you, who are but flesh and blood, can change yourself at will, how much more so He at whose word the world came into existence! Thus when He so wishes, The heavens and earth do not I fill? While when He wishes, He speaks to Moses from between the poles of the Ark. Rabbi Ḥanina son of Isei said: At times the world and its fullness cannot contain His glory, yet at times He speaks to man from between the hairs of his head, as is written, And YHWH answered Job from הַסְּעָרָה (ha-sea’arah), the whirlwind (Job 38:1)—from between שַׂעֲרוֹת (sa’arot), the hairs, of his head” (Bereshit Rabbah 4:4).

A sachet of myrrh is my lover to me (Song of Songs 1:13)—of all the spices, none is sweeter than this myrrh. Similarly, the blessed Holy One is the most fitting thing in the world. And why does he compare the blessed Holy One to a sachet? Because it is written of Him: [If a man should hide in secret places, would I not see him? said YHWH.] The heavens and earth do not I fill? (Jeremiah 23:24). But צַמְצֵם (tsamtsem), He contracts, His Shekhinah between the poles of the Ark, as it says, all night between my breasts (Song of Songs, ibid.)” (Midrash Shir ha-Shirim 15b [Grünhut]).

Like a Mustard Seed in a Ring

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“[Rabbi Berekhiah’s] disciples said to him: Rabbi from above to below we know, but from below to above we do not know. He replied: Is it not all one—below to above and above to below? They said: Rabbi, ascending is not like descending! One can run while descending, but it is not so while ascending. Moreover, the one who ascends can do so by a way other than the [way] he descends.

He sat and expounded for them: ‘Shekhinah is below just as Shekhinah is above’ (Seder Rabba de-Vereshit §440, 745). And what is Shekhinah? Say that this is the light emanated from the primordial light, Ḥokhmah. It also מְסַבֵּב (mesabev), turns everything around, as is written, Fullness—all the earth is His glory (Isaiah 6:3). What is its function here? A parable: To what can the matter be compared? A king had seven sons, and he assigned each one his place. He said to them, ‘Sit, this one on the back of that one.’ The lowest one said, ‘I will not dwell below! I will not be so far from you!’ Saying to them, ‘I will hereby מְסוֹבֵב (mesovev), swing round, and see you all day long [cf. BT Ta’anit 31a; Vayiqrah Rabbah 4:8; Jeremiah 31:21].’ As is written, Fullness—all the earth is His glory. Why is He in their midst? To stand them up and make them endure” (Bahir §171).

“It has been taught: There are ten גַּלְגָּלִים (galggalim), spheres, and ten מַאֲמָרוֹת (ma’amarot), commands. Each and every sphere has its command. Not that it is surrounded by it, but rather it turns it [see Maimonides, Mishneh TorahHilkhot Yesodei ha-Torah 1:5; Guide of the Perplexed, 2:4–6].

This world is like a mustard seed in a ringWhy? Because of the spirit that blows upon it and sustains it. If this spirit were to be interrupted, the world would wither in an instant [cf. Isaiah 40:7–8; Job 34:14; BT Bava Batra 25a–b]” (Bahir §179).

“All the lights expanding, large and small, appear as the hub of a wheel [lit., כְּעֵין גַּלְגַּל (ke-ein galggal), as the eye of a wheel; or: as the look of a wheel]. All the spheres and worlds and their hosts appear in the center like a mustard seed. And they all go to and fro, whirling, never still….

From the abundant efflux of the great and awesome firmament spread the mighty seraphim, capable masters standing watch, conducting all the worlds—conducting mysterious things arranged by the blessed Holy One when He created the 18,000 worlds [see BT Avodah Zarah 3b; Zohar 1:23b–24a (TZ); Rabbenu Baḥya ben Asher on Numbers 10:35].

Within this firmament the spheres and their hosts are fixed. Because of its overwhelming strength, the spheres appear as a mustard seed. And from this exquisite firmament emanates one fine and lovely spark comprising every kind of תִפאֶרֶת (tif’eret), beauty. It is the light that stands above, reward of the world, covering it” (Berit Menuḥa, Second Way: The Way of Love, First Vowel, Sixth Vowel).

“קָו הַמִדָּה (Qav ha-Middah): Length and Breadth. Qav ha-Middah: Depth and Height. Qav ha-Middah: Circle and Square.

Established to be known through thirteen gates—twenty-six on the two sides. When they are engraved in their engravings, they are all one within this measure. Qav ha-Middah ascends and descends, engraved in its engravings on all sides.

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. Then the Spark displays colors within them, all dyed at once: white, red, green, and black. The Spark lingered there for twelve months, and then they were uprooted, and planted in another place.

This Spark ascends and descends, and is called בּוּצִינָא דְּקַרְדִינוּתָא (botsina de-qardinuta), Lamp of Adamantine Darkness. Enhancing and striking all the luminous shoots, it decrees, ‘Grow!’ [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 10:6]. Then springs gush forth from that supernal, primordial extension, irrigating and illuminating them all, and they flourish.

With the בּוּצִיצָא דְּקַרְדִינוּתָא (botsitsa de-qardinuta), Spark of Adamantine Darkness, the One who Shines, shines—ascending and descending, spreading out in all directions. Then it is called קָו מִדָּה (qav middah), Line of Measure, its measurement enduring above and below.

Line of Measure—Spark of Adamantine Darkness, Concealed of all Concealed, lustrous measure, configuring beauty for all. The beauty itself, emerging from the first extension, configures them. They stand within it, poised for calibration above and below.

One who attains this mystery and knows it, merits to know the wisdom of his Master. Happy is his portion in this world and in the world that is coming!” (Zohar Ḥadash 57a).

A Spark of Impenetrable Darkness

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“At the head of potency of the King. He engraved engravings in luster on high. A spark of impenetrable darkness flashed within the concealed of the concealed, from the head of Infinity—a cluster of vapor forming in formlessness, thrust in a ring, not white, not black, not red, not green, no color at all. As a cord surveyed, it yielded radiant colors. Deep within the spark gushed a flow, splaying colors below, concealed within the concealed of the mystery of אֵין סוֹף (Ein Sof). It split and did not split its aura, was not known at all, until under the impact of splitting, a single, concealed, supernal point shone. Beyond that point, nothing is known, so it is called רֵאשִׁית (Reshit), Beginning, first command of all…. Zohar, Radiance! Sowing seed for its glory, like the seed of fine purple silk wrapping itself within, weaving itself a palace, constituting its praise, availing all.

With this beginning, the unknown concealed one created the palace. This palace is called אֱלֹהִים (Elohim). The secret is: בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים (Bereshit bara Elohim), With beginning, _____ created Elohim (Genesis 1:1) [cf. Bahir §10]” (Zohar 1:15a).

At the head of potency of the King… a spark of impenetrable darkness (Zohar 1:15a)when it surveyed its drawing out, there came forth from this point a hidden קָו (qav), cord. The thought was like so: ם (mem). First it was closed ם (mem). When the cord, ו (vav), extended from the מִדָּה (middah), measure, it opened and was made into ב (bet). This is בְּרֵאשִׁית (Bereshit), In the beginning (Genesis 1:1)—the רֵאשִׁית (Reshit), Beginning, in the בּ (bet). When it is closed mem, it is the great mem as in, לםרבה (le-marbeh), of the increase of, dominion (Isaiah 9:6) and it was made into a ring [cf. BT Shabbat 104a; ZḤ 72b–c]. Therefore, all say, ‘You are betrothed to me with this טַבַּעַת (taba’at), ring’—ם (mem). Of this it says a cluster of vapor forming in formlessness, thrust in a עִזְקָא (izqa), ring, not white, not black, not red, not green, no color at all (Zohar 1:15a).

When it extended to shine, a cord surveyed, it yielded radiant colors…. within (ibid.). And this is the secret of Wrapped in light like a cloak, [stretching out heavens like a tent-cloth] (Psalms 104:2). For this is the cloaked light that does not spread, hidden. The אֲוִיר (avir), atmosphere [lit., air], is called אוֹר (or), light, and with the addition of the י (yod), the point in the palace, for when one takes the yod out of avir, atmosphere, one reveals or, light. And this is And God said, Let there be light (Genesis 1:3)” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 4, 19a–20b).

“At the head of potency of the King… a spark of impenetrable darkness…. not white, not black, not red, not green, no color at all (Zohar 1:15a). This spark is the קָו מִדָּה (qav middah), cord of measure, which is clothed in the אֲוִיר (avir), atmosphere, and when it is in the atmosphere, it is closed and not seen at all. When it extends itself to be revealed, there comes out from this אֲוִיר (avir), intangible air, one point. What remains is light, the primordial light of the work of creation. As it says And God said, יְהִי אוֹר (Yehi or), ‘Let there be light’ (Genesis 1:2)—let there be י (yod) plus אֲוִיר (avir), atmosphere, and this secret is handed to the wise of heart.

This point, after it extends from that light is clothed in four colors from the upper palace, and this is called ב (bet) so it says Through wisdom a house is built (Proverbs 24:3) and this point measures out five colors, as it says Who measured at the rising of the water (Isaiah 40:12)” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 18, 37b).