Shir Hashirim Zohar Perek 5

Perek1. Perek 2. Perek 3. Perek 4.

Perek 5. Perek 6. Perek 7. Perek 8.

 

 Click  to hear Rabbi David  Deri singing Perek5

He will cause you to levitate

 

Chapter 5

 

א בָּאתִי לְגַנִּי אֲחֹתִי כַלָּה

אָרִיתִי מוֹרִי עִם בְּשָׂמִי

אָכַלְתִּי יַעְרִי עִם דִּבְשִׁי שָׁתִיתִי יֵינִי עִם חֲלָבִי

אִכְלוּ רֵעִים שְׁתוּ וְשִׁכְרוּ דּוֹדִים.

1 I have come to My garden, My sister My bride,

I have gathered My myrrh and My spice,

I ate my honeycomb with the honey

I drank My wine with My milk.

Eat beloved ones; drink and get drunk all those of My ilk.

 

    ב אֲנִי יְשֵׁנָה וְלִבִּי עֵר קוֹל דּוֹדִי דוֹפֵק פִּתְחִי לִי אֲחֹתִי רַעְיָתִי יוֹנָתִי תַמָּתִי שֶׁרֹּאשִׁי נִמְלָא טָל קְוֻּצּוֹתַי רְסִיסֵי לָיְלָה.

2 I am asleep, but my heart is awake;

The voice of my Beloved knocks at the door:

 Open up for me, my sister, my beloved, my dove, my one without a flaw.

With Me the beginning is filled with dew,

And the ends with the droplets of night for you.

 ג פָּשַׁטְתִּי אֶת כֻּתָּנְתִּי אֵיכָכָה אֶלְבָּשֶׁנָּה

רָחַצְתִּי אֶת רַגְלַי אֵיכָכָה אֲטַנְּפֵם.

3 I removed my robe; can I wear it again?

I washed my feet, should I soil them?

 ד דּוֹדִי שָׁלַח יָדוֹ מִן הַחֹר וּמֵעַי הָמוּ עָלָיו.

4 My Beloved sent forth His hand through a gap in the door

And I was moved for Him to my core.

 ה קַמְתִּי אֲנִי לִפְתֹּחַ לְדוֹדִי וְיָדַי נָטְפוּ מוֹר וְאֶצְבְּעֹתַי מוֹר עֹבֵר עַל כַּפּוֹת הַמַּנְעוּל.

5 I arose for my Beloved, to open the door,

My hands dripping with myrrh,

And with myrrh were my fingers awash

Upon the handles of the lock.

 ו פָּתַחְתִּי אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי וְדוֹדִי חָמַק עָבָר

נַפְשִׁי יָצְאָה בְדַבְּרוֹ בִּקַּשְׁתִּיהוּ וְלֹא מְצָאתִיהוּ קְרָאתִיו וְלֹא עָנָנִי.

6 I opened for my Beloved, but my Beloved has turned and gone,

My soul flew out at His word;

I sought Him but I did not find him, I called him but He did not respond.

ז מְצָאֻנִי הַשֹּׁמְרִים הַסֹּבְבִים בָּעִיר הִכּוּנִי פְצָעוּנִי נָשְׂאוּ אֶת רְדִידִי מֵעָלַי שֹׁמְרֵי הַחֹמוֹת.

7 The watchmen found me,

They who patrol the city.

They beat me, they wounded me, and stripped away my shawl,

Those guardians of the wall.

ח הִשְׁבַּעְתִּי אֶתְכֶם בְּנוֹת יְרוּשָׁלָ‍ִם אִם תִּמְצְאוּ אֶת דּוֹדִי מַה תַּגִּידוּ לוֹ שֶׁחוֹלַת אַהֲבָה אָנִי.

8 I adjure you, daughters of Jerusalem:

If you find my Beloved, you should tell Him

I am sick with love.

ט מַה דּוֹדֵךְ מִדּוֹד הַיָּפָה בַּנָּשִׁים מַה דּוֹדֵךְ מִדּוֹד שֶׁכָּכָה הִשְׁבַּעְתָּנוּ.

9 How does your Beloved exceed all others,

Among the women, the most fair?

How does your Beloved exceed all others,

That to this you make us swear?

י דּוֹדִי צַח וְאָדוֹם דָּגוּל מֵרְבָבָה.

10 My Beloved is pure-white, and red as a flame[1]

Surrounded with myriads of seraphim

יא רֹאשׁוֹ כֶּתֶם פָּז קְוּצּוֹתָיו תַּלְתַּלִּים שְׁחֹרוֹת כָּעוֹרֵב.

11 His head is of fine gold,

His locks hanging down are black as a raven.

יב עֵינָיו כְּיוֹנִים עַל אֲפִיקֵי מָיִם רֹחֲצוֹת בֶּחָלָב יֹשְׁבוֹת עַל מִלֵּאת

12 His eyes are like doves gazing at the water springs

Bathing in milk, residing in fullness.

יג לְחָיָו כַּעֲרוּגַת הַבֹּשֶׂם מִגְדְּלוֹת מֶרְקָחִים שִׂפְתוֹתָיו שׁוֹשַׁנִּים נֹטְפוֹת מוֹר עֹבֵר.

13 His cheeks are like a bed of spice, banks of perfume,

His lips are roses dripping flowing myrrh.

יד יָדָיו גְּלִילֵי זָהָב מְמֻלָּאִים בַּתַּרְשִׁישׁ מֵעָיו עֶשֶׁת שֵׁן מְעֻלֶּפֶת סַפִּירִים.

14 His arms are like bars of gold, studded with gems,

Within is like ivory inlaid with diamonds precious stones

 

טו שׁוֹקָיו עַמּוּדֵי שֵׁשׁ מְיֻסָּדִים עַל אַדְנֵי פָז מַרְאֵהוּ כַּלְּבָנוֹן בָּחוּר כָּאֲרָזִים

15 His thighs are pillars of marble, set in sockets of pure gold,

His appearance is like Lebanon, like the sturdiest cedar.

טז חִכּוֹ מַמְתַקִּים וְכֻלּוֹ מַחֲמַדִּים זֶה דוֹדִי וְזֶה רֵעִי בְּנוֹת יְרוּשָׁלָ‍ִם.

His palate is sweet, and He is all delight,

O daughters of Jerusalem, this is my Beloved, this is my Friend.

 

The fifth chapter of Shir HaShirim deals with the concept of communion of the soul with God during life in this world and subsequently. In large part, this is achieved from Above, so that the soul is aroused to its Divine service in ways that cannot be easily understood – the awakening is initiated from Above and manifests as a subliminal longing for communion. This is mostly due to the state of exile in which the soul is currently found, when the Temple no longer stands, and the Temple service down below is in abeyance, so that this longing is often unconscious or subliminal, and unless the person rises to the occasion, they will be left with mere regrets.  

 

5:1 בָּאתִי לְגַנִּי אֲחֹתִי כַלָּה – I have come to My garden, My sister My bride

Rabbi Chiya began his discourse, explaining the verse (Leviticus 1:1): “And G-d called to Moshe, speaking to him from the Tent of Meeting.” And this is what He said: “I have come to My garden” – this refers to the Garden of Eden above, the secret of the sefirah of binah (whereas the lower Garden of Eden is malchut).

‘My sister, My bride’ – this refers to Knesset Yisrael, the spiritual root of the Jewish People as a whole. In other words, “on that day the day the Tabernacle was erected, communion (zivug) with the souls of all Israel took place throughout, on all levels, so that all of them were blessed with the flow of light via that river (the middle column, ending in yesod) that originates in binah, as the verse states (Genesis 2:10): “The river (the middle column) that flows forth from Eden (binah) to water the Garden (malchut).”[2] These aspects of communion took place in the Garden of Eden itself at the level of binah so that all of them the Israelites were blessed by the flow of that stream via yesod of binah which is referred to as a ‘stream’ (nachal).[3]

(Zohar III, 3b)

5:1 אָרִיתִי מוֹרִי עִם בְּשָׂמִי אָכַלְתִּי יַעְרִי עִם דִּבְשִׁי שָׁתִיתִי יֵינִי עִם חֲלָבִי אִכְלוּ רֵעִים שְׁתוּ וְשִׁכְרוּ דּוֹדִים I ate my honeycomb with the honey; I drank My wine with My milk. Eat My dear beloved ones, and drink; become intoxicated My friends

As a result of the flow of light from above, all of the souls of the righteous, and all the sefirot of ze’ir anpin, became bound one to the other in harmony, each higher aspect manifesting itself in a soul related to it, and in a sefirah below it, thus raising the lower aspect to a much loftier level. Thus the verse continues: I have gathered My myrrh with My spice – ‘myrrh’ refers to Abraham, the sefirah of chesed, about whom the verse (Shir HaShirim 4:6) states, “To the Mountain of Myrrh, I will take Me” alluding to Mount Moriah, where Abraham was told to offer up Isaac (Genesis 22:2). And ‘My spice’ refers to Aaron, the sefirah of netzach on the right column, below chesed. Regarding Aaron the verse (Exodus 30:23) states, “Take the best of spices…” this is the unification of the right arm and the right leg…

I ate My honeycomb (David, malchut, which tends towards gevurah) with the honey (Isaac, gevurah). In the physical sense, this is the unification of the left arm and the left leg.

I drank My wine (Jacob, tiferet) with My milk (Solomon, yesod). This is the unification of the middle column.

The form of unification here is referred to as “each quality found a similar quality and they strengthen each other.”[4]

Alternatively, this verse reveals another and even deeper secret regarding zivug – the unification of opposite qualities:

I have gathered My myrrh with My spice – this is the unification/zivug of body tiferet and the sign of the covenant yesod. Although tiferet and yesod are on the same middle column, the natural tendency of tiferet is to ascend and cleave to the higher sefirot, whereas the natural tendency of yesod is to descend and unite with malchut. In this sense they are opposite qualities.

My honeycomb with the honey – this is the unification/zivug of the right leg netzach and the left leg hod;

My wine with My milk – this is the unification/zivug of the left arm gevurah and the right arm chesed.

(Zohar III, 3b, 4a)

5:1 אִכְלוּ רֵעִים שְׁתוּ וְשִׁכְרוּ דּוֹדִים – Eat My dear beloved ones, and drink; become intoxicated My friends

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai said: the secret of this matter is, when the verse states, “Eat My dear beloved ones” this is talking about the unification of ‘the beloved ones above, and “become intoxicated My friends” is referring to the unification of those below.

Rabbi Elazar Rabbi Shimon’s son said to him: Who are those above and who are those below? ‘Above’ could be explained as referring to the unification of ze’ir anpin and malchut in the World of Atzilut, whereas ‘below’ could be referring to unifications of the various partzufim (sefirot or clusters of sefirot interacting with each other) in the Worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah. Or the entire statement could be referring to levels of yichudim and zivugim (unifications) in Atzilut itself.

Rabbi Shimon replied: That’s a good question and the subject needs further explanation! However, this verse is referring to the higher level – ‘beloved ones’ refers to Abba (chochmah) and Imma (binah) which are in a state of communion and joy the entire time, without a break, for there is no blemish that could interrupt their communion, and they are never separated. And therefore they are called ‘beloved ones’ – they are faithful lovers who are never separated from one another. And therefore the verse states (Genesis 2:10) “and the river flows forth from Eden” referring to binah (the river) that flows forth from chochmah (Eden).[5] Now this flow is constant and without interruption, so that Eden and that river are never separated. But this is not so regarding the yichud of the lower partzufim – ze’ir anpin and malchut. Their yichud is only from time-to-time so that they can illuminate those below them, which they cannot do when they are in a state of yichud. And therefore the verse states, “drink and become intoxicated My friends” they are called “friends” rather than beloveds, since their communion is only at certain times. This is the explanation of the verse.

Commentaries explain that the words “drink and become intoxicated” refers to the wine that is guarded in the grapes – i.e. the secrets of the Torah that are the inner dimension of binah[6] that arouses the yichud of ze’ir anpin and malchut. Elsewhere the Zohar explains that the good wine that brings about this yichud alludes to the tsaddik who brings about the unification of the blessed Holy One (as manifested in ze’ir anpin) and the Jewish People (malchut).[7]

(Zohar III, 4a; Matok miDevash)

5:2  אֲנִי יְשֵׁנָה וְלִבִּי עֵר קוֹל דּוֹדִי דוֹפֵק – I am asleep, but My heart is awake; the voice of my Beloved is knocking

Rabbi Chiya began: this verse refers to the blessed Holy One, who states ‘I am as if asleep’ while My children are undergoing harsh slavery during the exile in Egypt, but ‘My heart is awake’ to guard them so that they are not destroyed by the exile. “The voice of my Beloved is knocking” refers to the blessed Holy One who declared (Exodus 6:5), “Moreover I have heard the groaning of the Children of Israel whom Egypt enslaves and I remember My covenant.”

(Zohar III, 95a)

 

Rabbi Yehudah offered a different explanation: ‘I am asleep’ refers to Knesset Yisrael to the Jewish People as a whole who said: ‘I am asleep to the commandments of the Torah while I journey through the desert. ‘But my heart is awake’ to ascend to the Holy Land and fulfill them there, for all of the laws of the Torah apply there. ‘The voice of my beloved is knocking’ refers to Moses who admonished us in a number of different ways… which is why the verse states, ‘he is knocking’ because he insisted on awakening us to the great privilege of fulfilling the Torah in the Holy Land.

(Zohar III, 286a)

5:2  פִּתְחִי לִי אֲחֹתִי רַעְיָתִי יוֹנָתִי תַמָּתִי  – Open up for me my sister, my beloved, my dove, my perfect one

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai said: Before the time when the morning light begins to rise i.e. before dawn, the darkness becomes more intense and the blackness of the night reigns. It is then during the third and last section of the night that the woman malchut chats with her husband ze’ir anpin, as we have learned,[8] and she enters his chamber to commune with him, in the secret of yichud. Then, towards the end of the day, when the sun is about to set in the west, then the night i.e. malchut, the moon, comes and takes the light of the sun ze’ir anpin – the moon malchut has no light of its own;[9] all of its light is from the sun. At that time all the gates are closed and no flow of light illuminates those down below. Donkeys bray and dogs bark – symbols of the negative forces. But at midnight, when the King ze’ir anpin begins to awaken, and the queen malchut begins to sing his praises, then the king comes knocking at the door of her chamber, saying: “Open up for me.” And he relates to her in four different ways – as my sister corresponding to the yud of the Name Havaye; my beloved corresponding to the hei of the Name Havaye; my dove corresponding to the vav; my perfect one corresponding to the hei of the Name Havaye. It is at that time that the blessed Holy One delights in the souls of the righteous.

(Zohar II, 46a)

Alternatively, when a person is in a lowly spiritual state – ‘I am asleep’, as the verse states – their prayer should be: Open up prayer for me so that I should be able to pray sincerely from the heart, which is still awake. Regarding this, the verse (Psalms 51:17), uttered as the introduction to the Amidah prayer (the standing prayer), the Shmoneh Esrei, states: ‘O Lord (Adon-ai), open my lips that my mouth may declare Your praises.’ It is precisely through this Name, Adon-ai, associated with malchut, that the gates of prayer are opened.

(Zohar III, 33b, Raya Mehemna)

5:2  שֶׁרֹּאשִׁי נִמְלָא טָל – With Me the beginning is filled with dew

What does ‘filled with dew’ mean? The blessed Holy One declares: “You reckon that from the day of the destruction of the Temple I ascended to My abode in the heavens above, and there I settled. But this is not so. I did not ascend to My abode during the entire time that you are in exile. And the sign by which you can know that this is so is that for Me, the beginning is filled with dew (ט”ל) because the Shechinah the Divine Presence, malchut, represented by the letter ה”א, is in exile. The completion and life force of malchut is when ט”ל is together with her. When the Name Havaye associated with ze’ir anpin is fully iterated, it is written thus: יו”ד ה”א וא”ו ה”א whose numerical value is 45. This is called Shem Ma”h. However, when the letters ה”א are missing from the proper configuration, the remainder of the Name only adds up to 39 = ט”ל. This is when the ה”א is not together with יו”ד ה”א וא”ו. For beginning of the Name – the aspect of ט”ל = dew – is what will fill the Shechinah from all of the sources above her. This is the meaning of “My beginning is filled with dew” – it is the secret of the yichud of blessed Holy One and the Shechinah.

(Tikunei Zohar 17b)

5:2  קְוֻּצּוֹתַי רְסִיסֵי לָיְלָה and the ends with the droplets of night for you

Concluding the explanation above, the Zohar now explains the second half of the verse: “The ends” refers to the six sides i.e. the six sefirot of ze’ir anpin, which is the numerical value of the letters ה”א = 6… and “the droplets of night” refer to the lower Shechinahmalchut in the lower worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah. But why is it called night, which it seems has a negative connotation? To the contrary, night here refers to the inauguration of the holiest day of the week Sabbath eve,  and to ‘watch night’ the first night of Passover, celebrating the redemption from slavery, which is certainly a Godly night, since this is when He took the Israelites out of Egypt.

(Tikunei Zohar 106a)

 

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai said: The blessed Holy One’s compassion envelops the souls of Israel above, called Knesset Yisrael. This is the meaning of the verse: “Open up for Me” – make an opening through which you can return, so that you can merit all the good in the world. “The beginning is filled with dew” is one end of the world, “and the ends with the droplets of night for you” – is the other end – in essence, from the highest levels of reality to the lowest, I filled the world from beginning to end with goodness for you. But you did not open for Me at that time…

(Tikunei Zohar 24b)

 

 

5:3  פָּשַׁטְתִּי אֶת כֻּתָּנְתִּי אֵיכָכָה אֶלְבָּשֶׁנָּה רָחַצְתִּי אֶת רַגְלַי אֵיכָכָה אֲטַנְּפֵם

I removed My robe; can I wear it again? I washed my feet, should I soil them?

Although many commentaries explain that this verse is said in the voice of the woman who has removed her robe in anticipation of intimacy with her husband, the Zohar interprets the verse in the voice of the blessed Holy One.

When the blessed Holy One is prepared to commune with malchut, but the Jewish People are not worthy of being a wick for the light of the candle, as the verse (Proverbs 20:27) states, “The candle of God is man’s soul”[10] what does our verse state? “I removed My robe, can I wear it again? I washed My feet, should I soil them?” The meaning of this is as follows: ‘I removed My robe’ – these are the appellations and attributes, such as “the Merciful One,” “the Almighty” etc. that when woven together form a ‘garment’ for the blessed Holy One. This garment or robe is what He wraps Himself in, so to speak, when preparing to descend to where she resides, prior to the time of yichud [revelation in and unification with the soul]. But when He is invited to commune with her, He removes all His garments in order to commune with her without any barriers or obstructions – ‘face to face’[11] (Deuteronomy 5:4) with the Ineffable Name – Havaye, as in the above verse “The candle of Havaye is man’s soul”. Therefore, ‘I removed My robe’ to prepare Myself for you and to benefit you with full communion. But you were not properly prepared you had not rectified yourself and prepared yourself for the light from above, as a wick is prepared for the flame. And now, how can I wear those garments again, the ones that I wore in order to descend to you, after I return and distance Myself from you? The entire point of ‘undressing from those robes’ was as a preparation to commune with you via the essential Name, the ineffable Name, the holy Name of Havaye.

Moreover, “I washed My feet, should I soil them again?” I washed away the dirt which is that when I was preparing for yichud with you, I removed ‘the other side’ the aspect of impurity from before Me, so that the yichud should not be compromised or tainted in any way. How then should I return to cover up the Holy Temple with dirt as happened with the destruction of the Temple, just because you did not make yourself ready for Me?

From here we learn that when the spirit of impurity is removed from the world, as it will be in the future, in the Messianic era, then everything will increase to its full spiritual stature above and below, and therefore, “Once I have washed My feet, in order to accomplish the yichud in purity and holiness, how could I possibly soil them again? With the advent of the Messianic era, things will never return to the status quo as they were during the time of exile.

(Zohar Chadash, Bereishit, Sitrei Otiyot 6a)

Alternatively, this verse can be understood as a consolation to us even during this time of exile, we can stand on holy ground, which is the Sabbath, regarding which the Shechinah states, “I removed my robe, can I put it on it again? I washed my feet, should I soil them again?” For this reason we change our garments for the Sabbath, add a candle, have special food, and subtract from the weekday and add it to the Sabbath by bringing in the Sabbath early, before sunset, and departing from it only after the stars emerge after the Sabbath. Therefore, anyone who adds in the manner mentioned is given an additional nefesh literally, an extra soul, or an extra level of Divine consciousness, and anyone who detracts from the Sabbath in the ways mentioned will have that extra nefesh subtracted from him, Heaven forfend.

(Tikunei Zohar 85b)

 

5:4   דּוֹדִי שָׁלַח יָדוֹ מִן הַחֹר וּמֵעַי הָמוּ עָלָיוMy Beloved sent forth His hand through a gap in the door and I was moved for Him to my core

The Zohar does not comment on this verse. The Arizal interprets it as the entry of a higher level of soul (or consciousness), the level of ruach, into a person. But the person’s body (or physicality) is lazy and is startled by being awakened in the night (during the darkness of exile or the darkness of gross physicality), and grumbles that it can wait until morning, until the light of the redemption starts to shine. When it eventually arises, as the next verse states, the body finds that it is too late and the moment of spiritual awakening has passed…[12]

5:5-6 קַמְתִּי אֲנִי לִפְתֹּחַ לְדוֹדִי… וְדוֹדִי חָמַק עָבָר…  I arose to open for my Beloved… but my Beloved had turned and gone

Rabbi Yehuda began, citing our verse: “I arose to open for my Beloved” refers to the voice of prophecy. Come and see: when Knesset Yisrael the collective soul of the Israelites is in exile, the voice of nevuah (prophecy) vanishes from them, and even the word ruach hakodesh (divine inspiration) is forgotten, as the verse (Psalms 39:3) states ‘I became mute in silence…’ ‘Mute’ and ‘silence’ allude to these two levels. Based on this section of Zohar we can view them as voice (infinite potential for revelation) and word (limited revelation). Now prophecy is much a higher level than ruach hakodesh, and during the exile even the latter is rare, although not impossible to attain.[13] But even when word ruach hakodesh is awakened, what does the next verse state? “But my Beloved has turned and gone” – the voice of prophecy has departed, and even the word has fallen silent. The Zohar goes on in this piece to declare that this is only a temporary situation, and the Covenant that He made with them will once again be fully expressed.

(Zohar II, 26a)

Alternatively, we can also explain this in a more specific sense and in an historical context: “I arose for my beloved, to open the door” refers to Moshe (Moses). Said the Israelites: When we were preparing to ascend to the Land of Israel after the Exodus from Egypt, and to receive the commandments of the Torah through Moshe, what does the verse state? “But my beloved (Moshe, our teacher and leader) has turned and gone” as the verse (Deuteronomy 34:5) states: “And Moshe, the servant of G-d, passed on there…”

Hence our verse (5:6) continues: “I sought him but I did not find him, I called him but He did not respond” – all referring to Moshe: “I sought him but I did not find him,” as the verse (Deuteronomy 34:10) states, “Never again has there arisen in Israel a prophet like Moshe.” And “I called him, but he did not respond” for there was no generation like Moshe’s, to whom the blessed Holy One listened and for whom He did miracles and guided, all by Moshe’s hand.

(Zohar III, 286b)

Alternatively, Rabbi Tanchum began: “I arose for my Beloved, to open the door, but my Beloved has turned and gone; my soul flew out at His word.” He explained: Come and see the extent to which a person must purify himself from his sins while the paths of repentance are open before him, before the road is blocked! And this is why it states (Isaiah 55:6): “Seek out G-d where i.e. when He is to be found…” For there are times when He is close, and there are times when He is far away.

The Zohar poses the following difficulty: But how can Rabbi Tanchum state this, that there are times when He is close, and there are times when He is far away? Doesn’t the verse (Psalms 145:18) state: “G-d is close to all those who call out to Him in truth”? And the Zohar responded on Rabbi Tanchum’s behalf: Actually, the verse supports his view, since it states, “those who call out to Him in truth.” From this we understand that not everyone calls out in truth and therefore He may be far away for that person! Nevertheless, even for those who are not capable of calling out to Him in truth, what does the following verse state? “He fulfills the will of those who are in awe of Him,” even though they do not call out in truth.

(Zohar Chadash, Midrash Hane’elam 27b [Margolis])

Alternatively, “I arose for my beloved, to open the door” – ‘I arose… to open’ refers to the body, and ‘my beloved’ refers to the soul. Only after the person has passed away, and the soul no longer enlivens the body, does the body start to realize that it should have opened up far more to the life of the soul. While the soul is in the body, the person does not yearn to awaken the paths of repentance.

Rabbi Pinchas said: This actually happens before death. When the soul is about to leave the body, then the person starts having regrets as to why they did not return in repentance during their lifetime, before the soul left the body, which remains like an empty vessel after death.

(Zohar Chadash, Midrash Hane’elam 24b [Margolis])

 

5:7  מְצָאֻנִי הַשֹּׁמְרִים… – The watchmen found me…

The soul (which is also called Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law) when it leaves this world, if it is worthy it ascends to the Garden of Eden upon earth, the lowest level of the Garden of Eden, which the blessed Holy One planted for the righteous.

This is like the Garden of Eden above, the higher level of the Garden of Eden, where all the saintly of this world are stationed. When a soul leaves this world it first ascends to the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron where the opening to the Garden of Eden is found.

There the soul meets Adam and the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who are buried there together with the Matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca and Leah. If she the soul is worthy, they rejoice in her and open the gate for her and she ascends to the Garden of Eden. But if not, they turn her away. Now[14] what does she the soul say when she has been turned away? ‘The watchmen found me…’ And then she leaves.

Now prior to the soul descending into this world, i.e. before a person is born, a light is placed above their head, as the verse (Job 29:3) states: “His lamp shines over my head…” And afterwards, when the soul leaves the world, all who see her tremble in fear and say (Ruth 1:19): “Is this Naomi?” Is this the soul that was filled with pleasantness (no’am) from the light that shone over her head? And she Naomi, the soul answers (Ruth 1:20): ‘Don’t call me Naomi; call me Mara (bitterness). When I went to that place – in the story of Ruth, an analogy for the descent of the soul into the exile of the body, i.e. when Elimelech and his wife Naomi left Bethlehem in the Holy Land and went to stay in the land of the Moabites – I went full, with wealth and fame and family, but G-d returned me empty her husband and two sons died there and she came back a pauper, with nothing but her daughter-in-law Ruth. In the analog – when the soul descends to earth, it goes with a light above its head and everything it needs to fulfill its mission. But if it returns after life in this world without Torah learning, and without having fulfilled the Commandments then it comes to the Cave of the Patriarchs with a tainted body, and therefore ‘why call me Naomi?’ G­‑d has answered me in kind, measure for measure, for “the measure which a person uses (in life) for others, is used for him too,[15] i.e. the scale that the blessed Holy One uses is ‘measure for measure.’[16]

But if the soul is worthy, it ascends to the actual Garden of Eden, where it resides in delight with the Divine image it reflected in this world. The Zohar goes on to explain that the soul is elevated to the higher level of the Garden of Eden on Sabbath and Festivals and on Rosh Chodesh, the beginning of the month. Higher levels of soul ascend to the higher level of the Garden of Eden.

(Zohar I, 81a)

The procedures for entry to the Garden of Eden, and various levels of ascent of the soul are explained in more detail in the following section

We have learned that there are seven openings or gates for the souls of the righteous to enter, until they reach their highest point. And at every entrance there are guards.

At the first opening the soul enters the Cave of the Patriarchs, which is close to the ante-room before the Garden of Eden. Adam guards this entrance. If the person is worthy, he Adam announces: “Make space for the soul entering. Enter in peace” as it enters through the first opening.

The second opening is the gate of the Garden of Eden. The angels guarding the gate bear the flaming whirling sword. If the person is worthy they enter in peace. If not, it is there that it receives its punishment i.e. its cleansing and purification by being burned with the flames of the keruvim a type of angel usually translated as ‘cherub’. Corresponding to them, were keruvim in the Temple situated on top of the cover of the Ark. When the Kohen the High Priest entered the Temple into the Holy of Holies, which was only once a year, on the Day of Atonement, if he was worthy he entered in peace. If not, a flame issued forth from between the two keruvim upon the cover of the Ark which would burn him up on the inside and he would die, while leaving his outside intact. Those keruvim were situated precisely in line with those at the gate of Gan Eden, whose duty it was to purify souls.

If the soul was found worthy, it was given a signed ledger to enter, and it entered into the first level – the Garden of Eden on Earth. There was a pillar of cloud and glowing light mixed together, enveloped in smoke and glowing light, as the verse (Isaiah 4:5) states, “And God will create over every structure of Mount Zion and over those who assemble in it a cloud by day and smoke and a glow of flaming fire by night…” This pillar stretches from below to above, to the gates of heaven. If the soul is worthy of ascending, she ascends via that pillar. If she is not sufficiently worthy, it remains there and is pampered or perhaps refined by the goodness above. For Rabbi Yose states: ‘I saw the Garden of Eden, and it is situated precisely in line with the sheet of fearsome ice up above (See Ezekiel 1:22). There the soul delights in the radiance of the Shechinah the Divine Presence, but she is not directly nourished thereby.’

If the soul is worthy of ascending even further, she ascends via that same pillar until she comes to the fourth opening, corresponding to that spiritual level called Zevul. And the soul reaches the level of Jerusalem as it is there in the Heavens. If the watchmen there find her worthy, they open the gates and she enters.

If she is not worthy, they bar the gates and push that soul out, and they confiscate the ledger. The soul cites our verse, “The watchmen found me, those who patrol the city.” These watchmen are ministering angels who guard the Temple and Jerusalem above, in the heavens. “They stripped away my shawl the literal translation of רְדִידִי is ‘my shawl’, but the Zohar explains that this is her signed ledger, which was confiscated by those guardians of the wall,” as the verse (Isaiah 62:6) states, “Upon your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed guardians.”

But if the soul is worthy of ascending, she enters through those gates, and she praises the blessed Holy One in the Temple up above. The Archangel Michael then offers her as an offering. Rabbi Yitzchak asked Rabbi Chiya, “What kind of offering is this? Can it be compared to any other offering?” Rabbi Chiya replied, “This offering is like one who brings a gift to the king.”

Michael then accompanies the soul through the fourth, fifth and sixth gates, declaring before the blessed Holy One, “Master of the Worlds, fortunate are Your children, the offspring of those who loved You, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Privileged are the saintly righteous tsaddikim who are worthy of this ascent. Then they come to the seventh gate, called aravot, where the secret treasures of a good life are kept, and where all the souls of the righteous dwell. They become like[17] the ministering angels, in that they utter the praises of the blessed Holy One, and are nourished by the radiance of the Divine Presence, the Luminous Reflection[18] (aspaklaria), and there they find their rest and inheritance, and reside in the World to Come which “no eye has seen, other than Yours, O Lord” (Isaiah 64:3).

(Zohar Chadash, Midrash Hane’elam 21a [Margolis edition])

 

5:8  הִשְׁבַּעְתִּי אֶתְכֶם בְּנוֹת יְרוּשָׁלָ‍ִם אִם תִּמְצְאוּ אֶת דּוֹדִי מַה תַּגִּידוּ לוֹ שֶׁחוֹלַת אַהֲבָה אָנִי –  I adjure you, daughters of Jerusalem: If you find my Beloved, tell Him I am sick with love

The Zohar’s explanation here continues the theme of the previous one

Rabbi Pinchas said in the name of Rabbi Yehuda: ‘I adjure you, daughters of Jerusalem’ – the soul says to those souls who were worthy of entering Jerusalem in the Heavens above – these precious souls are called ‘daughters of Jerusalem’ since they were worthy of entering that level – and therefore the soul says to them: ‘I adjure you, daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my Beloved’ i.e. the blessed Holy One tell Him I am sick with love for Him. But Rav explained: This is the radiance of the aspaklaria[19] up above. Now ‘what should you tell Him? That I am sick with love’ – I too wish to delight in His radiance and rest in His shade.

Rav Huna explained ‘I am sick with love’ means that the desire and longing that I had for everything [useless] in the world is what made me sick. 

Rabbi Yehuda explained: ‘I am sick with love’ [also] refers to the love that the soul has for the body as the vehicle through which it earns its rewards – by fulfilling the Commandments. And when the body reaches its end, i.e. the number of days decreed that it shall live, as in the verse (Genesis 23:1): ‘The years of Sarah’s life…’ implying that these were the years allotted to the body, then Abraham the soul came to mourn for Sarah the body and to weep over her because it is only through the body that the soul can fulfill the Commandments.[20]

(Zohar I, 122a in Midrash haNe’elam)

 

Alternatively, ‘I am sick with love’ during the exile where the soul longs for redemption and to commune with her Beloved.

(Zohar III, 40a)

5:9  מַה דּוֹדֵךְ מִדּוֹד – How does your Beloved exceed all others?

The Zohar does not comment on this verse, but Rabbi Chaim Vital[21] explains that the nations of the world ask us in what way our Torah is better than their teachings. Is it not the case that even your Torah, they ask, deals with the vanity and worthlessness of the world? Now this is the greatest embarrassment to the Torah that could possibly be. Woe to those creatures who embarrass the Torah by not occupying themselves with the wisdom of Kabbalah which gives honor to the Torah. Those people [who do not study Kabbalah] extend the exile and cause all sorts of misfortune in the world.

5:10  דּוֹדִי צַח וְאָדוֹם – My Beloved is pure-white and red

The verse states (Genesis 25:30): Esau said to Jacob, “Pour into my mouth some of that red, red stuff, for I am exhausted…” The verse concludes that therefore he was named Edom (meaning red), which is associated with the sefirah of gevurah and the attribute of harsh judgment.

Now why does the verse use the word ‘red’ twice? This is because anything which is associated with red is itself red. As the verse (Genesis 25:24) states, “And the first one (i.e. Esau) emerged red.” And his food i.e. the food he liked was red, as the verse states, “Pour into my mouth some of that red, red stuff, for I am exhausted…” And his land is associated with red, as the verse (Genesis 32:4) states, “the land of Se’ir, the field of Edom” Edom means red. Jacob gave him what he wanted but demanded the birthright in exchange (see Genesis 25:31).

And his people the inhabitants of his land, Edom, are red, as the verse (Genesis 36:9) states “Esau, the progenitor of Edom (Rome).” And the one who will mete out his punishment is also red, as our verse states “My Beloved is pure-white and red.” And His garments are red, as the verse (Isaiah 63:2) states “Why are Your garments red…?” referring to the blessed Holy One, as the previous verse (63:1) indicates, “Who is this coming from Edom…? – i.e. coming from exacting vengeance upon Edom-Rome for having destroyed the Temple.[22] Thus one who acted with harshness towards the Israelites is treated with the same harshness that he displayed. And yet he acted as pure-white towards his father, Isaac, to the extent that he may even have deceived Isaac[23] as to his true character.

Rabbi Yehuda said: The same principle applies to Lavan (Laban). The Zohar seems to imply here that the word Lavan refers to both Laban and to the color white,[24] although both instances ultimately refer to the attribute of chesed, as the Zohar will explain. Since he Laban was a sorcerer,[25] as the verse (Genesis 30:27) states when Laban tells Jacob, “I have learned by divination that God has blessed me because of you.” Now although Jacob is called whole or complete, as the verse (Genesis 33:18) states, “Jacob arrived intact to the city of Shechem…” it is precisely because of this that he was complete – for a person with whom he had to deal compassionately i.e. Laban his father-in-law he did, and a person with whom he had to deal harshly and deviously, like Esau, who was a harsh person and had to be tricked into giving up the birthright of which Esau was not worthy,[26] he did so.

Thus Jacob is called ‘whole’ or ‘complete’ since he possessed both of these aspects kindness (chesed) and harshness (gevurah). Regarding him the verse (Psalms 18:27) states: “With the kind, you act kindly, and with the perverse you act deviously.” ‘With the kind’ – from the side of chesed, and ‘with the perverse’ – from the side of gevurah. Each as is appropriate.

The implication here seems to be that Jacob reflected the Divine Image in the sense that he combines both aspects, to be used as appropriate in each situation.

(Zohar Chadash, 26b [Margolis])

5:11  רֹאשׁוֹ כֶּתֶם פָּז – His head is of fine gold

In the following section, the Zohar is in the middle of a discussion about the four sides of the Merkava (the Divine ‘chariot’) found in the first chapter of Ezekiel, which are the likeness of the face of a lion on the right, an ox on the left, an eagle in the front and the face of a man in back. They are also called four ‘Tikunim’ – rectifications or ‘garments.[27] These correspond (in order) to four faculties, sight, hearing, smell and speech. All of these have their parallels in the spiritual realm – as the roots of man’s animal soul[28] (but not of the Godly soul).[29] Different types of souls stem from each of the four aspects of the Merkava.

Regarding these four Tikunim that correspond to the four faces on the Merkavah, the blessed Holy One told Moshe (Exodus 18:21): “and you shall discern from among the entire nation people of accomplishment, God-fearing people, people of truth who detest unjust gain, and you shall appoint them as leaders…” These are the signs that you have to look for.

“And you shall discern…” from the hair on their heads, regarding which our verse states, “His head is of fine gold” his head shines like pure gold referring to supernal keter, in which the brain resides – technically what is referred to as mocha stima’a the hidden intelligence (or mind or brain), i.e. chochmah of keter. From there mocha stima’a emerge well-springs in all directions to water nourish every hair, each of which represents a hidden world. And every well-spring becomes a luminous spark the letter yud, and every hair of the locks hanging down becomes like the tail of a comet the letter vav which draws down the light from the well-spring… The Zohar becomes very esoteric here discussing various levels in keter.

However, the upshot is that the level of keter that affects us most is called Arich Anpin, which represents the will of the Almighty. This will is expressed in all the Commandments of the Torah, and is manifested in the myriad detailed laws (halachot) discussed in the next piece.

(Tikunei Zohar, 122b, Ramak, Commentaries)

 

5:11  קְוּצּוֹתָיו תַּלְתַּלִּים שְׁחֹרוֹת כָּעוֹרֵבHis locks hanging down are black as a raven

‘His locks hanging down are black as a raven’ – this has been interpreted thus: from every hair[30] heaps and heaps of laws emerge. In other words, the laws and the halachot of the Torah emerge from the Divine Will (keter) mentioned in the previous commentary, and multiply as they descend.

(Zohar II, 116a)

Our verse states, ‘His locks hanging down are black as a raven,’ but in the Book of Daniel (7:9) it states, ‘The hair on His head is white as pure wool!’ This seems to be a contradiction. But there is no contradiction – one refers to the beard above of Atik Yomin, the inner dimension of keter, and the other refers to the beard below of ze’ir anpin the cluster [partzuf] of sefirot from chesed to yesod. Now although the verse in Daniel states, ‘the hair on His head’ the explanation is that both the hair of the head and the hair of the beard are channels whereby the Divine outflow is drawn down from a higher level to a lower level,[31] similar to the way oil travels down the hairs of the head and the beard. The hair of Atik Yomin is all chesed,[32] and therefore it is depicted as white, whereas the beard of ze’ir anpin is a product of the severities and restrictions of gevurah and is depicted as black. This is why ‘His locks hanging down’ are the source of laws requiring or restricting certain actions.

(Zohar III, 132a)

 

5:12 עֵינָיו כְּיוֹנִיםHis eyes are like doves

The eyes here represent Divine Providence.[33] The ‘eyes’ in the head of ze’ir anpin oversee everything that takes place in the lower worlds. These are ‘eyes’ that the wicked ignore – perhaps due to the wicked being blissfully unaware of Divine Providence, or perhaps because they don’t care, or perhaps because they willfully deny it, saying “G-d won’t see” (Psalms 94:7). And the reason they make this claim is because there is a concept of ‘dozing’ in regard to ze’ir anpin.[34] But these eyes, even when they are closed still see. And therefore they are referred to in our verse as ‘His eyes are like doves.” The Zohar interprets the word יוֹנִים (translated as ‘doves’ here) as a declension of the word אוֹ­­­נָאָה, as in the verse (Leviticus 25:17), “You shall not cheat (תוֹנוּ) your fellow,” regarding which the verse states, “G-d won’t see.” A person will only cheat another if he thinks no-one will find out. But he forgets about the later verse (Psalms 94:9) which states, “He who implants the ear, will He not hear?” and the same rule applies to the eyes.

(Zohar III, 293b, Idra Zuta; Matok MiDevash)

5:12   רֹחֲצוֹת בֶּחָלָב– Bathed in milk

As a preface to the previous idea, the Zohar discusses various levels of Divine Providence. That hidden aspect of intelligence (or mind or brain) called chochmah stima’a is engraved – it is a permanent feature and not something transient, like ink on parchment that can be erased – and shines forth into three specific sefirot, chochmah, binah and da’at of ze’ir anpin, and therefore irradiates three levels of the white of the eyes. One type of white bathes i.e. illuminates the eyes of ze’ir anpin, as the verse states, ‘bathed in milk.’ This is the first level of white the revealed intelligence or brain (corresponding to chochmah, binah and da’at) of ze’ir anpin. Other levels of white bathe and illuminate the other lamps the other sefirot… When that eye the eye of chochmah stima’a of Arich Anpin gazes upon ze’ir anpin, all of the partzufim the spiritual profiles in the lower worlds are delighted, for that eye is all on the right side i.e. the side of chesed-kindness, and there is no left side i.e. gevurah-harshness or stern judgment. This seems to be the interpretation of the last words of the verse, “residing in fullness,” although this is not stated explicitly in the Zohar. But the eyes below of ze’ir anpin itself have left and right – two aspects and two ‘colors’ i.e. two modes of operation – chesed-kindness and gevurah-harshness or stern judgment.

(Zohar III, 289a, Idra Zuta; Matok MiDevash)

 

5:13  לְחָיָו כַּעֲרוּגַת הַבֹּשֶׂם – His cheeks are like a bed of spice

This refers to the beard (as explained in 5:11) which is the consummation of the face and the beauty of ze’ir anpin. The beard begins from the ears and down towards the chin, and then rises and returns and covers the ‘offering of spices.’[35] What is the ‘offering of spices’? As the verse states, “His cheeks are like a bed of spice.” The Zohar goes on to list the 9 tikunim (rectifications) of the beard, which correspond to the 13 attributes of mercy.

(Zohar III, 139a, Idra Rabba)

5:13  שִׂפְתוֹתָיו שׁוֹשַׁנִּים נֹטְפוֹת מוֹר עֹבֵר –  His lips are roses dripping flowing myrrh

In a long discussion of the heichalot – the heavenly chambers, each of which represents a certain force, function and soul-power – the Zohar discusses the Heichal HaRatzon, the Chamber of Will. In this chamber the verse (Exodus 19:19) states, “Moshe will speak and God will answer him out loud.”[36] This is the manifestation of prophecy, which is the consummate deveikut – cleaving of Spirit above to spirit below. This is when they ze’ir anpin and malchut cleave together – one to the other in kiss to kiss in the union called zivug neshikin.[37] Regarding this, the verse (Song of Songs 1:2) states, “He will kiss me, from His mouth to mine.” There is no kiss in joy and love like the kiss when they cleave one to the other, mouth to mouth, soul to soul. As our Sages declare “the spirit of Divine Inspiration (ruach hakodesh) rests only upon a joyful heart.[38] And they satisfy each other with all types of spiritual pleasure emanating from chochmah, which is the secret of Eden, and from binah which is the concept of joy, as in the verse (Psalms 113:9), “The mother of children rejoices” where ‘mother’ (Imma) is the name of the partzuf of binah, which is illuminated by the radiance from above from keter.

Now come and see the meaning of “Moshe (Moses) will speak,” – and what does he say? As the verse states (Song of Songs 4:1) “You are beautiful my Love,” and (Song of Songs 4:3) “Your lips are like threads of scarlet” referring to the Divine Presence (Shechinah). And therefore the G-d answers him out loud (Song of Songs 1:16): “You are handsome, my beloved, a pleasing figure” and “his lips are roses dripping flowing myrrh” referring to Moshe.

(Zohar II, 253b-254a, Idra Rabba)

5:14-15  יָדָיו גְּלִילֵי זָהָב מְמֻלָּאִים בַּתַּרְשִׁישׁ… שׁוֹקָיו עַמּוּדֵי שֵׁשׁ – His arms are like bars of gold, studded with gems… His thighs are pillars of marble

Continuing the ideal of prophecy mentioned in the previous verse, the question becomes – what can be done when the Temple is destroyed, the Children of Israel are in exile, and thus there is no prophecy?[39] Our verse comes to answer that question: The verse states, “His arms are like bars of gold, studded with gems” – ‘His arms’ allude to the attributes of chesed and gevurah, and the attributes that derive from them tiferet, netzach, hod and yesod, as the verse (Chronicles I 29:11[40]) states, “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness (chesed), the might (gevurah), the splendor (tiferet), the triumph (netzach) and the glory (hod), because everything (yesod). These are the six attributes, depicted by the sefirot, discussed in this section. The four lower sefirot derive from chesed and gevurah, and are initially submerged within them.

The verse (Exodus 15:27) states, “and they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date-palms; and they encamped there by the water.” These twelve springs are the twelve sections in total of the two arms and two legs. Each arm has three sections – the upper arm, the forearm and the hand. Similarly, each leg also has three sections – the thigh, the calf, and the foot; twelve in all. This is the meaning of “His arms are like bars of gold, studded with gems” – the word for ‘gems’ here is בַּתַּרְשִׁישׁ b’tarshish which has the same letters as בתרי שֵׁש b’trei shesh ‘with two sixes’ – referring to the six sections of the two arms together (3 of each arm), and the six sections total of both legs (3 of each leg) = 12, regarding which the next verse (v. 15) states: “His thighs are pillars of marble.” The word for marble here is שֵׁשׁ which also means ‘six.’ Together these correspond to the twelve springs. What are these twelve springs? Some[41] interpret them as the 12 tribes; others interpret them as the 12 permutations of the Name Havaye, which is the reason for, and the root of, the twelve tribes.[42] So although we no longer have the Temple, and we do not have the Avot (the Patriarchs, representing chochmah, binah, data, or keter, chochmah, binah) we nevertheless have the permutations of the Name that are always with us, as the verse (Psalms 16:8) states (שויתי ה’ לנגדי תמיד) and our leaders (the heads of the Tribes) to guide and instruct us, just like the springs gave life-sustaining water. In addition, we have the types of action that each arm and leg represents – chesed-kindness the right arm; gevurah self-restraint and the battle against evil, and so on.

And therefore the Sages continue and explain that the seventy date-palms represent the 70 elders,[43] who were selected to be members of the Sanhedrin (the rabbinical Supreme Court). They too provide us with shade [i.e. protection] and nourishment, as date-palms do).

(Tikunei Zohar, 146a)

 

5:14  מֵעָיו עֶשֶׁת שֵׁן מְעֻלֶּפֶת סַפִּירִים Within is like ivory inlaid with diamonds

The literal translation of מֵעָיו is ‘his body’ or ‘his abdomen.’ However, in a very profound and abstruse section known as Kav HaMiddah the Zohar explains that מֵעָיו means ‘within,’ and the word מְעֻלֶּפֶת is also related to the word meaning to ‘conceal’ (as in Genesis 38:12 וַתְּכַס בַּצָּעִיף וַתִּתְעַלָּף – ‘She covered [her face] with a scarf [so that she would not be recognized’], Rashi), and from the word meaning ‘fainting’ (as in Amos 8:13 בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא תִּתְעַלַּפְנָה הַבְּתוּלֹת הַיָּפוֹת וְהַבַּחוּרִים בַּצָּמָא – “On that day… [they] will faint with thirst”; and Jonah 4:8 וַתַּךְ הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ עַל-רֹאשׁ יוֹנָה וַיִּתְעַלָּף – “And the sun beat down on Jonah’s head and he felt faint”). The Zohar cites our verse and explains: מְעֻלֶּפֶת this is the lamp referring to the line of light called the kav that initially does not spread forth, for it is concealed within and in a state of ‘fainting’ so that it does not makes its measure of the light appropriate for the worlds below until the rectification has been completed. Thus we can assume that this is again alluding to the state of things during the exile, i.e. before the rectification.

(Zohar Chadash, 57b [Margolis])

 

5:15  שׁוֹקָיו עַמּוּדֵי שֵׁשׁ מְיֻסָּדִים עַל אַדְנֵי פָז – His thighs are pillars of marble, set in sockets of pure gold

Given that we are in a time of exile and darkness, without the illumination from the prophets, what solutions or perspectives does the Zohar offer to deal with this situation? In the verse (Isaiah 8:16) G-d says to Isaiah: “Bind this document upon their hearts and seal the Torah among My disciples.” ‘Bind this document applies to the Oral Torah, for that is where the bond of life is. And this document i.e. the Oral Torah is therefore bound up in Supernal Life, and they become one thing. Technically this means that malchut (the Oral Torah) is bound to ze’ir anpin (the Written Torah) from below to above. The idea is that the Oral Torah must adhere to the laws of the Written Torah to the extent that they become a single unit. Indeed, they were both given to Moses at the same time.[44]

But this works the other way as well, from above to below, from the Written Torah through the Oral Torah to the worlds below: And from there Atzilut, where the two aspects of Torah the Written and the Oral are one, on downwards, The Torah spreads out through various roads and paths until it suffuses even the lower worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, as the verse (Genesis 2:10) states, “A river issues forth from Eden to water the Garden, and from there it divides and becomes four headwaters.” Some interpret this as the mystical secret of the four camps of angels, Uriel, Rafael, Michael and Gabriel, but in context it seems more logical to explain it as the four modes of Torah explanation, peshat, remez, drush, sod (literal, narrative or allusive, homiletical, mystical).

Now when the verse states, ‘seal the Torah,’ referring to the Written Torah, where does it become sealed? Where does the Written Torah seal its light and its impact? This is ‘among My disciples’ through the Prophets, as the verse (I Kings 7:21), states, “He [Solomon] erected the pillars by the hall of the Sanctuary. He erected the right pillar and called it Yachin [‘Establish’, the secret of the sefirah of netzach], and he erected the left pillar and called it Boaz [‘Strength therein’, the secret of the sefirah of hod]. These are the two sefirot that are active in Prophecy, and from there from netzach and hod it spreads out to the true Prophets, those who are faithful to the Written Torah, and they establish it as the body above the two legs. I.e. just as in the analogy, the body is the primary aspect of a person, where the heart and other major organs critical to life reside, while the two legs are extensions thereof and support the body and bring it to where it wants to go, so too, the primary teaching is the Written Torah, while the Prophetic books, and eventually the Oral Torah, are the ‘legs’ that support the ‘body’ and carry it to where it needs to go, eventually spreading into the six lights the six orders of the Mishnah, the essence of the Oral Torah. Thus our verse states, “His thighs are pillars of marble” – the word for marble here שֵׁשׁ (shesh) also means ‘six,’ for the Oral Torah supports the Written Torah and carries it to where it needs to go, i.e. the lower worlds.

Thus the advice of the Zohar seems to be that although we no longer have the Prophets, they bequeathed their prophetic gifts to us in the Oral Torah, which began with the writings of the Prophets. Study thereof allows us to cleave to the Written Torah and thus to the Wisdom and Will of the blessed Holy One.

(Zohar III, 90b, Commentaries)

 

5:15  בָּחוּר כָּאֲרָזִים – like the sturdiest cedar

Rabbi Abba was sitting before Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai when Rabbi Elazar, his son, entered the room. Rabbi Shimon cited the verse (Psalms 92:13), “The righteous will flower like a date palm; like a cedar tree in Lebanon he will soar aloft,” and said: ‘The righteous will flower like a date palm’ – why are the righteous compared to a date palm? Because of all the trees in the world, there are none that take as long as a date-palm to bloom and produce dates – seventy years![45] Why then are the righteous person compared to a palm tree? Rabbi Shimon declared: even though the verse attests to this comparison, the circle of kabbalists did not want to reveal the reason since it also has to do with the final redemption, and they did not want people to despair.[46]

But, Rabbi Shimon continued, I will divulge the reason: The verse “The righteous (tsaddik) will flower like a date palm” refers to the Babylonian exile which lasted for 70 years. And the Shechinah did not return to her place until seventy years after the destruction of the First Temple, as the verse (Jeremiah 29:10) states: “After seventy years in Babylonia have been completed I will be intimate[47] with you… and return you to this place.” After seventy years the Jews returned from Babylonia, and when they rebuilt the Second Temple, the Shechinah was once again able to commune with her Beloved. This is the meaning of “The righteous will flower like a date palm” – that after the seventy years of exile of the male from female (technically this refers to the dearth of yichud of ze’ir anpin and malchut during the exile) then the blessed Holy One and the Shechinah /the Jewish People were once again together, they were once again able to commune and be intimate. This communion and intimacy comes about through the sefirah of yesod (which corresponds to the male reproductive organ and is called tsaddik), and this is why the verse states, ‘The righteous’ – refers to the blessed Holy One, about whom another verse (Psalms 11:7) states, “For the Lord is righteous and He loves righteous deeds…” and another verse (Exodus 9:27) states, “G-d is the righteous one…” and (Isaiah 3:10) “Say of the righteous that he produces good” – elsewhere[48] the Zohar explains that this again refers to yesod and to the reproductive organ which facilitates yichud and intimacy. Accordingly, “The righteous (tsaddik) will flower like a date palm” suggests that after seventy years (the amount of time it takes for a date-palm to produce fruit), the blessed Holy One will once again be reunited with and be intimate with the Shechinah / the Jewish People.

But, what then is this cedar referred to in the verse, ‘like a cedar tree in Lebanon he will soar aloft’? It also refers to the blessed Holy One, as the verse here in Song of Songs states, “like the sturdiest cedar.’ But this is the aspect of intimacy on a much higher level, not the intimacy of yesod to yesod (the reproductive powers in man) but how ze’ir anpin receives from chochmah. This takes a much longer time than 70 years, and therefore alludes to the final exile, which is like a cedar tree, which takes a long time to mature fully, alluding to the final redemption. From the moment it the cedar, alluding to the redemption, began to grow until full maturity – is one full day of the days of the Almighty, which is 1,000 years[49] and the beginning of the final day i.e. the dawning of the day of the redemption, after the night has passed, and until the day makes shade which means that enough of the day has passed for there to be shade from tall trees. Then the redemption will take place. Elsewhere[50] the Zohar is more specific – that this is a half hour after the sixth hour of the sixth millennium, when the shadows begin to lengthen; then the redemption will start to take place.

(Zohar III, 16a)

 

5:16  חִכּוֹ מַמְתַקִּים His palate is sweet

Continuing the theme of the Oral Torah as the expression of the Written Torah, the Zohar explains: There are three luminaries, chochmah, binah and da’at, one within the other, da’at being the most external of the three. And they are crowned as one. Some explain that this refers to keter which transcends all of them and therefore unites them; others explain that this it is keter of da’at that unites them all. And when they are joined together with a single crown, then they are referred to as ‘His palate is sweet.’ The letters that are pronounced with the palate are the letters גיכ”ק gimmel, yud, chaf, and kuf. These are the mystical secret of the five aspects of chesed that are naturally sweetened, and therefore they sweeten (i.e. rectify) the letters that represent the five harsh aspects of gevurah which are pronounced with the throat – אחה”ע alef, chet, hai, ayin. Regarding the letters pronounced with the palate, these are the palate of the king, and are called the sweetness of the king. Regarding them the verse (Psalms 34:9) states, “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.”

(Zohar II, 123a)

Alternatively, the verse (Song of Songs 7:10) states, “your palate is like fine wine” – this verse refers to Knesset Yisrael the Jewish People as a whole, and it expressed their praises. But who is praising them with this verse? If this was the blessed Holy One praising them, what is the meaning of the continuation of the verse, “you go to my beloved”? It should have said, “you come to Me.”

However, this is certainly the blessed Holy One who is praising Knesset Yisrael, just as they praise Him, as the verse states, “His palate is sweet,” and so too He praises them saying, “your palate is like fine wine.” This is the good wine that is guarded within its grapes from the six days of Creation,[51] and will not be revealed until after the final redemption. Then a great feast that will take place and this wine will be served.[52] Elsewhere[53] the Zohar explains that this wine really alludes to the deepest secrets of the Torah that have not yet been revealed. Accordingly, the verse alludes to the revelation of the deepest secrets of the Torah that will be revealed to the righteous in the future, and its sweetness will be revealed in their mouths as they teach and discuss these mystical teachings.

(Zohar II, 123a)

The Zohar does not comment on the rest of the verse. In conclusion, this is my Beloved and this is my Friend is how the Jewish People describe the blessed Holy One, displaying their ability to recognize that He is our Beloved and our greatest Ally and Friend, and that is the same way that He describes us.

[1] Ibn Ezra

[2] Zohar I, 26a.

[3] See Eitz Chaim, 23:1.

[4] מצא מין את מינו וניעור Eruvin 9a. Explained in these Kabbalistic sources: Pardes Rimonim 8:3; Sefer HaLikutim Lech 13; Sha’ar Mamarei Rashbi, Sifra d’Tzniuta 1; Taamei Hamitzvot, Lech Lecha (sod hamilah); Sha’ar haYichud (Chabad) 125b.

[5] Note that this is a different analysis of the verse from previously, where Eden referred to binah. Here, since we are referring to the yichud of chochmah and binah, the verse is explained at a higher level.

[6] See e.g. Zohar I, 135b.

[7] Tikunei Zohar 67a.

[8] Talmud Berachot 3b.

[9] See Eitz Chaim 42:13.

[10]  משלי כ, כז: נֵר יְהוָה נִשְׁמַת אָדָם…

[11] דברים ה, ד: פָּנִים בְּפָנִים דִּבֶּר יְהוָה עִמָּכֶם

[12] Sefer HaLikutim, Zot haBerachah chapter 2.

[13] Sha’arei Kedushah, R. Chaim Vital, 3:6 where he lists five approaches to achieving ruach hakodesh.

[14] The entire section from this point is in parentheses.

[15] Mishnah Sotah 1:7.

[16] Sanhedrin 90a.

[17] I added in the word ‘like’ here, because in fact souls are higher than angels, as evident from Bamidbar Rabba 20:19; Tanchuma, Balak 14; and as explained in Tanya, Iggeret HaKodesh chap. 4 that angels derive from the Name Elokim, whereas souls derive from the Name Havaye. See also Eitz Chaim 28:1; 40:10. This is also evident from the verse (Zechariah 3:7) where angels are called ‘standing’ (in the sense of immobile), whereas souls are called ‘movers’ and ascend form level to level. See Torah Ohr end of Vayeishev.

[18] Technically אספקלריאה (aspaklaria) is translated as ‘speculum.’ But since this word is not in common use in English, I have translated it as ‘reflection,’ following the dictionary definition of speculum: “a mirror or polished metal plate used as a reflector in optical instruments.”

[19] As explained in the previous footnote aspaklaria is translated as ‘speculum’ i.e. ‘a mirror or polished metal plate used as a reflector in optical instruments.’ Here I just left is as aspaklaria.

[20] As suggested by Talmud Shabbat 88b ff.”למצרים ירדתם.. אב ואם יש לכם.. יצה”ר יש ביניכם”

 See Likutei Torah (Chabad) Behar 42b; Mamarei Admur HaZakein 5666 vol. 2 p. 702;

[21] Intro. to Sefer HaHakamot

[22] See Ibn Ezra on the verse and Malbim 34:6.

[23] Many commentaries disagree that Isaac was actually fooled. See Zohar I, 143a; 144a-b.

[24] We translated לבן here as ‘pure white’ (or perhaps ‘clear’) to reflect another meaning of צַח = pure.

[25] See Rashi.

[26] See Rashi to Gen. 25:31 אָמַר יַעֲקֹב אֵין רָשָׁע זֶה כְדַאי שֶׁיַּקְרִיב לְהַקָּבָּ”ה

[27] As Targum Yonatan renders the verse (Deut. 22:5) לֹא יִהְיֶה כְלִי גֶבֶר עַל אִשָּׁה (a woman should not wear a man’s clothes) – as לָא יִהְיֶה… תִּקּוּנֵי גְבַר עַל אִיתָּא

[28] See Tanya chap. 1.

[29] See Torah Ohr (Chabad), Yitro 71a ff; Likutei Torah (Chabad) Vayikra 2b etc.

[30] The more accurate translation would be ‘from every thorn’ but the intention is ‘every hair,’ as Malbim explains.

[31] Eitz Chaim 11:4.

[32] Even though in general the hair of the beard is the aspect of gevurah compared with the hair of the head, in Atik the beard too is white, symbolizing chesed. See previous reference.

[33] As in the verse, (Deut. 11:12) – תָּמִיד עֵינֵי ה’ אֱלֹקֶיךָ בָּהּ מֵרֵשִׁית הַשָּׁנָה וְעַד אַחֲרִית שָׁנָה (although this verse is not referring to the ‘eyes’ of ze’ir anpin)

[34] As Haman said, “Your G-d is asleep.” See Esther Rabba 7:12.

[35] This may be the incense offering but may not be, hence the somewhat more innocuous translation.

[36] Literally “in a voice.”

[37] See 1:2 where the concept of zivug neshikin is explained.

[38] See Yerushalmi Succah 5:1 שאין רוח הקדש שורה אלא על לב שמח מ”ט (שמואל א’ יט:כג) ‘והיה כנגן המנגן ותהי עליו רוח אלהים’… (This is as printed in Yerushalmi. However the verse actually endsוַתְּהִי עָלָיו גַּם הוּא רוּחַ אֱלֹקִים).  Bavli Pesachim 117a quotes a different verse: לְלַמֶּדְךָ שֶׁאֵין הַשְּׁכִינָה שׁוֹרָה לֹא מִתּוֹךְ עַצְלוּת וְלֹא מִתּוֹךְ עַצְבוּת וְלֹא מִתּוֹךְ שְׂחוֹק וְלֹא מִתּוֹךְ קַלּוּת רֹאשׁ וְלֹא מִתּוֹךְ דְּבָרִים בְּטֵלִים אֶלָּא מִתּוֹךְ דְּבַר שִׂמְחָה שֶׁל מִצְוָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (מלאכים ב’ ג:טו) וְעַתָּה קְחוּ לִי מְנַגֵּן וְהָיָה כְּנַגֵּן הַמְנַגֵּן וַתְּהִי עָלָיו יַד ה׳

[39] Talmud Bava Batra 12b: “After the destruction of the Temple prophecy was taken away from the prophets…”

[40] דברי הימים א (כט, יא): לְךָ יְהוָה הַגְּדֻלָּה וְהַגְּבוּרָה וְהַתִּפְאֶרֶת וְהַנֵּצַח וְהַהוֹד כִּי כֹל…  – which are interpreted as referring to the sefirot from chesed to yesod (כ”י כ”ל is the same numerical value as יסו”ד and therefore alludes to it). See also Pardes Rimonim 1:8.

[41] Zohar II, 272b (addenda); Mechilta Beshalach.

[42] See Zohar III, 78b; Pardes 8:4; Shelah, Tetzavah Torah Ohr 1; Leshem, Hakdamot v’Shaarim 7:5.

[43] Mechilta Beshalach.

[44] See Commentaries to Exodus 34:27; Talmud Berachot 5a; Eruvin 21b Sifra, Bechukotai 8; Midrash Rabba, Shir haShirim 1:51 etc.

[45] Rabbi Yaakov Emden in his Mitpachat Sefarim questions this on the basis of a Talmudic statement (Bechorot 8a) that it is a carob tree that takes this long to produce fruits, and not the date-palm. However the author of Bar Yochai, #49, offers two resolutions to this difficulty. See there.

In any event, today carob trees start producing fruits 3-4 years after budding in areas with favorable growing conditions, and require up to 8 years in regions with marginal soils. Full bearing of the trees occurs mostly at a tree-age of 20-25 years when the yield stabilizes (Wikipedia s.v. Carob). Date palms can take 4 to 8 years after planting before they will bear fruit, and start producing viable yields for commercial harvest between 7 and 10 years (Wikipedia s.v. Date Palm). However, these figures for the palm tree apply to traditional oasis horticulture and modern commercial orchards where the trees are entirely pollinated manually. In their natural habitat date-palms are wind pollinated, and it is entirely plausible that with only natural wind pollination the date-palms may take far longer to produce fruits.

Now this is all when the verse is read on a literal level, not on the mystical level, where it alludes to an entirely different layer of meaning, as will be explained.

[46] Ramak, Mikdash Melech and others, cited in Matok Midevash.

[47] Rashi explains the wordאֶפְקֹד  in the verse in Jeremiah as meaning ‘I will remember.’ But it also has the connotation of intimacy, as in Yevamot 62b: חייב אדם לפקוד את אשתו…  (A man is obligated to be intimate with his wife before he leaves on an extended journey). The Zohar explains the verse according to the latter meaning.

[48] Zohar II, 11b.

[49] Psalms 90:4 כִּי אֶלֶף שָׁנִים בְּעֵינֶיךָ כְּיוֹם אֶתְמוֹל one day of the Almighty is a thousand years (see Sanhedrin 97a; commentaries).

[50] Zohar III, 270a.

[51] Talmud Berachot 34b; Sanhedrin 99b.

[52] Zohar I 135b, 67a; Midrash Rabba 13:2, based on a verse in Isaiah 64:3.

[53] Zohar Chadash, Midrash Hane’elam, 28a (Margolis edition.)

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