The Righteous is the Foundation of the World

One time, Rabbi Shim’on bar Yo’chai (second century) noticed that the earth had darkened and become filled with gloominess.

He turned to his son Rabbi El’azar and said: “Come and let us see what God has in store for the world.”

They went, and came upon an angel the size of a great mountain, with three flaming torches emanating from its mouth.

Rabbi Shim’on said to it: “What have you come to do to the world?”

Replied the angel: “I have come to destroy the world.”

Rabbi Shim’on said: “I conjure you to go to God and tell God that the son of Yo’chai is still on the earth.”

The angel went to God and repeated the words of Rabbi Shim’on. God said to the angel: “Go back and destroy the world, and pay no attention to the son of Yo’chai.”

When the angel returned, Rabbi Shim’on approached once more and admonished the spirit: “If you will not go away, I will utter an incantation upon you that will prevent you from ever again returning to the heavens! And you will end up like the fallen angels Aza and Aza’el. Therefore, return and tell God that if the world is destined for destruction because there is no majority of good people here, there is myself and my son. And even if only I alone am worthy, is it not written: `And the righteous person is the foundation of the world’ (Proverbs 10:25)?”

In that instant, a voice emanated from the Heavens and declared: “How worthy is your portion, Rabbi Shim’on, in that God decrees above and you abolish the decree below?”

——- Tikkunei Ha’Zohar, folios 255a-b

Published in: on June 28, 2009 at 6:25 am  Leave a Comment  


Rabbi Yehudah (second century) was on his way out of his home one day when he discovered Rabbi Yitzchak sitting outside his door, his countenance sullen.

Rabbi Yehudah asked him: “What is different about this day from yesterday?”

Rabbi Yitzchak replied: “I have come to request of you three things — when you teach, memorialize my name by crediting to me any of the teachings that were mine, teach my son Yo’sef, and visit my grave every day of the seven days of mourning and pray for me.”

Rabbi Yehudah said: “And what makes you think you’re about to die?”

He replied: “Lately, when my soul leaves my body during sleep, she shows me no dreams. Also, when I pray, I notice the absence of my shadow.”

Rabbi Yehudah said: “All that you have requested, I shall fulfill. But one thing I request of you. When you reach the Other World, reserve a space for me beside you just as I have been with you in this world.”

Rabbi Yitzchak wept and said: “Please do not leave my side during the days to come.”

They went to Rabbi Shim’on bar Yo’chai, who was meditating. Rabbi Shim’on lifted his head and saw the Angel of Death dancing around Rabbi Yitzchak.

Rabbi Shim’on said: “Let only those enter my chamber who are accustomed to visiting me.”

The Angel of Death stopped at his door and did not enter. Rabbi Shim’on then took Rabbi Yitzchak’s hand and asked: “Have you ever seen a vision of your deceased father? For we have a tradition that when one is about to die their family and close friends come to them to greet them and to usher them to their designated place in the Other World.”

Rabbi Yitzchak said: “I have never seen such a vision.”

Rabbi Shim’on turned to his son Rabbi El’azar and said: “Take his hand and hold it.”

He took his hand. Rabbi Shim’on began to meditate and Rabbi Yitzchak fell into a deep sleep. In his sleep his father appeared to him and informed him of the bliss that awaits him in the Other World.

Rabbi Yitzchak then asked him: “Father, please inform me of the day that I am to die.”

His father said: “I am not permitted to reveal such things. All I am allowed to say is that when you come to the Other World, you will be seated at the table of your master Rabbi Shim’on.”

Rabbi Yitzchak awoke in a state of joy and remained in gladness the rest of his days.

——- Sefer Ha’Zohar, vol. 1, folios 217b-218a

Published in: on June 21, 2009 at 12:00 am  Leave a Comment  

sacred deed

They asked Hillel the Elder (first century B.C.E.): “Where are you going?”

He replied: “I am going to perform a sacred deed.”

They asked: “And what is this sacred deed of Hillel?”

He said: “T am going to the House of the Chair (i.e., the toilet).”

They asked: “But is that a sacred thing to do?”

He said: “Yes indeed, for by so doing one prevents the body from deteriorating.”

Another time they asked him: “Where are you going?”

He replied: “I am going to perform a sacred deed.”

They asked: “And what is the sacred deed of Hillel this time.?”

He replied: “I am going to the bath house.”

They asked: “Is that a sacred thing to do?”

He said: “Yes indeed, for by so doing one cleanses the body. Know that the statues of Caesar that are erected in the arenas are but facsimiles of the Image of God, yet the Romans wash them daily. If that which is but a facsimile of the divine image is deserving of such honors, so much more so is the body, which was actually created in the Image of God.”

——- Babylonian Talmud, Avot D’Rebbe Natan [version 2], end of Ch. 30

Published in: on June 14, 2009 at 12:00 am  Leave a Comment  

the walk of balance between the extremes

Rabbi Uri of Strelisk (eighteenth century) was traveling by coach with several of his disciples when suddenly the horses came to an abrupt halt, and the driver spotted a bear coming toward them.

Rabbi Uri stepped down from the wagon and walked straight toward the bear and stared into her eyes. The bear stopped, stared back for a while, and then walked off into the woods.

When the disciples proclaimed the incident a miracle, Rabbi Uri said to them: “It is no miracle. Rather, anyone who walks the walk of balance between the extremes has no cause to be afraid of the bear. For the bear walks the walk of balance between the extremes: between abundance and scarcity, and between gluttony and abstention.”

Published in: on June 7, 2009 at 12:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Be careful what you ask for

Be careful what you ask for. It might be much more than you can handle. It is told that Ceasar once asked Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananyah: “You people claim that your god is like a lion. If so, what is so great about that? After all, one of my horsemen can easily slay a lion!”

Rabbi Yehoshua replied: “Our god is likened not to just any ordinary lion but to the tiger, who we consider the lion of the Heavenly Forest.”

Caesar said: “I wish to see one. Show it to me.”

Rabbi Yehoshua said: “It is so fierce that you will not be able to so much as look at it.”

Caesar said: “I insist, nevertheless!”

Rabbi Yehoshua prayed to the Creator to bring one forth, and instantly the tiger was conjured from its place in the spirit realm. When it approached within four hundred miles of the earth, it roared once and all the pregnant women of Rome miscarried, and all the walls of Rome collapsed. When the tiger approached within three hundred miles of the earth, the teeth of all the men of Rome fell out, and Caesar himself fell from off his throne.

“I beg of you,” cried Caesar, “please ask your god to restore this creature to its place.”

Rabbi Yehoshua prayed to the Creator and the tiger returned to the Heavenly Forest.

——- Babylonian Talmud, Chullin 59b

Published in: on June 1, 2009 at 12:00 am  Leave a Comment