Pesikta d’Rav Kahana
Rabbi Hizkiyah said in the name of Rabbi Yirmiyah: Eliyahu, may he be remembered for good, and Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi were sitting and reviewing their learning. They arrived at a heavenly teaching of Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai. At that moment, Rashbi happened to pass by. They said to one another: here comes the author of this halakhah, let us arise and ask [his intent]. They arose and asked. Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai said [to Eliyahu]: what kind of a man is with you? [Eliyahu] responded: this is Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, and he is the leader of the generation. [Rashbi] asked [Eliyahu]: and has the rainbow appeared in the clouds during his time? [Eliyahu] answered him: yes. [Rashbi] said to him: if the rainbow has appeared in his time, he is not fit to see my face.
Midrash Rabbah, Shir HaShirim 1
A woman was married for many years to her husband, but had not had children. Her husband decided to divorce her, so he went to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, of blessed memory.
Rabbi Shimon told him that just as they had celebrated with joy their mutual bond when they got married, so should the severance of their mutual bond be celebrated in joy.
The husband therefore prepared a great feast, at the height of which he called his wife and asked her in his joy to choose whatever she desired of his possessions to be hers, and said that he would not refuse her anything.
What did she do? She served him so much wine that he got drunk and fell asleep on his bed. She then told her servant to take him on his bed into her bedroom in her father’s house.
The following morning, when he awoke and found himself in his wife’s home, he asked her why he was brought there—wasn’t it clear that he intended to divorce her? She replied, “Didn’t you tell me that I could take whatever I wanted? I desire not gold, nor silver, nor precious gems, nor pearls. All I want is you. You yourself are the sole object of my desire.”
When the husband heard this, he became once again enamored of his wife, and took her back as before. And in this merit the Holy One, blessed be He, granted them children.
(From Midrash Rabbah, Vayikrah 34:12)
The day after Rosh Hashanah Rabbi showed up at the door of his nephews' home and began to lecture them about the importance of giving charity to the poor.
Although they didn't really have money to spare and totally didn't understand the urgency of what he was saying, they listened attentively; when Rabbi Shimon spoke everyone listened.
"Give with an open hand," Rabbi Shimon adjured. "Don't worry about tomorrow, G‑d will provide. And most important: write it all down. Every penny you give, write it down and carry the list with you at all times. I want to see a big sum at the end of the year."
Rabbi Shimon made them promise and he left.
Almost a year later they had another strange visit—from a posse of Roman soldiers with an order for their arrest. Someone accused them of selling silk without paying the tax to the government. They began weeping and protesting their innocence but to no avail.
Trembling with fear, they were led off to prison where they were given a choice: either pay an outrageous fine of six hundred dinar or produce an even more outrageously priced silk garment for the king, both of which were utterly beyond their means.
When Rabbi Shimon heard what had happened he immediately rushed to the prison and got special permission to visit his relatives.
"Where is the account of the charity you gave?" He asked. "How much did you give?"
"Here," they replied as one of them pulled the small parchment from his pocket.
Rabbi Shimon took the account and noticed that they had given almost six hundred dinar; they were just six dinar short. "Do you have any money with you?" he asked.
They produced six dinar that they had sewn into their garments in case they needed it. Rabbi Shimon took the money, bribed one of the officials, the charges were dropped and they were released.
Rabbi Shimon explained to them what had happened. "This past Rosh Hashanah I dozed off and dreamt that the government would demand of you six hundred dinars. That is why I told you to give charity, to negate the decree."
"Then why didn't you tell us about that?" they complained. "We would have given the money immediately and spared ourselves a lot of anguish."
"But then," replied Rabbi Shimon. "You wouldn't have done the mitzvah for its own sake."
(Midrash Rabbah, Shemot 52:3)
Once there was a disciple of Rabbi Shimon’s who left the Holy Land and returned a wealthy man. The other disciples saw this and were envious and also wanted to leave. Rabbi Shimon knew of this. He took them to a valley facing Meron and said: “Valley! Valley! Become filled with gold coins!” The valley started flowing with gold coins before them.
Said Rabbi Shimon to his disciples: “If it is gold that you desire, here is gold; take it for yourselves. But know that whoever takes now is taking his portion of the World to Come. For the reward of Torah is only in the World to Come.”
Zohar, parashat Bahalotecha, page 152a
Rabbi Shimon said: “Woe to the person who says that the Torah comes to give instructions and tell descriptive stories and simple tales. If this were true, even in our own time we would be able to make “Torah” out of simple stories and praise and embellish them even better than all stories in the Torah. If the Torah came only to give instructions and tell the background history of the world, then even the ministers in the different governments of the world have stories that are more important and beneficial, from which one can learn wisdom and ethical behavior.
If that were true we should learn their examples and make a Torah after their examples. Of course this is not the case. Every word in the Torah reflects higher wisdom and higher secrets.
Come and see. The spiritual world and the physical world are weighed in one balance [because everything in the spiritual world has its reflection in this world]. So Israel is below and the heavenly forces are Above. It is written regarding the angels: "He makes His angels of spirit and his ministers of flames of fire." (Psalms 104:4) Now when these spiritual forces make a presence in This World, they have to take on the clothing of physicality. If they didn't appear in This World in appropriate form they couldn't survive in This World and This World would not be able to take their holiness and relate to them at all.
Now you can understand why the narratives of the Torah are only the outer clothing of the Torah. Whoever thinks that this outer clothing is in fact the Torah and there is nothing underneath the clothing is spiritually backward and has no portion in the World to Come. So it was that King David begged, "Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things in Your Torah." (Psalms 119:18)
The body is more important than the clothes and more important than the body is the soul….
Come and see. There are clothes that stand out to everyone, and when stupid people see someone in beautiful clothing, they don't look any further. The body is more important than the clothes and more important than the body is the soul. In the same manner is the "body" of the Torah; these are the commandments that are called her "body".
This body of Torah is dressed in stories from this world. The fools of this world only look at this outer clothing of stories. They don't delve into what is contained beneath the outer shell. Those who know better look into the body beneath the outer shell. The wise ones, servants of the Highest King, those who stood at Mount Sinai, see through to the soul of the Torah that is truly her essence and in the future will delve into the soul that is within the essence of the Torah
There are three levels bound together -- the Holy One, blessed be He, the Torah and [the people of] Israel. Each of them [comprises] level upon level, hidden and revealed. The Holy One, blessed be He, level upon level, is hidden and revealed. The Torah, too, is hidden and revealed. And so too Israel is level upon level, as it is written, 'He tells His words [of Torah] to Jacob, His statutes and ordinances to Israel' (Psalms 147:19). There are two levels [of the Jewish people mentioned in the verse]: Jacob and Israel. One [Jacob] is revealed and the other [Israel] is hidden" (Zohar vol. III, 73a).
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai said: From where do we learn that if a single person had been missing from Israel, the Divine Presence would not have appeared to them? Because it is written: For on the third day, the L-rd will come down in the sight of all the people upon Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:11; Midrash Rabbah, Deuteronomy 7:8; see also Mechilta de-Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael to Exodus 19:11).
"Great is G-d's love for Israel, for He revealed Himself to them in a land of uncleanliness and idol worship (Egypt) in order to free them from there."
Again, Rabbi Simeon said: "See how beloved Israel is to the Holy One, blessed be He, for wherever they went into exile, the Divine Presence (Shechinah) went with them: they were exiled to Egypt, and the Shechinah went with them; they were exiled to Babylon, and again the Shechinah went with them. And when Israel will be redeemed in the future, the Shechinah will be redeemed with them, as it is written, 'And G-d, thy G-d, will return (with) thy exile.' "
Once Rabbi Simeon was asked, "Why did the manna come down from heaven every day? Could not G-d rain down enough manna in one day to last them a whole year?"
To which Rabbi Simeon replied: "A king had a beloved son. The king gave his son an allowance once a year, and only saw him one day in the year, when he came for his allowance. So the king began to give his son his allowance in small instalments every day, and the son came to see his -father daily. So it was also with the children of Israel. Every day the Jews would lift their eyes to G-d praying for food, so that His children would not die in the desert. If they would receive in one day enough food for a whole year, they would pray to G-d only once a year."
Rashbi’s PassingThe Zohar
We have learned: On the day that Rabbi Shimon [bar Yochai] was to depart the world, he began arranging his teachings.Tzaddikim of the stature of Rabbi Shimon know when they have fulfilled their tasks in this world, and when they are to pass on to the World of Truth. They therefore begin preparing themselves for the transition.The disciples [of Rebbe Shimon found out that he was making his final arrangements, and they] gathered together at the house of Rebbe Shimon. Before him were Rabbi Elazar his son, Rabbi Abba and the other disciples, so that the house was filled.
When Rabbi Shimon looked up and saw that the house was full, he wept and said, “On another occasion, when I was deathly ill (as mentioned in the Addenda to Zohar, Devarim), Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair was with me. While I was choosing my place [in the Garden of Eden], they granted me [extra years] until now. When I returned [to the living], a fire surrounded me and it never ceased, so that no person could come in to me without permission. The fire surrounding him was a sign that the Shechinah was constantly revealed upon him. Even the greatest of Rabbi Shimon’s students, such as Rabbi Chiya, required permission to enter (see Zohar II:14a).
“Now I see that it has ceased, and so the house has filled up [with visitors who entered without my permission].”Commentaries explain that perhaps there were some there who were not worthy of hearing the mysteries that Rabbi Shimon planned to reveal, and for this reason the Shechinah had left him. (Kocho d’Rashbi, Ma'arachah 4) While they were sitting, Rabbi Shimon opened his eyes [in the sense of spiritual gazing into the higher worlds] and saw what he saw.He experienced the revelation of the Shechinah (Sha’arei HaIdra).
Then fire surrounded the house, so that everyone fled outside, leaving only Rabbi Elazar and Rabbi Abba [who were worthy of receiving the Shechinah]. The remainder of the disciples sat outside. Rebbe Shimon said to Rabbi Elazar his son, “Go outside and see if Rabbi Yitzchak is here. I made a promise to him [that he would live until the day of my passing, and that I would take him into the Garden of Eden. (see Zohar I:118a)] Tell him to put his affairs in order, and then come and sit with me. Happy is his lot!”
Rebbe Shimon arose [in deference to the Shechinah and the souls of the saintly tzaddikim that had descended to be with him as he revealed the secrets of the Torah]. He then sat again, smiling and happy, and he asked, “Where are the disciples?” Rabbi Elazar arose and brought them in. They sat down before Rebbe Shimon.
Rebbe Shimon raised his hands in prayer and made his supplications with great joy. Then he said, "Those who were in the Idra [Rabba] are invited [to stay, but not the rest of the visitors, lest they put themselves in danger]. They all went out, and only Rabbi Elazar his son, Rabbi Abba, Rabbi Yehuda, Rabbi Yose and Rabbi Chiya remained. Meanwhile, Rabbi Yitzchak arrived, and Rabbi Shimon said to him, “How fortunate is your lot. How much joy should be added to you on this day!” Rabbi Abba was sitting behind Rebbe Shimon’s shoulders, and Rabbi Elazar before Rebbe Shimon.
Rebbe Shimon said, “Now is an auspicious time [to reveal the secrets of the Torah]. I wish to enter the World to Come without shame. For the holy matters that I did not reveal until now, I wish to reveal in the presence of the Shechinah, so that no one will say that I left the world without fulfilling my task, and that I concealed [these secrets] in my heart until now so that they would come with me to the World to Come. I will present them to you; Rabbi Abba shall write, and Rabbi Elazar my son will review them, and the remaining disciples must whisper them in their hearts.” I see that today is special, for G-d and all the tzaddikim are rejoicing in my celebration (Hilula). Rabbi Abba rose from behind Rabbi Shimon’s shoulders [and sat before Rebbe Shimon]. Rabbi Elazar continued sitting before Rebbe Shimon. Rebbe Shimon said, “Arise, my son, for another [a tzaddik from the upper worlds] will sit in that place.” Rabbi Elazar arose [and sat down elsewhere].
Rebbe Shimon wrapped himself [in his tallit]. He sat down and said: “‘The dead do not praise G‑d, nor do those who go down into Silence [the eternal silence of the grave, for the absolutely wicked].’ (Psalms 115:17) ‘The dead do not praise G‑d...’—this surely means those who are called ‘dead’ [even when they are alive], for G‑d is called ‘[eternally] living,’ and He dwells among those who are also called ‘live’ [the righteous], and not among those who are called ‘dead’ [even during their lifetimes, for they do not cleave to G‑d, the Source of Life]. The end of the verse states, ‘. . .nor do those who go down into Silence’—those who descend to Silence will remain there. [Meaning: only those who descend to Silence permanently will not praise G‑d, whereas those who experience a temporary spiritual anguish (Purgatory) after death do return to utter G‑d’s praises.] But those who are called ‘alive’ are different; the Holy One, blessed be He, desires their honor.”
...Rabbi Abba recalls, "I was writing, in middle of quoting a verse. Rebbe Shimon stopped at the word 'chayim'. I waited, wanting to continue, but did not raise my head to see why Rebbe Shimon had stopped, for I was unable to look at the great light that was shining around him. Suddenly, I heard a voice call out a verse with the word 'chayim', and then another voice called out an additional verse. I fell to the ground and wept. When the fire and the light departed, I saw that the great light, Rebbe Shimon, had passed away. He was lying on his right side and his face was smiling."[Translated by Moshe Miller from the Idra Zuta, Zohar III:287b–296b]