Zohar

Bereshith/Genesis

PARSHA BERESHITH

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THESE ARE THE GENERATIONS OF THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH. We have laid down that the expression “these are” denotes that those mentioned before are henceforth of no account. In this case what is referred to is the products of tohu (emptiness) hinted at in the second verse of the first chapter, “and the earth was tohu and bohu”. These it is of which we have learnt that “God created worlds and destroyed them”. On account of this the earth was “dazed” (tohah) and “bewildered” (bohah), as if to say, “How could God create worlds to destroy them? It were better not to create them.” Similarly it is said of the heavens, “the heavens have vanished like smoke” (Is. LI, 6). But in fact we have here an indication of what is meant by the expression “destroyed them” showing that God does not really destroy the works of His hands. The explanation is this. God created the world by means of the Torah, that is to say, in so far as it is called Reshith. By this Reshith He created the heavens and the earth, and He supports them by it, because the word Bereshith contains the word brith (covenant); this covenant is referred to in the verse: “Were it not for my covenant with the day and night, I had not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth” (Jer. XXXIII, 25). This heaven is that of which it is said “the heavens are the heavens of the Lord” (Ps. CXV, 16), and this earth is the “land of the living” comprising seven lands of which David said: “I will walk before the Lord in the lands of the living” (Ibid. CXVI, 9). Afterwards He created a heaven and an earth

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resting on Tohu (emptiness), and having no foundation, i.e. “covenant”, to support them. For this reason God sought to give to the nations of the world the Law containing the covenant of the circumcision, but they were not willing to accept it, and consequently the earth remained parched and desolate. Hence we read: “Let the waters be gathered to one place, and let the dry land appear.” By “the waters” we understand in this connection the Torah; by “one place” we understand Israel, whose souls are attached to that place of which it is written, “blessed is the glory of the Lord from his place”. The glory of the Lord is the lower Shekinah; “his place” is the upper Shekinah; and since their souls are from that quarter, the name of the Lord rests upon them, and it is said of them, “for the portion of the Lord is his people”. In this way “the waters were gathered to one place”. The Torah is the salvation of the world, and the Gentiles who did not accept it were left dry and parched. It is in this way that God created worlds and destroyed them, viz. those who do not keep the precepts of the Law; not that He destroys His own works, as some fancy. For why indeed should He destroy His sons, of whom it is written: behibar'am (when they were created) in this passage, which may be analysed into behe’ beraam, “He created them by means of He” (symbolising the attribute of mercy)? This refers to those of the Gentiles who embrace Judaism. Moses, before leaving Egypt, sought to enrol proselytes, thinking that they were of those who had been thus created through the letter He’, but they were not sincere, and therefore they caused him to be degraded, as it is written, “Go, get thee down, for the people (i.e. thy proselytes) have dealt corruptly” (Ex. XXXII, 7). There are five sections among the “mixed multitude”, Nefilim, Gibborim, Anakim, Refaim, and Amalekites. The Amalekites are those who are left from the time of the Flood, from those of whom it is written, “and he blotted out all living substance”; those who have been left from this class in this fourth captivity make themselves leaders by main force, and are scourges to Israel; of them it is written, “for the earth was full of violence because of them”. These are the Amalekites.

Of the Nefilim (lit. fallen ones) it is said: “and the sons of God saw the daughters of man that they were fair” (Ibid.). These form a second category of the Nefilim, already mentioned above, in this way When God thought of making man, He said: “Let us make man in our image, etc.” i.e. He intended to make him head over the celestial beings, who were to be his deputies, like Joseph over the governors of Egypt (Gen. XLI, 41). The angels thereupon began to malign him and say, “What is man that Thou shouldst remember him, seeing that he will assuredly sin before Thee.” Said God to them, “If ye were on earth like him, ye would sin worse.” And so it was, for “when the sons of God saw the daughters of man”, they fell in love with them, and God cast them down from heaven. These were

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Uzza and Azael; from them the “mixed multitude” derive their souls, and therefore they also are called nefilim, because they fall into fornication with fair women. For this, God casts them out from the future world, in which they have no portion, and gives them their reward in this world, as it is written, “He repays his enemies to their faces” (Deut. VII, 10). The Gibborim (mighty ones) are those of whom it is written: “they are the mighty ones... men of name” (Gen. VI, 4). They come from the side of those who said “Come, let us build a city and make to us a name” (Gen. XI, 4). These men erect synagogues and colleges, and place in them scrolls of the law with rich ornaments, but they do it not for the sake of God, but only to make themselves a name, and in consequence the powers of evil prevail over Israel (who should be humble like the dust of the earth), according to the verse: “and the waters prevailed very much upon the earth” (Gen. VII, 19). The Refaim (lit. weak ones), the fourth section of the “mixed multitude”, are those who, if they see Israel in trouble, abandon them, even though they are in a position to help them, and they also neglect the Torah and those who study it in order to ingratiate themselves with the non-Jews. Of them it is said, “They are Refaim (shades), they shall not arise” (Is. XXVI, 14); when redemption shall come to Israel, “all their memory shall perish” (Ibid.). The last section, the Anakim (lit. giants), are those who treat with contumely those of whom it is written, “they shall be as necklaces (anakim) to thy neck”. Of them it is said, “the Refaim are likewise counted as Anakim”, i.e. they are on a par with one another. All these tend to bring the world back to the state of “tohu and bohu”, and they caused the destruction of the Temple. But as “tohu and bohu” gave place to light, so when God reveals Himself they will be wiped off the earth. But withal redemption will not be complete until Amalek will be exterminated, for against Amalek the oath was taken that “the Lord will have war against Amalek from generation to generation” (Ex. XVII,16).


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THIS TIME BONE OF MY BONE AND FLESH OF MY FLESH. This is said of the Shekinah, the betrothed maiden, by the Central Column, as though to say, “I know that this is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh; so this of a surety shall be called woman, from the supernal realm, which is Mother, for she was taken from the realm of the Father, which is Yod.” And as with the Central Column, so with Moses below. At that time every Israelite will find his twin-soul, as it is written, “I shall give to you a new heart, and a new spirit I shall place within you” (Ezek. XXXVI, 26), and again, “And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy” (Joel III, 1); these are

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the new souls with which the Israelites are to be endowed, according to the dictum, “the son of David will not come until all the souls to be enclosed in bodies have been exhausted”, and then the new ones shall come. At that time the mixed multitude shall pass away from the world, and it will be possible to say of Moses and of Israel, each in reference to his twin-soul, “and the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed”, because unchastity shall pass away from the world, namely those who caused the captivity, the mixed multitude. Of them it is further said, AND THE SERPENT WAS MORE SUBTLE THAN ANY BEAST OF THE FIELD WHICH THE LORD GOD HAD MADE; i.e. they are more subtle for evil than all the Gentiles, and they are the offspring of the original serpent that beguiled Eve. The mixed multitude are the impurity which the serpent injected into Eve. From this impurity came forth Cain, who killed Abel.... From Cain was descended Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, as it is written, “And the sons of the Kenite the father-in-law of Moses” (Jud. I, 16), and according to tradition he was called Kenite because he originated from Cain. Moses, in order to screen the reproach of his father-in-law, sought to convert the “mixed multitude” (the descendants of Cain), although God warned him, saying, “They are of an evil stock; beware of them.” Through them Moses was banished from his proper place and was not privileged to enter the land of Israel, for through them he sinned in striking the rock when he was told to speak to it (Num. XX, 8); it was they who brought him to this. And withal God takes account of a good motive, and since Moses’ motive in converting them was good, as has been said, therefore God said to him, “I shall make thee a nation greater and mightier than he” (Ibid. XIV, 12). In regard to them it is written, “Whoso hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book” (Ex. XXXII, 33), for they are of the seed of Amalek, of whom it is said, “thou shalt blot out the memory of Amalek” (Deut. XXV, 19): it was they who caused the two tablets of the Law to be broken, whereupon, AND THE EYES OF BOTH OF THEM WERE OPENED AND THEY KNEW THAT THEY WERE NAKED, i.e. Israel became aware that they were sunk in the mire of Egypt, being without Torah, so that it could be said of them “and thou wast naked and bare”.... Next it says, AND THEY SEWED FIG LEAVES, that is to say, they sought to cover themselves with various husks from the “mixed multitude”; but their real covering is the fringes of the Tzitzith and the straps of the phylacteries, of which it is said, AND THE LORD GOD MADE FOR THE MAN AND HIS WIFE COATS OF SKIN AND COVERED THEM; this refers more properly to the phylacteries, while the fringes are designed in the words AND THEY MADE FOR THEMSELVES GIRDLES.

AND THEY HEARD THE VOICE OF THE LORD GOD, ETC. This alludes to the time when Israel came to Mount Sinai as it is written, “Hath a people heard the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire, etc.” The mixed multitude then perished, those who said to Moses, “Let not God speak with us lest we die” (Ex. XX, 16). These are the prototypes of the unlearned (Am haaretz), of whom it is said, “cursed is he that lieth with any manner of beast” (Deut. XXVII, 21), because they are from the side of the serpent, of which it is said, “cursed art thou from among all the beasts” (Gen. III, 14). Various impurities are mingled in the composition of Israel, like animals among men. One kind is from the side of the serpent; another from the side of the Gentiles, who are compared to the beasts of the field; another from the side of mazikin (goblins), for the souls

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of the wicked are literally the mazikin (goblins) of the world; and there is an impurity from the side of the demons and evil spirits; and there is none so cursed among them as Amalek, who is the evil serpent, the “strange god”. He is the cause of all unchastity and murder, and his twin-soul is the poison of idolatry, the two together being called Samael (lit. poison-god). There is more than one Samael, and they are not all equal, but this side of the serpent is accursed above all of them.

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