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Zohar: Knowledge and Union

SAID Rabbi Simeon: "Furthermore, we learn that the Sabbath is an image of the world to come; and so it is, for the sabbatical year is a type of the year of Jubilee. The new life which is imparted during the sabbath is hinted in the word zacor (remember), and when it enters into the soul of man, joy and gladness prevail throughout the world, everything ungodly and profane becomes banished and sorrow and sighing are done away; as it is written, 'In that day the Lord shall give rest from thy sorrow and from thy fear and from the hard bondage wherein thou wast made to serve' (Is. xiv. 3). On the Sabbath evening, therefore, ought everyone to eat of the different articles of food that have been prepared, symbolizing thereby the universal canopy of peace which includes under its cover everyone, if there be no encroachment48a-48b on the food prepared for the morrow. The lighting of the Sabbath candle is devolved on the wives of the holy people, the reason of which is that as by a woman the heavenly light became extinguished, so by woman must it be made to reappear. Another and more important reason is, the canopy of peace signifies the Matronutha of the world, or the Holy Spirit whose emblem is a woman, whose expressed desire it is that a woman should be charged with lighting the Sabbath candle, as being not only an honor, but a great benefit for the procreating of good and holy children who shall become as lights in the world and distinguished for their knowledge of the secret doctrine. By it, wives will obtain long life for their husbands and will also become sources of light and instruction in their household and marital duties. Remark also that the Sabbath consists of a day and a night. The words 'remember' and 'keep' have one and the same meaning as it is written, 'remember the Sabbath day to hallow it' and also 'keep the Sabbath day and hallow it'48a-49b (Deuter v. 12). The words zacor (remember), shemor (keep), referring to the male and female considered as a whole. Blessed the lot of Israel whose hospitality the Holy One deigns to accept and enter into the place they provide for Him! As it is written, 'Happy the people who enjoy these blessings! happy the people whose God is the Lord'" (Ps. cxliv. 15).

Said Rabbi Simeon: "It is written, 'God understandeth the way thereof and He knoweth the place thereof' (Job xxviii. 23), What signify the words, 'God understandeth? . . .' They have the same esoteric meaning as the words 'And the rib which the Lord God had taken from man, mode be a woman' (Gen. ii, 22), which have reference to the oral law designated by the term 'way,' as it is written, 'Thus saith the Lord who maketh a way in the sea' (Is. xliii. 16), but the words 'He knoweth the place where it is' refer to the written law, which is designated by the word daath (knowledge / gnosis). The name Jehovah Alhim is here written in full to show that the oral or traditional is the complement of the written law. These when combined are sometimes termed hochma (wisdom), and sometimes binah (understanding). They are also symbolized by the combined divine name, Jehovah Alhim (Lord God). The rib taken from the side of man refers to the non-luminous mirror or light of human intellect, as it is written, 'But on mine adversity (or rib) they rejoiced and gathered themselves against me' (Ps. xxxv. 15).

"The words 'had taken from man' signify that the tradition proceeded, from the written law; 'made he a woman and brought her unto the man,' mean that these two kinds of law must of necessity be united together, as they cannot exist apart, the one supplying what the other lacks. These words also refer to the attachment of man and his wife that should always subsist between them. Another interpretation of the words 'God understandeth the way thereof' is, that as long as a daughter abides with her mother she is the object of maternal care, but when married it becomes her duty to look after the needs and wants of her husband, and therefore it is added 'and he knoweth the place where she dwells.'

"It is written, 'And He formed man.' In these words is expressed the mystery of the formation of man from the right and left sides of the sephirotic tree of life. Man was composed of two natures, the animal or lower self and the spiritual or higher self, and this because the former is necessary to the development of the latter. It is the lower nature of man that excites the female principle. It is a tradition that the north that symbolizes the evil principles seeks attachment with the female and therefore is she called ishah, a term compounded of two words, ash (fire, man) and H, signifying the yoni or female principle. The higher and lower self cannot become united and harmonized so long as sexuality and carnal desire are dominant. The term man has already been explained, that at first it designated androgynous man, but afterwards became sundered and separated.

"We will now explain further the esoteric meaning of the phrase, 'the dust of the earth.' When a woman marries she takes the name of her husband, therefore is he called ish and she ishah. He is designated zedek and she zedek, also he is described as ophar and zeb, she as ophar and zabiah; as it is written, 'The glory (Zebi) of all lands' (Ezek. xx. 15). It is written, 'Thou shalt not plant thee a grove of any trees near unto the altar of the Lord thy God' (Deut. xvi. 21).

"Is it not permissible to plant groves in any places not contiguous to the altar of God? In reply we say that the word ascher (groves) designates the husband and ascherah, the wife; as it is written, 'Bring forth out of the temple of the Lord an the vessels that were made for Baal (husband) and for ascherah (wife). The esoteric explanation of these words is this: the altar designates her, the Schekina, or divine spouse, and therefore it is forbidden to raise or build any other altar and present a spouse to God beside it. Note that the worshippers of the sun are termed worshippers of Baal, but the adorers of the moon, the adorers of Ascherah.

"The wife is called ascherah, derived from the word ascher, designating her husband. Why then are not they used any longer to distinguish a man and his wife, and also the celestial husband and spouse? Because the word ascherah comes from asher in the same sense as found in the words, 'And Leah said, Happy am I, for the daughters will call me blessed, and she called his name Asher' (Gen. xxx. 13). Now the altar of God on the earth is not honored and blessed by heathen nations, but despised, therefore the terms Ascher and Ascherah are not longer applied to the altar symbolizing the celestial husband and spouse, nor to a man and his wife; and this is the signification of the words, 'Thou shalt not plant the ascherah near the altar,' that is, thou shalt not present to God any other spouse than the legitimate one, the altar of Adamah (earth), as it is written, 'An altar of earth shalt thou make unto me' (Ex. xx, 24).

"It is also written, 'And breathed into his nostrils the breath of life,' meaning that the earth was then made fruitful as is the female by the male, for it is animated with life-giving principles and force. Furthermore, man is endowed with a two-fold nature and thus able to develop the lower self, by which his earthly frame is animated. 'And the rib which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman.' The full divine name Jehovah Alhim is here used, and are the father and the mother who prepared her and brought her unto the man. The word 'rib' denotes the mystery expressed in the words, 'I am dark, but comely as the tents of Kedar and as the curtains of Solomon' (Cant. i. 5); for before marriage a woman resembles the non-luminous mirror, that becomes radiated after the marital union for which her father and mother have prepared her, and so the scripture adds, 'and brought her unto the man' from which we infer that the duty of the parents of a bride is to give her into the keeping and care of her husband according as it is written, 'I gave my daughter unto this man for wife' (Deuter xxii. 16). From that time she goes with her husband into his house that is now hers, and it is his duty to consult with her on all matters appertaining to domestic affairs. Therefore it is written, 'And he lighted upon a certain place and tarried there all night, because the sun was set' (Gen. xxviii. 11), meaning that Jacob took the permission he enjoyed: (Gen. 29:23) and therefore from these words we infer that the conjugal union should be the result of consent and permission on the part of the wife after listening to her husband's voice of loving affection. if, however, there be no feeling of reciprocation, no conjunction ought to take place, for conjugality should always be voluntary and unaccompanied with unwillingness. 'And he tarried there all night for the sun was set,' teaching that conjugal duties should always be nocturnal. 'And he took up the stones of that place and put them for his pillow,' meaning that though a king possesses golden couches and fine robes, he prefers the bed prepared by his beloved spouse, though composed of stones; as it is written, 'And he laid down in that place to sleep.'

"Note what is further written. 'And Adam said, this is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh' (Gen. ii. 23). These were the words of Adam to draw Eve unto him and incline her to enter into nuptial union and thus show that they are one and now undivided and unseparate in a higher sense than before. Then he begins to praise her that there is none like unto her, that she surpasses all other beings, the one deserving the name of woman; as it is written, 'She shall be called woman, words that pleased her,' as it is written, 'Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all' (Prov. xxxi. 29). 'Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and cleave unto his wife and they shall be one flesh' (Gen. ii. 24). That is to say that Eve was induced by these loving words of Adam to consent to enter into marital relationship with him and as soon as this was effected we read, 'Now the serpent was subtle' (Gen. iii. 7). In the moment that Adam and Eve became thus associated, the lower nature became excited and aroused by sexual desire in which it delights, as scripture saith, 'And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food she took of the fruit of it and did eat' (Gen. iii. 6), denoting that hitherto their love had been angelic and pure, but was now changed into carnal desire first arising in the woman and leading them to conjugal relationship, for a woman is the inspirer of love whilst man is the receptacle of it and in this resembles angelic beings whose actions are determined by pure love unblended and unmingled with carnal desire."