Sunday, 31 August 2008

Zohar - Parshat Shoftim - The Double Edged Sword of the Shema

ZOHAR PARSHAT SHOFTIM Daf 274b (Raya Meheymna)

MATOK MIDVASH pp 198-200


“Judges and officers shall you appoint in all your gates that G-d your L-rd gives to you for your tribes, and they shall judge the nation with righteous judgment. In this verse it lists judges and officers – there is the commandment to appoint judges and officers i.e. even though judgment belongs to G-d, but through His abundant love for Israel, He gave judgment into their hands. Nevertheless the Holy One Blessed be He also sits in judgment amongst them, and this is as it stated [in the following verse in Psalms], and moreover it is written (Psalms 75:8) “For G-d is the Judge.” The name Elokim, [as in this verse of Psalms] which is the name representing judgment, sits and judges with the judges in judgment. And it explains the matter of judgment according to the secret ‘for’ [כי] Elokim is the Judge. The word כי – ‘for’ has the letter כ and the letter י i.e. the Yud as it is simply, is the secret of Chochma [Wisdom i.e. The Hebrew letter Yud represents wisdom.] And from the letter Yud [which can also be spelled out fully יו"ד] comes out the full יו"ד whose total [numerical] value is 20. [The letter Yud by itself in Hebrew has the numerical value of 10. However when the letter is spelled out – expanded – to represent the word it is, the numerical value is 20.] This is to teach about Binah [Understanding] which is included with Chochmah. After this “כיit is written, Elokim is the Judge.” The name Elokim which is Binah judges with the strength of wisdom. And as is written [in the continuation of this verse] זה ישפיל – ‘He lowers this one,” – ה"א ה"אthe word זה has the numerical value of 12, parallels the letter Hey when it is spelled in full – of Binah, and Hey when it is spelled in full – of Malchut i.e. ה"א ה"א – which is the secret of the two courts. And as is written [in the continuation of the verse] וזה ירים – “And He raises this one,” this is ו' ו' [the word Zeh as it appears in the second half of the verse – valued at 12 – is equal to two Vavs, each valued at 6.] They are the secret of the Vav of Tiferet and the Vav of Yesod, which is the secret of the two witnesses (see Daf 275a).

The four deaths of the court [that the judges can administer for various sins] are ordered here from the lightest to the most stringent i.e. the sword, strangulation, stoning, burning. And this is like the opinion of Rabbi Shimon in Tractate Sanhedrin 99b. [In this translation, only the sword is dealt with.]

The commandment after this is to judge by the sword, to judge by strangulation, to judge in the judgment of stoning, to judge in the judgement of burning. This means that after there is judgment, there is the Mitzvah to judge the guilty through the 4 death penalties of the court, and it asks – to judge by the sword – who? And it answers to S”M* i.e. one has to endeavour in Mitzvos and good deeds to nullify the strength of the evil inclination which is S”M. And also in action – in reality – if a person was overwhelmed by the power of the evil inclination until G-d forbid a person needs the death penalty of the sword, now as he is killed, his sin is atoned and the strength of the S”M in him is cut off and nullified. This is what is written, (Isaiah 34:5) “For my sword has been sated in the heavens.” First my sword will be sated in the heavens from the blood of the minister of Edom which is the S”M, and afterwards, “It shall descend upon Edom.” This means upon His nation below (similar to what is written (Isaiah 24:21) ‘And on that day that Hashem will deal with the hosts of heaven above and upon the kings of the earth upon the earth.’

And it continues and says the sword of the Holy One Blessed be He which is the sword [of the death penalty] – there is hinted in it all the four letters of the name of G-d [the Tetragrammaton] i.e. the ten Sefirot of Z”A – because the judgment is only completed through the partnership of all ten Sefirot i.e. י' the letter Yud of the name of G-d hints to the head of the sword, for all the conduct is in accordance with the decree of the head, which are the Sefirot of Keter and Chochmah. The Vav of the Tetragrammaton – is the body of the sword – corresponds to the Va”K which are the essential workers of judgment and mercy. Hey Hey – these two letters of the Tetragrammaton are the two mouths – points of the sword, because the action of judgment in action comes about through the Malchut which is the mouth that decrees the decree of judgment of the power of the mouth above which is the Binah, through it judgments are awoken. And upon them it says, ‘Righteousness righteousness shall you pursue’ because they rule two judgments i.e. the judgment from the mouth of the court above which is Binah, and the judgment through the mouth of the court below which is Malchut. And from here it is known that there is judgment on every small matter, to such a degree that our rabbis said (Chullin 7b) no person bruises his finger below through Malchut until permission is given for him from above – from the court of Binah. When the sword which is the name of the Tetragrammaton is clothed in its sheath which is the name of אדנות according to the secret of unification as below, there through the unification the judgment is quietened and nullified.

And it continues and says, through the Kriat Shema [the reading of the Shema], the S”M is killed – for the Tetragrammaton which is the sword of the Holy One Blessed be He – about it is said, (Psalms 149:6) “The lofty praises of G-d are in the throat,” through the reading of the Shema that Israel read. And through this, “A double edged sword,” of the Holy One Blessed be He, is “In their hand” – of the children of Israel to kill the S”M. As our sages have said (Berachot 5a) anyone who reads the Shema on his bed [i.e. when he goes to sleep at night], it is as if he holds a double edged sword in his hand (and all the more so the reading of the Shema in the morning and evening prayers which are Torah obligations.) And the matter of nullifying the judgment is made through the Tzaddik the life of all worlds – the foundation of the world which is Yesod, includes 18 blessings of the Amidah prayer, that in it we begin “G-d open my lips and my mouth…” – that the initial letters of these words [in the original Hebrew] make up the word אשתו [his wife,] which is Malchut i.e. the sheath of the sword. For with 18 blessings in it, the sword enters into the sheath by means of the unification that is made through [the two names of G-d] i.e. the Tetragrammaton and אדנות. And then, (Esther 7:10) “The anger of the king subsided” [“The anger of the King subsided”], which is that the judgment that was awoken in the beginning is nullified completely, for already the S”M has been silenced through the reading of the Shema in the morning prayers, and the two names of G-d ** י-א-ה-ד... are joined [by means of intertwining the two names] and the unification of Zu”N is made and bestows much abundance to all worlds. (Ramak, the G”RA and commentaries.)

* S”M is the abbreviation representing the name of the angel of destruction. It is forbidden to pronounce the names of any angel except for those recited in general daily prayer and whose names we also give to people.

** When various names of G-d are intertwined i.e. by taking the first letter of one, and then follow it with the first letter of another, and then continue with the second letter of the first name and then the second letter of the second name etc., this produces a Yichud – a joining of His names and through this, blessing comes about. It is forbidden to pronounce these names when they appear in this way, and therefore the entire Yichud has not been written, but can be read in the original Zohar text. One may certainly scan the name with the eyes, but it is forbidden to pronounce the name as is written this way.


Bold print: Original Zohar

Ordinary text: Matok Midvash

[Square brackets]: ELIYAHU ben PINCHAS

(Round brackets): Either the source being quoted e.g. Proverbs etc., or alternatively used to quote the kabbalistic language as discussed in Matok Midvash. The Matok Midvash formats the Nigleh side of things in an ordinary print, and the Nistar terminology in Rashi script. I’ve therefore put the Rashi script – the Nistar terminology in round brackets.


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