Last update: February 8, 2006
AMALEK AND THE WEALTH OF BABYLON
Previously, in this study, we mentioned the topic of Amalek in terms of "doubt" and its negative spiritual consequences. There is another important aspect to Amalek, that of accumulating wealth with no regard for God's will regarding its usage.
The Exodus from Egypt represented the triumph of Godliness over physical strength and power. Amalek represented the very antithesis to this notion. As Rav Hirsch writes: "[Amalek] finds its strength in the might of its sword and its love of glory in treading down all unprepared weaker ones. They stepped out to oppose by the power of the sword the first entry into the history of mankind of the people representing the victory of the power of the Word." Amalek argued for the "survival of the fittest," that one may utilize whatever means at his disposal in his struggle for wealth and prominence. Am Yisrael, by contrast, upholds the rule of God's law and morality, which forbids the mighty from abusing their power and requires them to show concern and respect even towards the weak. 1
In the Gospels, Yeshua comments on being a servant to either God or wealth:
Matthew 6:24 - No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
Paul comments on a love of money in one of his epistles:
1 Timothy 6:9-10 - But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
ELEVATING THE SPARKS OF HOLINESS
In much of what Torah teaches, there is often a deeper, hidden message beyond the literal (p'shat) meaning. With regard to the end time scenario of the book of Revelation, it has to do with misuse of the proper function of wealth in terms of bringing tikkun (rectification) to creation, which is made up of the four levels of mineral, vegetable, animal, and human.
Judaism teaches that there are "Holy Sparks" (Nitzotzei Kedushah) throughout each of these four levels. These sparks were scattered at the time of creation, and further dispersed by the fall of Adam and subsequent sinners. The purpose of mankind is to elevate these sparks back to their source. When that occurs, "God's Name will be One." It is God who gives each spark its source and path of tikkun.
For example, the sparks in the mineral world are elevated when they sustain vegetation. At the vegetable level they are then elevated when an animal eats the vegetation. They then reach the final level of elevation when man eats the animal in a holy fashion (i.e., kosher, giving blessing to God.)
Of course some minerals do not sustain vegetation and some animals are not kosher, but God has His way of elevating these sparks, as all of creation must be rectified.
But how is this done? And what if man fails to do his job?
We turn to the teachings of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov for insight:
The answer is through business and trading, buying and selling. This is another messianic concept that has been perverted today into the pursuit of wealth. Rabbi Nachman (of Breslov) taught:
"There is a great beauty in coins -- gold, silver, copper -- for these minerals contain a supernal beauty. Their supernal beauty lies in their being composed of holy sparks which radiate continually (according to the Sefirah to which each corresponds. Those who are wise will look "inside the money" and will see therein the beauty of God and the revelation of the Malkut of holiness. But this beauty can be misleading and can direct a person toward avarice. This strengthens the kingdom of impurity. The verse states (Ecclesiastes 2:26), "Surely He gives to a man that which is good in His sight, wisdom knowledge and joy; but to the sinner He gave the task of gathering and amassing..." The Talmud comments (Megilah 10b), "Surely He gives to a man" -- this refers to Mordekhai. "Good" -- this refers to Torah. "To the sinner" -- this refers to Haman, a descendant of Amalek, corresponds to the evil attribute of avarice, gathering and amassing wealth. Thus the sinner, Amalek, will seek to gather the sparks of holiness that are located within the money, in order to swallow them up. However, the Malkut of holiness will gather the sparks of holiness through Chokmah (Wisdom) and Daat (Knowledge) and will elevate them. Not only will these sparks atttain rectification, but they will even be transformed into Torah! (Likutey Moharan I, 56:5)."
As we have seen, the concepts of "Man" and "Torah" are synonymous on certain levels. Thus, when the sparks of holiness found in every bit of matter in the world are elevated, they are unified with their source, their soul, and can be transformed into Torah. This is why we see continual trade between people, countries and continents. People bring goods from one part of the globe to another, carrying with them the sparks of holiness that must now be elevated by a person in another place. For this reason, many items continually change hands. This explains why certain items, such as family heirlooms, can remain in one family's possession for centuries, and then are given away or sold to another person, group or organization; all because the moment for the elevation of those sparks has come and it is time for them to move onward to a new rectification. Eventually, a good deed is performed with the money received or perhaps even with the goods themselves (such as the mitzvah of hospitality where inanimate items -- beds, linens and dishes, etc. -- are used while honoring a guest.
But rectification occurs only when people conduct themselves honorably and honestly in business. If not, they are further dispersing the sparks, as we have seen in the case of sexual sins, for the result is the same (as can be seen in the Generation of the Flood, which was steeped in idolatry, immorality and theft; see Rashi, Genesis 6:11). Amalek, symbolizing avarice, has always been an unprincipled enemy of holiness. He tried to "gather" whatever holiness he could, by lying, cheating, stealing and so on. Those of other nations who break their lust for wealth will merit the revelation of the Malkut of holiness. This will be at the time of the ingathering of the Exiles, for the sparks of holiness will all be gathered and rectified, opening the way for Mashiach to come. Amalek, on the other hand, is completely evil. The only good he might possibly contain is that infinitesimal spark of Godliness that sustains him. When Mashiach comes, that spark will depart, and nothing will be left of Amalek. This is the meaning of the Torah's injunction (Deuteronomy 25:17-19) to leave no remembrance of Amalek. When Mashiach comes, every iota of good must be elevated, and then nothing will remain of Amalek.
We can understand this point better if we recall that the Torah calls Amalek (Numbers 24:20), "Reishit Goyim, the first of foremost of the nations." The word reishit also translates as "head," indicating that Amalek's goal is honorand the wealth that accompanies it, to be first at the head of whatever is taking place. That is, the evil forces represented by Amalek correspond to haughtiness and false leadership which, as we have seen are a major impediment to Mashiach and messianic ideals. 2
As stated, it all goes back to Adam. "Materialism" is something caused by the fall:
The sparks were scattered even among inanimate objects, and must be rectified through business, manufacturing and trading, because Adam ate from the Tree of Knowledge. ... Therefore, instead of benefiting from the Garden of Eden, i.e., living a spiritual life without work, Adam was cursed with the need for material pursuits (Genesis 3:17-19), "You shall eat with sadness, by the sweat of your brow..." 3
The lesson here is as such:
Therefore, the sparks of holiness must now be elevated through business. ... The main test of a person is how he relates to money and wealth. One who breaks his lust for wealth merits to see Divine Providence clearly operating in his life. Then he can elevate the sparks of holiness found within money ... 4
1 After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory.
The arrival of angels performing different tasks continues from the previous chapters. As discussed in our background studies, each angel is relegated to only one task.
As Paul mentions in 1Timothy 6:9-10 (see above), the love of money results in other sin. The following Zohar section associates the "big three" sins of adultery (unchastity), murder and idolatry in the context of Amelek (whom we have equated with the love of money) 5:
Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, 28b-29a - 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 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.
ENERGIZING OF AMALEK
There is another aspect to Amalek, namely what causes "him" to appear with such power and infleunce in the days prior to the coming of the Messiah. The following passage of the Zohar describes this in terms of the result of union of the "ox and the ass" - defined as the powers behind the nations who come against Israel 6:
Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2,Page 65a - THEN CAME AMALEK AND FOUGHT WITH ISRAEL IN REPHIDIM. R. Jose quoted in connection with this the following verse: Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters, that send forth thither the feet of the ox and the ass (Isaiah 32:20). Water, he said, has many symbolic meanings: there are many kinds of water. Blessed are the Israelites who sow beside the water-the water which is under the branches of the Holy One's Tree, a Tree great and mighty, containing food for the whole universe. This Tree is encompassed by twelve frontiers and adjoins all four sides of the world, and has seventy branches, and Israel is in the body of the Tree, and the seventy branches encompass her. This is symbolized by the twelve wells of water and the threescore and ten palm trees, as we have often explained. But what do the words and they encamped there by the water signify? This. At that time the Israelites had control over the waters which are under the branches of that Tree, those which are called the insolent waters, (Psalm 124:5). And this is the meaning of the words, blessed are ye that sow beside all waters, that send forth thither the feet of the ox and the ass, namely, the two Crowns of the Left, to which are attached the pagan nations who are called ox and ass. When the Israelites are worthy, then they dismiss these evil powers, and they have no dominion over them. Said R. Abba: When the two (i.e. the ox and the ass) are united, the inhabitants of the world cannot stand up against them. For this reason it is prohibited to plough with an ox and an ass together (Deuteronomy 22:10). From them, when united, emanates the power, called dog, which is more insolent than all of them. Said the Holy One, blessed be He: Ye said, is the Lord in our midst or not? Behold, I will deliver you to the dog!, and straightway came Amalek.
Torah gives us a hint as to who the "ass" may be. Speaking of Ishmael it says:
Genesis 16:12 - and he is a wild-ass man, his hand against every one, and every one's hand against him -- and before the face of all his brethren he dwelleth.'
Another source gives us an idea who the "ox" in this equation may be:
The Vilna Ga'on explains chad gadya as being a parable of Jewish history throughout the generations up until the final Redemption; the author of the Ma'asei Nissim similarly interprets it. The end of this song brings us to the End of Days: Then came the ox, these are the nations (principally Edom [Rome], who is symbolized by the ox); 7
Who are modern day Esau/Edom and Ishamel that come together at the end of days to energize Amalek for a final time? One opinion has it that their final manifestation is found in the other two religions of the world that trace themesleves back to Abraham:
... for the rabbis, Esau/Edom symbolised the Roman Empire, and then (after the conversion of Constantine), Christianity. Ishmael was the Arab world and later, Islam. 8
Another text explains how Esau/Christianity and Ishmael/Islam, though they are against Jacob/Israel, turn on each other:
Here, at the End of Days, after Israel has already settled on the land of Israel [!], in the future, the peoples of the world will gather together to conquer Jerusalem. Then will gather together to conquer the land of Israel from the Jews Gog, the President of [the country] Meshek [which means "Market"] and Tuval from the lands of the North and West who are uncircumcised and called Edom. (Meshek and Tuval are of the descendants of Yafet [one of the three sons of Noah] that live [now] in Europe, as Josephus has written; there it is also written "Persia and Kush and Put are with them" [Ez. 38:5]). And also [with them will be] the house of Torgama that are all circumcised and adhere to the religion of the Ishmaelite (Islam). But when they come there will be trouble between them, and they will fight each other - that is, Edom and Ishmael will fight against each other because their religions are different. There G-d will judge them with sword and blood. This is as is written there and in Zechariah, chapter 14. In relation to this, it is told here how each will fall into the abyss. First Egypt and Assyria and Elam that hold by Islam - they are all circumcised nowadays - and after He will account for Meshek and Tuval and Edom and their kings and princes in the North who are all uncircumcised. The first and most important to fall will be Egypt because they are close to the land of Israel. They will come first and be defeated. Then the Assyrians and the Persians will come to take their vengeance and the two sides will both fall. 9
Inevitably, the wealth accumulated by Ishmael and Esau is given to Jacob. (See notes to verse 6.)
2 And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen ...
The term "is fallen" is mentioned twice. The significance of this is that both the lower (physical) and upper (spiritual) Babylon have met their end. (See previous study "As Above, So Below" for more on this idea.)
Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, 65b-66a - R. Simeon said: There is a deep allusion in the name Rephidim. This war emanated from the attribute of Severe Judgement and it was a war above and a war below. The Holy One, as it were, said: when Israel is worthy below My power prevails in the universe; but when Israel is found to be unworthy she weakens My power above, and the power of severe judgement predominates in the world. So here, Amalek came and fought with Israel in Rephidim, because the Israelites were weak (raphe) in the study of the Torah, as we have explained on another occasion. AND MOSES SAID UNTO JOSHUA, CHOOSE US OUT MEN, AND GO OUT, FIGHT WITH AMALEK. Why did Moses abstain from fighting the first battle which God Himself commanded? Because he was able to divine the true meaning of his Master's command. Hence he said: I will prepare myself for the war above, and thou, Joshua, prepare thyself for the war below. This is the meaning of the words :When Moses lifted up his hand, Israel prevailed (Exodus 17:11), namely Israel above. Therefore Moses did not participate in the war on earth, so that he might throw himself with greater zeal into the war in Heaven, and thus promote victory on earth. Said R. Simeon: Let us not think lightly of this war with Amalek. Verily, from the creation of the world until then, and since then till the coming of the Messiah, there has been and will be no war like that, nor can even the war of Gog and Magog be compared with it; and this not because of the mighty armies taking part in it, but because it was launched against all the attributes of the Holy One, blessed be He. AND MOSES SAID TO JOSHUA. Why to him, who was then but a youth (Eodus 33:11)? Were there in Israel no greater warriors than Joshua? The reason was that Moses in his wisdom was aware that it was not going to be merely a battle against flesh and blood, but against Samael, who was coming down to assist Amalek. Now Joshua, the youth, had reached at that time a high degree of spiritual perception, not, indeed, as high as Moses, who was united with the Shekinah, but his soul was, in fact, attached to the supernal region called Youth (=Metatron). Now when Moses perceived that Samael was going to fight for Amalek, he thought: this young man, Joshua, will surely stand against him and prevail, and therefore he said unto him: go and fight against Amalek! It is thy battle, the battle here below, and I will prepare myself for the battle above. Choose worthy men, righteous and the sons of the righteous, to accompany thee. Said R. Simeon: At the moment when Joshua, the young man, started out to fight Amalek, the Young Man above was stirred, and was equipped with weapons prepared by his Mother (the Shekinah) for the battle in order to avenge the covenant (cf. Leviticus 26:25) with the sword (Exodus 17:13). Moses equipped himself for the war above. His hands were heavy (Ibid. v, 12), that is to say, weighty, honourable, holy hands, that had never been defiled, hands worthy to wage the war above ...
... FOR I WILL UTTERLY BLOT OUT (lit. for blotting out I will blot out); that is, both their celestial forces and their power here below: similarly THE REMEMBRANCE of them on high as well as below. Said R. Isaac: Here it is written: For I will utterly blot out, whereas in another passage it says, Thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek (Deuteronomy 25:19). The Holy One, blessed be He, said in effect: Ye shall blot out his remembrance on earth, and I will blot out his remembrance on high. R. Jose said: Amalek brought with him other peoples, but all the rest were afraid to commence war against Israel. Hence Joshua cast lots which of them to slay. AND MOSES BUILT AN ALTAR AND CALLED THE NAME OF IT YHVH NISSI (the Lord is my sign). He built an altar below to correspond to the Altar above.
2 ... and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!
"Birds" and "fish" are kabbalistic terms for spiritual entities. See the representations in the drawing found at http://www.yashanet.com/studies/images/flame.gif
The following text describes the "serpent" as having scales and fins and residing in (spiritual) rivers, striking at other "fishes":
Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 27b - Eleazar: Thirteen springs. [Tr.note: These are supposed to symbolize the forces of judgement which issue from the Sefirah Malkuth.] emerge in the upper world, on the right side, which give rise to thirteen deep streams. Of these streams, whilst some are rising others are falling, and their waters mingle with each other. These thirteen streams, issuing from thirteen springs, branch out besides into a thousand rivers, flowing in all directions, namely, four hundred and ninety-nine and a half to the one side, and four hundred and ninety-nine and a half to the other side, the remaining two half rivers being joined into one and metamorphosed into a Serpent, whose head is red as the rose, and whose scales are solid as iron, and who has fins by means of which he propels himself through all the rivers. When he raises his tail he strikes against all fishes coming in his way so that none of them dare stand in his path. His mouth emits a flaming fire. When he sets out to traverse the rivers, all the fishes fall a-trembling, take flight and precipitate themselves into the great ocean. Once every seventy years he crouches on the one side and once every seventy on the other side; the thousand rivers less one are thus filled with him. So he remains for a time; but when he bestirs himself there issues from him a strip of fire in his scales, which stand out and quiver, and the waters of the rivers become turbid and assume a dark-blue colour, and waves surge in every direction. He then lifts his tail and lashes with it upwards and downwards, so that everything flees before him; until finally a flame of fire is projected from the North and a proclamation goes forth, saying: Arise, ye old females, [Tr.note: Alluding to Lilith, the night-demon, and her female retinue, According to the commentators, there is, besides old Lilith, also young Lilith, who is at the service of Asmodeus.] be scattered into all the four corners, for, behold, there is awakened the one who is about to put fetters on the jaws of the monster. So Scripture says: And I will put hooks in thy jaws, etc. (Ezekiel 29:4). Then they all scatter, and the monster is seized and pierced through his jaws and thrust into the cavern of the great abyss, so that his power is broken. After that he is brought back to his rivers. This performance is repeated every seventy years in order to prevent him from doing damage to the heavenly regions and their foundations. For this we all give thanks and offer up praise, as it is written: O come, let us bow down and bend the knee; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker (Psalm 95:6). The superior dragons abide on high, to wit, those that were blessed, as we read: And God blessed them (Genesis 1:22). These rule over all the other fishes, of whom it is written, and fill the waters in the seas (Ibid.) Concerning this it is written: How manifold are thy works, O Lord! In wisdom hast thou made them all (Psalm 104:24).
Rome and Babylon are both used in Hebraic literature when describing things such as exile and evil. In the text of Revelation its destiny is to be a "prison" for a great number of entities (demons, spirits, "birds") of the Sitra Achra.
The following text hints at the multitude of demons associated with Rome/Babylon/Lilith:
Soncino Zohar, Vayikra, Section 3, Page 19a - AND IF THE WHOLE CONGREGATION SHALL ERR, ETC. R. Simeon cited in this connection the verse: Rise up, ye women that are at ease, and hear my voice, etc. (Isaiah 32:9). He said: A man should be ever solicitous for the honour of his Master in order that his son may be without flaw. For when God created man, He created him without flaw, as it is written, God made man upright (yashar, lit. straight) (Ecclesiastes 7:20). The word man (adam) means male and female, the female being included in the male, and hence it says upright. Now in the depth of the great abyss there is a certain hot fiery female spirit named Lilith, who at first cohabited with man. For when man was created and his body completed, a thousand spirits from the left side assembled round that body, each endeavouring to enter, until at last a cloud descended and drove them away and God said, Let the earth bring forth a living soul (Genesis 1:24), and it then brought forth a spirit to breathe into man, who thus became complete with two sides, as it says, And he breathed in his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living soul (Genesis 2: 7). When man arose, his female was affixed to his side, and the holy spirit in him spread to each side, thus perfecting itself. Afterwards God sawed the man in two and fashioned his female and brought her to him like a bride to the canopy. When Lilith saw this she fled, and she is still in the cities of the sea coast trying to snare mankind. And when the Almighty will destroy the wicked Rome, He will settle Lilith among the ruins, since she is the ruin of the world, as it is written: For there Lilith shall settle and find her a place of rest (Isaiah 34:14). In ancient books it says that she fled from man before this, but we have learnt differently, that she associated with man until this soul (neshamah) was placed in him, and then she fled to the seaside, where she tries to harm mankind.
3 For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury.
As mentioned, Rabbi Nachman mentioned the evil Haman as representative of misusing wealth. The following adds some insight into how badly Haman misused wealth:
Haman, we know, was a descendent of Amalek. ... Let us then take a moment to examine this Haman character. Material bliss, it seems, was among Haman's blessings. In exchange for permission to kill the Jews, Haman offered King Achashveirosh a cool ten thousand kikar of silver. Just to put that in perspective: The Jews in the desert were commanded to give a half-silver shekel each. The proceeds of these half-shekels would be used to purchase communal sacrifices for the entire year, after which a new collection was taken. In parshas Pekudei, the Torah gives a total of the silver collected as a result of the half-shekel census: One hundred kikar. One kikar of gold was enough to fashion the menorah, which stood so tall that Aaron needed to stand upon a ladder just to clean out its lamps. Haman offered ten thousand kikar. Haman was no pauper. 10
The tactics of Amalek are subtle. (i.e., The New Testament warns of an evil spiritual force appearing as an "angel of light.") The subsequent text puts it in simple terms and offers some sound advice - enthusiasm for God and Torah!
Amalek disguises himself as the sophisticated businessman, making light of our commitment to G-d's Torah. Once again, he argues, "Forget what the Torah has to say about business ethics, honesty, morality, and responsibility. Forget that G-d is guiding your steps and that you need His help to succeed. No one believes this, much less acts on it. Your job is to make money, and in the dog-eat-dog world of workaday reality, you have to play by the rules if you expect to survive." The Torah here tells us that even though it sounds like we're talking to an astute businessman, we should recognize that it is really Amalek, the archenemy of Israel, who is talking. Despite his concessions to our private spiritual life, his goal is to wipe us out. Therefore, the only proper response to this inner voice is to wipe it our first, by constantly renewing our impetuous enthusiasm for G-d and His Torah, and our desire to see it assume its rightful role as our guide in all aspects of life. 11
Subtle compromise, rearding the keeping of Torah, is another tactic of Amalek:
Amalek had another weapon up his sleeve. Rashi teaches us that the verse "how he met you on the way [in Hebrew, "asher korcho baderech"] (Deuteronomy 25:18) can be understood "how he cooled you off along the way". Amalek, spreads his poison in each and every Jew and tries to dampen one's enthusiasm for serving G-d. "Pray, learn Torah and keep mitzvot", he declares, "but why do you have to be so religious? G-d didn't create such a big world out there just for you to ignore it, did He?!" When this attitude, or one of extreme chutzpah like Amalek's, takes hold amongst the Jewish People, we must uproot it to the core. 12
Money, power and fame are not evil. It is the misuse of these things that energizes Amalek:
We must learn that power and strength can be used to destroy and uproot, or they can be used to repair, to build and protect. As a nation we must abhor the power that destroys and love the power that gives us strength to redeem the world. It is the abuse of power, the greedy materialistic pursuit of wealth at the expense of the needy and weak that which we must eradicate and "blot out". That is the lesson of Amalek. 13
The misue of material wealth is directly tied to denial of the Name of God in this text:
Enoch 46:5 - They shall condemn the stars of heaven, shall life up their hands against the Most High, shall tread upon and inhabit the earth, exhibiting all their works of iniquity, even their works of iniquity. Their strength shall be in their riches, and their faith in the gods whom they have formed with their own hands. They shall deny the Name of the Lord of Spirits, and shall expel him from the temples, in which they assemble.
4 And I heard another voice from heaven saying, Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.
The term "plague" is often used to represent the demonic realm and/or the result of demonic activity: This Zohar text teaches on Psalm 91, known as the Psalm of demons, as it is a prayer for protection against such evil. Again, the demon Lilith plays a central role:
Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 169b - LEFT ALONE, ETC . R. Hiya discoursed on the verse: There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy tent. (Psalm 91:10). When God, he said, created the world, He made on each day the work appropriate for that day. This has already been explained. Now on the fourth day the lights were created; but the moon was created without light, since she diminished herself. This is implied in the phrase Let there be lights, wherein the term meoroth (lights) is written defectively (less the letter vau), as it were me'eroth (curses); for as a result of the moon's diminution, occasion was granted to all spirits and demons and hurricanes and devils to exercise sway, so that all unclean spirits rise up and traverse the world seeking whom to seduce; they haunt ruined places, thick forests and deserts. These are all from the side of the unclean spirit, which, as has been said, issues from the crooked serpent, who is, indeed, the veritable unclean spirit, and whose mission is to seduce man after him. Hence it is that the evil prompter has sway in the world, following men about and employing all manner of ruses and seductions to turn them aside from the paths of the Holy One, blessed be He. And in the same way as he seduced Adam and thereby brought death into the world, so does he ever seduce men and cause them to defile themselves; and whoever allows himself to be defiled draws upon himself the unclean spirit and clings unto him, and numerous unclean influences are at hand to defile him, so that he remains polluted in this world and in the world to come. Contrariwise, should a man strive to purify himself, the unclean spirit is foiled and can no longer dominate him. Thus it is written: No evil shall befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy tent. R. Jose said: Evil here alludes to Lilith (night-demon), and the plague to the other demons, as has been explained elsewhere. R. Eleazar said: It has been taught that a man should not go out alone at night, and especially when the time of the creation of the moon recurs and it is without light. For at that time the unclean spirit, which is the same as the evil spirit, is at large. Now, the term evil here is an allusion to the evil serpent, while the plague alludes to him who rides on the serpent, so that evil and plague work together. It is true, we have also been taught that the term plague signifies the plagues of the sons of man, which issued from Adam.
5 For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.
The Revelation text expresses this sin in terms of "reaching heaven" - which may seem strange in that "proximity" to God (heaven) is based on likeness, and sin of course is "missing the mark," i.e., not in the likeness of God.
What we have here is the idea of "fullness of sin," which has to do with it reaching the end of its purpose. This "length of time" is actually grounded in Hesed, God's attribute of Mercy, as he gives the unrighteous ample time to repent.
These concepts are found in many places:
Genesis 15:13-16 - Then He said to Abram: Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.
Romans 2:3-4 - So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?
Midrash Rabbah - Ecclesiastes 5:5 - IF THOU SEEST THE OPPRESSION OF THE POOR (V, 7). If you see the oppression of the lowly and the needy,and the Righteous One who liveth for ever granting prosperity and comfort to the oppressor, [DO THOU SEE] IN THE STATE (BAMMEDINAH) - see at work on him the judgment (bo'dinah) of Gehinnom. FOR ONE HIGHER THAN THE HIGH WATCHETH: viz. the angels, AND THERE ARE HIGHER THAN THEY: viz. the Holy One, blessed be He. R. Jose b. Haninah interpreted the verse as applying to Esau [i.e. Rome]. If you see Esau in the great city of Rome oppressing the lowly and robbing the poor, and the Holy One, blessed be He, granting him prosperity, see at work on him the Attribute of Justice. MARVEL NOT at what the ancient [Isaac] said and that his desire was fulfilled, as it is stated, Behold, of the fat places of the earth shall be thy dwelling (Genesis 27:39). FOR ONE HIGHER THAN THE HIGH WATCHETH:viz. the commanders, captains, and lieutenants; AND THERE ARE HIGHER THAN THEY: viz. the King who liveth for ever.
This principle applies to God's overall plan as well. All evil has its purpose and its end:
"[G-d] has set a limit to darkness..."(Job 28:3), meaning that He has limited the time during which the darkness of kelipa will be permitted to derive sustenance from the leavings of holiness, from the most extrinsic level of holiness. When that time expires, the kelipa will be utterly destroyed and annihilated, leaving no vestige of itself, because it does not possess any intrinsic form of true existence; it is a non-entity... In contrast to the side of holiness, the kelipot derive their existence from a "lack of divine desire" and were therefore sundered from G-d's unity. They have no existence other than the animation which they receive from the encompassing level of divine light. When this source is removed they will be totally cut off and will be utterly obliterated. This is the meaning of the above-quoted verse, "[G-d] has set a limit to darkness...". The darkness of the kelipot has a limited time period, after which the kelipot will be utterly destroyed and annihilated, since they originate from a "lack of divine desire." While this applies to the sitra achra in general, it is especially true of the kelipa of Amalek, whose whole being is brazenness and chutzpa, with no inner content at all. Every other kelipa has at least some content, albeit evil, such as the " chesed of kelipa". This is not the case with the kelipa of Amalek, the kelipa of brazen chutzpa; an insolent individual, as he himself is aware, is essentially a non-entity. The more degraded such people are, the less they retain their human aspect - the more they relate with insolence, in an animal-like fashion, to people more elevated than themselves. So, too, the kelipa of Amalek, whose whole being is insolence, is essentially a non-entity. Amalek thus resembles the waves of the sea that are lifted by the wind. While water, by its nature, descends, it is capable of being lifted by the wind and momentarily standing upright like a wall; however, as soon as the wind abates, the water collapses. So, too, kelipot in general and Amalek in particular derive their sustenance only from the encompassing level of divine life-force, and will thus "appear and disappear with the wind." This, then, is what is meant by the phrase, "[G-d] has set a limit to darkness": the darkness of the kelipot have an appointed end, after which they will be cut off and utterly destroyed, leaving no trace. 14
Midrash Rabbah - Exodus 30:1 - Israel said to God: ' Lord of the Universe! How long wilt Thou delay in judging the heathen?- The reply was: Until the time of vintage comes; as it says, In that day sing ye of her: A vineyard of foaming wine (Isaiah 27:2). Does then one glean his vineyard before the grapes ripen? No, only after they are ripe does he pluck them, place them in the vat, and tread them, while his fellow-labourers sing with him. Thus said God to Israel: ' Wait until the time of Edom comes and then will I tread upon her, as it says, Upon Edom do I cast my shoe (Psalm 40:10); I will begin [the song of redemption] for you, and you will respond after Me; therefore does it say, In that day sing ye of her: A vineyard of foaming wine. I the Lord do guard it, I water it every moment (Isaiah 27:3).-I am biding My time with her to make her drink many cups, as it says, I water it every moment. I have only to glance at them to destroy them completely from this world, but Fury is not in Me, as it is in them against My children. What will I do to them? I would with one step burn it altogether
There are two other important and related concepts behind verse 5.
- It is necessary for both evil and good to reach their fullness in order for the end to come. It is the intensification of evil that "squeezes out" the greatest good.
Speaking of the evil ones in the days leading up to Messiah, Rabbi Pinchas Winston states:
And, like Pharaoh before them, God will take advantage of their faulty assumptions to create a path to redemption for the faithful. 15
- The soul of Messiah emanates from the highest realms. Because of the "loftiness" of this soul, the "lower" it can decend to redeem everything in creation - even the darkest elements of the Sitra Achra. (A positive spin on the old saying, "the bigger they are, the harder they fall!) When the sin (emanating from the lowest point) reaches its "highest point" (reaching heaven) then Mashiach comes to bring redemption.
Regarding this latter point, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov's teachings make the most amazing claims to the power of the Messiah:
Keter actually has two levels, a lower level corresponding to Arikh Anpin and an upper level, the intellect of Arikh Anpin, which corresponds to Atik ("The Ancient One"), Atik Yomin ("The Ancient of Days"), Atika Kadisha ("The Holy Ancient One"). ... The connection between Mashiach and Atik is learned from Daniel's vision: "A man came and he approached (the level of) the Ancient of Days.." Rashi explains that this refers to Mashiach, who will administer justice to the entire world. ... Atik thus transcends anything we can conceive ... at this level there is neither past nor future. Everything is in the present. And, as we have seen, every part of Creation, from the first constriction to the lowest level of Asiyah, is contained within the Keter Atik. Thus, Atik includes all time and space - yet transcends it all. The soul of Mashiach "resides" within Atik, and it is from this level that all his powers will be drawn. And, since he transcends time and space, Mashiach can trascend every transgression ever done, he can bring each person to a state prior to his having sinned. This is because in Keter, God overrides the rules that He set up for all the Sefirot and their interaction between each other and man. With the power inherent in this exalted level, Mashiach will be able to bring the world to a state of perfection. 16
The idea of sin "reaching heaven" may be thought of in terms of it seeking to defile the heavenly Temple, which kabbalistically is located in the world of Beriah/Creation. This is clearly conveyed in the following passage from the Zohar:
Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 194b-195a - AND MOSES ASSEMBLED ALL THE CONGREGATION OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, ETC. R. Hiya opened here a discourse on the text: And Saul said unto the Kenites: Go depart, etc. (I Samuel 15:6). Observe, he said, that in regard to Amalek it is written: I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, etc. (Ibid. 15:2). What is the reason that none of the wars waged by other nations against Israel was so displeasing to the Almighty as was the war waged against them by Amalek? The reason, assuredly, is that the battle with Amalek was waged on both fronts, both on high and below; for at that time the evil serpent gathered all its forces both above and below. It is the way of a serpent to lie in wait on the cross-roads. So Amalek, the evil serpent of Israel, was lying in wait for them on the cross-roads, as it is written: how he set himself against him in the way (Ibid.). He was Iying in ambush on high in order to defile the Sanctuary, and below in order to defile Isracl. This we deduce from the expression, how he met thee by the way (Deuteronomy 25:18), where the term qar'kha is meant to suggest the kindred term in the passage, If there be among you any man that is not clean by reason of that which chanceth him (miqre) by night (Ibid. 23:11). By using the term qar'kha, the text as much as says: He has arrayed against thee that evil serpent from above that he may defile thee on all sides; and were it not that Moses from above, and Joshua from below, put forth all their strength, Israel would not have prevailed against him. It is for this reason that the Holy One, blessed be He, cherished His enmity against him throughout all generations, inasmuch as he planned to uproot the sign of the covenant from its place. ([Tr. note: i.e. to lead Israel into ways of unchastity.]
6 Render to her just as she rendered to you, and repay her double according to her works; in the cup which she has mixed, mix double for her.
The material wealth of Esau and Ishmael will in the end all go to Jacob (Israel). The former is punished "double" while the latter receives "double" the blessing:
Isaiah 61:6-7 - But you shall be named the priests of the LORD, They shall call you the servants of our God. You shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, And in their glory you shall boast. Instead of your shame you shall have double honor, And instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double; Everlasting joy shall be theirs.
This all happens in the time of Messiah:
Midrash Rabbah - Ecclesiastes 1:21 - Another interpretation of ALL THE RIVERS RUN INTO THE SEA: All wealth only goes to the kingdom of Edom, and the kingdom of Edom is never filled; for R. Levi said: It is written, So the eyes of man (adam) are never satiated (Proverbs 27:20), i.e. the eyes of Edom are never satiated. Do you mean to say that when wealth enters Edom it never returns to its owners? Thereforethe text states, UNTO THE PLACE WHITHER THE RIVERS GO, THITHER THEY GO AGAIN. From the place where wealth accumulates, viz. the kingdom of Edom, in this world, thence it will be dispersed in the days of the Messiah; as it is written, And her gain and her hire shall be holiness to the Lord (Isaiah 23:18).
1. From http://www.vbm-torah.org/archive/salt-devarim/49-5kiteitzei.htm - comments to Parashat Ki Teitzei by Rav David Silverberg
2. Mashiach - Who? What? Why? How? Where? When? (exposition on the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov) Chaim Kramer, Breslov Research Institute, Jerusalem, 1998, pp. 264-266.
3. ibid, p. 266.
4. ibid, p. 267
5. There are three sins for which a Jew must be willing to give up his life for and not commit; murder, idolatry and adultery.
15. Rabbi Pinchas Winston has an interesting view of this in his article, And, One More Step, One More Chizuk, at http://www.thirtysix.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=599&mode=thread&order=0&thold=0
16. Mashiach - Who? What? Why? How? Where? When?, Chaim Kramer, Breslov Research Institute, Jerusalem, 1998, pp. 208-209.
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