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  • Dov Greenwood

A Fragment from the Zohar (Ki Tisa, 189b)

He opened saying, “like a lily amidst the brambles—so is my love amidst the maidens” (Song of Songs 2:2). The Blessed Holy One desired that the Children of Israel resemble that which lies above, and to be the single lily of the land resembling that ideal one. And the lily with the wafting scent, the choicest among the flowers, is none other than the one that is found among the brambles—and its scent is rightly so. And so the seed of the seventy pairs—that is, the “seventy souls”—were brought into the midst of the brambles, and those brambles, immediately once the pairs arrived, sprouted shoots and leaves and ruled over the world. And then the lily bloomed in their midst.

When the Blessed Holy One desired to extract the lily and pluck it from their midst, the brambles then dried up, and they were tossed about and trampled upon as though they were worthless. In going out to pluck that lily—to extricate his firstborn son—at that time the king went out with many soldiers, officers and princes, with flags unfurled, and extricated his firstborn son with many great feats, and brought him to his sanctuary and sat him, as fit, in the house of the king.

When he sinned against his father, he scolded him and struck him, as it is written, “God’s rage flared against Israel, so he delivered them into the hand of vandals” (Judges 2:14). He strayed as he had before and defied his father, so he expelled him from his house. What did Israel do? They discerned that they had been scattered to Babylon, had been mixed among the nations, had married foreign women and borne children by them. Yet nevertheless, the Holy Mother had been guardian over them.

And because he had trespassed so, the Blessed Holy One said, “since he is ashamed, let my son come to me of his own accord, because, since he has disgraced my dignity, it is undue for me to go out there to retrieve him, nor to do miracles and great feats as I did back then.” They returned without the help due to them, without wonders or miracles: all of them were scattered, all of them were exhausted by poverty, and they returned to the sanctuary of the king shamefully—but the Holy Mother vouched for them.

They sinned as they had back then. What did the Blessed Holy One do? He expelled that son, as he had back then, from his sanctuary—and his mother with him—saying, “henceforth the mother and her son will suffer many travails together!” Thus it is written, “and by your crimes your mother was banished” (Isaiah 50:1), and regarding this it is written, “you will be in distress, as all these things lay hold of you with the end of days” (Deuteronomy 4:30).

But what is “the end of days”? This is the Holy Mother—she is the end of days—and with her they suffered all that they suffered in Exile. And if only they return through repentance, then by undergoing even just one travail or one trial, it will be accounted as though they had suffered them all. And if not, they must endure them till the end, throughout the generations—as the Holy Candle said, “it is thus written: ‘in perpetuity it will belong to the one who acquires it, throughout the generations’ (Leviticus 25:30). For the whole thing is tied to repentance.” Rabbi Hiyya said, “It is, of course, so—and thus the Exile continues.”

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