Sunday, 12 October 2008

Zohar - Parshat Vayakhel - Yonah Enters the Giant Fish - The Soul Entering the Body


Matok Midvash pp. 230-232




[On Yom Kippur we read the story of the Prophet Jonah. He is commanded by G-d to inform the people of the city of Ninveh to repent. Not wanting to obey G-d’s command, Jonah takes a ship to Tarshish, and while in the middle of the journey, leaps off the ship he is on, into the sea where he is swallowed by a giant fish (whale.) In fact, as this Zohar points out in a discourse over many pages, "Jonah" is the soul of every Jew, that is placed into the body. The story of Jonah is actually the story of every Jew’s entire life, until death… and even onwards…]

Here in the matter of Jonah the prophet we have a proof in the world regarding the happenings of people in this world. For certainly scripture does not depart from its literal meaning, but rather these verses hint to all the matters of a person from the time that he comes into the world up until the resurrection of the dead as will be explained later. And this is what is said that Jonah descended into the ship. This hints to the soul of a person which is called יונה – a dove, that it descends into this world which is compared to the sea to be clothed in a body which is similar to a ship, and it asks – “Why is it – the soul – called a Yonah – a dove?” And it says, “Because since the soul is joined to a body similar to a יונה in this world – it is deceived in this world, because the body deceives it, for יונה shares the same language as אונאה – deceit and cheating, as it says (Leviticus 25:17) ולא תונו איש את עמיתו” – “And let no man cheat his fellow,” [the word for cheat/deceive shares the same root letters in Hebrew,] for the soul is subjugated from the supernal world in the body and it is enslaved to the filth of the material, and the body oppresses and deceives it continually. And then a person goes into this world like a ship in the great sea which is threatened to be destroyed, like it says (Jonah 1:4) “And the ship threatened to be broken.” Here is explained the word אניה - “ship”, from the language of the verse (Lamentations 2:5) “He increased within the daughter of Judah תאניה ואניה” – which Rashi explains as agony and grief, and therefore it is considered threatened to be broken.

And [regarding] a person, when he sins in this world, and it doesn’t arise in his mind the moment that he stands in front of G-d his G-d, and he thinks he can flee from in front of his Creator – for a person thinks to himself, that just as he does not see the Holy One Blessed be He, so too the Holy One Blessed be He does not see him, and he flees from Him. And he doesn’t look out in the supernal world to contemplate that in the future he will have to give an account for all his deeds – then the Holy One Blessed be He imposes a strong wind storm, like it is written, (Jonah 1:4) “And G-d cast a mighty wind towards the sea, there was a great storm in the sea,” – i.e. the Holy One Blessed be He brought down the strength of judgment which causes a storm over a person sometimes through sicknesses, sometimes through hunger, and sometimes through poverty. This is the decree of the judgment that stands continuously in front of the Holy One Blessed be He, and this is the primordial serpent which is the first Kelipah [evil husk] of the 4 impure Kelipot which are called “storm wind”, which is the S”M [name of the destroying angel] which is the angel of death. All these are called the decree of judgment, since through them the judgment of a person is decreed. And it claims a decree of judgment of a person in front of Him – the Holy One Blessed be He, and then the Holy One Blessed be He decrees afflictions upon him G-d forbid. And this is the matter of the storm wind which comes to the ship which is the body of a person. And it mentions the liabilities of a person to ensnare him.

And since a person is ensnared through the storm wind on his sickbed – what is written [Jonah 1:5] “And Jonah descended to the bowels of the ship” the soul descends to the feet of the Wicked one, that it rests in the dust through it’s bad deeds, “And he fell down and fell fast asleep,” in the drunkenness of the material. And it comes to hint, that even though a person is lying down sick, the soul is still not awoken to return before its Creator to redeem it’s sins.”

What is written, “And the ships master approached him,” and it asks, who is the master of the ship i.e. to what is it hinting? And it says, this is the good inclination which is the leader of the entire body. And it says, [Jonah 1:6] “How can you sleep so soundly in the drunkenness of materiality? Arise, call out to your G-d etc.” i.e. this is not the time to rest, for they are bringing you to judgment on everything you have done in this world. Repent from your misdeeds.”

[The story has begun. The good inclination awakens a person to repent while he is yet in this world. The Zohar, through a lengthy discourse, continues to narrate the entire journey of a person’s life, as it is compared to Jonah’s own journey to awakening the people of Ninveh to repent.]


Bold print: Original Zohar
Ordinary text: Matok Midvash
[Square brackets]: Rabbi Eliyahu Shear

(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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