revhead.gif (4972 bytes)


Soncino Zohar, Section 3, Page 98b - 101a

IN THE SEVENTH MONTH IN THE FIRST DAY OF THE MONTH. R. Isaac said: ‘Blessed are Israel in that God has drawn them near to Him from a far place, as it says, "And Joshua said unto the people, Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt of old beyond the River" (Joshua XXIV, 2), and a little further on it says, "And I took your father Abraham from beyond the River" (Ibid. 3). Now these verses require consideration. Did not the Israelites, and still more Joshua, know all this? Then why did God tell it to them?

The inner meaning, however, is this. Great kindness did God show Israel in choosing the patriarchs and making them a supernal holy chariot for his glory and bringing them forth from the supernal precious holy River, the lamp of all lamps, that he might be crowned with them. Also it says, "I took your father Abraham from beyond the River" (Ibid. 4), because Abraham did not cleave to that River as Isaac clave to his side. Now, although this River is not judgement, yet chastisements issue from its side, and when Isaac takes hold of his sons, then higher and lower angels assemble for judgement, and the throne of judgement is set up and the Holy King takes his seat thereon and judges worlds. Then is the time to "blow up the trumpet on the new moon, at the appointed time on our solemn feast day" (PS. LXXXI, 4): for happy are Israel who know how to remove the throne of judgement and set up the throne of mercy; and wherewith? With the shofar.’

R. Abba, as he was once studying with R. Simeon, said to him: ‘Many times have I inquired concerning the significance of the shofar, but I have never yet received a satisfactory answer.’ R. Simeon replied: ‘The true explanation is this. Why Israel have to use a ram's horn on this day and not any other is this, that we know to what place the horn belongs, and we do not desire to awaken judgement. For, as we have learnt, by word and deed we have to awaken secret powers. Now when the supernal Shofar, in which is the illumination of all, removes itself and does not shine upon the sons, then judgement is awakened and the thrones are set up for judgement, and Isaac strengthens and prepares himself for judgement. But when this Shofar rouses itself and men repent of their sins, it behoves them to blow the shofar below, and the sound thereof ascends on high and awakens another supernal Shofar, and so mercy is awakened and judgement is removed. We must produce from this shofar below various sounds to arouse all the voices that are contained in the supernal Shofar, and therefore we not only use the shofar on this day but arrange the blasts in a number of series.

‘With the first blast the voice goes forth and makes its way upwards to the firmaments, breaking through lofty mountains till it reaches Abraham, on whose head it rests so that he awakes and prepares himself for the throne, where the Father and Mother appoint him to his station. Then there goes up a second mighty blast to break down wrath, being itself of broken notes, and all chastisements that stand in its way as it ascends to Isaac are broken. Then Isaac awakens and beholds Abraham preparing the throne and standing before it, and then he also is chastened and his severity is abated. And on this he who blows the shofar should concentrate his mind, so as to break the strength of stern judgement. With the third blast the voice issues and ascends and cleaves the firmaments, till it reaches the head of Jacob, who thereupon awakens and sees Abraham ready on the other side. Then both take hold of Isaac, one on one side and one on the other, so that his violence cannot break forth. These three blasts form one series.

‘In the next series a voice goes forth and ascends and takes hold of Abraham and brings him down to the place where the harshness of Isaac abides and sets Abraham in the midst thereof. With the second blast goes forth a broken voice, not so powerful as the first; not that it is weaker, but because it does not approach Isaac like the previous one, but only the lower court, which is weaker; and they all see Abraham among them and are humbled. With the third blast a voice issues and rises till it forms a crown on the head of Jacob, whom it brings down to the place where those powers of judgement are, so that Abraham faces them on one side and Jacob on the other, and they being in the middle are rendered more lenient. These form the second series.

‘The last series has to take them back to their places and to place Isaac between them as before, since it is necessary to fix him in his place so that he should not leave it in his violent mood. In this way all punishments are kept in check and mercy is awakened. This is the purpose which these blasts should serve, being accompanied by repentance before God. Thus when Israel produce the blasts of the shofar with proper devotion, the supernal Shofar returns and crowns Jacob so that all is properly arranged. Another throne is set up and joy is universally diffused and God has mercy on the world. Happy are Israel who know how to divert their Master from justice to mercy and to be the instruments for establishing all worlds. Corresponding to the three series of blasts three books are opened above on this day, and just as mercy is awakened and punishments are restrained and put back in their place above, so below in the same way harsh punishments are kept back and removed from the world. And what are these? These are the irremediably wicked who are inscribed at once for death.’ Said R. Abba: ‘Assuredly this is the true explanation of the matter. Blessed be God that I asked for and obtained this instruction.’ R. Judah said: ‘It is written, A MEMORIAL OF BLOWING OF TRUMPETS. We make a memorial by the concentration of our mind and thought. Israel make a memorial below by an appropriate ceremony, so as to arouse a corresponding reaction above.’

R. Eleazar said: ‘This day is called "the concealing (keseh) for the day of our feast", because the moon is still covered and does not shine. [Tr. note: Cf. T.B. Rosh Hashanah, 8b.] Through what then will it shine? Through repentance and the sound of the shofar, as it is written, "Blessed is the people that know the trumpet sound, because, O Lord, they shall walk in the light of thy countenance" (Ps. LXXXIX, 15). On this day the moon is covered, and it does not shine until the tenth day, when Israel turn with a perfect repentance, so that the supernal Mother gives light to her. Hence this day is called the day of atonements (kipturim), because two lights are shedding illumination, since the higher lamp is illumining the lower. For on this day the Moon receives illumination from the supernal Light and not from the light of the Sun.’ R. Abba sent to inquire of R. Simeon: ‘When is the union of the Community of Israel with the Holy King?’ He answered him with the verse: "And moreover she is indeed my sister the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother" (Gen. xx, 12). R. Abba lifted up his voice and wept, saying: ‘My master, my master, holy lamp, alas for the world when thou shalt depart from it, alas for the generation which shall be orphaned of thee!’ R. Hiya said to R. Abba: ‘What means this answer that he sent you?’ He replied: ‘The union of the King with the Matrona is only when she is illumined from the supernal Father, when she is called holy. Then indeed she is "my sister the daughter of my father", but not "of my mother", since it is from the Father that she derives this name.’

R. Abba said: ‘On New Year Adam was created and was brought to trial before his Master and repented and was pardoned by the Almighty. He said to him: Adam, thou shalt be a sign to thy descendants for all generations. On this day they are brought to trial, and if they repent I will pardon them and remove from the Throne of Judgement and sit on the Throne of Mercy and have mercy on them.’