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Before making Aliyah to Israel, Tzvi Fishman was a Hollywood screenwriter. He has co-authored 4 books with Rabbi David Samson, based on the teachings of Rabbi Kook, Eretz Yisrael, Art of T'shuva, War and Peace, and Torat Eretz Yisrael.
Tevet 14, 5770, 12/31/2009
Brothers! Don’t venture out tonight when evil is lurking and darkness holds sway! Get into your bunkers! Secure the hatches! Learn Torah! The only way to combat the darkness of the nations is by adding light.
Rabbi Eliahu Leon Levi Studying the Zohar in Meron
Whatever Torah you can learn will give strength to the forces of goodness. The Book of the Zohar, “The Book of Light,” is one of the most powerful weapons. Our greatest rabbis, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the Arizal, the Baal HaTanya, the Gaon of Vilna, and Rabbi Kook, to name but a few, emphasized that the key to Israel’s Redemption was in the learning of the Zohar. Even if you don’t understand all of the codes and esoteric meanings, just reading its passages illumines the world with millions and millions of holy watts! But be warned! Stay away from translations by charlatan rabbis who teach Kabbalah to Hollywood floosies who prance around lewdly on stage in devil’s costumes with deceitful words on their lips.
"Can I buy you a drink?"
Here is some mega-laser ammunition to help you tonight in the battle against the evil forces of Darth Radar which prowl through the streets and cities at midnight looking for prey. Don’t fall to their empty temptations! Cling to the Torah at midnight, not to emptiness and folly, as the Zohar admonishes on the verse from this week's Torah portion:
*”ISSACHAR IS A STRONG ASS COUCHING DOWN BETWEEN THE SHEEPFOLDS .” Rabbi Eleazar said: ‘Why should Issachar, because he studied the Torah, be called an ass, rather than a horse, or a lion, or a leopard? The answer given is that the ass bears a burden patiently and does not kick like other animals, and is not fastidious and will lie down anywhere. So Issachar bears the burden of the Torah and does not kick against the Almighty, and is not fastidious and cares not for his own honor but for the honor of his Master. He therefore “couches between the sheepfolds”, as we say of the student of the Torah that he is “willing to sleep on the ground”. He also, in explanation of this verse, quoted the text: “To David. The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” (Ps. 27:1). ‘Those who study the Torah’, he said, ‘are beloved before God, so that they have no fear of evil hap, being protected above and below Nay more, such a one subdues all evil haps and casts them down into the great abyss. At nightfall the doors are closed, and dogs and asses commence to roam about the world with permission to do damage. Men sleep on their beds and the souls of the righteous ascend to the bliss above. When the north wind awakes at midnight, then there is a holy stirring in the world, as has been explained in many places. Happy is he who rises at that hour and studies the Torah. For as soon as he begins, all those evil beings are cast by him into the great abyss and he binds the ass and throws him down into the dungheap. Therefore Issachar, who was a student of the Torah, bound the ass and brought him down from the ladder which he had mounted to do injury to the world, and made him abide between the sheepfolds, that is, in the dungheap.’ (Zohar, Bereshit 242a)
By studying Torah tonight, we cast the forces of darkness into the dungheap where they belong. These passages from the Zohar are taken from this week’s Torah portion. Other passages from the Zohar can be found on our website. To rectify the sexual transgression that darkens the world on this night, learning the laws of sexual holiness brings down mercy and healing from on High.
The blog end here. The rest is Pure Torah for those who want to cling to the side of right in the battle against falsehood and evil. If you can study these passages at midnight after reciting Tikun Hatzot, all the better, to counteract the evil and bring victory and salvation to the forces of the Almighty and Israel.
*Rabbi Hiya discoursed on the text: And thy people are all righteous, they shall inherit the land for ever, etc. (Is. 60:21). ‘Israel’, he said, ‘have been favored above all the gentiles in being entitled by G-d righteous (tzaddikim), that they may obtain an everlasting inheritance in the world to come, as it is written: “Then thou shalt delight in the Lord” (Is. 58:14). Why is this so? Because they attach themselves to the Body of the King, as it says: “Ye that cleave unto the Lord your G-d are alive every one of you this day” (Devarim, 4:4).’ Rabbi Isaac said: ‘This text of Rabbi Hiya contains a deep allusion for “the reapers in the field” (students of the esoteric doctrine.) For Rabbi Simeon has laid down in the esoteric aggadah that the exalted inheritance of that other land is acquired by none save him who is called “righteous.” For the Shechinah cleaves to the Righteous One and finds delight in him, and the Righteous One assuredly inherits the Shechinah. So G-d in His love for Israel called them righteous and they are therefore meet to inherit the Shechinah. The reason is that they are circumcised, according to the dictum: “Whoever is circumcised and enters into the covenant and observes it becomes attached to the Body of the King, and enters into the Righteous One”, and they are therefore called righteous, and so “they shall for ever inherit the land”, to wit, the “land of the living”. They are further called in the text “the branch of my planting”, to wit, one of those shoots which God planted when He created the world, referred to in the verse,, “And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden” (Gen. II, 8). According to another explanation, the words “And thy people are all righteous” refer to Jacob and his sons, who went down to Egypt among a stiff-necked people and all remained righteous, wherefore “they shall for ever inherit the land”, since from there they went up to inherit the Holy Land.’ (Zohar, Bereshit 216a)
*PUT, I PRAY THEE, THY HAND UNDER MY THIGH. Rabbi Jose said: ‘Jacob made him swear by the sign of the covenant which was stamped on his flesh, since the patriarchs assigned more importance to this than to anything else, and this covenant, too, is symbolized by Joseph.’ Rabbi Simeon said: ‘We find the formula, “put thy hand under my thigh”, in connection with both Abraham and Jacob, but not with Isaac, the reason being that Esau issued from him. Again, we may suppose Jacob's idea to have been: “Swear to me by that holy impress which has brought holy and faithful seed into the world and which has ever been preserved from defilement that you will not bury me among those unclean who have never guarded it, and of whom it is written, “whose flesh is the flesh of asses and their neighing the neighing of horses” (Ezek. 23:20).’ Why, it may be asked, was Joseph, who also guarded the covenant, buried among them? The answer is that it was to meet a special emergency, like the appearance of God to Ezekiel outside the Holy Land. God saw that if Joseph were removed from there, the Israelites would sink under the bondage; therefore He said: “Let his burial place be here in a spot which will not be defiled (for Joseph's coffin was thrown into the river), and so the Israelites will be able to endure the captivity.’ Rabbi Jose said: ‘Jacob saw that he was fitted in every way to form part of the holy chariot like his fathers, but he thought it impossible that his body should be attached to his fathers if he was buried in Egypt.’ 222b
*AND THE DAYS DREW NEAR FOR ISRAEL TO DIE. Rabbi Hiya said: ‘Why is the name Israel used here in connection with his death, whereas above it says, “And Jacob lived, etc.”?’ Rabbi Jose said in reply: ‘Note here the word “days”, which is somewhat peculiar, since a man only dies on one day, in fact, in one instant. The reason, however, is, as we have learnt, that when God desires to take back a man's spirit, all the days that he has lived in this world pass in review before Him. Happy, then, is the man whose days draw near before the King without reproach, not one of them being rejected because a sin was committed thereon. Hence the term “drawing near” is used of the righteous, because their days draw near before the King without reproach. But woe to the wicked whose days cannot so draw near, because they all passed in sin, wherefore they are not recorded above, so that of them it is written: “The way of the wicked is like thick darkness, they know not on what they stumble” (Prov. 4:19). So here it says that the days of Israel “drew near”, that is, without reproach and with unalloyed joy; and hence the name “Israel” is used, because it points to a greater perfection than the name Jacob.’ 221b
*Rabbi Simeon said further: ‘With regard to Solomon's words, “What profit hath man in all his labor?” (Eccl. I:3), these do not apply to labor in the study of the Torah, since the statement is qualified by the words, “wherein he laboreth under the sun”, and the study of the Torah is above the sun.’ 223b
*Rabbi Eleazar said: ‘Though a man should live a thousand years, yet at the time of his departure from the world it seems to him as if he had only lived a single day.’ 223b
*Rabbi Judah said: ‘How deaf are men to the warnings of the Torah, and how blind are they to their own condition that they are not aware that on the day when a human being comes forth into the world, all the days that are assigned to him come forward and fly about the world and descend and warn the man, each day in its turn. And when a man has been so warned and yet sins against his Master, then the day on which he sinned ascends in shame and bears witness and stands by itself outside, and so it remains until the man repents. If he becomes virtuous it returns to its place, but if not, then it goes down and joins the outside spirit and returns to its house, and assumes the exact shape of that man in order to plague him and dwells with him continually in his house. If he is virtuous it proves a good companion, and if not, an evil companion. In either case, such days are missing from the full number and are not counted with the others. Woe to the man who has diminished the number of his days before the Almighty, and has not left days for himself with which to crown himself in the other world, and to approach the Holy King. For if he is worthy he ascends by means of those days, and they become a glorious vesture for his soul, those days in which he acted virtuously and did not sin. Woe to him that has diminished his days above, since when he comes to be clad in his days, those days that he spoilt by his sins are lacking, and his vesture is therefore defective; all the more so if there are many of them and he has nothing at all with which to clothe himself in the other world. Then woe to him and woe to his soul, since he is punished in Gehinnom for those days, many days for each, because when he departed from this world he had no days with which to clothe himself and no garment wherewith to cover himself. Happy are the righteous whose days are all stored up with the Holy King, and form glorious vestures with which they may robe themselves in the other world. This is the esoteric explanation of the verse, “and they knew that they were naked” (Bereshit, 3: 7), that is to say, that the glorious raiment made of those days had been impaired and none of them was left to clothe themselves with. And so it was until Adam repented and God pardoned him and made him other garments, but not of his days, as it is written: “And God made Adam and his wife coats of skins and clothed them” (Bereshit,3:21). Observe that of Abraham it says that “he came into days” (Bereshit,24:1), because when he departed this world he literally came into possession of his former days and was invested with them, his robe of glory being full and complete. Job, on the other hand, said of himself: “Naked came I out of my mother's womb and naked shall I return thither” (Job, I:21), because no material was left wherewith to clothe himself. Our teachers have said: “Happy the righteous whose days are without reproach and remain for the world to come, so that after death they are all joined together and formed into robes of glory through which they are privileged to enjoy the delights of the future world, and in which they are destined to come to life again. But woe for the sinners whose days are defective, so that there is not left from them wherewith to cover themselves when they depart from the world.” We have further learnt that all the virtuous who have acquired a robe of glory through their days are crowned in the future world with crowns like those of the patriarchs, from the stream that flows continually into the Garden of Eden, and of them it is written, “the Lord shall lead thee continually and satisfy thy soul in dry places” (Is. 58:11), but the wicked who have not acquired such a garment will be “like the heath in the desert that shall not see when good cometh, but inhabits the parched places in the wilderness” (Jer. 17: 6).’ Rabbi Isaac said: ‘Of all men Jacob had the fairest prospect, because he was entitled to a robe on account both of his own days and of those of his fathers; hence he said: “I shall lie with my fathers.” 224a
(Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai teaches here that the Torah cannot be understood in its depth in the darkness of the Diaspora.)
*Said Rabbi Simeon: ‘When I visit the Companions in Babylon they come together to hear me, and I discourse to them openly, but they go and seal up my teaching under an iron padlock which makes it inaccessible to all. How often have I taught them the ways of the Garden of the King and the doctrine of the King! How often have I taught them all the degrees of the righteous in the future world! But they are all frightened to repeat these things and only mumble them, on which account they are called “mumblers”. However, I account this fear in them creditable, because they are denied the air and the spirit of the Holy Land and inhale the air and the spirit of an alien region.224b
*Rabbi Judah said: ‘We have a dictum that if a man dies in foreign soil and his body is buried in the Holy Land, to him may be applied the verse, “And ye came and defiled my land and my inheritance ye made an abomination” (Jer. 2:7). How, then, could Jacob ask to be buried in the grave of his fathers, seeing that he was dying on alien soil?’ Rabbi Judah said: ‘Jacob was different, because the Shechinah was closely attached to him. Hence it is written, “I will go down with thee to Egypt” (Bereshit, 46:4), to wit, to abide with thee in captivity; “and I will also surely bring thee up again” (Ibid.), to attach thy soul to Me, and to obtain burial for thy body in the graves of thy fathers-and this even though he departed life on an alien soil. He was further promised that Joseph should put his hand on his eyes, the reason being that God knew that he was the firstborn in intent, and that he was most attached to Joseph.’ 226a
*What was the idea of this promise of putting his hands on his eyes? Rabbi Jose said that it was as a sign of honor to Jacob, and to inform him that Joseph was alive and would be with him at his death. Said Rabbi Hizkiah: ‘I have learnt something about this which I hardly like to disclose, showing how wisdom is embodied in a common practice.’ Rabbi Abba clapped him on the shoulder, saying: ‘Speak out and do not be afraid; in the days of Rabbi Simeon there is no need for secrecy.’ He then said: ‘I have seen in the chapter of Rabbi Jesse the Elder regarding customs, that if a man has a son, when he dies the son ought to put dust on his eyes at the time of his burial, and this is a mark of respect to him, being a sign that the world is now concealed from him, but his son inherits the world in his place. For the human eye represents the world with its various colors. The outer ring of white corresponds to the sea of Oceanus which surrounds the whole world. The next color represents the land which is surrounded by the sea. A third color in the middle of the eye corresponds to Jerusalem, which is in the centre of the world. Finally there is the pupil of the eye, which reflects the beholder and is the most precious part of all. This corresponds to Zion, which is the central point of the universe, in which the reflection of the whole world can be seen, and where is the abode of the Shechinah, which is the beauty and the cynosure of the world. Thus the eye is the heritage of the world, and so as the father leaves it the son inherits it.’226a
*“I have made a covenant with my chosen.,’ This covenant is the secret of faith. Or we may interpret the “chosen one” of the Tzaddik from whom issue blessings to all the lower creation, all the holy Hayyoth being blessed from the stream which flows forth to the lower world. “I have sworn unto David my servant”, to wit, that he will always be established in this Tzaddik, the foundation of the world, save in the time of galut, when the flow of blessing is cut off, and faith is defective, and all joy is banished. During this period, at nightfall, joy no longer enters before the King. Yet, though rejoicings do not enter, angels stand outside and chant hymns, and at midnight when the impulse from below arrives on high, G-d arouses all the hosts of the heaven for lamentation and strikes the firmament, causing upper and lower worlds to quake; nor is there any respite save when those below commence to study the Torah. Then G-d and all those with Him listen with joy to that voice, and relief is felt. For on the day on which the Sanctuary below was destroyed, G-d swore that He would not enter the celestial Jerusalem until Israel should enter the earthly Jerusalem. Now all those singers stand outside and chant hymns in the three watches of the night and intone praises, and all the hosts of the heavens sing at night and Israel by day, nor is the sanctification recited above until it is recited by Israel below, and only then do all the hosts of heaven sanctify the holy name together. Hence, Israel are holy and are sanctified by upper and lower angels, since the sanctification of the holy name is complete only when uttered above and below together.’ 231a
*AND JACOB CALLED TO HIS SONS AND SAID: GATHER YOURSELVES TOGETHER, ETC. Rabbi Abba discoursed on the verse: He turned to the prayer of the lonely one and did not despise their prayer (Ps. 102:I8). He said: ‘The use of the word “turned” here, instead of “hearkened” or “listened”, is significant. The prayer of an individual man only enters before the Holy King with great difficulty, because before it can be crowned in its place G-d examines it closely and weighs the merits and defects of that individual. He does not so with the prayer of a congregation; for congregational prayers are offered by many who are not virtuous, and yet they all come before G-d and He does not regard their sins. Therefore it says, “G-d turns to the prayer of the solitary one” and weighs and considers it, and examines in what spirit it is offered and who is the man that offers it, and what is his conduct. Hence a man should pray with the congregation because “G-d does not despise their prayer”, even though they do not all pray with devotion. 234a
*Rabbi Abba discoursed on the verse: “Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O mighty One, thy glory and thy majesty.” He said: ‘Is this glory and majesty, to gird on weapons and to practice the use of them? To study the Torah and to fight battles in the Torah and to arm oneself with it-this is praiseworthy, this is glory and majesty. The truth of the matter, however, is this. G-d has given men the sign of a holy covenant, and imprinted it upon them for them to preserve and not impair in any way. He who impairs it is confronted with the sword which avenges the insult to the covenant. Now he who desires to preserve this place should brace himself up to meet the evil prompter, and when the latter assails him should set before his eyes this sword, which is girded on the thigh to punish those who impair this place. Hence it says: “Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O mighty One.” Such a one is called “mighty”, and hence it is his “glory and majesty”. 240b
If you have made it this far, you are an official holy warrior in the battle against evil. Kol hakavod!
(Translations from the Soncino Zohar)