The Book of Zohar. Chapter “The Donkey Driver,” Part 1 (abridged)
74. Rabbi Elazar, the son of Rabbi Shimon, was on his way to visit his father-in-law, Rabbi Yosi, the son of Lakunya, and Rabbi Aba accompanied him. A man followed behind them, driving their donkeys. Rabbi Aba said, “Let us open the gates of the Torah, as it is time to correct our path.” In Aramaic, the language in which The Zohar was written, “driver” means “one who pricks.” This is because the donkey driver’s function amounts to forcing the donkeys to move by pricking them with the edge of his stick (Hamor – donkey, comes from the word Homer – matter, egoism).
75. Rabbi Elazar spoke, “The Creator created the world in six days. And each day would reveal His deeds, and gave strength to that day. When did He reveal His deeds and give them strength? On the fourth day of creation, for the first three days were concealed completely, and would not be revealed. The fourth day arrived, and He revealed the deeds and forces of all the days.
76. There is fire, water and air, the three first days of creation. Although they are the initial Supernal foundations of all that will follow, their actions are not revealed until the earth, meaning Malchut, reveals them. Only then does the work of each of the Supernal foundations reveal itself. Hence, the power of the first three days is revealed only on the fourth day.
77. However, the third day may be better described as one that reveals the creation of the first three days, as it is written of it: LET THE EARTH BRING FORTH GRASS. That is to say, the revelation of the earth’s (Malchut’s) deeds already took place on the third day. Yet, although it was written on the third day, Tifferet, it was actually the fourth day, Malchut. But Malchut joined the third day, for Tifferet and Malchut are inseparable. And then the fourth day revealed its deeds – to elucidate the work of each and every one, for the fourth day is the “fourth leg” of the Supernal Throne (the Sefira Bina), whose four legs are Hesed, Gevura, Tifferet, and Malchut. Malchut reveals the spiritual power of the three days.
78. All of the actions of all the Sefirot, both on the first three days of creation, HGT, and on the last three, NHY, are dependent on the day of Shabbat, Malchut, GAR of the entire degree of ZA and its perfection. Hence, it is written, “AND THE CREATOR RESTED ON THE SEVENTH DAY, SHABBAT.” This refers to the fourth leg of the throne, as the seventh and the fourth days are both Malchut. Only the fourth day is Malchut that includes the Sefira Tifferet of ZA, from his chest upwards, whereas the seventh day is Malchut of the entire ZA, and they merge together face to face in a Zivug.
79. Yet, if Shabbat is Malchut, then why does the Torah say, “My Sabbaths you are to observe,” implying two? It is written of the two parts of Shabbat: the night (Malchut) and the day (ZA) that shines in Malchut. Thus, there is no division between them, for they merge face to face in a Zivug, and are therefore called two Sabbaths.
80. Following behind them with the donkeys, the donkey driver asked: “Why is it said, ‘You shall fear sanctity?’” They replied: “This refers to the sanctity of Shabbat.” The donkey driver asked: “And what is the sanctity of Shabbat?” They replied: “It is the sanctity that descends from Above, from AVI.” He said to them, “If that is so, then Shabbat is without sanctity, for sanctity descends on it from Above, from AVI.” Rabbi Aba answered him: “It is indeed so.” And it is said: “And call Shabbat a delight, a holy day dedicated to the Creator.” Shabbat and a holy day are mentioned separately. The donkey driver asked: “If that is so, then what does a holy day mean to the Creator?” He replied: “That is when sanctity descends from Above, from ZA, and fills Shabbat, Malchut.” The donkey driver objected, “But if sanctity descends from Above, then Shabbat itself is not a holy day. And yet, it is written, ‘You shall sanctify Shabbat,’ meaning Shabbat itself.” Rabbi Elazar said to Rabbi Aba, “Leave this man alone, for there is much wisdom in him, of which we do not know.” So he said to the donkey driver, “Speak, and we shall listen.”
81. The donkey driver opened (the Upper Light) and said, “It is written: Shabbatot, i.e., there are usually two. And this alludes to the border of Shabbat, which is 2,000 Amah (cubits) in each direction from the city. This is why the word ‘Et’ was added before the word Shabbatot, which designates the plural form – both the Upper Shabbat and the lower Shabbat joining into one.”
82. One Shabbat was left, unmentioned before, and felt ashamed. She said to Him, “Creator of the Universe, from the day I was created, I am called Shabbat, but there is no day without night.” The Creator replied to her: “My daughter, you are Shabbat, and I have given you this name. But now I am surrounding and adorning you with the most exalted adornment.” It is the merging together of I (Malchut, the nights of Shabbat) with the Creator Himself (ZA) into a single whole.
83. Since the circle and square are Shabbatot, they are both included in the instruction, “My Shabbatot you are to observe.” However, the Upper Shabbat is not included in the instruction “Observe,” but rather in “Remember.” For the Supernal King, Bina, is as perfect as memory. This is why Bina is called “King,” whose perfection lies in peace and in memory. Hence, there is no contradiction Above.
84. There are two types of peace below: one is Yaakov (Tifferet), and the other is Yosef (Yesod). Therefore, PEACE is written twice in the greeting: “PEACE, PEACE to the distant one and to the near one.” “The distant one” refers to Yaakov, and “the near one” refers to Yosef. Or, as it is written, “From afar I see the Creator.”
85. “From afar” is the Supernal Point, standing in His palace, of which it is said, “You are to guard.” “You shall fear My sanctity” refers to the point standing in the center, which must be feared more than anything, for its punishment is death, as it is written, “All who transgress in it shall perish.” Who are these transgressors? They are those who have entered the space of the circle and the square, and committed a sin. Hence, it is written, “You shall fear!” This point is called “I,” and there is a prohibition on its revelation, called HaVaYaH. “I” and HaVaYaH are a single whole. Rabbi Elazar and Rabbi Aba dismounted from their donkeys and kissed him. They said, “So great is your wisdom, and yet you drive donkeys behind us! Who are you, then?” He replied to them: “Do not ask me who I am, but let us go on and study the Torah. Each of us will speak his wisdom so as to illuminate our path.”
86. He said to him: “Who appointed you to walk here and be a donkey driver?” He replied: “The letter Yod Chaf waged war with two letters, and Samech, for me to come and join. The letter Chaf did not want to leave its place because it has to support those who fall, for without a screen, they cannot survive.”
87. The letter Yod came to me alone, kissed me and wept with me. It said to me, “My son, what can I do for you? I disappear from many good deeds and from secret, supernal, basic letters. But I shall return to you and will be of help to you. And I shall give you two letters that are more exalted than those that have disappeared – the letters Yod and Shin. They shall become for you a treasury that is forever full. So, my son, go and drive the donkeys.” And that is why I am here in this role.
88. Rabbi Elazar and Rabbi Aba rejoiced, wept, and said, “You sit on the donkey, and we shall drive it.” He replied to them, “Have I not told you that it is the command of the King that I act as I do, until the other donkey driver appears” (this hints at the Mashiach, who, as it is said, will appear poor and riding a donkey). They said to him, “You have not even told us your name! Where do you dwell?” He told them, “My dwelling place is wonderful and very precious to me. It is a tower that soars in the air, grand and unique. Only two live in this tower: the Creator and I. That is the place, in which I dwell. And I am exiled from there in order to drive the donkeys.” Rabbi Elazar and Rabbi Aba looked at him, and his words were unclear to them, for they tasted sweeter than manna and honey. They said to him, “Perhaps you will tell us the name of your father, so that we could kiss the earth at his feet?” He responded, “What for? It is not my habit to boast of the Torah.”
89. But the place of my father’s dwelling was in the Great Sea. And he was a big fish that continually circled the Great Sea, from one end to the other. And he was mighty and he grew old, until he swallowed up all the other fish in that sea. And then he released them, and they were thriving and filled with all of the very best of the world. And it was in his power to swim across the entire sea in one instant. And He pulled him out and hauled him in with an arrow, like a warrior, and brought him to the place that I told you about, to the tower that soars in the air, but he returned to his place and disappeared in that sea.
90. Rabbi Elazar contemplated his words and replied: “You are the son of the Holy Source, you are the son of Rabbi Hamnuna-Saba, you are the son of the Source of the Torah, and you drive donkeys behind us!” They wept and kissed him, and continued their journey. Then he said: “If it pleases our master, let him reveal his name to us.”
(See the continuation of this chapter in Part 2 – coming soon)
Kabbalah Today Article: “Unraveling The Zohar – a Wakeup Call”